Drugs, Doms & Squirrel Brains: TMI Moments from PDX Memoirs

A look back at some of the cringiest overshares from our favorite Portland authors

By Aaron Scott Research by Caitlin Feldman January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Ah, that awkward moment for Portland book lovers: You find yourself sharing a café line with your favorite local author. He or she has no idea who you are. But thanks to a tell-all memoir, you know far, far too much about his or her sexual peccadilloes, emotional wrongdoings, and exuberant past drug use.

The latest writer to add to local literature’s self-disclosure overload is Eugene-born Jason Schmidt. Out this month, A List of Things that Didn’t Kill Me follows Schmidt’s childhood with a father whose counterculture life was a tie-dye quilt of heavy drugs, free love, welfare scams, and, after he came out as gay, AIDS. Courageous, gripping, and often troubling, the book is the first memoir released on Farrar, Straus, and Giroux’s young-adult ReaLITy imprint, bringing the trend of sharing raw histories into the YA realm. (Schmidt will read at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing on Jan 13.)

Reading Schmidt’s memoir reminded us of some of the other wilder revelations we’ll never be able to unlearn (though we might try). TMI, or too much fun? You decide. 

Beth Ditto, Coal to Diamonds 
“The plate on the table in front of him was scarfed clean, a pile of leg bones and the dirty frying pan the only evidence of Dean’s impressive stoner feat: nailing three squirrels with a shotgun, then skinning them out in the yard, cleaning the meat, and frying it up.... My dad liked to boil a squirrel head and suck the brains out the nose.”

John Gorham, Toro Bravo
“The psychiatrist that my mom had blackmailed into giving her pharmaceuticals ended up paying someone to beat the tarnation out of her.... I’ve wanted to say something to [the psychiatrist] to at least let him know that I know, but I never have. Probably because I know, if I’m honest, that if I had been him, I might have done the same thing myself.”

Michael Heald, Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension
“It seems equally embarrassing to finally be here, to be standing in a dungeon, wearing nothing but two nipple clamps and a condom which, despite Miss Ophelia’s frequent reminder that safety is the first rule of play, seems to be serving the sole purpose of mocking my state of complete unarousal.”

Storm Large, Crazy Enough 
“I never put batteries in it, but I washed it really well and took it to bed with me every night for a long time. Every day I would wash, dry, and return it to the junk drawer. Just in case. After a few weeks, I was confident that I was ready for my first time.”

Cheryl Strayed, Wild
“When we’d finally laid down that tombstone and spread [my mother’s] ashes into the dirt, I hadn’t spread them all. I’d kept a few of the largest chunks in my hand. I’d stood for a long while, not ready to release them to the earth. I didn’t release them. I never ever would. I put her burnt bones into my mouth and swallowed them whole.”

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