Free Advice from a Novice Expert

The Secret of Life, According to Penn Jillette’s Dad

I often ask other people for advice. If I suspect you have even a grain of experience related to something I want to know, I will declare you an expert in that field, award you a Ph.D. in Advice, and proceed to blitz you with a storm of one hundred questions so that I can store your wisdom in my brain’s Advice Database for forever. In this way, I have moved from having Absolutely No Idea of what I’m doing into having just Mostly No Idea. My goal is to one day join the society of people with Vague Inklings of what they are doing.

The other day I heard a story told by Penn Jillette about a time he asked his dad for advice. Here it is:

Toward the end of my dad’s life, I really focused and wanted to take him out and get all the wisdom I could get from him.

So we went out to his favorite restaurant, which is a place I think called the Shady Glen, which is a good name for a restaurant: the Shady Glen. It was in Turners [Falls, Massachusetts].

I went out with him and wanted to sit down and talk to him about what life meant, and what he’d learned in his over 80 years on the planet, what I could take away from that.

He ordered a big lobster roll on a toasted hot dog bun, you know, with butter, the way they make lobster rolls in New England.

And he just ate that lobster roll.

I said, “You know, Dad, I just wanted to get any wisdom I can get from you. You’ve lived such a wonderful life, and you’ve been so kind and so good to everyone, and worked so hard.”

And he said, “Just enjoy the lobster roll.”


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