On May 25th 1994, artist and writer, Joe Brainard, died during another pandemic, passing away at age fifty-two from AIDS-induced pneumonia. In 1970, he wrote an astonishing memoir where each sentence begins with the phrase, "I
remember . . ." The novelist Paul Auster described the book: "In simple, forthright, declarative sentences, he charts the map of the human soul and permanently alters the way we look at the world. I Remember is both uproariously funny and deeply moving. It is also one of the few totally original books I have ever read.”
A few excerpts:
I remember the only time I saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.
I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream.
I remember when I decided to be a minister. I don’t remember when I decided not to be.
I remember a backdrop of a brick wall I painted for a play. I painted each red brick in by hand. Afterwards it occurred to me that I could have just painted the whole thing red and put in the white lines.
I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.
Lately, because the world seems so different, I have been noticing a lot of my own I Remembers popping up in my brain—not from my childhood, which was mostly Brainard's focus, but from life as it was a few short/long months ago.
I remember watching TV shows and not thinking everyone is standing too close together.
I remember thinking the world was too busy and what would it be like if everyone slowed down.
I remember high-fives and hugs from my students.
I remember not being annoyed by phrases like troubling times, uncertain times, challenging times, frustrating times, confusing times, and difficult times.
I remember wishing we had more family time.
I remember having lunch out with a friend.
I remember wishing our current President would hurry up and drop dead instead of now wishing he would hurry up and drop dead of COVID-19.
I remember when President Obama was President and everything seemed so fine with the world that I didn't even feel the need to pay attention.
I remember going to the grocery store on a whim because I needed a couple limes and an avocado.
I remember when I had plans.
I remember wondering where all the time went.
I remember just wanting to stay home all the time.
I remember never fretting about download/upload speeds.
I remember sunshine feeling so good and cleansing and it still does.
I remember seeing strangers faces and never really imagining how lonely it feels to only see their eyes.
I remember never really thinking about how it would feel to live in a country where you had to wear a burka, and now I think about it all the time.
I remember thinking maybe the world owed me a few things and not really realizing I was picturing only good things.
I remember always having to come up with excuses to get out of things or not go to things. I remember I was really good at it and now it just seems like a wasted skill.
I remember the last time gasoline was $1.50 a gallon. Apparently it was twenty years ago.
I remember feeling really down sometimes or anxious or unproductive and not having a good excuse, and now there is always a good excuse to feel lousy.
I remember washing my hands when I happened to notice they were really dirty.