Memories light the corner of my mind

I was reading this piece Digby wrote about today’s anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and I had a sudden flashback of the alcoholic judge I used to date.

I honestly don’t know if it was the grandiosity typical of the advanced alcoholic, or simply hardwired into his psyche, but he was the biggest liar I’ve ever met. He was so prolific, so over the top, he reminded me of the Michael Keaton character in “The Dream Team”. (In a scene where they’re driving past the World Trade Center, Keaton points to it and says, “See that? I designed them.”)

He was forever name-dropping, but it simply doesn’t work with me. I’ve known lots of interesting, creative people (some of them famous) and it’s just not such a big deal. (The only time I’ve ever been starstruck was just a few weeks ago, when I found out someone I know hung out with Laura Nyro for a year. “Really?” I said, and started pressing for details.)

Some of the whoppers the judge told me:
* The FBI hounded him because of his high-profile anti-war activities.
* He was an Olympic lacrosse coach.
* He played keyboards with Al Kooper.
* He was a semiotics genius who’d invented the smile button. (And apparently thought that was something to brag about!)
* His marriage broke up when he caught his wife in bed with her girlfriend. (They split up because she gave him an ultimatum about his drinking.)
* He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who helped evacuate the Saigon embassy. When I challenged him, saying the Marines evacuated it, he gave me a knowing smile and said he’d been on assignment with the CIA – but he couldn’t tell me about it.
* Oh and by the way, he’d recently been diagnosed with leukemia and wasn’t it ironic that he’d found true love with me, only to have it snatched away by a cruel fate?

The real kicker, though, was when he told me he was best friends with one of the guys killed at Kent State, and was even supposed to be there that day. “I thought you went to Michigan State,” I said.

“Yes, but I was supposed to be there that day,” he said.

Whatever. When I broke things off with him, people started cautiously approaching me. “You’re not dating him anymore, right?” Nope, I told them. Then the stories came, and I was floored. I couldn’t believe I’d been involved with someone so very duplicitous. (It was not the last time I was to wonder.) Turned out he was one of those people who sort of appropriated stories he heard from other people and passed them off as his own, and I was in shock. Devastated, really. (My shrink told me not to beat myself up. “You only went out with him for a few months,” he said. “It’s not as if you married him.”)

I did get over him eventually, and cautiously moved on to less obvious liars. But now I realize that I just like storytellers – like me. They may not have been writers in the literal sense, but they wove such glittering tall tales for me, and for a long time, I loved to listen. So I’m not mad anymore, just amused.

One thought on “Memories light the corner of my mind

  1. One of my favorite “Fractured Fairytales” episode on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show was of Gepetto telling the boy to “Stay Wood!” and has always been a source of both comedy and truth to my boys and i over the years.

    “i hate this job and i’m gonna quit!” would be met with “Stay Wood!” from the rest of us. Following this advice was always for the better.

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