A forgotten doorway to my past

binLong-time readers know what these are. For the benefit of new readers, [I have new readers! Thank you, WordPress migration.] this is a storage bin  filled with journals from when I first moved to New York as a young, scared, lonely boy. There are hundreds and hundreds of single-spaced typewritten pages and many books filled with shaky, unsure handwriting. I had completely forgotten about them for many years but they resurfaced not long ago. I occasionally crack one open and post an entry. I offer these without edits and with the caveat that I was an emotionally immature, crude and not very nice person. Especially to women. But I’ve since learned a thing or two and I have forgiven my trespasses. I hope you do the same. I am in a constant struggle with whether or not I should destroy these. I don’t want any of the ladies in my life to read them.

When we last saw our hero, he was in the throes of a crisis of his own making (as they almost always were). An extraordinary woman he was seeing, Bonnie, had given him his walking papers. He had spouted off at length about how the work of avant garde artist John Cage was dull, unimportant, lacking structure and, worst of all, pretentious. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Bonnie, an older sophisticated architect, wrote her thesis at Yale on the career of John Cage.


August 30, 1992

In an effort to better educate myself and repair the damage I wrought with Bonnie, I invited her to a concert of John Cage’s work at MoMA. Bonnie asked if I was paying penance and I said, of course I was, so she agreed to go. The concert was just awful. Honestly, it only confirmed my suspicions but I’ll never admit that to Bonnie. I still want to sleep with her.

They had a lot of nerve calling it a concert. It had very little to do with music. The opening and closing numbers used traditional instruments—violin, viola, flute and a few others. They would each take a turn playing a long, sustained note. They’d occasionally overlap for texture but it was little more than a drone. The middle piece was three guys standing in front of a microphone crumbling and then un-crumbling pieces of newspaper and then slowly ripping them into long strips. This was accompanied by a man tapping a plastic plate, a woman pouring water and someone tapping two plastic tubes together. We heard some people in the back laughing, so I know I’m not alone in my mystification. There was a beautiful Steinway grand piano on stage but the only sound that came out of it was some guy occasionally plucking a string or slapping the wood. I listened with all sincerity but all I heard was someone ripping newspaper and beating up some poor piano. It didn’t mean anything to me. At the conclusion, the audience erupted with wild applause. I don’t get it. But I think I might be back in her good graces, so that’s good news. (Note: It didn’t work. Things were never the same again.)

September 1

I just got off the phone with Bonnie. Apparently, it’s not enough that her business is failing and she’s teetering on bankruptcy and might lose that spectacular apartment. She said, “Mark, I had blood coming out of my rectum. I thought it was just a simple hemorrhoid but I went to a doctor and he’s sending me to have tests done.” She’s at Cornell Medical Center as I type this. I told her I’d accompany her back home but I’m being spared that horror, thank heavens. I feel awful for her but it’s disgusting to hear about it in such graphic detail. I’m completely turned off. She said I could stop by later today but I’m wondering if she’ll be too out of it to receive guests.

Bonnie is sick. Joan only wants me to look at an apartment in Chelsea that I can’t afford. Klinger is in Miami. Colleen wants to see me, but I think she’s getting the wrong ideas. Cindy is in Arizona. I haven’t heard from Jennifer. I can only see Laura if I pay for everything and I’m broke. That leaves a city full of strangers. And my cats.

September 2

Bonnie got back from the hospital late last night and sounded awful so I didn’t visit. She’s going to be okay, thank God. Hemorrhoids. What the fuck is a hemorrhoid, anyway? Remind me to look it up later. Her doctor thought it might be colon cancer. They knocked her out with nitrous oxide, lucky duck. I’ll bet they didn’t have go to the Key Foods and empty all the Reddi-wip canisters, like I have to. I’m happy she’s okay but all I can picture is blood flowing out of her ass. I don’t think I can sleep with her again. Maybe if she goes down on me I’ll be okay. We’ll see.


Quite the charmer, wasn’t I? I’ve created a new category for my other journal entries, but THIS ONE is the best of the bunch so far. It’s amazing how you walk around thinking nothing is happening when the truth is you’re having the time of your life.


Another big blankey of snow this week. No surprise there. On Tuesday, I heard Irish author Roddy Doyle read from his new novel (and got a signed first edition, OF COURSE). He said the Irish winter he left behind was typically cold, wet and gray. He’s absolutely thrilled with the snow. Wait until he tries to fly out. See how much he likes it then. Here are some shots of Central Park. See…it ain’t all bad.




67 thoughts on “A forgotten doorway to my past

  1. I felt for Bonnie.

    That’s quite some documentation on your past. 22 years gone on, that was some other person, no? I can’t even remember myself back then, except to know that I was probably oblivious to ever thinking about the future or what my stupid misdeeds would mean at the time. I kept on trucking. I still do that. And 22 years on, I’ll reach back for inane blog posts that I wrote… and I’ll wonder who that guy was.

    • Bonnie was great. She ended up marrying a multi-billionaire. Did quite well for herself, and I don’t just mean the money. She had a pretty interesting life.

      How long have you been blogging? It’s the same thing as my journals, really. A recorded history except unlike my binders and books that can be easily destroyed, these things floating around on the internet will always leave an imprint.

      • About a year and a half, I guess. As we’ve discussed, I don’t particularly write about my life, I write about what I think other people might be in their lives… which conversely probably does end up reflecting my life. I probably have mountains of short stories sitting around in stacks, so that’s my equivalent. You’re more organized than me, though.

    • Right?! But I don’t know what to do. I cringe when I think of bringing them to the town landfill but I don’t want the girls to know what a creep I was. What if you’d read something like this about your dad. That’s change things, wouldn’t it?

    • Yes, but I wasn’t sleeping with any of them, save Bonnie. I was never the kind of person who could juggle multiple lovers. I was never good at it.

      Sorry about the Cage slam again. I know you value his work and I respect that, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was trying to say.

  2. You cad! You bounder! You out and out poodlefaker! Did they call you the wanderer?
    Concert sounds ridiculous.

    Very interesting looking back. No, don’t ever throw them away.

    • I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever been called a cad. I think I kind of like it. I had a lot of girl friends but not so many girlfriends. I wasn’t through lack of effort, I can tell you that much. Maybe they were able to smell the damage on me.

      I swear, every time I open them I want to walk to the furnace and toss them in. It’s a conundrum.

  3. Keep the fucking notebooks and stop the whining dammit! Hell i have to try to remember everything and you know how drug-addled my brain was/is… which reminds me of how much i loved nitrous, used to get them from the porno stores in the little canisters with the crackers, then one day when i was still in the game a friend of mine sold me a tank, i mean a huge fucking tank for 80 bucks, i could have made a killing off that tank but instead a few lucky souls and i killed the thing in one night, i’m amazed i can still tie my shoes… and look at how many women you were stringing along you cad!

    • I used to buy a box of those tiny NO2 canisters with a giant punching ball balloon at The Shoppe in Berea. Oodles of fun. Wob-wob-wob-wob-wob.

      As I said above, I wasn’t sleeping with all those nice ladies. The vast majority of them saw me as the safe friend and/or annoying little brother they never had, neither of which brought me any satisfaction.

      Listen, Bub, there’s some really salacious stuff in there. I’ve got my little girls to think about. It’s not all about me anymore. Tragically.

      • I can honestly say that i’ve never been looked upon as the safe friend type, which is both good and bad but especially bad when say you are seeing one girl and hanging out with another and well you know how this ends, never pretty and usually with me laughing and moving on to the next one, oh my wasted youth…

  4. I would guess your thoughts were typical of a young horny guy who’d just been told by his girlfriend that her rectum was bleeding. I admire her frankness, but not her admiration for Cage’s music. You must have been really horny to sit through that “concert” for her sake!

    • Well, I felt quite contrite about disparaging something that was obviously very important to her. Plus, yes, she was a dynamo in bed and I didn’t want to lose favor, which is exactly what ended up happening. Par for the course.

  5. I’ve never kept personal journals (except for when I was in 2nd grade–I still have that one, and it’s a hoot), partly because I don’t have any desire to but mostly because I wouldn’t want to die before I had time to get rid of them. I’m far too private a person to have anyone read my ‘deepest’ thoughts, even posthumously. But I’m with you on the new-agey concert. My mom took me to a modern dance show once. I oscillated between trying not to laugh and falling asleep. Not my finest moment.

    • These journals have been a constant source of angst since they turned up in a corner of my basement about a year ago. I’ll open one, start to read and get completely lost in my forgotten history. Some of it forgotten for a damn good reason, mind you. But then I imagine my daughter reading this stuff and I’m horrified.

      I still think it’s good to be exposed to the new-agey stuff. In the end, it might not be to your liking, but it certainly doesn’t pay to keep your mind closed.

  6. if i were to write about the things i thought, and the things i DID, in my late teens, i probably couldn’t face myself in the mirror. some of it was pretty rotten – and i don’t just mean sex and drugs, it was the way i treated people (yeah, even myself) that makes me cringe. i’m not proud of it, but it is part of my history, and is woven into my fabric… and because i was there? i know enough to stay the hell away from that kind of behavior for the rest of my damn life…

    did you ever figure out what a hemorrhoid is? somehow i like to think that you have first hand experience as a bit of gentle, itchy karma…

    • Despite my protests, the fact is that I forgave myself for all my dirty deeds done dirt cheap a long time ago. If I was ashamed I wouldn’t put it here in the store window for everyone to see. Who among us didn’t learn how treat people kindly without walking on the backs of others in the process?

      I’m happy to say that while I have a better understanding of what a hemorrhoid is than I did back then, I’ve never had one and am not 100% sure what it is. Nor do I want to know. Ever.

  7. Please keep and share your old journals with us. We have all done things we wish we could do over.
    I always justify certain events that didn’t happen by thinking what the worst thing that could of happen if I got my way, i.e. the move to Chelsea, you and Joan could of be been murdered in a random mugging some evening. My example is I wanted in the armed forces, possible results, dead.

    • There are long, dull passages where all I do is complain. You’d think nothing interesting ever happened to me! I’ll spare everyone that misery and only include the interesting, salacious stuff.

      If I had gotten that apartment in Chelsea and locked-in a rent stabilized lease, I’d be sitting pretty right now! So that’s a possibility, too.

  8. Now this is interesting. Oh yeah, I’m over here because of rara. haha! She says something about owing you? Anyway, for me it’s an interesting look into a man’s mind. Maybe not the most pleasant, but interesting none the less. (I would have had to laugh at the concert. )

    • Hi Jackie. Nice to see you. Much of what I’ve written exposes my flaws, but you must allow that I was young and just learning my way around. I didn’t know how to treat myself, much less the people who came into my circle. I was getting plenty beat up, too! I bumped into Bonnie last summer after a two-decade separation and all is forgiven.

  9. Amazing to be able to have this to look back on and compare to today. Thank you for sharing these glimpses into your life then and the beautiful pictures from now.

    • Hi NAPR. I like your new avatar. Thanks for your kind words. There are plenty more pics where those came from. I think blogs are both a written and a visual medium. I always try to include a pic or two with each post, even if it has nothing to to with what I’ve written. And New York is such a photogenic city. You can’t go wrong with material like that.

  10. You are a brave man. I still have journals from high school, revived after university, abandoned with fatherhood. The high school ones in particular are good to look at whenever I’m feeling too good about myself.

    • The journals have, in a way, kept me from repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over.

      I can’t stand the cold, either. But I lived in Arizona for 18 months and couldn’t take the unrelenting heat and sun. What can we surmise from all this? That I’m tough to please! And that’s a charitable way to put it.

  11. I find the quality of writing in your journals to be astounding. I don’t have the necessary bravery to reread any of my journals (they are mostly full of darkness) but I remember them well enough to know that grammar and proper punctuation was of unicorn proportions.

    • Thank you for your kind words. That’s high praise coming from you. And I thought it was going to be just another dull Monday morning.

      There are pages and pages of my journals where all I do is complain. I was so full of self-pity. I couldn’t afford a proper therapist so those journals were my de facto psychologist. I think your journals would be fascinating. You should think about sharing some of them with us.

      • Oh I promise you… it would be terrifying. My blog is bad enough, ha. And I totally get what you mean about journals being your therapy… Mine were the place where I put my secrets. I used to be incredibly concerned with maintaining my privacy and never letting anyone know the truth. Obviously that’s changed hahahaha

  12. It’s probably very good for you to publish bits of your old journals just to remind yourself (and us) how much you’ve grown/changed since then. Others have said it and I know it’s also true for me, but Sweet Mary Sunshine, I really do wonder how we’ve made it this far, sugarpie! (I wasn’t always married with children!) 😉 xoxoxox

    • I keep wondering about the wisdom of posting them, though. I have to admit, it gives me a cheap thrill to read them. And when people say nice things about them…that’s what I’m really after, as you all know. Glad that I’m not that same idiot.

  13. I remember going to a concert because I wanted to sleep with someone. I got my wish in a very literal way: it was so dull, that I ended up dozing off during the performance.

    • The exact same thing happened to me once. I had tickets to see Rod Stewart, who I like well enough but am not crazy about. The seats were in the third row, dead center. CERTAINLY this would earn me a favour, no? No. Not even a goodnight kiss. But the concert was nice. It’s an entirely different show when you’re that close. It ruined me for sitting in the rafters, where I normally end up.

  14. Man, that’s brave to go delving around in your past writings like that. I’ve got thousands of pages of collected journal scrawlings myself buuut, I’m not sure I’m ready for the backlash of feeling like the arsehole I truly was back then. I vacillate between just setting it all on fire or trawling through it all for the insight on my journey. Let me know if you figure it out for yourself. Respect REDdog

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