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 11, 2023
I remember finding staples in my mother's desk drawer (I remember her desk, in blond wood, was far less imposing than my father's Dark wood desk) -- finding staples and being fascinated by them. I didn't know that they came apart and got formed by the stapler into the every-day double-bowed tucks in magazines and comic books. I had no idea that they were the same things. My mother warned me they were sharp and dangerous, which surprised me. A train or cuboid or block of of new staples seemed to me like adult Legos. But they came apart so easily! And then when she showed me how the stapler worked, able to select and push a single staple at a time through the bottom front of the staple-holder -- and requiring the bottom target to curl the staple's ends and give it its well-formed beauty, despite the danger -- all this seemed magical. The adult implement was real magic. And I felt for years after -- still do I think -- like someone with some claim on competent belonging to the wondrous adult world whenever I refilled a stapler.


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Thursday, December 29, 2022
I remember Pelé! I remember that he played for the Cosmos, which to me meant that his great days were over. Like Willie Mays playing for the Mets. Still, in my mind he replaced
Shep Messing and gave me a reason to think the Cosmos could still be of global significance -- could still make soccer something serious in the U.S.


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I remember that you recite the cases when you do a Latin declension in reverse alphabetical order: nominative, genetive, dative, accusative, ablative. (We didn't learn the vocative till later.) I was proud of discovering this mnemonic.


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Friday, December 23, 2022
I remember
Alexie, Alexie

Mustn't run and mustn't play,

Mustn't jump and mustn't climb,

Must be careful all the time
from Nicholas and Alexandra.


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Monday, December 19, 2022

I remember that my father would put his socks on before his pants, which seemed strange to me.  In my memory the contrast of his black socks against his calves is very vivid. 



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Friday, December 16, 2022

I remember being obsessed by the photo from the ballon's perspective of Joseph Kittinger sky-diving from about 20 miles up, when I was in my teens (reminded of it because he just died).  He needed oxygen and an insulated suit to fall from that high up; he was in free fall for something like five minutes -- not as long as Mulciber in Homer or Paradise Lost (the relevant passage of which we read a few years later when I was a junior in high school)* but a very long time.  

----

*                                            from Morn
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve,
A Summers day; and with the setting Sun
Dropt from the Zenith like a falling Star, 
On Lemnos th' Ægean Ile. (I. 742-46)







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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

 I remember that Christmas is a consumerist festival from way back - and it just seems longer each year - this year I saw decorations on sale in October. Who is that organised, obsessed, deluded. I am not a grumpy Scrooge, but seriously, enough already. There is also this - perhaps its just that the first ones raised expectations unreasonably high: https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2006/12/09/trinket-crimbo/

The photo is the clincher - at the grandparents house when I was one:





posted by Trinketization 7:15 PM
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 I remember that a nine-volt battery that I put onto a shelf in a chest in my room for safe-keeping, leaked battery acid on the wood of the shelf.  (I mentioned this before.)  I was surprised and disturbed that this inert thing that I left on the shelf should have turned out to be unreliable and dangerous.



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Monday, December 12, 2022

 I remember bobby pins -- how interesting they were, not quite as obviously useful as a paperclip, and neither mysterious nor unmysterious in the way that both my grandmothers and my mother and even girls my own age used them,



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Saturday, October 29, 2022

 I remember that, although we never bought them, a couple of friends would always have Danish all-butter cookies at their houses, and I was always amazed that it wasn’t like the butter in our fridge. They were cookies! Somehow sweet and crumbly and various despite being made only of one ingredient: butter. 



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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

 I remember my father bringing a Superman comic to the summer house we were renting from friends in Stormville -- this was my first introduction to comics and comic books.  I was put off: after all it was a book!  It looked like work!  And it was a weekend!  (I might have been in Kindergarten.) And I really didn't like Superman's forelock.  But then he started reading me the comic as we looked at the panels and I was hooked.  Of course I perceived a resemblance between my father and Superman: both of them powerful adult males.  And I was surprised and hurt that Superman was vulnerable to kryptonite.  Family Romances!



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Thursday, October 06, 2022

 I remember not understanding why cans of soda had to be opened on both sides with the triangular blade of the can opener.  But of course if I tried only one opening the soda was much harder to drink,



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Monday, September 26, 2022

I remember, hearing Simon and Garfunkle on the radio, that I thought the words were "'Cause they say, twas merry in time."  I still loved the song.



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Saturday, September 03, 2022

I remember learning that there was a name for God that you were never supposed to say.  But I didn't know what that name was!  So I asked my father, when we were on a weekend bike ride, and after hesitating, he said it was "Joe"!

I felt both disappointed and endangered at the same time.




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Monday, August 01, 2022

I remember Nichelle Nichols.  Hers was the first time I heard the word "Uhura." Then I was very surprised to see my father had a book name Uhuru -- the famous book by Robert Ruark whence Gene Rodenberry must have got the name.  I really liked Uhura on the show: the way her intense focus on communication turned out to be as important as anything else.  Her character wasn't central to any episode but she seemed to represent everything that the long distance and information operators she updated meant to someone like me: the alert, highly competent, quick women who made the infrastructure of instantaneous communication and therefore of the whole country as a country work,



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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

 I remember a moralizing poem I wrote in elementary school.  I don't think it was an assignment -- I just liked moralizing poems.  Actually all I remember is that the poem was about "Old Mrs. Mudrock" (I had no idea of what plausible names were back then), and two lines introducing the moral of the poem:

Old Mrs. Mudrock thought of something new.
In this world, her views were held by few.

I think she was a good person, discovering that the world was not as honest or reliable as she was, but it might be that she was a selfish person who needed to be taught a lesson. 

I think it's interesting that I remember those two lines, almost certainly because In this world is metrically bad.  I kind of new it at the time, but couldn't figure out how to solve it.  It's funny that it's the metrical solecism that made it stick out in my memory, in contrast to the usual idea that metrical regularity helps with memorization.

 



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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

 I remember Dymo label makers!  Literal 3-D printers!  (You can still get them on eBay, and I guess you can get a modern version now from Amazon.)



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Sunday, April 17, 2022

 I remember that prep-school T-shirts had an odd vertical segment at the top coming down an inch or so from the throat that I thought was strange because it made the T-shirt look like a clerical collar.



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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

I remember that my father hated the subscription cards stapled into every issue of The New Yorker (which at that time came in a brown paper wrapper).  He'd yank them all out before reading. Whereas I hated the loose slips that would just fall out while you read.  I remember we thought we hated the same things until we specified, and then it turned out that he didn't mind the slips I hated, because they came out easily and innocuously, and I didn't mind the stapled-in slips because they didn't fall out and bother you. 



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Thursday, December 30, 2021

I remember one day in the park suddenly knowing that if I threw a rock down hard enough it would break. This seemed an amazing thing to me -- amazing to know in advance and then to actually do it.  It was as though from one second to the next I was released from a paradigm and saw something that was clear and open but that I couldn't see before. Here was a rock that had existed from the beginning of the world (as I thought) and now simply by the use of my own muscles I could throw it hard enough to break.


This thought must have been related to my discovery, maybe around the same time, that you could throw things downwards faster than they could fall.  That was really interesting.  And now I could see that though rocks didn't break when I dropped them, I could throw them with enough force that they would. 



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Saturday, December 11, 2021
I remember meeting my father at the club where he played tennis. I was always a bit shy seeing that side of him. There was the carefree way he and his friends laughed and played that wasn’t so different from the way I played with my friends after all, and I felt both relief and a bit of unease that a part of childhood persisted in him. And I remember the nonchalant ease with which he picked up the ball with his racket, a skill that was more even more cool and impressive to me than playing tennis.


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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

I remember the hair dryer that someone brought us from the States, with the "Do not remove under penalty of law" tag. Detectives and cops in American movies seemed to be competent and powerful, so I imagined they might figure out if I removed the tag and show up at my door. 

I was itching to try to tear out the tag just to see what would happen. It was a bit like the temptation to put my foot on a book intentionally with no one watching -- would there be retribution for that? One could never know, so I played it safe.



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Friday, July 09, 2021

I remember that I first learned the word identity as part of the phrase secret identity, which was the romantic and thrilling connection between Clark Kent (uncharismatic like me) and Superman! It was interesting to find out, considerably later, that it was a word on its own. 

I remember that the phrase this instant!, used by mother to demand that I cooperate immediately, was similarly thrilling (though without the positive connotations), denoting a kind of absolutely efficient worldly authority. I don’t remember the context though I do remember the sudden down-pointing gesture that made the this so immediate. Again, it was only later that I had a sense of the word instant as having a meaning of its own. 



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Saturday, June 19, 2021

I remember a full-page ad -- probably in The New Yorker -- for a watch which had its face rotated clockwise by 90 degrees.  The photo showed a debonair young professional leaning his head on his hand, in a pose of arrogant relaxation, his elbow on a conference room table.  The watch face was on the inside of his wrist -- people don't do that anymore with their smart watches, I am just realizing -- and because the face was lined up parallel with his arm, so to speak, that is because the diameter from the 12 to the 6 was parallel to his arm -- he could read the time surreptitiously (without obviously looking at his watch), so he had superior power and knowledge in the meeting.


I realized I could do the same thing with my own watch just by setting it three hours fast.  It wasn't perfect -- 12 noon came out as 3:15, more or less, except that the hour hand was slightly forward, a quarter of the way to the next hash mark (my watch had mainly hash marks with four Roman numerals).  But it worked fine and it was fun to glance at the time in school that way.

My father saw my watch one day on the counter and asked whether it had stopped.  I explained what I'd done and he expostulated with me against it.  What if other people were trying to figure out the time from my watch?  This seemed to me to be going far to seek disquietude, but he insisted.  Anyhow, it obviously didn't matter.  I could tell the time even if the watch was set in a normal fashion, and of course in class you also just looked at other people's exposed watches when you needed to know but didn't want the teacher to know you needed to know.  (Which meant, I guess, that my father was right.)



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Saturday, March 27, 2021

I remember that in addition to seeing To Tell the Truth being taped we also went to see Robert Morse's musical TV show That's Life being taped.  I'd never seen the show on TV -- hadn't even heard of it -- but liked it a lot.  Partly because Ruth Buzzi, from Laugh-In was the guest star.  She sang a song about her loneliness and how she wouldn't even object to the come-ons of someone like Tyrone on Laugh-In, whom she always hit with her purse when he sidled up to her on a park bench.   I remember we were told that the rooms on the set were far deeper than they would be in real life, because the TV screen wouldn't flatten them out.  I got to watch a little of the show, and it was true.   We actually went to see a taped dress rehearsal, but they explained that if any scenes in the rehearsal were better than the actual taping they'd be swapped in.  I liked that idea.  Also our teachers told us that we had to laugh or applaud when the appropriate signs were lit. I liked it that there was a real place in the world i could go to that would later be a fictional place on the small TV screen.



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Monday, March 01, 2021

I remember the low-grade but odd and ambivalent excitement evinced by my parents when Fifth and Madison were made one-way avenues.  We were driving towards the East Side, probably to see the Herings (whose wonderful phone number I loveds: FI8-8888 -- FIvr 8's), probably in a cab, and I think they were anticipating the new navigation we'd be undertaking (the Herings lived a couple of blocks north of the 84th street exit of the transverse road).  Since we were going east on a one-way street anyhow, I didn't quite get what they were talking about -- most streets were one way, and I didn't have much of a sense of the difference between streets and avenues. Without thinking about it, I took their width or narrowness as local and variable, like that of a stream.  But it must have felt to them like a major change in their idea of the city they'd grown up in.  When my father and his father went to tell my grandmother, at her doctor's office on Fifth, that her elder son had been killed in action, Fifth was a two way avenue.



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Saturday, February 06, 2021

I remember seeing, in bright sunlight, my mother cup her hand one day under a kitchen counter and sweep the crumbs she'd brought together into her cupped hand.  I thought this was astonishingly elegant -- the flat counter, the poise of her hand, all her fingers curving together, extending the arc of her curved palm.



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Monday, February 01, 2021

I remember that Sonny Fox (who just died of Covid) used to have the kids in the studio audience line up to tell him jokes.  (As I mentioned before, my friend Marc Bilgray got to see him live!) The one joke I remember went like this:

KID: Why did the chicken cross the road?

SONNY FOX: I don't know.  Why?

KID: To get The Daily News. (Beat.) Get it?

SONNY FOX: No...

KID: Neither do I!  I get The New York Times!



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Friday, December 25, 2020

I remember the feeling of not being at ease on visits to Nellore, the stark difference between that and the joy and comfort of my other grandparents, as I grew older, the guilt of feeling that way. I remember everything being slightly stifling: the weather, the lack of real bookstores or cable TV, the badly lit wallpapered bedroom, the unbearably hot front room where the women socialized, and the cordial but formal interactions with my grandparents.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

 I remember that the afternoon shadows against the wooden furniture -- cabinets and chests of drawers -- at my uptown grandmother's house were like nothing at home.  She had patterned gauze curtains, which we didn't, and the patterns cast their light shadows against the slightly tempered sunlight on the peaceful wood surfaces.  The curtains would sway just a little, which would make the shadows seem not so much to move as to modulate their lightness, make the lightness feel even more essential, made the wood seem there to be the perfect surface for these modulations.  It wasn't quite hypnotic, but it did make the whole room, not only the "visual room" (as Wittgenstein calls it) but the room around me, the windows and curtains and walls and the courtyard outside and the buildings around the courtyard and the sky, seem a single, calm, unhurried afternoon space, as unhurried as the modulations of the shadows on the smooth, seasoned wood.



posted by William 11:30 AM
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 I remember my downtown grandmother, who had an enlarged heart, wasn't allowed to eat salt.  There was a bakery near their building that sold salt-free bread.  I loved bread more than pretty much anything, but the salt-free bread was terrible.  I couldn't believe that something that looked like bread and smelled like bread could be that disappointing, that undesirable.



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Monday, September 07, 2020

I remember my grandmother would collect jokes from magazines, which she'd retell at bedtime during our Hyderabad visits. I think those were the only times I've ever laughed to sleep.

I don't remember if she clipped them or copied them out, but there was a notebook. When I started to learn to read Telugu, I'd clumsily try reading them, but with the great effort it took, the punchline was usually disappointing. 



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Sunday, August 02, 2020
I remember reading a comic, maybe Mad Magazine, maybe Superman, where someone asks someone else on a blistering summer's day, "Hot enough for you?"  I didn't get the question -- it was obviously too hot -- but later I saw it in a movie, and then heard people say it, and it became a natural American idiom to me, the sort that as a New York Jew I had to learn through observation.


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