I find it interesting where people pick their page to sign since the other thing I tell people are the three rules:
1. There’s a Front Door — Rated PG13
2. There’s a Back Door — Not Rated (I flip the journal around and show them)
3. There’s no rules!
I usually add in that the Back Door is for private uncensored thoughts, but it’s open ended. People often ask where they should sign but I refer to rule #3 (which is an oxymoron).
People peruse the journal and find their spot. Some nestle in with a crowded page, others take a blank page and make it their own. I love how journal signers become roommates on a page too — like Jillian and Hieu. Jillian works in the Arts and Hieu works in Science. Hgygen is a PhD working in a focused specialty in Science. She had a horrible experience as a female scientist in academia. She is so passionate about Science and helping young women in Science. She also is writing a memoir of a sibling’s tragic death. She also gave me an awesome fine tip pen because I commented on how lovely her handwriting was. I still have the pen (even though I lose pens all the time).
Everyone has a story. The Original Journal wants to know them all.
Schrijver means writer in Dutch. This is a page from The Holland Journal. Someone I had met in Holland (back in 2000) recently got in touch with me via email. An excerpt below from the recent email:
One evening a friend (Cathelijne) and I decided to hang out in the Irish pub. Soon we started talking with this nice girl, Megan, carrying a notebook. She told us that she was from the United States and was traveling through Europe and the Netherlands and for some reasons I do not remember anymore about why she visited Groningen that day. See was curious about our lives, the Netherlands and the city of Groningen.
It is a weird thing that for reasons unknown and at times you least expect it you meet people you never forget. It is that magical thing that makes some people and some events more special than others. I remember we liked the girl and decided to take her on tour in the night life of Groningen. It became a great night. We visited many bars, had many, many dances and had a lot, lot, lot of fun together. It was so to say legen, wait for it, dary (to quote Barney from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother).
I remember that it was already early the next morning when I walked the girl back to her hotel. I remember me and her talking about her dream to write a book about her travels and about the poetry see sometimes wrote. Since she had to travel back further (I think even back to the States) the next day we decided to exchange e-mail addresses and keep in touch and maybe, who knows, meet again somewhere.
Do you remember?
Is it weird to reply to a 14 year old e-mail (and spam it to all other addresses I could find of you)? Yes, it definitely is but my curiosity wins it over the chance you do not like it or do not remember so here is my reply. I hope that you receive it, read it and maybe reply again and answer the questions. How are you, are you well and do you remember? …. I do…
We had kept in touch briefly by email in 2000 and life faded into life for both of us on separate continents.
I often thought of this person wondering what happened to him. So interesting when life comes full circle. For me, 14 years later, he remembered the girl with the journal who asked people to sign it. He could very well be the person who wrote “Schrijver” in the journal. I love this page of the journal. There is a coffee stained poem written on the back.
I believe New Yorkers are kind people. My mom is a New Yorker, born and raised. She always said, “You ask any New Yorker for directions and they will stop and give them to you.” I tested her statement when I was in New York for the first time in 1998.
My last stop on my three-day adventure had to be The Village.
I asked for directions in a camera store after visiting my mom’s childhood stomping grounds. It was a beautiful fall day. I went to her school, Dalton and where she grew up — Park Avenue and 89th.
I stopped in to get film at a camera store near Lexington and 86th (at least that is what I the journal says). I think this camera store is a Best Buy now. Three very friendly and helpful New Yorkers gave me directions to the Village. This was pre-cell phone and Google map days. I don’t even think digital film was invented yet.
Ed even wrote the directions down for me in the NYC Journal; Ella, Eddie, and Ed wrote their own journal signings too.
When I got off the 6 Train, I asked a man for directions to the White Horse Tavern. He was on his way to pick up his daughter at day-care and kindly said he did not have time to sign the journal, but he gave me directions verbally. I had just walked up the subway stairs and it was literally just around the corner. He pointed and smiled.
I wanted to go to the White Horse Tavern because I was going to be discovered. I was wearing a scarlet begonia in my hair (I know — how cliché).
I didn’t take a carriage ride, as it was too expensive. I just hung out with the horses for awhile.
As I walked through the empty bar, I was disappointed not to see a room full of editors and writers. I did walk past an older man sitting by himself at a table near the window. My scarlet begonia fell to the floor. I was not aware it fell and went to the bar to order a beer. The older gentleman said, “Excuse me miss, your flower fell on the floor.” I picked it up and asked the man if I could join him. I was not discovered, but I met a very interesting man who fought in the Korean War (Inchon) and was a Marine like my father.
He didn’t sign the journal, but he told me what to write. I wrote his name and 3rd BN H-Co. 1st Marines and his Marine ID number. When I shared with him that my father was in Inchon, he didn’t say much, he just acknowledged how brave my dad was for being there — for surviving.
In red pen on the same page, next to a faded taped on begonia is Vivamus Mea Lesbia Catullus — 3rd c. poet Roman. Bill and I shared a wonderful conversation about love, war, honor, and beauty. I will never forget the sparkle in his azure blue eyes; he was so alive. He told me, “Make sure you order the steak while you still have the teeth to chew it.”
Another NYC Journal signature
I wrote a longer essay about my adventure in New York that October (which was my first time visiting New York). Long story short: I didn’t have enough money to take a cab back to the flat I was staying at. I had to go get my bags and my friend I was staying with arranged for a car to take me to the airport. I really didn’t want to leave the White Horse or New York for that matter. The bar was slowly filling up with energy and people were coming in after work. I thought of all the great writers, ideas and conversations the tavern had seen and heard. But it was time for me to go.
I only had subway tokens and enough cash to buy another beer. I didn’t have time to take the subway; I needed to take a taxi. I was prepared to miss my plane on purpose. I went to the pay phone to call my friend, but he did not answer. I went back to the table and told Bill my predicament He said I had responsibilities I needed to attend to and reminded me that NYC would still be here for plenty more visits. Bill gave me a twenty-dollar bill on one stipulation — I had to pay it forward one day.
I did, but that is another story.
I stepped out the tavern doors into the late afternoon light after saying goodbye to Bill. Gorgeous shadows cast themselves on the sidewalk — the very same sidewalk Dylan Thomas stumbled on. The same sidewalk Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson walked on.
I left in a taxi filled with story and wonder.
After I got my bags at my friend’s brownstone, the car was there to take me to the airport — the driver in his black suit and hat, waiting on the sidewalk. The sun was setting on New York as the black shiny car entered the tunnel to go to Newark Airport. It was beautiful; purple, orange, and red streaks echoed in the New York skyline.
I will never forget that beautiful afternoon I ended up in Greenwich Village and I never will forget the kindness of that stranger.