My Real Story      as told by John Herm, MD

My brother Joel’s a designer. He’s smart, likeable. He left the coutryside decades ago for the city life. He likes things clean, neat…no clutter… although I did spot a weed one time right in his flower bed at his Arts & Crafts home in Illinois. Joel’s not like the rest of us Herms, he lives in a “no stuff” world. “The less you have, the more you have”, a famous hobo once said. Joel’s there. 

When he was seven or so, I can’t remember exactly, Joel tied up all his belongings in a red bandana, affixed it to a stick, flung it over his shoulder and took off for a while…he was home by nightfall…hungry. I’m not sure if it all started with that little hobo trip, but somewhere along the line, he has completely shed our father’s obsessive collectivism, the “Abe Gene” we call it, named after Dad’s brother. Uncle Abe had it bad, really bad. Crap everywhere, you could see it from Farmdale Road, a quarter mile away. We’d grimace everytime we’d drive by. Dad was a bit more organized, but had forever expanding barns full of you-name-it – antique farm implements, tools, scrap iron, famadoochistadts…junk, really…and multiples of the same junk. God love ‘im. This collecting lifestyle was so entrenched in our father that I still can’t believe Joel has become "Mister Tidy". After all, he was there, too. I’m sure he helped unload many a truck full of farm auction ”treasures.”

How did he change? When did he do it? Could he teach me?? Maybe Joel’s father is really Eddie Schuck, a tidy farmer down the road....makes the most sense. Or maybe it was during his early yoga years that he deleted that packrat DNA segment on the Herm half of his double helix. It must’ve taken a lot of down-dogs. Unfortunately for him that particular DNA segment also carries the taste for rhubarb custard pie, bread and butter pickles, olives, and pickled beets – some family favorites. Poor man can’t stand ‘em. Not a bad trade-off though, really.

Joel’s life now is pure economy. He became a pilot and was up there catching thermals in a crisp German motorized glider. He liked the quiet… he could see clearly below. He lived in his airplane hangar for a while with only a bed and a bathroom he’d built inside. Right now he’s living in Paris, a slight upgrade….albeit two years ago, he contracted acreage and was scheming to build a rammed-earth, off-the-grid house on a remote British Colombia island later discovered to be inhabited by crooks and potheads - and some say the Devil himself. So he still makes a few U-turns. We all do. Close call though.

When Joel comes to visit, he arrives in clean, tailored, usually black clothes. No dog hair on this guy… at least until he strides into our squalor. When he leaves, I am sure he feels a tad sorry for me being surrounded by comforting crap just like our Dad was. Joel’s name is on the skywardly divergent limb of the Herm family tree, while Martha, Jim, and John’s names are still printed on the horizontal branch…duck-taped to our houses and barns. Joel has set himself free…

The best part about Joel, though, is his sense of humor. He laughs out loud at the Onion newspaper, he laughs at life, and at himself. One of the best feelings I ever have is when I make him laugh, which is pretty easy. I can see him now, doubling over, gasping for breath, holding his hand over his mouth. He’s hysterical to watch. I think he’s laughing right now. I love that guy.