While I have certain obsessions, like anyone – if you were to look closely enough at anyone you might find at least one thing that they’re obsessed about – I don’t consider myself an obsessive person. I like to keep my wife’s and my bedroom clutter-free; I sleep better. That probably sounds obsessive and I’ll take the risk of sounding ready for the loony bin if I tell you that the energy in my bedroom flows better when there’s less stuff around. Thus I sleep better, or rather, I can more easily fall back to sleep after I inevitably wake up at around 3 a.m.
One area that is less defensible, however, is my obsession with trying to remember things that I have forgotten. Usually these things are names of people, usually music and film stars, whose names escape me.
Just last night, for the second night in a row, I had to fire up my computer to find the name of someone, in this case Joe Jackson. I had woken from a dream where I was wandering through Chinatown in New York City. I then remembered Joe Jackson’s song “Trying to find Chinatown” http://www.songstube.net/video.php?title=Chinatown&artist=Joe%20Jackson&id=74064&artistid=7716
So there I was, in bed, with the melody of “Trying to find Chinatown” in my head but no memory of the author’s name. Actually, I had one name — “Joe” — and that was it.
When this happens, with regular frequency, I am stuck. (God forbid this should happen to me while camping with no access to a computer.) I cannot stop myself from wanting to remember the person’s name and I cannot try to think my way into remembering the name. There’s no way out of a dilemma that can potentially keep me up for hours, not just minutes, except to come up with the name of the person who I can either visualize clearly or remember his or her first name.
I’ve anguished over trying to remember the name of Bobby Gentry, singer of “Ode to Billy Joe”. The name of actor George Segal had me gnawing my knuckles for hours (I had no access to the computer on a Prince Edward Island vacation in 1996). There have been others as well, too many others.
Two nights ago, for some reason, in the middle of the night, I started singing in my head the song, “This Diamond Ring”. Even though I remembered his name and his group, I was only satisfied when I went online and quickly confirmed that Jerry Lewis’s son had sung that song with the Playboys. I was of the opinion, however, that Gary Lewis had died young. Er, he’s still alive and 68, according to Wikipedia.
So, you do learn a thing or two when you get online in the middle of the night.
Finding Joe Jackson’s family name was a little harder. All I had was “Joe”. I finally found Rolling Stones magazine and typed in “Joe”. It took a while, but on page two of the search, there it was, “Joe Jackson”. My struggle was over.
Why does this happen? Why can’t I leave alone the nagging need to connect a face with a name? I know that others who go through this are able to let the not-knowing go. Why can’t I?
It becomes a physical thing for me. When it happens, I feel a deep discomfort in my chest. As I’ve already said, there’s no letting go. I can’t try not to think of remembering, nor can I pursue it to a happy conclusion. The only way out is to find the answer.
So there you are. Two nights in a row. Who knows whether tonight, at 2 or 3 a.m., I’ll go, “Oh no, not again,” as I think of a film, then a film star, clearly visualize her face, and then realize with a shudder that I can go no further, that I can’t remember her name?
Luckily, the computer is in another room and I can tiptoe there without waking anyone, close the door, fire it up and go to Google.