Nov 29, 2021


Oh, the things we haven’t seen, done or been!

By Ed Goldman

Many men who are blessed to reach the age at which they turn down recruitment pitches from AARP on almost a daily basis, develop a tendency to mythologize the exploits of their younger selves.

Most of the stories they tell about their exploits might charitably be called Fearless Tales of Derring-Didn’t. This sounds so much nicer than Fibs and  Outright Lies.

Edgy Cartoon

Suburban Terrorist

These can emerge as “streets” lore—like the time they held off, with nothing more than a purloined butter knife, six Hell’s Angels who were making inappropriate assessments of their girlfriend’s torso as they left an iHop after midnight.

Or maybe the time they jumped from a Cessna and realized they’d mistakenly strapped on a backpack instead of a parachute—but at the last second remembered they had a fold-up umbrella in that backpack and somehow managed to get it out and deploy it in time to ease a phenomenally lucky landing atop a flatbed truck piled high with king-sized mattresses. “Say what you will about the My Pillow Guy,” they might have said in summing up. “The jackass still saved my bacon.”

Then there was the time they did(n’t) accidentally find themselves racing alongside Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France when all they’d been doing that morning was riding a one-speed Schwinn bicycle to a brioche shop near the Parc des Princes football stadium in Paris and took a wrong turn. When asked what it was like to meet the legendary cancer-surviving/steroid-injecting/fallen-from-grace bicyclist, they even modestly said, “Well, I chewed him out about how he treated Sheryl Crow. But I figured he’d been through enough already, health- and career-wise. And besides, we were in the middle of a race being covered by the global media. I like to give people their space, you know?”

When I lived in Southern California for 18 years, a longtime friend of mine, Steve Schweitzer, conducted an informal survey, asking people he knew if any of them had NOT run into sci-fi novelist Ray Bradbury somewhere. (Bradbury was pretty ubiquitous in his later years, as you may be gathering from Steve’s insouciant request.) 

Naturally, some of the respondents said they’d not only run into him (on La Cienega Avenue or in Santa Monica, as I recall) but had also gone to lunch with him. The bolder of us said we even saw him pinch a waitress, which Bradbury, possibly losing it by this point, said was perfectly acceptable behavior in a few interviews. We chastised him for doing so, natch.

Trouble was, one guy I knew was still talking about a recent close encounter with the author of “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “The Illustrated Man” when I visited L.A in 2016. Bradbury had died in 2012.

In closing, here are six general assumptions you can make about guys’ memories:

  1. They can’t recall ever having been virgins.
  2. Their former girlfriends all resembled movie stars, and some still do.
  3. They tutored their best friends who became howling business successes.
  4. They’ve known—but painfully grimace when asked to elaborate—armed combat in Afghanistan, important political leaders and very colorful underworld figures.
  5. While they reserved a table three weeks ago at a popular restaurant, when you’ve been seated they quietly say to you, “I guess it helped to know someone.”
  6. They know the second verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When you ask why, the reply is a conspiratorial, “You never know when it might come in handy—possibly as a distraction, if we’re cornered.”

Perhaps you’re wondering how much of the preceding applies to me. Let me respond like so:    

 “On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep/

Where the foe’s haughty host in dead silence reposes… .”

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).