Friday, January 21, 2011


I am not a sentimental person. Nostalgia is not something I spend much time indulging in. Not being stuck to things in the past is very freeing in many ways, but at the same time it is a bit like the Janis Joplin line goes- "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Lack of nostalgia frequently means lack of memory. There are many things that I have not formed strong memories of that others would remember easily and vividly. Sometimes I find this a bit disturbing.

A good friend of mine can remember the smallest details of people she knew 30 years ago. Another old friend remembers just about every bump or scratch she ever had. When they talk about these memories I listen in awe or bemusement, especially if they are remembering something I should be able to remember for myself. There are a good many times I end up feeling inadequate, I really should be able to remember more of my life and the people who have populated it. I can't help but feel there is some level of disrespect on my part for not remembering more and better, as though events and people I care about are not worthy of room in my mind, and by extension in my heart.

Sometimes I try to fix things in my memory which is part of the reason I take so many pictures. The world chases artificial intelligence and I try to corral artificial memory.

Adrienne and James

This is the night Barack Obama won the election. When I look at the picture I remember how cold it was out and how happy everyone was in the streets and waving to them from my bicycle as we rode through the Mission. I remember going to our friend Tom Valtin's house to see how his bid for District Supervisor was going. I can also tell by how these memories feel that were it not for the photograph of them that I would not remember most of it accept in a very vague way.

Despite this, even when there is something I want to remember and can't (especially about the kids when they were small) I find memories burdensome. When I listen to the extensive memory catalog that some of the people I know have access to I experience an acute sense of the tremendous weight of it. I find myself wondering how they live with it? With that many sharp, detailed and obviously closely held memories, are they able to experience this moment on its own or only in comparison to the past? How much energy does it take to carry it all, and shift through it, and keep it cataloged and continue to add to the collection?

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