‘I noted it down,’ discerning substance in a concrete-free phrase

This week, things have returned to a prior, less solipsistic order, but last week, searching for the words “I noted it down” on one of the larger search engines brought up in the number one spot my post on Casa Azul and its cats, and the role their existence had played in the life of my mind so far.

I spent more than a decade pondering the loss of the list of the names of the cats of the Casa Azul, but now, thanks to the near relatives who went to Mexico City and compiled the list again on my behalf, I am made whole. It’s not the same list of course, but it serves the same purpose, just as the consideration of later front-lines of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison, for instance) summons to mind their predecessors in the band (Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean, let’s say). Reading the names of the contemporary troop of cats brings generous details of my visit from the nineties to mind, but even in those days when list-less, I survived without being able to recall the little beasts’ names, recalling the memory of having made the list would, like a relay, sharply evoke that visit to Coyoacan.

Some googlenaut had actually searched for “I noted it down,” and found my Casa Azul post. I know this because it popped up in the analytics one day last week, and bewildered me to no end. There’s no concrete noun in the phrase: the association that “I noted it down” would entail in someone’s head was opaque to me, in the way that search-engine fodder like “tub girls” is all too transparent.

And when I looked it up myself, it seemed to me that my original post had relatively quite a lot to say about “I noted it down.” There wasn’t, for instance, a great famous quote that had escaped the mind of the search-engine user.

The clip that has replaced mine at the top of the list is this: “He gave me the date and I noted it down. And EXACTLY five years later, it happened.” Here it is the prescience of having noted the date that is being remarked upon (I guess; I haven’t read through the linked page; I prefer not to disturb the perfect opacity of this particular text by reading it).

Here’s the second link:

Then i walked in a shop and bought a diary and two black sketchpens to note the things down that i will do on the day. I was actually not trying to welcome 2009 but i was a little sad for 2008, and i think that is why i was perplexed.…I noted it down in the diary.

—from the first post on http://abhinavyadav.com/blog/

This “I noted it down” quote includes the context of the noting: it’s done in a special diary, with a special pen. I particularly like the idea of perplexity (a word that I will always associate with Professor Cuthbert Calculus) coming on the heels of auld-lang-syne–style sadness. In this case, and strictly for myself, “I noted it down” is a kind of four-word emotion organ emulator, an ALT-text version of some strange invention out of a Jack Vance book, that creates perplexing sense-harmonies from the sequential interplay of different emotions.

So, “I noted it down.” Whatever the object it is, it has somehow returned to mind in the mind of the writer: the phrase laces an episode from the past tightly to the present: “I noted it down then and have returned to it now.” It’s making a list, paying attention, keeping tabs on something.

In the Casa Azul post, I saw “I noted it down” as an identity-building trope: this was something that I did, and that on some perplexing level was a form of identification: I make lists of things that uniquely interest Jonathan, therefore I am Jonathan. Now, I see the phrase as a way to connect the often mystifying present with a clearer, better defined past. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but my clear description of this one certain event in the past can be used as a lens to focus that busy present.

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