Thursday, August 25, 2011

Digging For Trivia

I come from a trivial family. By that I mean between us six kids and my dad, we each thought we were the king/queen of trivia, and we set out to prove it every year at the family Christmas gathering. These games usually resulted in shouting, protests, accusations, and some minor assault and battery. And this was with no alcohol involved.

The problem was that there was always too much luck involved via either the roll of the dice or the draw of the question. We finally eliminated the luck factor by simply having my impartial mom ask the questions while we shouted out the answers as quickly as possible. But having to pick who answered first distressed my mom the point that she finally refused to play.

My dad always played, and although he may not have been the fastest, he always came up with some amazing answers. In the original Trivial Pursuit game, the entertainment category consisted mostly of questions about the 30’s and 40’s (or so it seemed to me). So while the rest of us avoided that category, my dad always picked it. Invariably, he would get a question like “Who played the role of Tony Angelo’s sparring partner in the 1945 film Nob Hill?”

My dad would sigh and lean back with his hands behind his head while the rest of us snickered. The next player would grab the dice in anticipation of a wrong answer. After several minutes of us rolling our eyes, someone would start the countdown clock. At the last second, my dad would finally say, “Rory Calhoun.”

“Is that your final answer?”


“Rory? Don’t you mean Roy?”

“No, it’s Rory,” he would then grab the dice to roll again, he was so sure.

I realize that I’m now about the same age he was when we played those games so long ago. And I find myself leaning back now with my hands behind my head, thinking a lot harder than I used to trying to pull up some distant fact or memory. Answers that used to roll quickly off my tongue before having to even think about it now require a pick-ax, a shovel, and a few Sherpas to be unearthed from the mountains of data in my head.

Recently while in the car with St. Pauli Girl, a familiar song from the ‘80s came on the radio. Although I still knew every word, for the life of me I could not remember who sang it. Me, the trivia king.

“This is driving me crazy,” I said to St. Pauli Girl. “Why can’t I remember this? He was huge, couple of big 80’s albums with that familiar piano sound, he’s from Williamsburg, Virginia, good friends with Huey Lewis, played with Ricky Skaggs at one point….” I mentally ran through the alphabet trying to jog loose a name.

After about an hour, I shouted “Bruce Hornsby!” I was relieved to finally remember, yet perplexed at the difficulty of the task.

I suppose I’m just at the age where it takes a while, and like my dad and Rory Calhoun, maybe occasionally I can amaze the younger generation with something stupid, like who played the role of Mrs. Bellows in I Dream of Jeannie. But then part of me wonders if my brain is slowly being taken hostage and the ransom will not be paid, and there will be no survivors.

But I’m well-prepared and well-practiced. After all, I was the one who always answered the hard questions in those trivia games from so long ago.

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