The Truth Is Out There

“Stop me, oh ho ho stop me. Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.” The Smiths

One of the things about “maintaining” a blog is that there is always a record of it. They are archived along the side of the page, so if you want to go back and see what was on my mind in July of 2011, for example,  you could. And with the ability to tag posts with subject headings, it’s even easier to track topics. This is kind of cool, and also kind of humbling. It’s cool because I can hyperlink to older blog posts if I make mention of them and the old posts get a little boost, traffic wise. I don’t link all the time, but sometimes if I’m telling a story and there’s already a back story out there, I don’t have to repeat myself. It’s humbling because it doesn’t take much to see where I contradict myself or even worse, repeat myself.

These posts fall into two basic categories, and correct me if you see otherwise.

  1. Posts about current events
  2. Posts about old childhood stories.

I’m pretty okay with the first one. I’ll either be reviewing a movie, book or album, or I’m commenting on something that’s going on in my life or in the world. They are usually off the cuff and tend to come pretty quickly. I would include any weird randomness that I happen to write about in this category. These posts tend to have the most spelling and grammatical errors, even though I run a spell check on them before I post. Sometimes they feel so topical that I’d sacrifice a final edit just to get it up and out. And sometimes I go back and make minor changes, George Lucas style. Sometimes I use real names, and sometimes I use fake ones. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, and sometimes I slip up. I try not to use last names because I still enjoy the ever thinning veil of anonymity that this blog allows.

It’s the second category that could become problematic. I’ve been known to use the phrase, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. What I usually mean by that is that stories sometimes take on a life of their own, and sometimes in the telling and retelling of it, I might emphasize certain aspects, and de-emphasize others for the sake of the story. Even though these stories are old, (or maybe because these stories are old), there is a sense of trying to get them right since they’re being recorded, more or less, for posterity. Sometimes I feel like these stories need to be told, but not by me. Some of them are not even my stories to begin with. For example, I’ve been sitting on a blog post for over a year. It is an amazing story (in my opinion) from my childhood, and yet I’m not entirely sure every one in the story would like for it to be told. I’ve sat on this story because I can’t decide how to address the players in it. Do i just use first names? That seems the most natural, but it also would reveal who the story is about to many readers. Do I substitute fake names for the real ones? Probably the best option, and yet the story seems really fake when I tried that. Somehow, I need to use the real names or no names at all. And yet when I go the “my friend said….this” or “my friend say….that” it sounds really clunky and awkward. So I’m waiting until I can sort out the semantics, or until some time I throw caution to the wind and say “Screw it” and hit the publish button.

Sometimes something will happen in life that will trigger a childhood memory, or maybe not a childhood memory, maybe just something that isn’t topical. The death of a loved one, the closing of a favourite restaurant or shop, even a casual comment from a workmate or friend might set me off down memory lane. For example, I told a friend the other night about this awful restaurant experience I had years ago in the Qu’appelle Valley. It’s a story I’ve told many times before, and I am sure I have never quite told it the same way twice. Even the other night, I knew I left some parts out for the sake of brevity. It happens. Maybe it’ll be the topic of its own blog post one day.

Another weird thing happened the other day. We were out for brunch with friends and there was this guy and his girlfriend sitting at another table. Everyone except me seemed to know this guy, and I eventually asked who they were talking about. They looked at me like I was crazy, and they said, “That’s Dave!” (not his real name), like I should know who that was. Maybe it was because I was feeling a bit off that day, but I had no memory of him. Apparently he was an ex-boyfriend of one of our friends. I remembered meeting an ex-boyfriend once, but in my memory he didn’t look at all like this guy. Later on that day, my wife said, “I can’t believe you don’t remember Dave!” and began to list the times and places where I supposedly met him. Two things struck me about it. The first was that I thought it was weird that my wife had such a clear memory of every encounter with this guy, like as if she was keeping some secret “Dave Diary” somewhere to be trotted out for  an occasion like this. The second thing was that I was worried that I was becoming one of those “asshole” types who meets people all the time but never remembers them. I’ll admit I’m not great with names, but I’m above average with faces! I’m sure the problem, like always, lies with me. “We even went to see U2 with him!” my exasperated wife blurted. Well, that wasn’t technically true. Sure, we were all at the same U2 concert, but it wasn’t like we were standing together or anything. I went back to read the blog post on the event (to prove her wrong) and to my surprise, not only did I mention our friend and her boyfriend, we DID stand together and I DID mention him by name. (I’ve since removed his name, George Lucas style, suckers!) So yeah, this blog can be a double-edged sword, can’t it? (In my final defense, we realized that most of the “Dave encounters” that my wife had didn’t actually include me. There were many times when my wife thought I was out with the gang but I was actually home with our daughter, plus he has a beard now and didn’t then, but STILL). Keep an eye on me, fanbase. I may be going a bit “funny”.

I guess my point is that sometimes when I start a post on here, I think, “Have I written about this before?” and it makes me stop. Will I eventually run out of stories to tell, and will I just start to rehash things? Will I sense the collective fanbase rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, “Here he goes again about Arbys…” Does “Mountains Beyond Mountains” need a fact checker/curator/archivist on staff to filter every post through?

Maybe, but maybe not.

Maybe it’s okay if I just write about stuff that interests, upsets or delights me, and if it covers old ground, so be it. I think about my friend Ed. He and I are best friends. We have known each other since early elementary school and have a ton of shared history. As most friends do, we have a sort of “short-hand” when we talk and we can almost finish each other’s sentences, like an old married couple. We even sound alike, I’m told. We sound so much alike that at our wedding, Ed was our emcee and one of my wife’s cousins thought that we had hired a “trevor impersonator” as a gag. “No, that’s just how they talk. It’s a St. James thing,” was my wife’s response.

Anyway, Ed’s family is known for three traits: the “cock-eye”, being “pigeon-toed”, and telling long rambling stories that don’t seem to go anywhere. He always says he’s fortunate that he’s only inherited the last one. Ed can tell a story like no one else I know, and as friends, I’ve heard many of the “good ones” over and over again, and you know what? I never get tired of hearing them. Sometimes they are slightly different, depending on the mood or the context, and sometimes I remember things differently, but I haven’t ever tired of hearing them, and I doubt I ever will.

Storytelling is one of the things that defines us as humans, it’s what brings us together. And maybe it’s the telling of the story, not the one telling it, that is important. There’s this Irish tradition where when you meet someone you haven’t seen in a long time, you talk about the last time you saw them. It’s a way of quickly making a connection, bridging the gap, and moving forward, and it’s done through stories. I was delighted when U2 played Winnipeg in 2011, and one of the first things Bono said from the stage was that he talked about the wonderful summer evening he and the band spent in Winnipeg in 1997, the last time they were here. I smiled to myself, because it was such an Irish thing to do, and it also was rehashing a story, especially for those of us that remember Popmart.

This week, This American Life aired a rerun on “Reruns”. The whole episode was about the telling of stories and how they are remembered and misremembered and how they become a part of people’s mythology. I didn’t even know that when I started writing this post a couple of days ago, and it wasn’t until a friend told about this that I got the shivers about the coincidence. Even more interesting is that last week’s TAL was a whole episode about coincidences. That’s right world, @trevorlibrarian is actually the twitter handle for Ira Glass. “This blog post is in three parts….”

So maybe I shouldn’t worry about it too much. Maybe I’ll repeat myself from time to time, even contradict myself. Sometimes the stories get better with age, and sometimes they just age. The important thing to remember is that there are always more mountains beyond these ones, and it’s okay to climb old ones from  time to time, because the view is always changing.

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