I haven’t kept notebooks all my life, just most of my life. I think I must have gotten the first when I was ten or eleven. Although it was dubbed on the outside “My Diary,” I rarely went more than a week with any prototypical diary entries. In fact, it was neatly divided into three or four modest “day” entries per page andI routinely wrote over several days’ worth for each entry. These little books always tended to be more like journals, sometimes filled with activities, but mostly filled with emotional screeds, commentaries on the world, philosophical ramblings. Later, they tended to fill up with bits and pieces of my writing: character sketches, poems, dialog runs, etc., etc.—mixed in with the emotional screeds, commentaries, philosophy. They have mostly been cheap paper-cover books, but once or twice I’ve bought something really fancy, like this one:
This one cost far more money than rational me wanted to spend, but the excitable part of me had to have it.
Or, actually, it had to have
the one made of brown leather. Black leather has always had less appeal to me. I kept circling back to the store and fondling that book for weeks, but fortunately, the rational me got the excitable one to wait until the notebook had been marked down and
I had a gift certificate. By that time, sadly, all the brown leather ones had sold out—but that did not deter me. I’d obsessed about the damned thing and so I was going to have it.
Let’s not speak of acquisitiveness gone mad, shall we?
That was a few years ago now and I have never written a word in it. I just can’t bring myself to violate those pages with the usual screeds, ramblings, and commentaries. What am I saving it for? I have no idea, but there is sits, beautifully occupying a shelf. Seems a waste, but we’re not talking rational processes here. The rational me and the excitable one walk hand-in-hand, but it’s often an uneasy partnership, each pulling hard in the opposite direction.
When I was about thirteen and walking around the back yard of our old house in Venice in a moony state (not at all uncommon in those days), something kept nudging me to go to the little walk space behind the “garage.” Garage is a euphemistic term for the structure on the back end of our property. Basically it was a couple of strung together rattletrap sheds which hadn’t seen paint since the Trojan War and had a distinct lean to the south. My biodad stored his tools and an inordinate amount of Important Guy Stuff in the larger shed. The smaller shed sometimes held fertilizer and the like for his prodigious garden. Behind this structure was a pathway about five feet wide at the very back end of the property. An enormous wire fence kept the riff raff of the neighborhood (my family) from entering the property on the other side, the Edgemar Dairy.
Dairy is also a euphemistic term, as no actual cows wandered the premises. It was a processing plant and staging area for Edgemar trucks to fill up with ice and cart their loads of milk, cottage cheese, fruit drinks, etc., to stores. An enormous ice-crushing machine sat on the other side of that wire fence and it would start going at about two or three in the morning. (That, and being in the flight path of Santa Monica airport, helped train me to be the talented sleeper that I am to this very day.) The positioning of the ice-crushing machine against the property line was intentional, one in a long series of harassments the dairy management folks concocted in an effort to get us and our neighbor to sell out cheap to them and move. It didn’t work. We were made of sterner (and more spiteful) stuff than they imagined. They never did get our property. But that’s another story…
So anyway, something urged thirteen-year-old me to go behind the garage, telling me I’d find something special. I’d been back there countless times and the rational was skeptical—but the Believer was game. When I walked this familiar path, what did I spy? A little notebook lying just beside the fence on the dairy side: a cheapie, maybe 4×7, black leatherette, spiral bound. I could reach quite easily under where the wire of the fence didn’t quite meet the concrete and pull it to me. It was full of paper, every page blank, and it must not have been there long because it wasn’t damp or dirty. Well! The Believer thought I’d been given a Very Special Gift from the universe. The Skeptic (active even at that tender age) thought some schmuck had dropped it in the wee hours while filling his truck up with ice and disturbing my sleep. But I held onto that notebook for years—and kept it as empty as that expensive model. I just could bring myself to violate the pages.
The Believer always seems to be saving these things for that something special that never quite materializes.
(This post is really about Skepticism and Belief.)