I'll take memory for $200, Alex
Sunday, June 9, 2019
On our way to play golf today, Charlie and I couldn't think of the name of the movie star who had come up in our conversation. We could remember all the movies he was in, all his co-stars, all kinds of odd trivia about his life and times — everything but his name. That's all right; sometime when we're thinking of something completely different, it will come to us.
All of us have moments when we struggle to come up with the name of someone or something — the name of an old co-worker, neighbor or shop owner. And when it happens, especially as we get older, we all wonder if this is the first sign of what's to come. Am I getting Alzheimer's, or is it just a fleeting senior moment? But the odds that Charlie and I had both lost our minds at the same time seemed a little far-fetched.
"We used to forget things when we were 16, too," Charlie said. "We just didn't worry about it. I sure don't remember acing every test I took in high school."
"Yeah, but you didn't forget that stuff, you were just stupid. You can't forget stuff you never knew to begin with."
"It'd be a terrible thing if someone accidentally got hit with a golf club today," Charlie said, a little too cheerfully.
"We didn't forget this guy," I said. "We can see his face, we know what films he was in, we know his name — we just can't pull it up. But it's in there somewhere. It'll come to us."
"Google it," Charlie said. "Google never forgets anything."
"Knowing everything doesn't make you smart, anyway. An encyclopedia isn't smart."
"That's what I said!"
"You never said that."
"But you knew who I was talking about."
"I thought we were talking about Jimmy Stewart."
That night, after Charlie trounced me on the golf course, I watched James Holzhauer win his 29th "Jeopardy!" game in a row. He has what is commonly called an encyclopedic memory. And so far, he has outplayed 58 people who also have phenomenal memories. But James is 35 years old. As a longtime "Jeopardy!" fan, I'm wondering if there should be a spinoff show for people my age. Say, "Senior Jeopardy." The rules would be the same, but you'd get a little more latitude with your answers.
"I'll take Movie Stars for $200, Alex."
"He played the Godfather in 'The Godfather.'"
"Who was, that guy who was in that other movie about the boxer who coulda been a contender?"
"Could you be a little more specific?"
"Who was, the guy who yelled 'Stellllaaaaa'?"
"That's right. Still your turn, Jim."
"Movie Stars for $400."
"He played Rhett Butler in 'Gone With the Wind.'"
"The guy with the mustache."
"It's got to be in the form of a question."
"Who was, the guy with the mustache?"
"So close, but our judges say that's not enough."
"Who was, the guy married to Carole Lombard?"
"That's correct for $400. It's still your board."
"I'll take Stupid Questions for $800."
"You've hit the Daily Double. How much do you want to risk?"
"Good choice. Why go crazy? This ancient Greek city held the first Olympics in 776 B.C."
"I'll take 'Phone a Friend' on that."
"That's another show. You pushed the buzzer, now you have to answer."
"What is, Glocca Morra?"
"That is so wrong. It's not even a real place. The answer was 'Olympia,' but we would have accepted 'Oleo,' 'Olivia' or anything close to that. We'll be right back with our Double Jeopardy round after these commercials for products I hope you'll never need."
Jim Mullen is the author of It Takes a Village Idiot: A Memoir of Life After the City. His column, The Village Idiot, takes a look at the curiosities of American life.