I entered the construction trailer, grabbed a yellow hard hat from the rack, and headed through the gate in the chain-link fence and onto the construction site. My weekly visits to classrooms in my old high school now also included visits to the new middle school that was under construction. I’d asked for and gotten permission to take reference pictures at the site so that I could build a new school in the strip. Each week I would show up at the construction trailer, be issued a hard hat, and then be allowed to wander the site, gathering photo references and documenting the gradual changes taking place. Building a new school in Funky would be a great way to update things in the strip and would also provide a resource for new and fresh ideas. Ideas are curious things, and, whenever my thoughts return to that construction site, they also return to the idea that got away. I was working my way through the shell of the new gym one morning when I got felt (the really good ones are just feelings) an idea for my band director Harry L. Dinkle. It wasn’t just a good idea. The auto-color-coded tagging system my brain uses marked it as quite possibly the best band director idea I’ll ever have. It was sublime. It was so outstanding that I ignored protocol (always write it down or you’ll forget it) and, instead of going back to my car and writing it down on the writing pad I kept there as was my wont in those pre-smartphone days, I ignored the siren in my head that was wailing like the klaxon on a breached submarine, punched manual override, and continued on through the building because I just knew the idea was simply too cool to ever forget. I forgot it. I forgot it, and it still kills me and fills me with regret me to this day. Sometime later when I told the story of the fugitive idea to my partner in crime Chuck Ayers, he asked why I didn’t write it in the dust on the floor and take a picture of it with my camera. Now I have two things that I regret.
An idea is an ephemeral thing. It’s like a drawing on an Etch A Sketch. You know that it’s not going to be there for long unless maybe you preserve it by say taking a Polaroid of it. Cripes, I’m old. And once you’ve allowed an idea to escape, retrieval can be patchy at best. When trying to recall an idea, my brain uses what I call the “charades method” of retrieval. It’ll start by throwing up a letter so that I’ll know that we’re rummaging through, let’s say, the S box. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll link the letter S to something tied to the idea I stupidly didn’t write down. If I’m not lucky . . . pfffft! Why my brain can always without exception remember that I forgot an idea but never, without an agonizing struggle, the idea itself remains a mystery. At any rate, the glorious one-off of an idea I had that day at the construction site will never come again because it was too sui generis, too plus-que-parfait (and I’ve just exhausted my knowledge of Latin and French), too awe-inspiringly magnificent to ever show up in the universe again. Too bad.
From the introduction to The Complete Funky Winkerbean Vol. 12