Tuesday, December 13, 2016

If you can't have perfect recall, this is a good substitute

A few weeks ago, I went out on a date with a guy who has a form of Superior Autobiographical Memory. He has the ability to remember everything that has ever happened to him in vivid visual detail, to the point that he was the subject of psychological studies when he was younger. The way he described it, he can't get the recall from simply naming a date, but if he is talking about an event he can see it in perfect detail, as if he were reliving it.

I found it interesting, but it also made him almost impossible to have a normal conversation with. I spent an hour and a half talking to him and never got the answer to the simple question, "so what brought you to Denver from Tennessee" because the answer started with, "well, it started 26 years ago when I was cut by the Dallas Cowboys"  - wait, what?? - and meandered and meandered until I finally got so confused that I just gave up.

Anyway, I wasn't interested in going out with him again, but I was fascinated by his description of how his memory works. He said, "even if I never see you again, I will always be able to remember, in perfect detail, the expression on your face, the earrings you are wearing, the shape of your eyes, the color of your jacket, the music that is playing right now."  Everything that happens to him, he carries with him, intact and presumably, forever.

That kind of recall may be a double-edged sword - for this guy, it makes it impossible for him to have any kind of normal conversation that proceeds in anything resembling a linear fashion, because everything he says triggers another memory that he gets caught up in. But it could also be really useful and rewarding.

I hate forgetting things. It's like a small death, losing a part of yourself.

I bring this up because I was talking to my New York reunion friends about singing in the cabaret bar (specifically, I was recounting that Zeke watched the video and his first question was, "were you drunk?"), and they remarked that they were surprised that in writing about it, I had only posted a screen shot of me singing by the piano, rather than the video itself.

My thinking was that I use this blog to write about things that happen to me, but I don't tend to use it as just a diary. I want the writing to be good, and when I write about something, I want it to resonate beyond, "oh, this happened." So I explained that when I wrote the last post, I didn't post the video because it felt self-indulgent -- I didn't want the post to be all about me, but rather about all of us and that feeling of reconnecting with people who have known you forever and with whom you feel like you're home.

Y'all know how much I like reunions.

Anyway, they were all, yeah yeah that's so thoughtful whatever who cares, just post all the rest of the shit that happened, including the video, because it was awesome and because if we record it for posterity, we hold on to it more easily. As Marney put it, "I am hoping [you] will document all of the silliness that I wish to remember."

So in the absence of actually possessing Superior Autobiographical Memory, I will use this blog as a substitute. And I will also adopt Laura's suggestion, when I said that I needed to figure out a way to write it well, to recount our adventures as "New York by the Numbers..."  

So here goes:
  • At least 80% - Chance, by Marney's estimation, that the AirBnb was bullshit and we would have no place to stay 
The weekend took shape very quickly. We made the decision back in September to plan an NYC girls' trip, and within two days we had picked a weekend, I had made a reservation for a place on AirBnb, and I had bought my plane ticket.  

The week before we were going, we saw an article in the New York Times about how it was illegal in New York City to do short-term apartment rentals via AirBnb. So I emailed the owner, a "person" named "Cam," to make sure we were still on. "She" didn't respond to my questions about whether the entire endeavor was illegal, but assured me that all was well and gave me the instructions for getting into the apartment: go to the deli around the corner, ask for "Maria," who has the key to the front door, and then once inside, use the combination on the keypad to get into the apartment.

Marney, who had a strong feeling that we were the victims of a big scam, arrived in the city first, so she was in charge of getting the key and getting into the apartment. But when she went to the deli and asked for "Maria," she was told that there was no "Maria" and nobody had a key or could help us. 


Ever resourceful, she went back to the building, followed in someone who either had a key or who had buzzed in, and went up to the apartment. The cleaning people were there, and they gave her a key. So in the end, it worked out.

But still, super shady. She could have been anyone - the cleaning people didn't ask for ID or anything like that; they just handed over the key. And there were signs all over the apartment to the effect of, "if you run into any neighbors, just act like you're friends with the owner and are visiting them or borrowing the apartment." By the end of the weekend, we were convinced that "Cam" and "Maria" didn't exist, and that Cam's name and picture on the website were just a front for a group of mobsters who owned a bunch of New York apartments and illegally rented them out.

  • 130 - The number of U.S. dollars each of us paid to stay for a weekend in the New York City Shangri-La
I chose the apartment because it seemed clean, was in a fun location, had enough bed space of all of us, and was inexpensive. (In my defense, I was trying to not spend a fortune on a place I knew we weren't going to spend much time in except for sleeping, but I wasn't trying to be that cheap - when I made the reservation, I thought there would only be 3 or 4 of us instead of 6.) 

While I was flying in and still in the air, I discovered that while I was connected to United's inflight wifi service, iMessage worked on my phone so I was able to send and receive text messages.  Which kind of weirded me out, but it was fun to communicate with everyone from 35,000 feet.
"How's the place?"
"Not the ritz"
"Slightly reminiscent of a place we might've rented in Myrtle [Beach]..."
In other words, the Shangri La. Where, undoubtedly, 10 people were crammed into a motel room that probably slept 4 comfortably, during the week between finals and graduation.

It was basically a windowless box that felt dark and kind of depressing, but it was clean and had room for all of us if we bunked up together like we were at camp. The big downer was that there was no blender, so we drank our margs on the rocks rather than blended.

The primitive accommodations made it all the more awesome. Yes, we're in our 40s and can certainly afford something slightly more upscale, but it was clean and functional and the Shangri-La-ness added to the overall color of the weekend. And shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 6 - number of grown-ass women who stuck their hands inside the toilet tank at the Shangri-La to flush it, because the flusher/handle was broken when they arrived.  But shit, you couldn't beat the price.

  • 24 - number of hours it took "Cam" to send someone to fix the fucking toilet flusher. But shit, you couldn't beat the price.
The guy who showed up was carrying a huge delivery box (the type you might hold food in to keep it warm) that said "CAVIAR" on the side. He didn't give us any caviar, but he did fix the handle on the toilet. So that was good.
  • 2 - number of people who, after getting their freak on, tried to fight with Marney 
We went out for dinner at an Italian place on Friday night before heading to the cabaret bar. Marney got up to go use the restroom, but was waiting and waiting and waiting for the person using it to come out. Finally she used her key or some other implement to pick the lock to open the door and walked in on a couple who had obviously just finished having sex. They were more than a little startled and annoyed by her entrance and reacted accordingly.

She felt a bit threatened, but nothing happened. And it made for an entertaining - and conveniently timed - story that distracted a couple of us from a heated political discussion. *cough Klein Laura cough*

  • 1 - number of us whose hair caught a little bit on fire at the Mexican restaurant.
Word to the wise: if you're setting up a restaurant, don't place little votive candles on the shoulder-blade-high back of the bench seat. Your patrons with long hair, such as Susan, will thank you for it.

  •  5 - the number of drinks I had had - 2 shots of tequila at the Shangri-La, 2 glasses of wine at the Italian place, and 1 beer at the Duplex - before I got up and sang a song
By popular request, here's the proof. I forgot some of the lyrics in the middle and was a little pitchy before the final verse, but it's not terrible. 

  • 6 - Number of women who left New York tired but rejuvenated after a great weekend with great friends

Here is our time capsule, ladies. I hope I wrote it well.

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