ROCK AND ROLL NEVER FORGETS – Rich Paschall

But Sometimes We Do, Rich Paschall

You may have run into someone at the mall or in the supermarket who looked a bit familiar, but you were sure you did not know him. Then he comes up to you and starts talking as if you are old friends. If you are lucky he will say his name or give away a clue to help you place him. Of course, you do not want to admit you do not know the guy’s name, but sometimes you just have to fess up. If it does not seem important to you, the conversation may end without you know who you just talked to.

It can be particularly embarassing if it is someone you recently worked with. I seem to put a lot of people’s names out of my brain as soon as a leave a job. The problem with that is you keep running into the same industry people at industry events and other jobs. Sometimes you just can’t seem to leave a job behind.

It’s not just former colleague names that can be a problem. You can forget  family names too. After all, how can you be expected to remember cousin Harvey or Harry or Hargrove or whoever, if you only see him at one holiday party a year? Sometimes it is better to forget old Harris or Harper anyway. If you are lucky, Harlin or Harlow doesn’t remember you either. Maybe it’s Harpo.

Foggy?

Anyway, we all seem to suffer from the case of walking into a room and then forgeting why we went in there. If it is the kitchen, I may just grab some food. If it is the front room, I may just decide to turn on the TV. If I have gone to the basement, I usually get distracted by the cat, so I can blame any forgetfullness on him. If I go to the bathroom… well, I usually remember why I am there.

Unlike many people who fear their memories are fading with age, I just think I have too much on my mind and I let it wander. I don’t give into the notion that I am “losing it.” I know plenty of young people who forget names or why then went into a room.  OK, I know a few.

Some of us can’t remember what we had for lunch 30 minutes ago, but can remember all the words to a song from 30 or 40 years ago. I have seen people do karaoke from memory, and not by looking a the small monitor with the lyrics. It is in this spirit we bring good news.

In case you have forgotten some of the best rock and roll songs, we are here to prompt your memory. This weekend we will have the top 10 Rock and Roll songs. That’s right! The best Rock and Roll songs. What do you think they are? No need to worry your grey matter over this. We are on the case.

I have been searching for weeks to bring you this list, Righteous Brothers! We will work The Kinks out of your brains and restore you to The Human League. No need to go down to the Beach, Boys, because the memories will wash over you. We will bring the Top 10 and you can Kiss a few bonus plays too. The work was a Risky Business, but we managed to dodge the Silver Bullet. Set your channel to SERENDIPITY Sunday.

FINEST DAY OF THE WEEK, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Finest

Duke did not steal it. I blamed him, although he was noticeably unruffled by being blamed since he does not consider stealing small plastic objects he can chew as something shameful. It’s just delightfully crunchy. Pill bottles (empty), DVD covers, other miscellaneous containers — and two pairs of kitchen scissors plus Garry’s red mouse. I knew it was him. It had fang marks. Garry may chew, but he has no fangs, at least that I know about.


We had errands to run today. It’s May 2nd or (depending on the day) late winter. I put on my sweat pants, turtleneck sweater, wool socks, shoes, and my peacoat. I should have also worn a hat because — yes — it was raining.

How unusual.

Garry asked if I was ready to go, so I closed my computer, grabbed my little camera and tucked it into my bag and off we went. We had to sign papers at the insurance company, mail some stuff to the Town of Uxbridge (to prove we still live here), and go grocery shopping.

All of which we did. When we got home and I unpacked the groceries and put everything where it belonged, I called Owen to tell him to pick up his mail — and by then it was past the dog’s dinner time and a little past ours, too, I took out my computer and turned it on. I had a few bills to pay. Nothing big, which is why I had to pay them. It’s the little ones I forget.

But I couldn’t do anything because my mouse had vanished. Both Garry and I stared at The Duke who appeared to wonder what the problem was. He has previously stolen two pairs of kitchen scissors and had eaten Garry’s mouse. So who wouldn’t assume he’d also eaten mine? Any dog owner would have assumed the same thing, right?

With a flashlight, we examined the underside of all the furniture (dirt, all that dirt), the dog crate (where we had previously found both pairs of scissors and Garry’s mouse). Nothing.

The Duke

And then, looked at my end table where I keep the computer, my big external drive and about a dozen chargers for miscellaneous camera batteries. My little camera was sitting there, in its case.

But. I put my camera in my bag, lest there be a picture to take. IF my little camera was on the end table — what did I put in my bag?

Suddenly, I knew. It was my mouse.

Totally humiliated, I extracted my mouse, mumbled about getting REALLY old and moved on with life.

Out of the whole week — and it was one hell of a week — this was my finest day. It was perfect.  This was possibly the finest hour of my finest day. I had both of us crawling around the floor looking for the mouse that I’d put in my bag because I thought it was my camera. It looks nothing like my camera. It’s not in a case, for one thing. It weighs a few ounces while the camera is almost a pound.

Camera and mouse

My body did something completely different than my brain was perceiving. This worries me. How many other things am I doing that I don’t know I’m doing? Until they call me and tell me I didn’t pay the bill, I really don’t know.

You can’t make this stuff up. Even if you try. (And why would you try?)

My doctor says I am not sinking into dementia. I know because I asked him. I believe he replied by saying, “Not a chance!” As if I had was hoping for a cure from life and he was giving me the bad news with which I would have to cope.

The dog really did not do it. I done it. Myself.

Sorry, Duke. You did eat Garry’s mouse. You left DNA with the fang marks.

REMEMBER WHAT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Every night, I fill up my cup, grab my bag o’ medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television for Garry. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is really the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and it keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fan in the living room or in winter, turn down the thermostat. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Thermostat.” I go back to the living room. Turn down the temperature. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I limp back to the bedroom. And get the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I left an extra light on in the living room. Up the hall to the living room. Turn off light. I am currently embattled with the electric company about my bill. I pet the dogs again, which with three dogs always involves some kind of weird arrangement of arms and hands. Then, it’s back to the bedroom.

Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. I recently relocated all of our copies of National Geographics and The New Yorker to a shelf in the bathroom. Right in front of the toilet. I suppose I have only myself to blame.

He settles into watching highlights of a Sox game, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

An hour later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

Which is when I realize all the pills are still in the cup. Where I put them. Like two hours ago. With all the walking up and down the hallway, I never got around to taking them which explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You didn’t take them?” He Laughs — and puts the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines, calendars, and Google. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Or fail to remember if we did it today or yesterday. If that fails, there’s Google.

Google is not useful for remembering if I have a doctor’s appointment or whether or not I called in that prescription, but it’s great for all the other trivia of life. All the missing words, titles of books, movies, TV shows, actors, historical events, kinds of dogs.

Actually, I use posts the same way. I may not remember whatever it is, but the odds are pretty good I wrote it down in a post. If I could only remember the title of the post!

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy. If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog.

Recently, they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to find simple information. In fact, the whole AKC site seems to be a place to sell puppies — something I find more than a little suspicious.

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same kind of pooch as the dog Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.” Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show. First I had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about a psychiatrist.” Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either.

One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.

THE SCISSORS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Two nights ago, the kitchen scissors disappeared.

I hadn’t used them and Garry is certain he put them where they belonged, which is in the kitchen scissors slot in the wood block where we keep all the knives. He is absolutely positive that he put them there.

I’m never absolutely sure I did or didn’t do anything. As often as not, it’s what I meant to do, but somewhere along the line, I got distracted. I had the item in my hand, but something happened and I went somewhere else — like maybe the bedroom or the bathroom — and I just put the item down. Somewhere. I have no idea where.

But at least I have the sense to never swear I know where I put whatever it was because so many times, it never got there. It went somewhere, but not where it was supposed to go. Garry’s sense of total certainty aggravates me. Because the scissors aren’t there.

They also aren’t anywhere else in the house and we’ve done a pretty thorough search of the premises including bedroom, offices, bathrooms, basement, bedroom — AND the freezer and refrigerator. Don’t laugh. I’ve found all kinds of things in the freezer.

Not just Garry looking, either. This is both of us looking. The thing is, these are kitchen shears and the were expensive. They don’t travel far and in the years we’ve had them (like three years, I think) they’ve never wandered outside the kitchen. I have box cutters that I use for unpacking stuff from Amazon. I actually have three box cutters: two in the kitchen and a third in the basement.

Note the scissors in the front slot. These are now missing.

We will continue looking for the scissors, but wherever they are, they shouldn’t be there. I can’t in all honesty blame this one on the dogs. They don’t have the digits to make the scissors work and anyway, that’s what fangs are for.

The spare scissors from the bedroom now occupy the scissors slot.

It could be those pixies again, but they tend to lift shiny things like jewelry. Earrings. Necklaces. I’m sure they are the ones that put my favorite necklace in the sock drawer of Garry’s dresser because I would never put it there nor would Garry.

I could be sleep-walking again. I have done some very odd things while sound asleep … but even so, what could I possibly have done with them, asleep or not?

At our age, it’s never a good idea to say you are 100% sure you did something because the truth is, maybe we didn’t. I usually blame the pixies or the dogs, depending on whether it’s glittery (pixies) or plastic (dogs) or paper (also dogs).

Assuming sleep-walking wasn’t involved.

The man who absolutely positively put the scissors back in their slot.

I’ll let you know should we ever find the scissors.

On another subject, I’m not feeling well and I’ve got doctors appointments on two different days and I have to get blood tests, too.

I’ll try to fit in writing and picture-taking, but I have a headache so bad my eyeballs hurt. I’ll do the best I can to provide new material, but honestly, I’m feeling not-so-great and it’s hard to be my charming self when my eyeballs hurt.

I was sufficiently sick that Garry opened a cookbook — VOLUNTARILY — and figured out how to cook swordfish with rice (he already knew how to use the rice cooker). It came out perfectly and tasted excellent. I needed a meal. I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and I was hungrier than I thought.

I ate it. It was good!

The scissors are still missing. I ordered a much less expensive pair. The other ones might yet reappear in some strange place. Maybe the dogs DID do it.

WHERE THE HELL ARE MY CARKEYS? – Tom Curley

First off, this isn’t a blog about “Senior Moments”. You know, like when you get up and go into another room and the second you enter the other room you can’t for the life of you remember why you’re there.

drz.org

drz.org

The annoying part is that the only way to remember why you went in there is to go back to the room you started in. As soon as you do, you immediately remember why you got up in the first place.

“Oh right. I really have to pee.”

No, this blog is about memory and memories. Why does my brain work the way it does? Why do I remember some things and not others?

Let me explain.

I went to college. I was a biology major and pre-med. I took lots and lots of science courses; biology, physics, math, and chemistry. I got good grades. All A’s or B’s.

I learned lots of stuff. I knew calculus. I knew what a derivative was. No, not the financial thingies that caused the global crash of 2008. But equations that started with dy/dx, or something like that.

Notice the past tense in these last sentences? I “knew” all these things. Today, all that information is gone! Vanished, like I never took any of those courses. Actually, I do remember that there was something called the “Krebs Cycle.” It had to do with respiration or metabolism. I know it’s something we all do that’s very important. If we don’t do it, we die. But that’s all I remember.

Yet, with no effort at all, I can recite all the words to the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Mr. Ed!!!

mr ed

Youtube.com

“A horse is a horse of course of course, and nobody can talk to a horse of course. That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr. Ed.” I could go on to the second verse.

But I won’t.

Hell, I can even recite the words to “Car 54 Where Are You?” And I didn’t really watch the show that often!

Youtube.com

Youtube.com

“There’s a hold up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child.
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54 where are you?”

 

I swear I wrote those from memory. They flowed effortlessly from my brain, like crap through a goose. I didn’t Google them.

Which brings me to my next point.

We live in an amazing age. We have all the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Any question you could possibly think of can be googled. It’s gotten so easy that you can type the most rambling of questions and still get the right answer.

For example, a while ago I got into a conversation about time travel and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen a long time ago. It was about an aircraft carrier that went back in time to just before Pearl Harbor. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name so I typed the following sentence into Google:

“There was this movie a long time ago about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time to just before Pearl Harbor and ….”

google-search-screen

At this point, Google popped up “The Final Countdown.” It listed the cast, the plot, and where I could buy it. All before I could finish typing a full sentence! Wow!

imdb.com

imdb.com

It made me realize something. I could use the internet to bring back all that science knowledge I once had!

But I don’t.

I use it for far more important stuff. Mostly, finding out the name of the actor my wife and I are currently watching on TV. We know we’ve seen him or her on some other show. But we can’t for the life of us remember either his/her name or the show’s name. Google it! Go to IMDB!

“Oh, right! She was the head doctor on that show we used to watch back in the ’90s!”

“Right! She was married to … what’s his name?  He was on … what was the name of that show?”

Back to Google.

So in the end, I still don’t know why my brain works the way it does. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Kreb’s Cycle.

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

When I started reading it, I actually remembered most of it. Although I gotta admit. It was pretty dull. Mr. Ed was a lot more fun.

Hmm. Maybe I do know why my brain works the way it does.

MEMORIAL HALLS – Marilyn Armstrong

Every night, I fill up my glass with juice, grab my bag of medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is actually the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fans or the lights. Or something. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Didn’t change the dogs’ water.” I go back to the living room. Wash the pot, refill it with clean water. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill the antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I stroll back to the bedroom with the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I didn’t turn off the living room lights. Back to the living room where I turn off a couple of lights. Pet dogs and go back to the bedroom. Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. He settles into watching highlights of the whatever sport is being played, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

72-scotties-073016_034

Which is when I realize all my pills are in the cup where I put them. With all the walking up and down the hallway, I never got around to taking them. Which probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continue laughing. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why I’m laughing. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You hadn’t taken them?” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Alternatively, we may not be able to remember if we did it today, yesterday, or the day before.

Duke’s glorious tail – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy.

The Duke

If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

 

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”

Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about a psychiatrist.”

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either.

One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.

OPEN MEMORY – Marilyn Armstrong

A Wide Open Memory – RDP #46 and #FOWC

Just when I think I’ve finally figured out what’s going on with my body, something weird changes and I have to figure it out all over again. When I think I know what I look like, I take a peek in the mirror and wonder — “Who is that?”

When I know what day it is? It isn’t. Sometimes, I’m not fully clear on the year and recently, someone asked me my age and I said 22 without even a pause.

What would Superman have to say about today’s world? I’m absolutely sure he could fix it, aren’t you?

Now, it’s obvious I am not 22 … or for that matter, 62. I think my brain skipped a beat and made me — for that brief moment — the girl I was. Because in 1969, I really was 22. That was a great year. My best year.

The music was amazing. The news was upbeat and we just knew that somehow, everything would work out better. And it would do it soon.  It wasn’t that we didn’t have plenty of issues and problems, but we were positive, and absolutely, positively certain that we could overcome them and really be great. Americans.

Great Americans, not these tawdry pretend imitation creatures that mealy mouth Americans but act like Stalin’s cohorts.

We walked on the moon and the Mets — who had previously been not only the worst team in baseball but hilariously the worst team — won the World Series. My friends were alive, full of bounce, and energy. Nobody was trying to figure out where they could move so they could use public transport, avoid having to drive, and skip the hard winters.

We still liked winter. We thought snow was fun. We went sledding and tobogganing even though they hadn’t yet invented Uggs. We went to the beach in summer and people got a suntan and bragged about it.

We got birth control and Roe V. Wade came down from the Supreme Court — and it was a real Supreme Court with honest-to-God the best in the world judges on it. They didn’t always agree and some of them were definitely strict constitutionalists while others were more inclined to change the law because the world was growing up.

But for all of them, the Constitution of the United States was the issue. It mattered. Law mattered. No matter where they fell, on which side of whatever issue was presented, they cared enough to be sure they made decisions they believed were in the best interests of the people they served.

Remember that? They people they served? They served us because we were the people. Even the politicians we hated were real Americans. They believed in this country. They believed we had a role in this world and it wasn’t just to become the richest, most corrupt global corporation on Planet Earth.

It’s not hard for my brain to take a bounce and get back there. I wonder what kids today will remember as their happiest days? I hope it won’t be how many different things they could do with their mobile phones. That would be too pathetic.

So just when I think I know something, it skitters away. Sometimes, it’s because I forgot. It’s easy to forget. So many things don’t feel important now. Values have changed. My understanding of reality has changed.

Remember growing up with The Lone Ranger?

I bet the Super and Lone could make things right! With maybe a hint of Crockett, just for the legend. You should always print the legend.

#RDP – Open

#FOWC – Memory

FORGETTING EVERYTHING IN A HURRY – Marilyn Armstrong

Younger people — even people just a little bit younger, like maybe 10 years — do not understand the whole “forgetting” issue. They think memory is linked to dementia, but that’s not the same as the standard “everything vanishes in 15 seconds” kind of forgetting that overtakes us as we pass into our 70s.

I don’t forget anything forever. I don’t forget everything ever. I forget bits and pieces of things. Dates. Titles. Phone numbers. If it’s really important, I will remember it — or at least remember to look at the calendar where I no doubt wrote it down.

I forget words, then remember them a few minutes later. I forget television shows and who starred in them. I forget the author of the books I read when I was younger. I have forgotten a lot of things that happened when I was younger, probably because none of them were all that important. Turns out, 60 years later, a lot of what seemed terribly significant wasn’t.

Bits of information that once would have found a nesting place in my brain, disappear. My theory is that if it was that important, I would have written it down. Like on my Google calendar or the whiteboard on the refrigerator. When I was working, I had a head full of information. I remembered it. Accurately, too.

I can’t imagine how I remembered so many things. I couldn’t do it now. More to the point, I wouldn’t want to do it now.

Garry is older than me, so we forget stuff together.

Tonight was a good one. I turned on the oven, but I never heard the beep that tells me it reached temperature. I used to easily hear the beep. Now, I can only hear it if there’s no other noise.

There’s always noise, at least a bit. An audiobook, the television, or a computer. Dogs. Telephones. Air conditioners. Fans. Or the slight roar of the microwave.

Today, I was sure I had put that meatloaf in the oven. I figured it was probably done so I should go cook the potatoes.

Except for the oven, which was warm, it was empty. I was positive I’d put the meatloaf in there. Positive. Well, maybe not so positive because I couldn’t remember the oven beeping. If I never heard the oven, then why — when? — would I have put the meatloaf in to cook? Oops.

Our oven, after I failed to show up to tell it to really cook, eventually turned itself off. I love timers. I don’t know how I’d survive without timers. I think I used to burn a lot of meals.

Why do we forget?

First, I think we don’t need to remember the way we did when we were working. Second, we don’t really care as much about keeping everything on schedule. If we don’t go shopping when we planned on Tuesday, we’ll go on Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or when we finally run out of something we absolutely need. If it isn’t a doctor we need to see or a date to meet friends for lunch, it’s not all that important. Most of my bills are paid automatically and the ones that need monthly updating show up in an email to remind me.

Most of life is on automatic or semi-automatic and that is fine. I’m delighted I don’t have the stress of constant things to do and schedules to meet.

Right now, there are indeed a lot of things to do. I’m trying to gear up what’s left of my memory to do what needs doing. It’s only for a few months. After that, I’m going to forget everything.

Life is easier that way.

One of my favorite lines is “I’ll remember it in the morning.”

But I won’t remember it in the morning. I might not remember it in 15 minutes. Or five. It’s possible I’ve already forgotten it.

MNEMONICS? JUST PRINT THE LEGEND!

What are mnemonics and why should I care?


I looked them up: mne·mon·ics (pronounced) nəˈmäniks is a noun — or more typically, a set of words that are designed to help you remember something. Like the strings on a guitar or ukulele, for example. I used to know them but I can’t remember them at all. Literally, they are gone from my brain.

Over all, I’ve found it harder to remember the mnemonic than the original thing I was trying to remember and these days, writing it down helps more than any other thing possibly could. At one point, when I was — maybe 10 give or take a year? — my parents bought “The Lorayne Memory Book.” Assuming you could master it, you were supposed to be able to remember anything by creating mnemonics for a huge variety of sounds that you could mentally link together to form words.

My mother read it, did a mental “screw that nonsense” and handed it to me.


“The Memory Book has 1469 ratings and 102 reviews. … Unleash the hidden power of your mind through Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas’s simple, fail-safe memory system, and you can become more effective, more imaginative, and more ….. Everyone who took those classes always got A’s automatically — it was a guarantee.” from Goodreads


“Maybe you can do something with this,” she said.

I got through the first chapter in where you create a mental image of each item in a list and you link it mentally with the previous image. So, say you want to go shopping. You need: bananas, coffee, cream, butter, bread, English muffins, strawberry jelly, chicken parts, and bread crumbs. I’m trying to keep it simple using the basic stuff people shop for rather than making it unnecessarily complicated.

So you look at the first two items: bananas and coffee and you create some strange image that mentally shows you these two items together. Maybe a coffee bean eating a banana. See the image? A little odd, but that’s the point. Then add the cream and have the bean that ate the banana bathe in a tub of cream, while rubbing it’s hair (hair? do coffee beans have hair?) with butter, then rolling around on a slice of (toasted?) bread …

You get the idea, right? Bizarre though it sounds, I managed to do it and after a little practice, I could memorize a list of maybe 20 to 30 items and I could remember them forwards and backwards. But it wasn’t easier than writing it on a piece of paper and wracking your brain for these images was significantly more effort that pulling the paper out of your pocket and reading it.

I never made it to the actual “mnemonic” part of the course which were in chapters two through 20 (or something like that) because it seemed like a lot more effort than it deserved. I could easily understand my mother’s “screw that shit” reaction and eventually, the “Lorayne Memory Course” hit the dust bin with all the other good ideas that we never used.

So how do I feel about mnemonics? I’m sure they must help someone somewhere but I lump this stuff into the giant trash compactor of great ideas whose time will never come — at least not for me. If the solution to the problem is more complicated than the original problem, what exactly is the point? My goal in problem solving is to strip away the complexity and find the uncomplicated middle — the simple center, as it were. When that doesn’t work, usually because there is no simple center, I’m pretty sure mnemonic isn’t going to fix it either.

Or, as the guy said in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” 1962, John Ford starring everybody you love to see in old westerns:


“No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”


You can be sure they didn’t bother with mnemonics. Just print the legend!

WHAT IF YOU CAN’T MARRY AN ARCHAEOLOGIST?

Agatha Christie said that if you marry an archaeologist, the older you get, the more interesting he will find you.


It’s a little late for me to marry an archaeologist, but a man who still thinks you are beautiful when every law of your universe tells you that you are not, is even better.

Beauty is not in the eyes of every beholder. Many people don’t find anything older than a 2-year old cell phone beautiful. Not everyone likes to wander the ruins of previous ages or gets teary-eyed while looking at a stone circle. There are many who look at the wilds of the arctic and only see places to drill for oil. They look at cities and imagine a bulldozer taking it down to nothing so they can build again.

None of us expects to get old. We might anticipate maturity. A mellowness, perhaps. A few gray hairs, the odd wrinkle that could still be considered a laugh line. None of us expects to get old and tired, full of aches and pains. No one thinks struggling to climb the stairs or even get up from the sofa is something great, to which we all aspire.

Climb every mountain – Photo: Ben Taylor

A few people will age with few complaints and some lucky ones will continue to have some of the powers of youth. Whenever I see one of these 90+ people who has been waiting his whole life to run a marathon, all I can think is:


Why?

Is that “it” for you? Now that you’ve run the distance, what’s next? You going to keep running until your legs crumple under you? If this was your lifelong plan, what waits for you in your future?

I never expected to become ill or too damaged to do the things I’d always managed to do. I was damaged early, but for a long time, I did it — whatever “it” was — anyway. When age and ill-health crept up, I gradually recognized no amount of will or determination was going to make the days of youth return. Age was not a number. Age was a reality and now, a big part of my reality. Age wasn’t going away or even taking a long vacation. But I can live with it. Getting older is not willing yourself to keep doing the same things you did thirty years ago. It’s creatively figuring out what you can do that you will enjoy and will find worth doing.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of that. Arts and crafts and painting and writing and thinking and talking and learning don’t have to disappear.

Take pictures of – but do NOT forge – every stream.

Dealing with age is not forcing yourself to do the things you did when you were younger. Dealing with age is recognizing what you can’t do and probably should not even try to do … while simultaneously figuring out what you can do. Even when you were more fit, not everything worth doing involved running, strength, speed, or agility. Your brain is part of your body too — and it needs a lot more exercise than you imagine. Even if you can’t remember the name of that person you used to work with — how important is he or she? A lot of the things we forget as we get older weren’t important anyway. For the small stuff, we have lists. Just to be fair, I’ve always needed lists and that included when I was a lot younger!

And have a good gaze at the beauty of the world

As for the people whose names we’ve misplaced? Ted Kennedy, famous for his inability to remember names, used to say to everyone: “Hey, it’s YOU!”

Not being a politician I have a different mode: “Excuse me. I’m sorry, I’ve misplaced your name! It’s an old person thing. Could you remind me?”

Surprisingly, it works. Try it. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life looking at people and not knowing who the hell he or she is? Won’t that make you feel stupid? When they give you their name, but you still have no idea who they are … well … maybe they weren’t all that important. I’ve had people give me their names, what we did together in High School, mutual friends … and I still don’t know who they are. That really is embarrassing.

And yet … life goes on. Go figure, right?

THE UN-GOLDEN PAST

How come what I remember of the past bears no resemblance to the memories of the people I knew while I was growing up? I get notes from people with whom I went to school. High school — even elementary school. I’d swear they went to different schools than I did — or knew someone who they identify as me, but who was not me. Not the me I know.

They have wonderful memories of our relationships. What I remember is them as the mean kids who wouldn’t even talk to me because I wasn’t one of the “cool kids.” I recall them as petty tyrants. Bullies. Yet they swear we were practically best friends. Interesting since I’m pretty sure I wasn’t invited to their parties and I’m sure we never had a civil conversation. I remember kicking one of them in the leg with the heavy, orthopedic shoes I wore — that they were making fun of. Because anyone who wasn’t like them was someone to torment.

Is my memory damaged?

I grew up in the 1950s. I get a dozen emails a week extolling that decade as “the best of the good old days.” I do not remember the 1950s as a better time. Different, but not better. Racism was rampant. Sexism and ageism weren’t even part of our vocabulary. Women and old people were treated horribly and no one was trying to fix the problem. No one thought it was something that needed fixing.

It was not a simpler time. We had less technology, but we were constantly embroiled in trying to get whatever it was we did have to work.  Our refrigerators were layered in ice. Our ovens couldn’t maintain a constant temperature. Our televisions barely registered a signal, even if we were lucky enough to have a real antenna.

In fact, everyone was so happy, they were building bomb shelters in their backyards so if someone nuked us, we might survive. I doubted it. I thought I’d rather die in the big explosion than live in a hole in the ground for the rest of my life.

Clearly, those were better days.

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To my mind, the social issues were at least equally complicated. As far as climate goes, we were busily polluting it. Enthusiastically polluting it, I should say. We are still cleaning up the mess we made in those good old days.

Life wasn’t easy. Assuming you had a decent job, your pay probably allowed you to live reasonably well, but a lot of people — anyone of color, for example — was lucky to get a job at all, much less one on which a family could be supported. Nor was childhood sunlight and roses. Abuse was common. Society had silent, cultural agreement to never talk about the things that happened at home. No laws protected children and no agencies interceded. As far as that goes, it hasn’t changed all that much. We’ve got laws and agencies, but essentially, kids are still on their own.

A few years ago, Garry went to his 50th high school reunion. He came back shaking his head, wondering what school they went to. It obviously wasn’t the same one he attended. I skipped my high school reunion. I kept getting notes from former classmates about the great years we enjoyed at Jamaica High School. I don’t share those memories. I remember a racially divided school with bigoted teachers and bullying classmates. Cliques of privileged kids who ostracized anyone who was different. Sad teenagers, lost between childhood and a frightening future. Looking for help from counselors who denied the existence of the problems many of us faced. They did not care.

Is it me? Am I the one who’s broken? Or am I just someone who can’t find the rosy glow of the past. I keep remembering what really happened. It ruins everything.

MEMORIAL HALLWAYS

Every night, I fill up my cup, grab my bag o’ medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television for Garry. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is actually the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fans in the living room. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Fans.” I go back to the living room. Turn off the fans. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I amble back to the bedroom. And get the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I didn’t close the kitchen door. It’s a dutch door and we leave the top open during the day to catch the breeze. Tonight, it’s supposed to rain so I should close it. Up the hall to the kitchen. Close door. Pet dogs. Back to bedroom. Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. He settles into watching highlights of the Sox game, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

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Which is when I realize all the pills are in the cup. What with all the walking up and down the hallway, I never quite got around to taking them. Which probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continue laughing. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You hadn’t taken them?” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Or not remember if we did it today, or yesterday.

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy. If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”

Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about psychiatrist.”

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either. One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.

KEEP THE THOUGHT

A good idea is like a dream.  Perhaps it is a dream, in waking form.  It comes misty and bright. Beautiful, floating in your mind. Catch it  before it flies away because it will fade to a mostly forgotten memory in minutes. No matter how certain you are that you won’t forget it, I bet you will.

You don’t need to fully develop every concept as it flashes across your consciousness. But, if you think it is worth turning into any kind of authoring, write it down. Where you write it doesn’t matter, as long as you remember where. Your phone, a piece of paper, the white board in the kitchen, a couple of lines in a post on your dashboard. The important part, is to do it quickly. Put at least a sentence or two somewhere and try to make sure it is something which will help you remember what you saw.

Ideas, flashes and thoughts are ephemeral. Reality will steal them, so catch those ideas. Those ideas you are absolutely sure you couldn’t possibly forget will be gone before you turn around twice. Catch them before they get away!

ROAD AND BANK

I haven’t done much driving in the past two years. Since I had my heart surgery, I have not wanted to drive.

I have done it, briefly as needed, but I don’t like it. Despite that, I need to drive sometimes and today was a good choice. Nice day, not a busy time. It turns out, I remember how to drive, but have forgotten how to get anywhere. I’ve always had a terrible sense of direction but two years of letting Garry drive has made it much worse.

Nonetheless. I found the post office, with help from Garry. I couldn’t remember which road went where (really, THAT bad) and then the doctor. Garry drove home. But my day was not over.

I had to go to the bank.

I cannot remember the last time I was inside a brick-and-mortar bank. Normally, I do everything online. Money comes in as direct deposits and I pay my bills on the computer. Today, though, I have a piece of paper. Which won’t become money unless (gasp), I deposit it. Eventually, I find myself in the bank with the check in hand. Trying to deposit it. Apparently no one uses deposit slips anymore. You hand them the check, slide your bank card through this month’s newest machine, tell them where you want it to go … and sign. Voila. Done.

I couldn’t remember anything. The machines are new, the slider is on the opposite side. I couldn’t find the pen. It was humiliating.

I’m sure the next time I go to a bank, it will be new all over again. Online, it’s all direct deposit. I can move money around, pay bills, calculate how much money is available for whatever. And I’m great with software, but as a live human, I’m hopeless.

Pathetic, I know. But who knows when or if I’ll ever have another check? Seriously. Who gets paper checks anymore?

YESTERDAY WAS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”

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It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.

Now that the new year is ending its first quarter, many folks would prefer not to think about the last year. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and the result. Regardless, we’re in it now — and it’s every bit the nightmare we feared.

Reality bites. It has fangs, claws, and power in congress. Reality is taking a big ugly chunk our of our flanks this time around.

Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.

There are parts of my past I choose not to share. Those borders have remained closed. Rich Paschall, a fellow blogger on Serendipity, wrote a touching piece about heroes and icons we lost last year.  It jogged my mind to return to this piece that I began writing last week. Thanks, Rich!

A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.

Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia.  Quickly,  I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom.  Strike that.  That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.

I struggled during those final visits. In  part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.

By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom.  I failed.

A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.

I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.

I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands and at least in theory, I understand too. Yet, it troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I find very difficult to share, even with myself.

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I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn was 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in  a few weeks. We have lots of health issues and we work hard at not worrying about them. As the character in Bridge of Spies” said, “Would it make a difference?”

Would worrying more fix something?

Instead, we use our energy to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. The borders are open. For both of us.