About “Other Than You”

I don’t remember exactly, but I have a suspicion that this poem was born out of the confluence of two memories: the life-altering book On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins, which proposes a memory-prediction model of the brain, and these lines from the Counting Crows song “Mrs. Potters Lullaby:”

If dreams are like movies
then memories are films about ghosts.

One of On Intelligence‘s many proposals is the idea that memory is identity: an amnesiac feels disconnected from the self she was — and, in many real ways, is no longer that person as the shared recollections and experiences that form interpersonal relationships have vanished with her ability to recall the past: the “films about ghosts” that defined her have stopped playing at the local theatre. I find the implications of this idea — that you can forget who you are and in the process literally stop being you — unsettling.

Andy posted this wonderful shot to Facebook back in August 2010 and it immediately impressed me. I love the quiet violence of the blue storm rolling in and the framed geometry of the architecture. Even the building’s vibrant color is striking, capped by the mildly imposing red spire. And, in all this drama, far to the right, a lighted window beckons: someone inside is reading Rimbaud.

Here’s Andy’s description:

For those of you that don’t know, there is an amazing project underway in Traverse City called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. From 1847 to 1895, 35 insane asylums were built across the United States following a similar design and concept developed by Dr. Terry Kirkbirde. The buildings were very beautiful, very large, and very expensive to maintain. Unfortunately, throughout the 20th century, most were shut down and ultimately demolished. One of the buildings that was closed but survived demolition was the Northern Michigan hospital; in 2000, it was purchased by Raymond Minervini of the Minervini Group. Ray had a vision to transform the dilapidated buildings into a mixed-use community with condos, businesses, restaurants, and shopping. Eleven years after starting The Village, he has turned what was once a dangerous eye sore into a jewel that has even been profiled by the New York Times.

Shortly after moving to Traverse City in 2009, my wife and I were fortunate to live at The Village for a year in an amazing condo. One fall evening a storm was rolling in and I snapped this photo of Cottage 20, which was formerly the men’s receiving ward, from our balcony.

Cottage 20, Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City, MI. AS.


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