Last week, I had my regular MRI check-up, and once again, by the grace of science and luck and the universe, it looked good. “Unremarkable” is the technical term that radiologists use. It’s one of the few times in your life that hearing that is just … nice.

My brain, pre-surgery. See the little grey nob at the base of the white V-shaped ventricles? That was my tumor.

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So don’t have to get another MRI for a whole year now, but as I stare at those images my the inside of my head, I realize my fascination with the human brain remains. Looking at the cross section of grey matter, at the organ that makes me me, I find myself amazed at how we all function.

Or, rather, I’m amazed at how I function, and I just assume that everyone else operates the same way.

The other day, I couldn’t remember the name of the actress that I think bears a striking resemblance to my friend Katie. So I just gave up on the matter, knowing that my brain would come through. And sure enough, a few hours later, while Katie and I were having dinner at a Japanese restaurant and talking about something entirely different, I looked up at her and screamed, “LINDSAY SLOANE.”

(Thankfully, Katie’s known me long enough to not get fazed when I do stuff like that. She just stared at me, nodded slightly, and went back to her sashimi.)

But … it’s amazing isn’t it? I mean, how the hell did my brain do that? It has, on occasion, been unable to identify people that I’ve met a half-dozen times, but is able to pull the names of random actresses from deep within the folds of my grey matter when I’m not even consciously focusing on that.

The machinations of my mind become even more intriguing during long trips, when sleep deprivation and jetlag start trashing the inside of my skull like college-freshmen in a summer rental.

As we flew to Sydney, I curled up, exhausted, in my seat. I had earplugs in, over which I’d placed noise-reducing headphones. My sleep mask was pulled down over my eyes, and my blanket was tucked in around me (with the seatbelt fastened over it so that the flight attendants needn’t wake me).

I was about as comfortable as an adult human could be in a premium economy seat. And so I tried to lull myself to sleep on a trans-Pacific flight (a near-impossibility for me).

You are so comfy, I thought to myself. And so tired. So let’s just think about how you are relaxing in a hammock, and all the sounds of the plane are actually someone mowing their lawn a few houses over. Yes. And you are drifting, drifting … Nope, nope. Nevermind. You have to pee.

No, wait. Maybe you don’t. Nah, you’re fine. Anywho, you are drifting, drifting off to sleep and …

On second thought, you do have to pee. Like, really badly. Do you hear me? YOUR BLADDER IS FULLER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN. IT IS LIKE A WATER BALLOON IN THE HANDS OF A FIVE-YEAR-OLD. It is just waiting to bust. Go. Pee. Now.

So I begrudgingly got up from the cocoon that I had created for myself, and wandered over to the bathroom, where my bladder managed to produce not a flood-like deluge but a mere trickle as if to say, “Take that, sucker.” I walked back to my seat a tired and broken woman.

Once again, I reentered my cocoon, tried lulling myself to sleep with visions of hammocks and lawnmowers or whatever, and just as this process was beginning to sort of almost work …

MY BLOOD RUNS COLD, MY MEMORY HAS JUST BEEN SOLD!

My brain, in an act of treason comparable to Brett Favre playing for the Vikings, started blaring the lyrics of “Centerfold” by The J. Geils Band. Are you familiar with this song? It’s about a guy who purchases a nudie magazine and is horrified to see that his high school crush is You know what? Never mind what the song is about. It totally doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it is one of the worst songs ever written. I can only assume whoever penned it hates humanity and created this ditty as a sort of punishment to inflict upon us. Seriously. It’s soooooo bad.

And my brain was mercilessly blaring it at 30,000 feet. I have no idea why it decided selected that song, but it did.

MY ANGEL IS A CENTERFOLD! MY ANGEL IS A CENTERFOLD! 

I tried every trick I had to rid my mind of it and attempt to sleep. I counted sheep. I hummed the “Girl from Ipanema” (which I’ve heard works to unstick a song in your head). I even tried a tactic I devised as a kid, where I imagine the song is emitted from a small radio, that I subsequently bash with a sledgehammer, ending the noise. This latter technique almost always works for me.

But this time, it didn’t. What’s worse is that I don’t even know all the lyrics to this godawful song, so it was just the chorus, playing over and over and again. It. Did. Not. Stop.

We finally got to Sydney. I had had no sleep.

In a daze, we took another flight to Hamilton island, and from there we took a boat to Hayman island, where we’d be staying for the week. I was half awake through all of it, yawning and stumbling as I watched the Great Barrier Reef unfold in front of me. It was glorious, and I vaguely remember it.

I guess we got on this boat?

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And I think that maybe this happened.

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No friggin CLUE who this guy is, but he seemed nice.

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A few days later, we were well caught up on sleep, and exploring some of the islands of the reef. We found ourselves on Langford, which is uninhabited and, at high tide, a little more that a narrow spit of white sand surrounded by turquoise water, and a reef that is exceptionally popular with the local sea turtles.

That’s right: there are friggin sea turtles in the water and YOU CAN SWIM WITH THEM.

Rand and I did just that snorkeling around and hoping that the turtles would approach, but found that they were feeling a little shy that day.

Except for one. I saw it resting on the sea floor, slowing moving around. And because my world is full of magic, it gently began to rise up for air directly where I was. It was so close to me that I could touch it. Which I did, gently, my gloved fingers touching its shell for a brief moment.

You’d think that my brain, now well rested, would have quietly let me enjoy this moment. That it would be silent as I encoded in this memory in its folds, to be revisited again and again until the day I die.

Instead, perhaps aware of the significance of what was happening, the sheer incredibleness of it all, it began to screech like a drunk sorority girl. A rapid-pace color commentary on the situation that was entirely unnecessary and vapid. And as much as I willed otherwise, it would not shut up.

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

That is a frigging sea turtle, and you just touched it. You just REACHED OVER and TOUCHED IT. That was, like, pretty much the best thing to happen, ever. IT TOTALLY WAS. Are you listening? THIS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE AND I HOPE YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO IT. 

Followed by a brief pause, and then, as I watched the sea turtle gently swim away …

MY BLOOD RUNS COLD, MY MEMORIES HAVE JUST BEEN SOLD.

MY ANGEL IS A CENTERFOLD. MY ANGEL IS A CENTERFOLD.

Sigh. Just another day with my unremarkable brain.

Full list of categories:  Random Musings
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Comments (17)

  1. 1

    Aw Crap! I am just about to board a plane to South America and I am singing Centerfold in my head. I used to love that song, but after this 10 hour flight I’m probably going to change my mind!

  2. 2
    Melanie says:

    Welcome to the wonderful Land of Oz! I hope you are staying as long in Sydney as you are in Hayman – there’s lots more to do here!

  3. 3
    Taryn says:

    This post is hilarious! But I’m none too pleased that you past the blasted song over to my brain!

    So very glad that your brain remains unremarkable!

  4. 4

    My girlfriend and I used to play a god awful ‘game’ whereby one of us would casually saunter past the others desk and sing/hum a few bars of some horrid 80′s tune in the hopes of sticking it in their brain for the day/week. J. Geils was often top of the heap. Also: 867-5309, Mony Mony, Love Shack, and, of course, Never Gonna Give You Up. Too much fun!

  5. 5
    Jodi says:

    Maybe now whenever you hear/think of that song you will always remember swimming with sea turtles. And it will be a happy song instead of annoying one.

    I like to make up new lyrics to songs I get stuck in my head (that I hate). “The water is cool, it looks like I’m swimming in a pool….these super awesome SEA TURTLES rule!”

  6. 6
    Sara says:

    Unremarkable, how satisfyingly average!! My next scan is in 1 month and I’m hoping to be underwhelmed my how unremarkable my noggin is as well. Then I’ll be copying the cool kids and going to 1 year scans too! Holler!!

  7. 7

    Seriously, “unremarkable” is one of the nicest words in the English language when it pertains to one’s medical test results—-especially if they had previously been all too remarkable.

    The blues in your photos are stupendous—surely enough to penetrate jet lag. Did you fly all the way to Australia to stay for just one week? I refuse to fly to the other side of the world for anything less than 3 weeks. (Yes, I am a tremendously spoiled person). We fly from the east coast of the U.S., so it’s a little farther than for you, but still, there is no getting around the brutality of that flight. Our trips to Australia have involved needing to be in Perth in Western Australia—literally, just about half way around the world.

  8. 8
    Jaimie Moore says:

    Great post.
    Xo.

  9. 9
    Anisa says:

    Glad to hear that your latest scan was unremarkable. YaY!

    I have done the same thing, in regards to, just randomly spurting out a name of someone I was trying to think of. It is usually hours later and it will just come to me after I have finally quit thinking about it. Maddening.

    So glad you got to swim with sea turtles. Isn’t it awesome? I got to see just one when I snorkeled in the Barrier reef in Belize. It was scary and amazing at the same time. It was not close enough to touch but was cool just to see it. But I was close enough to touch the sharks and stingrays. ( I did not, but was close enough) I preferred to just take photos instead. It was amazing though, it was my first time snorkeling and there I was surrounded by sharks, stingrays, and eels!
    Looking forward to hearing the rest of your Australia stories.

    I know what you mean about songs getting stuck in your head. That can be so frustrating. This happens to me, but it is usually when I wake up in the morning. The song is almost always a song I can’t stand, but one that I heard on the radio days prior at work. Uggg!

    Oh, and by the way, now I have centerfold, stuck in my head!

  10. 10
    Rose says:

    Your brain sang exactly the same song that mine did when I swam with sea turtles this winter. Ruth and I were screaming at one another like reunited sorority girls, through our snorkels. It’s tremendous, and otherworldly. I enjoyed watching my brain freak out about the turtles (and then insist that I watch one eat seaweed for 5 uninterrupted minutes). It was a happy reminder that there are surprises left in the world.

    • 10.1
      Ruth says:

      Rose is not exaggerating about the underwater screaming. The turtles, thankfully, were unperturbed.

  11. 11
    Carmel says:

    Oh lord can I relate. This morning was the Charles in Charge theme song, which I unfortunately know all the lyrics to. My husband calls it the endless random jukebox in my head. It gets to be pretty exhausting living in my head. I also don’t really understand how I can remember the lyrics to so many idiotic songs (and some good ones), yet remembering any actual facts in let’s say, history are completely beyond me.

  12. 12
    Andi says:

    I had to look up that song on youtube since I was unsure of it and I definitely know it and continued reading the rest of your post while it played in my headphones.

    And now will try to work while humming “Angel is my centerfold”….

    Gorgeous pictures btw.

  13. 13
    LarenR says:

    I finally get Portobello Road out of me head and now this. You are killing me! (softly with your song. Oh, great…)

  14. 14
    Mike says:

    That is awesome news on your MRI! I can totally relate to your unintentional delayed answer to your friend, Katie. That happens to me more often these days and I don’t know whether to attribute it to my late 40’s. Or just my brain tormenting me to wait until it’s ready to provide the answer.

  15. 15
    Cara says:

    My brain works the same way. It really throws off my husband when I shout some random word days later in the middle of a conversation. Then, he doesn’t even appreciate that ability for it to do that. *sigh*

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