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Things that remind you of other things
by Branden Hart
It happens to all of us. You wake up in the morning feeling like shit, you get yelled at for being a dumbass at work, you leave work to find you have a flat tire, you break a finger changing your tire, the people at the tire place charge you an inordinate amount of money to plug the tire, you get stuck in horrible traffic, you're out of cigarettes, and THEN, a song comes on the radio. A song you haven't heard in years. A song that transports you back to a time in your life that, as you listen to the melody, becomes clear as crystal.
Let's face it—our brains can do some pretty weird things. One of the strangest things to me is the way our brains form associations between the events in our lives and the mundane things that were present at those events. When this happens, you're left with a feeling of nostalgia that transcends all others. It's something different than regular reminiscence—it's something more.
So here a few of the memory-inducing things in my life.
1. Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue
The very first time I heard this song I was driving back from Austin to San Antonio after what I can say is one of the best weekends of my life. Basically, a good friend who happened to be a gorgeous woman was in town, we went out to a huge party, there was lots of extremely unexpected sex and lots of booze. So the weekend was infused with plenty of intense emotions in the first place. I had just bought Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3 and hadn't listened to it yet. I popped it in after I dropped my friend off. I'll never forget cruising down I-35, the sunset in front of me, and hearing the first chords of that song. I'd never heard it before, and being that it's about unexpected love and old lovers reuniting, it was instantly significant to me. I can't hear that song now without thinking about that weekend. It's a brilliant feeling.
2. Final Fantasy II
I'm going with the American numbering system here. This game was THE reason I had to have a Super Nintendo. Fuck Super Mario World, fuck the new Zelda, FFII was what I needed. When I finally got it, one of my best friends and I played for days until we finally beat it. Now, this game is something else. The story is incredible. You go to the moon, for Christ's sake. I would be out mowing the yard as fast as possible so I could get over to Ryan's house and find out what happened next. Would the Dragoon eventually betray us? Would the summoner chick ever take her clothes off? So when, about six months ago, Final Fantasy IV Advance (which is a duplicate of Final Fantasy II—I know it's confusing, all you need to know is it's the same game) I picked one up for my DS. From the first screen, memories of my time playing that game flooded back. It was a great time in my life—I was in seventh grade, things were going my way—but I'll never forget the first time I was exposed to a video game that I can truly say is artistic.
3. Michael Ende's The Neverending Story
The book, not the movie. I mean, the movie was great—a classic. The sequel with Jonathan Brandis (RIP) sucked donkey balls, but even after watching it, I felt compelled to read the book. This novel is hands down one of the greatest children's stories ever written. Tolkein's longwinded ass has nothing on this book. I read it when I was ten, and while I had been writing for years before that, this book is single-handedly responsible for inspiring me to write novels. I was taking the bus to school in those days, and it got to my house damn early. I had about an hour and a half from getting picked up to when school actually started, and all the guys on the bus and in the cafeteria were busy playing thumps or scorps and getting bruised up, so I had plenty of time to bury my head in books. The adventures in that story are so amazing that I actually started a novel immediately after finishing it. Being ten, I didn't really have the dedication to finish it, but every time I see that book in a store, or take out my old copy and read a few pages, I can actually smell that cafeteria, can feel myself sitting in my old desk in Mrs. Goodman's classroom, rushing through my math work so I could read another chapter.
4. Outkast's Southernplayalisticadillacmusik
You go to college for your first year. You taste freedom—you relish it. You come into your own. And then, the year is over, and you go home to stay with your parents for the summer. If you have gone through that experience, you remember it, because it sucks. All of a sudden, your freedom is ripped from you. It doesn't matter that your parents tell you just to let them know when you get home—you don't have a curfew anymore. It doesn't matter that they say you can have people over and drink as long as nobody drives home. It doesn't matter that all of the rules you were accustomed to in high school are gone. There's still that freedom missing. Not to mention I had started drinking and partying, and found a whole new circle of friends to hang out with. Combine that, and you have a summer you'll never forget. And my soundtrack for that summer was Outkast's first album. Not only is it an unbelievable freshman album, it was perfect for rolling around to parties. Step out of the car with Crumblin' Herb bumping, and you feel like a fucking champ. I can't hear that CD these days without thinking of driving to pasture parties, drinking Old Milwaukee, and reuniting with old friends.
In each of these examples, there is something underlying the memory: unforgettable sexual experiences, the genesis of a desire to write, reunions with friends. I suppose that's the key to embedding memories in a song, or a book, or even a videogame. It's the combination of intense emotions and aesthetic pleasure. It only comes along once in awhile, but when it does, it's one of the most pleasurable experiences anyone can have.
So what things remind you of other things? It's time to reminisce folks. Let's try not to get all teary.
Ah, Uberchief. Once again you've mistaken something for something.