Nostalgia, On The Rocks

Nota Bene — I posted this a few weeks ago, as “Under the Fireflies.”  I posted it, then I took it right back down after barely an hour.  I wasn’t sure, at the time, if it was something I should have posted.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go with the tone…or with the, well, openness of it.  I’m still not sure.  I’m not sure, but screw it…when have I ever let second thoughts or self-editing stop me on this blog?

0*1yWkTpNA7guVgCOZI don’t get it.  I really don’t.

I don’t do nostalgia…at all.  No freaking way, not for me.

I avoid sentiment and memory as much as humanly possible.  Memory and sentiment are, to me, the memory of dead friends and the sentiment for the times to which I can never return.  Beyond that, however, lies also the fact that the friends of my past, from high school and college, have all gone on to lives bigger and better, while I’ve gone on to…well…write.

“Great to see you again!  I’m the President of a 756-trillion-dollar oil company!  What are you up to now?”

“Great to see you again!  I designed a new computer chip that Apple just bought for a billion dollars!   What are you up to now?”

“Great to see you again!  I can’t stay long because I’m off to receive my Nobel Peace Prize!  What are you up to now?”

Well…I wrote a great fight scene yesterday…

*sigh*

The worst part of nostalgia for me is that from time to time — okay, all the freaking time — I have to remind myself of the things I’ve done that so few have.  I have to work to note the unquantifiable, immeasurable things in my life to which our modern society gives no worth or meaning:

I’ve stood on the deck of a small boat and watched the sun rise at sea, out of sight of any land…

I’ve watched a wolf pack bring down a huge bull elk…

I’ve snuck through a grizzly’s den…

I’ve stood in the middle of an arena and listened to thousands cheer…

I’ve stood on the Palatine and used my hands to read the past in inscriptions too faint for eyes…

I’ve been lost and had to follow the stars to get myself out of deep shit…

I’ve been drunk in the wardroom of a Royal Navy destroyer…

I’ve jumped from 15,000 feet with nothing but a hangover and a parachute…

I’ve touched a gun, a hundred feet underwater, that was last touched by a sailor trying to shoot down the plane that killed him…

I’ve heard, and written, the tears of a man who watched his best friend go down with the ship…

I’ve stood in a gas chamber at Auschwitz…

I’ve created characters and worlds, and I’ve destroyed them…

I’ve made readers laugh, and I’ve made them cry…

I have a photographic memory.  I don’t say that to brag, but to set the scene.  My memory does not mean I remember things like they were “photos,” by the way.  Rather, it means that I don’t forget, well, anything about the moments and scenes that make up my life.

Sight, smells, feelings…

I remember the first funeral I ever went to in just as much detail as the last.  I remember the friends I lost when I was young as much as the friend I so recently lost up here in Yellowstone.  I remember the first time I ever saw snow as much as the snowstorm currently blowing outside my window.

I remember the smells, and the atmosphere…

I remember the sounds, and the sights…

I remember the emotions and feelings of the scenes in my life as much as I do the details.  Can I tell you what color tie I wore to my middle school graduation?  Yes, I can.  But far more can I tell you about the fear and anxiety of moving on, mixed with the pride at being smart and capable.

As a writer, by the way, just how much material do you think comes from being able to remember the emotions and reality of the night you lost your virginity?  Or the first time you smoked pot?  Or the first night your parents caught you lying to them?

On the flip side, just how much do you think I would pay to rid myself of the night when the first of my friends committed suicide?  How much to forget the night my sister died?  The night my girlfriend told me she had aborted our child?

Okay, it’s time to repeat myself: I hate nostalgia.  More than that, I hate memory.  I hate it for a lot of reasons, but not least because the scenes and memories of my life never go away.  They never fade, and they never disappear.

That’s “great,” by the way, from a writing perspective.  It’s “great” because I always have a well of emotion and memory on which I can draw.  It sucks as the writer, however, because all of that loss and pain is as real today as it was yesterday…

P.s.

Okay, so given that I work very hard to avoid memory and nostalgia, why are most of my favorite songs so evocative of those very qualities?  No, really, WHY THE FUCK?!

Look, I know it’s a function of key and melody and lyrics, but I just can’t stop myself.  I’ve pointed out before a few songs that tend to hit me upside the head with the nostalgia-bat, but I’m going to link here a song that has been hitting me lately.  This song may not be the perfect expression of nostalgia and memory, but it is the song that is absolutely stuck in my head as I write this…

 

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