It has taken me twenty years and being thousands of kilometers away from home, just to find the perfect journal. At the time, I had no idea what a Moleskine notebook was.  My search for the ideal journal had been narrowed down to very few but crucial qualifications.  The quality of paper and the notebook itself must be suitable for lefties like me: a spread-easy spine that allows the notebook to open up to a full 180 degrees, smooth paper—one that must dry quickly lest I end up with word road kill and smudges on my hand.

Back in September 2004, my friends and I decided to go around Europe; Rome, Florence, Venice, and finally, Paris for a few weeks.  At the time, I had the knickknacks I needed in my mailbag to feed my wanderlust: Lonely Planet guidebooks, a copy of A Moveable Feast, maps, a bottle of water; my large journal—brand new, hardcover and ring bound, passport, wallet, pens, double-sided tape, camera etc. It was heavy. My shoulders burned from the sheer weight of my bag. Every time I’d slip my fingers in to pluck something out, the metal rings of my journal would get in the way and my knuckles would get sore.  I figured the only way to take some weight off my shoulders was to get rid of things that I didn’t need. Everything else in my bag was indispensable and irreplaceable — except for that journal (which only had a few notes). Luckily, I was standing a few feet away from a corner bookstore. Without hesitation I immediately ran inside, nearly running over a large and sleeping St. Bernard sprawled by the doorway.  I shifted my attention to the attendant who had just lit a cigarette and asked if they had small journals.

I was pointed to the direction where notebooks with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, The Vitruvian Man, cherub details from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, and photos of the Vatican on the cover were arranged next to a stack of black notebooks with yellow and orange bands.  I had no time to choose which artwork I preferred the most so I chose the most inconspicuous journal for three reasons: It was black. It was small. It was black.

As soon as I paid for it, I took out the plastic, ripped off the yellow band (not even reading what was written on it) and shoved it in my bag. That night, back in our room, I flipped through my new journal and realized that its pages had grids. I scanned through it, hoping to see a blank or ruled page when a leaflet fell from its inner pocket; it read Storia di un taccuino leggendario. I turned it over and finally discovered the history of this legendary notebook. My inability to properly breathe shortly gave way to shrieks of excitement when   I read that Van Gogh, Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin also used Moleskines. I took out my copy of A Moveable Feast and scanned for pages where Hemingway wrote about writing in his pocket sized notebook. It was only my second day in Rome and I knew then, that I had to buy some more and this time I knew the right (band) color to pick. I took it as a sign, a moment’s burning bush, that I would be the writer I’ve always wanted to be and that I would try to make every single corner of that notebook count—every sentence, every word.

Mkes_6I had it with me throughout my trip; wine-stained pages and notes from Rome, doodles of sunflowers from a road trip through Tuscany, watermarks from autumn drizzles in Florence, short poems and pasta sauce from Venice, coffee stains and musings in Paris. My entire trip documented and fastened in that notebook. As an afterthought; one year, three worn and fully used pocket-sized Moleskines (and a stockpile) later, I’m happy brought the wrong journal with me.  It led me to find the last journal I will ever use. Now, like any other Moleskine fan that cannot readily avail of it, I have become greedy. I hoard. I scamper around dark cyber-alleys for good deals. I ask friends for favors. All because it’s impossible to find these notebooks in my country for the simple fact that it isn’t sold here. It’s quite expensive but worth every cent because I know that every time I turn a blank Moleskine page and dip my pen into it, I share that sinfully delightful and cathartic moment of writing with thousands of others. These days, I never leave home without it; maybe Hemingway said it best in A Moveable Feast  "wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you…" an indulgence that moves with me, goes where I go, and bears witness to the many facets of my life.

"Black as Sin"
By Pia Marquez-Matic
Manila, Philippines

Image: "I Like You" by Nocas @ Moleskinerie/FLICKR
© All rights reserved. Used with permission.

– Discover and join the Moleskine Communities at MYSPACE, FLICKR, ORKUT, LIVEJOURNAL & GOOGLEGROUPS.
– Birthday greetings to Mark Wehrhahn, November 20
– Thanks to Jens Schäfer for her recent donation.
– If you’re in Taipei, check out Workingunit’s "MyMoleskine" exhibit.



Tell me why you must absolutely have and own
a copy of this book. The best emailed response
(in 300 words or less)
gets the prize. Deadline is Sunday, November 20th at 12 Noon Central.
Write ‘TWINS" on the subject line. Winner will be announced on Monday,

Get out, have a life – and write about it! See you on Monday.

4 thoughts on “MOLESKINE NOTES ENTRY: “Black as Sin”

  1. Wow, I really like this essay…there’s something so intriguing about reading someone else’s search for the perfect journal, and the eventual discovery of that book.

  2. “I turned it over and finally discovered the history of this legendary notebook. My inability to properly breathe shortly gave way to shrieks of excitement when I read that Van Gogh, Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin also used Moleskines.”

    Oh, brother.

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