Lachlan MacKinnon’s “Let Me Tell You a Story” A Collinwood Tale

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Friends often told Lachlan MacKinnon he should share his over-the-top stories from  growing up in Collinwood in the 1980s, but he resisted.  MacKinnon, a former punk rocker who is now married with a son, felt if you didn’t know him or his family the stories wouldn’t make much sense.

Then came the presidential election of 2016. The results didn’t turn out the way he or many of his friends had hoped.

“After the last presidential election, my Facebook feed was real depressing.  I tried to write the stories to cheer myself up and other people liked them.  A friend would say that ‘this story reminds me of that,’ and that would remind me of some other stupid thing I did as a kid.  Somebody said, ‘If you type these up, I’ll put these out.’  I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t,” MacKinnon said.  

Much of “Let Me Tell You a Story: Small Stories of a Large Family” revolves around Lachlan’s father, Bill MacKinnon.

“When I was real young, he was just like a typical dad.  He had six kids to deal with and there was never enough money around. He was always working and when he wasn’t at work, he always seemed angry to me.  His marriage with my mother was not great, so there were adult things, but as a kid, you don’t pick up on it.  As an adult, I pick up on it now.  When he read the book he laughed but said, ‘I don’t remember being angry like that all of the time.’  Maybe it’s just my memories of it, but I talked to my brothers and sisters and they agreed that he seemed pretty angry,” MacKinnon laughingly said.

One of the stories that MacKinnon shares in the book is what he and his siblings were told after their father was sent to prison for selling marijuana (Lachlan MacKinnon was around seven years old).

“They came up with this story that he was going to go to law school in North Dakota. I remember accepting this as a kid that this was no big deal, but even now I thought, ‘what kind of law schools are in North Dakota that they don’t have here?’  There’s a million questions I have now, that when I was six or seven, I didn’t have then, that’s kind of funny to me,” MacKinnon said.  

While much of “Let Me Tell You a Story” is filled with humorous yarns, the book also chronicles a Cleveland neighborhood that underwent a change for the worse, as jobs began to disappear with the decline of the steel and manufacturing industries.

“When my dad got laid off I want to say in 1983, our neighborhood went seemingly overnight from a really strong working class neighborhood to all of a sudden, everyone’s dads and uncles were laid off because they all worked for Conrail, LTV Steel or the Fisher Body Plant, all went out of business at the same time.  It was devastating to the neighborhood,” MacKinnon said.

While MacKinnon captures the effects of this economic shift, he doesn’t have any grandiose notions that he’s written a book that completely captures the zeitgeist of what it was like to be a kid living in this area in the mid-1980s.

“This is not the definitive work on ‘Ohio’ culture from this period, but I do think that if you read these stories you get a pretty good sense of at least the neighborhood and what it was like. A lot of the stories are pretty relatable.  It’s not that different from what other families were going through at the same time,” MacKinnon said.

Listen to Lachlan MacKinnon read 'Bologna Summer 1985' from his new memoir 'Let Me Tell You a Story'

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