Time strange thing. We humans are always using it and are often contemplating it. As time passes we certainly wonder where it goes. We use our memories to remember time but our memories fail us. Sometimes we can’t remember a thing about one event or another that took place twenty or thirty years ago. That’s where photos and writing helps.

I have a pretty good memory. I used to think I had a great memory but that may have been because I was young and there was less to remember. Around the age of twenty five was when I thought I had a great memory. I could remember details of stuff that other people couldn’t. Or so it seemed to me. But in hindsight it may have been because I only had about a decade’ worth of adult memories. That and other people didn’t always bother to remember stuff.

We make memories from associations. Back in my youth there were more new experiences and more things for me to associate memories with. I might be able to remember something from when I was twenty because it happened in my junior year of college. Each year of college has its own name and there are only four of them. Compare that to leaving college and getting a job. Especially a job that you have for years. What happen on the job during year three might be indistinguishable in memory from what happened in year four. What about if there is a year eight? Things get even more muddled without a lot of associations.

On Facebook I’m in a couple of groups that have to do with memories. One is a group for my college and another is a group for my days in the 1990s working at Marvel Comics. I often am told in those groups that I have a good memory for stuff. That makes me point out that my memory is quite fallible but I do have a good system for writing down names and dates on photos. I can let those things remember for me.

These days almost all photos are digital and they come with automatic dates and sometimes automatic places too. But back in the 1980s and 1990s when I was taking photos I’d have to write names, dates, and places on the back of my photos in order to know where, when, and who was in them. I’m glad I did.

Once every few months (I always put it off for longer than I should have) I’d take an evening and write the date, place, and peoples’ names on the backs of the photos. I knew I’d forget a lot of that info. Some dates are only month and year as I didn’t even remember the exact day a few months after the photo was taken. I should have looked it up on a calendar back then but it was hard enough just to label them. Sure enough there are people in those photos whose names I would have forgotten by now if I hadn’t have written them down.

Just this week I had an old memory of the first semester of my junior year of college come back to me. This story takes place during my first semester of SUNY Purchase back in Fall 1986 (I was a transfer student so it was my Junior year). It was probably in September or October when a woman who I knew (not very well) stopped by my room to say hello. She may have been a bit tipsy. She spotted the big dictionary I had, walked over to it, found the word “Dipsomania,” told me it was her favorite word, and then circled and initialed it. After that she wandered off and was on her way. It was a moment.

I still have the dictionary but because it’s the digital age the big book has been in a closet for the last twenty years. When I remembered this story I pulled out the dictionary to see if the memory was real. I remembered her signing her name but it turns out it was only her initials. I can’t remember her name at all anymore but her initials were C.D. I think she was only at Purchase that one semester.

I posted this story in my college group on Facebook and only one person thought she might have known this woman. My Facebook group friend gave a good description of C.D. so I think it was her. My Facebook friend was friends with C.D. back in 1986 but she could only remember that her name was Christine. Her last name is lost to our memories. If only I had a photo of her with her name on the back.

Back in June of 1992 Marvel Comics was on the tenth floor of 387 Park Avenue South. They decided to remodel the floor so everybody had to move down to the fourth floor as the work was being done that summer. I mention this because I took no photos of us all working on the fourth floor. Usually I have photos of my time at Marvel to match my memories with but in this case, for that summer, I don’t. It’s weird but something I never thought much about. That was until a few years ago when Eliot R. Brown posted a blog about those days.

Eliot R. Brown worked in the Marvel Bullpen a little before my time. He was a freelancer at Marvel in the 1990s when I met him but in the late 1970s and 1980s he took a lot of photos at Marvel when he worked there. He started a blog about his days at Marvel (https://www.eliotrbrown.com/wp/) and that’s where I saw his post about Marvel’s time on the fourth floor. The photos fascinated me.

I wish I had been a more prolific photographer during my Marvel days. I was the guy who usually had a camera and I took more pictures than others but it was the age of film and we didn’t take photos of everything like people do today. Film and processing cost money and photographing everyday life was unusual.

Often people look at my old photos and say, “Wow, I don’t even remember that” but now it was my turn to. Memories of the fourth floor came flooding back as I looked at Eliot’s pictures. Plus there was so much in them that I didn’t remember. I was even in one of the photos. Just standing around and doing whatever.

I can get drawn into a strange memory hole just thinking about those fourth floor photos. So much happened that summer that I don’t remember. Since so many of my memories are associated with my own photos I’m used to that type of remembering but with other people’s photos it’s a different process. It’s a process of building memories from my mind and from new old photos. I remember one thing and it’s either right or wrong according to the photo plus a photo can jog a memory. It’s new information on long gone times.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about recently. Time and memories. Where do they come from and where do they go? It’s the human condition.