The best memories

by Christian Bryant

I have a terrible memory. Like really, really bad.

Birthday wishes: never delivered.

Deadlines: missed. Moving dates: unintentionally overlooked. Favors: never carried out.

Just recently, I forgot to extend congratulations to one of my good friends on her graduation day. As expected, her terse remarks and merciless criticism gladly met my belated wishes at the point of no return. The fact that her commencement exercises landed smack-dab in the middle of a well-known graduation season and that we talked about it just days before added insult to injury. In return, she injured me with insults.

The more I read, I note that my handwriting becomes increasingly more illegible and the shorthand more fluid. That’s when I started to get the hang of things.

The erasure of my fond and seemingly significant experiences makes me a victim of my own cognitive shortcomings. It sucks that a good apology remains the only reactionary defense to these mental miscues, but apologies are limited. Plus, I’ve overdrafted that account many a time.

My forgetfulness even extended to my work at YES! Weekly. I wouldn’t forget a task at hand, but sometimes past assignments would be cast into the deep recesses of my mind waiting to be brought back to the surface.

Despite my selective memory loss, I have aids to help trigger those experiences: Four tattered, standard-issue stenographer’s notepads. The horizontal spiral connects the pages at the top.

They look like they’ve seen a little action. The cover on each notepad lays askew from the other pages; a result of the constant opening, closing and flipping. The pages inside don’t sit directly on top of each other but look like a stack of shuffled papers.

The contents of the first notepad tell quite a story. Infallible penmanship leaves each letter resting right above the dividing lines of the pages. Each fully formed word and sentence contains flawless punctuation as if I methodically sketched out each letter with a Bob Ross-like stroke. I thought too hard back then.

Two of Brian Clarey’s first pieces of advice rest on the cover:

“Never turn down a chance to have sex or be on TV,” and “The human body wasn’t made to be comfortable all of the time. Take Walmart. They are full of people like that.”

The J. Jonah Jameson of Greensboro never disappoints. As I flip through, I see countless story ideas, local talent interviews, scratched out words and poorly drawn diagrams. The more I read, I note that my handwriting becomes increasingly more illegible and the shorthand more fluid. That’s when I started to get the hang of things.

I documented all of the fun times. I almost forgot about my interview with Snooki from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” when she came to Greensboro for her book signing. She impressed me with her sweetness some time within the first few months of my internship.

Eighteen tally marks sit atop another page. They denote the number of painted breasts visible at Lyndon Street Artworks during the setup of their seventh annual Eros erotic art show. I could never forget those tally marks.

Memories from my chow piece with Hootie, the hot dog stand operator who posts up on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, makes me salivate. I had two well-garnished beef franks and a sausage dog before I even finished the interview.

I also documented all of the not-so-fun times like shuffling through contentious bills from the NC General Assembly for Pop Quiz material. I’ll never envy anyone assigned to do Pop Quiz for any given week.

So many things can be said about the aesthetics and the visible content of the four notepads, but the things unseen, like the lessons learned, remain the most invaluable.

I’ll never forget the amount of criticism I received for one piece in particular. In my effort to tell someone’s story, I dropped the ball. The harsh critiques showed me that not everyone will enjoy my writing, but more importantly, the critiques reminded me that articles written are much more than just words printed on a page.

The notepads represent a timeline of my eight-month test by fire and I’m elated knowing that I’ve completed my internship practically unscathed.

Columbia, Missouri beckons and so does my pursuit of journalistic excellence. I’ll be studying to earn a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia — affectionately known as Mizzou.

No matter where I go or where my memory goes from here, I’ll always have these four notepads. The contents of which will always be the best memories for me.