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Brain Freeze

In which our protagonist found out where it all went.

I like pontificating on arcane subjects, especially those where I have an ounce of knowledge, as much as the next person. To keep myself sharp and raconteur-able, however, new information must be added to my warehouse of odd facts, strange reminiscences, and outright fabrications. Of late, the acquisition of new stuff has been a real challenge. I wonder about this - am I finally at that place where my brain has lost its elasticity? Can I dump older neurally stored data and replace it with newer, fresher stuff? Can I still remember old things? Is that what late late middle age means? These are upsetting thoughts.

Then, two nights ago, I found out why I was struggling with learning newer stuff. Dancing through the internet as is my wont, I decided to check out the Billboard Top 100 for 1984 - my last full year in college. Hoping to immerse myself in those endorphin flushed months, I reviewed the list of songs that had made it to the top that year. My first reaction was to wonder, how did “Say Say Say” - the Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson duet actually come in at #4? I had almost - almost forgotten that song and, in trying to hum it to myself, realized that I didn’t really remember how it went. I opened up YouTube and watched the Paleozoic Era video and instantly recalled the chorus (I believe it is “Say Say Say” by the way). While the not very catchy lyrics echoed, I scanned the list of the other Top Hits that year.

I was stunned to realize that with the single exception of “Say Say Say” I could recall every single song. One hundred songs, each about 3 to 4 minutes long, and I could hear them all in my head. I exclaimed to Erin about this phenomena and she, with some trepidation, allowed me to sing the chorus of each song in order. We have a strong marriage. After 15 examples of a range of mid-80s pop rock, my point was made. Also, Erin seemed to have lost interest. What was remarkable to me was that, yes, I remembered them all.

My brain space was, therefore, filled with organic digital files of those 100 hits. All of them. Further, each of those hits often had other songs on their albums (note for young people: Albums are physical collections of songs by a single artist, oftentimes with engaging notes about the songs) and I remembered a bunch of them as well. Further further, there were a number of albums I purchased that year which never made the Top 100 (like most of my collection) but which I could ALSO still remember.

A quick scan of the Top 100 of 1983 and 1985 revealed that, yes, all those songs were also stored in my head. I would bet that there are thousands of songs just taking up space between my ears. Who needs them? But if they were to come on the radio (Note to young people (2): Radio is a device that plays a curated list of music put together by someone else). I wondered how far back this act of pointless storage went - could I remember all the songs from 1979? 1976? How far forward - 1990? The mind boggles - if it has the space to boggle, that is.

I had found my lost space, the garbage that swells my memory impeding the acquisition of much that is new. For every “Church of the Poison Mind” by Culture Club (Note for young people: er, never mind) there is Prince’s “When Doves Cry”, a yin to the yang of pop culture. These songs are the modern equivalent of those dozens of videos on your smartphone that record the passing scenery from a car - you thought it was a good idea at the time but you have since forgotten it and it soaks up hundreds of megs of data, never to be looked at again. They are all in there, jostling for attention, just hoping for that chance to stand and shine. Unlike my smartphone, however, there is no way to wipe them from existence. I’ll just have to find a different storage device for all the new stuff I want to know - this brain is full.

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