Je Me Souviens

Motto of the Province of Québec.



I remember being young and free, playing outside in the warm summer afternoons, thinking that the day would never end. Back then, days that would never end were a good thing. The grass was green and the air was fresh. The freedom wasn’t obvious to me then, but now I look back with wonder. No one was waiting for me to do anything, no one’s precious time was wasted if I spent the day in the sandbox.

I remember the house we had then, with an enormous yard and a huge, spreading maple tree. The sandbox was underneath it, and we had a swing hanging from it, a swing in the shape of an airplane. I loved that swing. It’s still in my parents’ garage, someday I hope to get it out and hang it from a tree of my own. When I look for a house, assuming I can somehow ever afford to, it will have to have a big maple tree with a good branch.

I remember winters there, not the pathetic excuse for winter that Toronto has, but a real winter. A winter with regular road closures, with snowbanks piled 6 or 9 feet high at the roadside. (Word doesn’t know the word snowbank. How lame is that?) I remember having our own small mountain, where the snow from successive clearings of the driveway had been pushed. It was a jumbled mass of snow, more than twice my height. We had a small set of steps carved into the side and a toboggan run down the back. Whenever there was another snow, and the driveway got plowed, we’d have to rebuild our toboggan run, but it was always higher and better.

I remember the Bishop Hunt.
I remember this being the first extra-curricular writing exercise I ever engaged in.

I remember the location of the binder containing it.

I remember being about 15 when I wrote it.

I remember being able to remember. Blah blah woof woof.

I remember mown grass in the summer and scooping handfuls of it into my upside-down bicycle to make ice cream.

I remember when it was okay to be naked.

I remember digging holes in the sand as far as I could reach.

I remember starting new holes and linking them.

I remember them collapsing from being over-excavated.

I remember the toy-eating bush. Chomp chomp yum yum.

I remember digging canals in muddy gravel fields with the heels of my boots in the rain. (The Mud Factory).

I remember how that used to bug my mom.

A remember an unearthly fascination with piles of doggy-doo.

I remember how the awe inevitably turned to disgust when someone fell in it.

I remember wondering whose toothbrush it was that we used to clean it off the shoes.

I remember hoping that it wasn't mine.

I remember our first computer, how it overheated and started to melt if you left it on for too long.

I remember when I did, and coming home to a small pile of molten plastic with chips and circuits floating in it.

I remember how hard my dad laughed when he found out.

I remember my mom always telling me to cross the street at the stop light.

I remember how she used to walk into open traffic.

I remember how I needed a boost to reach the water fountains.

I remember that I have to kneel to use them now.

I remember two days later when Jack got hit by a car. And again, and a third time. Not bad, for the world's first metal-plated dog. Jack, the prototype, had his iron plates replaced with stainless steel a few days later, and they ran him over with a tank. After replacing his legs with telescoping rods and collapsible boxes they did it again. Then they took out his teeth and attached razor-edged ridges in their place. Radar emitters went into his ears, and the stainless steel was laced with ceramics, for heat protection. Then they dropped Jack out of one of those rocket-ships. Then they dug him out of his crater, and added a layer of lead to protect him from radiation damage.

I remember them sending him into action.

Ahh, the good old days.

I remember coming in early to my European History class in high school to adjust the shades just so. If I got the amount of light right, and looked at a spot just to the right of the teacher's podium, I could easily watch the girl behind me in class, who I was deeply infatuated with.

I remember singing 'Deutschland Uber Alles' at the top of my lungs at a high-school pep rally.

I remember sitting in a coffeeshop next to my old college campus and desperately hoping that I didn't piss anyone off the night before, when I was drunk and stupid.

I remember punching holes in a box that contained new MSDN binders just because I was having trouble coming up with a solution to a surprisingly knotty problem. Mindless actions like that help me think.

I remember when I was about 4, and I was sitting in a corner, mulling over last names, not quite understanding what they really were. I understood first names - your mommy and daddy gave you those names, but where did these last names come from? Why was Zack's last name different from mine? Teague... Miller... Teague... Miller... and I was sitting near an air vent in the floor and then (I think) I started to look down the vent.

I remember getting BattleChess for my family's old C64 for Christmas one year. We wasted it all in one day; we set the board up so we could watch all of the myriad capture animations, sometimes replaying ones over and over again, especially knight takes knight and pawn takes queen. I wasn't skillful enough to play the computer at the standard level, and I had no interest in becoming that skillful, so we never touched that game again.

I remember discovering a barbecue place called Elmer's for the first time, and bullshitting with the elderly gentleman who sat next to me at the counter about just how incredibly bad the Marlins were, just one year after the Series victory... 'Tain't nuttin' but a cryin' shame', he said, 'all that Hee-zenga guy's fault, I tell you, he don't understand Sport', and he had clearly capitalized the word sport in his speech, giving it godhead privileges.

I remember slacking off from work to node, which is what I'm doing right now, so I'll cut this short.

I remember laughing at the term "cable-ready". I was looking of the back of my old JVC FM tuner, reminded of college radio and the headaches of sitting in a city (Raleigh, NC) where there is, now, so much college radio (all bad), that it's no longer a simple task to hear the two good ones (WXYC, my old home, in Chapel Hill, and WXDU, in Durham). My tuner is great; I can tune even the frequencies that don't get used; 104.2 FM, anyone? Howie fixed it up for me, along with a from-Japan Sony amplifier whose previous owner was in the Navy, stationed in Japan. Howie was the chief engineer at XYC at the time, and he would eventually try to talk me into becoming Program Director there. I begged off, citing band commitments, drug-addled unreliability, and the need, perhaps, to have a full-time student handle the job. Ironically, this opened the door for the guy who ended up firing me during a purge. Howie was also a viola player, and I think our ideal gig would have been as the guitar/viola front line of some improvisational rock band; just as I had every obscure avant-garde jazz album, he had every obscure European prog LP in the known universe. But my prior band commitments and his need to pay his half of the mortgage on the house he shared with his SO put the kibosh on all that; all he really had the time for was the occasional sound-man gig. I was laughing at the term "cable-ready" in reference to the JVC tuner; it has only a coaxial cable interface for an antenna, though it long predates the term "cable-ready". To pick up XYC or XDU here in Wake County is not a casual thing. With a car radio, it all depends on which part of the county you're in - you drive a mile or two in some direction, and the signal fades out, replaced by one of the nearby college stations, a classical station, or a Christian station. With the home tuner, it's a lot easier; I can move the antenna all over the place for optimum reception. But I gave away my coaxial adapter a couple of years ago; I need to get a new one if I'm going to get XYC or XDU on a reliable basis.

I remember my first visits to North Carolina, after I discovered there was a tuning knob on radios. There wasn't any college radio back then, much less public radio. There was a past of student radio at UNC - Charles Kuralt, NPR's Carl Cassell, and, I think, Andy Griffith, once worked at WUNC. At some point in the mid-to-late 70s (I was now living in NC), it was resurrected as an NPR station, no longer a student-run operation. The new student station came a few years later: WXYC. One of my record-collecting mentors, a med student at Duke, had a late-night shift there (a couple of years before I actually met him in person), and I had my first visit to the station as a result of the show - I had been the fifth caller and had won The Spooks' new EP. I had to be in town for part of the admissions process and after my interview, I headed to the basement of the Student Union, where the station was then located. The Student Union was the only familiar place to me on campus, since I played in the semi-monthly RAM chess tournaments, held on the second floor; between rounds, some of us would do our kibitzing and hanging out in the basement, near XYC and the bowling alley. For years, you could pick up XYC with no problem (other than a weak signal) in a great deal of the Triangle area. But then more stations went on the air; a classical station, where Al, one of the more obnoxious high-school personages, worked. And the station at N.C. State, WKNC, which played some prog, but generally was even worse than the commercial rock stations. Shaw University went on the air. On trips to Raleigh in subsequent years, picking up XYC became problematic. WXDU at Duke went on the air a few years later, giving me another cool option, but it too was hard to pick up unless you were in some sweet spot in the Triangle - even on the Duke campus, you couldn't pick it up at its proper frequency; you had to use another.

I remember the XYC transmitter tower. It was located at Morrison Dorm, where I lived. The dorm was recommended because it had a computer room, and comp sci was possibly going to be my major (either that, or journalism, or political science, or math). My first roommate was then the chief engineer, so I had my first taste of the tower pretty early, helping out with stuff. And I had my first tastes of commercial radio - his best friend, who lived down the hall from us, worked part-time at WCHL, and a high-school classmate of mine worked at WQDR. I was so horrified at my various glimpses of commercial radio in those years (you mean they don't give a damn about the music they play?) that I swore never to have a career in radio. I deliberately developed a goofy, spacy, rambling style on the air. Not even a gig at quaint, yuppie-scum, NPR WUNC interested me, though I get tickled now at hearing the voices of my old colleagues, who "graduated" there from XYC. I raise my imaginary glass high, and wonder how bored they are, sitting there, not loving with the passion of a True Believer. My last memory of the transmitter tower was of nights of jamming. Badly. The chief engineer (yet another one) had set up amps and drums in there, and invited me along; it was awful, but I had a chance to learn some more songs - "Hey Joe", "All the Young Dudes", etc.

I remember Steve, sitting in his room in the rooming house above a Greek restaurant, swilling wine like there was no tomorrow, and his being able to boast about his newfound liquor-holding ability. He was in drink mode over breaking up with his girlfriend. I wondered what sort of huge in-love-ness would drive him to such drinking after its loss. I was young.

I remember a radio controlled sailboat in the pond at the park when I was 3. The day was calm and fine. We would walk through the park as a family looking at the trees and the gardens and the water.

I remember computing in high school. I had to use manual switches to load machine code into a Sperry Univac (model 7200 I think) just to get the card reader functional. I punched out all the positions of a card just to see what the reader would do with it. (It ate it). There was a telex machine in the computer room attached via modem (that the physics teacher made from scratch) to the University of Waterloo IBM model 360 that constantly clattered away. Eventually the school got a Radio Shack TRS-80 with a tape deck to load and record programs, but we still loved the old dinosaur Univac. We used a 150 card FORTRAN compiler deck with Japanese instructions, so we were never quite sure what it would and wouldn't do.

I remember being sad as a teenager but never (not to this day) really knowing why. I got along with the geeks and the jocks and all those in between, but I didn't really fit in with any group or [classification[. I remember deciding when I was 13 that nothing was worth getting that angry about, and summarily turning all strong emotion off until I was 17 and spending 4 years basically numb. For a while I was so afraid of making the wrong choice that I was crippled and couldn't even tell the waitress whether or not I wanted ketchup.

Just recently, I remember what it is like to be lonely. While I've spent a lot of time alone, I couldn't remember being lonely, but now I do remember. It's that feeling that even though you could call halfway around the world, wake them up and talk with them, that there would be, could be, no real communication or connection. That the words would be wasted and lost. That no one would understand.

I remember what it feels like to be loved. To love with an overwhelming hunger. To want someone so badly that a touch from their hand or a word from their lips could leave me breathless, dazed and senseless. And I have felt love that was unconditional, for which I felt unprepared and unworthy and for which I am struggling the rest of my life to become worthy.

I remember walking into the World Trade Center plaza at sunrise, coming out of a drunken stupor. I reached the center of the square and looked up at the two gigantic towers stretching into the fog. With the fog obscuring their peaks they looked like they might go on forever, holding up the roof of the world. I looked over at the security guard standing next to me and told him he had the best job in the world because he got to see this every morning. He looked at me and just smiled.

I remember sunrise from sitting on top the pyramids of Giza, and from the cliffs of Masada.

I remember traveling cross-country as a little boy and my german shepard in the car next to me patiently wearing a cowboy hat and bandana I put on him.

I remember setting up a slip and slide in our dorm hallway in college and then getting busted for it.

I remember how much I once loved someone, and how much they loved me. I wish I could have that feeling again.

I remember the fantastic road-trips we used to take in college from Rochester to my house in Florida with overpacked cars traveling in convoy with cheap radio shack headset walkie talkies.

I remember riding on the back of a moped through the streets of Saigon gripping the seat with fear for my life.

I remember being naive and optimistic about the world. Sure that the pearl of wisdom was going to be handed to me any day now.

I remember having a crush on this female bartender who wore a cowboy hat, a pair of overalls, and not much else. She gave us free drinks and did shots with us all night.

I remember wondering where I would be and what I would be when it was the year 2000.

I remember my brother Nick coming home from the hospital after he was born. He was howling his head off, and the sound was frightful. I ran from it to hide under the dining-table among the chairs. I was still small enough that the dining-table was higher than me so I could stand upright under it. That spot was my favorite place in the house.

A few years later, I remember, Nick and I and our teddy-bears had a tea-party in the garden. Spread out on a sheet on the grass were mud pies for cakes and water for tea, but the biscuits (from a tin of Jacobs' Assorted) were real. With Nick as my acolyte I improvised some kind of unholy ceremony and dedicated the feast to Satan.

I remember, when I was nine, our family leaving the country--cosmopolitan, multiracial, multilingual--in which I'd been born, to go live thousands of miles and an ocean away in an insular colonial outpost dominated by conservative monolingual Anglo-Saxons. Until then we'd spent school holidays, Christmas, New Year, and sometimes weekends with my cousins and aunts and uncles; often all of us would stay at my grandparents’ house for a week or two during the festive season: bunking down on mattresses on the floor, four or five to a room, was part of the pleasure of those times. The grown-ups would be at the dining-table for hours eating and drinking and talking, while we, the gang of cousins, would play at spies or rush about upstairs and downstairs in some violently physical game I cannot now recall. Or we'd play with the stink bombs and other devices ordered by our youngest uncle from one of those Acme-type companies advertised on the back of comic books. Or a couple of us would play "models" where one of my cousins would be Twiggy and I'd be the fashion photographer and pretend to take pictures of her. Sometimes the cousins would have secret midnight feasts of sweets and other junk bought without our parents' knowledge. Often everyone--grown-ups and children--would play Monopoly (forming syndicates and launching take-over bids) for hours, spend the day at the beach, or in the evenings stroll along the seafront where one could buy hydrogen-filled balloons or paper cones of roasted nuts, and where cannons dating from the Napoleonic Wars still faced out to sea. Idyllic days which ended when I was nine. In the next ten years, Nick and I saw our cousins only twice. More than this, though, moving to a new country seemed to be the catalyst for tragic events on an almost ridiculously-Shakespearean scale.

I remember being admitted to a hospital when I was 20 and not knowing how I'd gotten there or why, until a nurse told me some friends had brought me in after I'd apparently hopped on a bus and gone to visit them and had sat there in their house chatting sociably until they somehow figured out I'd only just woken up from three days of unconsciousness after a drug overdose of some sort--none of which I could remember. Better living through chemistry.

I remember the first time I ever saw X. Then two-and-a-half years of happiness. Then sometime afterwards, finding a photograph of X and staring at it for a long while. But I especially remember stepping out of the bathroom after a shower one night in April last year and seeing C lying on the bed looking at me; the sound of La Femme d'Argent is the sound of that time, of the two weeks that followed.

(I disliked my previous write up and it received no votes, so I'm going to do this exercise again)

I remember in 6th grade we all had to make these books; write the story, draw and color the pictures, decide what size, shape, and color we wanted it to be. It is the only actual school assignment I can recall from school then. I made this book about this dragon who was so huge he destroyed cities and killed people, but in reality he was only trying to make friends and didn't realize all the destruction he was causing.

I remember the first book I ever read on my own by my own choice. It was called "Emmaline" and I can't remember the author. A silly story, really, about this woman who has a child at a very young age and gives it up for adoption. Many years later (20 or so) she marries this man, and eventually finds out that it's her son! Yeah, disgusting, but it made me cry and cry because I had thought what a wonderful thing for her to find this man after all she had been through, and it distorted my thoughts so harshly that I cried for hours.

I remember how the socks on my hands didn't help protect them from the snow. They were cold and wet and only caused my fingers to go numb - my parents didn't think spending money on gloves was important enough. They were probably right. There's this picture of me, one of the few pictures of me at that age, of my hair flying and the socks on my hands and I'm screaming or something. It looks like we're in the middle of a snowball fight. It was all so strange because I'm not used to snow.

I remember walking down aisles of the train with cardboard box of soda, water, candy, and other overly fattening foods. It always reminded me of being at a baseball game or something and those men who would call out, "Peanuts! Hot dogs! Lemonade!" or whatever.

I remember when I would be talking to a certain person online and I would type something and have to look away for nearly a full minute to get over my embarrassment. They couldn't see me and I couldn't see them but I would be overwhelmed with such embarrassment at telling the truth or saying how I felt. I'd have to look away and take all my inner strength simply to read what their response was. How odd.

I remember when the Internet had just begun to get public attention, but it was probably sometime after that since schools (teachers) seem to be so behind the times around here. And this teacher of mine asked if anyone had ever been on the Internet and nobody raised their hand. Not even me, even though I had been for years.
I remember when I lived in New York, and I thought my life was going to be picture perfect.

I remember when David and I used to go drive around aimlessly, and we'd spent all night talking and singing until the sun roses.. partially out of being broke, partly just for fun.

I remember the looks on David's face when I found him cheating on me.

I remember driving around fast and wrecklessly, while I cried.. the song Violet was on the radio..

I remember when I left San Francisco, knowing full well I wasn't going back.

I remember visiting Ed during my birthday in 1998, and sitting out on the porch til 5am talking. I never felt so loved, by a friend.

I remember when I was in Seattle, I lost some dignity when I cried when Jeff and I broke up. It hurt, and I knew that day I had lost one of my best friends. I remember when my dog died. It was the first time I really dealt with death.

I remember when Blaine Steinberg shot himself. So many people were going off on how close they were to him, when in reality.. it was all contrived. That was the first time I realized how low people could go.

I remember in high school when I felt stupid, and unwanted.

I remember in college, sitting in a theatre class.. the teacher wanted us all to stand up and say "I am special, I am amazing", and all I could do was run out of the class crying, because I couldn't utter those words.

I remember playing as a child on top of the chicken coop on the ranch where I grew up. It was built on skids, and was really more of a mini-barn than a chicken coop. We must have been seven or eight years old then. It was a lot taller than we were, us four, my sister, I and two friends. The thing was secured to the west fence with barbed wire, so that the strong Chinook winds wouldn't blow it over. Sort of dangerous for us kids. One of us fell off and got tangled up in the barbed wire on the way down. Some nasty cuts. Then somebody found a rotten egg.

I remember the hill we lived on, how good it was for toboganning. One Christmas, some cousins were out and after dinner, in the dark, we decided to go sledding. We had a riot. The hill was steep enough to be exciting, and the adrenaline rush was enough to convince us to lug the toboggan back up the hill for another ride. A gravel road rounded the hill below us, and most of the time when went over it. We're lucky there wasn't somebody out driving around, checking cows or something, because they never would have seen us sliding across the road in front of them. We wouldn't have been able to stop either; toboggans don't have brakes, the best you can do is bail off. We went inside for hot chocolate.

I remember when my best friend from elementary school died. The last time I had seen him, it had been a happy accident. We were both in town with our parents, and came upon each other in a little food court in a small town mall. A koosh ball was transacted. That was the last time I ever saw him. He died after flying out of a truck when it was broadsided in an intersection. I remember the sorrow, the pain, and the loss.

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