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how I came to write the musings

written May 30, 1998

I came from a family that valued its privacy. My folks themselves never revealed their thoughts about things unless they were angry. And beyond that, keeping secrets within the family was treated as something essential to our very survival. But it was not like we had anything to hide, at least compared to most families. Other families had members who were burglars, womanizers, drug dealers, and perverts. Our family was, I guess, mostly concerned about people discovering we were a bunch of slobs with stacks of unsorted Western Horseman magazines clogging access to more important things.

On April 5th, 1983, I started keeping a diary. Originally it was designed to chronicle my observations of the chickens on our farm, but it soon became much more than that. When I mastered a form of phonetic English using Greek letters, I could even write in code, and I began to write my secret opinions and even sexual fantasies. But it was my personal diary, and I didn't want anyone to set hands on it (though I did allow my mother to read it for some reason).

I found myself writing more and more in my diary, and as it tied up increasing amounts of my time, I began to feel it was a tragedy that it was locked away from the world. I wanted to share the things I wrote. My solution was to xerox portions of it and then censor it with a black marker or scissors, and then include the diary excerpts with personal letters mailed to friends.

By early 1989, this practice had become almost routine. At any one time, I usually had stacks of xeroxed diary entries gathering dust. Throwing these away seemed like a terrible waste. So I began to hide them in places, hoping future people would find them and enjoy them. To the bottom of my dresser drawers in Oberlin College's Harkness 201, I glued several very racy accounts of my friend Alex Guldbeck's sexuality (which he told me during a drunken evening of tearful malaise following the breakup with his then-girlfriend Karina). Only two years later, my friend Nate Rudolf (a childhood friend of Alex) moved into my old room in Harkness. One day as he lay on his back sorting his laundry, he discovered the entries I'd glued to the bottom of the dresser drawers. He knew all the parties mentioned and immediately showed the sheets of xeroxed diary pages to everyone on his hall. They fell into the hands of Heather Bissel, who was then out to destroy Alex any way she could. She made dozens of copies of the entry and tabled them in dining halls campus-wide. A scandal erupted, Heather was hauled before the Oberlin Judicial Board, and I was terribly embarrassed. But the interesting thing was that, if anything, this incident increased my fame and stature in the eyes of those whom it affected. It turned out that airing one's dirty linen in public was not such a dangerous thing after all.

I'd sort of had this idea in my head anyway, though. By May of 1989, I was in the habit of typing certain journal entries up on a computer and printing out copies for my friends to read. These were usually met with enthusiasm and requests for more copies.

During the early days of Big Fun (Fall, 1995), I printed out some of my old Oberlin stories for my new friends from Malvern to read. One of their favourites was A Somewhat Fictionalized Account of the Goings on Between Jim Eriqiker and Eriq Schliqer During the Fall of 1993. Since goings on among my Malvernian friends were easily as interesting as anything I'd encountered in Oberlin, I soon found myself writing about the them (and their friends) as well. Eventually I compiled a massive glossary, the Big Fun Glossary, paper copies of which I freely distributed to the characters whose stories it was about. Sometimes they reacted negatively and sought to make corrections, but for the most part it was well received and they begged for more copies to hand out to others. In May, 1996, my friend Jamie Dyer put the whole glossary online.

Having had a long and mostly trouble-free history of publishing personal stories, it occurred to me that I could keep my diary online, that is, if I was somewhat careful about the stories I told. This idea more or less congealed in my mind when I encountered Dave's Diary on the web. Here was a guy who almost every day had some tale to tell from his life as an eccentric, experimental, intellectual and ballsy webmaster in England. His prose wasn't an easy read, but I was greatly inspired by both the journal itself and by Dave's lavish use of hypertext. Then, in the Washington Post, I read about Justin's unabashed telling of his life's story. I knew I had to do it.

In the wee hours of August 1st, 1996, I began typing my first entry (about the preceding day). Originally I intended to keep mostly to my inner thoughts about general topics, thus the term "musings." But a few days into the journal, the bottom fell out of my hesitation and I began to write in my usual gossipy irreverent style, a style that persists to this day.

Have a look at one of my old hand-written diary pages.

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