Why Past Imperfect Memoirs?

Picking a domain name is a bit like naming a child. You want something distinctive but not weird. You want it to be memorable in a good way. You want it to have longevity – you don’t want to wake up some morning, look at your website and say, “what was I thinking?!”

Of course, with domain names, you can’t always get what you want, to coin a phrase. Your top choice may be taken. And all the experts say you really want a dot com domain name and nothing else. Not dot net or dot us or dot whatever. Just dot com.

I had several domain names in mind when I started my search. I thought “What Just Happened?” was kind of catchy but I was afraid it would sound smart-alecky. Besides, I’d rather save it for my epitaph. I thought about “Tell It Like It Was” but my wife said it was too derivative. “Yeah, but it’s Aaron Neville,” I countered, “so it’s cool.” She insisted I needed something original.

Eventually, I came up with Past Imperfect Memoirs. I had to add ‘Memoirs’ because Past Imperfect was taken by some grammar site in England, but that’s okay. Without ‘memoirs’, you wouldn’t know what I’m doing. I tried the name out on a few people and they mostly liked it but a couple of them said it should be “Past Perfect”, not “Imperfect.” I disagreed and the reason is very simple: people don’t have perfect lives and even if they did, who’d want to read about them?   More importantly, at least from my point of view, who’d want to write about them? Certainly not me. I want hiccups and warts and failures along with the good stuff. I want the agony of defeat at least as much as the thrill of victory because that’s where the character is. Your imperfections make you unique. Obviously, we’re all imperfect, but only you have your particular set of imperfections. And they’re what I’m interested in.  They make you you.

So that’s why I chose Past Imperfect Memoirs.  Dot com.

January 23, 2018


A personal take on why memoirs matter

A personal take on why memoirs matter

My dad was a great joke teller.  He had a seemingly inexhaustible inventory, in part, as I learned after he died, because he collected them on 3×5 cards that he put into a little metal box just like the one where my mom kept her recipes.   His cards were recipes for laughter.   

There were more than 300 entries, both handwritten and typed, arranged under headings that included “farmers” – he lived in Iowa,  “traveling salesmen” – he ran a drug store, and “Czechkie,” the Iowa version of Polish jokes.  There were ethno-geographical headings including Irish, Italian, and Jewish, as well as a mysterious label that read “???????.”  Those turned out to be jokes in questionable taste.  They weren’t really dirty, especially by modern standards, but back in the Eisenhower era, they would have been out of bounds in mixed company.  I never heard him tell any of them.

Because my dad lived most of his life, or at least his joke telling life before the age of political correctness, he told a lot of ethnic jokes, which meant he told a lot of jokes using an accent.  He did this with varying degrees of success –his Englishmen were decent, his Frenchmen were lousy – but he did eastern Europeans especially well, probably because he had a lot of nearby role models to learn from.  There were a lot of Czech farmers who lived in the little town of Solon, about ten miles away, and a lot of them were customers at my dad’s drug store.  Even after decades in America, they spoke with thick accents and my dad could sound just like them. 

When he got older and retired from the drug store, he stopped adding to his inventory and we started hearing the same jokes over and over, but that was okay because after so many years, they’d become polished gems.  His timing was flawless and somehow, the anticipation of hearing the punch lines you knew were coming only added to the pleasure.

For years, I kept telling myself that I should write down his best stories, or better yet, get them on tape.  It would have been so easy and even though he might have been a bit nervous at first, pretty soon he would have relaxed and let it flow.  And I would have all those stories.  But I don’t because when he was in his 80’s, my dad’s memory started to disappear.  Though he was still physically healthy, his dementia accelerated rapidly and within a few months, all the jokes were gone, along with hundreds of other stories and anecdotes from what was a quietly remarkable life. 

Coulda.  Woulda.  And especially shoulda.  I can still hear some of the punch lines – “Officer, if I told you, you’d never believe me” – but no one else ever will.  And that’s a true shame.  Because my dad was a great joke teller.

 

December 12, 2017

 

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