The pros and cons of keeping a journal

By JAYSON JACOBY Baker City Herald June 12, 2009 10:29 am

I wish sometimes that I kept a journal.

I don’t mean a diary. I have no need for a cute little volume with flowers on the cover and whose pages I would, I fear, clog with cloying poetry inspired by a pretty vista I had seen in the mountains.

Nor am I conceiving of a Twitter-like (Twittery? Twitterish?) document which records every banal aspect of my daily routine. The Internet is quite full enough without adding to it my tally of jelly beans consumed or phone calls made and received.

What I’m thinking of, rather, is a simple chronicle that preserves for each day one or two events, the details of which I might want handy so as to revive my failing memory years later.

My inspiration in this case is a book confidently (and breathlessly) titled “The Complete Beatles Chronicle: The Only Definitive Guide to the Beatles’ Entire Career on Stage, in the Studio, on Radio, TV, Film and Video.”

This is, as you probably surmised, a hefty piece of work.

It seems to me, though, that the author, Mark Lewisohn, earned the right to use such an audacious title.

The book isn’t quite a calendar, of course. The Beatles’ career spanned more than a decade, and if a writer tried to cram in everything the Fab Four was up to on all those days, each book would have to come with a forklift so readers could haul the thing around.

Lewisohn is pretty thorough just the same.

I know, for instance, thanks to his exhaustive research, that the group recorded “Day Tripper” on Saturday, Oct. 16, 1966, working from 2:30 p.m. to midnight at EMI Studios in London.

Those facts probably won’t get me a tryout for “Jeopardy!,” but I still feel better for having the knowledge.

The trouble, though, with using the Beatles as a model is that my own exploits, if catalogued in a similar way, would seem even more mundane than they truly are.

And they’re not exactly scintillating even when they’re not competing against the greatest musical group ever.

Except for birthdays and anniversaries and other recurring milestones, I doubt I could tell you what I accomplished, besides continuous respiration, on any given day.

Take January 19 (or leave it, if you prefer; I don’t mean to be bossy). I’ve lived through 39 of those and I don’t remember what I did on any of them.

The Beatles, meanwhile, on that day in 1967, started recording “A Day In The Life.”

This is a nice little detail to put on your resume.

Now I know it’s unfair, and patently ridiculous, to measure myself against the likes of Lennon and McCartney. But still, all those January 19’s and I can’t dredge up a single substantive achievement?

I suppose I could try to make amends by starting my journal now.

I wrote this column on June 8 and 9, so there’s something for two days, at least.

Except then, being a curious sort, I checked Lewisohn’s book.

The Beatles, on June 8 and 9 of 1966, recorded “Good Day Sunshine,” a track on what I believe to be their finest album, “Revolver.”

They didn’t, however, do anything more of consequence that year until June 14, according to Lewisohn’s book.

I guess I feel a bit better now.

Even John, Paul and George didn’t write masterpieces every day.

(I didn’t forget about Ringo. But “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’s Garden” fall a bit short of the standard set by his three bandmates.)


You can hardly go anyplace where the people who live there won’t insist that they’re an unusually friendly lot.

Towns, it seems to me — or at any rate small, rural ones — treat friendliness as a necessary attribute, rather like a pleasant climate and good schools. People in general, I’ve noticed, seem to feel the same about a sense of humor — we’re all convinced we possess a keen one.

I’ve always thought it a questionable claim, though, to brand any city as especially welcoming. The implication, it seems to me, is that the people in other cities are more apt to scream obscenities at you than to smile and give you directions to the cafe that grills the tastiest pancakes.

A city’s personality, as it were, is the result of its residents; and even the happiest place has its sullen recluses.

Still and all, it pleases me greatly whenever I experience firsthand in Baker City some act of goodwill.

It was Saturday afternoon and my wife, Lisa, and I were walking along the Adler Parkway north of Elkhorn Village. I was pushing our daughter, Olivia, in her stroller (actually I was pushing the stroller, and Olivia was sitting in it.)

We were going south on the Parkway, just next to Elkhorn Village, when raindrops the size of half-dollars started to pelt us. This was one of those sneaky showers that ambush a person — the sky above was mainly blue, but a dark-grey cloud hovered a few miles to the south, which made it seem as though the rain was actually being aimed at us from afar.

The stroller has a hood but it’s pretty skimpy. Olivia, who turned two on June 1, was protected from the waist up but her bare legs were getting soaked.

As we were walking on Walnut Street toward Campbell, a black Ford Focus passed us, going in the opposite direction (I think it was a Focus; I was squinting slightly against the rain). The shower rose to a crescendo right about then. I was wearing a baseball cap and the water began first to drip, then to flow from the tip of the bill.

Just then the black Ford (or whatever)  rolled up beside us. The passenger side front window slid down and a woman leaned out into the rain. She was holding a pair of mini umbrellas in one hand.

I didn’t know her.

But Lisa did.

After the car drove away she told me the woman is Lisa Wilson, and that she has a daughter who’s a month younger than Olivia.

I don’t doubt there are plenty of cities just as considerate as Baker City.

But I’ll bet you’d have to visit a whole lot of them, and walk through quite a few rainstorms, before somebody drove up and handed you an umbrella right at the height of the storm.

The shower was brief. By the time we crossed the Powder the clouds had drifted out of range, and the wet pavement steamed in the bright sunshine.

We tried then to take the umbrella from Olivia. But she clutched its plastic handle with all the strength her little arms could muster.

She sure liked that umbrella.

Someday I’ll tell her about the day when the nice woman gave it to her.

Probably I should start a journal and write down that story so I don’t forget it.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.