No more lies from the ALLDERBLOB

“What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?”

Walt Whitman, “Song of myself”

It’s coming up on my 47th birthday and in honour of the occasion I’ve been looking into the diaries I used to keep [“my” birthday? “I”‘ve been looking? Did someone eat a poisonous mushroom? Seriously, what is up? –ed.].

It’s me here, Jacob Allderdice. I write this stuff. I write the ALLDERBLOB. I’ve come to refer to myself in the first-person-plural, as “we.” I started doing it one day, and I liked it. I’ll probably go back to it [Whew. Ain’t that a relief! –ed.].

Walt Whitman once wrote: “(I am large, I contain multitudes),” (parentheses and all). In the same poem he wrote:

I do not say these things for a dollar or to fill up the time while
I wait for a boat,
(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you,
Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen’d.)

I’m with Whitman. We do not say these things for a dollar.

But mostly it’s to disguise myself, here behind my wall. I’m sitting here hurling the flaming lobs, but it’s not just me, right? It’s me and all the people in my boat: the people who can imagine a world without cars, and can see how a moratorium on automobile advertising could be a step in that direction. Anyway, that’s what I tell myself: I am large. I am Blobby.

But I accused Jacob Richler [that daddy’s coattail-riding hack, you mean? –ed.] of something in a recent post, and it rang hollow even as I said it. I wrote

Now it’s true that Jacob Richler hates cars, but he is loath to admit it. He hates how they make him stuck in traffic, he hates how they make him vulnerable to thumps from the fists of passing cyclists who he has offended in some way, he hates how they smell, sound, feel, and how they are making his family prone to asthma and obesity. Jacob Richler has disguised his hatred of cars by turning the attack outward, striking out at the very symbol of his imprisonment: the bicycle. So when he has the chance to write an “opinion” piece, it is the bicycle that he attacks.

I say it rang “hollow,” not that it rang untrue. Because how often is we hide our loathing of something behind an attack on its apparent opposite? It’s classic behaviour, from homophobes who fear the feminine in themselves, to zenophobes who despise their own mixed backgrounds, to zealots and bigots of all stripes who wish to god someone would just kill them and put them out of their own misery.

Maybe there’s a little of that in me, with my lashing out at automobile advertising. When I jeer at advertisers for being “artists who have nothing to say,” aren’t I secretly patting myself on the back for finally, finally, having something to say myself?

Well, I am.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, see. And it’s a terrible cliche, but writers all live in mortal fear of the blank page. The cliche that comes back when we wail about having nothing to say is “Write what you know.” Then we all shit ourselves over the question of “what do I know that’s worth saying?”

“Know thyself,” Plato advised.

So writers keep diaries.

From the time I was 13 or so, from 1972 on, I used to write with some regularity in a diary–or “log,” as I called it (because “diaries are for girls”). I logged for about 20 years in a fairly consistent fashion. In 1992 I got married and it’s around then that I quit the habit. Not that I had no more secrets. Not that I had nothing more to complain about. Not that I didn’t still need the “help” keeping a log is said to provide. But writing a diary lost some of its zip, somehow, as I neared age 35.

There are lots of cliches about people who write diaries. One of them is from the Andy Capp comic strip: Mrs Capp remarks to a friend: “Anyone who has time to keep a diary can’t have time to do anything worth writing about.”

The fact is, the woman I was living with, who I subsequently married, had come across a diary I had been keeping, and read enough of it to develop serious doubts about my devotion to her.

Oh, I was devoted, I assured her. I said I’d prove it to her.

We got married. And some time later, after many many arguments, we got divorced.

It’s a bad move to read the diary of someone you think you know.

Take “Travels with Charley,” for example. In it John Steinbeck, the great American novelist, champion of the downtrodden, writes a first-person account of his friendship with a little poodle. Steinbeck reveals himself to be a mean-spirited, conceited, unpleasant little man. You come away wishing you could turn back the clock to your decision to pick up that book. Ugh.

My dad kept a diary in his youth, he told me. He grew up in Montana, on a homestead ranch. He worked as a cowboy on the giant McNamara ranch. He was in the U.S. army during the Korean war. He went to university on the G.I. bill, where he met my mother, who was from a Boston family of Unitarians, her dad a banker and investment counsellor.

It might have been interesting to read my dad’s diaries. Maybe embarrassing, but interesting.

But he threw them out.

Let’s say you’re getting married yourself. Would you throw out your diaries? Do they represent baggage from the past? Isn’t it smarter or safer to jettison them so your balloon will soar? If you believe the mantra of the de-clutterers, any book you haven’t read for two years is dreck. Get rid of it.

So you’re getting married. Your girlfriend is one of those de-clutterers. She’s kept a diary for years, and one day she looks at the stack of them and says, “I’m gonna throw these things out.”

But you’re the one who takes the recycling box to the curb. You see the diaries in the LCBO bag where she puts them. Jesus, you’re thinking, someone could find these. Someone could find them and read them, and someone’s secrets would be there for the world to know.

You’d pick them up, right? You’d be protecting yourself as much as your girlfriend. You’ve got a stake in those books–assuming she’s written about you occasionally during the past five or so years. I mean, you’ve been together all that time. She would have written about your first date, and how she knew from the minute she laid eyes on you, and all that. She’d have written about your fights, and your struggles, and your high points together… Right?

Better fish those books out of the trash.

But take my advice: don’t ever look at them. Never, never.

Today everyone and their cousin keeps a diary, or rather a “log.” It’s no secret that web-logs, or “blogs” as the cool kids call them, are hot. According to Technorati, a new blog is started every second these days. No one calls them “bdiaries,” but not, I don’t think, out of fear that someone will question their masculinity. Hardly anyone calls them a “blob.”

Okay. Okay. Okay.

BIG sigh.

“What’s eating you,” your editor asks [Oh, sorry, was that my cue? Actually, I was napping –ed.].

Like I said, it’s coming up on my birthday, and I’ve been delving into those diaries I used to keep. It’s a big stack. A book a year, at least. There’s what, 25 of them?

You think it’s bad reading someone else’s diaries? Read someone else’s diaries and you’re sure to say, “Ew, gross. Is that really who you are? And I thought I knew you.”

It’s worse when you read your own diaries.

With your own diaries, you have two storylines to follow. You read the junk you wrote about your life, and sometimes it’s interesting, or sad, or funny, or dull. But you have this other line that’s in your head, like an editor tapping his fingers and saying “What a bunch of crap” […um… –ed.]. This other line is the story that you didn’t write. It’s what really happened, that you ignored, or denied, or didn’t notice.

You read your own diaries and what stands out are the half-truths, the self-agrandizing statements, the lies you told yourself in order to get by back then.

And it leads you to wonder: what are the lies you’re telling yourself now? Because you know one thing to be true:

All life long, the same questions, the same answers.

Samuel Beckett

2 Responses to “No more lies from the ALLDERBLOB”

  1. Spin says:

    That whole “Anyone who has time to keep a diary can’t have time to do anything worth writing about” saw has been on my mind lately, too... I'm not sure what you're tryna say, but ah DO like the way you're sayin' it.

    One factual error, though: I've met you and you are NOT Blobby. This is what Blobby looks like -->


    [...] Lummox is everyman–like Blobby, he is larger than himself. [...]

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