by Mark Scheinbaum
November 16, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- "Kid, do you keep a journal?" asked Karl the Curmudgeon. We were sitting in István's Hungarian tavern, watching the Hungarian Cup finals, as Bajai had just tied Lombard Papa, 1-1.
No, not really, I said. Why do you ask?
"Oh, nothing really," he said. "I used to keep one a long time ago, and found that I was missing it. So I picked up a new notebook last month and started writing in it again."
What made you do that? You never struck me as the introspective type.
"Very funny. I just wanted to start keeping track of things I was doing and thinking," he said, draining the last of his beer. He waved down the bartender, Béla. "Two more Sopronis, kérek."
I drained the last of my beer as Béla set down two beers. So what do you write about? I asked.
"Well, yesterday I wrote about a meeting I had with a publisher. The day before that, I wrote about a woodworking project I was building. And a couple weeks ago, I was journaling through some feelings about-- "
Stop! I shouted.
"What?" Karl asked, annoyed.
Did you just say 'journaling through some feelings?'
'Journaling through feelings?"
'Journaling though feelings?'
"Yes, Kid. Journaling through feelings. What's wrong with that?" he plonked his beer down on the bar.
Oh so many things, Karl. So many things. For one thing, 'to journal' is not a verb. It's not a verb any more than 'poeming' is a verb, or 'columning,' or 'fictioning,' or even 'essaying.'
"Essaying is so a verb," Karl snapped.
Yes, but it means to attempt or to try. It does not mean to write an essay. And journaling does not mean to write in a journal any more than writing on a piece of paper is called papering.
"So what do you call writing in a journal?" he demanded.
Writing in a journal. Just like writing in a notebook or writing on a napkin. You're not notebooking or-
"Alright, alright, I get it. You hate 'journaling.' Anything else your majesty wishes to voice his displeasure about?" Well, I'm not real wild about the whole 'through feelings' thing either.
"What's wrong with that?"
For one thing, Karl, you're sixty-four years old. You're the grumpiest, curmudgeonliest, and manliest sixty-four year old I know. You've got a beard like Hemingway, and you swear like a sailor. The only thing I've ever known you to do 'through feeling' is what you say when you've had way too much to drink. For you to say you're 'journaling through some feelings' is just about the wimpiest, panty-waisted thing I would have ever expected you say.
"I still don't see what's wrong with that. I think expressing my feelings is perfectly fine. In my generation, we were taught to hide our feelings so we didn't look weak. But the weak ones are the men who hide their feelings because they're afraid. The strong ones show their emotions."
That's absolutely true, and I won't disagree with you. But to say you're 'journaling through your feelings' is something I would expect some tree-hugging granola-headed hipster to say as he sips on a cup of goddess energy-infused herbal tea, not a rough- and-tumble grizzled word-slinger like you. You're the kind of guy who writes about feelings, not 'journals through them.'
Karl thought about this for a moment, taking a sip of his beer, and then scratching his chin, burying his finger up to the second knuckle in a beard so thick it would make Giants pitcher Brian Wilson weep in shame.
"So do you think I should quit?"
No, absolutely not. What you're doing is important and valuable, and it might be useful in court one day. "Huh?"
Nothing. It's important and valuable. It's something you can share with your children or grandchildren, and it helps you remember some of the cool stuff you did years afterward.
"You got that right," beamed Karl. "I've been writing about all kinds of cool stuff for the last several weeks." Like what?
"Well, before you so rudely interrupted me, I was going to tell you about how I was journal- I mean, writing about the feelings I experienced after this new movie I saw." And?
"Well, I don't know if I should tell you now."
I promise, I won't make fun of you. What were you writing about?
"Well, I just saw the latest Twilight movie--"
That's it, I'm out. Give him the check, Béla.