All Gas No Brakes: Brigade Book Review
A.T Callaghan lives day-to-day on a dual cocktail of adrenaline and curiosity. You’ll come to realize this shortly into his book. All Gas No Brakes is a gonzo hitchhiker's diary based on experiences he had the summer after his freshman year of college.
A.T is probably best known as the intrepid host of the gloriously chaotic Instagram page “Quarter Confessions.” The IG page consists of a series of videos starring A.T as the curator of all the debauchery and drunken incoherence you’d find walking down the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans; A.T, armed with a generic news microphone and a demeanor that is at once friendly and safely detached, solicited “confessions” from the--and I cannot state this enough--extremely fucked up pedestrians he encountered. The results were insane, hard to even believe, and funny as fuck. The page exploded to almost half a million followers in just a couple of months; if you spend 5 minutes scrolling the page, you’d understand why. It is maybe the purest example of Lightning In A Bottle you could find in the age of Content.
But A.T is a writer, first and foremost, and All Gas No Brakes is his opus. Written a long two years after the events in the book occurred, A.T gives you a clearer description of his life, attitude and thought processes in 60 pages than you’d find in most phonebook-length memoirs. The book starts with a brief survey of AT’s early life as an inner-city delinquent in Seattle, replete with stories of graffiti, rap aliases, and drug experiences. That 50 pages of wild travel experiences follow from the rather ambiguous forward isn’t surprising at all. A.T seems born to throw himself into crazy and uncertain situations. You could imagine him as a toddler voluntarily getting lost in a Best Buy while most kids in the same situation would howl in fear--but A.T is clearly different.
The first travel story in the book involves A.T mistakenly getting taken to an all-male trucker masturbation barn by a small Honduran man in Louisiana. Rather than immediately abandon his mission of hitchhiking back home to Seattle, A.T kept on, seemingly more excited than he was before he started. This carefree attitude is not available to all demographics of people, of course--women especially would be in a much more dangerous position if put in A.T’s shoes; However, he acknowledges this reality at the beginning of the book. A.T is wild, thrill-seeking and confident, but he is self-aware. The occasional pockets of introspection dispersed throughout the book are what saves it from being another trite Stoner White Kid Flexing His Wanderlust-ness work that plagues so many other travel diaries (Kerouac is cringey as fuck to read after you turn 18, sorry).
While A.T’s personal road experiences during All Gas No Brakes are wild and fun to read, the best parts of the book are the people A.T chose to profile. All Gas No Brakes is, in effect, a celebration of those on the margins of society: whether it be graffiti artists, recovering addicts engaged in dangerous professions, or upper-middle class black-sheep burdened by mental illness and too much familial wealth. When A.T traveled up the west coast of the United States, he too traversed the unseen inhabitants who exist in our culture’s billowing shadows. The book is a 60-page grab-bag of weirdness, generosity, and testaments to the invariable unpredictability of people in the era of Postmodernity. At a brief 61 pages, you could probably blow through it in two hours. And you’ll probably read it again.
Brigade Book Society Rating: 8/10
This piece was written by Joe Amendola, a new contributing writer with brilliant insights. You'll start to see more pieces by him in the upcoming weeks. You can find him on Twitter @joeamendola