My father would always insist on visiting his wedding day, or some particular work-related triumph from his past; my mom was more a historical-events type, what the wags called a 'purist/tourist', i.e. she didn't want to double up on her own personal experiences, but she did like to do a little timeskipping on occasion. Witnessing the Gettysburg Address is pretty exciting the first time, but your own wedding? It's not like you can even talk to people without being in disguise (or anyhow you're not supposed to, and it's almost nicer that way). The way my dad saw it, family tradition was important, and these visits kept those moments alive for him. Later in his life he developed the degenerative memory condition common to the men in our family (someday I will too, I guess, assuming it's not cured in the next twenty years or so), and it just killed him that he wasn't allowed to go back and visit last week, say, to back up his claims in a fight with my mom. 'What's this machine for if I can't...' blah blah blah. But he kept visiting his wedding day, and that's where he chose to die. They rolled him out and introduced him to everyone, and he had a nice conversation with himself, where I hear he gave exceedingly funny and charming advice to the terrified groom.
That's what happens, you know: the past wears thin. What happened to his brain actually happened to the things he remembered. I know it's this totally hoary metaphor but that's the way things fall out. In sci-fi films they used to say, 'the fabric of spacetime,' and it's not a bad image. You can fall through it if you wear it down enough. (As my high school history teacher once joked: 'Also not a bad metaphor for marriage!' I'm told it was harder teaching history before time travel. But Mr Smith never had it particularly easy anyhow, crazy drunk bastard.)
So where do I go on vacation - or rather where did I, when I was borrowing the family vehicle all the time?
Cornell University, May 8, 1977.
I probably went back fifty times in college - three times in one week, when my friends and I had discovered LSD and wanted to be at what we considered the peak musical moment of the 20th century. (Naïve!!) Needless to say, complicated week, and that particular past has faded a little bit for me. They used to trade lo-fi recordings of concerts before I was born, and I can't even imagine how frustrated it must have been for people who could only listen to the shows. I haven't been back to '77 in a long time. Partially it's a money thing - I still work six days a week and it's hard enough to pay bills without refueling the damn machine all the time - but partly it's the music itself. I find my memories grow sweeter over time if I'm not constantly 'refreshing' them. It doesn't work that way, you know? I'm telling you so you show a little restraint: going back doesn't make your memories more real. Or rather, it does do that, but 'real' isn't what you like about your memories anyhow. You wouldn't want a dream replaced with a documentary, just like you wouldn't want a novel replaced with a newspaper (unless you're my soulless older sister, which God help me I was supposed to call her today, talk about memory loss).
Going to the show puts you in the middle of something shared - lovely, to be sure, but external. Yeah. There's a feeling of that Western New York springtime evening that I remember, or maybe that I made myself, and it's one thing I can call mine, just mine. Every time I go back the experience becomes more and more merely real, my memories more correct, and my dream of that day slowly fades.