Our memories remind us, maybe mine is not so bad

I've always believed that I have a pretty good memory—in particular, that I can recall formative events and conversations from years or even decades ago in reasonably good detail. When I started work on my memoir The Accidental Terrorist, I made a list of incidents, events, and bits of lore from my mission that I wanted to include. The more of these that I wrote down, the more others I started to remember. My notes ran pages and pages and pages.

I'm now working my way through a revision of the book with notes from my editor, Juliet Ulman. The occasional query scrawled in the margin questions details I seem to recall clearly. I've started wondering how much I can trust those old memories, especially the smaller moments I could easily have misremembered or invented. I've started looking for bits I can actually confirm.

Last night I came to the passage below, which seemed like it should be eminently verifiable. The scene is southern Alberta, October 1986:

On Friday of that week, we were talking heavy metal when I mentioned that the only band I liked of that sort was Rush.

"Ah, so you're one of those," said Fowler. "Same as every other missionary in Canada. You know last winter they had a concert scheduled up in Edmonton?"

"That was the Power Windows tour. What a great show. I saw it in Salt Lake."

"Well, I was serving in Edmonton at the time. I swear half the elders in town must've had tickets."

I gaped. In my civilian life, I had the right to choose to see a rock concert if I wanted, whether or not the Church or my father approved. But for a missionary, ordained and set apart as a representative of Jesus Christ, the rules were different. No music, especially not rock music, and especially not live rock music. That was just handing Satan the keys to your soul's front door.

"Including you?" I asked.

"Naw, Rush ain't my thing. But anyways, the day of the show this massive blizzard hits. No joke. Shuts everything down. No planes in or out. Concert canceled."


"You're telling me. You think God wanted all those missionaries rocking out in clouds of dope smoke? No way. It would have killed the Spirit dead in Edmonton for a month."

At last, an external detail I could check! Was there really a canceled show in Edmonton during Rush's Power Windows tour?

A little Googling brought me to 2112.net, a Rush fan site with exhaustive notes about the band's music and history. And sure enough, on a page listing dates and setlists for every Rush tour ever, I found the following two entries—consecutive entries, no less:

May 12, 1986   Salt Palace Center. Salt Lake City, Utah (The Fabulous Thunderbirds)
May 14, 1986   Northlands Coliseum. Edmonton, Alberta [cancelled due to Calgary blizzard]

Memory vindicated!

Of course, I hadn't remembered the story perfectly. The fan site gave me the remarkable additional detail that the blizzard hadn't taken place during the winter at all but in May, which in my opinion makes the story better since it seems even more like divine retribution.

I've now incorporated that nugget, to the scene's benefit. And I'll keep looking out for details I can verify (especially if they yield such juicy extra tidbits), though I'm feeling much better today about my memory.

And now, in honor of Rush and memory, I give you...  

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

The Accidental Terrorist: Order Your Copy Now!

About the Book

What happens when an ambivalent young Mormon missionary is pushed to the limit in a challenge to prove his faith? Hint: the outcome is explosive. The Accidental Terrorist is the long-awaited memoir from Hugo and Nebula Award–nominated author William Shunn, based on his popular podcast. Available now from Sinister Regard!