Column: Righting the Unrightable Wrong By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday January 31, 2006

Dateline New York Times, Jan. 29: “Memoir,” Ms. [Nan A. ] Talese said, “is a personal recollection. It is not an absolute fact. It’s how one remembers what happened.” 

Dateline Negril Jamaica, Jan. 24: 

“Pathetic? You’re calling my singing pathetic?” 


“I don’t believe it. You asked for help with your column. I gave it to you and now you call me pathetic!” 


“What kind of paper do you work for? I’m writing a complaint letter to the editor. I’ve been slandered.” 


“Can you believe this, John? Suzy says our singing the other night was pathetic. She can’t remember the words to Man of LaMancha. She can’t even remember if she saw the damn play, and now she has the nerve to say our harmonizing wasn’t good enough for her.” 

“She said your singing wasn’t good?” 

“Our singing. She said our singing was pathetic.” 

“That’s pathetic. That she would say we’re pathetic when all we did was try to help her. I’m suing. I want half her wages. Everybody in California thinks they’re better than everyone else. But at least we know the words to Man of LaMancha.” 

I was sitting with my New York friends Patty, John, Michele, and Gerry on a white sand beach in Jamaica. I had just shared with them my latest column. It was about memories and forgotten experiences and a man in Spain searching for a dream. It was also about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The essay did not stretch the truth. It was a realistic portrait of five over-the-hill baby boomers attempting to remember lyrics to a few songs. 

“I’ve been misquoted,” said Michele despite that I hadn’t actually quoted her in the story. “I’ve been misrepresented in a West Coast newspaper. That’s it. I’m suing, too.” 

“I knew more words to Camelot than you reported,” said Gerry. “Why didn’t you just ask me to sing the whole damn song to you?” 

“This has Oprah repercussions,” said Patty. “This is like that James Frey hullabaloo. A Thousand Big Messes.” 

“A Million Little Pieces,” corrected Michele.  

“Whatever,” said Patty. “You know what I’m talking about. First Oprah gets duped, and then it’s us!” 

“That’s what happens when you trust in the liberal press,” said Gerry. 

“I’m not taking it,” said John. “Did I mention I’m suing?” 

“Look,” I said. “What’s true to me might not be true to you. I remember some really enthusiastic, but ultimately pathetic—” 

“Did you hear that?” screamed Patty. “She said it again!” 

“I heard it,” said John. “Pathetic.”  


“Couldn’t you have said something more positive? Like we were melodious, or that I had excellent recall power?” 

“It’s just that—” 

“Couldn’t you have said we were passionate? That we knew everything recorded by the Four Seasons between ‘63 and ‘74?” 

“Forget it,” advised Gerry. “She’s from California, what can you expect? Next thing you know, she’ll write about this conversation. She’ll say she was misunderstood. She’ll claim to know all the words to Man of LaMancha and Camelot, too. Have another drink and relax. Put up the flag, the one that lets the bartender know we’re thirsty.” 

“But I’ve been wronged,” argued Patty, waving the flag in the air. “How do the lyrics go? “To bear the unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go; to right the unrightable wrong”? That’s what Suzy needs to do, right the unrightable wrong.” 

“Yeah,” said John. “And then she needs to be willing to march into hell!”  

“And the world will be a better place,” said Gerry. “When she’s laid to rest!” 

“And scorned and covered with scars,” added Michele. 

“All right,” I said. “I’ll write a retraction.” 

“Excellent,” said Patty. “And while you’re at it, mention that your New York friends are good looking, highly intelligent, and they know all the lyrics to the songs of West Side Story.” 

“Maria,” shouted John. “I just met a girl named Maria!” 

“Maria who?” asked Michele. “Did you meet her on the beach?”