Rivers Are Damp

Endlessly searching for the perfect tagline


with 2 comments

Is there ever a word or phrase that, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to remember?  I have that problem right now…and the word is ‘shrapnel.’

Yes, ‘shrapnel.’  I seem to have some kind of enduring mental block that keeps me from remembering it.  Not to worry, though!  I’m pretty sure this is not an early sign of Alzheimer’s—at least I hope it’s not—since the problem seems to be limited to this one word.  And, actually, I can remember having similar problems since childhood.  Sometimes, there’d just be a single word or phrase that repeatedly wouldn’t quite come to me.

Of course, I can’t remember the details of any of those childhood experiences now!  Hmm, I’m forgetful.

Why am I even trying to remember ‘shrapnel’ anyway?  Well, if I were actually talking about, or thinking about, something like shell fragments, the word ‘shrapnel’ would likely come to me with ease.  That’s not why I’m trying to think of ‘sharpnel,’ though.  Nearly every day, I walk by a fountain in Philly—it’s near where I work—that’s built around a particularly, er, hard-to-like sculpture.  About a dozen years ago, one of my then-coworkers joked that the piece was probably named something like Shrapnel.  And he was so right.  The sculpture has a sort of post-Armageddon, Modernism-gone-horribly-wrong feel that, somehow or other, Shrapnel really captures.

So I’ll be walking to or from work, and I’ll pass by this sculpture.  I’ll think of my coworker, remember how he was vexed by that sculpture, and then I won’t be able to remember what he called it.  It’ll almost come to me, but then it’ll be gone.  In the past several years, I’ve gone weeks and even months when ‘shrapnel’ wouldn’t come to me as the name of the sculpture.  Arrgh!

One recent morning, for whatever reason, I saw the fountain, and I remembered that the sculpture should be named Shrapnel.  When I got to my desk, I wrote the word down on a post-it note and stuck it on my computer monitor.  Since then, I’ve had a much easier time remembering.  Now I’m blogging ‘Shrapnel,’ too.  This is pretty much guaranteed, I’d say, to burn the word into my mind.

Of course, in a few weeks or months, there’ll probably be some other word or phrase I can’t quite remember.  Sigh.

Usually when I can’t remember something, I simply try not to worry about it.  When there’s no pressure, and I’ve allowed my conscious mind to move on to something/everything else, the unremembered will almost always come to me.  If that doesn’t work, I sometimes resort to a related technique I’ve read about.  I imagine that there’s an old, old librarian in my attic of my brain.  I climb up the ladder, knock, and ask him to find whatever I’m forgetting.  Then I force myself to forget about it.  Later, the missing piece of information will appear from seemingly nowhere.

But that won’t be necessary for ‘shrapnel.’  If I manage to forget it again, I’ll be able just search the blog.  Ah, relief.

P.S. The fountain-sculpture combo is actually called Voyage of Ulysses.  That’s its picture up there, on the cover of a book—a surprisingly good book, I’ve now discovered—called Fountains of Philadelphia: A  Guide.  (Strangely enough, I don’t seem to have ever photographed the, er, piece.)

P.P.S. This post is also proof, I suppose, that I can conjure up a blog post out of thin air.

Written by Jimmy

July 24th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Art,Jay,Philly

2 Responses to 'Shrapnel!'

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  1. I’ve often thought it best described as shrapnel myself.

    Here are a few recent pics:

    >> Jeremy

    Jeremy Fountain

    24 Jul 08 at 11:03 pm

  2. Hey, thanks for posting the links to your pics, Jeremy. Your well-done pics make Shrapnel look a lot, er, cooler than it really is. 🙂

    If you’ve been by the fountain recently, you might’ve noticed that the water had gone all brackish. The algae in the water certainly added to the Shrapnel-ish ambience…. (In the past week, though, someone has cleaned the fountain out.)



    24 Jul 08 at 11:16 pm

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