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


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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Monday, March 05, 2018
I remember my father telling me how Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile: the physiological knowledge he had as a med student, how it allowed him to figure out how to pace himself, the help that he got from his friends who paced him.  My father knew nothing about running (I was a wannabe runner at the time, because of my infatuation with Jim Ryun), but he knew all about Roger Bannister.


posted by William 10:43 PM
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Sunday, March 04, 2018
I remember the New York Times chess column, written by I. A. Horowitz, which appeared three times a week, I think. I usually couldn't understand his explanation of moves a player couldn't make because they would lead to a position that wasn't obviously bad enough for me to see was losing. But I liked the diagram that came with each column, usually of the position near the end of the game -- it would be captioned as the position after the move made in the caption. When the Times switched from English to algebraic notation I found the games much harder to follow (I hate algebraic notation) and gradually stopped reading the columns. I think this was after Horowitz retired.


posted by William 8:11 AM
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Friday, March 02, 2018
I remember how disturbed I was when I first saw a 9-volt battery, which I had to put into my new transistor radio.  I hated its asymmetry.  And that asymmetry was increased, rather than mitigated, by the fact that you had to snap it into terminals which were the opposite of the terminals on the battery itself.  I think this was the worst version of the asymmetries I hated in training wheels and in bikes in general -- the chain on one side of the frame, not both sides.  Trikes were so much more elegant, as were D batteries. Even dry cells were okay.  The asymmetries I hated were left-right, not front-back.  Hence my dislike of the new windshield wipers, which paralleled each other instead of describing mirroring arcs across each half of the front window.


posted by William 11:24 AM
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Friday, February 23, 2018
[Alma remembers what they told her:]

This entry does not, strictly speaking, belong in Je me souviens because I have no personal recollection of the event, which was related to me by my mother. It would more properly belong to a series entitled On m'a dit, but there is no such series. I'm settling on je me souviens qu'on m'a dit. Apparently, when I was a toddler in my native Sarajevo - then Yugoslavia, now Bosnia and Herzegovina - I sometimes made the request "umi me" a baby-talk version of the Serbo-Croatian "uzmi me," meaning "pick me up." On one occasion my parents and I were walking along the main street of the city (then called King Aleksandar's Street, later Tito's Street and now...who knows?), and we were passing by the National Bank building. The building's entrance was flanked by two giant male caryatids. Tired of walking, I planted myself in front of one of them and commanded: "Umi me."


posted by William 11:52 AM
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Friday, February 09, 2018
[Paul Lakin remembers:]

I remember my first grade teacher saying "actions speak louder than words" to scold us for being too loud, with the idea that if we wanted to speak *really* loudly we'd do something other than yelling. She also said it to scold us for hitting, with, I guess now, the idea that hitting was speaking too loudly.
These two opposite, wrong uses of the proverb were confusing as fuck, and probably would be to any six year old who will from time to time very much want both to hit and to speak loudly. They also delayed several years my understanding what it really does mean.


posted by William 2:13 PM
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Saturday, February 03, 2018
I remember that envelopes for greeting cards are on the rack behind the cards.  I learned this at the local you and stationery store. I liked that fact -- that the envelopes were there and that they fit, and also were the right colors, according to the card-publishers, for the cards.


posted by William 2:28 PM
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Monday, January 22, 2018
I remember a science kit we had, or maybe just a booklet of experiments you could do at home, that demonstrated surface tension by having you roll a needle off a fork on to the surface of a cup of water.  The needle would float, or seem to!  I knew that it should sink like a stone, but there it was, on the surface.  Somehow the danger of a floating needle got transferred to the surface tension of the water itself, as though it could prick you with some strange surface needle at any moment.


posted by William 12:35 AM
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Friday, January 19, 2018
I remember when we read a little Chaucer in English class in eleventh grade.  Mr. McCormick noted that the Wife of Bath was gat-toothed, and explained that that meant "gap-toothed," that she had a gap between her two front teeth.  I remember that Mr. McCormick's daughter Hannah had a gap between her two front teeth, and that we all thought this was appropriate and that he must have liked the connection with Chaucer.


posted by William 4:14 PM
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Friday, September 08, 2017
I remember the movie Vanishing Point, which I 
mentioned before as an example of an M rated movie.  I didn't understand it.  The movie opens with what will turn out to be its last scene, then is almost all flashback.  In that last scene, time stops just after a car, roaring towards a roadblock, passes another car going the other way.  Freeze-frame, and then the car roaring towards the roadblock just... disappears.

Next scene is forty-eight hours earlier.  The car driver is an outlaw-type, trying to drive cross country at some insane clip, on a bet I think.  He ignores a trooper, and after that the whole thing is a more and more elaborate chase scene.  Cleavon Little -- his first major roll, I think -- is a radio DJ who gets interested in this outlaw hero and starts broadcasting useful information about where cops are congregating, etc.  He's getting this information from what we would now call crowd-sourcing: people have heard him praising the outlaw driver and therefore they phone the radio station with what they've seen, and he broadcasts the information and the driver uses it to evade capture as he keeps roaring westwards.

Eventually we get to the last scene again: road block set up, car tooling down the road, passing the other car as at the beginning.  But now, no freeze-frame, and the outlaw car crashes spectacularly into the bulldozers blocking its way.  And that's the end of the movie (I have a vague memory of a minute or two of sad, anti-climactic clean-up, people milling around, tension all gone out of everyone's life). The hope we'd harbored throughout, that he would escape the lifeless, unimaginative simulacrum of justice that the police represented, was smashed with his car.  We knew he's vanish, or thought we knew, and the only question we had was how?  We assumed the end of the movie would tell us. And then he didn't vanish.  He died.

I remember being very impressed by my parents in our car-ride home.  I was thirteen, so being impressed by them was a big deal.  I said I didn't know what had happened but they both understood and agreed intuitively, without needing to discuss it or work it out, that the opening of the movie showed the legend -- the legend that would live on.  The sad empiric ending (the sad, disappointing, deflating, but uninteresting truth), didn't matter.  The movie did tell us.  (As the John Ford dictum almost has it: film the legend.  And they did.)


posted by William 1:41 PM
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Saturday, July 29, 2017
I remember that some other buildings had mail chutes, as did my father's office building. But my father would never use them: his general, pain-in-the-ass principle was to rely on mediations as little as possible. That's why I always had to confirm reservations even when they were guaranteed, check theater times despite what the ticket said, etc. And so
when I came with him to his office, and when they moved to a new building and I was visiting, I always had to go to the mailbox on the corner with his mail. He also thought letters would get stuck in the mail chute.

Me, I loved (and still love) seeing other people's letters come barreling past me sometimes when I waited for the elevator. I liked how fast they went, as though not made of paper but of metal. The chute forced them to go almost perfectly vertically, so there was almost no air-resistance. And that's why they didn't get stuck!


posted by William 2:57 PM
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Friday, July 07, 2017
I remember the bees buzzing around and hanging from the jams in Bellagio when we went down to breakfast.  Somehow they were always there before us, no matter how early we were up.  They were enjoying the morning but they also were part of it, part of the morning they enjoyed.  The had a proprietary interest in the jam, and in the whole scene.


posted by William 11:27 PM
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Saturday, April 08, 2017
I remember being puzzled that the weeklies -- The New Yorker and The Village Voice (Sports Illustrated too) -- were dated in the future.  I found this very frustrating, because it meant I could never be current (and sometimes that mattered!).  The future didn't actually have news about what would happen in the next few days, and when the date that the weekly was dated finally came along, the past was different from what the publication from the future reported or failed to report.  So I felt a little as though news and time diverged, on the scale of a week, anyhow, and this was disorienting.  It probably contributed to a sense of the difference between public and private -- the world of the future news which never became what the future publication suggested, and the world of what I knew, past news, assassinations, wins and losses, election results.  That knowledge was part of my private world, but the weekly's potential other worlds were always seemingly just the news but always pointed to a time forever inaccessible.  Maybe they do still.


posted by William 10:12 AM
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Saturday, March 25, 2017
I remember, and even used the term here twelve years ago, "the dynamic duo."  Since I never really put the meanings of the words together but took them as a quasi-proper name, a description so definite as to designate a complex singular term, the team comprising Batman and Robin, while still realizing that it was a description, that the terms had meaning as well as reference, I now suppose that this is a good analogue to Homeric epithet. "Caped crusader" would be another one, though if crusader was slightly obscure, caped was obvious. Maybe that's closer to the Homeric experience or maybe both terms are analogues to analogues in Homer.


posted by William 9:23 AM
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Monday, March 20, 2017
I remember how much I liked seeing the occasional Massachusetts license plates on parked cars in Mangattan after the 1973 election.


posted by William 10:08 AM
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Sunday, March 19, 2017
I remember when Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin ran for mayor and City Council president.  I was against them because they wanted New York City to secede from the state and become the 51st state.   But I was proud to live in one of the original thirteen!

A couple of years later, Breslin's Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight came out.  I loved it when I read the paperback in seventh grade (I remember because I discussed it with Michael Hoban in math class). I remember the hilarious moment, maybe quoted on the back of the book, describing how one mafioso "died of natural causes.  His heart stopped beating when the men who snuck into his bedroom stuck a knife in it."

I remember that that's when I began to like him more and more.

Mailer not so much.

I am not sure why I didn't offer either the lead-up or the sequel of the story I posted nearly ten years ago, when Mailer died, but the whole story is kind of interesting.  I was visiting colleges and staying with friends at Tufts.  We'd rushed to get a dozen donuts when we heard he was speaking since it turned out there wouldn't be time for dinner now.

Like most of the audience, we were sitting on the floor of the Tufts gym. Mailer did his anti-feminist schtick, calling on all the women to hiss.  They did and he gloated: "Obedient little bitches."  So one of the women in our group, meeting aggression with love, got up and took a jelly donut up to him as a kind of show of our generous superiority.  He laughed and tossed it back into the crowd.  They laughed and tossed it back to him.  He laughed and threw it back harder.  It landed right near me, almost back where it started.  It was quite a tough little ball of gluten.  I picked it up and threw it just as hard back at him, imagining I guess, that its consistency was robust enough to last through many such rallies.  But it splatted him right on his jacket and tie.

So he wiped it off with a handkerchief and then went straight to a dramatic effect he was obviously saving: he opened out his attaché case at the podium and took out... a tumbler full of ice and a bottle of scotch, and poured himself a stiff drink.  Everyone loved that.

Then after the talk was over I went up to him as he was moving backstage to apologize -- saying, truthfully, that it was an accident.  I didn't mean to hit him, and certainly would have been happy to have him catch it.  He was with some goon body-guards, maybe Tufts plainclothesmen, maybe his own.  He looked at me witheringly and walked away without a word.

I guess I can't blame him, but it did make me feel better that he was graceless about it.


posted by William 2:41 PM
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Tuesday, March 07, 2017
I remember being somewhat surprised that the verb "mind" could mean "object" or "find unpleasant."  I think our family somehow didn't use the verb at all, so for me it was only a noun.  But the Herings (I think) used the word -- I think someone asked if I minded something he was doing, or if I would mind.  This is all in the dark backward and abysm of time, but I remember not understanding, and then understanding a few minutes later -- maybe he explained it? -- and being puzzled by it.  I still am, a little.  It's an interesting idiom,


posted by William 12:36 AM
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