Sunday, December 09, 2007

If only I had a blog back in the day

Had an urge to go back and look at my previous only diary/journal/blog and was reminded that not only did I discover Martin Sexton at Red Bank's Count Basie Theater, where he opened for Cowboy Junkies in June 2001, but Sarah Harmer was also on the bill. That was a pretty good, laid-back show I saw back then.

We went to see Martin on Friday night at Roseland. Not the best venue, but a swell show nonetheless. He opened with five or six songs done solo -- how I saw him in Red Bank six (SIX!) years ago, and how I believe he did much (if not all) of his touring and performing back in the day. He opened with "Freedom of the Road" and while I don't remember all that was done and whether it was solo or with the band that came out after five or six songs, but we got our favorites: "Diner," "Circles," "Happy," "Hallelujah," etc. For the "quiet portion" of the set, the four of them went unplugged, huddling around a single microphone that picked up the upright bass, Martin's acoustic guitar, a melodica (I believe) and, in lieu of drums, a barstool that the drummer played with brushes. They finished that set with a resounding cover of "Folsom Prison Blues."

Martin was just as good as that first time I saw him, when I wrote:

Sexton followed and it was just him and his guitar. And he was amazing. His voice range was indescribable, particularly for one as tone-deaf as myself. And he managed to make one electic guitar sound like a lead, rhythm and bass guitar, with some percussion thrown in. His songs were quite bluesy and epic, with astounding lyrics. He was also the first opening act I've seen come out for an encore. I shall purchase his work soon.
But on top of that, he looked like he was seriously enjoying himself. He smiled, he bounced, he chatted -- briefly, but pleasantly -- with the audience at times. Syracuse is his home, so maybe New York City felt like it.

I went back to the blog because I started wondering tonight what college would've been like if I had a blog. I've always liked to write, but now that I've gotten away from it and have taken on so many more tasks and responsibilities -- from work to home ownership -- I don't do it nearly as much for fun and (mental) exercise. I looked over a post describing a walk around campus after my sister graduated, a last look at Notre Dame as a student/brother of a student -- as someone with a direct connection to the place. Reading it now, six and a half years after writing it, I am stunned at the imagery, the emotion, the pictures I conveyed. I'm even more shocked at how some memories still seem so recent, so clear in my mind, while others I'd completely forgotten until reading them now. And I can't believe it was 13 years ago that I started college, or that May will be 10 since I graduated.

I want to write like that again.

Earlier this year, a story in The New Yorker profiled a man who is trying to catalog every piece of physical evidence of his life -- e-mails, letters, bills, photographs. Everything. (I couldn't dig up the story online, because I don't remember anything specific enough to successfully search for it.) I've often thought about things like that from my own life, wondering what such an archive would look like. How many words have I written in my life, taking into account every letter, term paper, e-mail, exam, blog entry, article and free-time creative writing like poems, parodies and attempts at short stories? How many millions? Have I reached a billion? Probably.

I have a lot of things from my past, from the fantasy baseball newsletters I created in high school to stories and essays I wrote for class or for nothing in particular. But I wish I had some of the e-mails I wrote in college, some of the journals I kept in previous versions of Microsoft Word and saved on my desktop's hard drive in 1994, '95, '96, '97.

There are a lot of things I'd like to preserve and catalog. I have dozens of articles written for the campus paper boxed away, hard copies that provide a record of what I wrote, what interested me, what the editors assigned when I was a freshman and sophomore and had less say in what I covered. I wouldn't mind going digital with those, having them on a disk to pull up one day in some random search to find out what I may have been doing in February 1996. I don't know why I would ever need -- or want -- to know that, but I've always thought it would be cool to have that kind of information available at my fingertips.

"In my old age," Kerouac once wrote, "I intend to collect all my work and reinsert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy." Sometimes I think about what that would entail from my life -- what it would be like to read my second-grade autobiography (which still exists somewhere on a bookshelf at my parents') and then be able to turn to a seventh-grade English paper, a high school project, a college application essay.

My professional clips survive mostly in the same format -- smudgy newspaper segments slotted away in a divided folder, stored in a cabinet in our office. The Asbury Park Press' website doesn't exactly maintain an archive going back five years. If only they did, and if we'd had the internet when I was in high school. I'm curious about my athletic career, my cross country times from those junior and senior falls. Only one stands out: My personal best. I once ran 3.1 miles -- 5 kilometers -- in 18 minutes, 28 seconds, on the course around the school's campus. My fast time was due in part to my girlfriend's birthday that night and a desire to finish up quickly so I could get home, shower, and meet up with my friends. I believe I won that race for the school, too, sprinting to the finish ahead of a runner on the other team, reaching for that place-holding popsicle stick a step ahead of him. The final score, if I remember cross-country scoring correctly (which is a 50-50 shot, at best) was 27-28, with the lower score the goal.

Having a blog in college would have been interesting, I'm sure. In some ways, I know I would've treated it like I did when I first started online journaling as a professional reporter working off hours and spending quiet alone time in my bedroom until 3 or 4 in the morning. I would've written a bit those first three years, but really picked it up senior year, after taking the Kerouac seminar. I still have the notebooks we were asked to keep for that class, and I took the time to transcribe their entries into that previous blog -- there it is, my weird desire to catalog it all. I wonder how things would've played out, how my writing would have developed and whether I would've shared it -- and with whom -- had I been doing it in the mid-90s instead of the early 2000s.

The fact that I didn't isn't really a loss. It's not something I really could have foreseen back then, this wish for a more tangible record of my inner musings. I'm just letting my mind wander, my fingers tap out streaming thoughts as I sit here alone in an empty office, minding the site for work until I head home in two hours.

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