Since grade school when mother gave me my first diary – red with gilt edged pages – I’ve always had some book in which to make notes. At this point in my life I don’t journal so much as I jot and draft. Random images and phrases lie interspersed between blog and letter roughs with personal commentary sprinkled throughout in made-up shorthand for flavor.
A Moleskine fan described the books as a “secret weapon against the disorganization in our mind.” I’ve seen every journal and notebook I’ve ever owned as a safety valve against the steam that just natural builds up the pressure in my mind and heart. Intellectual or emotional, the energies demand an outlet. It’s been suggested I have a touch of hypergraphia but hey, whatever works and all the better if it’s an excuse to feed my blank book/good paper habit. As addictions go, this one’s pretty benign.
Before Papa died, on his last Father’s Day in fact, I gave him a blank book and asked him to write down his stories for me. When he protested I said, “It’s not a formal exercise, just scribble what comes to you even if it’s just a line or two.” He never wrote a single word. The concept was too alien. The notes he scrawled on the backs of laundry tickets were usually stock symbols and rates, nothing to betray his thoughts or feelings. And nothing to provide access to all the ideas that moved about his agile mind. That’s a great sadness to me.
I don’t really think a $10 notebook has given me ingress to the tradition of the “legendary . . . European artists and intellectuals,” though I won’t deny an attraction to the romance of the thought. Paris, a sidewalk café, a cooling cup of coffee and a smoldering cigarette. (Okay, I don’t smoke but we’re in the Twenties now, think de rigueur people.)
Bent over my tiny notebook I fill the pages with spidery scroll in lavish ink, J. Herbin’s poussiere de lune perhaps. Some sound makes me look up into the eyes of a bearded, unkept man. Papa, did I hear someone call him? Hemingway, I think that’s the name. He has a notebook of his own. Our eyes meet and he says, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
“Yeah,” I answer, “but the Moleskine helps.”
Nodding he says, “Yes it does and it doesn’t hurt if the sun rises too.”
“You know,” I comment before I return to my writing, “that would be a be a great title for a novel, ‘The Sun Also Rises.’” (Now why is that man scribbling like crazy?)