BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

"A compass, skis, and a shotgun."

This is another example of a dollar store find, but in this case for a book that I would have been very unlikely to have picked up at another price point. While I'm not into reading fiction, I will, from time to time, read humor, and I'd been a bit of a fan of Chelsea Handler (she would have been the sort of person I'd love to have hung out with back in my drinking days!), so when I saw her Uganda Be Kidding Me staring at me from the dollar store shelf, it was an easy one to toss into the shopping cart (plus it promised to be a quick, light read to stick in between a couple of heavy titles). However, it's also something that does not lend itself particularly to my style of reviewing … not being exactly filled with fascinating factoids or concepts.

Ms. Handler is a “hot mess” and she seems to at least be aware of that fact. It appears that she's been successful enough in her career that she's used to having money, and the “people” that money can buy, and so has retreated into a state that is almost infantile on one level, while being clearly adolescent on others … with the obvious over-lay of being old enough to indulge in whatever mind/mood altering items, legal or illegal, she gets a hankering for.

And, she's always looking for a drink.

The book is about a jaunt to Africa (and some other places) that she drags a motley crew of her friends off to. There's Shelly, her “lesbian lawyer” friend, her 26-year-old cousin Molly, her “newly divorced” sister Simone, her “oldest friend from L.A.” Hannah, and her co-executive producer Sue, who she describes as “a female Hunter S. Thompson”.

Oh, and Chelsea had just had ACL surgery three weeks prior to this trip to repair damage to a knee messed up in a skiing accident in Switzerland (the story of which is later on in the book). Aside from this meaning that she was going to be hobbling and complaining and stuff like that, she also had scrips for pain killers. What could go wrong?

I wish I'd stuck more of my little bookmarks in here (there are a few, but all up front in the first third of the book), and here's one of these (skipping over a couple of paragraphs in the middle):
There's a very fine line in the African sand between being an asshole and being an American. So we drew it. “Rex, I apologize,” Sue told him. “We are not as obnoxious as we seem; we are just very happy to be off the plane and are blown away by this place. We knew we were coming on safari, but we didn't know this is what it would be like.” …
It didn't take long for Rex to glean that although we were assholes with a hankering for libations – and lip balm – we were all genuinely interested in the adventure we were about to embark upon. He took a long hard look at us, spit on the ground, and surrendered. “All right [which he pronounced 'al-raht'], let's go see some wildebeest ['vilde-be-ast'].”
This Rex was the safari guide who immediately caught Chelsea's eye, and she spends much of the trip attempting to achieve some “penetration”.

Oh, one thing to note all the way through this … it starts with vulgar and goes downhill from there. Aside from the basic commentary, Ms. Handler seems to be a total bitch to her friends (which I guess one might consider acceptable behavior if one is paying for everybody's trip), pretty much non-stop. To get a sense of what a nice jaunt with Ms. Handler is like, here's a choice paragraph:
      This was only our second day of safari and our drinking had taken a turn none of us had expected or been prepared for. We would start off with Bloody Marys, work our way through mimosas, and then move to champagne midafternoon, until we came back to our lodges for what turned into group massages where I would end up with one eye glued shut while the baboons raped each other outside our villas and then stole my Ace bandages.
She quotes Rex as saying that they were perhaps the first functioning alcoholic women he'd ever met.

Did I mention “hot mess”? Yes, well. One wonders how long these assorted establishments ended up talking about this group coming through …
That night we had dinner in a circular wine cellar and were separated from the rest of the guests. … Simone attributed our isolation to our behavior in general, and Hannah attributed it to the camp having to keep me from sexually assaulting Rex.

There was enough food to feed sixty-five people, and none of it was worth taking a second bite of. Multiple dishes consisted of multiple unidentifiable meats on multiple sticks. ….
“It's safe to assume they think we eat as much as we drink,” Simone commented.
Sort of makes you feel bad for the other guests who were there for a trip of a lifetime rather than a drunken romp with the girls. Speaking of which, I guess this is as good a place as any to note that the book, if not lavishly illustrated with photography (color, no less), is full of “vacation snaps” (several dozen), with quite a few featuring Chelsea relieving herself in various settings, including hanging her bottom over the edge of a Jeep.

Once they leave the resort where Rex is employed, they go in relatively quick succession to three other stops in Africa. Since it's all about the boozing, etc., the setting only really provides stuff for Chelsea and her gals to bitch about. Conveniently (or not), Rex was due for some time off and is convinced to tag along, although he rejects Ms. Handler's amorous approaches (she's later quite apologetic in a communication to his long-time lady friend).

On one hand, there is just enough description of the places they were staying to get a sense of these travel options (plus some photos), and the animals involved … as I suspect that I'm never going to end up going on a safari myself, that's handy … on the other hand, a lot of the “details” are complaints about how hard it is to get a decent pitcher of Margaritas in Africa. I'm just going to leave out the other places, and the minutia about lions and giraffes (and how long her dog would had survived if he'd come along on the trip), and move on.

The second half of the book is about other trips she took with varying sets of friends, associates, and even presumed penetration units. These are to the Bahamas, Montenegro, the Swiss Alps (where she blows out her knee), Telluride (she's fond of skiing), Yellowstone National Park, and adventures back home in Bel Air. The stories she tells on herself are so over-the-top, that I found myself wondering how much of this was real and how much made up … it seemed to me that nobody could be so clueless and willful as the character she presents here … and she's constantly getting herself into horribly embarrassing (having an explosive bowel movement while walking on the beach), idiotic (not bringing her passport on the way to the Balkans, where she was convinced she was on a train heading off to a concentration camp), quite dangerous (“skiing down a double black diamond at about forty-five miles an hour”), or bizarrely inexplicable (her home life in L.A.) situations. I suppose if one has “people who handle that” (such as rushing her passport out to the airport for her), one can be as dysfunctional as she describes her life … but, again, I wonder if a lot of this was wildly exaggerated.

Anyway, Uganda Be Kidding Me is a silly, crude, and strange read. If you like Chelsea Handler's shtick (and I do), this will be pleasingly familiar in tone. If, however, you're unfamiliar with her genre, and are picking this up as a travel book, you might be put off (heck, for a lot of folks, I can pretty much guarantee it) by the general vulgarity of the narration. Also, if you're sensitive to descriptions of substance abuse, this could be “triggering” as that's a major theme here. One might also find oneself jealous at reading how “the moneyed people travel” in this as well (I know I got a bit green-eyed at some of the spend involved), but that may just be from my being as broke as I've been for as long as I've been (cue the tiny violins).

This is still in print … in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audio book, etc. … so I guess I just lucked out at having it cycle through the dollar store while I was looking. The online big boys having it at a deep discount (67% off) at the moment, and the new/used guys could save you a bit beyond that – so you have options were this something that you'd be interested in picking up. Again, this is a fun (if you're on Chelsea's wavelength), light read with enough interesting stuff from the places she's ending up (and the characters she interacts with) that the reader is unlikely to get bored.

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Tags: book review

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