A DOA Literary Experiment

Over our lunch at Wok and Roll (formerly the boarding house of Mary E. Surratt) in Washington, D.C. last spring, my friend Robert Nedelkoff said that he had Googled my name and found a Usenet post (circa 1996 or 1997) in which I asked, “Are there any newsgroups where one can post diary/journal entries?”  Since you can’t copyright an idea, I’m not going to wring my hands about all the wealth that could’ve been mine.

Recently, I heard somebody say that most bloggers blog about… blogging.  While I enjoy keeping this record up to date, and welcoming the incoming comments of everyone who reads it, my first love as far as record-keeping is concerned is my diary.  Late in the afternoon, Susie and I walked up to Olympic Swim and Racquet, and I was grateful when everyone flocked around the diving platform, because it gave me some time to commune with my composition book and my ballpoint pen.  (I am down to the last 13 pages in this particular volume.  Once I finish it, my journal continues in the volume pictured below.)
Maybe I should start using blank books that
would look better in museum display cases.

Elsewhere in this blog (and its predecessor on LiveJournal), I have sung the praises of the late Reverend Robert Shields, a retired United Church of Christ minister and teacher who kept a diary of everything he did from the moment he awakened (indicated as “GOD–Genesis of the Day”) until he finally fell asleep.  This included everything he ate, bought, excreted, thought, read, or saw, complete with sales slips, business cards, and other evidence.  He kept a whole arsenal of IBM Wheelwriters on his back porch office, in case he ran out of ribbon or one of them broke down, and the diary kept him, not vice versa.  This dominated his life until a stroke partially paralyzed him in 1997.  He passed away in 2007.
In the same league, although I don’t think he suffered from the hypergraphia that dominated Shields’ life, was former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-Florida).  He was briefly on Al Gore’s short list for Vice Presidential candidates in the ’00 campaign, but his penchant for writing down everything in his life in small spiral-bound notepads soon became a running joke and a late-night TV punch line.  This article in the St. Petersburg Times covers Senator Graham’s extensive note-taking and need to chronicle.  When this 2003 article appeared, Graham had already filled 4000 notebooks.  When the North Carolina Paper Company discontinued this particular size (about the size of a deck of playing cards), he bought the company’s leftover inventory of them.
Lord knows I am envious of men like Shields and Graham, and hypergraphia is one psychological condition I wish I could develop.  As I sweat blood over a single short story–which I think may be ready to try on some unsuspecting magazine editor later this week–and have to force myself to the keyboard to work on my novel, Graham and Shields cannot shut off the flow.
So, one day in June, I decided to chronicle one day the way that Graham and Shields had done.  Sometime in May, I bought a green Mead spiral memo book, which I had carried in my over-the-shoulder bag without ever marking in it.  Very early one morning, I decided to put it to use.  Here is how I grandiosely marked the cover:

The “Genesis of the Day” that day was about 2:30 a.m.  The smoke detector had beeped at 30-second intervals, which meant the nine-volt battery was on its last legs.  Once I went downstairs and tended to that, I was just too wide awake to sleep.  I logged onto my laptop and read a Slate article about Graham from 2003, and that was when I decided to do it.

I won’t share the entire day with you, but here are some of the early notations from the morning, many of them made on the fly.
B/R is bathroom.  I wasn’t going to elaborate on that.  The 6:45
notation alludes to my returning the Bible to my shelf.  I had
plumbed its pages for a verse to use as an epigraph for something
I was outlining at the time.

I tried like mad to keep a record of everyone who
boarded and disembarked from the bus between
Clintonville and downtown.  I listed the male (♂)
and female (♀) symbols as a shorthand in lieu
of writing out the words.  S/B is southbound.

And that was how I filled up two thirds of that memo book.  At work, I had to make the notations somewhat furtively, like a spy sticking microfilm into his pocket, but I managed to do it.  That night, there was a Homeschool Dance and Luau at Whetstone Recreation Center, and I managed to drive Susie nuts (though I neglected to write that down) as I noted each intersection we crossed when walking to Wendy’s for dinner–since we arrived early at the dance.
So I managed to maintain this record for 24 hours, and it exhausted me.  Even as I left the William Green Building for the night at 5 p.m., I was chronicling like mad:
At the dance itself, Pat saw me writing and wondered if I was covering the dance.  Yes, but not for any journalistic media.  (He and his family came to the dance as well.  My head ached too much to go in the gym with all the loud music.  I’m just thankful there wasn’t a ’70s theme, which would have meant mirror balls and strobe lights.  I am not epileptic, but strobe lights, especially when reflected numerous times, wear me out.)
So, I’ve returned to sanity with my diary-keeping.  As the kids and parents clustered around the dive tower tonight at Olympic, I managed to write about the day, how I awakened fully intending to go to church, but the sound of the thunderstorm and wind outside made me decide to go back to bed for a few more hours.  I wrote about Sporeprint and the work they do, pretty much the same way I did here in the blog.  (Writing at poolside has such a John Cheever-esque ring to it.)
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in “The Crack-Up” that “In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.”  I just heard my watch beep the hour, and when I glance down at the lower left-hand corner of the laptop screen, it says 3:03.  The digital clock sitting nearby is in agreement.  My friend Steve is driving Susie to Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp in Lockbourne, and we’re leaving at 9 a.m.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to get the whole day off work, but couldn’t.  So once we drop Susie off, we’re turning right back around and heading back to Columbus, where the rest of my day (until 5 p.m.) belongs to the good people of the state of With God, All Things Are Possible.
And look how well I’m resting up for this busy day ahead.  I have many concerns on my mind right now–which I don’t want to publicize at this time–and they’ve kept sleep at bay for much of this weekend.
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