As I Recall…

Clyde was threatened by the specter of memory. His very existence in jeopardy from a fear caused by the memories of all those he associated with, thought of, and knew. The memories of friends. The memories of lovers. The memories of everyone remembering someone other than him. Remembering someone better than him. We can never measure up to memory.

There were his parents, whose memories of his significantly older brothers overshadowed everything he did. Clyde’s parents married later in life, for a second time each. In the prime of their lives, with their first loves, they raised sons. Sons they dearly loved. Sons they remembered fondly. Idyllically. Sons who hung the stars and lit the day sky. Sons who became friends after their parents met. Sons who died together, tragically, not-drunk-driving. Clyde was the replacement. “Why can’t you be more like…” The chorus of his youth, Greek tragedy-style. Imitate the brothers you never knew. His existence under the roof of his parents had only that purpose – replacement. Ultimately, a failure. He ran away young, haunted by memories not his own.

There was Janine and the memories of her 15 previous lovers and 2 former husbands that weighed on him every time he saw her, went down on her, made love to her. Clyde wasn’t old-fashioned, prudish, or judgemental, but reality sometimes overshadows those things we’ve held dear. Called by the wrong name (a time or two) in the throes of passion. Reminded occasionally, usually while drunk, of the sexual prowess of certain former lovers. Fearful of the concepts that uncertain men roll around in their minds when not otherwise occupied – “am I enough to satisfy forever, especially when compared to…,” “am I good enough for her to not look elsewhere…,” “am I handsome enough…have money enough…smart enough…sexy enough…interesting enough…everything enough?” He’d never had any indication that anything was wrong in their relationship, but the memories weighed on his soul. He contemplated leaving daily, taunted by memories not his own.

There was his best friend Brent, whose previous friends were much better looking, wealthier, funnier, and of course, most importantly, much better wingmen when out at the bars. Clyde spent most of his life married, and then a disinterest in relationships so intense as to be unhealthy overwhelmed him. He loved conversation, particularly with attractive (and hopefully) intelligent women, but that didn’t translate into buttering up hotties for Brent to bed later. He worried that Brent would move on, befriend a better wingman, inspired by memories he loved to recount of conquests out of his league.

There were, finally, his children, whose memories of their recently deceased mother were the focal point of most of their conversations with their father. Memory cleanses. Or rather, perhaps more accurately, when trying to cope with devastating loss, rewrites the past, which becomes a picture book to fondly gaze back on. The conversations were on repeat, day after day, as they acclimated to the new situation of living with their father. But the dialogue reminded him only of one thing – the lie that wove itself through the marriage, ultimately causing divorce. His memories of that deception clouded his every interaction with his children, placing her above anything he could hope to build with them.

There were also his own memories. The memory of Clyde. Unable to recall mundane things, like the name of his waitress, his favorite bottle of wine, a birthday, even the name of a book – he was, however, cursed with an inability to forget certain experiences. What had he seen, done, and heard? Ask him, and with the right prompting he would be engulfed in the memory until joy or pain had run their course. His memory worked similarly with books – never remembering names or details (until conversational situations reminded him), but he could talk about the story forever. The actions of life, like the movement of a story, he was unable to forget. Even if the order of memory was often corrupted, the words and images were burned into his brain. Perhaps words stuck because of his obsession with reading and writing…regardless, primarily pain remained. Parents disappointed, adults disobeyed, love lost, lovers crushed, siblings betrayed, progeny abandoned. His own memory, more poignantly than that of other, was killing him.

Yet day after day he awoke, certain (yet not prepared) to create another memory that he’d be unable to forget. Unable to excel. Unable to moderate. Unable to fail.

Unable to forget.

Cursed be he above all others who is enslaved by Memory.

Memory takes the place of brothers; Memory takes the place of parents; Memory brings us war and slaughter, hate and love, pain and fear, life and death.

I both remember and do not remember; am mad and am not mad.

[inspired by 2 quotes from Anacreon]

Grady Champion — Canton’s Bluesman

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The article below was commissioned by and published in The Canton News, July 6, 2017, Volume 3, Number 7.

Canton, Mississippi has many reasons to be proud, and first and foremost among them are her people. From Elmore James (blues singer) to L.C. Greenwood (NFL) to George Raymond (civil rights activist), our fair city is known for the caliber of people she produces.

A shining star for modern Canton is Grady Champion, bluesman extraordinaire. His two decade long career has established him as a Grammy Award winning blues songwriter, singer, producer, and harmonica/guitar player.

Born in 1969 in Canton, the youngest of 28 children, Grady discovered his love of music at the tender age of 8 at church with his family. His first foray into music professionally was as a rapper, but he quickly discovered that his true talents lay with the blues.

Ever an innovator, Grady wasn’t satisfied to simply do the blues as they’d always been done before. He incorporated the music he loved as a young man, rap and hip hop, to create a style of blues that was wholly faithful to tradition, yet innovative enough to draw new and younger fans. His music has won multiple awards, particularly his hit single ‘Make That Monkey Jump,’ and taken him all around the world on tour.

These days Grady spends his time doing the things he loves the most — writing songs, recording music, and touring. His most recent album, One of a Kind, was released by Malaco Records in September 2016.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity to see Grady perform live, you’re missing a true treat. His stage presence is phenomenal, combining incredible energy with a love of performance and constant interaction with the crowd. He knows that fans provide a musician’s success, and he treats them with the love and respect of someone who appreciates every single one of his supporters. At Grady’s concerts, you always feel like you’re among family and friends, beginning with the performer himself.

For a chance to see Grady live, visit his website (gradychampion.com) for tour dates. Hint — he has 2 concerts in Mississippi before July 10!

book review – ‘men without women’ by haruki murakami

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I have to begin by saying that Haruki Murakami is, by far, my favorite living writer. He might even be my favorite writer of all time, though that title is one I’m loathe to give anyone. Writing is living – how do you chose a favorite?

Men Without Women is Murakami’s most recent publication in English. It is a book of 7 short stories, one of which I’d read in The New Yorker a few years ago.

The first several stories (perhaps the starting 4) are the least “classical Murakami” that I’ve ever seen him write. They take a much more matter of fact view of reality than I’m used to engaging in Murakami.

It’s a hard concept (“classical Murakami,” at least in my understanding) for me to unpack, but here’s an effort: Murakami has a particular presentation of reality that, although it varies in detail between novels and stories, is consistently a mixture of our known human experience with something other, something beyond. It’s often said, and I’ve used the phrase in my own writing and discussion, that his style is very similar to mystical realism. The other pokes in its head, but no one thinks it odd to encounter, even for the first time, something outside the realm of typical human experience and knowledge.

Story number 5, ‘Kino,’ is the first traditional Murakami engagement with reality of the collection, and was one of my absolute favorites. It’s the story of a man dealing with the end of his marriage, and the tale’s approach is simply beautiful.

The final story, ‘Men Without Women,’ lends its title to the book for good reason. It is another tale of loss, and loneliness, and telling our tales from the side, as we often do. Pain is difficult to face directly, so story provides an ideal outlet for that least pleasant of emotions.

I strongly believe that understanding and attraction come in knowing – so I’ll end with 3 of my favorite excerpts from the text.

Enjoy my Murakami.

Excerpts


“But the movement of time seemed not to be fixed properly. The bloody weight of desire and the rusty anchor of remorse were blocking its normal flow. Time was not an arrow flying in a straight line. The continuing rain, the confused hands of the clock, the birds still fast asleep, a faceless postal worker silently sorting through postcards, his wife’s lovely breasts bouncing violently in the air, something obstinately tapping on the window…In a small dark room, somewhere inside Kino, a warm hand was reaching out to him. Eyes shut, he felt that hand on his, soft and substantial. He’d forgotten this, had been apart from it for too long. Yes, I am hurt, Very, very deeply. He said this to himself. And he wept. In that dark, still room. All the while the rain did not let up, drenching the world in a cold chill.” (pp. 184-185)

“Everything is blowing up around us, but there are still those who care about a broken lock, and others who are dutiful enough to try and fix it…But maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe working on the little things as dutifully and honestly as we can is how we stay sane when the world is falling apart.” (p. 209)

“I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say here. Maybe I’m trying to write about essence, rather than the truth. But writing about an essence that isn’t truth is like trying to rendezvous with someone on the dark side of the moon. It’s dim and devoid of landmarks. And way too big. What I want to say is, M is the woman I should have fallen in love with when I was fourteen. But it was only much later that I fell in love with her, and by then, sadly, she was fourteen no more. We were mistaken about the time when we should have met. Like forgetting when you’re supposed to meet someone. You get the time of day and place right, but miscalculate the day…

That’s what it’s like to lose a woman. And at a certain time, losing one woman means losing all women. That’s how we become Men Without Women…” (pp. 218; 227)

Men Without Women: Stories