While reading a review of Augusten Burrough's latest book I was taken back by the intensity of the attack against the memoir. How can anyone remember the exact words in a conversation that had taken place so many years ago? His brother came to the defense stating that Augusten suffers from some type of illness that allows this type of recall.
Others, such as his remaining family members, claim it is fabricated.
Which made me think, aren't many of our memories from "long ago", at the least, slightly embellished?
Sometimes I will surprise myself with the intensity of a memory. For some odd reason I can recall with vivid clarity looking out a window on US 68 outside Hopkinsville while stopped for... (here comes the embellishment, because I can only surmise we were stopped for road work/traffic accident)...a delay. The day was bright, hot and the field was high yellow grass and the sound of bugs was like a symphony in the shimmering heat.
It is like a snap shot from 30 years ago.
This past week found me traveling down a thin ribbon of highway that transported me back those 30 years.
The scenery had changed drastically. Dramatically. I did not recognize much of anything. There were certain landmarks that I searched for that no longer exist. The worlds largest coal shovel sat on the southside of the Western Kentucky Parkway. A looming beast, primitive, hauling away Paradise, down by the Green River.
30 years certainly does have an extraordinary effect on the landscape. Let alone my own personal landscape.
The drive took me whizzing past a town, on one of the several new parkways in the area, that I had spent many a Saturday afternoon drinking beer in the small Tennessee town where the legal drinking age at that time was 18. It made me wonder if that small hole in the wall was still there.
On the way home, I had to look.
My memory was like this: small downtown, railroad tracks, always raining, bathroom outside the building in the back, a rotisserie that slowly cooked the meat in the window, a old wizened African American shop keeper.
My memories include a simple suggestion, "Let's go to the Keg!"
An hour later, on the champagne flight, we would have arrived. Our presence would fill the bar and I'm certain, annoy the locals. But, we loved it. The pork sandwiches, the white bean soup and corn bread. The mirror behind the bar, the small tv in the top corner, near the ceiling. Frosty beer mugs....?
The the long ride home.
I did find the Keg, but it was not the same. The name and the location remain the same. All else is changed. Not a hole in the wall, but a restaurant with a dining room, the small cramped bar area thrown out of the 19th century into the 21st.
And, I'll be damned, indoor bathrooms.
On the wall are two newspaper articles. The first announcing the retirement of the old Black owner, in 1991 at the ripe old age of 91! And a second one in 1994, when he passed at age 94.
So, I had found a tiny piece of my past, my landscape, my memories. I can close my eyes and see Wild Bill tossing back the beer with all of us cheering him on. That man could down a brew in one gulp. I remember the glazed look in his eye after a couple of demonstrations.
And that silly grin. That silly happy early 70's goofy look.
And that's not a fabrication.