"Of all liars, the smoothest and most convincing is memory." - Olin Miller (via Harlan Ellison)I saw this on TV once. Except I couldn't have.
I couldn't have because somehow I remember seeing this on cable when my family lived in Camarillo, CA, in 1981 and 1982. At the time, the song and the video didn't exist.
Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" debuted in 1984, appearing first as a single and then on the album The Works, and its video entered reasonably heavy rotation on MTV. Come '84, I definitely saw it, as I'd become a regular viewer of MTV (as well as reruns of the original Star Trek), and the home we'd moved into in Virginia Beach, VA had MTV on its cable. We hadn't had it on our Camarillo cable. Still a moot point, as, again, DIDN'T EXIST.
But I saw it.
Maybe in Camarillo I saw brief clips of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, the images which Queen borrowed and re-used for the video, and then my memory "back-filled," combining the Lang with the Queen in a way that made it seem that they'd been connected longer. Maybe.
I also somehow remember a version of 2001: A Space Odyssey with an exploded astronaut (which didn't happen), as well as windows along the spine of the U.S.S. Discovery (which it didn't have (scroll down a bit)). I saw 2001 at a surprisingly young age -- I think I was still living in San Diego, and that was before Camarillo. I lived in San Diego's Rancho Bernardo community from 1976 to either late 1980 or early '81, and we moved sometime during my first grade. So unless I'm remembering wrong, I saw that mind-blowing film as a kindergartner or a first grader.
Or maybe I didn't.
I'm either right or slightly wrong, because somehow I did see 2001 very young. (I know I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture when it was in theaters, and I was a 6-year-old kindergartner+. I fell asleep in it. As I said, I came back around to Star Trek a few years later.) But a first-grader seeing that? No wonder it came out scrambled in my memory. Likely it got scrambled with some other science fiction film, something more action-y (and with sound in space). OR...maybe I embellished it in my own head, adding action to make it easier for my young mind to grasp and follow (and having the benefit of keeping the film in my head until I could see it again, see it for what it is, and appreciating it deeply, finally, on its terms. Revising it? Perhaps. Never occurred to me until now.
Memory can do all kinds of work.
Also back in San Diego, my family had a sculpture. Still has it. I wish I could show it to you, but I'll describe it: it is a dark wood, curve-heavy, stylized depiction of a man and a woman holding and looking at each other. It exists in other versions: Mom remembers a version where the two people are holding a baby.
I also remember a larger version of it.
Except I can't be sure such a larger version exists. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But I somehow can picture a larger, public sculpture version of that small sculpture. Maybe I thought it should be big and public, and my memory made it so. Maybe.
These confused memories are not just from when I was young; they're from before I started writing. I was writing at least by third grade. Early 1980s, that's when I started: letters and some poems and of course little bits of writing for school. (I've even saved some of them online.) What if that helps me remember better? Or am I intentionally not remembering mis-remembered memories from later in my life? How good am I at still scrambling What-Is with What-Can't-Possibly-Be?
I want the memories to be strong. I want them to be true. If they're entertaining and enlightening, well, that's a bonus, but I want them to be trustworthy. Or to at least feel true. For a time, all the memories above felt true, and that feeling lingered even past the time when I could figure out that something about each memory didn't add up, like a continuity error in a story. Continuity errors to life: that could be...worrying.
+ I started grade school a year later than I could have. I was a late-in-the-year kid, and Mom, who'd also been a November baby, decided I needed an extra year before entering. I've long been just about a year older than my classmates.