I remember / je me souviens
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For those limbic bursts of nostalgia, invented by Proust, miniaturized by Nicholson Baker, and freeze-dried by Joe Brainard in his I remember and by Georges Perec in his Je me souviens.

But there are no fractions, the world is an integer
Like us, and like us it can neither stand wholly apart nor disappear.
When one is young it seems like a very strange and safe place,
But now that I have changed it feels merely odd, cold
And full of interest.
          --John Ashbery, "A Wave"

Sometimes I sense that to put real confidence in my memory I have to get to the end of all rememberings. That seems to say that I forego remembering. And now that strikes me as an accurate description of what it is to have confidence in one's memory.
          --Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason


Friday, October 04, 2019
I remember
remembering Diahanne Carroll.


posted by William 5:31 PM
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Saturday, July 20, 2019
I remember that in the spring of 1969 we talked in school about the risk that the lunar surface would turn out to be made of a sand or dust that wouldn't support the weight of the lander.  I remember that I thought it was funny that it was called LEM, because I had a friend named Lem who was a lot like Linus in Charlie Brown and I assumed everyone made the same connection.  I remember that we were away in Europe when the landing occurred, with no TV, but that we saw a bit of it on a TV in an airport passageway -- but we were being rushed along.  I remember, like everyone else, not getting why Armstrong said "for man" since "man" there sounded like a synonym for "mankind."  I deeply regretted that he didn't say "a man."  I remember people worrying about how sterile moon rocks would be, or whether they would introduce some horrendous diseases we weren't immune to.  I remember that the moon landing didn't seem like such a big deal to those of us who grew up on science fiction -- Star Trek, and earlier Flash Gordon, and of course some of those old movies, including the one with the stowaway woman whose weight destroyed the flight dynamics and insured that she and the astronaut would die, romantically.  I remember that I was much more passionately interested in the Mets, who came back form nine-and-a-half games back in early August (I remember my father just shrugging and saying that it was over to them) to destroy the Cubs and clinch in September -- this was the season when Jimmy Qualls broke up Tom Seaver's perfect game (in June) with one out in the ninth.  I remember (as I've said before) that Tommy Agee and Cleon Jones looked at each other shaking their heads as the line drive hit right between them.  I remember that the most interesting things about the moon missions were the delay over 237,000 miles, so that you heard the echo of what was said about two seconds after it was said; and the slingshot flight of Apollo 10, where they went around the moon, seeing its dark side for the first time.  I thought this was very cool, but also a frustrating missed chance for those astronauts.  I remember feeling sorry for Michael Collins for the same reason.


posted by William 4:54 PM
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Wednesday, July 10, 2019
I remember reading Jim Bouton's Ball Four when it came out in paperback.  I knew very little about professional baseball then, but the book was fascinating.  I was prepared to hate it, just as I hated Curt Flood, because I wanted to think only the best of baseball as an institution.  But then I liked it.


posted by William 10:51 PM
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Monday, July 01, 2019
I remember that my father would refer to my grandmother in conversation as "my mother" (i.e. his mother).  With me he used to call her by her nickname (Omama), but that slowly faded, and of course with my own mother he always called her "my mother."  There was something strange about this: it was fine for him to call my grandfather "my father," and fine for my mother to call her parents "my mother" and "my father."  But it didn't quite seem right for my father to have a mother the way I did, someone he called "my mother."  I think the reason that the other three terms didn't bother me was that he was my father, so calling his father "my father" couldn't really overcome that eclipse.  And of course my mother's father had nothing to do with the paternal side of my family.  As to my mother's mother, I think my mother was so clearly my mother, and her mother was so clearly not, that it just didn't come up.  Or maybe it was that my father had these relations to two mothers -- one my real mother, and the other an old, antiquated crone, waiting to tell me stories of the past, or maybe waiting for the past to come back, for the old antiquated days to come crushingly to life.


posted by William 7:13 PM
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019
I remember my father ordering something from the Government Printing Office.  (I believe it was a poster of some sort, and I believe it was for me, but I have only the dimmest memory of what it would have been.)  That made me notice that he got lots of mail from the Government Printing Office, and I was very impressed by him, very impressed that the Government Printing Office looked on him as a worthy correspondent and peer.


posted by William 12:06 AM
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Thursday, June 06, 2019
I remember posting
this fourteen years ago.   I remember finding out more since, from my father about the death of his brother, two days before his birthday, which was D-Day, when he would have turned 19.  My father got home from school.  He was twelve.  The elevator operator in his building was horsing around with the kids there.  His hand had been mangled somehow, and he and the kids would play games: maybe he'd pretend to scare them, or they'd pretend to be scared.  My grandparents and their children (but Willy was off in the Pacific) lived on the ground floor, near the lobby (in an apartment I knew as a young child) so they didn't have occasion to use the elevator: they'd walk by it and up three stairs into a hallway where the mailboxes were.  The elevator operator flagged my father down to say that they'd received a telegram.  Everyone knew what that meant, but both my father and the elevator man pretended they didn't, and he went back to scaring the screaming children.  My father went to get my grandfather who was doing something a few blocks away -- I am not sure why he wasn't at work, down at the Empire State Building.  My grandfather came home, opened the telegram, and then took my father downtown and to the East Side, to the doctor's office where my grandmother had an appointment on East 81st street I think.  He said to her, "Willy je pao," Willy has fallen.  That's where the story ends, or maybe it isn't, since my grandmother mourned ferociously the rest of her life.  In his old age, my father thought more and more of his brother, who was I think the last person he thought still loved him completely, the last person who represented his memory of a hope for the future.  Not the future he lived and died in, where he was close to his grandsons and loved the rest of us still, even if not as much as when he could boss us around, a bossiness that was his way of presenting the world to us as a gift, a universe to enjoy while the enjoying was good.  But a future that was what the US must have meant to all of the when they escaped Europe and started a new life free from the murders then devouring the rest of their friends and family.  His brother was that older, new-world teenager, the good and protective big brother, and then he died and the latest born and first dead of the family that had escaped to America.  But his photo and his memory helped my father through his own last years and months, helped him sustain a tenderness which had disappeared everywhere else.


posted by William 4:13 PM
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Wednesday, June 05, 2019
I remember that we heard the news about RFK's shooting on TV, but went to bed not knowing whether he would live or die.  The Times was delivered the next morning -- I looked at it immediately -- and it said that he had been critically wounded.  (I remember that he said, "No, no, please don't move me."  I liked that he said "please.")  The Daily News, which I would often look at on the way to school (since
the prejudiced lady always had me buy it for her when I walked her dog), also said that he was in critical condition.  We heard in school that day that he had died -- I remember a look of concern on the face of a kid named Barry whom I have a sense of as a presence in sixth grade but have no other episodic memory of -- but there was a way in which I wasn't going to believe it till the Times confirmed it.  The next morning the Times had a banner headline about the aftermath of his death (and they must have had a story about Sirhan Sirhan).  But we never got the actual headline saying that he'd been killed.  This was a newspaper my father wouldn't be able to save.  RFK went from being critically wounded to having been dead since the previous day.  This made me think that newspapers were less authoritative then I had been thinking of them as being.  The sequence of headlines didn't tell the story.  Of course a later edition of the Times did say he'd been assassinated, but I didn't realize then that there was more than one edition.  I didn't like that either.  The world was not an orderly place, conforming to a sequence of facts that could be made into a coherent story with what would eventually be a happy ending.  Humphrey was a nobody, and our only hope.  And Nixon was elected.


posted by William 5:28 PM
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Monday, June 03, 2019
I remember my mother teaching me to play chess.  This was in
Stormville, so I was no older than seven, and probably five or six.  Like everyone, I was intrigued and surprised by the way the knight moved.  I was also surprised that the Queen had so much more power than the King.  Although in our house mother and father were pretty much equal, it was a novelty not to see the King acknowledged as the lord and master on the chess board.  The Kings were so different from Kings in checkers, a game my father taught me to play.

In fact he taught us all the games we played: he knew how to turn the rules, printed on the back of the top half of a game box, into an actual game.  He'd read the rules and understand them and turn them into something fun!  This was one of the traits that I most valued in him: how a new game could be something we were playing after just a few minutes.

I recognized immediately that chess was the superior game -- I think I may have already known this in fact, which was why I wanted to learn to play chess.  And my father didn't know how to play, but my mother did.  So that the Queen's superiority in chess seemed appropriate: my mother knew how to play chess and my father didn't, and the Queen could range the board, while the King was stuck (maybe a bit like my father on the toilet in his long morning monopolization of the bathroom).

And I remember in the very first game I played with my mother, one of probably less than a dozen games total, I took her Queen with my Knight!


posted by William 2:39 PM
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Thursday, May 30, 2019
I remember my mother explaining the concept of the lost-and-found to me.  I didn't understand it, but it seemed magical.


posted by William 11:04 AM
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Sunday, May 26, 2019
I remember that when I read To Kill a Mockingbird I admired Jem as a kind of young authority -- the older brother who was the most accurate pointer to who the good adults were.  That means I was considerably younger than him, so I must have read To Kill a Mockingbird at about age ten.  It's no wonder I missed so many literary allusions!


posted by William 12:00 PM
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Sunday, May 19, 2019
I remember that Marjorie Morningstar was the first novel for adults that I read. I remember how much I liked the line "Like a crooked arm," and how I argued that this was so much better than "Like Noel's crooked arm."  Then I read The Caine Mutiny, and my father told me Queeg's balls were shit (or maybe the psychologist in the book says that?).  Then Youngblood Hawk and The Winds of War, though I'm not sure I finished it. And This is my God, which (along with The Source and The Chosen) inspired a phase of religious mania. The last Herman Wouk I read was a novel about a guy who buys a Caribbean inn and thinks he's going  to live a life of  leisure and finally read Ulysses, "that difficult book." My father had a copy, I had seen, so I grabbed it, read the preface with Judge Woolsey's decision finding it not obscene, and started in. It was difficult. Dashes instead of quotation marks made it hard to say when speeched ended! I read it over the next year. About a hundred pages in, I asked my father whether Bloom was Jewish. Obviously a lot more difficult than Wouk!


posted by William 12:56 AM
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Saturday, May 11, 2019
I remember the first time I heard the phrase "hurry up" -- in the hallway outside our apartment. We were late for something. I remember the phrase was somehow thrilling to me, because I didn't quite know what it meant. But it was certainly urgent -- I knew what "hurry" meant -- so somehow I'd have to hurry to do whatever hurrying up meant. The only thing I could do was both run and button my coat at the same time. That seemed to be what was wanted.


posted by William 12:58 AM
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019
I remember we used to call it the measles.  And we used to think that we'd all had it or that our friends had, but in fact we'd all had the German measles instead, because thankfully the measles had been eliminated through vaccines.


posted by William 1:17 PM
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019
I remember the original host of Jeopardy, Art Fleming.  I love poor Alex Trebek, but I can never reconcile myself to him as true host.  Art Fleming always seemed a little surprised.  By right answers, by wrong answers, by the correct answers themselves.  (Or rather questions.)  His voice sounded ruddy, which made his face look ruddy even on our black and white portable, which I would watch in the kitchen on days that I was sick.  (Jeopardy was a daytime show back then.)

Maybe my parents' generation couldn't reconcile themselves to Johnny Carson.  Not that they ever watched the Tonight Show -- that was one of those things my classmates in middle school knew and talked about and sometimes regaled each other with, but it wasn't a part of our house.  It was as though TV habits, even back then, far from being a great unifier was a kind of very low intensity divider of households, a kind of analogue to religion but with very little at stake except the formation of wispy, ephemeral in-groups conglomerating every morning in twos and threes and dissipating as classes stared or people talked about gym or after-school activities or new desert books or tests or weekend plans.  As though the communion the hosts made possible (to use a Jeff Nunokawa pun), was more like a coffee break (though we didn't mostly drink coffee, though I supposed that might have been another gauzy shared activity among those who did) than the sipping of sacramental wine. 


posted by William 9:07 AM
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Saturday, March 09, 2019
I remember that sometimes my uptown grandparents -- when my downtown grandparents were sill on speaking terms with them -- would get rye bread for dinner when the downtowners came over, and that the rye bread they got was much better than the rye bread my downtown grandparents got for themselves, bakery, not bakery-section.  We never had rye at home, though sometimes I would get it at a restaurant -- my favorite sandwich being a BLT on rye, but not rye toast (which my father always wanted me to try).


posted by William 2:15 PM
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Thursday, March 07, 2019
I remember Petticoat Junction, and that later, when I heard of Peyton Place, I thought it was Petticoat Junction: I didn't bring the original title back to mind, even Peyton Place did bring the show I'd watched back to mind. This confusion made TV show seem more scandalous to me even as it sanitized the idea of Peyton Place, reducing it to an inoffensive American sitcom.


posted by William 12:47 AM
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Wednesday, January 30, 2019
I remember the direction that a cassette tape goes.  I remember that you rewind it to the start, with all the tape on one side in the window.  Because in the first cassette player we ever had you put the cassette in tape side up (so that the label is upside down),  I remember that all the tape has to be on the right side when the tape is upside down.  I still find this easier to remember than that it should all be on the left side when it's right side up.


posted by William 1:59 PM
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Thursday, January 24, 2019
I remember reading about Kennedy writing his inaugural address -- or touching it up -- in the limo.  This was in William Manchester's A Thousand Days.  I remember thinking that having to give an inaugural address might be a reason for me not to be president, since I hated the very idea of giving speeches.  Then a year or two later, I remember, we learned about the State of the Union address in a social studies class, and I realized that the president had to give a speech every year.  I thought that that was certainly too much.  I had an image of the president giving a speech -- I think it was Kennedy because I was still connecting it to his inaugural address -- and that president was definitely some highly competent adult and no version of me at all.


posted by William 1:41 PM
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019
I remember Russell Baker (who died today).  I remember my father reading him in the Times when I was a child and how my father would laugh out loud -- a rare thing for him to do when he was reading the news.  I remember that later, in high school, I looked forward to Russell Baker's twice- or thrice-weekly columns.  By then they'd moved to the op-ed page because by then there was an op-ed page.  I remember my high school English teacher reading aloud one of his columns about reading Proust, which Baker compared to climbing Everest, with Tenzing as his guide, promising him that there would be a cup of tea or a walk along the beach in the not too distant future if he could just hang on.  I remember that I would laugh out loud when I read his columns too.


posted by William 12:42 PM
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Sunday, January 20, 2019
I remember that my parents would often say "I knew you'd say that" to each other, with a kind of delight.  I liked it.  I liked the way it meant that they were sharing a good mood, and were appreciative of each other's wit and in synch in that appreciation.  I don't know that I ever knew it when they were about to say things, so there was something lovely about the way their agreement created a kind of reliable world -- if they were both thinking the same thing, and it was a happy thing that put them in good moods, all was obviously all right, and since I didn't know they'd say what they said, I was grateful to see that things were good and solid and stable too.


posted by William 11:39 AM
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Saturday, December 29, 2018
I remember cards my parents used to receive (and send too, I think) whose sentiment was "Season's Greetings."  They had green wreaths on them -- at  least that's how I remember all of them.  I remember being slightly puzzled and maybe a little disturbed by not quite knowing what the cards meant.  Season for me meant one of the four seasons, and this clearly wasn't a reference to any of them, even winter.  And I didn't know how the season was greeting us, so I didn't know what greeting meant in that context either.  The exchange of these cards seemed part of some adult etiquette, some interaction that belonged to a world I wasn't part of, like my parents' business correspondence, or the bills that came, or the taxes they did.  The language was close enough to language I knew to recognize the words, but their meaning was opaque to me.  Since these cards were clearly supposed to make you happy, or wish you well, their opacity was a little bothersome, even unpleasant.


posted by William 10:42 AM
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Sunday, December 23, 2018
I remember that I was always subliminally confused about Frank Borman (the astronaut) and Martin Bormann (the Nazi). My parents talked a lot more about the latter -- I think there was a rumor he'd actually escaped to Argentina, and it seemed a vague pity to me that he should have been part of the Apollo project.  This was of coursed influenced by the true pity that Wernher von Braun was so central to the American space program. (I used to confuse Argentina with Arizona; hence my not getting the joke about Goldwater being "still alive and living in Argentina.")


posted by William 7:18 PM
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Friday, November 30, 2018
I remember that you were supposed to tie your laces so you wouldn't trip, but I just couldn't picture how you could trip even if your laces were untied.


posted by William 12:10 AM
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Thursday, November 22, 2018
I remember that contrary to popular usage the "lion's share" means all of something, since the lion got all of it.  I think I learned this in a textbook for my English class.


posted by William 1:02 AM
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Saturday, October 20, 2018
I remember "Brush your breath, brush your breath, brush your breath with Dentyne!"  And that "four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum."


posted by William 10:24 AM
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Friday, August 31, 2018
I remember the Village Voice.  Nat Hentoff.  Vladimir Estragon.  Jack Newfield.  Alexander Coburn.  Andrew Sarris.  jill johnston.  J. Hoberman. RIP


posted by William 7:10 PM
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Monday, July 30, 2018
I remember the public library commercial, with kids singing "There are books and things that the lend for free--/It's the latest, it's the greatest, it's the libary," and then a chuckling baritone authority correcting that to "library."


posted by William 11:27 PM
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Monday, May 28, 2018
I remember first remembering phone numbers by the way the sounds of the numerals felt together. I'd subvocalize them as iambs to memorize, with exaggerated stress. I think that was part of the fun of numbers with sevens and zeroes.

Telugu number sequences required a completely different prosody that I never devised, sadly, because I never needed to memorize them. (Much much later, hearing someone say their phone number in Italian reminded me of what this internal prosody could have been.)

I remember I had to relearn our car's license plate number shortly after I learned it, when the state prefix changed from CA to KA and all the plate numbers were reassigned. I could read enough by then to know that the state's name started with a K, and it was logical, but the change was still mildly disconcerting. And then a few years later, I'd look back at the CA license plate days as a time from a different era, as so many other things changed at the same time in my life and outside.

(And now I see the switch was in 1990, and so it was.)




posted by sravana 8:54 PM
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Monday, April 23, 2018
I remember his name is not Jasper. Someone says, "Screw you, Jack," to him, and he replies, "Screw you, Jasper."


posted by William 8:22 AM
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Monday, April 02, 2018
I remember how much I liked Jasper (?)'s lines in Cat's Cradle (?): "Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.  Go take a flying fuck at the moon."  (Also that a professional indexer could tell things such as that a person was "a homosexual" if he made the mistake of doing the index himself.  That kind of disturbed me, though, and made me wonder about people who did do their own indexes.  I read Cat's Cradle -- if it was Cat's Cradle -- in seventh grade, where I sat to the back on the left side of the classroom.  I remember when I read certain books by where I was sitting when I read them.)  I remember that at first "Go take a flying fuck at the moon" made more sense, but then I came to really like the vividness and aptness of "Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut."


posted by William 10:27 AM
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