A Question Of Memory

I’m still thinking back on parts of the conversation Tim and I had with the lovely ladies of Dark Matter the other day. This morning I found myself wondering more about the extent to which we are defined by our pasts, and what it would be like to suddenly forget it all; to have to define ourselves anew. Much of the show’s first season was spent with each character trying to get at the truth of who they were, of their own backstories. They woke up not even remembering their own names, let alone anything that had happened in their pasts and what led them to being where they were. Now, as the second season premiere grows ever closer (and they wrap shooting for the season on set today), I’m looking forward to watching them move forward to define who they are now.

I was wondering what that would be like, to not remember anything of my life before now. What kind of person would I be? What would I like, or dislike? How would I relate to the world around me, and how much would I understand? How would I define myself, what would be important to me, and how much of who I am is innate, as compared to the amount which has been shaped by my past experiences?

Would I still love bears?!

If I couldn’t remember meeting Hudson, would I still have some sense of familiarity when I saw him? Or would I just wonder why the f*ck I have a polar bear tattooed on my arm?

Memories are of course a huge part of who we are, even – in some cases – when past memories have been repressed. They fuel our passions, they propel our fears, they add colour new experiences even as new memories are being made. Our cells have memory, our bodies have memory, and of course our minds hold the most overt memories of all. I know why I don’t like being tickled – and am pretty sure I still wouldn’t like it even if I had no past memories of the experience. I remember eating chocolate ice cream pretty much every day when I was young, but would I realize I like it if I couldn’t remember eating it before? Would eating it without those memories be kind of like trying it for the first time all over again?

If I encountered people, places or things I loved but couldn’t remember loving them, would they still feel the same to me? Would they feel safe and warm and comfortable to me? Or would I pass them by without giving them a second glance? Would I have the same fears, or abilities? Would my dreams remember and give me clues to things I’d forgotten? Would my heart still know who I was at my core, even if my mind could not remember?

Are any of us actually anything in particular at our cores? I mean, I guess it’s the Nature vs Nurture debate, really. Just with part of a life lived with one set of experiences shaping it, and then another part of the same life with no real recollection of the first part. It’s interesting, though. There is already such a huge disconnect between how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. What if we couldn’t see the same selves we saw before, anymore? How much of our former selves would be retained, and how much would change?

How hard would we try to get back to our former selves? How much would we rely on others who knew us to tell us who we were? Would we eventually let that person go, and choose to define our new selves, at some point?

How much of our memory is real, reliable and accurate to begin with?

St. Patrick’s Day

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

There was a time – a long time – when I was all over this day like green on a leprechaun. But lately, I think I’m just not feeling it anymore. Kind of sad, really, though I am wearing a green shirt. It’s the t-shirt I made for my first novel, Carving The Light, so it’s a shameless bit of self-promotion, too.

I don’t think I really have much Irish in me, anyway, but still. St. Patrick’s Day was always a thing. My grandma used to send us cards every year, and sign them “Nanny O’Park”. There’d always be a cute verse or something on them, ’cause the Irish always have a way with prayers and toasts, among other things! My mom later took up the card-sending mantle, too, though given that I only have the one mom, there wasn’t much need for a last name to go with the O’. Regardless, though, it was always a day we marked, in my family.

Then, you know, alcohol came along. I think I’ve only ever actually had one green beer in my life, it was always the plan to go find a place to drink with peers on the evening of the 17th. Or the afternoon/evening. Or…whatever. You get the idea! Drinking happens on this day!

Or, for me, it used to. Recent years, not so much. Like today I am at work, then meeting a friend to go shopping for wool (more on that another time, perhaps), then home to walk the dog, feed the critters, watch TV and go to bed. I even have beer in my fridge that I could drink, but probably won’t because I am hella tired. There always used to be a plan, though. Always.

There was one year not long after I moved to Toronto, I was working, and wanted to go somewhere with my coworkers after, but none of us knew the city very well yet. One guy finally remembered an Irish pub nearby that we could check out, and since it was crazy cold out that year, we all agreed to make a go of it. Really, if there was green beer, nothing else mattered, by that point.

So we closed up, trekked through the frigid temperatures to this alleged Irish pub. When we finally arrived, my one friend and I just looked at the guy and shook our heads.

It was called the Artful Dodger.

About as un-Irish as you can get. Our friend who had suggested it was Trinidadian, though, so he was forgiven for not really spotting the difference on appearance alone. And, as it was so cold out, we decided we didn’t care as much about atmosphere as we did about alcohol, so we promptly went inside.

It was actually kind of dead, but cozy and warm. The bartender greeted us with a friendly shout in our direction, and assured us that she had green food colouring for the beer if we wanted it. So we stayed.

Truth be told, that was actually an iconic meeting in the course of my life. The moment I laid eyes on the bartender that night, I knew I not only wanted to stay, but that I’d want to keep going back to the Dodger (as we came to call it) on a regular basis.

Her name was Garvie, and there was something about her that just drew me in and think I needed her in my life.

As such, we all ended up going to the Dodger on a very regular basis. Sometimes we could call ahead and let them know who would be arriving just in time for last call, and they’d have our regular drink orders ready for when we walked in the door. One of the employees, Lizz, became my roomate and then best friend, which she remains to this day. We had staff parties there, birthday parties, when there’s a delay on the subway, sometimes I just go in to have a beer and wait for the mess to clear so I can go home. My ball team went to the Dodger some Sundays for brunch and beers after a morning game. It became my Cheers – where everybody knew my name.

And as for Garvie, after…probably a good decade of stalking her and following her around like a love-sick puppy, we finally had several drinks together one night, and I’d apparently reached an age/maturity where she could now talk to me as more of an equal. Instead of the aforementionned love-sick stalker puppy. Next thing I knew, we were actual friends, and even though she’s moved far away and we barely talk anymore, I know she’s out there, and still a loving part of my world. I even fired off a quick email to her a few minutes ago to tell her that this is the anniversary of the first time we met. I can’t remember which year, but at least I remember the day!

The Dodger and I…I keep taking breaks from it – sometimes for years at a time – but I always seem to end up back there eventually. I remember laughing with friends back in the beginning, saying that if we were in our 40’s and still drinking at the Dodger, that we’d want to be shot and put out of our misery. But here I am in my 40’s, still drinking at the Dodger, and I kind of love it. It’s my place. Even when much time goes by, it’s still the one spot where everybody knows my name. Or some people know my name. The main thing is that it’s familiar; it has that homey feeling to it that can’t be replaced with any other spot. Even though some things have changed over the years, there is a lot that stays the same, including many of the faces I see when I swing by there.

I miss the Garvie doodles on my receipt. I miss knowing every staff member’s life as one knows a friend. But it’s like McDonald’s, in a way. When you’re craving a Big Mac, there’s only one place you’re going to go, and no other burger will do. Same with the Dodger. When I want that feeling of comfort and safety and familiarity, even if I am a regular in other places now, there’s still only one place I’m going to go.

My non-Irish pub. Just, you know, not tonight. Tonight I’ll be even less Irish than a British pub, but that’s okay. I know the Dodger is there whenever I need it to be.

The Rest Is Silence”