Yesterday, for instance, we talked about neuroplasticity, which generally refers to the brain’s inclination to develop, reinforce or lose neural pathways over time. The status of those 100 trillion synaptic connections in the average brain depends on environmental and other factors ranging from the salubrious effects of continuous learning to the euphoric effects of continuously sniffing magic markers. Which just goes to show how unfair life can be.
Anyway, I found the discussion fascinating.
“Whoa!” I shouted. “One hundred trillion neural connections? You have got to be joshing me. A trillion isn’t even a real number. You must mean a ‘gazillion.’”
Some of my friends at this point gently corrected my mistake. They invited me to the front of the room where they shaved my head and trepanned me with a corkscrew in order to see what a net loss of neural connections actually looked like in a living specimen.
Then they gave me a cookie.
“Now give me a chicken kebab,” I said.
Instead of giving me a chicken kebab, my friends lifted me by the elbows and carried me off until I found myself face-to-face with the street.
They had totally missed the point I was trying to make. I wanted a chicken kebab. And I wanted one even more after they kicked me out of the pub because, like so many millions of other people, nothing whets my appetite for middle eastern food quite like the taste of asphalt.
So I ran to Kebab Stop Takeaways at the corner of Mount Eden and Valley Roads, a middle eastern joint that in all seriousness makes the best chicken kebab on a pita that I’ve had in a long time.
“Gimme one,” I said.
“We’re closed, sir,” the Kebab Stop Takeaways man said.
“But it’s 9:30 in the evening.”
“Yes, and I was supposed to close a half-hour ago.”
I suddenly had an unfamiliar experience. My brain was getting bigger.
“Hey,” I said. “Either my hat is on too tight or I must be learning something.”
“I don’t care,” the Kebab Stop Takeaways man said. Then he pulled down his shutter.
But it was true. My brain was getting bigger and all because I learned something new: New Zealand keeps business hours.
In thinking over the ramifications of my new insight, I suddenly felt sorry for travelers who landed at Auckland International Airport on a Saturday morning only to be asked by immigration officials to come back the following Monday during regular business hours.
But then I also felt a little confused because while the Kebab shop and all the other places on Mount Eden Road had closed up for the night, I could hear a foul voice on the wind.
“What is that awful sound?” I said.
Then my brain got even bigger yet as I remembered that AC/DC was scheduled to give a concert in Western Springs at that time. At last, after 30-something years and 20 albums, this rock-n-roll combo had finally found New Zealand on Google maps and decided to bring its special brand of entertainment to give Auckland’s pensioners a sound to snap their fingers to. It puzzled me why AC/DC was playing on one random Thursday in February, but then I figured it must have been Neil Finn’s night off.
Well, exhausted after the cookie rush faded and tuckered out by the rapid expansion of my neocortex due to all my figuring things out, I went home. I crawled into bed. But that dreadful noise continued.
So I lifted my window and threw down a shoe, knocking Brian Johnson’s famous scally off his head.
“Hey, you septuagenarians, knock it off,” I screamed. “New Zealand is closed.”
The band instantly began playing an acoustic version of Highway to Hell which pretty much ended the show.
I was finally able to fall asleep. I felt a little bad when I woke up this morning for showing off my new knowledge the way I did. But when you’re as smart as I am, do you ever really have a choice in the matter?