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Scraps: Where Are Cheezer’s Atoms?

A couple of people have mentioned in DMs that I’ve written about this before, but they can’t find it. I have indeed written about memories gone wrong, but it was a long time ago and if you’re interested, here are the four installments:

The Impersistence of Memory, Part 1

The Impersistence of Memory, Part 2

The Impersistence of Memory, Part 3

The Impersistence of Memory, Part 4

It’s an interesting series, and certainly related, but not exactly what I’m going after with Scraps. Scraps is about earworms, true, but actually a more general category that might be called “mindworms.” It’s things that you’ve long since forgotten that pop into your head for no discernable reason and with peculiar force, as though the action were somehow deliberate. I have a theory, which I’ll get to after a few examples.

At some point during the worst of the COVID craziness, a peculiar question entered my mind: Where is Cheezer now? The weird part isn’t that I remembered a childhood toy. It’s that I remembered wondering where the toy had gotten to, probably when I was in high school fifty-plus years ago.

Cheezer was a small diecast metal car of a sort that was common in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. They still exist, but (like so much else) are much fancier now than they were when I was a first-grader. The car’s name was “Cheezer” because he was the color of American cheese, of which we ate much in that era. My sister tells me that I had several other diecast cars, none of which I can bring to mind at all.

Again, the memory was a peculiar one: Some time probably fifty years ago, I went looking for Cheezer and couldn’t find him. He used to live in one of the two little drawers in a cherry-wood gate-leg table that was in our basement. He shared the drawer with some plastic toy dinosaurs and plastic Army men. I think the Army men were still in the drawer, but Cheezer was nowhere to be found.

I did some searching around the house but did not find poor Cheezer. He had some sentimental value, and I was a little annoyed at being unable to find him. And then a peculiar insight came to me: Cheezer might be lost, but he was somewhere. Or at least the atoms of which he was made were somewhere, because absent an atom-smasher, atoms are forever.

Don’t misread me here. The odd thing isn’t that I remembered a toy I probably hadn’t seen in sixty years. The odd thing is clearly remembering myself wondering where he was, right down to that nerdy insight about his atoms. Nothing triggered that memory. I marked it as silly but it kept coming back to me. Ok, COVID was a weird business that left a lot of people with a certain amount of mental turmoil. Maybe COVID was stirring some stagnant internal pot, and up popped an old and odd state of mind starring a toy car.

Except…the very same thing had happened before, more than once, and long before COVID. More here as time permits.

I’m guessing now that Cheezer was in a box somewhere that my mother threw away once it was clear that I would no longer be playing with diecast cars and plastic Army men. So he’s in a landfill somewhere, atoms and all.

One has to wonder if our brains are like landfills full of ancient states of mind, and every so often one jumps up and says, “Hi!”

Again, stay tuned.

New Category: Scraps

It happens to everybody: A song pops into your head and you can’t get rid of it. We call those “earworms,” and I’ve had my share. The other day while I was folding clean laundry, a song popped into my head. No biggie, right? Well…I don’t think I’d heard this song in almost fifty years. I didn’t remember the artist. I remembered about a third of the lyrics, but the instruments came through clear as a bell, including the interlude that had no lyrics. From the lyrics, I guessed its title was “A Special Kind of Morning.”

Curious, I looked in all my Whitburn pop song references, and found no such title listed. After it ran a few times in my head I had the insight that it was on one of my college-years 8” recorded off-the-air reel-to-reel mix tapes. I still have the typewritten index for those tapes, and yup, there it was, recorded in March, 1970. The artist was Joe Brooks. I listened to those tapes until I left home in early 1976, so that may have been when I heard the song last. I did a DDG search and there it was (like so many other obscure pop songs from that era) free on YouTube.

So. Why that song? And why then? I was folding my socks and underwear, sheesh. It was a typical pop song of no special quality, with dumb lyrics. Of several adjectives I might apply to it, “memorable” was not one of them.

My sister has a name for this sort of thing: brain sludge. She gets it too. I’m going to apply a slightly different name to it, and make it a category here on Contra: Scraps. That’s what they are: Scraps of memory that surface for no apparent reason. I have a notefile containing a few examples from recent years. I’ll present them here as time permits. All of them are peculiar, and one is definitely weird.

Stay tuned.