|The Non-Remembrance of Things Past - Page 4|
Some "I'm Happy to Talk about This, But I Can't Remember Exactly What It Is I'm Happy to Talk About" For Instances:
Exhibit A: "Margaritaville" or It Doesn't Matter if You Write It Down.
A luncheon companion is about to tell you some story he'd heard somewhere about the guy who sang "Margaritaville" when he pauses; he's unexpectedly seen a gap open up before him and realizes he's stuck. He puts down his sandwich as if that'll help him focus better, but for the life of him, he can't recall the guy's name.5 You're invited to join in the search, but you're no help. The two of you are in a name-free valley, looking up the steep slopes of craggy mountains on either side of you, searching for clues, hoping they'll lead you to that guy's goddamn name so you can climb out of the abyss and move on with your lives already.
No such luck.
After a minute or two of testing and then rejecting a bunch of alternative names you know are wrong, just as Freud predicted in that essay he wrote,6 the two of you shrug and call off the search. Your companion takes another bite of his sandwich and plugs on with the story, a certain incompleteness beneath the surface continuing to gnaw at both of you, but it's an incompleteness that'll dissipate and soon be forgotten. As he resumes his tale, you take the opportunity to jot down "Margaritaville" on a piece of scrap paper, for, after all, you're writing an article on memory and this seems like a moment worth preserving. That irritating sense that something is missing has now been replaced by a satisfying bonus: an incident for the article.
That evening, at the keyboard, you remember that earlier that day there was some kind of incident, that you'd made a note of it, but now can't recall what it was all about. Before you reach for the piece of paper, as a kind of experiment, you close your eyes and try to squ-e-e-e-e-eze out a memory from the sponge that's supposed to be your brain. Bone dry. You'd hoped the act of writing might have etched a memory somewhere, made it more accessible, deposited some moisture in that sponge of yours. But it hasn't. From your shirt pocket, you remove the note, and after a minute or two of trying to decipher your handwriting (which seems lately to be going to seed even faster than your memory), the word "Margaritaville" becomes legible. What a relief! It's not lost. But then, wait a minute, what exactly have you found? A word on a piece of paper. Nothing more. The rest of your friend's story has vanished.
You honestly can't remember what he said.