I’m On A Diet and My Brain Doesn’t Work
by Marvin Payne

I am on a diet and my brain doesn’t work. I haven’t written in my journal for several days, sitcom plots are suddenly hard to follow, and I’m deeply interested in how this column will turn out. Many of you have heretofore (see “hitherto”) offered up colorful excuses not to write in your journals, but no one has yet used this diet one. I actually think that today I would accept it, although I’m not sure the Lord would. But be warned, anyone offering this excuse had better be prepared forthwith (see “in a trice”) to demonstrate some pretty serious skinniness. Otherwise, I’m not buying it. (It may be apparent that this diet not only makes me stupid, but a little cranky. Sorry, I’ll try to be nice. The diet is so I can act the role of J. Golden Kimball. By the time I’m done, I’ll not only look like him, I’ll talk like him.)

Maybe it would be prudent to begin with some of your ideas instead. I’ll start with kind of a nutty one, but, to quote Gabby Hayes (whom, I think, has been shamefully neglected by quoters in general), “It’s just crazy enough it might work!” This is Column Reader David talking:

“Take a 3-ring binder and start alphabetizing memories. (‘A’ is for Adam’s apple. My grandfather’s Adams apple fascinated me as I child. It is also for Armageddon. My seminary teacher in the 10th grade said…) This technique has been a wonderful discovery of things I thought were buried forever. I use my computer rather than a 3-ring binder, but I’ve found memories for my personal history that were SO hidden… (the Adam’s apple thing goes on for over a page. I am the only grandchild who really knew my grandfather and I have been able to describe him to my cousins–from a child’s viewpoint, and it’s a delight to help them know him!)”

Heck, now I want to read about Grandpa’s Adam’s apple, and I’m not even related!

Albums and Songs
C. R. David also wants to write “My life as reminded by replaying various albums and/or songs which I’ve owned or listened to in the past (56) years. This would work well for me.” (Remember that “me” is David. Boy, that sounds like a grammar-grinder. Suddenly I understand why the Brethren never want to be quoted out of context. “Did you hear what that Meridian columnist said? He said, “Me is David!’ And he’s not even David! He’s Marvin!”)

“I [David] can remember everything by the sound track that was playing in the background of my [David’s] life–including during my mission, when I never had a radio nor watched TV, but heard the soundtrack at contact’s and member’s homes.”

I (Marvin) also think this is a good idea, and worth including in this column, because at least nine of you could remember lots about the last thirty years by listening to my albums. (I’ve told you where to find them. Check the archives. How great would be my joy if there were but one of you!)

Smelling Stuff
But scientists have suggested that an even better way of resurrecting memories is to smell stuff. Really. I smell Brut (their spelling, not mine–believe me) and I am carried instantly to London, summer of 1966, where I went to wear Brut, among other things–well, under other things.

(It’s good sometimes that people can’t see how what you’re wearing is spelled. Sort of like how it’s good that only the lesser sins have smells attached. A smoker sits next to you in church and you know precisely how to condemn him. What if lust or envy had such distinctive smells? At church, we’d all know what it’s like to be a dog at a carnival. Ever know a dog who judged unrighteously? Nope.)

Smell takes you back. When I was about thirty, I smelled some new Keds tennis shoes and shot right back to sitting next to Kenny Goodsell in primary so fast it messed up my hair. He had some new Keds, with one red stripe. (This was before my hair and that particularly lovely Southern California chapel and, for all I know, Kenny Goodsell were scattered into the great particle-bank from which our children will manufacture malls.) So, stay respiratorially healthy, because if you can smell a lot of things, your memory will improve and you’ll have things to write about.

To Compute or Not To Compute
Par (this is a Column Reader’s name) wrote, “My journal is kept daily on the computer (I’m on it all day anyway). I print it out once a month, and backup, backup, backup the rest of the month. Others who read it may miss the personalness of my handprinting, but I add in pictures and cut and paste things that would take forever to rewrite (like segments of your column, thank you very much). Instead of writing what happened, and then how I felt about it, I cut and paste what I read (a paragraph or two) and comment on how I feel about it. It works for me.”

I think this is a great reason to use a computer, but okay Par, what did you paste out of my column? It’s scary to be taken out of context when everything you write already sounds like it’s taken out of context. (Wow! Did everyone see the “whale” sequence in Fantasia 2000? Powerful poem on “context”!)

But Par, enough about whales. The most obvious downside of computer journalling is pointed out by Column Reader Elaine: “The best thing about packing around a small blank book is that you can write anything you want about anything or anybody. And people, especially people in church, think that you are virtuously writing in your journal. In the dentist’s office, as I was writing all the sarcastic things I could think of, two different dental assistants commented on how good I was for writing in my journal. It was pretty fun.”

Let’s take those two thoughts and synergize a third. (Then we’ll all go sharpen our saws.) My magical Weber State daughter cuts and pastes like crazy. She’s a collagist (collagegrapher? collage-wright? She makes collages). For Christmas, she made me what looked from the front like a collage in a deep wooden frame. But within the frame, hinged to the back, was a book of collages interworked with thoughts, poetry, memories, and hopes. I don’t know what the dental assistants would say, but I liked it a lot. Is it a journal? My desert daughter-in-law, an avid journalist, also makes scrapbooks with about the same holy intensity. Maybe I’m reminding you that “anything goes,” particularly if the medium itself says something about you to the people you love.

Journals-A Key to Romance-at Least Mine
Speaking of people you love, recently it was Valentine’s day, and I promised I would show you how a journal can be your key to romance.

Hold on to your hats. Eight years ago, my wife (who was, at the time, not my wife, but someone I admired pure and chaste from afar) was helping to direct a production of “Arsenic And Old Lace.” She asked me if I would audition, and since she was lovely and I was entirely bowled over that here she was on my poor unworthy telephone, I did. In a trice. I wound up playing the Boris Karloff role.

You may remember that one of the characters in this play thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and carries around a biography of the dead president. About three weeks into rehearsals, as props began showing up, my offstage attention was drawn to a curious and rare book on the prop table, one that had been chosen to represent said Roosevelt biography. It was a book I’d only seen in my parents’ home, the journal of Pioneer John Brown, who has been a guest in this column. I was amazed–it had been printed and distributed only to John Brown’s descendants and a few libraries. At a break, I held it up and hollered, “Hey, where did this book come from?”

Laurie answered, “Oh, that’s my great-great-great-grandfather.” (She didn’t mean the book, she meant the writer of the book, but I knew what she meant–and now you do too.)

Whereupon I said, “But hey, this is my great-great-grandfather! You know what this means, don’t you? Our children will be idiots!” That suggestion kind of ratcheted our relationship up into a world of considerations that resulted in what we are now, which is married. Our children are still under observation.

Wasn’t that romantic? See the power a journal can have? It helps if the journal-writer was a polygamist, with a posterity roughly the size of well, Utah. (Terribly interesting family history question for my little son, John Brown’s namesake: If you are the great-great-great-grandson of someone, and the great-great-great-great-grandson of that same someone, doesn’t that make you your own father? The answer to this may be obvious to you, but hey, I warned you about my wounded brain in the first sentence.)

Next time: A Possibly Fanatic But Really Useful Journal Idea, for which I am famous in the minds of a number of people in my ward. Don’t ask me the number.

Send your thoughts to backstagegraffiti@meridianmagazine.com.

 


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