Persistence of memory

Today was, of course, the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks; I saw surprisingly little commentary about that online, but I didn't check very many of the usual places.

It put me in a remembery sort of mood, though. It occurred to me that, although I remembered the occasion, I forgot to say anything about the fifth anniversary of Alex's death a couple of weeks ago. I had been hoping to mark the anniversary by spending some time continuing the ongoing project of sorting through his files and putting some online that haven't previously appeared online, but I haven't managed to make time to do that, and probably won't for a while.

Then, too, I was looking through some old email the other day for something I'd written about my visit to New Orleans a few years back, and I came across the "episode guide"/summary of the roleplaying game I ran (set in the Babylon 5 universe) back in 1998-2000. Made me all nostalgic, especially since I haven't done any gaming (other than a couple of LARPs) since then—can that really be true? I'm sad that something that used to be such a major and regular part of my life just doesn't happen any more. (From the start of college through mid-2000, I don't think I ever went more than six months without either playing in or running an RPG.)

And I spent some time yesterday going through a bunch of emails that have accumulated in recent months that I'd been putting off dealing with, and in some cases putting off even looking at. It turned out that there was only one situation in which I really dropped the ball, but it still took a lot of emotional energy to go through those. Thank you, Kam, for being there for that.

(While I'm talking about yesterday, here's an off-topic aside: midafternoon, I was all set to head up to SF for a party, but I lay down for a minute and when I got up I was dizzy. Really really dizzy. Barely-able-to-stand-up dizzy. I thought I might be dehydrated, so I drank a couple glasses of water, and got really queasy. I went and lay down and turned off the lights and put a pillow over my eyes and waited for the room and my stomach to stop spinning. I must have napped, 'cause next thing I knew it was an hour later, and I was less queasy but still dizzy and a little headachey. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the party. Eventually, after some more water and some more lying down, I started to feel a little better, and this morning I was fine. I think I really was just dehydrated. But a little scary anyway.)

I sorta feel like I've reached a stage of life where everything sets off memories. When I drive through Palo Alto, every other street reminds me of something that happened there, or someone who lived there. I was talking with Cat F this evening, and she mentioned river rapids, which reminded me of both whitewater rafting trips I've been on: one with friends in the mid-'90s, one with Jay and Peter and Peter's then-SO in the early '80s. And that very obliquely reminds me that I've been meaning to link to Jay's discussion of the foster home that our parents ran when we were kids. I'll try and remember to come back to that topic and add some of my own recollections when I get a chance.

Even the phrase that came to mind for a title for this journal entry, "persistence of memory," resonates through my memory: I wrote a story with that title many years ago, about a gay antique-shop owner with psychometry (my favorite psi power) and a perky young psychic investigator on the trail of a ghost. (They fight crime!) I never managed to make the story work properly (but thinking about it reminds me of the long-since-defunct writing workshop that critiqued it), but I did spend a while wandering around Buffalo, New York, during my Wanderjahr, taking photos of places I wanted to use in the story, including an antique shop. And the protagonist of that story was a sort of alternate-universe take on a character I had played in a roleplaying game shortly after college—I was so embarrassed to be playing a gay character that it took several game sessions for the character to come out to the gamemaster. (I think the GM was a little startled; three of the four PCs turned out to be gay.)


It struck me the other day that even though I'm not as good about keeping up with friends as I would like to be, I've seen most of the most important people in my life in the past year or so, and the vast majority of them in the past two years, with only a few much-regretted exceptions. Was thinking of one of those exceptions tonight.

Went down to Santa Cruz to see Lola tonight. Spent a while looking through her photo album of her family from the early 1900s through the mid-'80s. On the way home, driving back over Highway 17, I listened to Nancy Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening album; I've listened to it so many times over the years since Ed B (the other Ed B, who come to think of it I also haven't seen in quite a while) first played it for me that I can sing along with almost all the songs, even the ones I'm not so fond of. A lot of the album is kind of melancholy and nostalgic, though, so although it kept me awake, it also got me a little mopey. "Where are all the dreamers that I used to know?" (In case anyone's curious, my favorite songs from that album are "Roseville Fair," "From a Distance," and "Love at the Five and Dime." That album is a prime example of my tendency to like the first version I encounter the best; I like these live acoustic versions of her songs a lot more than some of the more heavily produced studio recordings of them, and I like her versions of these songs a lot more than other people's, even though Bill Staines wrote "Roseville Fair" so his version is the original.)

About halfway up to the summit, I saw a dog trotting along the side of the road, briefly into and out of the edge of my headlights. I had a bunch of momentary conflicting thoughts, which were shoved out of my head by the car ahead of me suddenly slowing and pulling over to the non-shoulder. (The lack of shoulder is one of the reasons Arthur E used to call 17 the Screaming Freeway of Death.) I slowed, too, and safely passed the other car; I'm pretty sure they were pulling over to see if they could do something to help the dog.

Fortunately, I didn't (until just now) think of the time when Beth O and I were headed down to Monterey and two dogs tried to cross the freeway, and after we passed them I looked in my mirror in time to see one of them hit by a truck. Instead, what came to mind was the time when C.E.P. was motorcycling through the South, sometime during our time at Swarthmore, and came across a bedraggled little dog by the side of the road, and she stopped and befriended it and zipped it somehow into her motorcycle jacket and took it along with her, or at least that's how I remember the story. The dog became a favorite on campus, waiting for her outside class and coming when she whistled. A very cute and friendly dog, and actually she ended up with a matched pair, one black and one white; I don't remember where the other one came from.

And that got me all nostalgic because it's been far far too long since I've seen C. And at the same time, I was thinking, I've been wanting to do something, to help out with New Orleans or at least have a positive effect on something, to feel less powerless and helpless, and here's an opportunity to do something immediate and useful that could make a difference both to the dog and potentially to its owners, if any—but I was too indecisive, and before I could make up my mind, the car ahead of me took action and I decided to leave them to it.

And of course, Katrina stuff is underlying a lot of this for me. Some people from work have volunteered to go down and help out. Kam was telling me that a bunch of Burning Man people were headed down that way (they are, after all, experts at a lot of things that would probably be useful down there—I heard some SCA groups had a similar idea), and she's thinking about going as well. Badgerbag decided a week ago, while I was still gaping in useless shock at the blogs and photos and stuff, to just go, and she's been down and is now back. I keep thinking that I ought to do something like that. And then I remember that just hearing about some of this stuff turns me into a wreck. Cat pointed out that if I were to head down there and have a Failure To Cope, I would actually be reducing the level of help, because other people there to help would have to deal with me. All true. So I probably need to find another way to help out. Still, part of me wants to throw caution to the wind for once and just go.

Kam spent some time at the local Red Cross recently—she recently got certified to teach CPR there, iIrc—and she tells me there are a bunch of New Orleans folks in the Bay Area who need places to stay. Lola's aunt provided her Berkeley apartment for a family who needs housing. I'm contemplating opening up my guest room and/or living room. It would be disruptive to my life, at a time when I could use some peace and stability; on the other hand, helping people almost invariably makes me feel better.

Dunno. Glum, nostalgic, and mopey doesn't make a good combination. I think it's time to finish up some magazine stuff and call it a night.

But wanted to write down some of this stuff, and figured I might as well post it while I'm at it. Sorry such a long and rambly entry.

2 Responses to “Persistence of memory”

  1. irilyth

    No need to apologize; memories are long and rambly that way. (hug)

  2. Thida

    I’m sure there’s something uniquely Jed that you can do for Katrina victims that no-one else can. Perhaps something to do with Strange Horizons. Hugs.


Join the Conversation