Someday, Marchipelago 12, 41 A.B.

     So, Someday finally gets here and how do I observe it?  I observe it by waking up unable to remember the name of the comedian on "Saturday Night Live" who used to play The Liar.  You know - the guy who now does ads for the Yellow Pages.
     Jon Lovitz.
     It eventually came to me after I went methodically through the alphabet, thinking of every male first name I could until "Jon" clicked.
     I'm just glad Mrs. Lovitz didn't name her son Zack.
     Why did I wake up wanting to remember Jon's name for anyway?
     I have no idea....

     Yesterday I woke up unable to remember the name of the actor who played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz."
     Bert Lahr.  
     I never would have forgotten that 20 or 30 years ago.
     And my wife remembered it right away when I asked - saving me from having to go through all those "A" names unnecessarily.
     I can only wonder what else I'm forgetting.
     What actors.
     What answers.
     Most frightening of all, what questions.

     What's going on here?
     Did the entry I wrote on Friday about my childhood home succeed in triggering a flood of memories which has clogged my neuron pathways and washed out my bridges to other sorts of information?
     I wonder....

     In looking back over that entry, I've come to realize how poorly it said what I was trying to say.
     It wasn't an exercise in nostalgia, you know.
     It was my attempt to express complex feelings about time and memory which words, perhaps, can never do justice.  I realize that my particular memories, like my particular life, have no special meaning.  But they're all I have to work with when I reflect back on the succession of events and try to make sense of that succession - try to understand the way tomorrow becomes yesterday, and what impact that endless process has on the perceptions and evolution of the mind.
     Given that a single blade of grass is a source of endless fascination for me, I guess it isn't terribly surprising that 40 years of time and memory can occasionally hold me spellbound for days at a time....
     Well, leaving no room in my head for Jon Lovitz, anyway.

     This is nothing new - this fascination with time and memory, I mean.
     Ten years ago I attempted to catalogue every single memory I had of my first ten years - just to see how many memories make up a childhood.  
     And to see how we evolve from formless infants to opinionated adults.  
     And to try to detect some surefire way of separating the remembered past from remembered dreams.
     Turns out that, in my case, the first decade of life boils down to about 1514 distinct memories.
     How we evolve into opinionated adults remains an open question pending further research.
     And if you think I'm ready to address that third question I raised just now, you're dreaming....

     What interests me today is how inadequate I find Friday's entry.
     To my mind, it failed to convey the overlapping sense of time I had when I was writing it.
     I don't like the way most novels and films handle the flow of time - and for much the same reason.  Proust certainly succeeds in giving the flavor of the flow of time, but even he leaves me unsatisfied in the end.  
     "Rashomon" does a good job of conveying my sense of the highly subjective nature of events; what I need is a work which does the same for my sense of time.
     It seems that most works posit event A - a murder, a loss of innocence, whatever.  It doesn't matter.  For the rest of the work, event A pretty much remains event A, frozen in time.  Something the characters must deal with as if it were a pebble in their shoe.  Maybe they succeed in removing it from their current life, maybe they develop a callous around it, maybe it drives them crazy, maybe it ends up being redefined as actually a piece of glass placed in the shoe by a jealous sibling.  The thing is, this pebble - this past event - is treated far too simplistically, in my view.  
     Why?  Because an event doesn't exist merely at the time it occurred.  It exists in each subsequent moment between the moment of its occurrence and the moment we call Now.  And it can be very different at each moment along the way.
     The only thing I've ever seen which catches a sense of what I'm talking about is Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 movie, "The Conversation."  In it, Gene Hackman overhears a snippet of conversation using hi-tech spy equipment and, as the movie progresses, that moment he overheard is re-interpreted and relived by his mind in very different ways.  The scene is replayed with the actors using different tones of voice, different inflections - and that, in turn, changes everything else.
     Making the point that life is essentially a thing we construct in our minds, moment to moment.  It doesn't exist objectively Out There somewhere, and the past - well, there is no past, really.  There is only a sub-set of the Now moment which we call the past.
     And the past, far from being Truth Forever Frozen In A Moment In Time, is actually a highly malleable thing which can vary greatly, moment to moment.
     An undying worm, forever turning in our minds...
     An undying worm which will soon come to contain This Now Moment within its bowels, too, along with all the others....

     All of which is both more and less than I mean to say.
     No matter.  Time to move on to another point or two I feel I missed on Friday.

     Additional Point #1:  Time and memory fascinated me even when I was a child living in the place I posted the photograph of two days ago.
     Consider:  I lived above and was a frequent visitor to a hardware store which hadn't changed much since it first opened in the early 1920s.
     At the very same time, I lived less than 10 steps from a radio and TV repair shop which back then seemed like an emissary from a fantastic future, much like living next to an Internet hub or a Silicon Valley start-up would be today.
     In the course of a very few minutes, I could go from examining receipt books printed up decades earlier to staring at the otherworldly glow of a line of TV picture tubes pulled from from their wooden cabinets for servicing.
     I spent at least as much time living in the distant past and the far future as I ever spent in the so-called present....

     Additional Point #2:  In 1970 - three years after I'd moved out of the apartment above the bar which had replaced the hardware 18 months before I moved - I moved back to the area, to the upstairs of a duplex which offered a clear view of my former residence out its front windows.
     So: For the six years I lived in this duplex, the main stage of my past was in constant view, just two roads and 7 lanes of ever-changing traffic intervening.
     Before I'd moved to that duplex it, in turn, had been in constant view of my first residence, though the significance of the fact of course escaped me.
     The essential point is: I never set foot in the duplex before moving to it, and after moving to it, I never set foot again in my old residence.
     Despite their proximity.
     Despite their being in clear view of each other.
     And as I lived in the duplex and sat staring at my former residence, wondering about its past and future, as well as my own, I'm sure it was reconfigured in my mind, moment to moment, day by day...
     And ultimately the sense I have of life being a series of arbitrary, mutually exclusive, unbridgeable stage sets came to take shape....

     I moved from the duplex and the entire neighborhood in 1976.
     I took the photo I posted on Friday in 1979 - another mindset behind the view finder.
     A couple months later I lived in a new apartment, farther out, but on the same bus line as I had used as a child.  A bus line which took me past my former grade school as well as my first three residences within the space of a few minutes as a matter of course, every day I went to work.
     No hypnotist has ever exceeded that simple bus ride's ability to summon up past lives, I'm sure.
     A couple years after that, my first residence burned to the ground, resulting in a new version of the past.  
     A version noteworthy for its fragility.
     A few years ago, the duplex was demolished and its whole corner of the block replaced by a drug store designed in some unknown, faraway city, changing the past again as suddenly the past seemed to be harboring a time-eating virus which would not stop until every moment has been consumed....

     Different times and different people have viewed time differently, of course.
     For a long while, Western Civilization viewed time as having begun with Eden or a Golden Age from which all subsequent moments had constituted a decline, each moment rolling us all just a little bit further down the hill to The End....
     Cyclical time was in vogue then for awhile - the idea that everything repeats much as the seasons do.  Things don't get worse, but neither do they get better.
     More recently, time has come to be seen as steady progress up a ladder towards ever-greater knowledge and prosperity.
     I see time as something much different from all these things.  To me, it's a funhouse affair, a hall of mirrors in which things happen and then are reflected back and forth and back and forth in varying degrees of light but always more or less distorted.
     Distortion which, of course, everyone sees differently depending on their place in the life cycle and the mindset their eyes are passing the images along to.

     A confusing entry?
     A confusing journal?
     Well, so much better a reflection of time, memory, and life then.

     Or at least so much better a reflection of a mind shaped by such a temporally confusing place as an apartment above a hardware close to a radio and TV repair shop.
     An apartment which - did I mention? - was one of two.
     The other, to our west, a mirror image of our own.
     Yes, "Through the Looking Glass" wasn't merely a book to me, it was an actual, physical place, just a few inches of plaster away.

     Really, it's a wonder that this journal isn't even more confusing than it is - don't you think?

     And to think that I haven't even mentioned one of the many Outlandish people who passed through the stage sets I've now described.

     In retrospect, I think I might have done better to write again of lard.
     Or perhaps that first little blade of grass I once lived next to but never, ever got to know....

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Past Entry


Forward To What Is Now A
Future Entry But Will Become
A Past Entry Fit For Writing About
In Another Confusing Entry
Soon Enough

(©"Now" by the trillions of cells modern society tends to insist 
I consistently attach the English language label "Dan Birtcher" to)