Monday, August 22, 2011

Memory Science Part 3: AKA Spring Break '91 Wooohooo! (Pat's Version)

This is part three of PCPPP’s Science Fortnight, where we are testing the theory that the more you recall a memory the more likely you are to alter said memory. Pat and I have agreed to recall a spring break road trip we took our freshman year in college to see if we have any conflicting memories. If so, this may be evidence that this theory is indeed valid. In Part 1, we discuss the theory. Part 2 contains my recollection of the trip. In this post Pat will be recalling his version of the trip. In the final installment, which will be posted later this week, we will analyze our findings. Without further ado, Pat’s version.

The Preparation
My memory begins with “Song 11” (officially known as the untitled song) from the R.E.M. album Green. I had just finished my last final on a Friday in March-- it felt like I was the last person on campus to have to take a final-- and I was walking back to the dorm when the song popped on my Walkman™. The day had a supremely sweet spring feel to it (mildly warm, flowery one of those soft-tissue commercials) and I smiled and glided down the street like Julie Andrews as she descends the green hillside of Austria singing to her heart’s content.

I made it back to my dorm room and made sure I was prepared for the next day-- skis and ski clothes packed, a sensible number of socks and underwear, some pants and shirts, and the store of food from Costco™ that my parents had taken me to get the day before. Good road trip food-- a tray of muffins, a bag of Gardetto’s™ Snack Mix, a case of mineral water. Then I checked to see that the three mix tapes I made were in order. Two ninety minute mixes and one sixty minute. TDK tapes, I believe.  I think the first one-- “Driving Toons” [sic]-- started off with “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Still have those tapes somewhere in my basement. I remember being nervous about them because you had said a few weeks earlier, after I had started crafting mine, that you were making a mix as well, and that it was going to have a killer surprise song at the end. I think it ended up being “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. Good song. It was spring, remember that part, right? Anyway, I was nervous because we were taking your car, thus making you the Alpha Male, and I was worried that my tapes might be seen as a threat to your dominance. And then I was worried that you might not play mine, feeling as they were not worthy, but I knew that they were ass-kicking mixes. Ah, the agony!

Anyway...all checked out, and I anxiously awaited the four of us-- you, me, Zan and Melissa-- getting together and leaving the next morning. Can’t remember what I did that night...I think my roommate was already gone somewhere and I don’t think I did anything worth remembering, but who knows. Did we get together to watch “L.A. Law” or “Thirtysomething”?  I remember those two being shows we watched in your dorm room, as you were one of the only people I knew who had a TV. that’s it for the kickoff to the memory-fest. We haven’t actually started the trip yet, but the stage has been set.  

Day 1

I guess it must have been a Saturday, but that’s just logic kicking in...nothing about the actual day comes back to mind. I think we left in the morning, and aside from a bit of geeky mix-tape fascination (on our part, that is. I remember distinctly feeling as though Melissa and Zan were seriously unimpressed with our masterpieces) and a few necessary rest-stop stops-- don’t forget that case of mineral water--my next memory involves stopping at a café in Shasta City where I got a bowl of chili and fries. I don’t remember what you ate. Sorry.

Prior to the chili, I remember we laughed a bit at the town of Weed. Not at the actual town, but at the name. I think that, as well as we knew each other, there was some innate notion in each of us that, being college students-- at the University of Ganja--we were obliged to give some bonehead chuckle at a town with such a drug-referenced name. If we didn’t, we might lose our cred.

Anyway...we turned onto state route 89 and made our way toward Reno. I remember two things about that stretch, but I’m not sure about the order they appear. This first was a podunk general store the name of which I absolutely fell in love with-- the Hat Creek Mah-Coo-Atche General Store. I think I was tempted to get out of the Subaru, give up my mixed European heritage and become a small town Indian. Seemed cool somehow. The second was a snowstorm that caught us off-guard. Lots of snow. Alarming amounts of snow. I remember that largely because I think it’s the first time I seriously contemplated my own death. I dug your car, as it was much cooler than the car I didn’t have,  but I was not convinced that it would spare my life in the case of a spin-out. And I had the most vivid awareness that of all the ways to go, I was not ready to have mine be in a snowstorm on some backwoods California state route. Don’t get me wrong. If you and I were driving today, I’d be perfectly happy to go down in flames with you. I’m more content that way. I just wasn’t back then.

So...we made it through, had effectively run through all of the mix-tapes (the thought did occur to me, as I pondered the next six days of our trip and the many more miles we had to travel, “Well...what are we going to listen to now?”), and ended up in Reno, where I believe my dad had booked us a room at the fine establishment of Circus Circus. Did we try to sneak into the casino to blow or double our spring tuition? Did we play video games and skee-ball in efforts to win tickets we could trade in for cheap stuffed animals or tongue-staining candy? Did we head straight to the buffet to gorge on low-grade meats and slightly congealed sauces? I’m not fill in the blanks, man.

Day 2, and 3, and 4... (apparently my memory is too detailed, so here is the abridged version)

Alright, so we’re in Reno. I think we walked around the town...a lot. We were four underage and timid college kids stuck in a cheap-and-corny hotel with no way to get out of town due to car troubles--what was it that happened to your car and how did we (you?) pay for it? There were a few times we snuck in to play slots, and I remember playing some random drinking games in our hotel room, getting kinda’ sloppy drunk on whatever cheap booze we could get our hands on (was Melissa the one brave enough to enter the mini-mart and buy for us?) and then passing out. Finally, three days into our adventure, we made it to Squaw Valley for a killer day of skiing. At the beginning of the day, I remember thinking we were going to be like the cool blonde guys (except for our hair) from Hot Dog, but by the end of the day I feared we more closely resembled Lane and Charles from Better Off Dead. Oh was fun, and we finally got to use our skis. Not sure what Zan and Melissa did other than drop us off and pick us up. Maybe they re-enacted one of those steamy hot tub scenes that seemed to be required of any 80s ski movie.

Next day we packed up and headed to Vegas. Ever since that trip, I have imagined the road to hell looking a lot like the highway from Reno to Las Vegas. I vaguely remember a lake, a few towns, a cop and a passing lane. I distinctly remember, though, passing by the nuclear weapon test area somewhere near Tonopah, and then promptly freaking out because it was snowing and I’d seen enough of The Day After to know that we were as good as dead. Mistaking the far-off saguaro cacti for wandering irradiated nomads didn’t help. Nuclear snow scared the shit out of me.

Vegas is a bit of a haze, probably for the better. We pulled in towards evening, I think, with Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game” and Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” carrying us into town (not my mix tapes, by the way...not sure how those ditties slipped in there). We stayed at Erin’s dorm, met her new boyfriend Greg, walked around the strip a bit, checking out the fountain at the Mirage and staring in amazement at the historical re-enaction taking pace inside the Excalibur. UNLV’s basketball team was the shit back then and I walked through the campus looking for really tall guys. We watched a movie or three I think, and slept in really uncomfortable quarters. There was a mall in there somewhere. I bought something there and took it back with me. I think it was a plant that lived on air.

Oddly, I don’t remember anything about the trip back up, except that when we reached the Oregon border, the color green seemed to scream out at me. I think that was when I first realized that the rest of the world exists in various hues of brown, and that I never wanted to leave the lush comfort of my home state. Were there more of us in the car than on the way down? Did we stop somewhere on the way up to break the trip into two days? Ashland? Were we sick of each other by then? Had we eaten all of the Costco™ muffins and drank all of the mineral water?

That was a good trip.


  1. I'm 100% convinced that you guys were really on the same trip. Sure there are some similarities, but they sound like vastly different trips.

  2. What kind of "trip" do you mean, Megiweg?

    For what it's worth, I was just down in that area again, and all of the places I mentioned checked out, so...I'm right and Christian is wrong. About the trip.

    Wait! That means that he's right about the science, so, no, never mind, I was high, no idea what I was talking about, sorry, my mistake.

    I'd rather be wrong about Spring Break and right about science. It has more staying power.

  3. It's a brown, brown, brown, brown, brown world Pat. If you were using a Walkman, are you sure you weren't in a horse and buggy? Age really can affect memory, it seems.

  4. Tumbleweed...are you implying an imminent UPS takeoever?

  5. Pat you are wrong about the trip and science. However science is right. It's just that your science is wrong. Does that make sense to you? If you understood science it would.

    Whose high now huh?