Music and Memories

Today, I was wondering about how why music can evoke such vivid and powerful memories, so I did a quick search and found this article that I found very interesting. TL;DR: our brains are better at recalling memories when we have something to guide it with i.e. music. It is why we learn through songs as children (remember A-B-C-D?).

One of my most vivid music-related memories – even though it happened so many years ago – was my first dance with a girl. It was way back when I was in GIS, at a school dance. Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On was playing while I was standing by the side of the hall, like a chump, working up the balls to ask my crush for a dance. I managed to do it halfway through the song, after the first chorus, so I only got to dance with her for the remaining half. I was elated that night. Probably the happiest I had ever been up to that point in my life. And now, whenever I hear that song, memories of that night come rushing back, and I can’t help but smile to myself like an idiot.

Another song would be Aaron Kwok’s Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan. I remembered loving the song as a kid. I sang along to the chorus (because I didn’t know any of the other words) every time I heard it on the radio or TV. But that’s not all. There was one time, we had some relatives over, and for some reason I had agreed to put on a show for them. I remember before the performance, I spent a few minutes in the bathroom styling my hair with a comb and some gel. I don’t know why I did it – I wasn’t even dressed nicely. I probably had on some home clothes or pajamas but it didn’t matter. My mom put the song on and I danced my heart out. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t good, but I received applause for trying.

Where’s your mama gone? Where’s your papa gone? Middle of the Road’s Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep evokes memories of a time when my late uncle was still around. He used to take me and my elder sister out all the time and we’d always be listening to songs on the radio. That song was one of the few songs we could sing along to. One of our favorite pastimes would be sitting through those drive-thru car washes. There was just something magical about high pressured water being blasted at you while you were protected behind glass. And then all the washers spinning around wiping the car dry. I also fondly remember watching those little orange balls spinning around at pump stations whenever he had to fill up his car with gas.

Isn’t it interesting how music and memories is an alliteration as well?

Cellphone Memories

It’s hard to get lost anymore. I remember back in the days when we didn’t own GPS devices or have smartphones, finding a place you hadn’t been to before being such a daunting task. You’d have to ask for landmarks, which roads to use, and so on. You’ll even get traffic information to help you plan what time you should leave home. Last time we’d have to meet at a common point and convoy together to a destination. Now, we just look it up on the internet and send the address to people. They’ll find a way to get there.

Before cellphones, we’d have to schedule appointments using our home phone and head to the meeting point at the right time. If a person was late, there was nothing to do but wait around because there was no way to get in touch with them once they left home.

I remember making phone calls to home using a payphone in school to inform my mom I’ll be home late. Sometimes the payphone wouldn’t accept my coins and I’d have to run around scrounging for change from other people or the canteen. If the phone call was unanswered, I would have no other way to inform her.

That was solved when my parents got cellphones, but I remember they charged like a ringgit a minute, so calls would frequently cut off because I didn’t have enough coins. That was partially solved with phone cards. I don’t remember if they could be topped up or you had to replace them. Either way, most of the time I was stuck with coins.

I remember my first phone that wasn’t a hand me down – the Nokia 3310. Man, that phone was the shit. I think I used it for five years. Snake 2 all day, every day. I was also a fan of customization back then, with phone shells (you literally replaced the plastic of the phone, you didn’t use phone covers to customize your phone back then). I swapped batteries and even changed the LED colors once.

I guess you could say I’m a big fan of customization. That trait has carried on with me throughout my life, manifesting in different forms. Now it’s the homescreen for my Android phone, cosmetics for Dota 2 heroes and keycaps for my keyboards.

The first time I was mugged, I lost my Nokia 7610 – my first color screen phone. It was a hand me down from my sister. I only had it for about a week before the mugging incident. That event traumatized me for a bit (I was constantly looking over my shoulder every time I was walking in public and crossing roads so I didn’t have to walk past strangers). I liked that phone. I enjoyed listening to music and playing games on it. It made Chinese New Year gatherings less boring.

My first smartphone, the HTC G2, was stolen from me. People like my phones? Or thieves aren’t very choosy. I’m not sure. Fortunately my phones haven’t been stolen from me in a while, and I hope it remains that way.

56100 Memories

I read that memories are much easier to recall if they have strong emotional attachments to them. I remember feeling abandoned because there was once, my mom didn’t pick me up on time after school. Almost everybody else had left and I was one of the few kids remaining. I was close to tears, and then my mom showed up. She was late because of traffic or she forgot the time to pick me up.

There was another incident when I left my school bag on the shelf outside the toilet before I went in to use it. When I came back out, my bag was gone. Somebody had taken it. Along with my school books. I felt really sad that day. Being a victim of theft. I’m pretty sure I cried while explaining what happened to my mom.

I remember the feeling of being lost looking for my seat at lunch. Back then, your parents could opt you in for prepaid lunches in school. You’d be assigned a number at a table, and during lunch time you’d sit and eat the food on the table. However, at the beginning of each school term, the numbers would change and your first day would be spent looking for where your seat was. I don’t remember talking to anybody during lunch time though. Lunches were probably unmemorable occasions for me.

When I was in primary one, I remember a classmate asking me, “hey, do you want to see my peanuts?” I was puzzled, and asked him “what do you mean?” The next thing I knew, he pulled up one leg of his shorts and pulled his underwear aside to show me his balls. Due to the pressure of the elastic pressing against them, it made the testicles look like nuts. We both burst out laughing. I guess I appreciated toilet humor from a young age. I’m not sure where he went after school, we didn’t keep in touch. I don’t remember anything else about him, yet I can recall that memory without any effort.

Back when we were kids, it was all about who could run the fastest as a measure of how cool you were. A lot of our recess games involved running. Tag, cops and robbers, fire and ice, and so on. It wasn’t uncommon for kids to challenge each other to races. I have a scar on my knee which is a constant reminder of a stupid downhill race I had with a friend (our school was on a steep hill). I don’t remember winning it, but I do remember tripping and falling, and the aftermath of cuts and blood all over my legs. It was a painful memory.

I remember attending my first funeral. It was my grandmother’s. I don’t remember feeling sad, because I was having fun with my cousins. We played with bottle caps and folded hell paper into airplanes. I also remembered the scent of the joss sticks and the smoke that made my eyes tear. Maybe I was too young at that time and nobody told me what had really happened.

I remember the first time watching the pilot episode of Adventure Time. I was so happy that there was a cartoon I clicked with on all levels. I had never seen anything like it before. I re-watched it many times that week, and recommended it to all my friends. It made me really happy. I think that was also the moment when I realized that cartoons could have jokes for adults without being crude or vulgar.

I remember spending a week in the hospital when my fever didn’t go away for a long time. It wasn’t very interesting. All I did was wake up for crappy meals and medication, watching videos on my tablet, playing a bit of guitar when there was nobody else in the room and going to bed early. I remembered my first cigarette after being discharged. I felt light-headed and couldn’t even finish the stick.

I’ll never forget the first time I consumed ash. It was at my cousin’s house party. I was young and couldn’t drink beer then, only shandy. I saw a can of shandy on the table that I thought was mine. Without second thought, I lifted the can and poured its contents into my mouth. Immediately I could tell something was wrong. Somebody had used it as an ashtray and I had a mouth full of ash. I spat it out and never touched another can of shandy again that day. I felt disgusted.

Latent Rage

A couple of months ago, I was in my car on the way to work when I encountered some obnoxious pedestrians. They were trying to cross the road while they were wrong. Here in KL it’s a pretty regular occurrence, and I don’t have any issues with it because those people usually know that they are wrong. But if there’s one kind of person that’s more annoying than the wrong pedestrian, it’s the wrong pedestrian who thinks they’re right.

It’s kind of difficult to put into words what happened, so I’ve illustrated a diagram to make things clearer:

Full image

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Airport hues

It’s been awhile since I had to spend an extended period of time at an airport. The last time this happened was when I was in Japan. I had arrived after midnight, and there were no more trains and buses out from the airport. I had no choice but to wait until the first bus of that day.

I remember walking around the airport aimlessly. Almost everything was closed so there was nothing much to see. Nobody else was walking around. People were all strewn across chairs or on the floor, sleeping. Waiting for their next flight or like me, a bus out of the airport. I managed to find an open restaurant and bought a bowl of Udon noodles to fill my empty stomach. After that, I just loaded up Twitch on my iPad and watched some games to pass the time.

Fast forward a few years later and we have me in a similar situation. Waiting for my connecting flight to Heathrow, sitting at a Shake Shack, listening to some tunes by Dance Gavin Dance and typing out this post. Dubai’s airport is a hell lot busier at this hour. It is brightly lit, there are tons of people walking around in search of food, a place to rest, their departure gate, or just walking because it’s better than sitting around.

I was sitting alone until 5 minutes ago when this stranger just took up the seat on the table connected to mine. I didn’t acknowledge him. Not that I needed to. He was a person looking for a place to sit, like me. I don’t think I’ll engage in conversation with him. According to my laptop’s clock, it should be 5am in Malaysia now. I would be asleep at this hour. However, I slept almost the whole flight earlier so I’m not tired.

It was an uneventful flight. I watched This Is Spinal Tap for the first time. I fell asleep about 20 minutes from the end of the movie so I’ll probably finish it later. I had the aisle seat, which I didn’t mind at first until I realized it meant that I would have to give way to the two passengers next to me if they wanted to use the toilet. Good thing it only happened once. I would’ve been annoyed if I had to do it a few times.

The food was pretty good. I had some chicken curry and rice. And carrots and long beans. And a piece of chocolate. Oh, for some reason I received two prawn salads. I didn’t complain. Also ate some bread sticks. Had a lot of water. A glass of gin and tonic.

When I was sleeping, I kept feeling my hands getting wet. I have no idea if I was sweating or it was just in my head. But it was a weird sensation. I did drool a lot. One of the passengers next to me had a strange laugh. She sounded like she was going to die. I just put on my headphones to listen to the Giant Bomb podcast and ignored her. I pulled my beanie over my face and fell asleep.

My flight to the UK departs in about an hour. Great. I’m looking forward to freeze my balls off.

Oh, 70 AED = RM85, I found out today. Priciest fast food I’ve ever paid for in my life. At least it’s cheaper than rap CDs.