Sunday, May 08, 2005

Rereading old journals

It can be so embarrassing--and enlightening--to do what I've been doing today: rereading one of my old journals. This is one I began in 1983, when I was on my way to Bulgaria for the year. I was 22 and thought I was an adult.

In this journal, I see that I left the US (on a standby flight) with $980 for the year. The airplane tickets had to come out of that. I knew that I'd be receiving a stipend from the Bulgarian government, but I had no idea how much it would be. I wrote that my parents seemed worried about me, "and also a bit jealous." My 43-year-old self laughed out loud at this, but my 22-year-old-self was entirely serious. I was so earnest!

I was also often lonely. This isn't my main memory of that year, but it's a theme running through the journal. As I reread, I remember the feeling. It occurs to me that I've only read up to the beginning of January. I was just finding my way at that point. My friend Marie didn't turn up in Sofia until later in the month, and I made other friends more easily later in the year. (Marie, remember going to the country with Salvador and his friend?)

I'm reading the diary for a reason: I've been working on a set of personal fiction stories called "Blood, Guts, Spies and Fat Naked Ladies: The Bulgarian Cycle." It's in parts, some of which I've been telling in performance for years. Some I've just told in conversation. In performance, I try to remember to tell my listeners "all my stories start with a seed of truth."

Within my diary, I'm looking for a specific incident I remember imperfectly, an incident that may be the pivot point in the "Spies" section of the story. I haven't found it yet. We'll see if this seed grows from my memory or from what I wrote at the time.

I've put my name in to the lottery to be in the Lyceum performance at the National Storytelling Conference, and last I heard I was third on the waiting list. This is the first time they've done this fringe festival as part of the conference. Each performer will get 55 minutes. Not enough for me to tell "Tristan and Iseult," but enough for these Bulgaria-inspired stories. Even if three people don't drop out, I'm happy to be working on this cycle, and to be meeting my younger self.


Anonymous said...

Have I heard any of the Bulgarian Circle of Stories? Did you continue to read the journal? What did you say about Andropov's death?
Did you know Dad & I went to the Bulgarian Embassy while you were there? We wanted to be sure they knew you weren't just somebody from outer space, but were equipped with parents who cared about what happened (or didn't) to you.

PriscillaHowe said...

Yes, you've heard "Blood" and "Marina," two parts of the cycle. I don't think Andropov comes into any of the stories. That was strange, though--all the windows draped in black and the mournful music on the radio all day.

I knew you went to the embassy. I wonder what Mr. Dragnev (a.k.a. Dragnet) thought of you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was anything but stolid, rather an automaton, I thought.