Tag Archives: memoirs from a nineties coffee girl

Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl: Good coffee, Bitter Patriarchy Part II

Oregon is a libertarian state. As such, conservatives and liberals alike tend either toward a live and let live mentality or, conversely, an allow me to live as I see fit world view. Although both of these perspectives stem from the enlightenment ideal of individual freedom, they don’t mesh, and it doesn’t take a genius to parse one from the other. One is generous, while the other is self-protective. One is settled in itself, the other reactionary. And, for the record, neither is a perfect philosophy, for the good reason that certain situations call for reactionary positions and others call for hunkering down and living at peace with ones’ neighbors.

As for my libertarian ways, I’m a distant observer of the world and hold to both positions simultaneously [which is probably just a description of passive aggression]. Instead of finding myself persuaded by others’ convictions, I’m almost impervious to outside instruction. I believe nothing and everything at the same time. I’m a collector of information. I collate it, I keep it, and I’m hesitant to extrapolate answers from the information stored inside my databases. I thank God for the faith he planted in my heart because if it weren’t for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which came to me outside the information channels, I’d be a skeptic who believes in nothing. And I’m thankful, as well, for the tipping point, that crucial moment when the information overloads me and I must shut down or declare a theoretical premise.

Recently, I’ve reached that tipping point regarding biblical patriarchy. But I need to reach into the past, where the concept first confronted me. The Southern Oregon Libertarian thinkers who held to biblical patriarchy tended toward the allow me to live as I see fit philosophy due to their ideas not fitting with societal ones. Because of the egalitarian nature of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the racism and patriarchy of the founding fathers became untenable in our society. The civil rights movement lifted its hidden wings, ready to take flight, the air of our country tense with waiting. Women and black people fought for the right to vote and won. They fought for entrance into white male institutions and won.

Don’t spout the obvious and tell me equality is a lie. Of course it’s a lie. People aren’t equal–some are born short, some tall; some are born with great intellect, while others are not–but under the eyes of the law, equality is essential. And God, the author of our differences, agrees: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). I doubt anyone holding to biblical patriarchy would disagree that both men and women should have equal access to justice under the law, and equal access to salvation through Jesus. However, my first flavor of it, in the Medford Coffee Company, served up some unhealthy doses of misogyny and racism as payment for progressive espressos and dark-roasted brews [disclaimer: the cafe owners didn’t hold such beliefs! Some of their customers did].

These customers ripped scriptures from their biblical contexts and used them to create vast doctrines supporting the superiority of white men. Men were created in the image of God–not women. Blacks were relegated to an even further degradation as beasts in the field, not of the same species as whites. If you think I’m making this up–if you believe I’m simply forwarding a negative stereotype of white men, I’ll offer no defense. The evidence is out there. Study the Christian Identity movement, which was a predominant affiliation among these people. And, frankly, many Southern Oregonians in those days stereotyped themselves–no need for me to do that for them. Amid the pine forests and on property along the winding Applegate River, they stored guns, ammo, and foodstuffs in barrels for the coming apocalypse. Before rambling into Medford for their daily coffee, they made deals at surplus stores and shopped for good prices on bags of beans and rice–not for their wives to cook up for them that day, but for their wives to cook up over an open fire once the beast system took over.

The biblical patriarchy movement doesn’t follow one denomination, which means, of course, not all of them cling to Christian Identity. During the years I smelled its bitter odor, I ran across a variety of Christian belief structures. When home-educators traded the Pearls’ books and newsletters around as though they were holy tracts, I found an entirely new doctrine, one that doesn’t espouse original sin. When Douglas Wilson’s and Vision Forum books wormed their way into my life, I discovered a Reformed doctrine that unsettled me with its weird dichotomies of either/or. Either you buy their beliefs, or you’re a raging-feminist-liberal in rebellion against God’s divine order.

As I already stated, all of this stored information has reached its tipping point. In the nineties coffee house, when a burly biker declared that blacks were animals without souls–in front of a black customer–I desired to fade into the muddied linoleum below my feet. After all, I was a young female, and who would listen to my protestations? But I’m ready, after all these years, after the subject of biblical patriarchy perpetually pops up as though it were a hydra with heads in multiple denominations, to declare myself done with it. I never believed in it, due to my impenetrable nature, but I’m ready to be done with it psychologically and intellectually. No longer will I hold onto the reams of information I’ve stored about it. I’m letting it all slip away.

You see, these people have stunted their growth. They desire for men and women alike to remain in an immature state, in which women must be perpetually erotic to men, as well as dependent on them. The men don’t grow because they feed off the service of women. The women don’t grow because they’re dependent on men. And this fixation continues until death do them part, or until the families split apart, or until the men and women come to their senses and confront their distorted biblical doctrines.

What are these people afraid of? Are they afraid of growth? I’m not. I have been in the past, hence the stockpiling of information. But right now, I’m not. However, I’m still stuck with a simultaneous desire to react and hunker down and let the world be. I’m not afraid of growth. I just don’t know how to make it happen.


Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl: Good Coffee, Bitter Patriarchy

For my lifestyle as a stay-at-home mom of four, I’m a frequent resident in hotels. Sometimes, these stays belong to me—they exist as my personal getaways. And occasionally, they belong to the family as vacations. But most of the time, they’re my husband’s, and I’m simply along for the ride. This following after a man and his career has never appealed to me. So instead of viewing these trips as such, I see them as blessings from God or husband or both, spun along the circuitous gift route, for the production of my own work.

I fall into slumps when I’m not actively producing something of worldly value, and by this, I mean my own academic work that extends beyond the family unit. I don’t define “something of worldly value” as the motherly goods I produce, which include meals and what might spring from my garden by accident because I’ve committed acts of mass herbicide through negligence. Neither do I mean stacks of clean, folded laundry, a tidy house smelling of pine oil, or well-educated children.

On the contrary, all of these parental activities bear intrinsic value and give their own rewards in a karmic give-and-receive effect. Because I believe in a Christian version of karma, I’ll relabel it the golden-rule effect. I’m generous to you, and you’re generous to me. I cook for you; you wash the car for me. I wash the dishes for you; you weed the garden for me. And, in fact, this division of labor among a family unit has a circular shape to it, hence my use of eastern terminologies to describe it. Westerners have their Venn diagrams, but I’m not certain a Venn diagram would fully represent the concept. Perhaps a figure eight, or the symbol of eternity would depict this ideal in a better way. Or maybe a series of connected loops in a circular form would do it justice.

At the moment, I’m considering these shapes and ideas in a Starbucks, which happened to be the first cafe I ran across while wandering away from my latest hotel stay. Coffee is an integral part of my creative life, and, although Starbucks would have been verboten in the decade of the Nineties Coffee Girl, I’ll drink any coffee here in New Mexico as long as it’s strong and black. Currently, the Starbucks’ radio channel is directing my mood by playing Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby Magee. As you may know, at the apex of this song, Joplin sings, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing—and that’s all that Bobby left me.” As you probably don’t know, I used to sing these lyrics all the time. Some ballads connect to my soul in indescribable ways. This is the purpose of poetry, after all—describing the indescribable.

Freedom is an elusive concept. As a housewife, as a Christian woman, as a homeschool mom, and as a longtime citizen of Oregon, I’ve experienced a counterculture you may not have had to confront in your own path to self-development. It’s called Biblical Patriarchy. Although many Christian leaders support this movement, their views on female roles may differ in application. For the sake of this writing, I’ll give you the basic tenets: females aren’t exactly subhuman, but they weren’t created in the image of God as men were. Rather, God created woman to be man’s helpmeet, period. Therefore, she must always be under male authority—either her father’s or her husband’s. Her vision must reflect her male authority’s vision because having her own is selfishness.

By extension of these beliefs, women in the movement are discouraged from voting because their sphere is in the home and not in the world, and voting could also permit women to hold their own opinions apart from their fathers/husbands. Women aren’t worthy of opinions due to being weaker vessels, which isn’t simply interpreted as of smaller stature, but extends to the belief that women have weaker intellects. University is—no surprises here—frowned upon for women. Careers outside the home are strictly forbidden. Many other rules apply: women aren’t allowed to speak in gatherings where men are present; women must be happy child-bearers and forgo birth control. I would add direct quotes from the horses’ mouths and, trust me, I’ve run across some excruciating ones. But I squirm at using others’ words in order to generate controversy (click the links and judge for yourself: Douglas Wilson, Doug Phillips, the Pearls, or the Botkins).*

Here I sit, defying patriarchy, pursuing my own career, while my husband pursues his. As I drink from a liberal coffeepot, I remember serving trays of espresso at Medford Coffee Company–a decidedly more conservative place–and listening to the conversations of the Biblical Patriarchalists who patronized the shop. I don’t wish to dredge up these peoples’ pain, and I won’t do that, except to say that their philosophy didn’t work out for them. The ironies of each particular family has worked its way into the light.

As I see it, the problem with westerners taking on a philosophy of absolute male authority and female subservience is one of using a faulty, non-circular model. In a western patriarchal vision, a pastor might draw a line between the man and his relationship to the world and a line between a woman and her relationship to man. The western model also frequently uses a pyramidal structure to denote levels of leadership, with one authority on top of another, until you drop to the rabble at the base. These models limit truth and create oppression. Leadership and helpfulness should be circular. One begets the other in a cyclical fashion defined by do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you’re a man in authority over a woman, this means you must consider whether you would desire to have your own authority figure–your employer, perhaps–remove your personhood from you. When you’re done with work for the day, would you desire that your boss insist you continue to view the world through his vision, his needs, his desires?

As for gender roles, you won’t find much information on those in the Bible, only cultural models that don’t rise to the level of commandment. That’s a blessing because rigid gender roles aren’t practical in an imperfect world. And so, I continue to produce my own work. I direct them outside myself and sometimes, due to my western mindset, I wonder if my arrows are hitting the mark. Then I remind myself: this isn’t about finding a target. It’s about the circularity of creating ideas, sending them forth, and being ironically refilled and fulfilled through this giving.

At its heart, the pairing of lines from Bobby Magee captures my fears of being a Christian wife and mother. I’m afraid my freedom will involve having nothing more to lose because I’ve already lost myself. I fear a man’s work will render me empty. I fear this, even though my husband doesn’t oppress me or expect me to give up my dreams. I fear this, even though I know God desires me to continue with my career as academic and writer.

*Doug Phillips founded Vision Forum, a ministry that publishes books from a patriarchal perspective. Although I’ve read books by Vision Forum authors, I haven’t read any of his.


Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl: My Nature and Theirs

Being a nineties young adult necessarily meant being an eighties child and a seventies baby. As a seventies baby, my young mind absorbed the earthy seventies lifestyle, which involved shopping at health food stores. Some of my earliest memories contain snapshots of the original Nature’s grocery in Portland, of the enormous bulk bins filled with nuts and raw honey. The remembered smell of my dad’s fresh-baked granola, made with Nature’s honey, oats, and roasted nuts, brings tears to my eyes. These early visits impressed an ideal of grocery shopping, as well as eating, on my soul, such that Wal Mart is anathema to me in its mode of low quality food, staleness, and warehouse chic. For contrast, I could wax poetic about Wal Mart’s complete opposite, outdoor marketplaces–of which, Nature’s was not. But at least Nature’s was an attempt at progression toward a regressive notion of fresh food and community.

At some point in the nineties, Nature’s sold out to the GNC, which then sold out to Wild Oats, which then sold out to Whole Foods. Whole Foods, although adequate for purchasing organic produce, is a greener version of Wal Mart with (occasionally) healthier food options on the store shelves. Whole Foods is a corporation without a soul that doesn’t often stock local produce. I don’t trust them. When they claim to avoid GMOs, I sniff in disgust. If they wanted to rid their shelves of Franken-foods, they would test products and refuse to stock brands with GM ingredients. Any product containing canola, soy, or corn would be suspect.

If you’re wondering whether this drift in thought has anything to do with coffee and my childhood, then the answer is yes. Corporations have overtaken the homegrown health food stores of my youth, as well as local coffee shops, and re-branded them with shiny green paint and ink meant to trigger fluffy feelings of health and nature in the minds of customers, rather than the lack of feelings triggered by sterility and soullessness. I’d be willing to bet money that the Whole Foods manipulation extends to their website: Go look and see how many shades of green they use. [I checked this for myself. Yes, green, green everywhere. The blog is virtually unreadable because of the green background set with white lettering. Squinting at their gloating posts makes me feel as if I’m loping through a meadow! Um, no it doesn’t.]

Turning the clocks back to the early nineties, however, Portland still had its own brands. I worked at Coffee People in its glory days, when Jim and Patty owned the chain of stores. In fact, I first worked at the Beaverton store, which was in a strip mall right in front of the Beaverton Nature’s store. Although Nature’s hadn’t yet sold out to the GNC, they’d built stores at several locations and revamped their image with an early version of the eco-friendly-lodge-warehouse that Whole Foods loosely follows to this day. Imagine green banners hanging from the Warehouse rafters, and you’ll suddenly detect the fragrance of savory herbs and lavender. Occasionally, when on shift at Coffee People, I grabbed lunch at Nature’s deli. I preferred chicken salad with a mess of gloppy guacamole. If sun existed–a long shot in the Portland area before June–I sat at an outdoor table and soaked up the sense of security created by pseudo health food and Willa Cather novels. Pseudo–yes, the deli was rife with falsehoods. They served SunChips with their sandwiches, for heaven’s sake! Have you ever read the original ingredients on a bag of SunChips? [Only recently, Frito-Lay has removed the hydrogenated oils and also claim the chips contain no msg, which is unlikely. And don’t forget that the Frito Lay brand doesn’t avoid GM ingredients.] But, perhaps, the word sun is simply another manipulative sales tactic, especially for Oregonians in the Northwestern part of the state.

Back at the coffee shop, I washed away the chicken and avocado, but couldn’t wash away the finely ground espresso from the cracks and pores of my hands. After retying my apron, I stood at the espresso machine, jerking shots for fancy drinks, which I decorated with whipped cream wreaths. I also ran the register and sold bags of gourmet treats. The Coffee People bakery made exquisite loaves of banana bread, trays of rich brownies, and cookies that melted in the mouth due to the high butter content. When the phone rang, I answered it with the ever-chirpy, “Coffee People, best coffee in Portland.” This was also a popular catchphrase: “Coffee People, good coffee, no backtalk.” And how could I not remain chirpy, as jacked up on caffeine as I was?

Coffee People sold out on the corporate level, just as Nature’s did. Now, if you search for them on the internet, you’ll find something called Donut Coffee–yes, donuts, instead of delectable baked treats. All this selling out gives me a deep sense of loss. Where are Jim and Patty? I’m sure they’re enjoying their retirement. But I really want to know, where is the essence of the hippy couple whose faces benevolently smiled from the Coffee People cups and t-shirts?* Where has my youth gone? Corporations sucked it up and churned it out and left me with a life painted green–no cluttered Nature’s shelves and rooms filled with bulk barrels and bins–no charming Portland chain of coffee shops to create a hedge against the encroaching Starbuckian universe.

These days, I turn to my books to express the loss of these places in my life. I write about them. In the original version of my book Franklin’s Ladder, the female protagonist runs a fictional version of the Coos Head health food store pictured above. That co-op grocery still exists, as far as I know, in its original beauty. The fruit mural says it all in images: We are not Whole Foods.

Thank God for a continuity of fruits and vegetables. Thank God for books, where authors pack away losses and preserve them for the future.

*Jim and Patty live! I discovered, while searching for an image of one of their old stores, that they opened up a shop on Fremont (in Portland) called Jim & Patty’s Coffee. Thank God for Jim and Patty.


Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl: Predictability

In the Linfield cafeteria sat an automated espresso machine, newly installed, that poured out cappuccinos in layers. First, push the button—with your mug underneath, of course—and watch the coffee spill through the spigot, followed by brown-tinged milk and a sludge of foam. These ingredients are basic enough, but calling the monstrosity an espresso machine pushes the line on what is known, mysteriously, as truth. Although I never glimpsed the inner workings of the machine [for all I know, hapless monkeys might have operated it using hand cranks], I doubt it forced steam through finely ground, packed coffee.

Still, it was coffee with foam, and it satisfied many a tired college student who stayed up nights high on ecstasy, performing research on the best way to catch an STD. For my part, if I could afford to, I walked into downtown McMinnville to buy my coffee at the Cornerstone Coffee Roasters. These were the early years of the nineties, and the freshness of a new decade pervaded the air. In my mind, I picture my roommate and I sitting at an outdoor table, grasping at stray rays of sun. The pavement is wet from rain, and the fragrance of rain-sun-stone steams off the sidewalk. Ironically, the local homeless personality weaves up to the cafe on his bicycle, and this adds to the idyll.

Early in the year, I struck up a friendship with this homeless man, Bill*, and consequently, he joined us for coffee on more than one occasion. It wasn’t the first time I’d befriended what others considered to be the dregs of society. In high school, I sometimes dragged home young, smelly homeless boys, and not because I was the type to rescue strays. I desperately needed a connection with a kindred spirit. Homeless people are eccentric, on their own elliptic, because they don’t live in the center of society. Neither do I. But, as in the cyclical nature of things, young concentric people of the nineties often attempted to be on the fringe, too. They dressed as Bill did, in old tattered flannel jackets and t-shirts and jeans. In keeping with this “new” ideal of concentricity, my college friends and I frequently bought bottles of cheap wine, hid them in paper bags, and climbed up the railroad trestle until we were on the beams just below the train tracks. From there, we waited, by the schedule, for the train to rumble over us.

I first met Bill on the Linfield campus, as he sorted through the dumpsters behind the frat houses. He pulled his worldly wealth from these dumpsters, and stowed it in enormous garbage bags. Bill was a recycler. He was an alcoholic who recycled the bottles and cans of up-and-coming alcoholics who partied in a predictable manner. He knew the party schedule just as we knew the schedule of the trains. Year after year, the party predictability set a routine, and Bill detected when he would dig out the greatest treasure. Frat boys didn’t change, he insisted, not even as they moved in and out of their sacred houses.

He was right—not much about people changes. Small towns have their homeless characters writ across their souls. College students slum it in order to create new, independent selves. And frat boys never stop partying. Certainly, this is a lesson I’ll never forget, even if I’ve quarantined some of my life lessons, just as the body creates warts when it’s overcome with an infection it can’t fight off.

I only managed a year at Linfield, and that year taught me far too much. At the end of it all, after I’d survived my finals, and after most students had already left campus, I walked from my dorm building to the dingy one behind mine for a last confab with my friend Derek*. When I entered the vestibule, I immediately sensed danger, but being in an all-male building that housed multiple new fraternity recruits always gave me a bad taste in my mouth, if not a bad smell to light up my olfactory nerves. This was different, though. A group of about ten drunk frat boys instantly surrounded me when I neared Derek’s closed door. Their rage, as evidenced by their taunts and shoving, took me by surprise. What had I done? I had no idea.

The conversation went something like this:

One drunk frat boy whipped out his genitals and said, “Take a look at this, bitch!”

I responded in my usual, unimpressed way, “You know, I’d really like to, but I’ll need a microscope first.”

Further enraged, but inspired, several others exposed themselves to me while backing me up against Derek’s door. I pounded on it, hard. Derek tried to open up, but one of the boys grabbed the handle and slammed the door closed. In that short space, Derek realized I needed help. He [apparently] climbed out his window to rescue me because, in the blink of an eye, he was there.

Let me tell you about Derek: he’s an ex-physics-geek-turned-art-major. He’s tall and gangly with a shock of red hair and enormous glasses. He stood up to the obnoxious, buffed-out wrestlers or footballers, or whatever they were, and threatened to call the police. These being the days before cell phones, it was a simple matter for them to block the hall phone from Derek’s reach. So Derek ran off to find another one. Meanwhile, I took advantage of their distracted state to slip down and crawl out of my human prison. I hightailed it out the back door and catapulted into Derek’s open window, half expecting them to follow me. The mention of police, however, seemed to sag their sails.

Speaking of predictable, the police didn’t show up until long after I’d left the safety of Derek’s room [out the window again]. Later, however, they didn’t hesitate to respond to a trespass call. While in one of his physicist-turned-artist moods, Derek broke into the campus pool and swam lonely laps in the deep blue water. They arrested his ass because property and insurance liability, as we know, are more important than people.

People are predictable. They’re like automated espresso machines gushing out sludge at the push of a button. Homeless Bill–he was, perhaps, the most predictable of all. He drank. He weaved around town on his bike, and he collected cans. Once, while walking around town with him, he brought me to the backyard shed he rented from a friend. Bill wasn’t even homeless.

But some people’s predictability entails honor, and I’m ever-grateful to my friend, Derek. He was my true kindred spirit, not Bill. I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing these days. But I do know he’s on his own elliptic somewhere–perhaps welding art installations in his spare time. Maybe he’s a dad. Maybe he’s a techie. Wherever, whatever–I raise my coffee to him, brewed strong from freshly ground beans, and remember Oregon in the nineties.

*I’ve changed these names because I don’t have permission to use the real ones.


Memoirs From a Nineties Coffee Girl: Hindsight Bias

The two books I’m currently most engaged with are Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide and Carl Jung’s Man and his Symbols. Setting Jung aside for a moment, allow me to discuss Lehrer a little. Lehrer is one of those names that pops up if you read Wired or Scientific American, which I do–and The New Yorker, which I don’t. His writing sounds young, as well as a little soft.* He writes soft science. That’s fine. I don’t always know when he (or any writer of his ilk) commits factual errors, but I have a heightened sixth sense for manipulation that prevents me from being completely duped. However, I can look past even blatant manipulation because I engage with this sort of writing for its squishiness and not despite it. Yes, you read that correctly. I want glimpses of hard science, even illogical ones, in order to engage my imagination.

What does this say about how I make decisions [that is, after all, the subject of Lehrer’s book]? I’ve long relied on what I thought were my analytical faculties and suppressed my instincts as inherently wrong. But as I examine my life decisions, I wonder how many of them I’ve actually made, or continue to make, by primarily using my prefrontal cortex, which is supposed to be the party spot for rational thought. In hindsight, I appear to be nothing more than an imagination junkie searching for the feeling mix that juices my life. But as you might already know, hindsight is nothing if not biased.

In the grand paradox of how I view myself today, I’ve relied too much on imagination in my decision-making processes, and I’ve simultaneously neglected the creative spark in my soul–the essence of who I am. My assumed reliance on imagination gives me pause and takes me back to those early years of my adulthood, the ones that turned me into a barista rather than a student.

While still at Linfield College, I had a number of friends who were studying physics. I don’t remember how it happened, how my creative writing studies attracted me to these people in a magnetic way. To my current biased way of thinking, I imagine [there’s the imagination again] that they were rational and I was creative, and so we fed off each other for those missing parts of ourselves. The ideal of myself as creative fed my energies and still feeds it, even if the truth is something so apart that it unsettles me to consider it.

What if none of the above is true? What if imagination has nothing to do with my decision-making properties at all? What if my choices in science literature and friends have more to do with fear? What if all my decisions have bloomed from the seed of anxiety planted in my soul by early failures to live up to my expectations? Perhaps I stood by physics geeks because I desired to be like them, but was afraid to study anything more difficult than creative writing. Maybe I (present tense) read soft science magazines because I’m still afraid of the incomprehensible nature of the world around me.

Now turning for a moment to the Jungian book on symbols, I have to admit I’m reading this book for the direct purpose of understanding myself better, and not for the purpose of understanding the world around me, although the net effect has added up to a little of both. Recently, I’ve dreamed a series of vivid stories, all of which have contained what Jung would call the Divine Child archetype. My divine child, according to Jung, is the essence of my pure self, or, as I view it, the core of my creativity unspoiled by the world. In my dreams, I’ve neglected this child and, furthermore, I don’t recognize the little person in his diaper and blue sleeper who wanders into my space unbidden.

What I’ve failed and continue to fail at is perceiving my Divine Child as my personal potential, which may have nothing to do with my dampened creative spark. As a young adult, I squelched my potential by quitting school and finding the first job available at an espresso shop. I convinced myself, in the forefront of my nonunderstanding mind, that writing poetry would save me from the disaster I had become. In the recesses, I convinced myself that studying the finer points of roasting and growing coffee would suffice as knowledge of the world.

As humans, we all suffer from disjointed thinking that we mistake for clarity, even if not all people suffer from my particular problems with anxiety and pretense. And, in a moment of clarity, I’ll proclaim that to be the purpose of this memoir. The books I’m currently reading have revealed truths about myself that I hardly expected when I turned over the first pages. We could all use a little honest self-examination now and again. Your book choices or lack of them reveal truths about who you are. Your dreams reveal the parts of yourself your outer ego is attempting to suppress.

In a choppy kind of conclusion, I seem to have stumbled on memoirs as a way to understand how memory works, which is ironic, to say the least. Hindsight isn’t 20-20. Hindsight carries with it biases I don’t know how to lobotomize from my understanding of self and the world around me. When given the opportunity, I look falsely at my past in order to integrate my cognitive dissonance. But hindsight can pierce deeply with that double-edged sword of truth if we stop overriding our egos and allow it to accomplish its healing job.

*To be fair, I believe Mr. Lehrer is young. And he’s obviously quite intelligent, but by writing for a general audience, he’s softened the science.