A pretty long while ago, I spent too little time working on a screenplay. I was the third writer on the project, not counting my pal T. and his partners, whose idea it had been in the first place and who’d figured why not give the reporter a chance. They were fine with whatever explosions, glass-shattering, air- or waterborne biological agents or massacred troops I might want to adjust, but the name of the picture wasn’t changing: Memorial Day.
This was not brought to mind by what you think. After one last punishing all-nighter Thursday, I’m back on freelance time, which means that today, for me, is a day like all others, apart from the suspension of alternate-side-of-the-street parking which allowed me to wake late, unpack some boxes of books, go back to bed, at last get around to cooking up coffee. No, what recalled the movie project was a CD I came upon last summer in that cutout place on the stretch between Stockbridge and Lee, playing as the au-lait part of breakfast boiled over: Shirley Temple, Animal Crackers in My Soup, peewee Jolson impressions, multiply anachronistic Otchi-tchornya jokes.
I can’t remember: Was it Sunday afternoons after Hebrew school? Early Saturday mornings? Channel 9? Channel 11? on the huge butterscotch plastic-framed black and white Magnavox, alone on the mustardy couch in the rec room. I must have been younger than the youngest friend I have today, which makes me wonder whether A. has ever watched Shirley Temple pictures, whether they’d hold any interest for a mind raised on Angelina Ballerina and Arthur. If anything in the succeeding fifty years filled me with as much dull indelible anxiety as Shirley Temple hearing she’d been orphaned between ads for Sugar Pops, I’m grateful it’s slipped out of memory.
Slipped memory. Friends I didn’t call about matters pressing to them while I was foolishly studying all night. Projects I yet believe I may begin for which I bought boxes of books I’ve never read, late fees on credit card bills, dishes in sink, this humid afternoon months from the season of repentance.
The Hebrew year starts with that season, the season with a day of remembering. Our American calendar opens with auld acquaintance forgot, never brought to mind, and when its Memorial Day finally rolls up, life cannonballs giddily into pools, ponds, oceans, orangeade stands. The only memories the editorialists charge readers with are of dead veterans: memory of nobility. For the rest, notwithstanding tell-all books, chat-show blame or oldies stations, time is short, memories of life more likely to summon regret than satisfaction. No wonder a person’d rather shop and splash it out of mind. I wish I’d figured out how to deploy those simulated weapons of mass destruction, how those troops could save the day, how our hero could find peace of mind and loving sex before the Oscar-bait end-credit hip-hop song kicked in, but there was something else I had to do back then. I can’t remember what.