Friday, November 21, 2014

Blue binder

Well, lurking quietly in the corner, at the bottom of a pile, hoping to be ignored in the clean-out, here’s an ancient blue 3-ring binder holding a career’s worth of addresses and phone numbers. On the back of some of the pages, the occasional doodle, list, or bits of terrible protest doggerel, scribbled almost certainly during an excruciating phone call with a magazine editor. A representative example:

Cut, he cried,
It’s way too long.
Make it like a Beatles song—
Short and snappy hits the gong.
Incomplete? Who gives a bleat?
Our dopey readers think it’s meat.

Other than my perfectly-scanning Wordsworth imitations, it’s page after alphabetized page filled mostly with numbers attached to names I haven’t thought of for years or have utterly forgotten, cunning little codes that no longer snap my synapses, scribbled notes with additions or changes or bits of info about secretaries, spouses I must have met along the way, and children now long grown. Once in a while a face pops into my mind, triggering flashes of memory that make me smile, or grimace, or wince. Colleagues, people I used to do work for, people who used to do work for me. Writers, editors, publishers, graphic designers, artists, distributors, packagers, photographers, publicists. Politicians, mostly local or state. Baseball types. Old running partners, teammates, opposing coaches. Professors, teachers and school administrators, tradespeople, priests and ministers (we have five churches within half a mile). Stables, horsey types, equine supplies. Outdoor gear. Membership organizations. Once good friends lost in the mists of time (sad, sad). The payphone at the house I lived in during my last year of college (!!). The occasional famous or near-famous or once-famous name. (Sometime in the early ’90s, I picked up my phone to hear the then universally-known voice of the broadcaster Joe Garagiola shouting, “Mark, Mark, why am I calling you?”) Doctors, dentists, physical therapists, athletic trainers (some of whom I still see, some of whom I haven’t seen in 40 years). Relatives and pals now departed. So more doggerel:

Old notebook
Workhorse compendium
Reminder of annoyance
and affection
Ennui perfected
and late solitude
grinding out lines immediately forgotten
And that great party in Chicago
with the wrestler and the white limousine
at Harry Caray’s
And the broken tooth in Boulder
with the pretty assistant
and the fern-bar dentist
And Anchor Steam in Frisco
or maybe it was Berkeley
     or both
Too bad, old notebook, old memories
It’s still the bin for you

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