Friday, February 05, 2010

Excepts from a 1977 journal

1. Memories. That first bright night stepping off the bus, walking excitedly in the tracks, deep snow lightly dusting our noses. Streetlamp beams burning with the whiteness falling falling. The low sky reflected..snow..look up, a heavy blanket. Catching flakes on our tongues - the ritual of first snows. Tossing clumps at passing winter worshipers. On the campus, echoing dully, yells of snow battles and conquering rites. I follow her because I have never been on this street before. We have shared many secrets on the bus, and she invited me to her room , to smoke some dope, she said.The dorm is a maze with wet footmarks. I am lost immediately. Her barren room her black light her little steel pipe. The heat is stuffy. Outside, diamonds sparkle. For hours we listen to Joni Mitchell and gaze at the snow, still falling. It falls all night. She has an amazing capacity for smoking dope. I keep taking the pipe because it seems to be the right thing to do. I'm so concerned with conventions, that night. Later I am so burnt out I give up waiting for her advance and go to lie down on the other bed, disappointed. She comes over to me gently and tells me I can't go to sleep.

2. In a ryokan, Japanese-style hotel. Awoke surprisingly early, I think, for I was up 22 hours. Mr. Satori found me paging him at the info desk. We rushed off to the bus, then the train, two hours to Hamamatsu. he is very pleasant and even while laying on an authority trip, managed to stay likeable. Tokyo was very dull-looking, at night. The buildings were no bigger than Rochester - didn't see any crowds. Hamamatsu looks very Asian - like Hong Kong movies - we drove (on the right!) to this hotel after eating in a typical restaurant. It was just a bar arrangement with a counter and five cooks behind a half wall, silently cooking and rushing around a tiny kitchen. We had tempura, but first there was cold octopus, then raw fish (good), then pickled veggies, then the delicate tempura. There was ebi (shrimp), fish, and veggies in batter. I didn't think I was hungry but it was great. Also there was bean soup, tea and a huge bowl of rice. Anyway, the streets weave all around and there are strange looking shops - open front - among the big department stores and the banks and motorcycle shops. drove past the English Center. Today we're going to look at houses. Tomorrow I'll meet my classes, be introduced, etc. On Wed & Thurs, I'll teach! I don't know if I should wait up here for him or go downstairs. The bed is luscious. Last night, I took a hot bath and then collapsed. I guess I'll wait up here because I'm not lugging all my stuff down three flights alone. Out my window is fascinating. So much to see!

3. The file theory for language and life (conceived of during my senior year of college)
The basic concept of this theory begins with the image of the mind as a complex filing system, with the ability to mark and file bits of information for use. This brain/file is seen in action when we use language. The "marked features" of so many linguistic theories are the best way of imaging our mental file cards:
[Vegetarian]
+human
-meat eater
+weirdo (or a positive reaction)
Each feature has is own file as well. Someone offers me a hot dog. I say, "no thanks, I don't eat meat." There is a pause while the files shuffle.. (meat, meat, don't eat), "oh, you're a vegetarian?" The final feature (weirdo or whatever) determines the tone of voice the question is asked in.
If a concept, word , or memory of an event is not too well known, or rare, there are fewer cross references in the file. Perhaps you once heard of the place "Torremolinos" in a conversation about Spain. It would be only featured in your Spanish file. But if you had read Michener's book "The Drifters", with his detailed descriptions of the town, there would be many references in your file. Each story you tell is afterwards marked as to who you told it to, and when or where. Some of us are more meticulous in our file systems - others have no marker for story telling, and may repeat an event many times in your hearing.
The most personal and intimate part of a person is the way in which she orders her file system. the better you know someone, the more you learn about how the file works. Perhaps you have known someone well enough to feel you know what they were about to say, or how they would respond to anything. This is knowing what concepts and feelings (that are marked) are the most prevalent and what triggers file cards to be drawn. No one can ever know all of your file, and no one can know how it is arranged except you. If you want to learn your own system, you have to start with minute details like slips of the tongue and ways you mispronounce words. Or you might listen to your thoughts as you define each term you hear - and jot down the features that come to mind immediately.The better you know your own filing methods, the easier it is to store ideas and to recall them.
As to memory, the files are divided for convenience sake, into long and short term. When a card has not been used for some time (of course, the time and the choice depends on your own system), it is filed more obscurely. There may be a key word that will call it forward, but sometimes you never dredge it up. Or it may be attainable only through a complex set of cross-references.