Open Thread: Speak, Memory

I remember a Gary Larson comic of a kid in a classroom raising his hand and saying “May I be excused? My brain is full.” It used to make me laugh. Now I give a rueful chuckle. It’s funny because it’s true. My brain is too full, and my memory can’t handle the load.

Some years ago I was an active trivia fan. (My late husband and I were in a league at a local bar and we often ran competitions.  After he passed away I did it solo.)  As a player, my teammates would remark at how quickly I could mentally retrieve a stray fact. We’d win pretty regularly at the Night Cafe – and all the bars that came after.

Memory Lapses

Photo: Courtesy NBC Radio

I began to suspect those days were over when I couldn’t instantly retrieve the name of the guy who sang “Calendar Girl.*” (Answer below.) Later, it took me several days to summon up the name of an early – and famous – actress and director (at left) of classic noir films. ** (Answer below). I kept wanting to call her Aldo Ray!


My memory was pretty rock solid.  After years of rote memorization in my grammar school, I had a pretty good memorization muscle…I’d memorize poetry for fun.

Now, I’m not so adept.  It can take an hour or even a day for a stray fact to bubble up to the surface, if ever. A recent news report about aging and memory had a comforting angle on this. Maybe Larson was right, after all. Maybe the accumulation of years of stray facts causes my memory lapses, and not the neutron bomb of aging: Alzheimers.  That’s the fear that lurks behind every time I go into a room and can’t recall why.

Memory Hacks

I am not at the point where I’ll take ‘memory vitamins” advertised on TV, although one doctor says diet can help. However, I have a set of memory hacks to help:

  • “Reader” eyeglasses all over my home.
  • I put my keys on a hook by the door the second I come in, so I don’t lose my keys
  • There’s a checklist by my door for keys, cash, phone, shopping list, etc. before I leave.
  • I wrote my landline password, pin # and account number on a piece of tape in back of my home phone, so I don’t have to hunt if I call tech support.
  • At staff meetings I take notes to help me retain what’s discussed and decided.(I prefer email, though, because my computer has a much better ‘handwriting” than me!)

Are you concerned about your memory? Take our informal poll:

But what about you? What technology do you use  to help you remember? What are your  memory hacks? Let us know in the comments!

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to


*Neil Sadaka

**Ida Lupino