Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lewis Grizzard and the Tunnel Through Time

Scott D. Parker

This past Wednesday would have been Lewis Grizzard’s sixty-forth birthday. The Southern writer, born in Georgia, was a humorist, an editor, and a columnist whose tales of the South made many a person living under--and over--the Mason-Dixon Line laugh until it hurt.

I met the man once, in the early 1990s, at a book signing in Plano, TX. In retrospect, I think it might have been my first book signing. I got a chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his stand-up routine and his books.

It had been quite a few years since I’ve thought of Grizzard and his particular brand of humor. I learned about him in an unusual way. Back in the mid 1980s, I was the only person in my church who had a double-cassette player/recorder. One of my mom’s friends asked if I could make a few copies of a Lewis Grizzard show. I didn’t know who he was and, frankly, turned the volume all the way down as I made all but the last cassette copy. I mean, it was something my mom's friend liked. Surely I wouldn't. On the last time, however, I thought it might be interesting to hear what I’ve been taping so I turned up the speakers.

And laughed so hard that my stomach hurt and tears rolled down my cheeks. I made myself a copy of the tape and played it for my high school friends. We all loved it and, difficult as it will be to picture it, we teenagers rolled around west Houston listening to Lewis Grizzard.

This past Wednesday, upon being reminded him, I searched You Tube and found the exact show I taped twenty-six (!) years ago. I listened to the entire thing and had a few thoughts. I got jokes that I never fully understood back in 1984. It was like a little light shining on my memories. His talking points on gays in Atlanta I found almost quaint, if not a little naive. What really floored me was a cumulative thing. When he made the recording, he had divorced three times and had heart surgery. He was only thirty eight. I’m older now than he was then. For a brief moment, I had a small tunnel back in time. I remember thinking--back in the 1980s--that when I was as old as Grizzard, it would be in the 21st Century. That seemed so, so far away. From this vantage point, the journey has been long. But it’s also been short, really. It gave me a moment to reflect on the years since I first heard Grizzard’s stand-up routine. And, for the most part, I’m happy and content at where I am, even if it isn’t the fantasy I dreamed up when I was in high school.

Is there a something--anything--that you know can trigger a specific moment in time? And when you do, have you had a chance to take stock of your far? Do you like what you see?

Note: Here is part one of the audio. Just follow the prompts whenever you reach the end of a section. It's really, really funny.


mybillcrider said...

This post was a little tunnel in time for me. Grizzard was my mother's favorite writer during the later years of her life, and she passed his books on to me. Thanks for the memory.

Dana King said...

I lived in Atlanta during the early 80s, when Grizzard wrote for the Journal-Constitution. he was a treasure who has been greatly missed, and I say that as a confirmed Yankee, born and bred. Lewis Grizzard was the writer Dave barry wishes he was, and I like Dave barry.

Judy Bobalik said...

I love Lewis Grizzard and have most of his books.
I still laugh just thinking "that dog will bite you: