Lately I've been concentrating on the Memoir subcategory of this website. I use the word “memoir” because I think it's a funny word, and I like how people stumble over the pronunciation (French and pompous, or un-pompous dumb American?). Also, in one of my favorite scenes from a Coen Brothers movie, Burn After Reading (2008), John Malkovich tells Tilda Swinton that he's quit his job and wants to write a book, “a sort of memoir”—the way he pronounces it, and then her reaction (a nervous laugh that says more than a page of dialogue could)—is so funny, I'll watch that one scene and laugh about it all day.
Memoir is understood to be non-fiction, but I maintain that writing about events from memory is necessarily fiction because in order to remember events we turn them into stories, a version of the things that happened—and there's nothing wrong with that, of course. Anyway, in the case of my memoirs, I'm willfully misusing the word “memoir” in order to not use two words (that I just used earlier in this paragraph) that I would like to retire from my vocabulary—because they have become not useful: “non-fiction” and “story.”
My first memoir page, titled: No Memory, is simply typing and posting, in chronological order, entries that I wrote in notebooks roughly two years ago. I'm kind of following along with the present date, but looking two years back. The second is a link to a separate page, a long-running blog titled: Notebook Journals—also a chronological typing and posting of entires from notebooks—in this case from 20 years ago (so I'm currently in the late-Nineties). The third page, brilliantly titled: Memoir, goes back to my earliest journal (as a 12-year-old, in 1972) and follows from there chronologically. In this case, I'm trying to fill in a few journal-less years (there were a lot of them) with some writing from memory, or in some cases trying to turn fictionalized events back into memories. Faulty, yes, but it's all faulty, and it's all fiction, and whether there is any truth in it is up to the reader to decide.
Which brings us to what I thought about upon waking up this morning: 1988—thirty years ago. That was the year I drove out to San Francisco, intending to move there—and if I had, how different would my life be now? Most likely I would have worked, saved a little money, then moved up to Santa Rosa, location of one of my favorite movies, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). As an avid beer maker, it was my dream to open a brew-pub, which no doubt would have been followed by a microbrewery (my beer was really good!), marriage and kids. As deeply entrenched in brewing culture as my identity would have been, I likely would have perished from a combination of celiac disease and alcoholism. So next time you hoist a flagon of Toboso Brewery's signature Wine Vomit Stout, let your mind wander on some of the paths not taken, but appreciate the one you're on. Please enjoy responsibly.
Randy Russell, 1 August 2018