(Please welcome actor and environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. in the comments, author of Living Like Ed — jh)
UPDATE: Ed’s, uh…MIA. Carry on…
At some point in the 90s, I hear a rumor that Ed Begley only produces 10 pounds of trash a year.
I have no idea if it’s true or not, and it isn’t borne out by this book, but no matter. It may well be an urban myth — like the hook in the door handle on Lover’s Lane, or teenage virgins writing to Penthouse Forum — that has simply grown bigger than the man himself.
Ed Begley as the symbol of Everything I Should Be Doing But Am Not may now be bigger than Ed Begley the man.
The upshot is that for the past decade or so, every time I open the trash, I envision the landfill that some piece of refuse will inevitably wind up in and I think to myself — "what would Ed Begley do?"
Which is to say, Ed Begley enters my thoughts a lot. Works my guilt, sends me padding to the sidewalk in my peejams on many a cold morning as some soda bottle carelessly discarded in the trash haunts me like a Tell Tale Heart until I put it in the recycling, lest it spend eternity in some landfill and I am beyond redemption.
I rubbed my hands and chortled with oily glee when I saw that Begley had written a book. This would be my revenge, I thought, for inflicting more guilt than a Catholic nun and a stiff ruler.
Alas, Begley’s victory is complete. The book is fantastic. I’m usually scrambling on salon mornings to tear through the final pages of a book, but I finished Living Like Ed weeks ago. He starts from the premise that it isn’t easy for everyone to change their lives, and lays out simple steps everyone can take — like changing your lightbulbs and doing your laundry at night. It goes on to tell the fascinating tale of how he transformed his own house into a palace of energy self-sufficiency, with his stylish wife Rachelle standing over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t inflict a bunch of aesthetic eyesores on their lifestyle.
Things I now covet:
As Howard Dean demonstrated, you can pay a price for being right too early. In her foreward to the book, Ed’s wife Rachelle acknowledges that Ed probably paid a price in his career because he really accepted the challenge early on to be a responsible world citizen, and used his own life as a Petri dish. People projected their own guilt onto him (no names, please) and it made them uncomfortable around him.
On the other hand, there’s a long list of casting directors who laughed it up as they cast him as the unlikely bad guy, the "green bogeyman." So it probably cut both ways.
But Ed may be peaking at the right moment. George Bush squandered the opportunity to get the nation to reduce fossil fuel consumption when he told us to go shopping instead after 9/11, but with renewable energy at the top of Barack Obama’s "to do" list, Ed may also be a man for the time. (Tell me this didn’t make your heart leap this morning.)
In addition to being an actor and an author, Ed is the maker of Begley’s Best natural cleaner. The sincerity and the tirelessness that Ed applies not only to living an environmentally responsible life, but also to helping others do the same is truly laudatory.
Please welcome the very inspirational Ed Begley in the comments.