Brainard’s Memories

by Mark Chmiel

The NY painter Joe Brainard wrote a wonderful book, I Remember, in which he collected memories from days gone by in one long litany. He writes about ordinary things:  chicken noodle soup, juke boxes, tanning, blowing your nose, over tipping, games, daydreams, shoes, head rushes from eating ice cream too quickly, sandwiches, outhouses, hair, songs, and rumors.

Here are some excerpts to convince you: Buy this book!

I remember how much, in high school, I wanted to be handsome and popular.

I remember when I lived in Boston reading all of Dostoyevsky novels one right after the other.

I remember the day Marilyn Monroe died.

I remember Frank O’Hara’s walk. Light and sassy. With a slight bounce and a slight twist. It was a beautiful walk. Confident. “I don’t care” and sometimes “I know you are looking.”

I remember very old people when I was very young. Their houses smelled funny.

I remember saying “thank you” when the occasion doesn’t call for it.

I remember not looking at crippled people.

I remember regretting things I didn’t do.

I remember being hit on the head by birdshit two times.

I remember certain group gatherings that are hard to get up and leave from.

I remember catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar with holes in the lid and then letting them out the next day.

I remember getting rid of everything I owned on two occasions.

I remember people who like to look you straight in the eye for a long time as though you have some sort of mutual understanding about something.

I remember “Payday” candy bars and eating the peanuts off first and then eating the center part.

I remember trying to imagine what I’d look like as an old man.

I remember screen doors that slam.  And “You’re letting in the flies.”

I remember thinking how embarrassing it would be if your last name was Hitler.

I remember daydreams of going with an absolutely knock-out girl, and impressing all my friends no end.

I remember fantasies of being in jail, and very monk-like in my cell, hand-writing out a giant great novel.

I remember when father seemed too formal, and daddy was out of the question, and dad seemed too fake-casual. But, seeming the lesser of three evils, I chose fake-casual.

I remember finding myself in situations I all of a sudden feel (remember) I’ve been in before: a “repeat” life flash.

I remember, in crowds – total isolation!

I remember body realizations about how fragile we (life) really are (is).

I remember turning around and around real fast until you can’t stand up.

I remember awkward elevator “moments.”

I remember (spooky) when all of a sudden someone you know very well becomes momentarily a total stranger.

I Remember