A Trip Down the Memory Hole

I have started writing compulsively again. In the past, I have had periods of time when I was consumed by an idea, or more likely, by a whole set of ideas, and I would write obsessively, but it has been quite some time since the last episode.

Over the course of the past month or so, I have been living through extended periods of lucid thought, recalling past experiences in great detail, essentially reliving the times and moments and places and people from various periods of my life. Often, the memories cut across time, linked not by time or place, but by the flow of thematic connections and relations. Also, there is a strong kinship with the concept expressed in the title of (1) Borge’s short story “The Garden of Forking Paths,” if you can imagine.

This stream-of-consciousness can be triggered by almost anything: a picture, a word, a phrase, a bit of music. I have let these memories flow, twist, and turn and only when they have subsided did I sit down to write a few notes, with the notation “DKos” on the top, providing just enough information for me to re-trigger the flow at a later time. I have twenty or thirty of these short notes stacked on my desk, none of which have actually become diaries.

The following diary, a nearly verbatim transcription from last night (Friday), started out as one of those short notes subsequent to an overwhelming series of detailed memories. As usual, I got my 5×8 yellow legal notepad and was about to start writing a note when I realized I couldn’t remember the initiating thought which had launched the thread. Oh well. I restarted the DVD I had been watching before this event triggered…and immediately put it on pause. One flash view of the first image on the screen brought it all back in all its flooding glory.

One short note before I begin the transcription: Usually, I put in the hyperlinks along the way, but I decided I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the narrative, so now it is more like footnotes.  The (1) Borge above is the first example of this. All these links appear at the bottom.

Now, onward to the transcript:

So I’m watching (2) “Hollywoodland” on DVD – never heard of it – never saw a preview – never read a review. Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins and some guy named Adrien Brody – I’ve seen his name before but to the best of my knowledge I’ve never seen him in a movie. Hollywoodland is about George Reeves (the original TV Superman actor) – played by Affleck, in a fictionalized account of Reeves life.

Brodie plays a Private Investigator – low level – low-life who stumbles into the police investigation of Reeves’ (supposed) suicide. At one point in the film Brodie is looking thru newspaper clippings – all compiled in a folder that some cop/friend gave him.

1st memory leap

How do movies make such authentic-looking newspaper reproductions? Before the Internet came along, some researcher, hired by the production company, would look through (3) microfiche and find old newspaper images + copy them – they make edits to the copy, insert pictures of the actor(s) into the actual, historical record – real, true headlines and stories-

2nd memory leap

My past experience at the University of Washington (UW) library – mid – 80s – who knows what I was researching at the time. I just remember going thru old records of old newspapers on microfiche.

memory 2 expands

I was not a student at UW – I couldn’t check out books or anything but I could use the library – this isn’t the Soviet union – they didn’t (and don’t, at least not yet) check for your student/faculty/staff ID at the door.

I first went in the library to read books. I had no money to speak of – I lived in a shared housing situation – I could afford to buy books for fifty cents at the used book stores near UW – but I was looking for specific titles and my local Seattle Public Library didn’t have them. This was, of course, before everything was interconnected by the Internet.

I would go into the UW library and flip through the (4) index cards in the card catalogue (thousands of little drawers arranged alphabetically) to find an author or a book title (two different sets of drawers). I would copy down the info on the location of the book(s) – based on a number derived from the (5) Dewey decimal system.

–Now, I couldn’t check out any book I might find so I had to read the book right there in the library. I didn’t sit in the comfy lounge chairs spread out around the library. No. I sat in a carrel – by a window so I could get some daylight – fluorescent lights have always bothered me – on a hard chair.

In a carrel, I had a desktop to place my notebook. I would read and take notes, often for hours at a time.

The next day, or a few days later, or whenever I could get there again, I would return to the library and, using my original Dewey decimal notes, find the book again and continue reading.

I read entire books like this and I still have the notebooks that I filled with my writing.

One time, I was working away in my favorite carrel and a woman came up and said-Excuse me, that’s my carrel. I replied-Oh, I had no idea.

While I packed up my stuff to move to another spot, I asked her about how it came to be that she had a carrel. She explained that grad students could apply for their own desk in the library – to do research etc – and that they could keep specific books that they were working with on the shelf above the desk.

I crossed paths with her on a number of occasions.

3rd memory leap

OK – enough of that digression. To re-cap – I started with the movie –  went to the microfiche and the library — and now I’m going to make the final (I think) leap to computers. Mind you, this is still the mid-eighties (first saw a computer in 1970, etc.)

:: :: ::

It was at this point that I realized that the few simple notes I had intended to write at the outset had expanded into something else entirely and could possibly be actual text for a diary. I stopped this string of ideas and wrote notes for the intro to this diary, as written at the top. I made a note of this interlude on my 5×8 notepad.

It took a while to write those intro notes, so for me, I was gone a long time from this part of my notes. My original note pages, which I am transcribing now, were numbered 1-2-3-etc. so for the intro notes I used A-B-C.

:: :: ::

To continue. I have lost track of time. I do not know what time I started writing these notes. I still haven’t seen the end of Hollywoodland.

Where was I? Oh yeah – computers. I had noticed in the UW library that there were rows of computers. One time, I asked at the third floor info desk about what the policy was for using the computers. The student working there told me anyone could use them. She handed me a basic set of user instructions.

Prior to this, I had some limited experience with computers (a few days ago I made notes – still in the stack of potential diaries on my desk – for a diary to be titled, “A Brief History of Computers, 5000 BCE to Present” – with a h/t to (6) Hawkings.)

My user experience at the time I approached the 3rd floor desk consisted of: ONE day on a job using (7) Lotus 1-2-3, which I had never seen before and was the first time I ever touched a keyboard connected to a computer; some co-writing w/ a friend of mine who had a computer; and a number of visits to a coffee house that had computers available to anyone, as long as you had a beverage in front of you. All of this was pre-mouse, keyboard and text-based data entry only. But at the coffee shop and at UW library there was an Internet connection. (I don’t think it was called “the Internet” in those days.)

The 4 computers just mentioned – work – friend – coffee house – UW – were all completely different entities – interface – software etc.

With my basic set of user instructions in hand, I sat down at the UW computer for the first time and…

At this point, I have to stop writing. It’s late, I’m tired, and I want to watch the end of the movie and go to sleep. I can continue this tomorrow.


It took about thirty more minutes to watch the end of the movie, and I skipped the end credits.

I’m going to read for a bit and go to sleep. I am almost to the end of (8) “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Horace McCoy and hope to finish it soon.

End of transcript.


Got up this morning, typed transcript, did research, got links etc. and prepared to upload. I didn’t sleep well last night so I’m too tired today to continue the computer thread right now. Look for Part Two tomorrow.

:: :: :: ::

(1) Borge’s short story “The Garden of Forking Paths,”

(2) “Hollywoodland”  

(3) microfiche    

(4) index cards in the card catalogue  

(5) Dewey decimal system  

(6) Stephen Hawkings  

(7) Lotus 1-2-3  

(8) “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by  Horace McCoy  

Crossposted at the big orange

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