Lining up shoes by the fireplace

"10/15/2005

I like to line up my shoes in front to of the fireplace."

A couple of good friends gave me a really nice blank journal last year. Although I write alot online, I've never been good at keeping a traditional "my inner thoughts" style paper journal. I did a fair bit of that growing up, and was never really happy with the result.

I'm a huge fan of Alan Bennett and all of his diarism and personal essay writing (not to mention his teleplays and the London Review of Books). I first ran into his stuff when I was living in London, and my roommate bought the audiobooks of his diaries. He gets it done, in a way I appreciate both as a failed practicioner and as a reader. It's as much in his choice of subject matter as it is in his writing style. He's good with ordinary details, the mechanics of storytelling, the personal — writing about regular things so that they matter to people other than himself without puffing everything up with false importance.

When I received the blank journal from my friends, I thought about how I could write more like Alan Bennett. I even thought about writing Alan Bennett to ask for some simple guidance on writing a worthwhile diary. I poked around for essays or books he's written on the subject, but couldn't find anything. I thought and thought and thought, and the only thing that felt write-worthy to me was the sentence you see at the top of the entry.

"I like to line up my shoes in front to of the fireplace."

And that's all that's in there, nearly a year later.

I was having a run-down, foul mood mess of a Sunday night tonight, and I noticed three pairs of shoes in disarray on my otherwise tidy living room floor. I'm the opposite of a neat freak and shoes in disarray would not normally register as troubling, but I just happened to have finished a rare weekend devoted to cleaning and home improvement. It wasn't that the shoes looked messy; I just felt like they needed to be put somewhere. Without thinking about what or why I carefully placed the shoes side-by-side at the fireplace, and felt some small but significant relief. Only after I stepped back and looked at them did I remember the sentence in the journal.

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