The Winter of Odessa; My Journal Turns Forty

I already had my first camera, a Yashica GSN Electro 35, and this Fuji ST-605n before I started my journal in tenth grade. Despite a lifelong motivation to write, I am a better photographer than write by a wide margin.
I already had my first camera, a Yashica GSN Electro 35, and this Fuji ST-605n before I started my journal in tenth grade. Despite a lifelong motivation to write, I am a better photographer than write by a wide margin.

…tell him to pray that I won’t melt away
And I’ll see your face again
Odessa, how strong am I?
Odessa, how time goes by…” ~Odessa, The Bee Gees

Picture me at my desk in our house on 52nd Street, in Lawton, Oklahoma. I’m wearing my bulletproof Plain Pockets jeans, an untucked plaid shirt, and Earth Shoes. My desk is arranged so carefully that Otto Rank* himself would have bought me dinner just for the chance to analyze it.

In my eight track player is Odessa, and the song playing is Odessa: City on the Black Sea.

I write in my journal, a college-rule Mead spiral notebook, as an assignment for English II class in tenth grade. I write slowly, with a script similar to the popular balloon fonts of the 1970s.

The first thing I write is, “Tuesday, September 5, 1978.”

With the date at the top of the page, so began my lifelong relationship with written self-expression.
With the date at the top of the page, so began my lifelong relationship with written self-expression.

What I write is even less palatable than how I write: derivative, sometimes even plagiarized, drivel that comes across as pretentious self-pity. The only recourse for the words on my page is that as I write them, I have just turned 15, and for someone that age, it is relatively sophisticated. In some ways, it is almost embryonic.

As the year wore on, things got darker. By January, it was The Winter of Odessa. I talked some about it in a previous entry (link).

Many of my best friends today haven’t been around for 40 years. But my journal, in one form or another, has.

Most of the people I considered writers back in high school were dilettantes and dabblers, and only wrote to fulfill an assignment. Only a couple of them, Michael, for instance, curate actual words to this day.

Every family has an unspoken rule of conduct. Some scream and fight. Some drink or do drugs into unconsciousness. Our rule was silence. For as much passion and pain as I was expressing in my journal in the early days, I feel sure none of my family had much idea I was doing this. I probably knew even less about what they were experiencing.
Every family has an unspoken rule of conduct. Some scream and fight. Some drink or do drugs into unconsciousness. Our rule was silence. For as much passion and pain as I was expressing in my journal in the early days, I feel sure none of my family had much idea I was doing this. I probably knew even less about what they were experiencing.

There were times in my life when I felt certain I would never turn 40, let alone a sub-set of me, my journal.

20 years ago, I switched to smaller, hardbound notebooks. It resulted in writing less, but being more to the point.

As this web site became more and more my focus for expression, I wrote less on paper, and have been stuck in the same notebook for some years, though I write something in it often. Lately I’ve been putting my Open Mic Nyte notes in it, and a few things I don’t want to share with anyone.

So, after 40 years, the journal is alive and well.

The journals themselves fill 54 volumes so far. That doesn't count at least a dozen short stories, a dozen or more miscellaneous notebooks, and this 14-year endeavor on the internet.
The journals themselves fill 54 volumes so far. That doesn’t count at least a dozen short stories, a dozen or more miscellaneous notebooks, and this 14-year endeavor on the internet.
*I mention Rank instead of Freud because he slept with Anaîs Nin, one of the most prolific journal-keepers in the 20th century, and something of a role model of mine.
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4 Comments

  1. On that day, I was two weeks shy of six years old. I didn’t mark its passage, but last summer my journal turned 30.

    Unfortunately, most of mine attempted to record events rather than my feelings or opinions. I typically have to scour fairly hard to find interesting or meaningful quotations.

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  2. I suppose there’s no way to confirm it, but I suspect the simple act of writing a journal changes a person. I didn’t write one and I sometimes wonder “What if I had?”

    If there was a way to observe the Richard R. Barron from the universe next-door (the one most like our universe), an identical universe until 1978 when *that* Richard R. Barron decided NOT to keep a journal — and then compare the two universes 40 years later — I suspect that Richard would be different from you. I am most curious about the subsequent changes — would the ripples be absorbed quickly around you, or would they cause butterfly effects that can’t be measured?

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