The Best Years Of Our Lives

I have a selective memory. I don’t remember a great deal about my childhood. Rather, all the memories of my childhood exist in a data cloud, and it would take a lot of work to catalog them. I went through my computer’s hard drive today, cleaning and labeling my photographs. I do that sometimes. It took six hours.

I need to do the same sort of thing for my memories. As it is, I know things are there, and I can search for them and sometimes find them, but it’s a messy process. I can usually find single memories if I try, but they exist independently. I could not say how old I was when an event happened or where I was living, unless that was part of the memory.

Remembering for me is a bit like historical fiction. I recall a person and an act and I construct the most reasonable story around it, and then I believe in it. If I’m wrong, one of my sisters will tell me so. The way I know I have a bad memory is because my sisters remember everything.

In the film Blade Runner, a character finds out all her memories were implanted; they belonged to someone else. She hears someone recount one of her most vivid memories to her:

“You remember the spider that lived in a bush outside your window? Orange body. Green legs. Watched her build a web all summer. Then one day there was a big egg in it. The egg hatched...”

“And a hundred baby spiders came out and ate her."

I first came across Blade Runner when I was sixteen years old. I remember picking up the box at the video store. I know just where it was on the shelf. I see it. I watched the video, the original release edition, at home. Two years later, I drove my kid sister to a movie theater to watch Blade Runner in a theater. It was a different edition. There was narration before. I remember the theater screening room. We saw Dog Day Afternoon, A Clockwork Orange, Blazing Saddles, The Exorcist, The Shining, and Batman at the same theater over two days.

I remember the details of every movie experience I’ve ever had. I can tell you what theater it was, who I was with, what happened in the film, and how I felt. There is this passage from The Moviegoer, a novel by Walker Percy:

“The fact is that I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.”

I have terrific memories, too: Buster Keaton knocking railroad ties out of the path of a locomotive in The General. Roman Polanski nearly slicing off Jack Nicholson’s nose in Chinatown. Falling under a hypnotic spell as James Stewart followed Kim Novak through the streets of San Francisco in Vertigo.

My fantasies and dreams are all recycled. They were someone else’s first. But it has taught me to dream, and larger than I could have before. If my childhood was spent in John Ford’s deserts and Steven Spielberg’s stars, then what might I do now that I am a man? Now that I find those deserts and stars don’t exist for me—and likely never have for anyone?

My life is modeled off of impossible fantasies, and there is nothing for me to do but continue.

Now I watch smaller films. Movies about human relationships, the kind of relationships I learned to trade for war films and westerns long ago. The films I watch now exist as a reassurance that the lives we are leading are worthy; a kind of antifantasy.

I live in a city that is at least six thousand years old. There are buildings that were erected before my own homeland was even known to its future people. I have a dozen movies on a shelf, waiting to be watched. Ten years ago, I would have watched them all within a couple of days.

I’m going outside.


Steve said…
Sara and i have been, one at a time, seeing all the movies you recommended to me, and I (perhaps ignorantly) sneered in some subtle way. I heart Hucks was the MAN.

Are you going to mention me in your blog, or what, reilly?

I am in todos santos, right above cabo san lucas, baja sur.

google it. all you will find is slightly fat whiteys with atv's and credit cards, buying up property like pigs to corn.

Coleen said…
i was so excited to have a fifth of a shoutout! i saw volver it was great. i always hated penelope but now i love her, just like i love your blogs!!
Cathy said…
Memories sometimes sneak on us and enrich the present.

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