"The Black Chair Area"

I ran across a Xanga post today about a guy dropping by Valdosta State University, the site where Georgia's GHP program is hosted.

He was a GHP kid (as were lots of my friends) and in his blog he relates how strong the memories of those places are for him.

A summer program imprints strange memories on us. It is different from a home, or even a dorm room, where a year or more allows all the memories to blend together and gives you an overall impression but doesn't drag back certain memories most strongly when you see those places. Instead a summer brings out a cacophony of experiences.

I suppose it is because a summer program is so short, and tight, that only a handful of memorable moments exist, and so these spring almost unbidden into the mind when the place is revisited.

I spent the summer of 1999 in Carnegie Mellon University's APEA program. I survived and thrived for six weeks of living there, eight hundred miles from home, taking courses in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. I never left campus.

When I think about their (then brand-new) University Center, a very short set of very distinct memories leap into my memory as if they just happened. I can see "The Black Chair Area" in my mind. It's a center space in the UC there that we all used as a gathering point. There are very distinct events in my life that I recall. Frustrating a math geek with a 'simple' geometry problem. Watching a student sprint up to try and erase an errant note from his homework before the TA got to it (the TA wasn't offended, thankfully). Hearing the most puerile joke of my life (still makes me laugh and grimace at the same time). All good memories. All strong moments in my life.

But so few of them, and so strong in my memory. Will they always be this way?

When I am old, if the Alzheimer's that runs in my family gets me before cancer or heart failure, what will I lose first? Will I be able to return and visit those buildings (if they still exist), and have the memories come flooding back? Will anyone humour me enough to travel halfway around the world with me to help me chase my memories?

Scary thoughts. Questions about mortality plague me suddenly. Will I be forgotten, or will I forget myself?

Friday, July 01, 2005


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