A Moment to Remember

The moment had finally come.

The last shot … blocked. The last second … elapsed. At last the long wait was over. The Denver Nuggets would walk off the floor for the first time as Western Conference Champions, punching their first-ever ticket to the NBA Finals.

It was time for the nation to see Denver’s joy, to see the excitement, to see … two long minutes of LeBron James heading for the Lakers locker room in defeat?

Sigh. Sometimes even when you win, you can’t win.

I shouldn’t be surprised. As a nation – maybe even as a species – we’re not that good at focusing our attention where it belongs.

After all, look at our current holiday.

We often get caught up in the trappings of a holiday and Memorial Day is no exception. In fact, with Memorial Day, we get layers upon layers of misunderstanding and distraction. An alien looking at our practices and reading our subconscious minds might conclude that the day is:

  • “The first day of summer! Ok, that’s really in June, but still …”
  • “A chance to pull out the new grill and show Jake and Mary how you really cook a steak!”
  • “The first three-day weekend we’ve had in way too long. Woohoo!”
  • “Uh … something about thanking soldiers for their service. Right?”

None of them hit the bullseye. Even that last one. Not that it’s ever inappropriate, but if you want to tie that “thank you” to an actual holiday, Veterans Day in November is the one you’re looking for.

Memorial Day is … well, what it says. The pause to remember. The moment of honor for the defenders no longer here. It’s not the passing parade but the sudden silence.

And as such, it draws on a whole bunch of qualities that we’re really not that good at.

A moment to pause? These days, our world insists that every moment be filled, leaving no time to think about anything except what’s right in front of you.

Remembering the dead? So many of us go out of our way to avoid thinking about death at all, like a student who thinks graduation is an elective and that they can stay in school forever.

Silence? Every moment of our lives seems to have a soundtrack. Stillness is something foreign, a state that has to be sought out … if we even remember it exists at all.

In short, Memorial Day forces us to make a lot of choices that don’t come naturally to us. To break out of our expectations. To see and be, not just react.

There’s nothing wrong with the rest of it. I like a good steak, too, after all. But if we focus on the fun and forget the core, we’ve missed the point as surely as any ESPN announcer.

That’s not where any of us should want to be.

So this year, take a moment to hold up those who can no longer hear our thanks. The ones who never came marching home again.

Remember to stop. Be still. Reflect.

Our choice costs nothing. Theirs cost everything.

The moment has come. And we’ve seen how grating it can be when a champion is ignored.

So take some time now to give our own champions their due.

A Step Into Memory

“This popular game show brought attention to Longmont, Colo. and memories to a local columnist.”

“Ken, what is ‘Jeopardy!’?”

“Correct!”

Like a lot of former reporters, I’m a “Jeopardy!” fan. Journalists have a habit of picking up a lot of odd facts in a wide variety of fields – someone once called it a ‘wastebasket mind’ – so the trivia game with the guess-the-question format has a natural appeal.

So when Longmont resident Stephen Webb began racking up the big bucks on the blue board, I got as excited as anyone. At this writing, he’s been the champ for three straight games, living the dream for all of us armchair trivia buffs.

Including one who really ought to be here watching.

My friend Mark Scheidies had a mind made for “Jeopardy!” That’s not just hyperbole. He made the contestant pool six different times. Had the world been different, he’d probably be trying yet again to become the third Longmonter to win big on the show (following both Webb and previous champion Jennifer Giles).

An accident claimed Mark in 2020. But even without a “Jeopardy!” appearance, he still left behind some indelible memories. As a treasured Longmont Theatre Company actor. As a gentle man with a wry sense of humor.

And, for a few months in 2013, as the “Longmont Street Walker.”

It’s not what it sounds like. (That wry humor again.) In 2013, Mark set out to walk every mile of every street in Longmont. It took him over 1.5 million steps, but he did it, blogging the journey after each new expedition.

In the process he rediscovered the city he’d been living in for 30 years. And reintroduced a lot of us to it as well.

“Even though I’ve driven a street many times, there are still things that I will notice walking that I have never noticed driving,” Mark wrote.

Yes. Yes. A hundred times, yes.

I’m not in Mark’s class as a walker OR a trivia champion. (Our epic battle of Trivial Pursuit never did happen, and I’m probably less humiliated for it.) But in my own lengthy walks across Longmont, I’ve noticed the same thing. Driving gives you tunnel vision. Your mind locks on your destination and (hopefully) the drivers around you, but you don’t really experience much beyond that bubble of thought.

Walking forces you to pay attention.

You learn where every dog in the neighborhood is – or at least what their bark sounds like.

“Where the Sidewalk Ends” is no longer just a Shel Silverstein poem, but an occasional reality. (And a challenging one if you’re also pushing a relative’s wheelchair, but I digress.)

You discover shortcuts. Faces. Interesting sights that get missed at 30 mph but become glaringly obvious at one-tenth that speed.

In short, you learn to see. And that’s a rare skill.

J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote of the importance of “recovery,” the ability to clean off your mental windows and actually notice things that have become commonplace. It means not just telling yourself “oh, another tree,” so you can put it in its box and move on, but actually seeing the tree as though you had never seen one before: its texture, its color, its life.

Life at walking speed makes a good window-cleaner. No bubble, no isolation – just a world close enough to touch, or at least to notice.

Mark’s blog Is still up at www.longmontstreetwalker.com. The sidewalks await any time. It doesn’t have to be an epic journey. Even a few steps can make a big difference.

And if you plan it right, you’ll even get home in time for “Jeopardy!”

Music and Memory

As the online music rocked, Missy partied like it was 2020.

By itself, the scene could have come from a hundred different nights. Missy, our disabled relative who’s physically in her 40s but much younger in heart and soul, has never met a dancing moment she didn’t like. Crank up her bedroom stereo or a YouTube video and she’ll move and sway as only she can, her smile beaming like a lighthouse.

But this night? Call it “Recent Retro.”  For the first time in several months, her favorite group – the Face Vocal Band – was livestreaming a basement concert. No crowds, no driving, just the joy of good a cappella rock on the doorstep.

“Yeah!!”

If you’re feeling a flashback, I get it. Two years ago, this was the music of lockdown. With masks everywhere and a vaccine nowhere in sight, live concerts became one of the biggest potential super-spreaders out there. So instead, musician after musician recorded quarantine videos and livestreamed concerts from their homes, keeping the music alive in the only way they could.

And in an off-balance world, they became a source of light. That not-so-simple act said “We care. We’re in this, too. And we want to make it better however we can.”

Since then, of course, many restrictions have eased or been put to rest entirely. People mix and mingle and even attend live concerts again. On the surface, things look – well, similar, if not the same.

 But when we look closer, we know it’s not really over. Not yet.

Not while so many are still so vulnerable.

I’ve written here before about my wife Heather, a wonderful woman with WAY too many autoimmune conditions for one human being. Even with the COVID curve so much lower than it was, it’s still totaling about 400 to 500 deaths a day in the U.S. That’s way too much virus for her to safely go out unless she has to.

She’s not alone. There are many others – more than most realize – for whom the pandemic is still a reality and a threat. For whom “normal,” or even this current fun-house mirror of it, is still a long way away.

And so I want to thank Face and others like them. Because once again, a not-so-simple concert said something special.

And this time, the message is “We remember.”

Easy to say. Powerful to feel.

And even without an uploaded video and a really kickin’ backbeat, it’s a message all of us can and should echo.

We remember that not everybody can come out and play yet. That post-pandemic is still mid-pandemic for a lot of us.

We remember that caution and courtesy are not just artifacts of 2020, but remain vital for everyone. That it’s not just about ourselves, but about those around us.

And yes, we remember that even in the midst of stressful times, we can still bring light to someone else’s world by seeing them and reaching out to where they are.

When we remember, we lift all of us up. And together, we become stronger. Maybe even strong enough to carry all of us to a better place.

That’s a pandemic attitude worth keeping.

And when it finally helps us break through to the other side – that will truly be a moment to dance.

I’ll bring Missy.

Ever a -dle Moment

I feel a little sorry for anyone trying to eavesdrop on the conversations of Chez Rochat these days.

“So did you get today’s flag yet?”

“Yeah, but I was totally in the wrong place for the country. You’ll see. And I have no idea on the music.”

‘Really? Play it a couple more times, you’ll know the guitar.”

“Ok …”

If it sounds puzzling … you’re absolutely right.

A few months back, I wrote about getting caught up in the Wordle craze, the ubiquitous puzzle game where you have to guess a five-letter word in six tries. I’m still there (and currently with a streak of over 260 wins). But these days, it’s got a lot of company.

Like Warbl, where you guess a song after hearing 30 seconds of it played backward.

Or Flagdle, where you have to recognize … well, national flags.

Or Quordle, the Wordle spin-off where you figure out four words in nine tries.

Not to mention Worldle (recognizing the shape of a country), Emovi (guess a film from a few emojis describing it), Yeardle (find the right year that an event happened in), and much, much more.

Heather discovered most of the games. I found a couple. A reader of this column even recommended one to us. It’s a little like finding dandelions in spring; every time you spot a new one, five more are nearby.

So what’s the point?

I’m not under the illusion that it makes me any smarter. Even the best brain games mostly teach you how to play brain games, a limited field unless you’re applying to become the New York Times crossword editor. (Know of any openings?) But that’s not to say that it’s useless, either.

Heather does them in part to sharpen her memory against the “brain fog” that multiple sclerosis can cause.  The moment where a reversed 30-second “Smoke on the Water” falls into place can be very reassuring.

For me, many of them play to my strengths: word play and weird bits of trivia.

And for both of us, the games hold the same appeal as a great mystery novel: pattern recognition from limited clues. As I pointed out last time, that’s a survival skill these days.

But there’s another quality that may be as valuable: tenaciousness. In particular, the awareness that an answer can be found, even if it’s not obvious or easy, and the will to keep trying for it.

I’m not naïve. I know that most of the issues we face in this world require a lot more thought than simply recognizing the shape of Belgium. But either way, persistence matters. No problem, simple or difficult, gets solved if people give up trying.

There’s a lot of temptation to do just that. As 2021 ended, an Axios poll found that more Americans were fearful than hopeful about the year to come. Ten months later, I suspect the proportions haven’t changed much.  Now, fear for the future isn’t necessarily unhelpful … but it depends on what you do with it. Does it drive you to despair and surrender? Or does it push you to struggle and try, to preserve something or even improve it?

If you’re struggling, if you’re tying, then there’s still hope in the midst of the dread. Hope sees a possible answer and then sweats to make it happen. It may take a lot of failed attempts. But hope keeps pushing for one more, to stay in the game a little longer.

So play on.  Hold your flag high.

And speaking of flags, have you seen today’s …?

One More Time

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can … and apparently, that includes taking another swing through movie theaters.

Yeah, the webhead’s back for Labor Day, sending his most recent installment, “No Way Home,” back onto the big screen. Inevitably, it’s an extended edition – always gotta offer more, right? – but at heart, it dusts off an unfamiliar word: re-release.

(Enter Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Now that’s a word I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time.”)

I know, I know. These days, it seems like every movie we see is a sequel or a re-boot of some kind, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the industry. “The Wizard of Oz” from 1939 that we all know and love, for example,  was the third version of L. Frank Baum’s children’s story to hit the screen and the 10th Oz film of any kind. Ding-dong, the story’s never dead!

But the re-release was already starting to become a thing of the past in the age of VCRs, never mind a time of streaming, DVD and Blu-ray options. Why send “Star Wars” back through first-run theaters for the umpty-umpth time when you can make money from home viewing and save the big screens for your new stuff?

But of course, when you change the setting, you change the story a little bit as well. Take a movie you’ve seen a thousand times at home, one that you could quote blindfolded. Put it back on the big screen for even one night. You’ll see details that escaped attention, feel the impact of a story in its intended scale … and of the people around you discovering the same thing.

It’s a chance to truly re-read the story.

And I love a good re-read.

As I’ve mentioned before, our home has enough books to qualify as the North Longmont branch of the public library. At any given time, I may be reading half a dozen at once … and of those, it’s almost a guarantee that one or two will be re-reads.

Every so often, someone will ask me why. After all, there’s a ton of new stuff to catch up on. (Heck, there’s a ton of new stuff to catch up on just in the living room.) Why plunge back into a story you already know?

But for me, and for the many other inveterate re-readers out there, it’s not just a rehash. It’s more like visiting an old friend.

There’s comfort in coming back to a loved story, as you not only revive favorite scenes and characters, but re-awaken how you felt when you met them.

There’s discovery, too. Some of my favorite books continue to reveal new details every time I open the covers. It might be something I’d forgotten or overlooked – or simply that I’ve changed enough to see the old material in a new way.  

There’s the joy of introducing someone new to a favorite. Watching Missy discover Bilbo Baggins and Harry Potter during nighttime reads enhanced the magic (so to speak) for both of us. And now that we both know the tales well, our re-reads strengthen that family bond.

It’s a good approach to life in general. Sure, one should always be ready to explore new trails. But there’s still value to be found in the roads that brought you here. Old lessons still matter. Old memories can still grant assurance. And past joys can still bring light in a dark time.

So take a moment to look back. It might be just what you need when life is driving you up the wall.

And if you meet a certain wall-crawler up there .. say hi for me, will you?

Bye-bye, Beebs

Justin Bieber has left the building.

No, the Beebs hasn’t died or retired or volunteered for a manned mission to Mars. (Does that count as a homecoming?) I’m speaking a bit more literally than that.

Namely, Missy’s life-sized cardboard standup of the young JB – a historic landmark in Chez Rochat – has taken its final bow.

How the heck did we get a cardboard Canadian pop star in our house in the first place? To make a long story short, Missy gets … well, enthusiastic about things. She has a lot of energy and a very straightforward approach to sharing it, possibly enhanced by her developmental disability. So when she decides she loves something, she doesn’t hold back.

Like shouting “WOW!” to an entire restaurant after one bite of peanut butter pie.

Or pointing gleefully at a Darth Vader magazine cover, like a metal detector locked onto pirate gold.

Or hugging EVERY single member of the Face Vocal Band backstage after a concert. (Pre-COVID, of course.)

So when a certain teenage YouTube sensation hit mainstream success over a decade ago, Missy was all over it. Light, dancy music has an easy time making it onto her playlist anyway, so the house was soon full of the strains of “Baby” and “Never Say Never.”

Heather and I did what parents and guardians through the ages have done – we rolled with it and tried to make it fun while it lasted. That included a birthday party with a standup of the Beebs himself, for laughs and photographs.

And when the party was over, it was clear that Cardboard Justin wasn’t leaving.

He came to occupy a corner of Missy’s room, eventually festooned with a small tiara from one of her prom nights.  Never mind that Bieber Fever had taken a turn for the weird in the rest of the nation; young-and-innocent Justin lived on in that piece of memory and real estate.

And then, like some pop-music version of Puff The Magic Dragon, things shifted.

Missy discovered Harry Potter. And Star Wars. And a whole lot of music from a whole lot of other bands, past and present. She never outright rejected Yesteryear Justin, but the grown-up JB just didn’t have the same appeal. The cardboard star faded into the background, barely noticed except when trying to explain his presence to guests with a chuckle.

Finally, the moment came. Missy’s room needed a reorganization. Her stuffed animals needed Justin’s corner. And Justin himself was starting to … fold. Just a bit.

Yes, it was time to go.

It didn’t take long. And without its extra occupant, the room seemed a little brighter. Ready for a fresh start.

Funny how that works. Some passions prove lifelong, treasured for ages. Others have their time and move on. And it can be challenging to tell the difference. We hold onto a lot of things that just take up space and energy: unused stuff, worn-out ideas, lingering resentments and more.

Some just need to be gone. Others still leave a fingerprint behind, a memory of past joys. Either way, clearing the space can let a little more light in.

So we’ll salute the fun. Look to the future. And wait with interest to see what Missy the Excited embraces next.

Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll come along Justin time.

Lost Treasure

There’s no pile of riches. No treasure map. Certainly no One-Eyed Willie. But shiver me timbers if “The Goonies” didn’t actually have a glimmer of truth to it.

In case you missed the news, National Geographic recently reported that a dozen timbers from a 17th-century Spanish galleon – the Santo Cristo de Burgos – were found off the Oregon coast. That by itself would be pretty cool since the ship had disappeared after leaving the Philippines in 1693.

But the news coverage exploded thanks to a Hollywood connection. Tales of the shipwreck survived among the Native Americans, with later settlers spinning off legends of sunken treasure. Those in turn inspired Steven Spielberg to make “The Goonies,” the 1980s movie about children hunting pirate gold.

Confession time: I’m not a huge Goonies fan, which will probably cost me my “Child of the ‘80s” geek cred. But the connection between a 1690s ship and a 1980s film fascinates me.

You see, in the words of a young Sean Astin, “Goonies never say die!” And apparently, neither do stories.

In a day when so much can be researched, pinned down and verified, it’s easy to forget that stories have a life of their own. They’re strands of memory that defy the line between fact and fiction, often taking a seed of reality and spinning it into something unforgettable.

But as the legends and myths and heroes rise, the piece that started it all becomes a buried treasure:  lost, forgotten, maybe even denied to exist. Was there a British war leader that set the tales of King Arthur in motion? Or a highway robber with a sense of style that kindled later legends of Robin Hood? Even in less time, it’s easy for memory to change to make a better story: the psychologist Ulric Neisser famously told how he remembered hearing of Pearl Harbor attack during a radio baseball game , only to realize decades later that no one plays baseball in December.

So when the treasure of truth suddenly reappears, it’s almost magical. You can start to see how the story began and what grew from it, making both a little more wonderful. It might be the ancient city of Troy, rescued from mythical status by a 19th-century archaeologist. It might be the Santo Cristo, giving reality to a vessel that had long sailed the imagination.

And years, decades, centuries from now … it might even be us.

We live our stories now. Each of us shares and shapes memory, building our perceptions of the world into a personal tale that  explains the world around us. And even in our own lifetimes, we see those stories evolve and collide and change … though we don’t always realize how much they’ve changed until we find ourselves struggling with an inconvenient fact that doesn’t fit the narrative.

When our own time has passed, how much more will those stories transform?

It’s a little humbling to consider. And yet, it can be comforting as well. Even if our copious records become lost or meaningless to a far-future generation, something inspired by us may still fire the imagination and grow beyond what we can see.

And maybe, just maybe, some timbers of truth will wash onto the shore.

Or does that sound a little Goonie?

Beyond Memory

A whole generation has grown up with no direct memory of Sept. 11.

It’s odd that that sounds odd. After all, that’s what happens.  Time moves on. If I pointed out the huge mass of Americans with no memory of the moon landing, or the Kennedy assassination, or World War II, no one would be shocked.

But when it comes to that early fall day of clear skies and screaming headlines 20 years ago, we stumble.

Never forget, we ritually cry. Remember, remember, like some Guy Fawkes rhyme re-cast for a new time and place.

But we can’t hold on to “never.” Brains don’t work that way. And a growing number of us have nothing to remember except the lessons and examples that the rest of us choose to pass on.

What will those be?

This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in this place. Seven years ago, on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, I observed how the day was becoming more ordinary. How some of us actually had to be reminded instead of having the date leap to mind automatically. And how we weren’t horrible human beings because of that.

From that past column:

No one’s passing is ever truly “gotten over” or should be, all the less so when the passing is the violent end of a few thousand people.

But it’s OK for the pain to dull, too.

It’s OK to not feel every anniversary as though it were the first one.

It’s OK to be able to look at those memories from a distance and maybe, in a way, see them for the first time with clear eyes.

Most of us have experienced the passing of someone close to us. Some of us have had the ill fortune to have it come out of nowhere, a total surprise that rocks the world. Too sudden or too young or too … well, too many “too’s” to count.

For the longest time afterward, it seems like life can never be about anything else. The pain is fresh and the disjointment real. The wound gapes and resists every effort to stitch it.

But something happens.

It never really gets better. But it gets farther.

And with that time and distance come different memories. The ones that comfort. That remind. That lift the day for a moment instead of crushing it down.

The pain is still there. But it’s no longer alone.

Twenty years since a single day in New York and Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, will the memories we pass on still be of fire and chaos? Or will there be something more?

Will there be the memory of those who reached out to help and comfort from across the country, moved by the needs of people they had never met?

Will there be lessons drawn from the actions we took in its aftermath, good, bad and ugly? The choices that brought us together and the ones that had us squinting in suspicion?

Every crisis shapes us. Some remake the world, like the current pandemic. Some are much more local, like the St. Vrain flood that’s now eight years in the past. Each time, we find ourselves making choices.  What do we carry forward? What do we leave behind?

Memory is important. But memory fades and changes. Its grip loosens a bit with each new heir that it’s passed to.

Build something with it, and memory becomes experience. Build something worthy with it, and it won’t matter that future generations weren’t there. They’ll be here, with a foundation to stand on, an example to learn from, maybe even a goal that they can be part of shaping.

Long after memories of the day have passed, that’s where we’ll find our re-generation.

In the Middle of the Night

The clouds had scattered for the moment. The night air was still. And high overhead, one half of the moon had gone into shadow.

CLICK.

I went inside and studied my picture of the so-late-it’s-early eclipse. Perfect. But something was … different. Somehow in the dark, my natural coordination (which makes Maxwell Smart look like an Olympic athlete) had bumped one of the camera settings while I was lining up the shot. The result looked less like a photograph and more like a painting, framed by trees that seemed to be the work of careful brush strokes.

I loved it. It was like tripping over a rock that turns out to be a diamond.

Late-night magic had struck again.

Like the Phantom of the Opera,  I long ago fell in love with the music of the night, that wonderful time when the demands of the world are few and the mind can go where it will. It can be a time to write and reflect. Or to chat with fellow owls. Or to power through my mountainous reading pile, including the final few (hundred) pages of The Wheel of Time.

It’s a time that’s set aside. That’s ready to be whatever you make it.

And if that sounds familiar, you’ve probably glanced at the calendar.

We’ve reached another Memorial Day. Another time that’s set aside from the usual demands of work and daily life to be more or less spent as we please. (Especially with the gradual easing of the pandemic in this country.)

For many, it’s a time to break out the grill, the steak and the sunscreen. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with a good cookout.

For many of us, it’s also a time to reflect. To think about who isn’t at the barbecue. Maybe even to raise a flag or leave some flowers.

That’s where this began. Not with the grill. Not even with a “thank you for your service” to living veterans (though you certainly don’t have to wait until November to do that). But with a moment to remember the price that others have paid.

Not just out of respect, though that’s important. But because it may also help us weigh the costs of what we do as a nation going forward.

No action happens in a vacuum. Everything we do touches someone or something beyond the immediate moment. And there’s always a price to be paid. Maybe it’s in literal dollars and cents. Maybe it’s an effect on the physical environment, Maybe it’s an impact on how others live their lives – or whether those lives continue at all.

When we remember that, we remember each other. And maybe, just maybe, we learn to consider and to care for each other on this journey together as well.

But it’s our choice.

It’s our choice whether to remember those who gave their lives for the nation … or to regard their sacrifices as ancient history  and war as someone else’s video game.

It’s our choice whether to build a nation that remembers and includes all of us … or to throw up walls and barriers, turn away from uncomfortable truths and perpetually see an “other” instead of a neighbor.

And yeah, it’s even our choice whether to season all this thought with the offerings of a backyard grill. (Weather permitting.)

It’s your time. Your choice. It’s whatever you choose to make it.

And if that choice keeps you up a little late, maybe I’ll see you around.

I might even have my camera figured out by then.

Singing Out, Singing In

There’s nothing like a jaunt in a time machine to kick off the weekend right.

No, Doc Brown didn’t park the DeLorean in my driveway. The TARDIS from Doctor Who hasn’t made a pit stop on the Front Range. And while I’d have to clean out the basement to be sure, I’m reasonably confident that there’s no Victorian wonder-machine of gears and wheels waiting in the furnace room courtesy of H.G. Wells.

No worries. I’ve got something better yet.

It’s called Virtuosity.

***

Helplessly hoping, her harlequin hovers

Nearby, awaiting a word …  

Virtuosity, as the name might suggest, is a virtual choir, an online singing group organized by Stephen Ross of the Face Vocal Band. Like many others of its kind, it’s a pandemic creation, born from people who shared two common qualities:

  1. They really wanted to sing together for fun.
  2. They really didn’t want to share a virus-laden airflow.

The result is a musical Rube Goldberg machine, with a lot of moving parts adding up to a surprising result. You basically learn the song (with some online coaching), practice, record yourself at home 37 bazillion times until you’re no longer disgusted with your own performance, send the video to the director and then wait while he merges everybody’s video into one coherent and even compelling performance.

It should never work. But it does … brilliantly.

The main trick – well, besides learning to be kind to yourself as you work out the kinks – is that there can be quite a delay between preparation and performance. But even that’s more of a feature than a bug. It means that when you cue up the latest song – in this case, a cover of “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills and Nash – you’re not just hearing music. You’re hearing memories.

That’s where the time machine comes in.

On Friday, it took me back to the March blizzard that overlapped our recording dates. For many of us, that added up to a lot of extra takes, thanks to the sudden roar of snow blowers in the background or the THUMP of drifts sliding off the roof and onto the soundtrack.

Months from now, it’ll probably take me back even farther –  not just to piled-up snowstorms, but to the pandemic itself and the weirdness of trying to live apart from the world while being a part of it at the same time.

It’s a memory brought back to life. And that’s powerful.

I know, I know. Most of us feel like we don’t especially want to remember these times. We’ve shredded the 2020 calendar, buried the mask in the just-in-case back pocket, and set about trying to look forward instead of back. I sympathize, I really do.

Some memories are painful. Or uncomfortable. Or even toxic. Every day, we see headlines generated by memories that are years or even centuries old, pain left unredressed, wounds that never found a chance of healing.

But memory can build, too. It can teach, strengthen, reassure. It’s the sudden laugh that lightens the darkness, the glimpse of hope in the midst of insanity. It’s the reminder that “Yes, we’ve made it through before and we can again.”

When those memories are wrapped in an experience – a song, a story, a journey of the mind or the body – they endure. And when it’s a shared experience … well, that’s the sort of memory that builds communities up instead of tears them down.

I hope we all find some memories worth keeping from this. Maybe even worth learning from.

You could even call it note-worthy.