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Carnett: Baffled by surfacing of a long-forgotten memory

February 25, 2014

Daily Pilot columnist Patrice Apodaca recently wrote a fascinating column on memory.

Titled "Unlocking the Mysteries of Memory," the piece demonstrates what a marvel the mind is. Its processes are mystifying.

Last week I wrote about my induction into the U.S. Army 50 years ago. I took a brisk walk before writing that column and during my constitutional discovered that dozens of memories about basic training — that I'd not contemplated in decades — bubbled to the surface like letter pasta in a bowl of alphabet soup.

I quickly processed this surfeit of information.

As I sat down to write, numerous images flashed before my mind as though pulled randomly from a long abandoned steamer trunk.

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But one memory I uncovered had lain dormant for at least 40 years until I began writing the column.

In 1964, I developed a one-week friendship with a fellow GI while we were attached to the reception center at Fort Ord in Monterey. We hit it off from the outset and shared many common interests.

After a week of getting to know one another fairly well, we were assigned to different basic training companies. We saw each other only one more time — for about 15 minutes — before shipping out to different advanced training destinations.

Though I never saw him again, I never forgot him.

After a decade or so, I realized that I failed to recall his name. And try as I might over the years, I couldn't retrieve it.

His nom de guerre was erased from my memory banks, or so I thought.

Nearly 20 years after basic training, I became a fan of the 1980s action-mystery TV program "Simon and Simon." One of the stars of the show, Gerald McRaney, looked strikingly like my basic training buddy.

Every time I saw McRaney on TV or in a movie I thought of my friend.

But what was his name? I ruminated and ruminated to no avail. How could I not remember? Alas, it was impossible to coax it from the recesses of my hippocampus.

Then, as I worked on last week's column — not even thinking specifically about my friend — his name surfaced as clear as can be on my mental LED screen.

My gosh, I fairly gushed at my keyboard, that's my friend's name! I haven't remembered it for 40 years. What just happened? I jumped up from my chair and danced a jig. Borrowing from Luke, the gospel writer, I waxed lyrical: "He was lost but now is found!"

It was concrete reanimation. But where did the name come from and why did it take so long to percolate to the top? I defer to Patrice.

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