Last week I went and saw The Replacements at the Masonic in San Francisco. While I was out there, alone in the crowd, being shoved and jostled by five thousand other Mats fans trying to recapture a bit of their youth, I was struck by a terrible thought. Well, actually, several terrible thoughts.
A lot of folks take a time like that to enjoy some nostalgia, remember what made the good times good. Me? I’ve never had much of a memory, so dredging up the past can be a precarious business.
I’m sure I’ve been accused in my life of having a selective memory (I can’t say for sure, ‘cause I can’t rightly remember), but it occurred to me in that moment: one can have a selective memory, but have NO control over the memories selected.
You see, the black smoke billowing up from my cavernous memory gland was asphyxiating. These weren’t clear-cut flashbacks either, not the celluloid trips into history that make you feel like your life is a bad made-for-TV movie, quite the opposite. These were half-formed scenes, half-remembered truths. More akin to the hard-to-place feeling when an olfactory response is triggered by a childhood smell like an empty lunchbox, or peanut butter and jelly. Or the copper taste of blood on your tongue.
As The Replacements blasted through their catalog, songs that seemed so goddamn important in my 20s, I was assaulted by the bad feelings paired with some of the awful decisions I’d made back then. I tried to articulate this to Joe Clifford (who graciously got me the ticket, forcing me to endure this bittersweet sensory nightmare) after the show and he just smiled at me like I I was nuts.
None of these recollections were clear. I’d be enjoying a song, trying half-heartedly to remember the words when I’d cringe. Really cringe. Not knowing why or what brought it on, but cringing nonetheless. Sometimes a scene, a picture, a face would float up and I’d know why. Shit. Deaths, deeds, delusions, drinking, and dope. They weren’t the memories I’d have chosen, but they were the ones I was stuck with.
Yeah, you can have a selective memory, but don’t think you’re going to have the luxury of lining its gallery with the pictures you want.
So, I’ll leave you here with a semi-appropriate quote from Joseph Conrad:
Oh, if it were only that easy …