Joanne Palmer: Johnny Depp, my memory aid
March 23, 2011
Steamboat Springs — I knew there was a subject I wanted to write about last week, but I kept forgetting it. I think it was something about … oh, yeah, right, memory! Now that I've typed it, I should be able to remember it for the next five minutes or so. This over-50 memory thing is downright comical. I could crawl to the top of Mount Werner and back before I completed a simple conversation with another member of the over-50 club. Here's an example:
True Love: I saw someone you know at the grocery store.
True Love: You know, the guy. I know you know him. He lives off of … that street right by here … oh … heck … never mind. Um … well, remember … he posted a picture on Facebook of a moose looking in his window?
Me: Oh, OK. What is his name? I worked with him last winter.
True Love: Jared? John? George?
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Me: Didn't he get engaged? His fiancee is from Minnesota.
True Love: That's right, him.
Me: Anyway, I know who you mean, and did you get the asparagus?
True Love: Oh, he says, "hi." Was asparagus on the list?
Me: Isn't it on there? Darn. Well, I forgot to buy butter this morning, so I'll go back. Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp.
True Love: I don't think you'll find Johnny Depp at the grocery store.
Maybe I will, in my imagination.
According to a new book, "Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything," the secret to remembering is a "few tricks and a good erotic imagination." The author, 28-year-old Joshua Foer, contends, "Evolution has programmed our brains to find two things particularly interesting, and therefore memorable: jokes and sex — and especially, it seems, jokes about sex." For example, if yogurt is on your grocery list, picture Johnny Depp floating in it, and you won't forget it.
The secret to memory, it seems, is to think like a teenager.
While researching an article on the world's smartest person, Foer, a freelance journalist, stumbled upon an obscure event: the U.S. Memory Championship. Intrigued, he wondered if he too could learn to memorize 27 decks of shuffled cards in an hour, or 4,140 binary digits in 30 minutes. Foer hired a memory coach who advised him "to change whatever boring thing is being imputed into your memory into something that is so colorful, so exciting and so different from anything you've seen before that you can't possibly forget it."
Blessed, as I am, with an overabundance of curiosity and a hyperactive imagination, this should not be a problem. I don't care about binary numbers, I'd just like to limit my trips to the grocery store to less than three per day.
Now when I sit down to make my grocery list, it goes like this:
Johnny Depp swimming in chicken noodle soup.
Patrick Swayze knee-deep in butter.
Hugh Jackman at sunset at Big Sur covered in pesto.
Hey, this is fun and much better than taking supplements.
I put a letter I can't forget to mail on the kitchen counter and imagine Brad Pitt and me smooching like mad right there by the silverware drawer. Boy, I will never forget where that letter is today. Ditto for my phone because I leave it on top of my desk, and guess who is hiding underneath it winking suggestively at me? Matthew McConaughey.
I promise you'll never forget where your car keys are again. George Clooney has mine.