My Little Notebook that Goes Everywhere and the Things it Sees

by shewastheyoungamerican

I went old school this weekend on my trip to Ireland. I left my Macbook at home and wrote with pen. And paper. As my bus hummed through Dublin en route to Galway in the cold and dark of 7pm, I read through my old passages. Words and phrases I feverishly scratched down as if to not let ideas run away too quickly from me.

The last thing in this little pocket-sized notebook of mine was a piece written in San Francisco. Something is to be said about what happens when you put someone, anyone, near a large body of water with the time to just think and be. I sat in the City Lights Bookstore, perched by a window on a rocking chair and wrote. I’ll now give you a moment to roll your eyes and snort. I know, I KNOW.

Anyway, San Francisco holds a very special place in my heart, much like that of Ireland. A place I’m always sad to leave, people who always pass with a warm hello and landscapes that become more impossibly beautiful every time I go. So before I get to the green and sleepy charm of Galway, here’s something on the city by the bay:

August 11, 2011

I have the poetry floor of the City Lights to myself, for a mere 30 seconds. I saw the last woman exit and heard her footsteps trail




For a brief moment I am alone with heroes, Poets, drunks, lovers  … mostly men. It’s me and them – and the foreign music drifting in from Chinatown and the breeze. A young woman’s clothes hangs from the line across the alley. Patti Smith could have smoked a cigarette on that fire escape.

Then, a tall thin man approaches. He sees me writing, as if interrupting, he thumbs through a copy of HOWL in plaid and light scruff. Then another man walks




This one is blonde and smartly dressed. He speaks French to his companion, who is snapping photos of the icons, the crooks, the revolutionaries and the fakes who fill its shelves. The boy in the plaid has moved on to Kerouac. And I hope he finds the “what else.” The French travelers see something in this place –something untouched. Something deeply American about this place.

This place that was a moment. It exists as some sort of testament to a time when, in America, the great minds, the artists, the insane and the impassioned sat in chairs by windows, in street corners, in trains. And wrote. The fire and flash of pen to paper.

As now I sit and write, trying to forget my newly broken heart. I make eye contact with those two travelers – try to see what they see. But our encounters are brief. Strangers cannot bare the intimacy of it. And now the Frenchmen have taken out a camera and have begun filming a scene of sorts. I wonder if the turning of these pages will become background noise.

I then look to my lap, at the books I just read.

Billy Collins.

Julio Cortázar.

And thank them for sparking this– for telling me to seize those 30 seconds of silence.

I Leave My Heart Lots of Places