NaNoPrep 2017 Day 3: Memories, a sequel of sorts

by Robin de Voh on October 13th, 2017

Time to write, so it's time to go through the motions. Turn off the light, turn on the more subtle spot lights. Light some candles, get in that slightly pretentious mood that seems to work so well for writing.

I pick up the packs of incense I usually burn and think back to when I wrote a story that started with me burning incense, where I told about important memories to me. That was 4 relationships, 3 apartments and over 10 years ago.

Yet I still burn the same incense, even though I've got 15 smells to choose from. But it'll always be cedar wood and jasmin. I put them in the incense holders and light them up. I blow the fire out and they smolder and release smoke as I sit down at my table, folding open the laptop.

I love this smell.

There's something about smells that just brings back memories. I burn the incense together because one smell was, at a certain point, quintessentially mine. The other was quintessentially hers. When I started burning them together, it was a sappy gesture at best.

But it's no longer a romantic gesture -- hasn't been longer than it actually was -- but it's a habit I've somehow kept all these years.

And I'll think of her and wonder how she's doing. Probably fine.

I open a can of beer. It's low-alcohol near-beer stuff, but as I'm writing that's probably wise.

Funny thing about the senses bringing back memories like that. Music can do the same thing. I'll put on an album and I'll remember the book I was reading at the time. I have a tendency to stick to a specific album -- or at least a specific band -- while I'm working my way through a book. Something about setting the scene or atmosphere, I guess.

When I listen to System of a Down, their self-titled debut album, I immediately think of Leo Perutz's The Master of the Day of Judgement, a 1923 book about Viennese high society, a string of suicides and a supposed monster that's causing them. A surprisingly good read. I'd found the book in a train while returning home from a day of work. It had just been left there, and I was both bored and intrigued. I ended up hunting down more Leo Perutz books as the years went by. It had left a lasting impression and if this is the closest I'll get, I'll use this opportunity to thank the person who either forgot or discarded this book for me to find.

I get up and walk to my phone. I grab it, there's messages but I'll get to those later. Right now all I care about is putting on some music. And, thinking of music that takes me back to specific memories, I pick Megadeth's Youthanasia.

It brings me back to my old room at my parent's house, when I was reading Crusade in Jeans, a Dutch book by Thea Beckman. I'm pretty sure I had to read it for school and it didn't really impact me much. It was about this kid who got sent back in time to the crusades, and it was a very long book yet said very little.

It put me off Beckman immensely and to this day is the only book of hers I've ever read.

But what the album reminds me of more as the songs play is how I got into heavier rock music in the first place.

I got started with rock due to my dad, who got me into the Rolling Stones. Eventually this led to learning about the existence of more modern bands. Nirvana thanks to MTV, when I saw the Smells Like Teen Spirit video for the first time. I was blown away. It was on heavy rotation, so I saw it multiple times that day. Some time later, I was at the public library, looking for Nirvana's Nevermind album. The library had a bunch of CDs there, but sadly no Nirvana. After I'd checked all the bands starting with N, the M came up. I flipped over the little opaque divider and saw Rust in Peace by Megadeth.

A blue cover with a skeleton on it. The skeleton was wearing what seemed like sunglasses and a suit. He was standing over a glass tube which contained an ET-looking alien, and he was holding up a green gem.

I had no idea what I was looking at, but confused as I was, I just grabbed it and went over to the listening station.

The first song was called "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due". Odd punctuation aside, what I heard was fast, dirty-sounding guitar riffs and an energy I hadn't heard before in music. Sure, I'd heard Guns 'n Roses, but that was some weak shit compared to this.

I grab my phone and switch over to Rust in Peace. In specific I choose the song Tornado of Souls. I turn up the volume too. It doesn't sound 27 years old at all.

A lot of the music I started listening to after discovering this whole new world of music eventually ended up in me wanting to actually make music myself.

And funnily enough, I just remembered that the first instrument I wanted to play was the drums. I'd forgotten that, as I thought I'd just gotten into drums because that's what was needed at the time. I remember asking my parents about it, but having a drum kit in the house was just not possible. They made sure to say that if I was really sure, I could take lessons, though, but I decided that wasn't worth it if I couldn't play at home.

So I picked up my dad's guitar and sucked at it.

Some years later I met this dude at high school and he was into Nirvana and other bands I liked too. So we started daydreaming about starting a band together and eventually got enthusiastic enough to ask our music teacher about whether we could use the music classroom for it, since it had instruments and wasn't used in the afternoons much.

Against all expectations he was enthusiastic about it too and said we could use it every Wednesday after 4. Turned out he was in a band himself, playing bass. So every Wednesday we went, my friend playing guitar and me attempting to play the drums -- something I could finally do. Badly.

So our music teacher taught me how to play Basket Case by Green Day.

I have a tendency to make jokes at the expense of bass players. Not sure why, but it's a fairly common thing in the rock world. It's unfair and something I've been working on shaking off, though.

But a bass player taught me how to play the drums.

That experiment became a band. Someone else joined. We played in that band throughout high school, entering band competitions and playing gigs in shitty towns around our own shitty town.

Then, as it goes, it ended. After a few years of experimenting with music, one of those guys -- the bassist, obviously -- myself and 2 other guys played in another band for 7 years or so.

I played music with one dude for a total of about 12 years. That is impressive, now that I think about it. If we ever pick up instruments together again, I know this rhythm section would still knock it out of the park. Even if we'd be bitching at each other the entire time.

I hear the cackling of Lucretia -- a song on Rust in Peace -- and look up.

I see the still-wrapped Moleskine standing on its end on my desk. I got it a few weeks ago, as an incentive to keep writing in my current one. As a goal to work towards. It's been working, actually, and over the past weeks I've managed to keep up my regular habit of jotting badly-penned words on an increasingly limited number of pages.

I got my first Moleskine about 10 years ago, while I was in Paris for the first time. I'd been writing in shitty little notebooks up until that point, and was finding the paper to either be too coarse -- causing the ink to flow out too much -- or too thin -- causing the ink to shine through completely at points. And then I found what looked like a great little notebook of actual quality in Centre Pompidou. I could say I was inspired by the exposition about Urban Paris, but mostly I'm just a geek about writing stuff and I convinced myself I had to have it.

I get up and walk over to the stack of Moleskines I've filled over the years. #1, where are you? Hah, the white one. Got that one in Maastricht a few years ago, on the first day of a 10-day vacation with my ex in the south of the Netherlands. We hadn't intended to stay in Maastricht, but with train delays it became a necessity. Hm, the special Pac-Man edition. Got this for my birthday 6 years ago, according to the date on the first page. I never ended up filling that one. Can't remember what the reason was, but seemingly, it took me 2 years just to get to about 1/3rd of the way.

Ah, number 1, there you are. 2007. I open it to the first page and the first thing I notice is that I obviously hadn't found the right pen yet. Scratchy, not very lively black.

"18th of July, 2007: Mont St. Michel, 11:36"

Man, Mont St. Michel. It's a tidal island just off the coast of France, and it is great. Beautiful place, especially at night, when the flood lights are turned on and the monastery just lights up like this fantastical piece of history. I was there with a friend of mine. We should go back there, now that it's been 10 years.

"Salt in the wind, gathering and corroding the ancient walls built to be a refuge. Tourists winding their way through narrow streets filled with entirely decadent but necessary tourist trap stores. It is said that the souvenir shops are a continuation of the practices over a 1000 years ago, when pilgrims would come and want a trinket to show proof of their pilgrimage. I can see why."

I nearly spit out my beer when I read this and laugh out loud. I really hope my pretentiousness has lessened over the years. Wow.

The last sentence written in this first piece of personal history is much better: "Best thing I can do now is to keep writing. No reason not to."

This makes me grin.

I notice the incense has burned up. I stand up, take another two pieces of incense and light them, putting them in the holders.

I love this smell.

I absolutely love this smell.



Author's note: The first Memories was posted ages ago at a website I think I have a backup of but aren't sure about. In a way, it closes a circle. I'd wanted to do a sequel for years, but now that I wasn't expecting to it kinda happened. I've got a printed version of Memories, though, and I think I'll go read that now. You know, for the memories.