Dear Diary



Dear Diary:

Let me begin with an apology. I know I’ve neglected you these last few years–since 1985, in fact, when I went to college, and life took off. During my freshman year, for example, I spent at least two weeks giggling over the name Balzac. Then I made some friends, and quite often we were compelled to dance to “Sweet Child of Mine” until 1 a.m. It left very little time for recording my thoughts, unfortunately. As it turns out, reflection isn’t a priority when one is counting down to Steak Night in the cafeteria.

The good news is that, in these lapsed years, I’ve gotten much better about many things: I don’t fall in love with gay men any more; I don’t crank Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” at 5:30 a.m. while applying baby blue eye shadow with a heavy hand; and I’ve figured out a new approach to doing my hair. I fear I erred on the side of “perky” for a few years there.

Joce 80s005

Rest assured, I’m also doing better with the glasses frames, too.

But you’ll never stop me from sporting a sassy scarf, Dear Diary, so don’t. even.

All along, over the decades, even when I was neglecting you, I did turn to you–for sustenance, insight, perspective, and bone-deep mortification. Every few years, as I cleaned out the basement closet, I’d come across you tucked into a jumble of old photos, and I’d crack you open.

Then, even though I was alone, I’d blush as I leafed through your pages. What a moron, I’d think. I did not really, I’d mutter. Sweet mayo on rye, but I was pathetic, I’d wince. What a tragic whiner, I’d judge. I was so sad sometimes, I’d remember, peering at the words through slits between my fingers.

Diary, you’ve been witness to my most-vulnerable self, the aching girl who threw her heart into the world as though others would protect it for her. You saw before I did that this tendency towards abandon was the source of my greatest joys and pains. No matter how often I cried or touched a private part or called a friend a bitch, you never told. Save for the times family members’ wayward hands snaked between your covers, you kept my secrets. You have been the best of friends, for you’ve cradled the worst parts of me, steadfastly, unflinchingly, a testament to agonies and awards, to fumbling missteps and passionate mosh pit thrashing.

To be honest–and if I can’t be honest to you, where can I deposit my frankness? Certainly not on the Midwesterners who surround me. I’ve already had a moment with one of my colleagues who, fiddling nervously with her lanyard, noted, “You certainly say what you think, don’t you?” As she spoke, she looked at the floor, almost as though the rug was channeling the warming comfort of tater tot hotdish bubbling in a crockpot–anyhow, to be honest, you hold not only my hipster memories of mosh pit thrashing. You’ve also saved my earlier accounts of seeing



Although my excitement about seeing RUSH!!!! In concert! is clear, this entry is also noteworthy as an historic document, for it chronicles that


Yes, I know I still enjoy a delicious Arby’s roast beef sandwich, Dear Diary. However, I was attempting to direct your attention to the fact that Princess Grace died from brain hemorraging. Even though it’s misspelled, it still killed her, so let that be a lesson to both of us: what you misspell might kill you. Like cnacer or hartt atak.

And as long as we’re recalling my early, pre-mosh pit, days of concert attending, thank you for preserving this moment for me:



It’s a surprise to me that the Billings Gazette didn’t run parts of this entry in its review of the show, in fact. Despite the unfortunate and random incident of sitting on my glasses (Let ye among you without sin cast stones, but the rest of y’all know you’ve sat on your glasses, too–especially when Barry Manilow comes to town, what with all the leaping out of your seats to tear your bras off and throw them on stage), I very astutely summed up the evening’s appeal: “He is a real performer & he really brought down the house!!” That’s something we call “excellent critical thinking,” Diary.


Oh, Diary! From concerts to phone calls to French exams to first dates with gay boys, you freeze me in time, providing snapshots of my long-forgotten self.

I’ve missed you–the way you remember the details I forget; the way you reflect my growth back to me; the way you keep me humble. Would it kill you to smudge the embarrassing moments just a tidge?

Last Saturday, an unremarkable day in the scope of life–not like the time in 7th grade when Tiffany Peterson got new Nike shoes with the blue swish, the very style I’d been coveting but couldn’t afford–I found myself writing notes to you in my head. I was driving home from Minneapolis, a 2.5 hour journey, and at the point where all the urban radio stations cut out, I was relegated to the limited options of Northern Minnesota. This meant I ended up hitting the “seek” button every twenty seconds for about 80 miles. Of ten static-ridden stations, five were broadcasting A Prairie Home Companion, and since the keys were in the ignition, I couldn’t use them to stab at my ear holes in an effort to pry Garrison Keillor’s voice out of my head.

Yes, I know you hang out with a crowd of diary friends who adore Keillor and his homespun whimsy. I know they clutch their hearts as they avow their love of his storytelling and the show’s sound effects. You should have a talk with those other diaries, though, chum: I have it on good authority that Keillor fits the textbook definition of “sociopath.” And you know what else? Even if I ignore who he is in real life, I still can’t abide the actual program. Then again, I am a huge fan of television’s American Ninja Warrior. You, better than anyone, know my judgement is magnificently unreliable.

At any rate, as I was driving home, begging the radio to cough up even Katie Perry’s “Roar,” my brain had no choice but to drift, and then it happened: my vibrating neurons wanted to talk to you.

All of this is my way of telling you I’m back. And I’d like to tell you about last Saturday–because it was as special and mundane, as significant and forgettable, as all the other groups of hours that make up a life. It was like the day when I was 15, and I returned some shoes at Payless. Then I called Nancy to ask her if she had gotten her pictures from the Barry Manilow concert developed yet. A day like that, only thirty-three years later.

Aww, but crap. I can’t write about it now–Byron just rang the dinner bell.

…the same way my mom used to ring the dinner bell to call us in from circling the neighborhood on our bikes.

But I don’t need to remind you of that.

You already know my everything, don’t you, Diary?

‘K–more soon!!! I’ll tell you all about how I found the classics station on the radio!!! And they played the Steve Miller band!!!







7 responses to “Dear Diary”

  1. jenny_o Avatar

    I burned all my diaries years ago. The entries ALL consisted of “I wore my x-colour pants and my y-colour sweater and I saw A.Z. in the cafeteria today.” I’ve had to face facts: some of us have it and some of us don’t 🙂 (This is a big part of why I don’t have a blog!)

  2. Lil Avatar

    I’ve been keeping a diary (journal? What’s the difference anyway?) since I was 12 – 40 years of drivel and I still have all the books. It’s scary really. And totally cringe worthy.

    And RUSH!!! Oh my, how l loved (and still love) Rush. You are one of the rare women I know who was into Rush. And Barry Manilow. Eclectic tastes to say the least. “Oh Mandyyyy, when you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away”….

  3. kmkat Avatar

    I have never kept a diary, mainly because I imagined reading it later and cringing, where “later” could be “one day” or “fifty years”. (I cringe easily.)

    Last Saturday you were in the Twin Cities? Hmm. Sometime you must return to Duluth via my house; it’s only about 50 miles out of your way. And you would have the thrill of driving from Frederic, WI (13 mi north of me) to Superior through the nothingness that is northwestern WI. You would see one casino and a lot of woods. Period.

  4. Bone Avatar

    Aww, you still listen to the radio! That’s so quaint. And possibly my newest favorite thing about you.

    No mention of the Gabe Kaplan card? I was watching an episode of Kotter the other night that he wasn’t on! Turns out, according to Wikipedia, he only appeared in a few episodes during the final season due to a contract dispute.

    And lastly, before I compose an entire diary entry myself here: Who is this Joe, and what is this Twirp to which he said yes?

    “Her hair reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I’d hi-yee-ayed…” (I’m confident Axl was referring to your perky locks there.)

  5. Leigh Ann Avatar

    have you ever heard of Mortified? It’s a stage show where local folks read from their adolescent/teen diaries, and it’s painfully hilarious. There’s also a documentary on Netflix. It makes me wish I had kept more consistent journals. I still wish I could. There’s something beautiful in documenting the mundane.

  6. Shelly Avatar

    I relished this more than my morning oatmeal (which I really love). And is that an authentic Barry Manilow ticket stub? Ahh, the memories.

  7. actonbell Avatar

    I wish I’d known about your dislike for Garrison Keillor before I’d made a certain past was meant in the best possible way 🙂 And I’ve kept a journal all these years too, and quite identify with how cringe worthy they are–either that, or simply dull. I’d expected more from my basic training journal, but lo, it mirrors the hurry up and get bored time I was having.

    I am impressed that you saw Barry Manilow–that would have been fun, indeed. And I wonder if perhaps we saw RUSH the same year…

    Great post, as usual!

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