Wednesday, May 20, 2015

the gossamer of memory

Memory, as compliant and gossamer as cotton candy....

And sticky. Let's not forget sticky -- an unreliable adhesive, it's true, but still, sticky.

With a nourishment value at about zero, memory is nonetheless delicious and blissfully unaware of its oh-so-certain malleabilities. "Good" or "bad" are equal in the eyes of memory: Infuse any add-on you like and memory complies.... Yum-yum-yum or ouch-ouch-ouch -- no matter: This is a world where, for a lip-smacking moment or two or longer, delicious certainty rules.

Perhaps it is easiest just to slap a label on it: The universe IS cotton candy. Get used to it.

This morning I remember a time when I was about kindergarten age in New York City. We lived four or five stories up in one of the apartment buildings on Claremont Avenue. We had a cat named Vyacheslav Molotov Toffee (after a popular Russian communist of the time) whose name was generally shortened to "Toffee."

In warm weather the windows were left open. There was no air conditioning. And the sounds of the street would float up and waft in: The man dragging his cart and calling out from the street below -- inviting people to give him their rags; the ice truck which delivered blocks of ice to those who still used "ice boxes" to chill their food and keep it fresh; the knife-grinder who would stop his truck and grind the knives of those desiring it ... on the street, you could stand at the back of his truck and watch him sitting patiently at his twirling grind stone; the coal trucks on tires made of solid rubber (not pneumatic) that would stop, open the bulkheads set into the sidewalk and send coal sluicing into the nearest apartment building ... the sound remains embedded in my mind; and the organ grinder who came around with his one-legged hurdy-gurdy to which a monkey dressed as a bellhop was attached: The man would grind, the monkey would hop around and people, like me, would throw pennies from the windows above where he stood ... and yes, I admit I tried now and then to hit the grinder himself.

The street car one block away cost a nickel.

Looking back, the memories seem to be infused with a kind of innocent honesty: These visitors did honest work for honest pay.

And, of an occasional evening, I might walk unattended up to Broadway where the white Good Humor truck dispensed ice cream bars. I didn't care that much about the ice cream, but I liked having the stick on which the ice cream was molded. Once the ice cream was gone, I could sit on the concrete sidewalk and, by scraping the stick against the stone, I could create a pointed stick ... a mildly powerful weapon with which to face the world, though I never stuck anyone with my home-made armament. Like any other human being, I longed for grown-up-ness and a sense of power in a world that seemed to view me as an ineffectual kid. Don't fuck with me!

The memories come back unattended by much nuance. What does a kid know of nuance? But likewise, what adult needs much nuance either? Is there anything nuanced about the present? It is pleasant to loll in a compliant past that lacks nuance.

So, this morning, I loll.

1 comment:

  1. I remember seeing a program on how the brain works, how it's constantly realigning the synaptic connections as a matter of maintenance? Functional habit? I don't know. But it does make me wonder how accurate my memories really are. How much have they been repainted in favor of better feelings? Or just rearranged into accidental inaccuracies? I don't know if it works, much less how it works. I only know that things i encounter will trigger memories sufficiently uncertain so as to raise questions. And from there, a lot of wondering rolls in.