Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Opposite of Memories

I'm trying to invent a word this morning.  Here is what I've come up with so far:
Amnesiary (noun): The opposite of a memory.  Something hidden in the recesses of your brain whose impact is unknown or unfelt until something makes it pop into view.  The strength of a good amnesiary comes from how deeply it is buried in your psyche and what it induces you to act upon before it is (re)discovered.
I had an encounter with an amnesiary this morning.  When I woke up, I was dreaming about bears playing basketball.  I was sitting in the stands with a bunch of people.  In this performance area were two bears, shooting basketballs at a couple of hoops.  
I was in that mental state where dream and wakefulness are washing back and forth against each other.  I had enough presence of mind to think that it was a pretty weird thing to dream about when one of the bears I was watching turned toward me and started clapping its hands together after making a basket.  
It was then that I woke up and knew that it wasn't a dream.  I had seen these bears play basketball in real life.  
It was at a place called Japanese Village and Deer Park.  It used to be in Buena Park, close to Knott's Berry Farm, I think.  It was an amusement park inspired by the deers that roam the park in Nara, Japan before the Toudai-Ji or Great Eastern Temple where there is a huge statue of Buddha.  Japanese Village also had deer that would allow you to pet and feed them.  They were, according to my quick online search, imported from the same herd that roams Nara.  There were also dolphin and sea lion shows, karate and samurai demonstrations, and all the buildings were made to look like they were part of some Japanese village out in the countryside.  I went online and found a picture of the entrance: 

Now that I can read a little Japanese, I can tell that the Japanese is misspelled.  It's supposed to say the same as what is there in English, but what it looks like it's saying to me is "Deer of the Garden and a Village Today."  
It was while translating the Japanese on the sign I found that I began to wonder something.  I've been a Nippon-phile, someone interested in Japanese language and culture, for years now.  I usually put it down to my reading the novel "Shogun" by James Clavell.  The novel came out in 1975, the same year Japanese Village & Deer Park closed.  It was while reading Shogun that I first noticed myself becoming interesting in Japanese history, wondering about the truth behind what I was reading in the book.  This interest extended itself first to comic books and cartoons, manga and anime as it is called in Japan, and finally to learning the language itself.  
I'm now thinking that it was that visit to Japanese Village that started it all.  
Even as a little kid, I remembered thinking that the place was a little threadbare when we went.  I remember my mom laughing her head off at the "mangy ol' bear" that clapped every time he made a basket.  She was near to tears, laughing as she clapped along with him.  Even so, there was something...  Cool, about the place.  The service people all dressed in kimonos. The architecture.  It was all fake, but it was a different sort of fake.  
I remembered the samurai show.  The stage was supposed to be the inside of a roadside tea house, a narrator explained.  People would stop for food and rest during their journeys.  A serving girl, polite and demure, was serving the customers.  Two of the local samurai starting harassing her in rude ways.  She kept pushing them away, but they wouldn't stop.  
Finally, from the corner, a ronin stood to his feet.  It was the first time I'd heard the word, "ronin."  It literally translates as "wave man" and refers to a landless samurai that doesn't have a master to serve that comes and goes like the waves hitting the beach.  This ronin had seen enough and told the rude samurai to stop.  
Of course, they refused.  There wouldn't be a staged fight show without such a refusal.  In stunning, dramatic fashion, the ronin killed them both.  He returned to his table and sat down, sheathing his sword and drank his tea.  
The narrator said, "Thus, Honor was served!"  
Honor was served.  I had forgotten that.  But I hadn't lost it.  As a kid, maybe seven or eight years old, there was something in that show and in that place that stuck with me.  If it hadn't been for that visit to Japanese Village, I might not have picked up that book with the samurai's hilt on its cover.  I might not have started watching anime or reading manga, learning the language or traveling over the Pacific to visit the country when the opportunity presented itself.  
I've been trying to trying to recover other amensiaries this morning.  I've gone to the obvious places in my mind's past.  The library at my Junior High School where I first started reading science fiction.  The restaurants my parents would take us to while driving to or from my grandma and grandpa's house.  The creek that used to exist near the house I lived in during the last of my elementary school days in Diamond Bar, where my brother and I could catch frogs and crawdads and keep them in empty coffee cans and cleaned out mayonnaise jars.  That creak is gone.  Paved over and replaced by office buildings and businesses. 
I should have known I would fail in any effort to pluck an amnesiary from my head.  If I could recall them when I wanted they would be memories, not amnesiaries. 
You hold your cherished memories like little treasures.  They are kept safe and unchanging in the lock-box of your mind.  Amnesiaries are, in a way, more alive than memories.  Because they pluck at your attention without you knowing it.  Making you go "that way," instead of this way over here.  
I stopped trying to find other amnesiaries when I noticed I was hungry.  I had a craving for pancakes.  Pancakes I'd made myself.  So much so, I went out and bought a new stainless steel mixing bowl and a whisk to make them with.  
I was washing off the whisk prior to using it.  I looked at it.  I found myself thinking of...  Another whisk.  In my Mom's kitchen...  Maybe?  
It was gone.  I finished cleaning it, then got to mixing batter.  Probably a quick little amnesiary darting in my head, like a fish dashing away before the net could close.  


Blogger Robert A Vollrath said...

I have no short term memory from a car wreck in 1975 and my long term memory is bad.

My life is the opposite of memories. I enjoyed this post.

July 2, 2013 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

July 2, 2013 at 7:22 AM  

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