The race weekend here in Grand Junction for the SKUSA SummerNationals was a good one, but very hot. While I was here for the race there is a specific spot in town that has a great deal of meaning to me. The reason why pertains to the "associative memory system" and each time I visit this place it brings me back to all the other times I've been there. What is this place? How does it have such a mythical meaning to me? Is it a park? A museum? A bridge? Nope, it's a gas station.
"A gas station?!" you're probably wondering but yes, a gas station. For other people places are simply that, a place in space that may be a place of work, school, or a place to get what one needs. For myself places are much deeper than that as all that was experienced there becomes associated with that place. I'm sure this is something everyone has to a degree, but for myself, and others on the autism spectrum, it is much more profound.
Each time I come to or through Grand Junction I have to stop there. The very first time I did was back on October 5th, 2003 when I was driving to Las Vegas to be an instructor at the Derek Daly Racing School. This was also the gas station that I bought my 2nd ever Red Bull. So right away this place is connected to a major event of my life (the racing school, not the Red Bull) and once again I was there in July of 2011 for that year's SKUSA Summernats. A few months later when Rob and I drove to Vegas to work a USAC .25 race we stopped and of course, on last year's nationwide tour, we stopped there again. And obviously, on this trip, I stopped there a time or two (or three.)
So why does a place that may seem irrelevant to you become such a beacon for myself? I first have to describe a couple things to you. First is the fact that, as I declare in my chapter "Film Theory" in my book Finding Kansas, "Whatever happens first always has to happen." This means that routine is important, but to places that have memories tied to them it becomes deeper, bigger, and more special. More special? My memory, from having conversations with others, is different in that everything seems more current. This means that, when I walk into that gas station, it's very much like it's 2003 and I'm en route to Vegas, or it's like that moment last year when I was in the midst of a nationwide tour, or two years ago and working the SKUSA race.
Living with this associative memory system can be tiring because there isn't a thought of, "you know, I'm going to make this place mean more than others." Think of that, living a life where any thing or in this instance any place can become more than others and it all depends on the randomness of life, but when a place becomes attached to memories it is etched in stone. I don't think I could drive through this town without making a stop at this gas station.
Again, I'm sure everyone has a place like this in their life, but it probably isn't an average gas station. Most people a place like this might be a place where something a little more, say, major happened in their life. Also, a place like this would be rare in that I doubt most people have places like this that reach double digits. This gas station is just one place for me in one town. There are many others that have this same sort of meaning and each time I'm there all my memories come back, anew, and it makes everything seem more present and the passage of time is lessened.
In just a few hours I'll be on a plane and that gas station will remain there, but I can assure you that next time I'm on I-70 driving West through Colorado I will make or a stop and once again 2003, 2011, 2012, and this trip right now in 2013 will be re-experienced and everything will seem as if it's now.