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Something Lost [Jan. 12th, 2003|06:20 am]
For many years, I went for walks in the evening along Valley Boulevard in Alhambra. Several times a week I would leave my house, walk up the hill past the mental hospital (must write something about the mental hospital someday), past the ice house and grocery store on the corner (must write something about the ice house and grocery store someday), under the freeway (I don't think I'll write about that), and a bit more than half a mile north along New Avenue to Valley Boulevard. There are a lot of things along Valley Boulevard that I could write about someday, but the particular thing which led me to mention these walks tonight is a small Italian restaurant that stood on a corner about two miles west of New Avenue. I didn't walk that far very often, but that particular restaurant somehow developed the ability to evoke a particular feeling in me, which I never quite got into words.

From time to time, it still pops into my memory, as it did tonight. Whenever it does, that feeling, compounded of anticipation, mystery, desire and a strange overtone of sadness, inevitably returns. This is not the result of any experience I had in the place, mind you. In fact, I only ever went into the place once. The feeling arose the very first time I passed the restaurant, which was in a low, nondescript concrete block structure, its windows covered with thin blinds, never fully closed, but through which little could be seen. The main reason I didn't go into the place for so long was because I feared that the experience would alter the way I felt about it, and the feeling would be lost forever. When I finally did go in, my fears proved to be unfounded. My sense of the place was altered, but the feeling was neither diminished nor clarified by the experience.

It has been a while since I thought of that place. When a vision of it came into my mind tonight, triggered I think by the still, damp air lingering here, and which is an air I associate with a particular evening when I passed that place, I had an unexpected shock. Since the last time I thought of it, I have forgotten the name of the restaurant. (Thus all the generic references to it.) I think the name started with an A, but I'm not sure. I am surprised that I forgot, and even more surprised that I find the fact so distressing. Now, I'm wondering what other bits and pieces of my past have slipped away unawares. I know that I have forgotten other names, but this particular name is one I never expected to forget. This name was like a particular stitch in a piece of cloth, the loss of which might cause the whole cloth to begin unraveling. I still retain the sense of the place, but I no longer know what to call it. It is as though the time and the place and I have all come detached from the earth, and are drifting in this distant night, and are soon to dissolve in this damp air.

[User Picture]From: jaarronn
2003-01-12 06:36 am (UTC)
Yes, it is disconcerting how bits of information begin to slip from our minds or memory banks. But how strange it is that we can remember associative impressions and feelings so vividly but not the names of the people, places or things they are connected to.

The phenomena of deja vu is something that comes from this, I'm sure. So often, I find my mind suddenly remembering an entire episode that seems to have no connection with realtime or place...and worse, no connection to anything I can recall - Yet, I am certain that I did experience it...somewhere...sometime...
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2003-01-13 07:04 am (UTC)
I haven't been able to find any reference to it on the Internet, but some eighteen years ago I read an article in a psychology journal (I can't remember which one-- I was doing research for a college class and dipped into quite a few) which explained deja vu as a malfunction of the circuitry in the brain. We have both short term and long term memories, stored in different places. Every sensory input normally goes into short term memory immediately, and our minds then scan long term memory looking for similar situations, so that we can recognize things and decide what to do in response to whatever is going on.

For example, seeing the little furry creature running across the road, the sight is recorded in short term memory and instantly our long term memory is scanned until information about the creature is found there and then we know that it is a squirrel, or a possum, or whatever, and we know what it is likely to do, based on our previous experience or on other knowledge we have gleaned about it. This all happens so quickly that we are unaware of the process.

But sometimes there is a mis-routing of the incoming sensory input, and it is recorded in long term memory before it is recorded in short term memory. The mind, searching through long term memory for information on the current situation finds not just information similar to that which is coming in, but identical to it. Thus, in a sense, You have lived through that moment before, but only very, very recently. Because the information has only just come in to long term memory, it isn't yet connected to anything outside itself-- in essence, you haven't mulled it over and decided where it fits in your storehouse of knowledge. This gives it that odd, detached-from-reality feel.

If I recall the article correctly, this phenomenon is usually the result of a small, highly localized and (usually) temporary electro-chemical brain dysfunction-- popularly known as a seizure, but it can also be caused by small strokes. Fans of parapsychology tend to be very annoyed by this notion, I have found. This is not surprising, given the important role the phenomenon of deja vu plays in most of those belief systems which revolve around psychic abilities and paranormal events. I can't say I blame them. The world is, at least potentially, much more malleable to our desires when it is full of magical abilities than when it is bounded by the mundane materialistic explanations of science. Such magic also makes for more entertaining stories, which likely explains why most of the work in that genre called science fiction could more accurately be termed pseudo-science fiction. It's just a lot more fun. Also, I doubt that anyone will ever write a song lyric about electro-chemical brain dysfunction that will be as good as Where or When. Still, it's nice to know, when deja vu strikes, that one is not going crazy, and that time has not come unhinged.
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[User Picture]From: jaarronn
2003-01-13 02:51 pm (UTC)
Though not a ‘fan’ of parapsychology, I’ll admit that sometimes -such ‘explanations’ for the ‘unexplainable’ are entertaining. But, on the other hand, real or proven explanations are often equally, if not more fascinating.

Whatever the causes or reasons, I’m finding my short term memory seems to short circuit much more than my long term memory with every passing year.

~: > 0
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[User Picture]From: marseille
2003-01-12 11:39 am (UTC)
Strange how a place that is no longer in existence can still seem to be there, also. Where I live things are constantly being knocked down and other things built in their place, even though the structures weren't so old. It feels sometimes like the different versions of the places still exist, in different times, and that I could access them somehow. Only in memory, I guess, but memory is so strong sometimes that it feels possible.
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