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Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement

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Everyone says they would like to retire early, but Rodney Rothman actually did it—forty years early. Burnt out, he decides at the age of twenty-eight to get an early start on his golden years. He travels to Boca Raton, Florida, where he moves in with an elderly piano teacher at Century Village, a retirement community that is home to thousands of senior citizens. Early Bird Everyone says they would like to retire early, but Rodney Rothman actually did it—forty years early. Burnt out, he decides at the age of twenty-eight to get an early start on his golden years. He travels to Boca Raton, Florida, where he moves in with an elderly piano teacher at Century Village, a retirement community that is home to thousands of senior citizens. Early Bird is an irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately warmhearted account of Rodney's journey deep into the heart of retirement. Rodney struggles for acceptance from the senior citizens he shares a swimming pool with and battles with cranky octogenarians who want him off their turf. Before long he observes, “I don't think Tuesdays with Morrie would have been quite so uplifting if that guy had to spend more than one day a week with Morrie.” In the spirit of retirement, Rodney fashions a busy schedule of suntanning, shuffleboard, and gambling cruises. As the months pass, his neighbors seem to forget that he is fifty years younger than they are. He finds himself the potential romantic interest of an aging femme fatale. He joins a senior softball club and is disturbed to learn that he is the worst player on the team. Early Bird is a funny, insightful, and moving look at what happens to us when we retire, viewed from a remarkably premature perspective. Any reader who plans on becoming an old person will enjoy joining Rodney on his strange journey, as he reconsiders his notions of romance, family, friendship, and ultimately, whether he's ever going back to work.


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Everyone says they would like to retire early, but Rodney Rothman actually did it—forty years early. Burnt out, he decides at the age of twenty-eight to get an early start on his golden years. He travels to Boca Raton, Florida, where he moves in with an elderly piano teacher at Century Village, a retirement community that is home to thousands of senior citizens. Early Bird Everyone says they would like to retire early, but Rodney Rothman actually did it—forty years early. Burnt out, he decides at the age of twenty-eight to get an early start on his golden years. He travels to Boca Raton, Florida, where he moves in with an elderly piano teacher at Century Village, a retirement community that is home to thousands of senior citizens. Early Bird is an irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately warmhearted account of Rodney's journey deep into the heart of retirement. Rodney struggles for acceptance from the senior citizens he shares a swimming pool with and battles with cranky octogenarians who want him off their turf. Before long he observes, “I don't think Tuesdays with Morrie would have been quite so uplifting if that guy had to spend more than one day a week with Morrie.” In the spirit of retirement, Rodney fashions a busy schedule of suntanning, shuffleboard, and gambling cruises. As the months pass, his neighbors seem to forget that he is fifty years younger than they are. He finds himself the potential romantic interest of an aging femme fatale. He joins a senior softball club and is disturbed to learn that he is the worst player on the team. Early Bird is a funny, insightful, and moving look at what happens to us when we retire, viewed from a remarkably premature perspective. Any reader who plans on becoming an old person will enjoy joining Rodney on his strange journey, as he reconsiders his notions of romance, family, friendship, and ultimately, whether he's ever going back to work.

30 review for Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Rothman is part of the ever growing number of writer's who set of on a predetermined venture of which they are paid to write about. This type of story typically works for me because I don't mind living vicariously through writing, these books are typically quite humorous and often I learn something from the vicarious experience. Unfortunately, Rothman's just didn't resonate with me. The venture was too canned, the humor was few and far between, his knowledge and insight was limited. Rothman is part of the ever growing number of writer's who set of on a predetermined venture of which they are paid to write about. This type of story typically works for me because I don't mind living vicariously through writing, these books are typically quite humorous and often I learn something from the vicarious experience. Unfortunately, Rothman's just didn't resonate with me. The venture was too canned, the humor was few and far between, his knowledge and insight was limited.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    “Where’s your coat?” “It’s not that cold.” “You’re going to catch a cold if you don’t wear a coat.” “It’s 82 degrees outside.” “I know. Where’s your coat? Put on your coat!” “Yes ma’am.” Rodney Rothman, I wish I were you. I wish I were a former head writer for The Late Show with David Letterman. I wish I had gotten to work on the Judd Apatow television show Undeclared. I’ve read some of your McSweeney’s articles, and I laughed at them. I’ve seen your name pop up on shows like The Office. You’re that w “Where’s your coat?” “It’s not that cold.” “You’re going to catch a cold if you don’t wear a coat.” “It’s 82 degrees outside.” “I know. Where’s your coat? Put on your coat!” “Yes ma’am.” Rodney Rothman, I wish I were you. I wish I were a former head writer for The Late Show with David Letterman. I wish I had gotten to work on the Judd Apatow television show Undeclared. I’ve read some of your McSweeney’s articles, and I laughed at them. I’ve seen your name pop up on shows like The Office. You’re that writer journeyman who gets to work on all the fun stuff; fun stuff that I like to watch and read. Yes, I would like just a sliver of your life. I want to walk in your shoes, except for that part when you spent a year in a retirement home. “Where are your socks?” “My socks?” “Your socks. You’re going to catch a cold.” “It’s June Grandma.” “SOCKS!” “Yes ma’am.” It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but the jist is that after the cancellation of Undeclared Rothman decided to retire from work. He was a young writer, who had done nothing but work on television shows for seven years. He had some money saved up, he had no commitments (except for maybe a book deal), and he simply decided it was time to retire. So he retired. I’m not talking about, loaf around the house, watching CNN and eating frozen pizzas all day (which is my personal dream), he retired to a retirement community in Boca Raton, Florida. “Have you eaten lunch yet?” “No. I was just going to skip lunch.” “You shouldn’t skip meals. Eat. I have some lunch meat in the refrigerator.” “No, really- it’s…” “EAT!” “Yes ma’am.” It’s really a cute book. Rothman meets and develops relationships with all kinds of old people. It’s funny, and slightly sad, as you think that all these people are going to die, as are we all. It sort of makes me nostalgic for something that’s never happened to me: being doted on by dozens of grandparents who have nothing better to do than to dote on someone. “You eat too much!” “You just handed me this sandwich.” “I know, but if you keep eating, you’re never going to lose weight.” “Right, I understand, but you literally forced me to take this sandwich from you like 45 seconds ago. Now you’re getting mad because I’m eating too much?” “Oprah says…” “Yes ma’am.” I’ve been doted on by one set of grandparents, and it’s lovely, for the first week. I love my grandparents. It was several years ago that I found I had become one of those post undergrad twenty-something bums who found myself homeless when the American Dream failed me (that, or my degree in art failed to land me a job as a high powered business executive, what do those guys do anyway? I want to wear a business suit, and eat power lunches, and sit at a desk checking my Myspace all day too- except for wearing the business suit part) So I was forced to move in with my grandparents. They woke up early, they went to bed early, they didn’t know what the internet was, or have cable television, or know how to work their DVD player… but they doted on me like nobody’s business, and I loved it, and it drove me nuts. So maybe that’s why I loved this book. Not LOVED loved. It’s not my all time favorite book, but it had one of those, “find an old t-shirt in the bottom of the dresser drawer that you haven’t worn in years, but you loved that t-shirt, why haven’t you worn it? So you put it on, and oh yeah, that’s what you miss. Oh sure the sleeves are frayed, and maybe that’s why you stopped wearing it, but it does feel good.” That’s what this book is like… but probably only if you love old people, or were forced to live with your grandparents.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This is fun. Not too deep but poignant at times. Rodney Rothman (at one time the head writer for Letterman) decides to retire early and move to Florida. The catch is that he is 28. He moves to a retirement complex for @ 6 months to research this book. Funny and clever at times.

  4. 4 out of 5

    susie

    the david sedaris comparisons (in the cover flap reviews as well as by the author himself throughout the book) are something i just don't see. this book was funny enough to make me crack some semblence of a smile 2 or 3 times in reading this book, but i never laughed out loud, and more than anything, i felt a little depressed reading it. i don't know why i thought this book would be funny. even after reading this book (especially after?) retiring and aging are not things i look forward to. additi the david sedaris comparisons (in the cover flap reviews as well as by the author himself throughout the book) are something i just don't see. this book was funny enough to make me crack some semblence of a smile 2 or 3 times in reading this book, but i never laughed out loud, and more than anything, i felt a little depressed reading it. i don't know why i thought this book would be funny. even after reading this book (especially after?) retiring and aging are not things i look forward to. additionally, rodney added no new spin on things. obviously, he made many of the people he came in contact with uncomfortable; nearly getting his roommate kicked out of her condo for breaking the rules about keeping pets, taking viagra on a date to see 'the lord of the rings' and describing the results in detail, and tried to make some guy's mom like him more than her own son at thanksgiving dinner. this guy seems like he's starved for attention and moving to the retirement community and writing this book have been two efforts to get himself into a spotlight. i thought 'undeclared' was a pretty funny series, and i love david letterman, but it's hard to believe such a so-so comedian was a writer for both those programs. i think this could have been a funny book if someone else had done it, as the idea is funny, but it wasn't executed in an engaging way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    I thought "Early Bird" was interesting but too staged. You’ve got this successful Jewish writer who won’t stop talking about how Jewish he is parlaying his success into a book deal through which he moves to Florida for “spontaneous” interactions with retirees. I don’t know. Rather than experience retirement then writing the book, the book was clearly in the forefront of his mind throughout the experience. “Let’s go to Florida and write a funny book about old people!” He does treat the old folks I thought "Early Bird" was interesting but too staged. You’ve got this successful Jewish writer who won’t stop talking about how Jewish he is parlaying his success into a book deal through which he moves to Florida for “spontaneous” interactions with retirees. I don’t know. Rather than experience retirement then writing the book, the book was clearly in the forefront of his mind throughout the experience. “Let’s go to Florida and write a funny book about old people!” He does treat the old folks with respect, though, and he handles the balance between patronizing the elderly and not making them sound like total assholes well. Plus, the bingo scene is great.

  6. 4 out of 5

    D.B. Wright

    Rodney Rothman's humour is delightful in this quirky book about a 27 year old, who finds himself unemployed and decides to give retirement a try. Found myself chuckling more often than not! Rodney Rothman's humour is delightful in this quirky book about a 27 year old, who finds himself unemployed and decides to give retirement a try. Found myself chuckling more often than not!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jackson

    I loved Early Bird. Rodney Rothman takes you on a dysfunctional vacation to Florida, amongst floral-print couches, guffawing retirees, silly grandmas, and four-dollar buffets. These things themselves aren't very interesting, but Rothman synthesizes a broad array of ridiculous Floridians and their quirky habits, all the while using a fantastic observational voice. It is contemplative at times, usually gut-busting, and mostly light-hearted. Although this book didn't challenge me or screw with my mi I loved Early Bird. Rodney Rothman takes you on a dysfunctional vacation to Florida, amongst floral-print couches, guffawing retirees, silly grandmas, and four-dollar buffets. These things themselves aren't very interesting, but Rothman synthesizes a broad array of ridiculous Floridians and their quirky habits, all the while using a fantastic observational voice. It is contemplative at times, usually gut-busting, and mostly light-hearted. Although this book didn't challenge me or screw with my mind, it still gets four stars for making me laugh, pulling me out of rainy Seattle to sun-soaked Boca Raton, and providing wonderful characters along the way. It was my loosen-up book after wading through Ayn Rand's concrete jungle, The Fountainhead. It accomplished its purpose; I read funny parts to my friends, thought about retiring someday, and got a colorful picture of a corner of America that is rarely observed by young'uns such as myself. His relationship with the African Grey Parrot is one of the funnier man-animal interactions I've read. "Shut up, you douche-bag bird." It's a quick read, but worth it for the humor and observation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jaye

    from the book: re: Amy, a friend in her 90s. "I call Amy a few weeks later to apologize. I feel bad about how I acted with her. I'm not sure what got into me. God knows what kind of maniac I'll become when someone who is closer to me, like my parents, gets to be her age. I'm understanding a bit better now why so many of the elderly people I know at Century Village have strained relationships with their children. There's a lot of tension that comes from watching people you know grow old and helple from the book: re: Amy, a friend in her 90s. "I call Amy a few weeks later to apologize. I feel bad about how I acted with her. I'm not sure what got into me. God knows what kind of maniac I'll become when someone who is closer to me, like my parents, gets to be her age. I'm understanding a bit better now why so many of the elderly people I know at Century Village have strained relationships with their children. There's a lot of tension that comes from watching people you know grow old and helpless, when you want to see them as strong and capable. "You get along better with your grandchildren, " one man told me, " because they expect nothing from you other that you being Grandpa." " There is much funny in this book. Also serious stuff. The above I found to resonate as I've personally found it to be true.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I didn't really like this book. It didn't live up to my expectations. It has a quote from Jon Stewart on the cover, and seemed like a good concept, but wasn't that funny. The book doesn't have a good throughline. I imagine Rothman had all this material and it sort of resolved itself into various topics. However he ends one chapter abruptly and begins the next with no bridge between. He has a very dry style, but it comes off as lack of interest rather than wit. There's no sense that he actually c I didn't really like this book. It didn't live up to my expectations. It has a quote from Jon Stewart on the cover, and seemed like a good concept, but wasn't that funny. The book doesn't have a good throughline. I imagine Rothman had all this material and it sort of resolved itself into various topics. However he ends one chapter abruptly and begins the next with no bridge between. He has a very dry style, but it comes off as lack of interest rather than wit. There's no sense that he actually cares about trying to get in with the old ladies by the pool, or how terrible his roommates cats are. It seems like he felt like he should write this book, so he did. But he didn't actually learn anything, I don't think. I wouldn't recommend it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "This is an easy read", I heard from several. Yes it is, but primarily because there is nothing substantive about it. A young guy loses his job, decides to do "pretend retirement", and subsequently writes about it. Each chapter is a short story about some interaction he has in the retirement community. The cover jacket touts that this book is so funny but I didn't laugh at all through the whole book. The jokes felt too contrived and many of them were sacreligious in my opinion, taking away any c "This is an easy read", I heard from several. Yes it is, but primarily because there is nothing substantive about it. A young guy loses his job, decides to do "pretend retirement", and subsequently writes about it. Each chapter is a short story about some interaction he has in the retirement community. The cover jacket touts that this book is so funny but I didn't laugh at all through the whole book. The jokes felt too contrived and many of them were sacreligious in my opinion, taking away any chance of me liking the book at all. Would not ever recommend this book to anyone.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Campbell

    Mr. Rothman, I live in Century Village (CV) Boca Raton and I am the baby here - moving in, just before age 55. So, your book was right on the money! I nearly died reading it (from laughter of course) from cover to cover, and read it in two sittings. By the way, your statement on the women's canasta groups being the 'Skull and Bones' group here at CV was hilarious, but so true. Having recently entered that echelon of society, I so sympathized with your rights of passage to even gain admittance. Bu Mr. Rothman, I live in Century Village (CV) Boca Raton and I am the baby here - moving in, just before age 55. So, your book was right on the money! I nearly died reading it (from laughter of course) from cover to cover, and read it in two sittings. By the way, your statement on the women's canasta groups being the 'Skull and Bones' group here at CV was hilarious, but so true. Having recently entered that echelon of society, I so sympathized with your rights of passage to even gain admittance. But, for all other readers, if you have any interest into how life works at a large 55+ retirement home that tilts more towards older seniors, you'll certainly enjoy this book. It focuses less on the indignities of old age, and more on how a large condo block like CV self-organizes itself according to tradition, religious beliefs, and simply the ornery preferences of its residents. It is not a sad book (assuming you've come to grips with your own mortality). Rather, it is actually a celebration of all that remains to be done, tempered with the observation that not much will come your way unless you reach out to others. And, for that reason alone, Mr. Rothman deserves to be celebrated for the spectacular attempt he made in getting close to those with life experiences and world views far from his own. Kudos, Mr. Rothman!

  12. 4 out of 5

    eRin

    Rodney is 28. Rodney loses his job. Rodney considers going on vacation. Rodney remembers his best vacations--visiting his grandparents at their retirement home in Florida. Rodney decides to retire 40 years early. Just to check it out, you know. He literally moves into a retirement community, renting out a room in an elderly lady's condo. He has a bit of difficulty making friends with his neighbors (they're all pretty friendly until they realize that he isn't anyone's grandson). He joins clubs--l Rodney is 28. Rodney loses his job. Rodney considers going on vacation. Rodney remembers his best vacations--visiting his grandparents at their retirement home in Florida. Rodney decides to retire 40 years early. Just to check it out, you know. He literally moves into a retirement community, renting out a room in an elderly lady's condo. He has a bit of difficulty making friends with his neighbors (they're all pretty friendly until they realize that he isn't anyone's grandson). He joins clubs--lots and lots of clubs. The Newcomers Club, the Not For Women Only Club, the Shuffleboard Club. He makes new friends and is the scared recipient of a seventy-five-year-old woman's come-on (he doesn't go through with it). He finds the foulest-mouthed old woman in the world (and ends up yelling at her). Throughout the six plus months, we go with Rodney as he experiences the world of retirement and does some investigating into his future. Not as funny as advertised...but are they ever, really? Not a bad memoir, pretty funny at times. It bothered me a bit that he moved to the retirement community with the book idea in mind, so some of it seems a bit contrived. Overall it was a good read--the elderly friends he makes are pretty darn funny sometimes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Abney

    Aside from a few amusing anecdotes and some humorous character sketches, I wouldn’t really characterize this as a funny book. Nor is it a particularly insightful look into retirement through the eyes of a burnt-out 20-something. In fact, I’m not really sure what this book is. The most I can say about it is that it is sweet in a kind of funny/kind of sad way. Borrowed from the public library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I wonder what the folks at the retirement community this 28 year old lived at think of this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eden Thompson

    From my book blog www.JetBlackDragonfly.blogspot.com Rodney Rothman was a writer for the David Letterman show, working long hours with no sign of a social life. At 28, his current job ended and he wondered what he was working so hard towards - what his future retirement was going to be. Would the long awaited prize be worth it? Living in New York and Jewish, he did what his family and neighbours do - he moved to Florida to live in a massive retirement community called Century Village! As most deve From my book blog www.JetBlackDragonfly.blogspot.com Rodney Rothman was a writer for the David Letterman show, working long hours with no sign of a social life. At 28, his current job ended and he wondered what he was working so hard towards - what his future retirement was going to be. Would the long awaited prize be worth it? Living in New York and Jewish, he did what his family and neighbours do - he moved to Florida to live in a massive retirement community called Century Village! As most developments have an over 55 age rule, he rented a room from Margaret, her two cats, and her parrot. Open minded and outgoing, he explores the culture and makes friends with his fellow retirees, who take a while to accept that he is not someone's visiting grandson. Soon he is getting up at 6 am, trying to break into the tight knit Pool Group clique, and trying to entice others into the exciting sport of shuffleboard. Having a car, he visits and compares other retirement communities of all levels and the southern Florida area. Many octogenarians are cranky, but all have interesting life stories and show life after retirement is just the beginning. There is Amy, the 93 year old stand up comic, and a fit softball team of over 70's that kick his ass. He meets Vivian, a many time married femme fatale in her 70's with long jet black hair, and he helps a few others join JDate and other matchmaking sites. After several months, he gets so used to hanging out in his zip-up terry cloth casual outfit that he could forget he is fifty years younger than they are, and venturing out for dinner after 6pm seems strange! Early Bird is very funny and insightful, a great look at the old age that is hopefully coming to us all, and how we will want to live it. Sentimental and never condescending, he looks at all aspects of retirement - from dating to travel, shopping to activities. A very enjoyable read right through. If you are planning to get old, I'd recommend it!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rasika Kumar

    After reading a really heavy book, I picked this up as a "palate cleanser", hoping for something light and amusing. This was light but not very amusing or very interesting for that matter. The anecdotes weren't particularly insightful or even entertaining. I forced myself to finish this to see if I would enjoy it better over time...nope, no such luck. After reading a really heavy book, I picked this up as a "palate cleanser", hoping for something light and amusing. This was light but not very amusing or very interesting for that matter. The anecdotes weren't particularly insightful or even entertaining. I forced myself to finish this to see if I would enjoy it better over time...nope, no such luck.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

    A insightful look at a burned out TV writer (Letterman) and his journey into retirement in Florida. Very funny, prophetic as generations clash and eventually mesh. Kind of living this now as my adult son works remotely in our “older” community in SC. Clever writing, generational insights and triumphs.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is probably one of those books that's funnier if you read it in the voice of the comic who wrote it. But I don't know the guy, and it didn't seem very funny. I did get a few good laughs here and there, which is pretty good. This is probably one of those books that's funnier if you read it in the voice of the comic who wrote it. But I don't know the guy, and it didn't seem very funny. I did get a few good laughs here and there, which is pretty good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Kramer

    I love this book... so real , easy to read , so true ... i live in Florida in a senior complex and the reality of the book and stories is so vivid... great sense of humor and funny too... recommend it !!! i

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Do you often think of retiring? Me, too. Rodney Rothman did at at age 28, and this is his story about the 6 months he spent at a retirement community in Florida. (Where else, right?). It's quick & entertaining, good for light summer reading around the pool, minus the Pool Group, of course... Do you often think of retiring? Me, too. Rodney Rothman did at at age 28, and this is his story about the 6 months he spent at a retirement community in Florida. (Where else, right?). It's quick & entertaining, good for light summer reading around the pool, minus the Pool Group, of course...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    I would have enjoyed it more if the cover hadn’t positioned it as him actually retiring early. It was obvious on every page this experiment was for a book (research, recorder). Still some funny and poignant observations.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    oh my.... a very boring book that made absolutely no sense to me. Twenty something guy going down to Florida to live in a retirement community. Silly, boring and hard to get through.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Flannery Meehan

    I sometimes screamed with laughter or got a stomach ache from laughing while reading about Rodney and the elderly.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I liked it, reminds me of a CBS Sunday Morning News show.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Lucero

    I just loved it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Murad Ertaylan

    Some good ideas, a few nice jokes, but a bit dry... Characters could have been more intriguing and events juicier.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Boyette

    Not as funny or as deep as I would have hoped, but a fun read about appreciating our elders.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leah Paul

    I thought it would be funnier.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Bullard

    Funny, Surprisingly thought-provoking read

  30. 4 out of 5

    Romy

    While the book had some fun anecdotes and interesting insight, it lacked a thread to link all the stories together. I also didn't get a sense of what the author learned from the experience. While the book had some fun anecdotes and interesting insight, it lacked a thread to link all the stories together. I also didn't get a sense of what the author learned from the experience.

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