This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I had a fantastic idea for an essay that I was going to write this evening, but now that I'm sitting down to write, it has gone completely out of my head. This is not uncommon, these days, and I'm finding it ever so frustrating.

Of course, there's nothing new about memory loss as we age, better humorists than I have fully exploited the comic depths of the topic, and yet the beauty of having attained this age is that I can't really recall any specifics, and so since it's happening to ME now, clearly that's different and not a topic that's been so thoroughly trodden as to make Times Square seem remote by comparison.

The thing I have the worst trouble recalling is words, which can be a bit of a problem when you're trying to be a whachamacallit... um, oh, yeah, writer. To give you a real example, in the previous paragraph, I'm pretty certain the word 'exploited' was not the word I was looking for. Honestly, there's another word out there that better describes what I was going for (and by the way would have been absolutely hilarious), but I got stuck on it for literally 5 minutes, as I looked in several different on-line thesauruses trying to come up with it before settling on "exploited".

Earlier today, I couldn't think of the word "risotto". Honestly? Snooty Italian rice? That's what my brain decided to occupy itself with for the better part of an hour? And of course, this wasn't in a vacuum, someone mentioned "arborio rice", and I got the words "Oh, you mean like" out of my mouth before I realized that, much like the one and only time I tried to COOK risotto, the word had formed a sticky glob that utterly refused to come out of the brain-pan.

And here's the tragic part of the whole thing: there was a time when I was fantastic at remembering things, and as a result, I sort of become obsessed when I can't come up with something I know that I know. The next line in Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" speech. The name of the actor who starred in "Crimson Tide" along with Gene Hackman. The exact names, ages and genders of my children. Where I put my keys.

And so I'll ponder over it, bordering on obsession, until I reach a state of mental vapor-lock, unable to work on anything else or do anything more complicated than blinking until either the item I'm casting about for eventually comes into the forefront of my consciousness or I pass out from extended lack of sleep, and if I'm lucky, in the morning I've forgotten that there was something I'd forgotten.

It's sort of the memory equivalent of a 'song worm', when someone hums just a little bit of, say, that ghastly song by Rick Astley and for the rest of the day you can't stop hearing "Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you..." echoing through the dark recesses of your mind.

What I can't figure out is what evolutionary purpose this loss of memory can possibly serve, because it's not as if I ever forget anything that I'd LIKE to forget, like the time in second grade when we were supposed to write down our favorite things, and I wrote "My girlfriends, Anne and Daphne", blissfully ignoring the fact that neither Anne nor Daphne had ever shown even the slightest recognition of my presence in their class and completely mortified a day or two later when, after compiling the list, the teacher had us each read our own "favorite thing" out loud. To everyone. Thus teaching me the valuable lesson that there are worse things than not being noticed by the girls in the class. Being noticed, as one notable example.

I also don't forget things like the fact that I once had a full head of hair, or that there was a time when I could climb a flight of stairs and not worry that I might spend the next day aching after having overextended myself. Or the lyrics to Rick Astley songs.

I suppose it's possible that from an evolutionary standpoint, memory loss might be a good thing, in that at about the same time of life when you stop being a net provider to the tribe and begin being a drain on the family economy, you also can run out on an errand, forget what you were out there for, and then forget where home is, thus removing a burden from your family without them having to resort to something drastic, like replacing your bug repellent with honey or leaving a rabid weasel on your night stand where your reading glasses should be.

But still, it seems kind of cruel that I can remember being young and healthy, but not the name of the cute girl I met at the grocery store who seemed interested in me. I can remember how abysmal I've been at sports my whole life, but not the combination to my bike lock, meaning that my bike has been chained to the wall in my garage for the past four summers waiting for me to remember how to free it. I can remember every blessed lyric to the Gilligan's Island theme song, but consistently screw up the lyrics to the songs my barbershop quartet sings, at least whenever we have an audience.

It's time to finish this up. I know I had something else to do tonight, but even though I can't remember what it is, I can see that you're no longer hearing me over the mental chorus of "...never gonna tell a lie and hurt you", which means my work here is done.

No need to thank me.

[This was the sixth essay in the "15 in 30" series, although I'm posting it before the fifth, because the second, which posted fourth, dealt with the same topic as the fifth, which will now post sixth. And I'm complaining that I can't remember anything important.]

Copyright © Dec 21, 2010 by Liam Johnson.



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