I learned something really, really important about memory last night while watching the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. I was slumped in my favorite chair, which really isn’t a chair at all but an armless section out of a sectional couch, and eating peanut butter taffy, which are also called Mary Janes. I have no idea why.
I shouldn’t have been eating them anyway, because I’d just finished a bowl of Chicken Tortilla soup that I’d made from one of those big ol’ plump rotisserie chickens from Costco, and my tummy was quite full. Not to mention the fact that I have to hide the taffy from Pablo the Parrot, because he would want some, and a parrot with its beak stuck together with taffy is not a pretty sight. First I make a stock with the chicken and then add corn and black beans and onions and rice. After I ladle out an individual serving, I sprinkle tortilla chips and shredded cheese on top.
Anyway, the story I watched had to do with seniors and memory. Did you ever notice how cute that Brian Williams is? I mean, he’s ever so much cuter than Tom… what was his name? The guy who moderated the ultra-boring second McCain-Obama debate?
It wasn’t Brian who reported the story about seniors and their memory problems. It was some reporter named Robert something-or-other. I don’t know if Robert something-or-other is as cute as Brian, because I never saw his face. Instead, they kept showing this gal dressed up in a pink swim cap with a gazillion wires attached to it that made me think of the old days and ancient hair-dressing techniques that resembled nutty experiments a la Dr. Frankenstein.
These scientists are doing this brain-related research at the University of California in San Francisco, which is where I spent an eternity one October in a sunny hospital room on the umpteenth floor during a 90 plus degree heat wave. My husband was there for some testing, and I had to stay there too. Buildings in San Francisco don’t have air conditioning because they don’t need it. Add to that the fact that we couldn’t turn off the heat in the room. When the hot water heat pipes started flooding the room, they finally moved us to a room on the shady side of the building.
All those wires on the pink swim cap apparently were connected to a machine that did EEGs on volunteers who were told to remember some pictures but not others. The phone rang and a young man named Henry—whom I’ve never met but I should have because he lives in my small community—asked me if I would bake a cake for the Moose Pass school’s Halloween party this Friday. I said of course I would, and began to wonder what flavor cake mixes I had in my pantry. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also add cumin and coriander to the chicken stock. When did they stop putting an apostrophe between the two ees in Halloween?
When I got back to Brian—no, it was still the other guy—the lady in the pink swim cap was on. Have you ever noticed that Brian’s nose is crooked? The next time you see him, take notice that he’s always shown from the camera angle that diminishes the crookedness. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way because I think it adds to his appeal. Just the same as when he showed a picture of his dog Lucy and said that now “they” think dogs can read expressions on the faces of humans.
But, before that, this guy from UCSF was saying that the ability to ignore irrelevant distractions and to stay focused is one of the first things we lose as we age. Therefore, if I use the yellow cake mix, should I frost it with the milk chocolate or coconut-pecan icing? Ewwww, what a color combination that would be—coconut-pecan and yellow cake. I think I just answered my own question.
And here I always thought my dogs could read my mind, not my facial expressions.