Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Memory Serves

Some memories are nothing but habit.

Trauma? Loss? Love? Joy? My mind goes back to the same bank for the usual withdrawal. Why? Because I know the way -- the walk is short, tellers friendly, and they’ve honored my overdrafts for a long time. “Be there in a jiffy. You want this in years five, ten, or twenties? ” And without thinking, I cash in on the same image.

I would never cleanse my mind of any memory, but I’d like to do some restructuring. Move some of the boring ones, my personal clichés, to the end of the line. To put it ever so crassly, I’d like to ditch what are effectively the booty calls of memory, those that are always waiting, ever there. “You want your young love? We’ve got your Steve right here.” God, not Steve, I'm so bloody sick of Steve. I had other young loves, for Pete’s sake. For Pete, and Rob, and Keith’s sake.

I’d like to roam around and explore some forgotten territory.

As an example, if someone should mention children and music lessons, the go-to is my $5 Goodwill clarinet that couldn’t blow an honest C. Why not instead think of Kim? My best friend Kim who played Chopin in packed recital halls when we were in 3rd grade, and taught me to play a simple Mozart sonata on her baby grand, timing the piece to the metronome. Kim, whose family had three pianos, one in the living room, one in the family room, and one in the playroom. Kim, who had three pianos while I sat in my basement and blew my lungs and heart out on a $5 metal clarine…

Damn it, why do I keep scratching that? It doesn’t even itch anymore. Clearly this new roam will take more than a day.

37 comments:

  1. I've been thinking similar thoughts lately. Going into new old memory banks. Being reminded of a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert I went to where they had to cancel because Mary had a sore throat, and then remembering that my sister ran into a friend there, and then Peter Yarrow went out onto the sidewalk and discussed Martin Buber's "I and Thou" with the kids that were hanging out, and when a friend mentioned that she'd met Peter, Paul, and Mary I remembered that she'd gone to Abbey Road looking for the Beatles but instead met a member of Manfred Mann's band who let her sit in on a recording session. And she wonders how I could possibly remember such a thing. And I wonder why I can't always remember the names of the people I work with.

    I think sometimes we remember more new old memories when we clear out some of the more recent emotional baggage.

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  2. When my older brother and I compare childhood memories, half the time I have to ask, "Did we grow up in the same house?"

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  3. This is exactly why the James Frey "debacle" and uproar was a mystery to me...

    memoir? fiction? isn't it all the same thing when you try to write it down?

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  4. I love your description of 'going to the bank for a memory withdrawal'. How descriptive! Do we ever recognize when we are making a memory deposit?

    I do most of my banking in the shower when no one knows I snuck to the drive-thru window. I find that just peaking to see my account often leads to a withdrawal I didn't really want.

    Proceed with caution! Seek withdrawals when the bank is overflowing with positive funds!

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  5. Scratching an itch that doesn't even itch any more: great description for those over-used memories.

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  6. Restructuring the mental filing cabinet consumes more than mere time. Memories are more than facts and finding the right folder and an appropriate label can defeat me. As I downsize my footprint, so too do I endeavour to distil those flashes that I can never seem to pick out of clean air.

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  7. The sum of life: not what happened but what you choose to remember

    GG

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. There is a drug called versed (pronounced ver - sed) that is given during certain medical procedures. The drug causes you to remember nothing during the period that you're on it. You start out trying to resist a tube being shoved down your throat and the next thing you know you still think the tube is being shoved down your throat, but it's 20 minutes later and the tube is coming out. You remember nothing.

    An interesting effect of this is that if you need another procedure in the future, you don't worry about it because you know you won't remember it.

    This got me to thinking that the negative thing about pain is mostly just memory. You could be in total agony during the 20 minutes that you're on versed, but when you wake up with no memory of what happened, it's as if it didn't happen. One could be tortured while on versed, but as long as there are no physical injuries that linger on, it's as if it didn't happen.

    We are for the most part our memories, good and bad. Not remembering the bad has the effect of removing fear. I'm not advocating anything, just making an observation.

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  10. Oh that long term memory. It's wonderful isn't it! Now I have some new sweet memories, and I fear I won't know where they went a week from now. I think i"ll never let them go, but who knows, KB. Old age sucks big time!
    V

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  11. Proust had a lot to say on the subject; maybe I'll give that novel one more try.

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  12. No one lives through Proust

    I like it when I come across a smell that produces a flash of unexpected memory.

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  13. I have some memories I'd rather forget--a job I worked where I wasn't appreciated, for instance, and I still get mad, and it was 25 years ago. Jeez. Or a mistake I made. Those are itches I sometimes scratch automatically. I wouldn't have minded some "versed" for those.

    Good memories I don't mind revisiting.

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  14. Well Petrea, your right of course. Oh the bad stuff i can't let go of from some 30 years ago? Bad jobs, bad husband.... seee??? If I could, I could free up some space up there. Arggghhhh.

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  15. I think we get so good at telling the "go-to" memories as stories that they become more real-seeming to us than the others, which frequently, are more important and more formative.

    I really enjoyed this post. It made me reflect.

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  16. You bring up very good points - ever so eloquently.
    One thing I appreciate about blogging is that most of the time it brings back the non-routine, non-standard pack of remebrances. I was recently talking to my uncle about my first car (a green Dodge Dart Swinger - yup!) - he & my dad picked it up and he drove it back ever so carefully. I have no recollection of it, but I do remember being mad at K. and taking the turn into the parking lot behind the apartment too fast and scraping the side of it. I was mad at K. the time I turned red on a long intersection and I got a ticket which I could of gotten out of if I told the NE LA cops that I was a police explorer at the same station. Poor K. - he got blamed for a lot.

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  17. I have very sweet memories of a PP&M concert in mmm ... 1964 at The Stadium here in Sydney. I went with a lovely boy called Barry who was a state boxing champion at the time (for 16 yo) and as we walked around Kings Cross later, someone picked on him. I simply remember the restraint and elegance with which he avoided the conflict. Bitter sweet night to recall last week.

    As I read Earl's comment about ver-sed, I kept thinking "child-birth": that's what they administer during child-birth.

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  18. Gee, that is a beautiful analogy, Hiker. I have those loops too. And lots of loose change. I'm working on it.

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  20. Yes indeed Memory Lane can be a treacherous labyrinth. That's why we have wine tastings and happy hours...

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  21. I'm with Susan. My sister remembers everything. I'll say "Blue was my favorite color." She'll say, "No, it was purple." I don't know what bothers me more: that I might be remembering it all wrong, or that someone else has claimed ownership of my memories.

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  22. Put my sister, my brother, and I in the same room and discuss one event and it's Rashomon all over again. Well, not the story line, just the differing points of view. Lately I've been finding relatives and old friends on Facebook, etc. Talk about a flood of memories...
    It has occurred to me that we access more recent events differently than we do past events. So, is long term memory more sensuous and (sometimes)more appealing?

    wv losidg

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  23. What a great subject. But don’t bother with Proust.

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  24. I went back home to see my brother and sister more than a moth ago and I still haven't shaken it off.

    And when I say "it," I don't mean the visit. I mean my first 12 years.

    12? Make that my first 18.

    And, well, maybe a few years beyond that as well.

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  25. I knew I couldn’t be concise. Here’s this: do you think one reason bloggers blog is that subjects like this don’t come up often enough in “first life” conversation? Or at least they aren’t pursued as openly and honestly as they might be on a blog? And is the first-life problem a lack of honesty or lack of time? With three or more humans gathered in a room, do we censor ourselves: “Who will be interested? Who has time for this?” So we talk about golf, shopping, children, grandchildren.

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  26. Addressing childhood memories as it relates to siblings, I don't think the problem is that you can never go home again, the problem is you always do.

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  27. Now you all are serious here.
    I like that.
    As you say, memories can be good and bad.
    I as most of us prefer to choose the good ones.

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  28. And Banjo, I don't think that at all. I think a blog is half essay or photo essay and half conversation. Maybe the concept will last, maybe it won't; but it's unique.

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  29. I'm wondering what good memory serves beyond doing the necessities, the basics of life. Is the net a strong positive or much less?

    I'll leave the question for you humans.

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  30. What a great concept, Hiker, and so beautifully written.

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  31. Mr Earl / Julie - scopolamine is another drug used during childbirth, with the side-effect of suppressing memory. Of course in Psycho 101 so long ago we figured it was all a conspiracy.

    And I never knew till just now, per wikipedia, it comes from jimson weed.

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  32. Actually had jimson weed tea a couple of times as a teenager. tho I confess I can't seem to remember much about the experience...

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  33. Arf--I like "Psycho 101." I'm surprised I haven't heard it before.

    "Lonely but free I'll be
    fow - wownd . . . / Driftin' along with the tumb-uh-lin jimson
    weed . . ."

    AH, actually I think we agree, but in trying to explain myself I wrote a ramble, which I might now try to turn into my own post. For now, I offer this: is blogged conversation (with or without photos) more _____?_____ (honest? creative? productive?) than first-life conversation? If so, I find that troubling fact, though I'm glad to find the forum, wherever and however it might occur.

    Because you lace the dark stuff with humor, your forum is especially good.

    Maybe it amounts to a heretofore overlooked pick-up line in a bar: "Hey, baby, nice forum. Wanna go look at my posts?"

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  34. Wow arf, that reminds me of my class in abnormal psych. The book had pages of dialogue lifted from the rantings of this type and that type. A friend and I turned them into one act plays, w/o bringing in the element of mental illness, and they worked quite well.

    Ok Banjo, then we probably do agree. But I don't think it's troubling. Even when you write in your own voice, no one actually talks in essays.

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