I came all the way to Cleveland to meet with Mr. Rick Baron.
Rick's condition is termed "hyperthymesia", where the individual has a remarkable ability to recall his or her autobiographical memory. Researchers at University of California Irvine are investigating the nature of Rick's special abilities. So far, there are four confirmed cases of hyperthymesia in the United States. One of them is Jill Price, who has authored a book describing her experience as someone who cannot forget. Rick Baron is one of the four.
Rick Baron lives in the suburban Cleveland, in a surrounding of typical American residential area. It was a cloudy day in Cleveland. As I left the car, occasional snowflakes were falling from the sky onto my coat.
When I pressed the bell, the door was immediately opened. A well-built gentleman appeared, with a broad smile on his face. I shook hands with Rick Baron.
Once in his house, and after some small talk, I sat down to have the first conversation with Rick.
When I said that I was born on 20 October 1962, Rick smiled. Apparently, it was too easy for him. "You know it was Saturday", he said. "You know what happened two days after you were born?" I shook my head. "No, I have no clue". "It was the Cuban missile crisis", Rick said.
Later, I checked out the facts, and confirmed that on 22nd October 1962, President Kennedy delivered a key public speech in which he declared that " It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."
When I showed Rick some logos of national football teams, he smiled, again apparently anticipating what I was going to ask. "Is it perhaps too easy for you?" I remarked in advance.
When I pointed to the logo of a blue star, Rick immediately recognized it as the emblem of Dallas Cowboys. Then he went on to explain that Dallas Cowboys won their first Super Bowl title in year blah blah blah , and then in year so and so, citing the exact dates and scores. Then he went on to name the manager of Dallas Cowboys, from the initial appointee onwards.
"This is apparently a piece of cake for you," I said.
"Well, you see, sequential information the easiest for me." Rick answered.
When I pointed to another seal, Rick immediately replied that it was that of New Orleans saints, and went on to do the same feat as he did for Dallas Cowboys.
When I asked him "when did you realize that you had special abilities", Rick replied that he did not until 2007, when a conversation with one of his friends prompted him to contact the researchers at University of California at Irvine. Rick was then tested over the phone whether he was a genuine hyperthymesiac, going through a series of trivia quiz that he successfully passed.
"Isn't it remarkable that you came to realize your talent so late in your life?" I said. Rick shrugged his shoulders.
"It was something so natural to me. I did win in the trivia quiz contests, but that was about all."
The way Rick spoke, it was as if accurately holding all those autobiographical memories was something that was natural to him like breathing and heart beating.
Glancing around in his house, one could not help noticing the meticulous care with which Rich tidied the place, ordering things in a almost perfect symmetrical arrangement.
Later in the evening we followed Rick Baron to 1420 AM WHK radio station, for appearance in the Kelly & Company program, hosted by Tom Kelly. I joined Rick, and made my debut in an English language radio show.
With Rick Baron
With Rick Baron.
With Rick Baron in the WHK radio.
With Rick Baron and Tom Kelly