You know those earworms you get when you listen to a piece of music and it sticks in your brain and plays over and over again?
My wife and I have something similar but it works a bit in reverse.
We call it our “endless playlist.”
For my wife, who is widely read and deeply versed in culture, history and literature, there are bits of songs, poetry or speeches that can spring to mind that she can recite at the drop of a dime.
Dickinson. Shakespeare. Milton. Churchill. Tolstoy.
Song lyrics from the Clancy Brothers, traditional Irish and Scottish ballads, Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt.
That is just a selection of what she has stored.
To hear her is a lyrical treat and wonder to behold.
I too have an endless playlist.
Mine is populated with fragments of “guy movie” dialogue, bits from old “Bugs Bunny” cartoons, television commercials and some lyrics from ’70s pop tunes.
Let’s just say that my list is lacking in some of the cultural finesse of my wife’s.
What is worse, I need little provocation to go down one of my wormholes.
For example, my wife might say, “I was looking for…”
And from the dustbin of my brain, in file folders that should really be dedicated to more important things, such as learning to change my own oil, I will dredge up the lyrics to a commercial popular when I was a kid:
“I was looking for a noodle
A different kind of noodle
That was golden right
Tastes so nice
Then I found what I was after
With the taste as light as laughter
Country Kitchen, pure egg noodle.”
And here is the thing: Once I start belting out these ditties, I have to see them to completion.
Meg says something “comes and goes,” and I launch into a rendition of Culture Club’s Boy George singing “Karma Chameleon.”
Or she begins a sentence with “they’re coming” and I will relate it to a song that aired on the old Dr. Demento radio show that went: “They’re coming to take me away ha-haaa…”
It is a bit of free association but I need no excuse to sing the entire opening theme song to “Gilligan’s Island,” which I committed to memory when I was about 12.
Alas, almost all of the selections in my endless playlist are incomplete in some way. I remember just enough to be dangerous — and in those cases where my memory lapses, I will sing or recite what I can recall and hum the rest.
It is such a pointless talent yet I cannot shake it.
Ask me to recite the opening lines to “Macbeth” or to quote a passage from “Paradise Lost,” and I will be the one who is lost.
But if you need to know about clips from Bugs Bunny (“I want an Easter egg! I want an Easter egg!”), I am your man.
I blame my father, who has a huge depository of stories, pieces of jokes, songs and cultural references that will randomly surface in conversation.
Some story or memory will trigger another and he will link the two with the preface, “It’s like the time that…”
I guess it must be in the genes, though notably neither of my sisters is afflicted with this Rain Man-like talent.
I consider it part of my idiot savant — minus the savant.