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Al Martinez

I'm sure that an inability to remember is somehow linked to computers. : Memories of Things Gone By

April 14, 1988|Al Martinez

I had a terrific idea for a column 2 1/2 minutes ago, but I can't remember what it was. I went to reach for a piece of paper and a pen to write it down, but by the time I found a pen, which was in my hand, the terrific idea was gone. I had even forgotten the pen was in my hand.

This is not a new occurrence for those who might be wondering if I am at long last losing my grip. I've been this way for a long time.

When I leave for work in the morning, my wife kisses me goodby and says, "Your name is Al Martinez and you write for the L.A. Times." Sometimes, when she's angry with me, she says, "Your name is Ramon Valdez and you live in Bellflower." But I always know where I live and I come home anyhow.

When Morris Udall was running for president in 1976, his press secretary used to hand him a piece of paper every morning that said, "Your name is Mo Udall and you hate crime and poverty." He didn't become president, but he never forgot his name.

My worst time is when I arrive at the office and am expected to say "Hello, Randy" and "Good morning, Meegan" to those around me. That would work all right if they were all named Randy and Meegan but, alas, that isn't the case. The fact is, I don't know who they are.

I used to get around my inability to remember names by calling the men "keed," as in "What's doing, keed?" and the women "babe," as in "Nice to see ya, babe."

But that gets a little complicated when you are introducing two people and you can't remember either name. "Hey, keed, meet babe" won't wash, especially if keed is someone whose name you are expected to remember, such as your father or your editor.

It would be nice if they all wore name tags, but I guess that's too much to expect.

Sports writers are the worst because it seems somehow they don't actually need names and therefore there is no compelling reason to remember them. And now we have the additional problem of women sports writers who not only don't need names but who resent gender-slang.

They have it in their heads that a word like babe somehow classifies them as sex objects and implies they are inferior. That's nonsense. Sex objects are not inferior. The ability to please and satisfy a man is considerably more important than tracking the earned run average of a high school pitcher.

Al Martinez

I'm sure that an inability to remember is somehow linked to computers. Placing more demand on those compartments of our brains that store logic requires increased lubrication to facilitate higher speeds, which in turn drains us of our precious cranial fluids and makes us forget easier.

In the days when typewriters were used to write columns, all I had to worry about was how to change the ribbon and set the margins. Not so with computers. They summon us to far greater feats of memory than ribbons and margins.

This morning, for instance, I was gazing into space trying to remember what it was I had rushed into the room to write when I suddenly noticed an italicized line atop the screen of my word processor that said: Esc:Menu Push ParA+Sp- 95% Free. 10% Thru. Edit "C:/TIMES/almtz.nes"

Despite my imperfect memory, I know I didn't write Esc:Menu Push ParA+Sp- etc. because I don't write things like that. Simply seeing it there washed me with the same emotional confusion Jimmy Swaggart must have felt when the Lord ordered him to go forth and find a hooker.

But I realized after a moment that the line was part of the new word-processing program designed to improve the linkage between my home computer and the Sacred Computer somewhere in a candle-lit basement at Times Mirror Square.

I would therefore accept without question that Esc:Menu Push ParA+Sp- was now a part of my life. I felt like I was a Catholic again when the services were in Latin. I didn't know what they were saying but I knew if I didn't listen I'd end up in Hell.

My point is this:

Well, actually, I don't remember what my point was. I do know, however, that the necessity to remember computer commands like Ctrl-PrtSc and Copy A:*.* B:/V and a couple of hundred others is detracting from my already scant ability to recall just exactly who in the hell you are and why I started all this to begin with.

I think maybe it's because spring is here and the sun warms that place in the heart that longs for distant shores and half-forgotten songs; where a man can lie on a hilltop and gaze at a pale blue sky and deliberately forget that Esc:Menu Push ParA+Sp- ever existed.

I'm going to find that hilltop. I'll drift through the golden afternoon like a butterfly in the garden, wander among the flashing wildflowers of the emerald canyons and finally end up at home in Bellflower with Mrs. Valdez.

Then I'll have a little martini to celebrate the birth of another spring and wonder vaguely, keed, what it was I was going to write about in the first place.

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