"Tickets? Anybody have spare tickets?"

I never thought I would be one of those people schlepping outside a line of concert-goers, pleading for a means to enter. But in forgetting to get regular admission, I admit my omission - and deserve admonition.

My weekend found me hoping against all odds that someone else had erred in buying too many tickets when I had erred in buying none. Seeking an honest exchange, I combed through the crowd and tried to avoid getting scalped.

I made my entreaties for spare tickets sparingly. I was nonaggressive, polite and contrite about not procuring tickets early enough for what turned out to be a sold-out show - a rollicking band called Franz Ferdinand.

Given the band's recent surge in popularity, I should have known. But I was not alone - a fact which both reassured me and reduced my chances exponentially. At least half a dozen of us scoured our fellow fans outside the concert hall, looking longingly at the little cardboard tickets they clasped in their fingers. Here and there, in the course of an hour, a few succeeded in finding a ticket or two. My own hopes receded further when another would-be attendee confessed he would pay five times the box office price.

The rest of us formed a rather pathetic lot, a group of problematic procrastinators and forlorn forgetfuls. At last I conceded I had been defeated, and I walked home.

Such experiences remind me I can't possibly recall how many times I've forgotten things. I try to remember birthdays (although some people would just as soon forget), but I struggle to bring them from memory in advance. Maybe, for some of you, this phenomenon will seem vaguely familiar, too - not unlike a case of deja vu.

I remember (how can I forget?) the painful time when for some reason - in front of several of my in-laws-to-be - I could not state my wife's birth date. I felt like such a reprobate. I could not conjure it to my head, and it would not trip off my tongue.

The irony (just like ironing, ironically) pounds me flat and steams me: Sometimes when trying to be most thoughtful, I find myself most devoid of thought. In other words, I am drawing a blank.

But what does this mean, "drawing a blank?" Is it a reference to an artist trying to illustrate nothingness? Is it like a poker player unluckily pulling cards from a faceless deck? Or is it a term derived from a gunslinger whose next bullet happens to be a dud? In any event, it is a loaded question.

Motivated to maintain memory and fight the fog of forgetfulness, I have found some help in writing things down - as long as I can remember where I left the notes. Other kinds of memory triggers also help, such as using fractured bits of poems or songs.

When I try to recollect how many days are in a given month, for example, I can call to mind a bit from childhood along the lines of "30 days hath September / April, June, and November; / Most of the rest have 31 / Without much chance of any sun / And if one of them had two and 30, / It would be just as wet, and twice as dirty."

Scientists indicate we know a great deal about how everything we experience is processed by the brain and stored in part of the temporal lobe. But in understanding just how memory works, we have a long way to go, and nobody is really clear about why everybody experiences some degree of memory fading. Maybe the scientists just can't remember all the details.

Researchers have indicated leisure pursuits such as chess, checkers, puzzles, playing musical instruments and ballroom dancing seem to counteract some memory loss, and the Internet brims with exercises known as "brain gyms." In an age when we often find ourselves saturated with information, part of the reasoning for such mental activity plays into a familiar saying: "Use it or lose it."

Anyway, such strategies may help me cope with forgetfulness, even before the arrival of the birthdays of loved ones. As long as I remember to apply these techniques in time, they may be just the ticket.

In scribbling notes to himself as "memory triggers," Brad Bolchunos advises that bad handwriting can lead to misfires. "But what, you may ask, is my overall point?" he adds, looking at a cryptic note. "I forget."


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