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BOOK REVIEW

Funny look at silly laws warrants a read

You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree, By Rich Smith, Three Rivers, 256 pp., $13.95

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to wear a goatee in public unless you have paid a special licensing fee.

You may not fish in your pajamas in Chicago.

When in New Jersey, it is against the law to offer a cigarette to a monkey.

Hundreds of ridiculous laws exist in all 50 states, and intrepid journalism student Rich Smith decided to break as many as he could, chronicling his adventure in his book ``You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree."

It all started with a trivia game on Christmas day 2003. One of the questions -- What activity is it illegal for a divorced woman to do on Sundays in Florida? -- led Smith to wonder what other unenforced absurdities were out there. After doing a little research, he found plenty. ``In Atlanta, Georgia, it is illegal to tie your giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp," Smith writes. ``It is considered a felony in Arizona if you protect yourself from an intruder with any weapon other than one similar to the trespasser's. I pitied the man who decided on leaving a nine-iron under his bed for protection whilst his would-be burglar chose to break in with a putter."

With his buddy, Luke Bateman, in tow, Smith, who lives in Cornwall, England, flew to San Francisco to kick off a summer of driving from state to state, breaking as many laws as possible without harming anyone or getting caught.

While it's impossible for them to break the Florida law that inspired their trip (a divorced woman may not parachute there on Sundays), the guys set their sights on 25 other ordinances that, in their opinion, have no business being on the books. Along the way, the 20-somethings manage to visit a mind-boggling number of Hooters restaurants and Wal-Mart stores, where they procure everything from unorthodox fishing equipment (it's illegal to catch fish with a lasso in Tennessee) to buckets (drinking beer from a bucket while sitting on a curb is prohibited in St. Louis) to kite-building materials (one can't fly anything near the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.) for their escapades. They rely on their credit cards, the words of a dubious California psychic, and a battered copy of ``The World's Stupidest Laws" by David Crombie to get them through to their return flight to England, departing from New York.

The book is part travelogue, part history lesson, and part drunken frat-boy journal. ``The morning began with my fourth hangover of the trip so far and the disturbing revelation that Bateman was still only on his second pair of boxer shorts," Smith reports from Utah. Every detail is documented, even ones that have nothing to do with their quest, and the funny non sequiturs and semi-funny critiques of American pop culture make it a breezy read.

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