Friday, September 28, 2018

Road trip, Part 2

Road trip, Part 2

"The only evidence you have of last week is your memory. But memory comes from a stable structure of neurons in your brain now. The only evidence we have of the Earth's past is rocks and fossils. But these are just stable structures in the form of an arrangement of minerals we examine in the present. The point is, all we have are these records and you only have them in this Now." Julian Barbour


I left Bakersfield and headed for Boron, famous for the 20-mule team that hauled low-value borax from the mines for some god-awful reason now lost to time, and for a small air and space museum – throw away and cast off war machines from the nearby Edwards Air base. I’ve been to both museums, but this time I just drove by and snapped a picture of the jets parked outside the building – sort of as proof I’d been there in case I was being framed for a crime that happened somewhere else at the same time. Two years ago, I’d stopped at both museums with my daughter and grandson on a trip we took to Oklahoma – so plenty of pictures are in some vault somewhere – and again, memories are just lying around the area like burnt shells of automobiles.

I stopped in Mojave next for gas. Back in the glory days, you went through Mojave after hours in the desert without air-conditioning and damn it you were happy to do it -- but now you go around it – we are far removed from the greatest generation. In fact, all the road improvements make it a bit of a pain to get to now. It’s now off the freeway and down an empty road a bit.  All the gas stations and food stores reflect this change– they look dried out and worn, many with boarded up windows. There is a ‘spaceport’ right outside of town, but it doesn’t look like much help. Most of the planes being stored at the nearby airport by various airlines and leasing companies are gone, and the ‘mutually verified destruction’ of old military planes and bombs has finished. There is a there, but it’s empty meaning and people, it’s a storage site for the next wave of nostalgia waiting in the wings for a meme to spark interest in.

Came to Barstow next – the same burned out post WW2 feeling as Boron, but bigger and with more stuff. Interstate 15 and 40 both connect through Barstow, so the hubs where they meet are bouncing with fast food places and newish motels – this is clearly where the action is, but it’s low interest action – mechanical and best seen through heavily tinted windows while driving, stop and start, through the Starbucks drive-thru. Though hard to do, coming in the back way on the old 58 highway reveals miles of marginal motels being used as housing stock for the unfortunate, or boarded up as convenient places to lean against when pissing in to the wind. Creative destruction is hard to watch unless you take the time to get out of your car and look, but fortunately, I didn’t, nor does anyone else. In America movement is the point of and end all.

From Barstow it’s 140 miles, or two full hours, to Needles. It’s all downhill from Barstow because Needles has the Colorado river running through it, which has mechanically over time carved itself lower than the surrounding country side.

 From Needles, I went uphill to Kingman, Az., and got off on the best remaining section of the old route 66 – Kingman to Seligman.

I love this section of highway – lots of memories that I’ve overlaid with more memories. It’s a drive where I remember everything and everyplace, even my own. I know the truth of this road, even the parts I made up.

What’s new is the cops and the tour groups – predator and prey acting out life’s struggles in the tapestry of real-time. The cops all have new, shiny cars with big shiny officers driving them – they look like the military wing of Uber that married into some type of off-site international security company. Every time I saw one, and there were lots of sightings, they had either a rental motorcycle tourist or a rental big car tourist pulled over to the side of the road while writing them a ticket. I hope that they strangle off the goose sooner than later, so I can return to this section of Americana in peace. This part of the trip has become a deal breaking bummer. It’s like being in a living shark week, but with Germans.

I made it to Seligman and stopped at the old hotel my family had been stranded at 50+ years ago. (Our station wagon had broken down in the middle of nowhere and for a few days, while waiting for parts, we were stuck at the Stagecoach motel until it was fixed).  It was about a mile outside of the main part of Seligman and back in business, reborn as a retro route-66 way station, complete with a loud bar and an eatery that advertised ‘made from scratch’ pizza’. The pool was gone, having be filled in with dirt thirty years ago, but the memories were still there waiting for me to dig them up. It was taunting me.

 I backed out of the gravel entrance (after taking a picture) and fled back the way I came, happy to have survived the trip so far and anxious to get back home to the now. I left feeling lucky that I hadn’t burst out in tears or had the irrational terrors of an imagined German forest overcome me.

 I think I will stay at the Stagecoach motel for a few days next time and try to connect with the things I’ve left behind. I still remember my mom typing away at some literary project while abandoning her children to the fun and sun, (benign neglect in its finest form)., It might be good for me.

St. Augustine, after his confession to god of his desire to rid himself of his sinful ways, added, ‘but not now.’ I totally understood as I quickly drove westward out of town.

Relational memoryMemory for relations among the constituent elements of experience, providing the ability to remember names with faces, the locations of various objects or people, or the order in which various events occurred. Can be contrasted to item memory, i.e., of the individual elements themselves. The hippocampus is required for memory for arbitrary or accidentally occurring relations.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Road trip, the start

Road trip, the start

"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." A. Einstein


Probably not my last solitary road trip as it turns out – lots of personal stamina combined with the absence of crying jags or panic attacks makes a redo very possible. Next time I hope to travel with someone else to help share in the shits and giggles.

 Unless I die of course, then this will be the stylized recording of my last road trip event.

(Kudos to me for the lack of prep work – going full bore without thinking too much seems to be the trick.)

I left San Jose at five in the morning and drove straight to Harris ranch, the way I usually do. For breakfast I had pancakes with bacon because I haven’t gotten enough pancakes lately and bacon is bacon. I took a picture of my plate of food– one of four pictures I took on a two-day road trip. I am not a picture guy, I’m a spackler of words onto sheets of wood.

The drive from San Jose to Harris ranch is 4 hours, every time. Like a Texan who measures distance by the number of crushed beer cans on the bed of his truck, I’ve gone from miles to minutes, to just saying how long it’s going to take. I no longer need the mileage triangle in the back of the map, I just know.

Fuck Rand McNally and the big map industry.

My awakened memory for the early drive was the image of Richard Speck and his pendulous prison breasts making social with buddies at the state prison in Joliet -- in one of the earliest non-network TV uses of a video camera that I can remember ever seeing. At the time, it shocked me to my core, having always believed that Death Row would be more somber, reflective, and yes, punishing.

The hanging breasts are what I remember – floppy and askew, with nipples that seemed to point to all the colors of a rainbow as they bounced around the cell block. Richard was very animated for a soon to be dead guy, though are not we all?

(Word on the street is that this video ended in man love, but you didn’t hear that from me. --Google, all real things can be googled). They State never did kill him like they promised – he died of a heart attack a score of years ago or whatever – the point is the titties.

These images came to me on the drive to remind me of a truth— ‘the past is never dead, it’s not even the past.’ This is something I’ve come to believe was the truest line that Faulkner ever wrote.

I have been thinking about the connection of time and memory – and how one might be the way to measure the other. It feels to me that I’ve been leaving memories all over the place, like DNA, it just falls of me willy nilly with any movement at all. As I go back to places that had significance to me, memories attached to that time seem to pop up from some buried cave deep inside of me – or from a communal storage cloud base entity like the Noosphere as envisioned by Teilhard de Chardin.

I’m starting to see that memories are as real as DNA, and that time can be connected to these memories in strangely measurable ways that, in turn, have given structure to my very existence. I have constructed an image of who I am based on the memories of what I’ve done, and to find that the touchstones and structures of what I’ve become in life are based on something more real than the ether of imagination is stunning.

I’ve long believed that I have left pieces of me in all the places I’ve visited, and that I left a list in my head of exactly what I had left in the form of memories. My road trips are to touch, recover and acknowledge those parts of me that were left behind. I’ve always thought this was just a form of mental vaporware, but I’m exploring some other options that feel right.

I believe that we are living in a simulation, and think memories are a good place to start skinning the cat. Life is about communicating information; the meat part is just attractive hormone-based packaging.

I left Harris ranch after breakfast and sped off to the east, past Lemoore NAS and south on Highway 99, then south to Bakersfield, then east again on Highway 58 to Mohave.

There is still an eight mile stretch from Boron to Mohave that’s two-lane – this reinforces my believe that life isn’t done until the federal road system has completed paving at least four lanes everywhere.

This reminds me of one of the best last lines about the end of everything – Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, ‘Nine billion names of God. ‘

“Overhead, without any fuss; the stars were going out”

Part two later

Place cellsWhen an animal is exploring its environment, principal neurons of the hippocampus fire preferentially in particular regions of the environment corresponding to the neurons’ “place fields”; in this way, a set of such neurons can represent the entire environment. The “places” are represented relationally, in terms of the relations among elements in the environment.

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