“My Summer in the Gutter,” by Jordan Martich

My friend Aleks has a saying: “Conforming to type.” She likes to drop that on me whenever I’m in a particularly snarky mood, which you might imagine always rubs me the wrong way just as she intends it.

That’s been an apt phrase for my relationship with Jordan Martich since he first showed up in one of my J280 classes. He plays the rebel with the leather jacket, cigarettes, boozy breath, and diatribes against school all while showing up to my class each day asking for help with his writing. 

In fact, Jordan’s J280 class went from more than 20 students to seven within just a few short weeks, and yet he was one of the few students who not only remained in the class, but turned in all of his work. (The drops usually coincide with the first long writing assignment, a 2,000-3,000 word reported story written in a three-act structure.)

He was Fonzie, the rogue who never really did anyone wrong. He was Han Solo, the smuggler we only see doing the right thing. 

Of course, he conformed to type again during Invictus, routinely showing up hung over, and yet still contributing (sporadically). When it was time to finish, though, Jordan did what any good student does: He went to work. Because of that, I’m able to do write this.

I’d like to present to you “My Summer in the Gutter,” Jordan’s recounting of a particulalry moment in time when life seemed bigger than someone could manage.

The irony in the situation is that I was Jordan twenty years ago. 

When I was in college, I routinely skipped classes for weeks on end as I drove around the country. After college, I would sit in bars getting drunk writing newspaper columns and feature stories for little, tiny newspapers and websites (or whoever would pay me). Eventually, I built my career on being a rougish, drinking writer. 

Those stories aren’t for these pages, but I felt a sting of irony as I tried to explain that Hunter S. Thompson to someone who’d only read his popular mythology. The real story of the gonzo writers — or the writing part of that story — was far more than drinking, drugs, and words. 

But no middle-aged guy in a tie is going to be able to teach that lesson. I know that because when Fonzie grew a beard and started teaching high school, he stopped being cool. And let’s face it, those stories don’t stand the test of time as well as gonzo stories do.

These days, you can catch Jordan’s work at Indianapolis’ NUVO magazine and Indiana Living Green. Where he’ll be next, well that’s anybody’s guess.

Sometimes it’s okay to conform to type. That’s where the good stories begin.