Memories of lying down

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By Jesse Osbourne


My memory is mostly shot. Ask my wife or my boss.

You can tell me almost anything and I’ll likely forget it.
But when I do remember, I remember vividly.
Usually, reading something I’d written, like a journal entry or an old news story, can bring back details I thought had been erased.
Knowing this, I regret not writing more things down.
I vowed that I would keep track of memories I have of my daughter, but I haven’t done so to the degree that I wish I had.
I’ve also found out that recalling what books I’ve read brings back vivid memories - of lying down.
Last week I checked out something I’d heard about at a party.
It’s called goodreads.com.
It’s a way to rate the books you’ve read, receive recommendations and keep track of what your friends have read.
I signed up and began rating all the books I could remember reading.
The process became addictive. I started setting goals to see how many I could remember.
But, in the process, I started recalling where I was when I read the books.
For instance, I read “Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories” by Lorraine Lopez my sophomore year in college.
I read the bulk of it while lying in bed at my college girlfriend’s grandfather’s house.
That’s a story in itself.
I bought the college girlfriend a plane ticket to North Carolina for one weekend to see her best friend. It was a birthday gift.
At the time, I probably felt like I didn’t get many weekends to myself, so maybe it was a gift to me, too.
Anyway, those plans were thwarted when the college girlfriend thought it would be a fantastic idea for me to spend the weekend with her grandfather (whom I barely knew) - from the moment I dropped her off at the airport until the moment I picked her back up.
Anyway, instead of running wild about the town with no girlfriend, I spent it reading in an upstairs bedroom of a man I’d met for only an hour prior to the sleepover.
It’s a funny book of short stories - funnier than spending the weekend at your girlfriend’s grandfather’s house, for sure.
In all sincerity, he was a great man. It was just an awkward arrangement.
I also remember where I was when I read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien - upright in an airplane seat.
A friend had been recommending the book for a long time, but I could never get into it.
Finally, a trip to South Korea (another story in itself) gave me the time and proper frame of mind to finish the book.
I think the flight was 17 hours, which was ample time to plow through “The Hobbit.”
Reading it made me think of journeys, which was appropriate at that time in my life - college.
During the following days, I had nothing but time to think because I was touring South Korea in a cab with two people that spoke limited English.
It was just me, incomprehensible Korean conversations and my thoughts.
Thanks to the change of scenery, “The Hobbit” and all the time I had to think, I decided that writing and photography were what made me happiest.
Professionally, they still are.
In Whitesburg, which is a city in Eastern Kentucky, I remember reading “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee and Walker Evans.
I was in a room full of student photojournalists, lying on a couch inside a trailer.
Several photo students and I traveled to Whitesburg for spring break, photographing life there as part of the Appalachian Cultural Project (acpworkshop.org).
I read it to get into the correct mindset.
I wanted to take my duty to photograph seriously, while also maintaining dignity for a subject that is often exploited.
“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” is a book about sharecroppers in the South. It’s an honest portrait of their lives, but written and photographed with dignity.
The book brings back a lot of memories of that week in Appalachia, a different world within the boundaries of my home state.
Of course, there are other memories of where I was when I read  a certain book, but they aren’t as vivid or memorable.
Now, what was it that I was supposed to be doing? I can’t remember.