8:09 AM – Walked to Panera this morning. Two different dogs at two different points on the journey barked in my direction. I inspire music.
“I like to think that Henry James said his classic line, ‘A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost,’ while looking for his glasses, and that they were on top of his head.” – Anne Lamott, from Bird By Bird, Ch. 19 “Index Cards”
Anne Lamott uses index cards – and loads of them, it would appear – to keep track of ideas and quotes and small lists. I use pocket size Moleskins. I’ve gone through half a dozen in the past few years. My current Moleskin has been with me longer than any other in my Moleskin patronage. I keep the Moleskin in my back right hip pocket (wallet in my front right pocket) and two Pilot Precise V5 RT pens (usually one green and one blue) clipped to my right front hip pocket. Everything in convenient reach, prepped for the unexpected.
For the record, I do not keep a journal. If I feel the need to journal, I email my buddy Chadverb or write a letter to Seanboy. I haven’t “journaled” since the days I most fervently expressed my Christianity through hand-wrining and guilt-flogging my innate sin nature. I’ve since revisited the Gospel and subsequently feel no need to wring or flog, so I now feel no compulsion to journal.
But there are plenty of ideas and thoughts and titles and experiences I hope to remember – and perhaps one day I will use them in my writing. Thus the Moleskin. A flip through my current back-pocket notebook reveals various lists of articles and essays and comic books to find, a page filled with 129 words made from the word “Scholarship”, a list of “Necessary Addresses”, a list of the first 19 films I watched in 2012 (why this seemed important I can’t fathom), a list of birthdays only spanning January and February and June, notes for articles I’ve written or hope to write, a scattering of email addresses, notes from an interview with a craft brewer, a smattering of song lyrics (“harmonizing harmonious things” – Rwake), a chunk of new indie horror films, random prayer requests (Molly at Starbucks, Corpus Christi), dates for upcoming film releases, price comparisons for an NES console at various used book and record stores, and designs for self-drawn thumb tattoos.
There are pages and pages and pages brimming with beer notes: Shiner Dortmunder, O’Dell St. Lupulin, Crazy Mountain Brewing’s Mountain Livin’ Pale Ale, Real Ale Coffee Porter and Black Quad and Brewhouse Brown, Buffalo Bill Gingerbread Stout, St. Arnold Pumpkinator, Austin Beer Works everything. Here’s even the order of beers served to me and my buddy Herb on our tour of New Belgium Brewing Company, which was far more impressive than I expected or wanted it to be.
There’s a list of Tweets here, funny little thoughts and observations I kept, even though I deleted my Tweeter account months ago: “Today I ate a Fun Size Snicker in the can. Felt awkward gaining, while simultaneously losing, weight.” That’s a poor example, but a fair illustration of the direction these things go.
Since I began writing G.O.A.T.S., I’ve interviewed several friends – mostly females – about growing up with brothers and babysitting gigs. I’ve heard good stories. And I have pages of notes about outdoor adventures and nanny vacations and missions to save innocent children from overbearing parents and breaking rules and broken rules and sibling fights and sibling approvals and that moment of realization that this other kid you’ve grown up with is a sexual being. Although I’ve got a larger Moleskin with an ASS sticker on the cover dedicated totally to G.O.A.T.S., the back pocket notebook looks less intimidating while I’m firing questions about seeing people naked and hourly child labor rates.
More than anything I have pages of quotes and passages from my readings. Karen Russell. Tim O’Brien. David Brooks. George F Will. Tayari Jones. Lena Dunham. Roger Ebert. Louis CK. King Solomon. Lana Del Rey. Maria Brink. Anne Lamott.
My favorite quote in the whole lot comes from Willie, a patron at the Waldo Cup in Kansas City, Missouri. Willie was a loud talker. Big man. Motorcycle jacket. Long grey hair and long grey beard. Told several ladies in the cafe that their voices sounded like music. One of the baristas asked Willie to show his tattoos. He went through the lot of them and finally landed on a black-n-white sketch of an alligator. I had already eavesdropped every single word Willie said that morning, but I stopped pretending at this point. A fellow Vietnam Vet once wrote a poem in honor of Willie that ended with the line, “Stud on you, Old Fat Gator,” inspiring Willie’s tattoo. That’s my favorite line in this whole Moleskin bunch. I’ll make some use of that line someday. God bless, Willie.
It’s that moment right there I’m most grateful to have preserved. People say shit writers could never make up. Moments happen in real life that are better than fiction.
For instance, right here at Panera, I’m watching a bus boy watch two girls at a booth nearby. They’re here with a table full of books and laptops, cramming for summer school. I do not know what they are studying, but I know who’s studying them. And I know he’s not smooth pacing, table checking, craning his neck as if he’s searching for gold nuggets in the invisible dirt smudges behind their knees. He just brought a pat of butter to the table next to me, the girl there said she did not ask for the butter, and this allowed him to approach the girls he’s been watching. I’ll make a note about him in my Moleskin, and it will probably say something about the way he mirrors my own lack of swagger back in the day. He reminds me of myself and those memories are working directly into the story I’m writing. This is a good moment to see, even better to have scribbled down for future reference.