Memory and Writing About Clip-On Sunglasses

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I called my brother Scott the other day on his birthday. He just turned 63, a few years behind me on that long road to geezerdom. We got to talking about how at this stage of our lives, we can’t remember if something occurred two years ago, four years ago or nine years ago. Spending the last 11 months in lockdown did not help memory matters. I stay busy working from home, writing, researching and reading, but the weeks fly by. Certain events, such as when I talked to someone or completed a task, become cloudy when I try to recall when they happened.

I recently saw online a current photo of someone I haven’t seen in nearly a half century. We were teenagers the last time we laid eyes on each other. “Man, that dude got old!” I silently exclaimed. A few moments later, I thought, “That is probably what folks see when they see a photo of me five decades after they last cast eyes upon me.” It’s the way it goes.

Scott and I talked about a mutual, longtime friend with whom we are still in touch, albeit virtually these days. All three of us are voracious readers. The difference is that our friend actually retains the bulk of what he has read, even decades later. I can’t remember half the time if I actually read the book — especially novels — let alone the actual plot. I have bought the same book twice more than once. Heck, half the time if someone asks me what I’m reading, odds are strong I will reply, “It’s a novel by… crud, I can’t remember her name. Or the title. Hold on, let me go look.” Our friend can recount the plot of a novel read in high school. I barely remember high school.

I told Scott that this is my 39th year of writing a weekly column. I have never missed writing one, cranking one out each week, never skipping one. As a result, there are pieces out there I wish would disappear down a dark hole of anonymity. As I prepare later this year to publish a third collection of columns, I have been going through the past decade’s worth of pieces to come up with 75 or so to publish. In doing so, besides groaning when I find a typo or a particularly mangled sentence, I also come across pieces that I have no memory of having written. I am quite certain my readers don’t remember those either.


I recently accepted a writing assignment from a company that provides content to companies for their websites. It’s an SEO company, which stands for search engine optimization. The idea is to write articles with keywords that allow these articles to pop up when someone is looking for a product. The assignment: writing 2,000 words on clip-on sunglasses. Seriously. The client is an eyewear company.

By comparison, 2,000 words is the rough equivalent of three of my weekly pieces. I spent hours researching the different types of clip-on sunglasses. The words every-so-slowly appeared on the screen. It was a painful process. I joked to a friend that I would have finished sooner, but I kept falling asleep at the keyboard. I now know far more about clip-on sunglasses than anyone has a right to know. I kept thinking about all the important bits of knowledge being crowded out of my brain by useless factoids concerning clip-on sunglasses. My brain’s hard drive possesses a finite amount of space. After 65 trips around the sun, it is fast approaching full.

Never again. It’s not worth the modest amount I was paid.


I have accepted a new writing gig that is much more in my wheelhouse. Beginning next week, I am taking over the Capital Highlights column for the Texas Press Association. The column runs in more than 100 primarily weekly or twice-weekly newspapers across the state. I plan to post these on my Facebook page as they are published. The primary focus is what the Legislature is doing, as well as the myriad state agencies. I hope to also find issues that are of interest to small-town residents, since that’s where these weeklies dominate. If any of you have suggestions of topics — broadband in rural areas is one example — please directly message me on FB or email me at garyborders@gmail.com.

I am grateful for this opportunity. It sure beats writing about clip-on sunglasses. Just saying.

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