Pete Brown Says

Pretty Good Stories. Told by Pete.

Season 2 Sneak Preview

Hello, again, everybody.

Just about one year ago, I launched season one of my storytelling podcast, Pete Brown Says, with a short episode on how my memory works and why I thought podcasting was a great fit for the creative nonfiction stories that it seems bent on holding on to. And for the last few months of 2017, I rolled out 11 episodes that did just that, mostly told stories from my past that have been knocking around in my head for years, waiting for me to find a medium.

But the funniest thing was what I said at the end of the last episode. Namely, that I was taking a few weeks to do some writing, and would have Season 2 rolling out in February.

Talk about the audacity of hope. I spent a good 30 years thinking about the stories I told in Season 1. I'm not sure why I thought I'd just need a few weeks to write and produce a second season. February came and went, and in March I wrote to my newsletter subscribers that I was thinking more like June. 

(By the way, you can subscribe to the newsletter here. I'm a well-intentioned but ultimately infrequent correspondent.)

June came and went and I was only just getting stuck in on the writing; I had also signed on to a few freelance film projects that were competing for my time and attention, and was neck deep in a massive project at my day job. Still, I resolved not to promise a date for any more episodes until I was sure they were on the horizon.

Now they're here…and if I had to make one generalization about the upcoming season, it's this: many of the season one stories I told were from my grade school years, or began thereabouts and connected up to things in my adult life. Not all of them, of course, but more than a few. Similarly, in Season 2, I lean on high school and college years a bit more. Not for all of the episodes, but for more than a few. Here's a taste:

I'm anticipating at least a ten-episode run for Season 2, with a bonus episode a distinct possibility if this season goes as well as Season 1 did. I'm in the middle of production now, so I'm reasonably confident we'll be off and running in early 2019, with a new episode every other week, and possibly some "mini-episodes" in between. After which, if we're all still getting a bang out of it, I'll start working on some more.

Before I go, I want to talk about something I think about a lot: the connection between memoir and memory, which seems an obvious thing that is, I think, deceptively complicated. Because study after study shows us that our memories change over time and that we don't much notice these changes. Instead, we simply accept them for what they are. 

The writer and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell spends a good deal of time on this subject in two recent episodes of his show Revisionist History, including one about Brian Williams, the NBC anchor who famously told America he had been under fire while on assignment in Iraq, only to have his story contradicted by many of the soldiers he was there with.

Instead of vilifying Williams as a liar, which many of us did, Gladwell shows how his memory of the event changed over time, how, in William's mind, he wasn't deliberately telling a lie, but sharing his altered or evolved memory of the event.

The moral of his exploration around the liquidity of memory, he tells us, is that you'd be a fool to believe memory is a 100% representation of the truth, but unfortunately, we're all fools. 

This worries me, as someone who writes a lot about my past. It's why I say at the end of each episode that it's written to the best of my memory, no more or no less. Because while I think my memory is pretty good, I'm also sure it's human, and subject to the same decay as anyone else's.

And while I'm not reporting to America about my time under fire, it's been pretty rare that I've gone back to try and doublecheck anything in these episodes. It's not like I've tracked down someone I knew in grade school and asked them if they remembered the speech they gave in Ms. Campbell's English class in seventh grade. First of all, I've found that people tend to be a little freaked out when you connect with them after years and years and ask them a super-specific question about something they only vaguely recall, if at all. And secondly, in most cases, I am certain of the outcome of these stories, and how they've impacted my life. And whenever necessary, I'll change the names of people involved, and I'll always let you know when I am doing so.

Because at the end of the day, I'm not reporting to you all on NBC news. I'm just putting a small podcast out there and hoping that you find something to like in the stories that I have to tell. They are, as I've said, written to the best of my memory, and all else flows from there.