Tag Archives: Dave Barry

Losing it

Humorist Dave Barry once said of memory loss, the nouns are the first to go.

You know the feeling. You’re deep in conversation and, mid-sentence, you can’t remember the name of a simple object or person’s name. I once worked myself into a panicked froth when it took me two hours to remember Roy Orbison. I knew the face. I knew the music—every lyric to every song. Just couldn’t retrieve the man’s name.

I’m here to tell you, officially, that my memory loss has advanced beyond nouns and into adjectives.

We were having dinner last night with some friends.

One was sharing her frustration with having two parents with Alzheimer’s Disease. Around the table, we knew too many people who had suffered from the awful disease and had far too many friends caring for loved ones with dementia. We talked about Alzheimer’s specifically and dementia in general and pondered how memory loss has become so prevalent.

Someone questioned whether dementia truly is an epidemic, or that we’re just hearing more about it. I posited that perhaps we are more aware because there are large facilities that now house dementia patients, whereas in prior generations, a doddering grandparent simply lived with his or her family, blending into the background of everyday life.

One of our dinner guests observed that even the term dementia seemed to be relatively recent. Back when Granny lived with her kids and grandkids, no one referred to Alzheimer’s or memory loss. There was another word.

Yes, there was another word. But what in the world was it?

Around the table, we all tried to remember. How did we refer to old people who had lost their memories? What was that less politically correct, more descriptively exact, word that we no longer use?

The conversation became uncomfortable. No one could remember this simple adjective.

I told our friend, “Stop trying to remember. It’ll come to you eventually. But when you do remember, even at 3 o’clock in the morning, call me. I’ll be up anyway with age-related insomnia.”

Shortly after our friends pulled out of the driveway, our phone rang. I answered.

“Hello?”

“Senile!”

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Health

Like the corners of my mind

Actress Marilu Henner has been getting a lot of air time lately for a rare skill—some are calling it a diagnosis—known as Superior Autobiographical Memory. Henner is one of only six people in the world who are confirmed to have this gift.

She has talked about her gift for years and has recently written a book about it. The book is due out this Spring.

Henner appeared on the Today show yesterday, and maybe some other programs, in follow up to a more in-depth piece that ran on 60 Minutes last month.

I was struck in a deeply personal way upon hearing both of these accounts. I may not have Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I dare say I have something similar. Let’s call mine Excellent Autobiographical Memory. My friends tease me about the details I remember about specific days of specific years—what happened when, what day of the week an occasion fell on, what I was wearing, what song topped the charts and what was going on in the world.

The autobiographical part might seem a bit ego-centric but, as Henner does, I also recall details about other people, conversations we had long ago, what they were wearing (including in many cases, a fragrance) and, often, something about music. I can hear almost any popular song dating back to 1960 and tell you the year it came out. This isn’t superior, maybe not even excellent. But it is my thing.

I don’t know about people with Superior Autobiographical Memory, but I know the birthdays of all my friends and family, without having them written down anywhere. I know my credit card numbers and expiration dates by heart (too much online shopping perhaps?). I even remember the phone number we had when I was six (CL6-2808).

In this blog, I have shared a number of childhood memories that my family members barely remember. Often the memory is as clear as the day it happened, though it’s my memory, and not always 100 percent historically accurate. Usually I’m pretty close.

This is not to say that I have a great memory. I’ve been known to put my car keys in the medicine cabinet. I can be in mid-sentence and forget the simplest of nouns. (Humorist Dave Barry claims the nouns are the first to go.) The day before yesterday, I started out for Jazzercise and ended up at the grocery store on autopilot. Sadly, the names of rivers, mountain ranges, poets and playwrights appearing in crossword puzzles will forever elude me.

Yesterday I wrote about how dancing is considered to have a positive impact on memory. I’m dancing like crazy to keep my wallet out of the refrigerator, while my life’s DVD plays in my hotwired head.

Now where did I leave that crossword puzzle?

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

Modern maturity

I have gotten used to the notion of a United States president who is younger than I am.  I sat through many Back-to-School Night presentations by 22-year-old teachers, without judging.  I am even okay with being older than Supreme Court justice nominee Elena Kagan.

But I got a kick-in-the-gut blow as I pulled the AARP Magazine out of the mailbox and saw on the cover Valerie Bertinelli, who happens to be four months and 10 days younger than I.  By the way, she’s five days older than Elena Kagan.

AARP The Magazine comes addressed to my husband, though I am AARP-eligible.  I never had the guts to peel back the cover until yesterday—had to read about Valerie.   After all, her 1970s TV character, Barbara Cooper, and I were practically sisters.

The reason I never ventured inside the magazine?  I just knew there’d be articles about all sorts of scary aging topics, and the ads – nothing I’d need, to be sure.

I was surprised.  There’s an article on Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon and her work in promoting cancer research.  She’s 44, in case you were wondering.  A big picture of George Clooney appears just inside the front cover.  What for?  Does it really matter?  There’s a nice piece on microbreweries around the country and a funny interview with Dave Barry.  I also learned that Sean Penn, a famed member of Hollywood’s Brat Pack, will turn 50 this summer.

The writing is pretty edgy too.

The ads?  No Depends, or Metamucil or Geritol (do they even make Geritol anymore?).   It’s no surprise that there are plenty of ads for AARP products and services, including motorcycle insurance.  There’s an ad for an AARP-sponsored concert featuring Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Los Lobos, Gloria Gaynor, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Richie Havens.  There’s also an ad for Dr. Scholl’s.  I know firsthand that those feel really good on 50-year-old feet but then I also wore their exercise sandals when I was 14.

The magazine’s featured recipe is for tandoori chicken, whereas I expected any recipe offered by AARP would involve smothering something in cream of mushroom soup.

And guess what else?  A big fat crossword puzzle!

I’m thinking I might need my own subscription.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Reading

The ants are my friends

They’re blowing in the wind.

Mondegreens.  What a cool name for a mistake.

The term reportedly was coined in 1954, in Sylvia Wright’s “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine.  In the essay Wright wrote that, as a child, she misheard a line in a ballad and subsequently sang “and Lady Mondegreen,” instead of “and laid him on the green.”

Ten years before there was a term for it, a novelty song based on the concept had listeners all over the world singing:   “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey.”

Humor columnist Dave Barry wrote occasionally about such matters.  I remember one in particular that appealed to my inner Sylvia Wright.  The song was “Help Me Rhonda.”  For those of the Beach Boys generation, stop and think; can you sing the first line?  Here’s a hint.  It begins with “Since you put me down…”  Barry felt compelled to point out that the second part is not, “there’ve been owls puking in my bed.” I am still not sure what the lyrics really are because the liner notes make no sense.  Puking owls make more sense.

There are plenty of other famous mondegreens:  CCR’s “there’s a bathroom on the right” and Jimi Hendrix’ “’scuse me while I kiss this guy.”  And everyone loves that favorite Christmas carol, “Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly.”

I had a friend in college who sang The Police’s “Canary in a Coal Mine,” as “Mary in a coma.”

Another told of her little brother singing “Cracklin’ Rosie peed on the floor.”

And who can’t name two mondegreens in the same line of Manfred Man’s “Blinded by the Light?”  Please keep those to yourselves, as this is a family blog.

Anyone have any clean ones?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Music