We went up to a salvage yard in Idaho, hunting for stainless steel. Along the way, we stopped at an antique store, where I bought 20 or so 78s, including the one you’ll hear on the video: “One Alone,” performed by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra.
After successfully getting the Monarch Pricemarker to work, Jerry rewarded me with a more difficult task. He presented me with some sort of device (made by Haag-Streit, Bern, early 20th century) with movable arms, multiple lenses, a light source, and calibrated adjustment knobs. The task was more difficult since neither of us knew what it was supposed to do originally.
Okay, you start by taking things apart and seeing what moves. Then you rewire the electrical stuff and see what that does. Then you move all the arms around, try the different lenses, and see what you can see. Then you eat some sugar cookies. Then you take make an educated guess as to its function, and see if you can get it to perform.
It took some time before I guessed that the device and something to do with mental images, and a bit more before guessing that it was related to memory retrieval. (Thanks here to Geoffrey Sonnabend, and his theory of obliscence, which I recently encountered.) On a hunch, I wrote down one of my treasured childhood memories — of befriending a zebra in a petting zoo — inserted it between the viewing lenses and the light source, punching a hole in the appropriate spot, and peering through the lens.
Yes, there was something there to be seen, but somehow it didn’t feel quite right. Aha! It was then that I suspected that the function of the strange but prominently-positioned joystick is to align visual data with associative feelings. Trusting my hunch, I made a label.
And immediately everything came together, just as it was supposed to:
The view through the lenses. Hard to see, I know, but it’s my zebra, just as I remembered him.
UPDATE: One further use for this device is as a slit lamp. Optometrists use them to closely examine the surface of the eyes.
(Thanks to Jeannine for the excellent camera work.)
UPDATE: Here, by the way, is the charmless current model of the Monarch Pricemarker (I think).
This, my friends, is a Price Marker, made by the Monarch Tag Company, circa 1916, given to me by my friend Jerry, weighing in at about 25 lbs. A little tinkering with it reveals how it is supposed to work. You select the type from the wooden drawer, arrange it in the magazine, and decide whether you will be printing on a roll of paper (left side) or on “print-fold tickets” (right side), and insert the magazine in the appropriate spot. Then you crank away, and with each revolution, the type is stamped on an inkpad, pressed onto the tag, the paper is advanced, and the counter clicks forward one number. Supremely cool.
It is difficult to crank in its current condition, so I’ll have to figure out where to put oil and whether there are any obstructions or failures. But it does work, if you apply enough force, so the resistance is trivial. Now – finally! – I will be able to print all the price tags I want!
How sad it was that his memory had forgotten him.
Names, errands, phone numbers, items his wife
told him to remember –
all would stick to him for just a moment before being carried away
on the gentlest breeze.
But then one day he read of the memory palace of Matteo Ricci, a priest renown
for his capacious recall. Matteo kept in his mind
an ornate palace, with flourishing rooms delicately appointed.
One room held a swirling tapestry and a bright red vase;
another had crocodiles
and a golden stringed instrument; in a third was found
singing nightingales under a full moon.
Matteo invited everything
he heard or saw
to take up occupancy in his magnificent palace
where he could call on it later in an instant.
He was no priest, and no frequenter of palaces.
But he knew Skanchy’s Market from his childhood, and so he tried
stocking on its busy shelves most everything he was supposed to keep.
Stu Pease was shelved between the beans and the corn;
next Thursday’s supper with Roundys became a meat special;
and the name of her dog,
the pretty young girl with the cherry-red hair,
was found in the middle of the candies.
Then one day in the middle of running errands, he was strolling in his mind
from the fresh produce aisle over to hardware,
when from out of nowhere came
the smell of those old, oiled, wooden floors.
In an instant came the face of old man Skanchy, and how on one sunny day he gave out jawbreakers to the three little boys, and how he wanted the red one but got the green one, and how he and his friends sat on the steps and the sun felt so warm and the street was so quiet and green was okay and they talked about baseball and big brothers and before long it was time to ride the bikes over to the vacant lot for the whole day
and that was all there was to remember.
- Charlie Huenemann