15 November 2007

La Perla’s pizza and that glass bottle of Coke

I’m literally craving (not wanting, not hungry for, not in the mood for, but craving) a rectangular slice of cold pizza & a coke from a tiny, glass bottle. The pizza has to be square. The bottle has to be made of glass. It was a tradition, no, a ritual for us before any excursion we undertook by train to make a stop at Pasticceria La Perla for a pizza and a coke. Well, it was my ritual: everyone else had espresso and bomboloni.

The coke bottle had to be glass because I remember the way the glass lightly clinked against by front teeth as we jogged (sometimes ran) along the downward sloping road to the station. This was never a casual walk: we were always late, unless the trains were delayed. If we were on time to the station, then without fail that beautiful female voice would sneak in the word ‘ritardo’ along with ‘Roma Termini,’ ‘Firenze Santa Maria Novella,’ & all those unnecessary ‘ands’ stuck between hours and minutes.

I’m consistently amazed at how our brains store information and form associations. How is it possible that more than 180 days after my last morning train ride I can still experience such a strong craving? I often wonder how long the stimulus must be absent (or at least separated from the particular corresponding experience in question) before the association dissolves.

Part of me hopes that it never will: when those images eventually fade, I’ll be able to refresh them with my photographs. But there’s no device to capture & preserve these associations. Once I forget what it feels like to walk down the hall in the afternoon & draw upon my olfactory memory to know that we were to have ‘the Santa Chiara Special,’ ‘Juliana’s Orange-glazed Pork,’ or cauliflower as our vegetable for dinner that night, there’s no mechanism to refresh my memory: it will be gone.

But we know that memory is finite; we know that some experiences are finite: they have a definite beginning & a definite end. Maybe merely knowing that an experience is finite, or that a condition or state cannot possibly persist can cause our brains to form associations in totally different ways and/or cause us to experience things in a way that would be otherwise impossible.

I have no idea as to whether any of this is true or even relevant, but I do know that I want that slice of La Perla’s pizza and that glass bottle of Coke.

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