Category Archives: memory

MLKing National Memorial

As I’ve noted recently, this month marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember the particulars of 4/4/1968 as much as I do 11/22/1963, for instance. I have recently elucidated about the importance of Dr. King in my social development.

I’ve only recently discovered a group that is “commemorating his life and work by creating a memorial in our nation’s capital. The Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial will honor his life and contributions to the world through non violent social change.”

There is a website,, that includes videos, photos, banners, and an opportunity to donate money to the creation of the memorial.

“After many years of fund raising, the memorial is only $14 million away from its $120 million goal.”
Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class (NYT, 4/14)

The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are
disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Why is this absolutely unsurprising?

Interestingly, Dr. King’s last efforts were not based on just racial equality, but on economic justice. But economic justice is like water on dry ground; it lifts ALL boats up.
Democracy Now! spoke to the mayor of my hometown yesterday, Binghamton’s (NY) Matt Ryan. “He’s taken an unusual step to remind the city’s residents about the expanding costs of the wars. Early next week, the city of Binghamton plans to install a large digital ‘cost of war’ counter on the facade of City Hall. The counter will show that the residents of the city have already spent $138 million on the wars since 2001.” More here.

This reminds me that MLK’s opposition to the Vietnam war in 1967 was not exactly a popular move, either with the LBJ administration or with most civil rights leaders.
I got an message from an old high school chum. (Why is it that certain people you remember instantly, and others are…who is that again?)
He wrote: “I can remember a speech you gave one day in an assembly. The idea being that racial equality had to do with even more than having a black person star in a deodorant commercial (which at the time was progress!) It made an impact that lasted…you never know what will, do you?”

Boy, I wish I could remember the context of that speech…


Remember the Date QUESTION

There are dates throughout the year that, without prompting from calendars or news stories, remind me of something that happened in the past, external to myself or my family. April 4, for instance, I always remember as the day in 1968 that Martin Luther King, Jr. got shot. Other days that seem to stick in my mind:

January 28, 1986 – the Challenger disaster. Oddly, the Columbia disaster of February 1, 2003 doesn’t though I do remember that it was around Groundhog’s Day as I was heading for a MidWinter’s party at the time.
May 4, 1970 – the Kent State disaster. It’s codified by that song. No, not Ohio by CSNY, but that annoying Mike Love rewrite of Leiber & Stoller’s Riot on Cell Block #9 called Student Demonstration Time, which appears on the otherwise excellent Beach Boys album Surf’s Up.
America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard
Though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree
The Bachelor of Bullets

It also features the classic line: “The pen is mightier than the sword, but no match for a gun.”
May 8, 1972 – the mining of Haiphong harbor in North Vietnam, which many people feared represented an escalation of the war. Much student activism around the country followed, including at my campus.
June 5, 1968 -RFK’s assassination, which I’ve wrote about before.
July 7, 1940 – R8ingo Starr’s birthday. George’s birthday moved from February 25 to February 24, and Paul’s birthday I confuse with Brian Wilson’s in mid-June, but Ringo’s I remember. Maybe it’s because it seems lucky – 7/7- and I recall aan LP called The Beatles’ Story which indicated that Ringo was the final ingredient necessary to create the magic of Beatlemania. He’s also the question to this answer: JEOPARDY! Show #5647 – Tuesday, March 10, 2009 HE SAID, SHE SAID for $1200: “Sorry Beatles fans, he said he has “too much to do, so no more fan mail…& no objects to be signed”
I also am reminded of the 2005 London bombings on that date.
August 28, 1963 – march on Washington, “I Have a Dream” speech
September 11, 2001 – Moby’s 35th birthday; I remember this because I often play the music of a particular musician on his or her birthday, especially those birthdays divisible by five. I’ve since wondered how it would be to have a birthday so associated with tragedy such as 9/11. (The Bloody Sunday march from Selma to Montgomery took place on my 12th birthday, and I remember it quite well, but it didn’t have anywhere near the same scope.)
October 4, 1987 – a freak Albany snowstorm that knocked out power to some people for a couple weeks. I was out only four days.
October 9, 1940 – I do remember John Lennon’s birthday, and that of his son Sean 35 years later. But I was reminded by my one-time office mate that it’s also Jackson Browne’s birthday, but I couldn’t tell you what year without looking it up. (It’s 1948.)
November 22, 1963 – the JFK assassination. I had a girlfriend who, for every Thanksgiving blessing, would invoke the memory of JFK.
December 8, 1980 – John Lennon’s death.
December 24, 1990 – the death of Sandy Cohen, the tenor soloist of my church choir at the time. He had had two or three heart attacks before that, one of them during a church service, which he wouldn’t leave until he finished “the gig”, so it shouldn’t have surprised us, yet it did.

Given my personal history, it’s quite possible that I will add April 3, 2009 to the list.

How about you? What events always stick in your mind when the date rolls around? I’m looking for the births, deaths, anniversaries, but not of family members – which I’m SURE you all remember. I’m also ignoring holidays and quasi-holidays (January 1, February 2 & 14, March 17, April 1, June 14, July 4, November 11, December 25) as well, unless something else is triggered by it.


I am fascinated by those people who can meet a roomful of people and recite every one of their names; that’s not me. At all. This article, by contrast, is very much me.

1. What is your earliest memory? Mine seems to be me at the late, lamented Catskill Game Farm inside a metal pumpkin when I was about three. Although now that I think of it, do I actually remember it, or do I remember the picture of it? Same with those “frozen in time” memories: do I remember the JFK assassination, or am I now remembering my own retelling of the event?

2. What are you good at remembering? Names, dates, places? I find that if it has a numeric hook, I’m more likely to recall it: some credit card numbers, our license plate number, certain dates. I remember the date in 1974 that I saw Joni Mitchell (August 22); on the other hand, I was waiting all summer for that concert, and it turned out to be pretty much of a disaster.
Other dates I can remember if I can hook it to another date or at least period. Carol and I often refer to things as B.L. and A.L. – before and after Lydia, as a point of reference. When did we see some play? (Probably B.L.) Having the blog helps in this regard.
Whereas names commonly escape me. Let’s say I see a bank teller every day for two years, and refer to her by name; she leaves the bank, I see her six months later, I remember HER, but her NAME has escaped me. Oddly, the facts about her (where she lives, what she likes, the pets she owns) stays with me. It’s only the actual name that fades, not the person’s identity.

3a. Do you worry about losing your memory? I do, when certain words don’t come immediately to me, usually specific terms that I learned later in life, such as that big piece of furniture in my bedroom that holds my clothes for the last four years. What IS that? Oh yes, armoire. I was a dresser and closet guy and “armoire” does not come immediately to mind; the fact that I don’t really LIKE the armoire certainly has nothing to do with remembering its name, does it?
3b. Did you ever have a false memory? I SWEAR I saw Jose Canseco get his 40th stolen base in Oakland, to join the 40/40 club in 1988. But looking at the Baseball Almanac, it appears that he got his 40th HR on September 18 in Oakland, where I’ve been, but didn’t get his 40th steal until 5 days later in Milwaukee, where I’ve never been. I definitely saw the 40th SOMETHING, but I seem to have dreamed the rest. Did that ever happen to you?

Farce or Habit

I was never much on the use of drugs. I’ve tried marijuana, though not in a very long time, and it generally just made me sleepy. Most other things I was too scared to do at all.

So, I was fascinated to find in my spring 1982 journal’s back cover this short exhortation:

As we all know, most cartoonists (as well as other creative people) often consume mass quantities of dope.
This stimulates the free flow of ideas which would otherwise remain untapped in the subconscious –
Some of the ideas are even good.
Unfortunately, most drugs are illegal.
This seems petty, arbitrary, and unfair, particularly for the cartoonist, since he or she, unlike the business person at a 3 martini lunch, is unable to deduct this purchase as a business expense for income tax purposes.
Why such discrimination? we’d like to see it stopped!
Write to your Congressperson today.

Seriously, I have no recollection of writing it, but it’s in my hand, complete with a correction – I changed the word expenditure to purchase because later in that sentence, I wrote expense.

I mention this as a defense for Barack Obama over this issue. Sometimes, you DO just forget.


Movies Forgotten QUESTION

I got an e-mail from my eldest niece Rebecca this week: I just finished reading your blog from today and from this past week… I enjoy watching movies, too, like you do, and I was wondering if you have seen “Six Degrees of Separation” with Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing, and a young Will Smith. If so, I was curious as to what you thought of it… I just watched it last night and to me, it took a while to get started, but then it became a bit more interesting. However, after the movie, I was left to think about the whole story, and I just don’t know really what to make of it and wanted to know what you thought about it, if you’ve even seen it. Among other things, most of the acting by the “children” in the movie seemed so forced, I wasn’t sure if that was meant to be that way or not…
She clarified later: About the “children”, I put the word in parentheses because even though they were young adults in college, they over-acted like they were spoiled 10 year olds. It was kinda weird…

Also, I had hoped to have a guess at one of your movie quotes, but no such luck… Not even a poor guess! Well, I did know the “Shawshank Redemption” one, but it was already figured out…

Well, Rebecca, I DID see this 1993 film, probably at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany (as opposed to on video, which, I believe, makes a difference in the viewing experience). I recall that I liked it, I was absorbed by the story. And while I remember the adults and young Will, I have no particular recollection of the acting abilities of the younger characters – which included Heather Graham and Anthony Michael Hall. I do recall at the time that I thought the whole thing was a bit stagy, and just a bit preachy.

That’s what happens when you see a lot of movies, I was reminded, when I was looking at Buffalo blogger Jaquandor’s list of his top 100 movies. There at #64 was Eating Raoul (1982) which I most certainly saw at the Spectrum’s predecessor, The 3rd Street Cinema in Troy. I probably even know who I saw it with. But the details of the movie, beyond the broad premise of whacking people with frying pans, has gone hazy. I recall laughing a LOT at the time, in part because I had a friend named Raoul, but also because I thought it was a real hoot, the juxtaposition of this uptight couple with their entrepreneurial ways. Seems that I should probably watch it again.

And it doesn’t have to be older films that can slip away. In preparing to watch the Oscars, I was trying to recall all the films of Tilda Swinton I had seen. There was that bizarro-worlds trip Orlando (1992) and Adaptation (2002) and Broken Flowers (2005). But what was that movie, you know, it had a lot of water in it? Oh, yeah, 2001’s The Deep End. I remember being engaged in the movie, but until I read the plot synopsis, the story line had all but abandoned me.

So here’s the question for you all: what movies have you seen in the past that you liked well enough at the time, but that are slipping from your particular memories?

Oh, if you look at last Saturday’s post, you’ll find the answers to the movie quotes quiz.

Thanks, Rebecca, for the posting idea.