Posts Tagged ‘memory


typeface (i can’t remember)

these seventeen typefaces belonged to a dear friend who was my first close friend to die of AIDS back in the 1980s.

unlike other mementos of his life that i have (a pot, a photograph), these have never held any meaning for me. i can’t remember where he displayed them or if he even did. i can’t remember him saying, “those were my _____ ‘s,” or “_____ gave them to me when we first fell in love.” none of them are his initial, nor those of any of his circle of friends — most of whom were also part of my circle (a venn diagram, obvsly.)

but yet, i’ve packed and unpacked them over several decades and several homes. most of the time they’ve resided in a drawer with other “important” things: my naturalization papers, my german birth certificate and passport, my adoption papers, a rubber stamp that quotes andy warhol, “art is anything you can get away with,” my collection of address books dating back to 197_ (in case i ever need to call someone i slept with, but no longer remember, as if…), postcards from friends and lovers, notes from my mother on 3 x 5 cards; the fallen leaves of my fall.

i just can’t remember.


agapantha (and memory exhaustion)

I had no idea it would make me this tired.

at a certain age, let’s say mine for instance, if you stop for just the briefest moment and contemplate all that has come before; the nap in kindergarten on the rag rug, the beret in germany, the leash your mother used to keep you close by when you were a toddler, the smell of your father coming home from the post, having your faced buried in your grandmother’s bosom as she hugged you tight, learning to read, the triumph of an ‘a’, the infatuation of a third-grader for his teacher, the smell of jurgens lotion (chocolate covered-cherries), petey bird  pepper cuddles charlie brown, boy scouts, boys club, big brothers, boys state, secret crushes, snapping sherry’s training bra in 6th grade, disappointing mr. robinson in 8th grade, “petunias never cry in an onion patch”, being teased for your femininity-your ‘otherness’, being beat up, playing the cello piano recorder (none that well), not being able to carry a tune–but so desperately wanting to, your first play, the laughter of the audience–the laughter you caused, applause, straight ‘a’s, your secret boy crushes, your sexual experiments with the neighbor boy your age, your mother, mary, grandparents, uncle, aunts, the sissies, learning to drive, that red pick-up and then the ‘mud queen’, a sort-of-girlfriend, the lack of caring when it failed, college, getting drunk, smoking a joint, french class, theatre, train trips, minnesota winters, sugar beet processing plants, acid trips, making out with girls (and boys), communal showers, dancing, ballet, modern, isadora duncan, chicago, your first blow-job, the goodman, friendships that start sticking, trips home as an adult, going it alone, roommates, apartment living, moving, helping friends move–the piano in the stairwell debacle, a cubs game, the ‘el’, an erection on the 22, black girls with transistor radios blaring, walking home during the day, late at night, the first taste of chicago, summers, winters, falls, springs, waiting tables, lenny, jimmy, john, michael, lee, mr. king the salad queen, michel, arnie, klaus, bill, toni, the pakistani contingent, the fat fuck of a maitre d’ whose name i can never remember until i’m away from writing materials, but whose face and handlebar mustache and grasping hands and leering eyes–little piggy eyes–i can recall clearly, punchinello’s, turtle soup, pudgie, le pub, disco, the hustle, polyester and bell-bottoms, boyfriends–most of them i remember, some have slipped the knots and run away from my grasping need to document every little fuck-and-suck, the thief, the priest, the cellist, and his lover, red high-tops, drinking wine at l’escargot, getting picked up on michigan avenue by my lasalle street banker, lovers who liked to watch from a cracked door, holidays and birthdays, celebrating, drinking (i know i mentioned that before, but it bears repeating), making ‘herbal’ tea out of stems and seeds of the last of the bag of marijuana, smoking cigarettes–kools, marlboros, merits, benson & hedges, camels, gitanes, espresso, lemon rind, miller beer, and asti-spumante, laura nyro, joni mitchell, labelle, and joan, i’m sure there are others, but what do you care?, and i’m not even 28 yet; uptown, downtown, mid-town, and soho, the meat-packing district, the mudd club–my punk phase (only because the boys were cute…and easy), black flagg, henry rollins (lust), the russians, the french, the english, i claudius, violet and wally, 4 flights of stairs, despair and the agony of loss, euphoria, the manic-depression of going nowhere (fast), 29; you may find yourself dead-tired.

p.s. his name is gerard, the maitre d’ whose name i can never recall–it came to me in the shower just now and even though i had no writing materials at hand…i managed to make it through washing my hair, peach scrub my face, body wash, stand under the rainshower head and stare off into space, dry myself off, open the door to let the steam out, shave, moisturize (what? you don’t?), dress, and get to the computer with his name still on my lips. i guess i’m not that tired after all.


less than a minute on saturday, january 21, 2012

if you had less than a minute, what would you choose to remember?

would you choose the simple beauty of a spider web?

would it be hung with diamond dew?

or would you put your mind to an orange, slick with the remnants of a rain shower?

or perhaps, you’d see an orchid clad in rain drops and decide that nothing could be more perfect for that last memory.   it’s your choice.


thorns (remembering the past)

there is a period of my life that i’m trying to reconstruct that isn’t as clear to me as other parts of my life have been.  there is a general feeling that i can remember, but the details are shrouded in a fog of forgetfulness.  it isn’t a long period of time, just four weeks and one day, and bracketed as it is by deep despair and complete elation, you’d think that it would reveal itself, but no.  i may resort to embellishment of the general feelings, knowing as i do my modus operandi during that period of my life, and perhaps that will provide the truth of the emotions from that time if not the actual day-to-day facts.


relics from an archeological dig

much of my life has been spent as a memory facilitator; this is true not only professionally, but also personally.   people seek out my services; i am good at pulling and prodding, nudging and cajoling, digging and gouging, murmuring encouragement when their memory fails them and delighting in their recovery of what they felt they had lost.  sometimes i get paid for this and other times the payment is nothing more than friendship (as rich a payment as you could want.)

to keep my ability honed and at the ready, i practice on myself  in a “physician heal thyself” kind-of-way, but success can prove elusive even for someone with the training and experience that you might imagine i possess.  you see, i am my toughest client, my most unforgiving of friends.

faced with a silver wristwatch with its grosgrain strap, a pewter compass, its bow a pin, and a dried funeral carnation that had once been red and that has now, over the last 29 years, left little crunchy bits of itself in the bottom of a german marquetry pear wood jewelry box, i freeze up, inexplicably–at least to me–they have lost their meaning; the spark has gotten wet and when rubbed against time no longer ignites a fire of recall.  i’m not saying i don’t know the who, what, why, when and how of them, i’m just telling you that they are no longer evocative of those who wore them.   the carnation, even though it came from a sad, angry day (dudgeon came to mind, but i thought better of it regardless of its accuracy), holds little power over me now.

you could look at them  and think they are madeleines — and in  some ways they are objects that remind me of certain times — and yet they lack that proustian preciousness, or the ability to ignite, to provide pages and pages of memories.  yet they are three things that i cannot, nor would not, ever let slip away from me; my need to belong to a family, to be anchored in some way to the past, the past of other people’s lives, is too important, too ingrained in my being to allow their loss.

hidden as they are in the dark tomb of the wood box with layers of geologic time obscuring them until i exhume one or the other, brush them off and share them with you, arranged as the day’s finds at this particular archeological dig (in some forgotten land.)  and faint though it may be, they still have the last vestiges of love emanating from them (a geiger counter clicking faster as it nears them.)   the frayed edges, the tarnish, the delicate dryness (pages in an old library) are time stopped and considered, weighed and judged and that is enough for me.


we’ll miss you (questions about good-byes)

how many good-byes do you think you’ll have in your lifetime?  do you think there should be a limit?  let’s say you’ve said good-bye 10,000 times by the time you’re __, shouldn’t that be enough?  where do you find the balance between hello and good-bye?  is there a hello for every good-bye?  it doesn’t seem to be the case, more people leave than arrive in your life, wouldn’t you say?  and why is hello never bittersweet?   (okay, there may be times when greeting someone or something might be deemed a bittersweet moment, but i bet you’d be hard-pressed to name just one.  that is not a dare, m______, i know how much you like a challenge.)  speaking of balance, would you say you have had more happy good-byes than sad?  now, i don’t mean the-happy-to-see-the-backside-of that person or this problem, but truly happy good-byes, ones where you might use the word ‘joy’ to describe that parting.  would you say it is easier to remember the sad good-byes over the happy ones? (for the life of me, i cannot resurrect a single happy good-bye without scratching around in the dusty corners of my memory and even then it’s less a mission of discovery than one of resigned failure.)  has the beatles song, “hello good-bye” popped into your head yet?  (it is quite possibly the definitive lyrical disquisition on the topic, wouldn’t you say? but i am not here to parse the lyrics of the fab four.)  can you recall any casual good-byes, other than those of recent memory?  did you kiss the departing, touch their shoulder, rub their back?  did you hug as you said farewell into their ear?  do you remember how they smelled, what they said to you as the door closed behind them?  we certainly remember when someone or something important comes into our lives, but is that a hello?  and do we assign the same importance to that hello that we would if those people or that thing were to leave us and we were to say good-bye to them?  it seems to me that we don’t often know what’s important when we first greet it as much as we do when we’ve gotten to know them or the reason for their arrival and then the anguish of parting is that much more impressive–leaving its stamp firmly embedded in our memories.    and why would we consider it ‘etched’ into our brains?  that seems painful to me.  wouldn’t it be more fitting to say that we set aside a little part of ourselves for each time we say good-bye; that a piece of us drops away and it’s that loss of ourselves that we remember?   is it not the deconstruction of our self that we miss when we say good-bye?  another little chunk has fallen to the ground (the missing arms of the venus de milo); a piece of our fabric has torn away, got caught in the brambles of a farewell, fluttering now in the cold wind of the past.  how many good-byes will you remember then?


it’s the orchid, you *^&%@#!

it seemed so simple.  a perfect idea with the perfect image to illustrate the point. what could go wrong, you might ask yourself.   and i’m not talking about myself in the third person, i’m actually talking about you.   yes, you.  sitting there in the comfort of your ________ or at the local __________ where the wireless is free and the ________ are beautiful/handsome or both.  you may even be at your local public ______, but that seems a stretch, perhaps too last century and possibly a little creepy anymore, besides who do you know that actually takes advantage of the knowledge available at the ________.  It’s been at least 20 years for me since i was inside one and then i rarely had any conversation with the _________ because i knew what i was after and how to use the dewey decimal system (god, do you remember?)  although i can conjure up the smell of old _____ and waxed linoleum and the quiet scratch of the ladder as it moved along its support system–the children’s area carpeted and all of the furniture scaled down to pint-size–which you wanted to go sit in as an adult, because, well just because, but the actual reason is that for one minute it would be comforting to be a child again and not have anxieties beating on the door of your adulthood (or do they pound?  mine come in a variety pack–like those individual servings of cereal that your mother used to buy–the cornflakes always the last to go because they didn’t have the sugar punch the others did. mea culpa the mixed metaphor btw.)

but instead, here you are as i said, in the comfort of your underwear (admit it) and if not that then, the comfort of somewhere else where all of the world’s knowledge (or so you’ve been told) is at your fingertips, which reminds me, when was the last time you actually got your hands dirty with dirt?  and had to use that odd little rasp that swings out from your nail clipper to clean underneath the nails and got a good whiff of loam up your nose or pollen from a faded rose as the petals, at your touch, dropped away from the stamen, one, two, three.  (that is still a question.)  that is just one example, there are so many others:  touch, listen, see, feel, smell (food, music, sex, art, skin, theater, words you have written, the touch of your lover’s hand in yours).

use it or lose it.   after all, it is the scariest of all admonitions, is it not? (that question is for both you and i.)  and then there is the keyboard that is the obstacle (albeit a necessary one).  do i cop out here and say, “what i’m saying is get out, experience life”, which seems too easy , too trite and not truly addressing what the problem, as i see it, is.  (was there a problem?  oh yes, it was where were the words going to come from?) and it’s not like i haven’t addressed this subject before and yet they do, don’t they?   show up eventually.  sometimes unintentionally, sometimes with purpose, the brother that never quite fit into the groove of the family, the wanderer who shows up on your doorstep, “hi, i was passing through and thought i’d drop by and say hello and see the kids,” and you open your arms and take him in.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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