Friday, October 29, 2010

Grace Metalious and Victoria's Secret

Photo from the back cover of  Peyton Place.

I have a photographic memory. I remember all the way back to my crib -- standing up in a yellow romper, made by Dr. Denton. Of course, I had no idea what it was called or where it came form or even how much it cost.   But, it had a trap door in the back, and snaps, and was duckling yellow, which I suppose went very nicely with my blonde curls.

I remember smells, tastes, sounds, pictures, song lyrics and music and the way Campbell's Vegetable Soup made me nauseous, and how good my daddy smelled. (Old Spice).

This ability to see entire scenes and commit them to a page layout in memory is a handy thing to possess when you're a writer. When I was a student, reading textbooks, I'd always know where I saw something, on which side of the pages, and if it was at the top, the middle or bottom. Flipping through magazines quickly, I'd do the same thing. When I listened to Broadway scores, I'd be able to memorize the entire show --  even today, I can sing every word from every song I ever learned. You want My Fair Lady? Or, Gigi? Or, maybe Camelot? How about West Side Story or Funny Girl?

If it was something that engaged my interest, bang! -- it went right into that cerebral hard drive. That's why I can honestly say I know what I know and know what I never learned. I also know what I learned but never cared enough to commit to the bank. You should see it in there. It really needs a defrag. It's littered with a series of halves of geometry problems, quarters -- scattered like musical notes all over the damn floor -- of algebraic equations, times a few hundred. That adds up to failing grades in math. But I can tell you what presents I received on my fourth birthday (small yellow records from Disney and a clunky record-playing machine that needed new needles every other record, the way dental drills had to be constantly refreshed.)

So, what has any of this got to do with what you're looking at? Well, nothing, except that I wanted to show you how my brain works. 

I said that I was going to write 50,000 words in November, and that I needed jammies -- or at least something very comfy, and so, I started idly flipping through Victoria's Secret online and then, I saw an image in my head from long ago -- that of Grace Metalious, the author of the notorious bestseller, Peyton Place.

I remembered her just as you see her on the back page of her book, a young woman, with a decidedly '40s-style hairdo, sitting with her feet propped on a stool, facing down one of her non-alcoholic monsters, the typewriter, in jeans, a plaid lumber-jack type shirt, and maybe a pair of Keds. I'll bet that shirt was scratchy.

As soon as that image sprang to life, I understood why I was admiring the photo of a plaid shirt in the VS catalogue. True, Grace's shirt was quite possibly red plaid, not gray, and true, I'd probably find a closer match if I look at the flannel pajamas in the online catalogue, but, I went and ordered this shirt anyhow. I love Victoria's Secret -- they always give you extra buttons.

And, here is why the brain "firing" happened. When I looked at the skinny modern model, I noticed she is sitting with her back on the left of the frame, and that one of her legs is bent. That was what triggered the Grace Metalious recollection.

To reassure myself that my memory was correct, I went on a google hunt to try to locate that photo from so long ago.

Silly, but thought I'd share. I tend to drive my family crazy because I remember things said and done, eaten, and explored with them, and they do not. It's lonely sometimes. Like I lived my entire life in a dream-scape or a nightmare, completely alone....

Cue up the music to Gaslight!

Victoria's Secret plaid boyfriend shirt

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