Memory and Happy Dishwashers
4 April 2002
I heard from David Cintani this week. (Yes, I know, all of you in chorus: Who? I'll get there. Be patient. It's a virtue, you know.) It was strange: I'd heard from people because they were looking for me and found my journal before, but I'd never heard from people because they were looking for themselves and found my journal before. It makes me want to put more people's names in my journal: Andrea Clark! Hey, Andrea Clark! Andrea Clark, if you're searching on google for Andrea Clark, get off your butt and write Marissa Lingen an e-mail from Andrea Clark!
Ahem. Right. So. Cintani. Yes. The thing was, Cintani and I were never particularly close -- we knew each other from some math contests, specifically from a trip to Washington DC we both did for MathCounts -- so he was surprised to pop up in my journal. As I would imagine he would be -- I know I would have been. But he was also surprised that I remembered him enough to use his specific name. Well, that's not so much a surprise, or shouldn't be. I like concrete detail, and I have a pretty good memory for names and faces. If I got an e-mail that started out, "Hi, we sat together in seventh grade art class," I'd immediately know who was writing and think, "Angie, how the heck are you? And how are your younger sister and brother?" I have no reason to remember that she had a younger sister and brother, but I do.
Sometimes I have to fake less memory than I actually have so as not to appear to be Psycho Stalker Chick or a huge name-dropper. This happened when we met Jenn for lunch: we were doing the Bay Area who-do-you-know and determined that -- surprise! -- she's met Mary Anne. But she said, "Oh, I met her through this person, do you know him?" And I had to figure out what to say, because it's clear to me that I don't know this man, that I know almost nothing about him. On the other hand, I remembered quite clearly meeting him, and I could have relayed to Jenn fairly large chunks of the conversation we'd had at my birthday party. She didn't want that, of course, and I certainly didn't want her going back to her friend saying, "Oh, I met this girl you know!" and having him say, "Huh?" I remember more per unit meeting people than most, and I don't want to make that seem as if I'm trying to convey an intimacy that isn't there. So I said something like, "I know of him, and we met once, at my birthday party," which was truthful but left out anything related to the Victorian dance step he demonstrated or anything like that.
I also have a bad writer-habit. I tend to think of some people in my life symbolically. The ones I know really well don't work this way -- they get to be actual three-dimensional characters. But when I think "young teen math contest stuff," I think David Cintani. He just got symbolically attached there, since he was probably the strongest personality I ran into in that context. There's a girl from my freshman seminar who is symbolic of "freshman seminar frustrated arguing" in my head. There's a guy from my research time in Oregon who's symbolic of "clash of geek types." I recognize that they have independent existence and all, but in my head...well. I wouldn't mind hearing from people who find me again (so if you're someone I know or knew, and I don't know you're reading this, please, write!), but it was rather strange on both sides, I'm sure.
Ah well. Much to say today, and much to do. I was talking about remembering too many details, when I wrote back to Cintani, and I came up with a generic example. It was only after I sent the e-mail that I noticed that my "generic guy name" had been Lars. This is the danger of going to Gustavus: you end up with generic guy names like Lars. Having people in their twenties named Ole is not at all out of the question. I realized when I was talking to my folks about my friends and their backgrounds, that if somebody said to me, "Okay, picture a guy," he would look a good deal like C.J. The details would vary, and I notice detail, but in general, somewhere in the back of my mind, this is What People Look Like. (Ceej is rather Norwegian-looking, so I suppose it shouldn't be a shocker to anyone.) Another case of What Minnesota Will Do.
It was funny, at Bridgeman's (ice cream parlor in New Hope): Timprov and Curt and I ran into one of the people from Timprov's dad's church. We talked to her a minute -- she was on her way in and we were on our way out, and she and I talked about Bridgeman's as a family institution. And we got in the car and Timprov and I looked at each other: "She was so Minnesotan!" "Oh, I know, so Minnesotan!" Curt said, "What do you mean?" We paused, considering. "Well, you know," I said, "the hair, the clothes, the accent, the conversation, the voice...everything. She just doesn't exist in California." Curt pondered this. After a minute, he said, in as carefully accentless a voice as he could manage, "What is this accent of which you speak?"
But it was there, it was thick in his voice even when he was trying. And it wasn't like we were being American tourists in Britain: "Ooh, he said 'lorry,' hee hee, he said 'lorry!'" We didn't laugh at her for it, although we laughed a bit at Curt for "What is this accent of which you speak?" We were just...glad to be home. Looking forward to a time when we didn't have to notice, I guess.
I haven't written about this stuff going on in Israel. It's not because I'm too busy with catching up after this trip. It's because I feel entirely helpless to address it. Not incompetent -- I don't feel less competent than a lot of people on this subject. But more helpless, certainly. What am I going to say that will change anybody's mind, and whose mind could I change that would help? There are lots of interesting historical facts about who lived where when, and there are some about ethnic minorities in Israel (like the Druze and the Circassians), but I just don't see the good of those facts right now. It's just paralyzing, all of it.
So I'm rereading Silver on the Tree, the last of the Dark Is Rising books for me to reread. I do love them. They're quite good. I went yesterday and got The Wooden Sea, courtesy of the Easter Bunny; I'm looking forward to reading that. I think I need some antidote to what I read on Monday. Timprov was saying on the trip out that he can imagine reading as fast as I do, but not as much as I sometimes do -- he'd figure he'd want a break after he'd polished off a book (or two, or...). But when I'm traveling, I really don't. But if my reading material doesn't have much variety, it catches up with me later and I have to compensate.
The rest of the stuff I read on the trip was varied. I got around to Midnight's Children, which I was doubly interested in reading because of Karina's extreme reaction to it. Sadly, I had no desire to fling it across the plane, kick it, etc. Well, happily, I suppose: I borrowed it from David, and I don't think he'd be holding with that. Anyway, I was entertained by Midnight's Children, although it had a higher eye-rolling quotient than most.
The problem was, I kept thinking of Scott every time I saw Rushdie's name on the cover.
You see, in high school, we did this skit in French class. The Brady Bunch went to Paris, and Salman Rushdie and some terrorists were on the plane with them. It's not one of those sentences that's going to make sense, so please don't worry if you're not sure how this came about. The short answer is: Jan Lund. Anyway, Scott played Salman Rushdie. The other guys kept trying to get him to shave his head for the role. (I know, and Scott knew: Salman Rushdie is not bald.) And every time I saw the cover, I could hear Scott's voice saying, "Tant pis pour vous! Vous n'allez pas reussir! Les Bradys sauvent toujours le jour!" ("Too bad for you! You'll never succeed! The Bradys always save the day!")
See what I'm talking about, with remembering utterly useless things? And because I was thinking of this, when Michael muttered "Mon dieu" Saturday night, my brain immediately jumped in with the next Brady bunch skit lines: "C'est affreux!" "Qu'est-ce que nous allons faire?" "Tant pis pour vous...." So I recited all of them, and Mike and I giggled and giggled. At this point, Mark is remarkably tolerant of such lapses, and Tom seemed to already have learned to be, which I suppose is all for the best.
I just have this feeling that when I get old, I'm going to have a hard time remembering important things like my children's birthdays, but any time I see a copy of Satanic Verses, I'm going to mutter, "Les Bradys sauvent toujours le jour!"
Ah well. If only I had age or money, I'd get to be an eccentric, which is always nice.
And I have plenty of kitchen magnets and dishtowels, so the world has to be more or less okay. Doesn't it? I mean, isn't that one of the signs? For awhile, we had no kitchen magnets at all. We actually bought two for almost no reason at all, just so that we could have them. Because one needs kitchen magnets. I mean, one just does. Gradually they've started to trickle in, though, and now we have more than we have printed out photos of close family members and friends to put up there. (So sending pictures would not be amiss.) Mark's big thing is dishtowels, that a kitchen needs enough dishtowels. Well, we have those, too.
And -- dude! -- we live in the future. I was telling Julie (whose journal link seems to be broken) this yesterday, that sometimes, often, I just get gleeful when I load the dishwasher, because, dude, I live in the future. Machines wash my dishes for me! They pump my water! They manufacture my ravioli! They chill my milk! I know, I'm a really big dork, but it makes me really happy sometimes, that if I want to I can do the stuff that my great-great-grandmothers thought was fun (like baking cookies), but I just push buttons and things get warm, cold, or clean, depending on what I asked for. We've had a dishwasher for all of my adult life. It's not like this is new to me. You know, some people have this sense of historical context that makes them feel guilty for mourning one person because millions have died before. My sense of historical context makes me grateful for pretty much every step of taking my contacts out and rinsing them at the sink.
You know what? It's not such a bad life, remembering stuff and reading and getting happy over the dishwasher. I have other stuff I have to do, of course. But it's pretty good.
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