I don’t know why it took so long for me to appreciate the advantages of owning a notebook. I was fifty before I realized what I’d been missing by not carrying around a small notebook in my purse. I’ve always been a sucker for those big hardbound blank (or lined) books on the sale tables at every bookstore chain in the world — in fact I have at least eight bought over three decades that are still blank. Let’s forget the twelve others, each with the first twenty pages defaced with my lame attempts at keeping a diary. (I prefer “diary” to “journal” just because I loathe the new verb “journaling. ” Ick.)
Perhaps I was an late adapter because I carried a much smaller, chicer purse when I “went out to busines,” as my Lancashire grandmother would have said. Perhaps I realized that I could no longer remember everything. Maybe I got fed up with losing all those phone numbers and book titles scribbled on the back of ATM receipts every time I cleaned out that modestly sized Coach bag. Perhaps the resurrection of the venerable Moleskine (and desirable) brand was the kind of paper porn I love . I could get into a world of trouble at the Moleskine website. http://www.moleskine.com/
Writing myself through the process has enabled me to put my finger on the year I realized I needed a notebook. It was eight years ago on my first trip to Los Angeles to visit my daughter. She and John were promoting their new hometown, and every day was a dazzling revelation. I realized I couldn’t remember the calendar of events they’d arranged for me without writing it down in one place. The first day read something like: “Griffith Park, The Getty, Pho Cafe for lunch, Garment District, Campanile for dinner.” I was lightheaded with happiness, blissed out by Southern California, and didn’t want to forget a thing. I bought a Moleskine at Skylight Books, an independent bookstore that’s a destination in itself and I made note of everywhere we went on my first trip to LA. (Their campaign worked: I love Los Angeles and Southern California.)
I have two working notebooks. One’s in my purse — oh, gosh! My life is so much better now. If I’m listening to NPR in the car and I hear some music I want to buy, BAM! I write it down. If I’m having lunch with a friend and he recommends a book, BAM! I won’t forget the title. If another friend gives me her new cell number at a barbecue, I’m not writing it down on a Kleenex. I can scribble down the guts of a recipe from a cookbook at the library. I can remember a restaurant recommendation. Here’s my purse notebook, bought, ironically, at a Paperie in Glendale, California the last time we were in LA, when I realized, in a panic, that I hadn’t moved my notebook when I changed my handbag. I like spiral notebooks because they lie flat, and mistakes or trivia can be deleted with the twitch of a wrist.
The second notebook sits to the left of my laptop, on the coffee table in the living room, side by side with my everyday fountain pen. (Yeah, I’m a serious fountain pen person, which lifts me into another level of geekiness. That’s another post). What I use this, my all-time favorite notebook for, is everything that my brain wants to retain in the course of a day. Ideas for my blog. Ideas for my food column. Travel plans. Websites to discover. Menu planning. It sits at my left hand and Lou will say, out of the blue: “Get out your notebook! How’s this for an idea?” And I do.
Dear Reader, it’s a plastic-covered 3X5 Mead spiral notebook, available at Walgreen’s or the school supply aisle at your grocery store. I think you can score it for 69 cents in the forthcoming back-to-school sales. To say it’s nothing fancy would to overstate the case. It has “Neat Sheet” perforations. It’s thick. It’s cheap. When it’s full, I’ll keep it, unlike those fancy notebooks with my puerile attempts at journal keeping, which I should toss tomorrow. I don’t know if you’ll see any detail in the photo, but this is what the controlled chaos looks like.
I’m sure most of my readers, who are smarter than I, have known about notebooks forever. But if not, fork out a dollar or fifteen and see how your life changes for the better. Without diet, exercise or religion.