My story, more or less
Other than to try and get home without slipping on the ice in my driveway on New Year’s Eve, I made no resolutions for 2007 prior to the ball dropping on Sunday night. But now, 288 hours into the New Year, I’ve decided my goal before ringing in 2008 is to pen a memoir.While I don’t actually think the details of my life, thus far, will possibly be of much interest to anyone other than my mom and my future grandchildren (and only then if they can get beyond what I assume will be the incessant clicking of my dentures), I figure I’ll simply replace the boring bits with exciting stuff as necessary. Hey, why not? It kind of seems like everyone else is doing it.I recently finished reading the memoir, “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls. Many things from her book made an impression on me, not the least of which was her resolve to move beyond her standing in life as presented to her by her highly dysfunctional parents and her almost unfailing optimism, courageous spirit and determination to plow through impossibly ugly situations. But what impacted me most was her memory. I’m famous in my family for having the memory of an elephant. If I was awake and it happened, I remember it. I don’t even need to be pressed hard to recall the stuff that didn’t happen to me when I wasn’t even around or alive. One of my earliest memories is playing in the backyard with my sister when I was 4 and she was 6. I dropped the F-bomb and she ran inside to tattle to my dad. I raced up to my room, slammed the door and hid under my desk. He stormed into the room and scolded me for my potty mouth. But I don’t remember the time of year it happened, the time of day or anything else about the incident.Still, hats off to the 46-year-old Walls, who not only remembers story after story from the time she was a toddler through her 30s, but the broadest and most minute details of each one. She writes about being 3-years-old and treated for a burn in the hospital and seeing her brother’s grimy hand out of the corner of her eye as he chewed on ice. She notes the particulars of the nurse’s hair and make-up. She recalls staring “for a while at the rows of tiny dots in the ceiling panels.” She remembers clothespins in her neighbor’s mouth falling on the dirt and hot dogs swelling and bobbing “in the boiling water as the late-morning sun filtered in through the trailer’s small kitchenette window.” When she was three.When asked during an interview last year on abcnews.com if she embellished her memoir, Walls said she hoped not, but conceded the possibility that people interpret facts differently.And that’s what I’m banking on. I’ve had tons of stuff happen to me that are just shy of potential best-selling material. However, a little creative memory interpretation will remedy that in a jiffy. Like my first season working at Saturday Night Live when Aerosmith was the musical guest and Steven Tyler asked me 30 minutes after we met if I would quit my job on the show and travel with the band on their two-year world tour as his personal assistant. I mulled it over for a few days, spoke with the band’s manager, publicist and Steven’s (now ex-) wife. And then I turned him down. I loved my apartment in New York, my job at SNL and decided being anyone’s lackey would add little value to my resume.But let’s face it – no one’s paying $25 for that story in hardcover; however, change my “no” to a “yes,” throw in some juicy hotel-trashing, sex and drug-fueled late nights and voila – picture me on Oprah’s couch chatting away on her next book club show. In bookstores now is a memoir from National Book Award-winning novelist Robert Stone. He writes about his life in the 60s, including experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs with friends like Ken Kesey. How does that old saying go: If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there. Read about the libel lawsuits brought against “Running with Scissors” memoirist, Augusten Burroughs? Hence, my resolution for 2007: Never let the truth or a forgotten memory get in the way of a good story. Somewhere, somehow, I think James Frey might agree.Meredith C. Cohen writes a Friday column. E-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.
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