My Notebook

“What do you write in your notebook?” The question was asked of me by a young lady I had just met at a Bingo gathering. I showed her what I had just written: “@ Ash and Elm – met Nick and Morgan.” Morgan had taken a stool next to me at Ash & Elm’s Cider House on a “bingo night” Thursday. She introduced me to the man who had sat down with her, and told Nick “he writes down the names of people he meets.” She thought it “cute” that I did so.
I discovered the idea of notebooks when I was a 34 year-old student at Indiana University Southeast in Southern Indiana. I had gone back to school after quitting a ten-year job that I had grown to hate. I immersed myself in English, art and literature classes, energized by everything I saw and learned. One of those things was that a writer, poet and artist should have is a notebook. I imagined myself to be each of those, and my first notebook was a commonplace book, an 8 ½” x 11” hardbound pad into which I scrawled notes, ideas and drawings. I don’t know when I moved on to smaller books but since 1982, I have had many. A friend returning to St. Louis from a visit to Japan would bring me gifts of the little notebooks she used, and which I had adopted. I filled the 6” x 8 ¼” notebooks with notes on projects — I was a creative director in the advertising department of a retail store — and observations on human behavior. My notebooks have grown progressively smaller, with my current one being 4” x 5 ¾” in size.
Writing in my notebook satisfies my need for a tactile experience; I like the heft of the book, the whisper of turned pages, the drag of the pencil or pen across the page. I misunderstood the purpose of the notebook when I first adopted it; I believed that every word I put into it must be a reflection of some great wisdom or lofty thought I had or had learned of. But that changed; I wrote in one book, “This is my ‘book of words.’ In here I will catalogue the words I stumble upon in my reading whose definition I am unsure of. Or just fascinate … me.” I listed these words: oblations, gravid, paradigm, fecund; pundit, didactic, syllogism, facile; avuncular, febrile; piscatory, lachrymose, fustian and quotidian. The first note made in my current book was on September 25th, 1995; the second was on September 26th; the next page after that is dated April 29th, 2014. I don’t know where the notes are that I’m sure that I wrote between September 1995 April, 2014, but an archeological dig into my apartment is likely to turn up many books and pages.
My notes are these: 7/25/14 – “Met Michelle Johnson – News Director at WFYI – she lived in Winston-Salem and knows where The Triangle is in High Point. Likes to shoot pool.” 4/4/15 – “At Wheeler – Karen Irwin (vocals) Timothy Wright (guitar) ‘Joplin-esque’ big-a** voice!” And the names: Rafe and Jessica; Ian and Kaine; Diana McClure; Karen Powell; Sam and Abigail; Kristi at Bookmama’s and Ty, and his wife Kristen. I do like returning to the pages and trying to recall the time when the note was written, whether joyful: “@ Coal Yard watching Charlie Ballantine play,” or cautious: “Don’t make the recording of memories more important than making them.” My notebook, deciphered, can be viewed as chronicle of my life, or a record of a person enamored with the process of writing.