Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daddy Won't You Take Me Back To Muhlenberg Co.


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.


chasenkids said...

I haven't read the reviews of Augusten Burrough's latest book though I've read two of his books. I'm curious to read the reviews.

Your entry made me smile. It's good to be back reading my favorite blogs in J-Land. (Is it still called that?)


rollinghillsides said...

Your entry was a very interesting read, indeed.   Thanks for sharing your memories, so vividly .. felt like I could have been there.   Judy, in CT

frankandmary said...

I recently wrote in my private journal that I can recall whole conversations from over 20 years ago & I will also remember the blouse the person had on.  These things have been verified to an extent when I come in contact with people I knew in my youth, but have not seen since.  I will remember things, specifically that happened to them, how they felt about something or a shared secret conversation & they are extremely shocked. One woman swore her mother did a certain thing to her & I remembered the whole situation, & it was actually her step mother.  Later she spoke to her brother & then called to tell me I was right.  I had even remembered the lake we were walking around the day she told me & where we went to lunch also. We were teens & we are in our 40s now.
Sure Burroughs could be lying or misremembering the past, or his family just does not like the picture it paints of them.

jmorancoyle said...

    This entry makes me think of a part of my past that I had completely forgotten until not that long ago when I went exploring. My memory was a bridge. When I was little we'd take a drive into this town from Chicago, and we'd take a turn of the main street and follow this road to a bridge that would take us across the Canal and then reunite us with the main road we were on to begin with. It took a lot of Federal money and a lot of begging before we were allowed the money to build a bridge that could connect both ends of that road, and do it so that we weren't just above the level of the water when we passed. A few weeks ago I took the side road, which still exists, while looking for a coffee shop. I was very surprised to find the bridge landing still existed.
    Very enjoyable entry.

mutualaide said...

I am often surprised when my sister and I are together remembering family gatherings or events and we have nearly completely different memories of the day.  Down to spring or fall.  Night or day.  Aunt or uncle.  Birthday or funeral.  But then, one of us will remember something and the other remembers it the same way.  That gives me comfort because when we don't recollect the same events, places and things, I wonder if I'm losing my marbles.  

Lovely story you've told here.  I like to take rides back to places long ago.

ksquester said...


dkb11161970 said...

ya know, "they" say that we do have the ability of perfect recall as our brains record all that is observed and experienced.  and for most of us, if not all, i think that would be an awesomely terrible burden cuz dude! the mind jabbers enough without unlocking the memories to countless other voices in their many forms.

yeah, i've found the landscape of my memories offers me a sense of nostalgia that is embellished and cherished and oh so much better than the real thing of today; tis true what 'they' say:  ya can't go back again.  ya just can't.

thanks for sharing this!

mtrib2 said...

I enjoyed reading about your interesting trip to a place from your past.   My favorite rememberances are of family Thanksgiving's and Christmas'.    Now the family is down to just a few and seeing them is infrequent.    Keeping in touch by phone with my Mom in Texas is something I do once a month.     mark

sunflowerkat321 said...

I make it back to my stomping grounds about one a year.  It has always changed, but as I walk in the old neighborhood I get this strange sensation of a mix of familiarity and being displaced.  I'm going back for what may be the last time in a very long time next week.  I don't know how I feel about it.

Loved your story about The Keg.  Keep those fond memories close at heart.