Americans are cursed and the document of our doom is the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson may have had his bleeding heart in the right place, but in penning that line about “the pursuit of happiness,” he sent generations of gullible Yanks scrambling to turn this fanciful right into a reality. (As if “pursuit” equaled “purpose” equaled “guarantee.”) Frankly, you’ll get better terms from Midas Muffler, since the American Dream more often becomes a nightmare of dashed hopes and surprised failure. Bob Garfield knows this. In his reports for NPR and the Washington Post Magazine, he covers the windmill-tilting beat with appropriate and equal measures

of sympathy and sarcasm. His amusingly tragic tales have been collected in Waking Up Screaming From the American Dream, which includes accounts of Garfield’s own pitiful attempts to cash in on Jefferson’s rash edict. Be sure to ask him to sing his country song. Garfield reads at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tower, 4110 W. Ox Rd., Fairfax. FREE. (703) 273-2555; and 7 p.m. Thursday at Olsson’s, 1200 F St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-3686. (Dave Nuttycombe)