Keep a camera on ya

I’ve been noticing a strange little lilt to my gait. It’s been veering right ever so slightly. I’d blame the new winter weather, but it was there before the snow began to fall. It started shortly after that lump showed up on my right thigh. Ah – my pocket camera.

I carry way too much stuff, and even when I go without a backpack my pockets are stuffed with a notebook, a cell phone, a pen, a back-up pen, a camera, a wallet with built in coin purse and sometimes an iPod and earbuds. I have to get a workout in somehow to keep the pudge off the middle.

imageIt finally paid off

The addition I never regret is the camera. As a visual learner, I find that it spills over into the recall part of my brain as well; one look at a snapshot from a decade ago can spark all kinds of memories surrounding that scene – what else was going on that day, what a friend in the picture had said, how I felt.

I want to remember those things, I want to remember in vivid detail the when, how and why of life, the dots that when connected reveal the shape of where I’ve been. And I find that people along the way don’t mind sharing that with you, or maybe more accurately, don’t mind photobombing your memories.

“Who was that guy with his arm around you?”

“I don’t know, but he seems like he knows me.”

“C’mon, think – you must be repressing some kind of memory.”

“Seriously, I have no idea who that is.”

When the camera comes out here, so do the line-ups for deadpan poses. I think it’s a product of the Soviet days. Or maybe it’s just a Russian smile. It’s funny to see a group of American volunteers posing with local friends; the Americans are splayed with the widest, shit-faced grins, while most Kyrgyz look like they’re posing for a line up. (It was the other guy.) Our inclination to flash the pearly whites has been seared in since childhood. “Ok, we’re having fun here, everyone smile…I said smile!…SMILE DAMMIT OR YOU’RE NOT GETTING YOUR BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!”

And when the photo is taken, and each person has had proper time to approve of their mugshot, the reminders for their own printed copies fall clattering about your ears.

The money spent on photos is always worth it. And so is the uneven wear on the back and the shoes. When I do finally slow down and look back, I will be so grateful for those little sparks to the memory.

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