In the spirit of sharing experiences, here’s something I wrote while sitting in a Cleveland bar in May 2013. It’s amazing how words, these little markings, can call into our consciousness an experience from years ago.
What are the things that are real but pass into unrecorded history? That is, what are the experiences we have but do not document, and so we can only call forth in our memory?
In this era of continuous communication, we can document everything, though some things are still sacred. Births, deaths, illnesses—these are still private, unrecorded moments in time. They’re real, but they don’t pass into a referenceable history. Years later, without a clear record, these moments are recalled through the fog of memory as if being rediscovered in a haze. What are the real parts, and what might we be inventing? What is there when no Facebook post, blog entry, or tweet has recorded the specifics of a special moment?
I’m drinking Newcastle in a bar in Cleveland called The Barking Spider near the campus of Case Western in rapture with a jazz band. The middle aged singing woman crooning, the bassist peering at his notation, the pianist in the corner, the fat drummer melting with energy into the snare cracks and tsst-tsst-tsst of the cymbals. A lesbian couple sits off to my left, as into it as I am. Psychedelics, iron work, and art of the avant garde hangs about the place. It’s late May and a winter chill hangs in the air, but in here there’s warmth. The small place fills and swells, and lets out again. It hums.
What of this living experience would pass into nothingness if I had not just here recorded it? What of it would have been real, but unreal in the future by being unremembered in the formal or even mental record?
We discount feelings as fleeting things, and as chemical side effects—but what if they are ways we are transported into the pages of the unrecorded (even unremembered) reality of other moments?
As I sit here in my $6 Walmart sweatshirt and overpriced jeans the ooze of jazz seeps in past the fabric, saturating me. I’m absorbed, and though I can know I’m sitting here at a creaky table in Cleveland I’m also now back in New Orleans of a few years past, in Preservation Hall. I look down and see the dusty wooden floor of the hall, see a knot in the one plank. I feel the bench, and catch a waft of that inviting mugginess in the air. The band is about to begin, and a fan is going gently in the hallway out the door. A child yelps with glee or surprise outside. I’m in Cleveland, living and recording, and the living has brought me back to an experience of my till-now unrecorded, foggy past. It floods back as a living reality, the specifics unprovable and subjective except for my reliving them, and being alive in them.
I’ve got to stop writing, and return my whole attention to this woman singing in this Spider bar. It’s what real, even as real as the moment that I’ve just relived as surely as if I were looking at a Facebook photo from that afternoon in Preservation Hall.
We can be real in so many more ways than even we expect. We capture glimpses of past reality from the fog and mist of time. They’re no longer present, but they’re no less real. They’re living, too.
This woman sings as I write: “You can’t looooooose a thing… if it belooooonnnggsss to you.”