MEG RYAN, AND 15 MINUTES IN MEMPHIS. The other day, I dropped in to see my jeweler. My jeweler. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Mine makes 75 bucks off me every single year. I mean, watch batteries aren’t cheap, and I’m going to sweat through at least one watchband every summer.
My jeweler’s name is Bill, and he’s also a musician, a Disciples of Christ minister, a fellow color commentator on the passing parade, and he has a handsome pottery coffee mug with “Bite Me” prominently displayed just below the lip.
My jeweler is my kind of nuanced guy.
His place is on the side of an East Memphis office building and roughly the size of an elevator – let’s be fair – a really well-appointed elevator with a couple of shiny display cases full of sparkly stuff. And drawers full of batteries and watchbands.
And yet – on this particular day during this particular 15 minutes – it was plenty big enough to connect me to 30 years of my life like one of Bill’s charm bracelets in one of those cases.
On the way out the door, I greeted friend and writer David coming through the door who filled me in on the latest from Burke’s Book Store, Alchemy sightings and points Cooper-Young, and then I held the door for a woman I didn’t know and followed David back into Bill’s store to continue our conversation, whereupon Bill, after a sip from Bite Me, asked if I knew everybody in town, at which point I turned to the woman and said, “Well, I don’t know her.”
Which brings us to Meg Ryan.
As we discussed life in Midtown, I commented on how much I loved sitting on my Harbert porch swing watching every kind of human and dog stroll, jog, run or stumble by every 30 minutes or so. “In fact,” I said, “one afternoon I was sitting there when this graduate-level-cute blond ambled by and I thought, well, lots of things, but among them was how much she looked like Meg Ryan …”
Stopping me, the unidentified woman asked, “Where on Harbert?” I told her, and she said, “I grew up on the next corner, and Meg Ryan lived in my house.”
“Of course, she did,” I said, recognition dawning, “You’re Cathy Calandruccio and I danced with your momma at the Trezevant prom a couple of weeks ago.” (And I did, but that story, and how her 88-year-old mother took over the dance circle, is for another day.)
You see, after the Calandruccios moved out, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan rented their house during the Memphis filming of “Great Balls Of Fire.” “So,” I told the assemblage, “seems I do know this woman and that was Meg Ryan walking by.”
“Yeah,” Bill said, “she probably looked up there on the porch and thought, ‘That looks like Dan Conaway, but it couldn’t be.’”
Bite me, Bill.
I’m a Memphian, and if three or four of us bump into each other, you get the whole story.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.