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Thursday, May 17, 2007

What Do They Call That Disease Again?

Last weekend, I had some bright thought about what I would write for my Thursday long essay. I made no note of it and told no one else, which, since no one else would really care, seemed prudent. As the week wore on, I thought about this subject matter from time-to-time, and each time took a moment out to congratulate myself on the brilliance of the subject and on my ability to remember it throughout the week.

This morning, senility won out. The brilliant notion for a post is gone, and it has left no forwarding address.

This, of course, left me in a bit of a bind this morning, especially since I had no idea that I had forgotten my topic until I actually opened up the window to start writing. So, what I did was this: I went for a walk.

Quite often, when I'm walking, all sorts of bright ideas occur to me. Ideas for stories, pieces of dialog, retorts I should have come up with 15 years ago, all of them pop into my fevered brain like kernels of corn popping in a microwave. On rare occasions, I actually remember them, but most of the time they pass through my brain like dandelion fronds floating on a gentle summer breeze. On even rarer occasions, I remember something that I had temporarily forgotten. Unfortunately, today was not one of those occasions.

I needed a new plan, a new brilliant idea that would take the place of the one departed and give me some topic to drone on about at some small length. So, I decided to write about memory and the way it slowly goes away as the years take their toll.

Now, I don't know for sure that this is what happens to everybody. Other people's memories may remain just as strong or poor as always as the years pass; I claim no special knowledge of that. I just have my own tawdry experiences to draw on, and fewer and fewer of them as the minutes tick by.

I used to have a quite formidable memory and could store away long passages from books, movies, and plays with ease. I used to study by reading the chapter in question the night before the test and then simply hocking it all up the next morning. I remembered incidents in my life down to the last, most excruciating detail and could report them at nauseating length. Sports scores, hitting and pitching statistics, and a detailed history of almost every sporting event played within my lifetime came to me like the card at a magician's fingertips.

Now I can barely remember how old my son is on any given day or why I went into the room I find myself standing in. Of course, it's just a function of having more to remember. Every day brings a new avalanche of information, all of which has to be sorted, categorized, and forgotten. It's at work, at home, and on the Internet. It's in the magazines and on the TV. Information, like fluoridation, is everywhere, and the older you get, the more of it you have to deal with. Did I pay them? Did I write that? What's for dinner? Where do we keep my socks? What's this for? Do we really need that? Who the hell am I?

If life is like a river, it has generally been at flood stage for some time now. It tires a person out and steals their focus. It's enough to make a person want to go live in the woods. As long as I could bring my computer, cell phone, TiVo, and satellite radio. Because when you come right down to it, I'm not really one of those--oh, you know, those people. The ones who do those things. The Whatchmacallits.