I’ve got a secret. I don’t even think my wife knows, or remembers. I’m sure I told her once before.
Well, guys don’t call them that. Diaries are for girls with a tiny little key they keep stowed beneath their pillow or in a shoe or an underwear drawer. Guys keep journals. So that’s what I have.
I remember as a senior in high school reading a column from Bob Greene of the Chicago Tribune. It was syndicated in the Birmingham News or Post-Herald and told the story of how he started keeping a daily journal as a high school student. Later, his diary (or at least the parts he didn’t mind other people reading) was published in a book titled “Be True to Your School”.
He wrote in the column, and I remember this like I read it yesterday, that if his house was on fire, the thing he would grab before heading out the door would be his journal. It kept all of his secrets and stories and memories from 12th grade through college through first-jobs and first-marriages. So, on December 1, 1982, I grabbed a college-ruled notebook and started a journal.
Here’s the first two excerpts:
Wed. December 1, 1982
“got up late again went to school and had a prety good day. Everyone said I played a good game last night I’m not letting it go to my head though. had practice for an hour or so. Coach Campbell said he was real proud os us last night. said we would beat Ashville the next time we play in which would be the finals of the county tournament. Carla called we talked for about an hour and a half.”
Fri. December 3, 1982
“played Chelsea Thurs. broke my ankle in the first quarter scored 2 points went to hospital told me to go to orthapedics went today told me I’d be out for 6 to 8 weeks played Odenville tonight lost, didn’t dress out, on crutches for awhile. Amanda Armstrong talked to me a little tonight, pretty little thing. first time basketball team has lost to Odenville since I’ve been in seventh grade. cried when I knew I wouldn’t get to play for a while”
You can tell what was important to me as a high school senior: basketball and girls.
I wrote something in the journal nearly every day. A few minutes every night, as I remember, while watching “Bonanza” re-runs. Most nights, the entries were as boring as I’m quoting here, but other nights recorded memories that I’ll never forget, with or without a journal entry.
As I went along, I became more committed to writing each night. For the rest of my senior year and through college, I recorded nearly every day’s events. Some nights, maybe because I was tired, were short: “nothing happened today.” But other nights I went on and on for pages in that notebook.
In college, my girlfriend who would become my ex-wife, found one of the notebooks. I remember how mad she was after reading some of the pages about another girlfriend I had before meeting her. To make her feel better, I ceremoniously tore out months of my journal and burned them. (She forced me to cut her out of a few photos too).
After college, through our marriage and our divorce, I kept the daily journal. In 1991, I got a computer and kept the journal on a disc for a couple of years. Sadly, that computer died and the big 5 3/4″ discs are nowhere to be found. So I lost three years of my journal.
So now, I have three notebooks going from 1982 through 1990. Here’s an excerpt from my last entry when I was living back at home, working as a dj at a Birmingham nightclub:
“On the way to work, something happened that I doubt I will ever forget. I was passing the Chevron just before getting on the interstate. A truck was pulling out of the service station. In the back was Grover Phillips, my best friend in my early childhood years. I sort of casually raised my hand toward the passenger side window. At first, he didn’t know who I was and he waved. But as I drove away I looked in my rear-view window. Suddenly I could tell he recognized who I was and he raised a beer can to me. We watched each other for several seconds and I could see him smile. As we got further away and almost out of sight, he raised the beer can again, and I waved again.”
I would never see Grover again. He died a couple years later in a car accident.
Now I doubt anyone will ever read these journals. I keep them hidden. Bob Greene wrote in his column that he would occasionally pick his up and read about the boy he used to be. I haven’t read mine in years and years.
Looking at some of those entries from…geesh has it been 25 years already, I’m feeling very very old.