You want to get me laughing? Show me a can of Pepsi.
…And when I just stare at you like you’ve lost your mind, try saying, “I’m not a simpleton, Jack,” take a sip of the soda, and finish, “You knew my father.”
Then I will laugh, my mind instantly producing flashbacks of summer art camp (good old Masterpiece Ministries) and rehearsals for a much-abridged Open Mic reenactment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (yours truly serving as writer, director, and characters Commodore Norrington and Captain Barbossa for the production), and countless other memories involving camp and the Backstreet Boys and “The Wizard of Oz” and goodness knows what else, all stirred up by your one little stunt with the Pepsi.
That’s the power of association – definition 3a., “A mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations.”
This works with books, too, you know. On the reading side, for example, I can never think of one of my very favorite books, “The Outlaws of Sherwood” by Robin McKinley, without accompanying thoughts of sitting in a high school auditorium, reading the opening chapters while awaiting curtain-up on a most enjoyable performance of “Beauty and the Beast”; when I glance at my bookshelf and observe the novelization of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”, I’m reminded of the tiny bookstore where I bought it (and saw that really cool bust of Mystique from the “X-Men” comics, but didn’t buy it because I couldn’t justify the sacrifice of that kind of money and space); “Pride and Prejudice” makes me think of babysitting, for what better than an Austin novel to keep you entertained while the little ones are abed? (Well, okay, “Northanger Abbey” didn’t do much for me. Guess that’ll teach me to generalize.)
But one of the cases of this associative phenomenon that I find most interesting is the double mental transportation that takes place when I read various writings of my own.
Chapter Thirteen of the book starring my fantastic talking fox not only takes me to a beaver lodge with extraordinary amenities, it takes me back to the left bucket seat of the family van, on a summer road trip to and from I-forget-precisely-where (getting my sister back from dance camp in Florida, perhaps?), where I staved off highway boredom by adding some word-count to the then-current project.
Books Four and Five of “The Wilderhark Tales” take me north of the Baltusian Mountains and, as a certain Crown Prince put it, “West, west, and then on to some point west of that, apparently.” They take me also to my desk in the elementary school library that once served as my domain, where I would scribble out bits of inspiration in between cataloguing books and reading to kindergarteners and otherwise living the glamorous life of a library media assistant.
The illustrations are endless (or close enough to it), and that’s just books and me! I could sit here for an hour trying to come up with a whole bunch of theoretical scenarios where A might remind you of B, or blah-blah might remind you of yadda-yadda, but I’d really rather use my time more constructively than that. Spare me the hypotheticals, and let’s deal with real life. (Whoa – did I really just type that??) You are invited, readers, to share your crazy association stories with me via blog comments; I’d love to know where your mind goes when you see a certain breed of dog, or taste a particular flavor of jellybean, or hear that one song blaring out of somebody’s car stereo… whatever comes to mind.
And in the meantime, I’ll sit here laughing over how I may have cleverly tricked you into thinking of the Ever On Word blog every time you crack open a can of Pepsi.