A Midwest supper club is gastronomically and physically rooted in the 1950s. A meal is likely to start with an assortment of cellophane-covered crackers and end with a brandy Alexander, all in a room where the bar features a missile-shaped leather-upholstered bumper.
Recently I dined at one called the HobNob in Racine, Wisconsin, with my husband and a long-time friend, seated near nine locals drinking strong martinis and barely glancing at their heavy, black rectangular menus. They seemed to have known each other for decades, simultaneously inhabiting the HobNob of today and decades of past fraternizing.
At our corner table, we ordered 12-ounce rib-eyes, duck and clam chowder and the question came up: If you could live in any movie for the rest of your life, which movie would it be?
Both my companions blurted out their answers immediately -- The Godfather and My Big Fat Greek Wedding -- as I struggled to remember the plot of the last movie I had watched, alarmingly aware that I had viewed it just 48 hours prior. It was about woodpeckers... it was called Woodpecker...
There are two kinds of people: Elephants (who effortlessly recall plots, themes, characters and endings, be they fictional or from their own life) and Goldfish (in honor of our patron saint, an animal whose memory span has been measured to be between three seconds and five months).
Elephants can remember several movies, or books, simultaneously, as if they were presented to them on a menu. The opening scene of The New World -- Native Americans' first glimpse of an approaching ship -- perfect! The ending of The Great Gatsby -- the decadent millionaire shot dead in his swimming pool -- outstanding!
They do not confuse Crime and Punishment with War and Peace.
In addition, Elephants apply their enviable powers to personal-life. Every Goldfish has listened to an Elephant tell a story in which she, the Goldfish, allegedly was present. The Goldfish cannot recollect the event, not one bit.
Our clam chowder arrives and my dining companions press me for the name of the movie that I would most want to live in for eternity. My mind has been flipping not through movies, but through fears: early-onset Alzheimer's disease, undiagnosed brain injury, shrinking brain (is there such a diagnosis?), stupidity and dullness.
I panic and say Castaway because I think it would be nice to be alone on a beach for a spell. At least no one would be quizzing me in ways that reveal a memory held together by Duct Tape. They say Castaway's a dumb choice because Tom Hanks has to pull out his own painfully rotten tooth. I had forgotten that part.
I've read that traditionally, groups of people worked as a unit to house memory. Mom -- she's the one who remembers he name of that backwoods cabin the family retreats to on occasion. Dad -- he's the only one who remembers how to get there. But as a Google Nation, we no longer turn to family but to devices to complete the loop. Forget memory! I should be cheered by this outsourcing, as it will level the playing field for us Goldfish. But I feel saddened. Do I want to live in a world of goldfish? I do not.
When our meal is over, the three of us order one Brandy Alexander. It's delivered in a ridiculously inappropriate glass -- a heaping mound of liquor-infused ice cream in a tall, stemmed glass, nearly toppling over like a fat lady in stiletto heels. We take up three spoons and dig in. It's a beautiful shared moment and I hope I will remember it forever.