Whatever it is, I’m shocked at something I couldn’t remember today.
Someone had said to me that Steph Curry had played basketball at Davidson, which I knew was supposed to impress me, but all it did was cause me to go look up “Steph Curry.” (And it turns out he IS quite impressive).
Because, you know, I don’t do real-life sports. I do frequently enjoy fictional sports (I like the idea of sports more than the reality), so I can tell you all about Roy Hobbs and Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey and Willie “Mays” Hayes and (now that Bryan has me watching “Friday Night Lights”) “Smash” Williams, Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen.
So anyway, defending myself, I boasted that while I don’t know this Curry guy, I can name all the Hickory Huskers from “Hoosiers.”
But then, privately, I tried to do so, and without looking them up, all I came up with was this:
Yeah, I know it’s probably not really a coincidence, but simply a matter of my brain being alert to something it would otherwise have ignored, but it impressed me when it happened.
Last night, I was catching up on this week’s New York Times crosswords. I zipped through Monday’s and Tuesday’s over dinner, and was doing well on Wednesday’s when I got stuck. So I cheated. I do that sometimes when I know there’s no way I know the answer, and that one word is creating a logjam that’s preventing me from getting several others. I’m not proud of it, but I’d rather do that than not finish the puzzle.
The clue was “_____ Marie, singer of the 1985 hit ‘Lovergirl’.” Five letters. I had no idea. I remember a lot of songs from that year — sort of a big year in the MTV era, as I recall. But not that one. So I Googled “Lovergirl” and found “Teena.” Yeah, I wasn’t going to get that one.
I bragged to my wife about how quickly I’d done the crosswords, but of course confessed that I’d cheated on that one. I said I didn’t recall her. My wife suggested that maybe she was a country singer, which would explain my not remembering. I said maybe so…
This morning, driving in, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” (I suppose when I had last been in the car, I had gotten tired of some topic on NPR and switched to a commercial station.) Anyway, I got to noticing the rhythm of it, and tried to decide whether that was a human drummer or a drum machine. I decided I couldn’t tell.
Later, while I was eating breakfast, a speaker in the ceiling at Cap City was softly churning out pop music, and the room was quiet, and I heard an intro that caused my brain to go “another ’80s tune,” although I didn’t recognize it. But the genre was unmistakable. As I listened again just now, it seemed to me that someone was trying to sound like Prince.
A moment later, my iPad froze up in the middle of trying to read something, as it does sometimes, and I looked up in irritation, and heard, “I just want to be your lovergirl…”
I queried SoundHound, and sure enough, it was “Teena.” I still didn’t recognize the song. As I listened, it sounded a bit more familiar, but there must have been a hundred unremarkable songs that sounded like that in the ’80s.
Anyway, it’s probably not weird, but it felt weird…
Yeah, I know this isn’t the most compelling topic, but it’s what I was thinking about just now, and it involved pop music, although not very good pop music, I admit…
I was flabbergasted by this piece in the WSJ over the weekend:
Earlier this month, one of the greatest mysteries in rock ’n’ roll was finally solved. The unnamed “king” and “jester on the sidelines” in Don McLean’s iconic 1971 song “American Pie” were revealed to be Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, respectively….
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hang on! Greatest mysteries?
Who did not know, soon after the song’s release in the fall of 1971, that “the king” was Elvis and the “jester” was Dylan?
Nobody! At least, nobody who was old enough to take a consuming interest in listening to the radio and who had time on his hands to talk endlessly about such drivel. In other words, nobody who was in college then.
You know what? Now that I think back, I’m hard-pressed to explain how we knew all that stuff that we knew about the song. There were no social media. There was no Wikipedia. And mass media were firmly in the hands of the older generation, which didn’t care and didn’t engage such topics. Did we get it from DJs on the radio? From Rolling Stone? I don’t remember how we knew; we just did. Or thought we did, anyway…
By which I mean that it should be celebrated on July 2, the day the Congress took the vote for Independence. But anyway…
Speaking of which, I saw parts of “1776” on the telly this afternoon. It was actually pretty accurate. I was a bit disconcerted to see Benjamin’s father from “The Graduate” as John Adams, but he did OK.
And I say it was accurate because it pretty clearly showed what happened in the Continental Congress — how it was the obnoxious, irascible Adams who was responsible for persuading the Congress to declare independence. Jefferson sat there silent through the debates. And Adams chose him to write the thing, which he was reluctant to do. (The film shows Jefferson eager to run home and see his wife rather than work on the drafting committee. Not sure whether that’s literally accurate, but it’s true to character. Jefferson tended to want to do things when they were convenient to him, while Adams went out and did the hard work.)
It was fun to watch William Daniels’ Adams browbeat the Congress, especially the courtly Rutledge from South Carolina, into making the big decision. The last part I saw was Rutledge singing this song:
Molasses to rum to slaves, oh what a beautiful waltz
You dance with us, we dance with you
Molasses and rum and slaves
Who sails the ships out of Boston
Ladened with bibles and rum?
Who drinks a toast to the Ivory Coast?
Hail Africa, the slavers have come
New England with bibles and rum
And its off with the rum and the bibles
Take on the slaves, clink, clink
Hail and farewell to the smell
Of the African coast
Molasses to rum to slaves
‘Tisn’t morals, ’tis money that saves
Shall we dance to the sound of the profitable pound
In molasses and rum and slaves
Who sails the ships out of Guinea
Ladened with bibles and slaves?
‘Tis Boston can coast to the West Indies coast
Jamaica, we brung what ye craves
Antigua, Barbados, we brung bibles and slaves!
Molasses to rum to slaves
Who sail the ships back to Boston
Ladened with gold, see it gleam
Whose fortunes are made in the triangle trade
Hail slavery, the New England dream!
Mr. Adams, I give you a toast:
Hail Boston! Hail Charleston!
Who stinketh the most?
Rutledge’s main concern was that after independence, that South Carolina’s sovereignty be paramount. Ah, yes, South Carolina was playing that role from the beginning.
Adams, of course, would live to see his own role largely forgotten by the public, while Jefferson was lionized every July 4. Fifty years later, on that very day, they both died.
And now, to take you from the very heights of American statesmanship to the, um, present day, here are some pictures that Lora Prill of ADCO texted to me from the Gilbert Peach Festival, with her comments…
"Lindsey in the parade apologizing for the government being so screwed up."
"Alan Wilson, at least a dozen floats behind his daddy."
Nora Ephron brought us two of the most indelible scenes in contemporary cinema — and they’re startlingly different.
There’s the infamous “Silkwood shower,” from the 1983 movie, with Meryl Streep as a terrified worker at a nuclear power plant, being frantically scrubbed after exposure to radiation.
Then there’s the scene in which Meg Ryan drives home a point to Billy Crystal at Katz’s Deli, in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally. You know — the one that ends with “I’ll have what she’s having.”…
But here’s the thing. On the same radio station over the weekend, I heard Rob Reiner being interviewed on “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” He directed “When Harry Met Sally,” and he said this about it:
GROSZ: You know, so many of your movies specifically have very quotable lines. From “I’ll have what she’s having,” or, you know, “turn it up to 11,” or, you know, how many times do you ask a waiter for something and he turns to you and he says “as you wish?”
GROSZ: I mean there’s so many lines from your movies that are quotable. Do you go for that? Do you grab the script and scream at the writer?
REINER: No, no, you know, you just make a movie and you put these things in. And you never know what’s going to – you know, “I’ll have what she’s having” was a line that Billy Crystal came up with in that scene. We didn’t – my mother, you know, is the one who delivered that line…
So which was it? If she were alive, would Ms. Ephron agree with Mr. Reiner’s memory? I guess when a lot of creative people get together and collaborate on something that works and is remembered, it’s sometimes tough to remember who did what.
I know I sometimes have trouble remembering, from my career, whether I came up with a particular idea — or even whether I wrote a particular editorial — because all I know for sure was that I was heavily involved in the discussion.
It’s funny the things you can’t remember, years later. For instance, when I mentioned the other day meeting Barack Obama, it got me to thinking about others I had met. And I remembered the first presidential candidate I covered. It was Jimmy Carter. I remember being excited to be there, not only because it was an exciting thing to be covering an aspect of a presidential election (it was a routine reception in Memphis), but because I really liked Jimmy, and was excited about his 1976 candidacy. I remember a number of details about the event — such as the Secret Service requiring me to take a telephoto lens I’d brought with me out of its cylindrical case, to make sure it wasn’t a weapon — but I realized I couldn’t remember whether I shook hands with Gov. Carter or interacted with him in any way.
Odd that I have no idea about that. Memory is a funny thing.
I was struck by this when I interviewed the late Ted Sorensen, JFK’s legendary speechwriter. In the video below, you’ll see him be unsure about who came up with a certain line, but generously and loyally giving the credit to President Kennedy…