Double Take: A Legless Man’s Travels Around The Globe

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I was handed a book recently, and, let’s be honest, books that are given to me have to be good given my propensity towards restlessness. It’s titled “Double Take: A Memoir.” I never heard of it, or the author before, so I sat down and gave it the ol’ “fifty-page test.” Lucky for me, those fifty pages sucked me in. Like I said, handing me books can be a gamble sometimes, this one paid off.

It begins as a story of a boy (no spoiler alert here, BTW), born without legs, in rural Montana. Early on, with the help of his family (particularly his MacGyver-like dad), he adapts to life and is raised as anyone else. It follows his adventures, discovering a talent for skiing (and crashing), eventually earning him a trip to the X-Games (a bronze medal this past games!). With his first winnings, he decides to grab his skateboard (his chosen mode of transportation) and camera, and travel the world (I knew I liked this guy).

While studying in New Zealand in college, he became acutely aware of others’ curiosity towards him. Based on that epiphany, and the therapy he felt snapping photos of wrinkled faces staring at a legless dude skateboarding down the streets of Paris, he began a photography project called “The Rolling Expedition,” capturing reactions to him from all over the world. This project took him to Japanese bath houses, Kuala Lumpur, Ukraine, China, and others. The coolest place he went? Split, Croatia (glad it wasn’t that bath house — keep in mind, without legs, that puts you eye to eye with . . . well, you get the point). Check out some of his shots here.

A breakthrough moment for Kevin happens amidst a travel factiod I was unaware of: the Sarajevo Roses. During the Bosnian war, Sarajevo was hit with unruly urban warfare. Inevitably, the streets were pocked with mortar rounds. Once order was restored, the marks were filled in with a red rosin, creating a memorial of sorts to those killed. The red patterns embedded in the concrete create a rose-like pattern, a unique feature found throughout the city.

Riding his long board over these “roses,” Kevin turned in on his thoughts about a recent interaction with a man, leaning on crutches, lacking the lower portions of his left arm and leg. He created a war story to justify this man’s condition, making him sick at his own thoughts, “Do I bring up these feeling is others every time I step out the door?” He began realizing the reasons behind the very photographs he was taking, was what he was doing in his own mind; people from all over the world experience the same emotions and curiosities, regardless of boundaries, backgrounds, or abilities.

The book continues on with his confronting and overcoming of this particular thought, an emotional “geographical” breakup with his girlfriend, and the lessons he learned through it all. After finishing up the unsuspectingly good read, I’m convinced that what makes Kevin and his memoir so special, certainly isn’t that he has no legs.

*head over to Kevin’s homepage, and check out the rather amusing trailer to his book.

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