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If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve kept diaries or journals over the years. There are the daily entry kind and the blank books you might write-in sporadically, or maybe your calendars have doubled as your diary. Mine did. Ten years ago I started keeping digital calendars, and my blogs became my diaries although since then, I’ve become more careful about what I write because they’re online for all to see. To the woman at my church who doesn’t believe “ninety-five percent of what comes out of my mouth,” why don’t I send you home with my diaries? 

As an advance warning: You may wind up sleeping with the lights on.

Diaries are personal time machines that can transport us back to places and events we’ve often forgotten. It’s fun to go back and read what we did on our thirtieth birthday.

Then there are the things that might as well be tattooed on our brain: the embarrassing, terrifying and life-altering incidents. 

In writing my memoir, I’ve referred to my handwritten and typed journal entries as well as the paper calendars I’ve kept since my twenties. 

I’ve also kept a few travel journals where I chronicled one of my trips and the people I met, fabulous restaurants and great wines (like this label from a Tuscan cabernet I pasted into Seabiscuit, the book I was reading at the time), new recipes I picked up along the way, and details about the art and architecture. Over the years my journals have ranged from small ringed notebooks that fit in my purse, to blank bound journals with silk ribbon place holders and magnet closures. There’s also the Big Chief tablet with the red cover I bought in Belize. I’ve quoted from it verbatim in the memoir I’ve written. The part before I was taken at gunpoint in Guatemala.

This week I found a journal (Wonder Woman’s on the cover) I kept when a girlfriend and I went to San Miguel de Allende. We’d gone for the Day of the Dead, Diá de los Muertos, celebration, and to categorize our trip as bizarre would be an understatement. For starters, it took us twenty-six hours to fly from San Antonio to San Miguel—don’t ask—where we saw three men place a dead woman with short purple hair in the trunk of a car. If you’re regular readers then you know placing dead women in the trunk of a car has been a recurring theme when I travel to foreign countries.

For the rest of this blog post I’ll be quoting from my San Miguel journal. You can’t make this stuff up!

We’re in the luscious overgrown courtyard of a hyperactive, but gracious, American woman named Ava. I have no clue how old she is, but she’s an assault on the senses. A tiny wisp of a woman who’s like a windup toy that never runs out of energy, and she knows no boundaries, even with total strangers like us.

“Oh, you must stay for lunch! Ericka! Bring me the good napkins,” she shouts to someone inside her sprawling hacienda. 

Without pausing to take a breath, Ava gets out of her ornate iron chair and stands erect, then immediately doubles over with her head almost touching the floor. She teeters precariously on the cobblestones under her feet like an accident waiting to happen. A marionette who’s lost her puppet master. 

“Let me show you how limber I am. See? I can touch my toes and raise my leg out to the side like a ballerina. My arms still look good. Don’t you think they look good?”

This small, bent over woman raises her head and peers at me over the top of her glasses. “What do you think I should do with my hair? Do you know anyone in Miami who can put it in a French braid? I don’t. They don’t know how to do French braids in Miami. Erica! Bring me the belts on my bed. Don’t ever let anyone inject the nerves in your spine.”

I’m guessing she’s referring to why she can’t stand up straight for more than a few seconds.

So far we’ve seen no signs of Erica, and even if my friend and I wanted to answer one of Ava’s back-to-back questions, she gives us no opportunity. Her conversation is a stream of consciousness where subjects flow uncensored from one to the other. She’s shocking, mesmerizing and sad. I wonder if she’s always been this way or maybe her medication for the problem with her spine has erased her ability to make new paragraphs and edit her thought process.

“I had a facelift nine years ago and an acid peel,” she continues. “I was only under for four hours, and I had no pain. Melanie and Antonio stayed here a month. He didn’t make my heart flutter. Not even once. Erica! Bring me the picture in the small green frame. What color do you think I should paint the beds? Blue? Red? Don’t you think mother looks good for ninety-two?

“I don’t date anymore. Mother saw right through the last one. I told him I didn’t sport fuck, although I slept with him a few times. Then I introduced him to my girlfriend. He said he could only get a partial erection with her. I wanted to tell him he always had a partial erection, but we were at a cocktail party. Do you think I did the right thing? Should I have said anything?”

Ava looks at me and my friend. “So tell me, what do you do? Give me a paragraph about yourself. Ericka! Ericka, we’d like some hibiscus tea. Antonio’s back. He’s filming another movie here. He sleeps on the other side of that door,” she says, pointing to an old, ornate Spanish door on the other side of the courtyard. “You want to know the real reason I broke up with that guy? He told me I didn’t have enough pubic hair. He likes women with thicker and darker hair than I have.”

So dear friends, you see why I keep diaries and travel journals? Do you keep a diary or a journal? In case you’re in the market for a new one, here are a few of my favorites you might like.

Love, Brenda

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