Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Googling My Past

I've complained about my poor memory before, but I think it's hit a new low.

The last two weeks I have been deluged by forms related to the sale of our current house and the purchase of my future home.  One of them required me to list all the places I've lived during the last 10 years.  I could go back to 2002 (the year Tom and I moved to Arizona), but the address of our last apartment in New York was a total blank.

Having a touch of OCD, I do of course have records from those years, neatly filed and indexed in a plastic bin with a lid.  One problem: that bin and all its relatives are buried in the huge heap of stuff in my super-sized storage unit, awaiting transit to my new home.  I can't even estimate how much time I would need to excavate the information - not to mention muscle power that I probably don't have.

My first thought was to call my former landlord.  Unfortunately I can only remember his first name - Russell.  His last name is buried in the same tub as the apartment address.

Next I tried a couple of the people search websites on the Internet.  They obligingly told me that I had lived in Brooklyn during the pertinent time period, but they didn't know the street address, either.

I finally tried Google Maps, reasoning that if I could see a map I could at least find the name of the street, and sure enough, the second I saw the neighborhood map I remembered that we had lived on Berkeley Place.  Berkeley is a very short street so I typed in a street number more or less at random, and Google not only pointed to the address on the map, it also showed me a thumbnail photo of the building.  My  first guess was too far west, so I worked my way up the street until I arrived at my former home.

Most Brooklyn brownstones look very similar, but this one was obviously ours.  Russell's cement lions still crouch on the front stoop.  The plaque proclaiming the house was built in 1875 is still fastened next to the front door.  The gas light is still eternally burning in the tiny front courtyard.  And...the house number is stenciled in gold script on the exterior door.

Of course I remember this sort of information for about half an hour at the max, but that was long enough to fill out the necessary form, and having found it once, I know how to do it again should I face a similar crisis in the future.  Better living through technology!

“It's surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time” ~Barbara Kingsolver

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