In 1969, Ed Zern wrote this sentence as a lead to an Exit, Laughing column: “Lacking the low animal cunning necessary for a career in law or politics, I decided to become a writer.” I considered the sentence to be a work of genius, and when I first met Ed shortly thereafter, I quoted it to him, and told him how highly I thought of it.
He looked at me blankly, as though I had quoted Louisa May Alcott, George Gissing, or Helen Gurley Brown. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, and I slunk off like a whipped dog.
Ed tended to be forgetful, which may account in part for his not remembering, but I think it was due more to the fact that, at that point, he had done Exit, Laughing for 11 years, and reams of other writing, and was so focused on what he was going to have to produce in the future that he had no brain cells left for retaining what he had already done.
This is the case with me. I have a phenomenal memory (in fact, my head is packed with more useless, obscure information than anyone I know except Tom McIntyre — I hope Tom donates his brain to science; it must contain a hippocampus the size of a grapefruit), but I can’t remember what I wrote even recently. When people quote my old stuff I’m hugely flattered, but also completely baffled.
I mention this because the SHOT Show is coming up, and sometimes it happens there. Assuming I can even hear the person above the din, I will apologize, explain the situation, and give them a smart rap with a small Zulu knobkerrie which I carry for such occasions. Then I will wander off, worried that I will blunder into a fart cloud and lose my vision, parts of the SHOT Show being poorly ventilated.