Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Six Million Dollar Notebook

Classy Notebook

I always liked a classy notebook, but by that I really mean a practical one, one that’s tough and fits my pocket—preferably one with a 3-ring binder, not a spiral wire. I like to rearrange the pages sometimes. Don't you?

More than 20 years ago I bought the best shirt pocket-sized memo book that I’d ever seen. It had a black (leather-look) cardboard cover and a 3-ring binder at the top. Oddly, it didn’t feel like leather or paper, but like stiff fabric. The notebook measured about 2 ¾” wide and 4 ¾ “ long.

In Need Of Replacement

Every few years that notebook would get a little more worn and shabby and I would repair it with Scotch-brand tape. Later it got a little more damaged and had to be repaired and reinforced with duct tape. I fell out of the habit of using it for a few years because it was so ugly, but then I began to need one again, so I carried it again. Again I found it useful, but it was still ugly, and I began wondering where I could buy a new one before I had to shoot the old one. I couldn’t find one or anything remotely similar. I searched stores around town and then searched on the Internet and found other notebooks by the same company, but not the right one.

We Have The Technology—Rebuild Him!

I went around being steamed about this for years about not being able to replace the notebook. Then one day I was channel surfing and ran across the intro of The Six Million Dollar Man and heard them intone that line, “We could rebuild him!”

“Yeah!” I exclaimed. “I could rebuild the notebook!”

Well, whoop de do. Maybe I could rebuild it. I could also destroy it in the attempt! The concern, really, was not that I couldn’t measure the notebook, cut a single piece of leather to size and fold it correctly. What I worried about and what indeed turned out to be a real problem was cutting, pulling apart, punching, or otherwise removing the two big rivets that held the metal 3-ring device to the old notebook. Some parts of the metal mechanism were very sturdy and some were not. I used various punches and awls on the rivets. I got two pairs of pliers and pulled on both sides of the rivets. I used various cutters on what seemed to be the toughest rivet heads in America!

Obstinate Repairman

I was getting nowhere fast because all the while that I hammered, pulled, punched, and yelled at it, I was trying very hard not to ruin the unsturdy mechanism that opens and closes the three rings. Nobody but someone like me (with too much time on his hands) would have continued the battle more than 15 minutes; in a different state of mind, I too would have just flung the damn thing out the window!

Finally the two rivets gave way; it’d only taken about 35 minutes to detach the hardware from the cardboard! Kee-rist. The 3-ring device did get a little bent, but not so that it showed when I got it attached to the leather. I straightened it a little and it worked fine. I’ve used it since for phone numbers, shopping lists, for daily bird notes and lists and sightings. I make my own pages for it, too, having never found pages that fit it any more than I ever found a new notebook of that kind. So I’ve made miniaturized lists of bird sizes, nesting info, and bird diets. I print them out, use a cardboard template to outline the pages, then cut them out with scissors, round the corners, punch three holes per page (but certainly not one page at a time).

Psychosexual Neurosis

That’s been over five years ago. It’s been clicked open and shut again another couple of thousand times by now, I guess. The leather was stiff as a young man’s erection at the time of the surgery, but now it’s been through saddle soapings and wear and tear and sweat, so now its on the way to being as supple as the thigh of a friendly 21-year-old girl. If the leather cover lasts as long as the old cardboard one did and continues to soften like this, I guess I’ll want to marry it by then. Maybe I’ll have to throw it in the river or burn it in the trash barrel. After all, I can’t condone illegal psychosexual relations with inanimate objects. Despite its reconstructive surgery, I like it as much as ever—more, in fact. Not because it’s more beautiful, but more because I had to work on it so hard! It is my friend, though not my girlfriend—yet!

"It is not worth an intelligent man's time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that." — G. H. Hardy (1877 - 1947)

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