Wednesday, March 9, 2011
instruction manual written in eight languages. The cover was plain black with the Italian words for clocks and instructions: orologi instruzioni. I would have bought the watch just to get that manual. The tissue-thin pages were printed in 6 point type, and it was mysteriously illustrated with fine pen lines with charts, graphs, clock faces and diagrams. I could never make sense of any of the instruzioni, even the ones translated into English. But I quickly appropriated the book itself to be my new journal.
I yearned to write in it with my fine black pen. I began carrying it everywhere with me and using the marks on the pages as well as the text blocks as prompts for tiny quick sketches. I wrote very little in this book-- it really is more of a sketchbook, but the drawings take me right back to the days they were done.
We were in New York on a freezing cold rainy day waiting for a bus that didn't seem to be running that day to take us uptown. My hands were numb, but the little book needed a drawing of the funny tour bus with its load of blue-plastic-swathed riders. I had slipped the book into my jacket pocket, of course, so I was able to sketch while huddled under the bus shelter as we waited and waited for a bus.
A few weeks later I was sitting in bright sunlight at graduation at the college where I taught. I had slipped the little book into the sleeve of my robe, so I could amuse myself during endless speeches and exhortations.