Sunday, April 1, 2012

Field Notes


For some years, you have relied upon lists made on three-by-five index cards as a source for notes in general, class notes in specific, and for the arrangement of scenes in stories you are working on.

Lists add to the clutter on your desk given you by your father, on the way-too-small Queen Anne secretary given you by your mother, and on the kitchen table, which came to you from sources now lost to you, acting as though you’ve had it most of your life, and wanting to be taken seriously.

You cannot remember when you began making lists or writing notes in notebooks, somewhere in your late teens, you reckon, measurably pleased to have something to write in notebooks and on index cards.

When you were considerably younger, you were attracted to note books, note pads, folders, but the attraction invariably brought you frustration because you had nothing of consequence to write in them until you devised the plan of writing your impressions of the radio programs you listened to, notably The Lone Ranger and The Shadow.

While this gave you some satisfaction, someone, one of your schoolmates, found a notebook written in your childish scribble, then confronted you with it.  “Who,” she asked you, incredulous, “would write down things from The Lone Ranger stories?  Why would anyone do such a thing?”  She was not Georgia, who beat you mercilessly at tetherball; she was popular enough to have a nickname, although you thought she had a perfectly fine name in Lorraine.

You felt down enough having been caught out.  You were not about to tell her you wrote synopses of The Lone Ranger in order to justify having notebooks.  And you were surely not going to tell her you’d been flirting with the notion of writing outlines of The Green Hornet episodes.

Such traumas have remarkable side effects.  You began writing your own inventions.  You like to think you knew enough at that point not to call them stories.  In any case, you were, in many ways thanks to the accident of Lorraine finding your notebook, off the hook of embarrassment and on the hook of being able to admire and acquire note pads.

Your favorite type of note pad at the time was a thick red pad with the line drawing of an Indian, wearing a feathered headdress.  The pad had a name:  Big Chief.  The paper was of a style called foolscap at the time, with one-inch blue lines.  Next to your pocketknife, your favorite tool was the stub of a number two Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil, with the pink eraser.

You did not, of course, realize this shift in having things to compose in your note book as a rite of passage; such as those come later, when, like the kitchen table, an enormous and grainy circle, they come to you from unknown sources.

In more recent notes, you ask yourself questions you would much like the answers to and, having become what you are, you are agreeable to the answers coming, at last, from you, a fact that means you have begun to trust yourself to provide satisfactory answers to yourself.  Another possible meaning you have not considered in depth is that you trust your answers and your ability to internalize them.

You are, so far as you are concerned, a reliable narrator, at least so far as most narrators go.  This could also be turned to mean there are many narrators of whom you are suspicious, in ways you are not suspicious of yourself.

At this point in your lifespan, most likely a consequence of you having taken so many notes on such varied media, and having written so many things, you consider yourself a witness to the segments of reality you see about you.  Once again, your reliability comes into question, producing a grand irony.  Up to a point, confidence is a good thing.  You are comfortable speaking and writing in a comfortable voice.  If you were to become too confident, you would no longer project confidence but rather arrogance.  Since you bristle at your contact with individuals you consider arrogant, you are sensitive to the potential of your confidence running over into arrogance and your reliability as a confident-but-not-arrogant witness brought to question.

On the other side of the argument, if you are too diffident, you run the risk of appearing too self-depreciating, perhaps even to the point of being so in a manner of trawling for complements.

You have not set yourself an easy path.

Witnesses may have their testimony impeached, their judgment questioned, their memory questioned.

The beauty of the way out for you is the simple one of having discovered some years back how a simple matter of switching from The Lone Ranger and possibly The Green Hornet or The Shadow to your own narrative is that you have figured how to approach reality on your own terms.

You even have the notes to show it.

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