The Impersistence of Memory
By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio
In my last post, I looked back at the connections music can make over time and distance. In my mind, there is a permanent bond between Live's first studio album and a college road trip I took to Georgia. In writing that post, as I recalled an overly enthusiastic, trendy Athens waitress, I could hazily picture the diner. My friends and I were seated at a round table that was ridiculously too large for the three of us, and the restaurant was otherwise empty. The place was done in red leather and chrome, which brightened its sub-ground locale. The obvious memories of that day were rumors about Athens, GA's local celebrities, REM. I couldn't for the life of me think why Live, why Mental Jewelry? That band is from York, PA.
The next morning, post-blog, somewhere in the rift between unconsciousness and rightful waking, I stumbled across the missing link. The waitress! She claimed that she was dating Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer of Live. Dating him when the band wasn't touring, doing TV shows, or catching up with family up north, of course. I was skeptical of that - I mean, I'd been a fan of his since he had hair. And I didn't think he'd go for this perky chick. But that’s why I’m star-crossed about that time, that place, and that music.
So what is it about memory - you can poke at it with a stick and it'll play possum, then just when you think it's really dead, it suddenly bolts up and starts running amok. When I tried searching my mind for the precise circumstances of that rock & roll moment, that beginning-of-a-phenomenon, I couldn't find them. But they were there in my brain the whole time. I now understand why politicians are so fond of saying, "I don't recall." It doesn't deny that facts are in there somewhere; it merely states that the information cannot be accessed at this point in time.
If my brain can have a blind spot as big as the whole point of a story, couldn’t it also be making other mistakes? I mean, how hard is it to think up a retro-rockabilly diner in a college town in the early nineties? Red leather and chrome, probably neon signs and a black-and-white checked floor, how unique. My little brain could be warping a whole bunch of things from that experience. Maybe the table wasn’t that big, and I just felt isolated when Cuppa-Joe girl in her apron sidled up really close to my boyfriend. There could have been dozens of late-breakfast eaters around us, but I kept my eyes on my eggs so said boyfriend wouldn't get jealous. Maybe there was daylight, when I remember it without windows.
Words can be so permanent. What if I write a whole stack of nonfiction and realize, later, that all the things I thought I had right were wrong, and that I’ve missed the entire point? If, as Socrates claimed, the unexamined life is not worth living, what is the poorly examined life worth?
With any luck, dear reader, I’ll be able to work in my memory as a character in my memoir. It may be a little clueless at times, but always with the best intentions.
Except about that waitress. Let's give her swollen ankles and a third eye.
Published on July 16, 2014