One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a stack of paper about an inch thick, held together with a large metal clip and titled “Me, Hallucinating All Night Long.” It was a book, written by my dad, presented to my brother and me one year for Christmas.
It was the story of the first forty years of his life, he explained, but it was written in the form of a list. More specifically, it was a collection of captions to photographs that had never been taken—an autobiography made up of small moments.
There he was, for example, eating peanut butter and jelly on corn tortillas while living in the basement of an art museum. Listening to the radio while cutting ocean sediment in a research lab and hearing news of JFK’s assassination. Playing Pink Floyd’s Hammond B-3 organ in his living room one chemically-enhanced evening.
None of these “captions” were more than a sentence or two long, but each was so vivid. It was like watching a slideshow, like looking through a collection of yellowed snapshots—which I guess, ultimately, was the point.
I’ve always joked that my dad—both my parents, really—have led Forrest Gump lives. Their pasts—much of which center around their mutual involvement in the music business – are full of spellbinding stories, outlandish characters, and seemingly endless adventure. Growing up, I thought their lives sounded full and glamorous. Deep. And big.
I used to think that the biggest moments in life occurred on a large scale—marriages, births, career milestones, deaths. But, paging through my dad’s book recently, (I have it with me here in New York), I was reminded that more often than not, it’s the smaller moments—the tiny details, the random ones—that hit me the hardest, that make me the happiest, that leave me thinking, I need to remember this.
And lately, as I’ve been pushing myself more and more to try new things, to embark on new adventures, this has only become clearer to me still. Two weeks ago, for instance, I found myself sitting on the roof of the Turkish Baths on a stormy afternoon, slathered in mud and eating watermelon in the rain. This is one of those moments, I remember thinking.
A week later, I sat in the front seat of a delivery truck and rode two hours out of the city for a freelance job deep in the wilds of New Jersey. A friend sat perched on a milk crate in the back, wobbling all the way. We drove through small towns we’d never heard of. Got lost in the woods. And this is one, too, I thought.
Sunday night, I watched a friend’s band perform at a loft apartment littered with candles. Everyone sat on the floor. Above us, airplanes drifted over an open skylight. And this. Definitely.
These are moments that make me smile as I wait for the bus, wash dishes, daydream in coffee shops. They’re tiny, but they’re special. They hold weight, and magic, and stories.
Someday, I hope to be able to fill a book with them.