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Sunday, October 07, 2012

How We Remember

(Written, as often happens, on a night my brain was stuck in 2nd (1st?) gear.)

I can't remember what happened yesterday.  Sometimes I can't remember what happened this morning, what I just said, what your name is.  It's like a fog that rolls in and out.  It's like,  what is it like.  It's just like it is.  I know I know these things, I don't know why I can't name them.

Memory is such a fickle thing.  I know a fellow.  His name is Mark.  I can't remember his last name.  It's on the tip of my tongue.  I'll never come up with it.  Then again it just might come to me in the course of things.  Details are important, but some are more important than others.  Mark was not a friend.  He only passed in and out of my life briefly.  He was Warren's temporary friend.  They were both vets of a sort.  Warren as a teenage soldier in Vietnam, Mark in some motor pool in Germany.  This mattered more to Warren than myself who served nowhere, but their lives came together at the VA hospital when they were both detoxing from alcohol abuse.  I met Mark months later.  He was an odd fellow.  Small, gray bearded and looking much older than he should.  He hung his head on his chest and looked at you over his glasses.  He had a wasted old soldier look to him. He was odd, but I couldn't and didn't want to make judgements about him either way.  That said, I thought he was a nut.  That was about as far as I wanted to know him.  There are a lot of nuts out there and I'm content to let them be, veteran or not.  I've not found it useful to collect them as friends.

In a colossally bad decision Teal decided to move in to Mark's house on the Southside.  The house was nice enough and the neighborhood was alright, but the interior was a disaster.  It was one step away from an episode on hoarders.  Mark was a lifelong drug addict and lunatic.  His injuries were self inflicted and his dealer was the McGuire VA pharmacy   Around his home were dozens of unopened medication boxes auto-shipped by the VA. Besides prescription pain killers, Mark was addicted to Diet Coke, consuming two to four liters a day in 16 oz. Styrofoam cups, boxes of which were stacked in his garage.  If you know a hoarder, you know that they would miss a single one of these disposed of without their approval.  There's a lot more that could be said about Mark, but let me cut to my point.  Mark watched TV, all the time, the same channel everyday, in every room.  Of all the 300 channels that came with his cable package, there were only two I ever saw him watch.  Initially it was the Military Channel, broadcasting Nazi exploits round the clock.  Then it was Turner Classic Movies, black and white films from the 30's, 40's and 50's and here's where Mark really comes into this story.  Mark could tell you the year, the director, the lead actors of every movie on that channel.  On any other subject Mark had nothing worthwhile to say, but if you wanted to know who won the Academy Award in 1935, he could tell you.  Mark was junkie, his life was in shambles, his neighbors were afraid of him, but he had an encyclopedic knowledge of old movies.

This drove me nuts.  I know a lot of stuff, I remember a lot of stuff.  I just can't recall it on command.  Like dyslexics and what's the word for people who can't read,  ineligible?, illegible? I know it and it will come to me later, but you know the word and I know the word, but Jesus if I can think of it.  It's all I can do not to resort to Google to find it.  I work around this constantly saying almost what I mean, but never exactly.  For a writer or at least someone who writes, this is maddening.  I feel like that country music guy, Mel Tillis (amazing, it came to me), that stutters.  He would get stuck, get stuck and get stuck, then stumble his way around it,  Since he couldn't beat it, he made a virtue out of necessity and made it part of his act.  He smiled through it  and made people laugh, but I know the pain of not being able to express your exact feelings when it is most important.  Give Mel a song though and his voice was golden and his delivery was smooth as silk.

This is not something I especially like to talk about.  It is certainly nothing to brag about.  Everybody's got problems and mine don't rate very high , but it is a big deal to me.  Something that has gotten much worse of late.  When I feel passionate though, the words flow like water.  Phrases jump to mind.  Whole stories unfold in front of me.  When I feel the love I don't want to stop.  I don't know when ofr if it will strike again.  It is why I often say things I regret.  Sometimes I think you need to just go with what's in your heart and let things sort themselves out.  Other times I spill my guts, publish them, think twice about it and immediately delete them.

Adios, Aloha, Arrivaderci, Buenos Noches,Ciao, Dos Vidanya, Guten Abend, Sayonara, Scram, So Long, Farewell , Auf Wiedersein, Good Night, TTFN.

BTW In 1980 the Academy Award for Best Picture went to Ordinary People and Best Director went to Robert Redford (I even remember his acceptance speech.  The movie starred Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton  and Elizabeth McGovern.  The movie opened up with Pacabel's Canon in D, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. For what it's worth, I recalled all this from memory.

The word I was looking for was "illiterate".


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