Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

This American Life That I Can't Seem To Remember Anything About

Yesterday I taped my story for This American Life, which will run in three or four weeks, assuming it runs at all. (Apparently you never know about these things.) But a very strange thing happened in the process. As I may have mentioned, the story is about my dad and the time me and my brother's bikes got stolen. The way the piece is apparently going to work is that I tell the story, and then I call my Dad to hear his side of things, because we view it completely differently. That's what makes it fun.

But here's the amazing thing: I didn't just draw a different conclusion than Dad did; it turns out I had just about every part of the story wrong. Not horribly wrong--the sense is still the same--but in every stray particular. Here's the rundown (SPOILER ALERT; read the original story first!):

1.) Dad wasn't buying a bike for me and my brother. Daniel already had a bike; this was just for me.
2.) I had always assumed the bike was terribly expensive. Dad said it was only about $25 to $50. (Which would still have made it the priciest gift I'd ever had, but still...)
3.) Daniel came with me, but he was on foot, so there was only one bike--mine--and Daniel was walking alongside. So it was slower going than I remembered.
4.) When we came home, there was nothing in the living room. Dad just said, "Your bike is in the back now."
5.) Most amusingly, Dad didn't put the bike in the back of the car; he simply told mom to drive, and he took the bike and rode it the mile and a half home. (Also, some guy tried to stop him, so I guess I'm lucky this story didn't end with Dad in jail.)

Dad also said, "You know, David, I think you've always exaggerated how poor we actually were." I have to say I still disagree--I remember tons of corn meal and rice, and at least one really depressing birthday where all my brother and I got was a blank cassette tape to play with--but it's given me pause. We actually had to re-record my version of the story again to eliminate the direct contradictions. Clearly I wasn't paying attention at the time, and had to reconstruct the whole thing after the fact, once the bike's theft had made an impression. It's nice to have the story cleared up, but it makes me wonder: how much of my family do I even know? How much have I been projecting all these years? I think I'm going to start fact-checking my own damn anecdotes, just to be safe.

On an unrelated note, if you want This American Life insider information, here's a fun tidbit: In the lounge area of their offices, they have their awards sort of clumped together on a corner of a crowded table-height shelf, which has the odd effect of putting their Peabody Award right next to their 2006 Corporate Basketball Champions trophy--and both are in front of a plaque that Julie Snyder won in high school: Best Humorous Interpretation in Speech and Debate. Sublime, meet Ridiculous. It was really fun to see.



Blogger Kris the Girl said...

I don't actually think it's so unusual that the details were so different - I think the conclusions drawn and impressions made when we're children have a delightful way of sticking with us as facts long into adulthood. I love discussing our childhood with my siblings, because even though we were pretty close (in age and in getting-along-ness), we have some pretty varied memories of events. Even better is throwing my parents into the mix.
It's a great story, whichever version you remember. :)

3/07/2008 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I haven't been able to find the article online I wanted to reference, but I had gleaned from a study that memories, aren't hardwired and immutable, but that our remembrance of events changes often. Every time we think we are remembering an event, we are likely instead just creating a new memory of the previous memory - merely adding a fresh coat of paint to the last one.


3/07/2008 5:27 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Actually, Dad was wrong. I talked to him about it today.

He bought both bikes for $50 at a garage sale, and we had to choose who got the red one and who got the green one. I remember this, because of a joke I made about it: but both of us being red-green colorblind, it didn't matter. I think one was an inch shorter and so that was the actual deciding factor.

I also remember asking Dad how on earth he managed to steal both bikes from us, and he said he just rode one and held on to the other.

The image of my patient, scholarly and dignified father awkwardly pedaling down Speedway Boulevard, balancing on two ten-speeds has haunted me ever since.

3/08/2008 11:02 AM  

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