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Six years of journal keeping.

June 16, 2016

Darkroom in basement 1960

I have been keeping this journal, almost daily, since 2010.  Just now I glanced through it.  It is all on this computer, backed up on those memory sticks or what my nephew Jon calls “thumb drives.”

When it comes to the old days, I’ve told most of my stories.  Sometimes I did my best work when I was a little drunk.  Always my mantra has been to be as honest as possible.  No exaggerations, no omissions.  Well, not quite true.  I’ve had to omit names because I feel I mustn’t kiss and tell.  You get the idea.  There are times, for honorable reasons, to keep things private.  If you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you may find it hard to believe that I’ve kept much private.  Well you’re right.  I haven’t spared myself at all.  Well, maybe a little bit.  But I try to tell the truth mostly.

Sometimes I can sink into a feeling, a longing, perhaps a curiosity about chemistry or biology or sexuality.  Those are rare times when the words can flow freely and I know I’m contributing something of value to you, the reader.  In those rare times I’m talking about what I was really doing during those years when in school we studied how to diagram a sentence.  You know, I still don’t know how to diagram a goddamn sentence.  Well, I’ve thought about sentence structure enough that maybe I could.  I’d rather learn to speak Spanish than diagram a sentence.

I did well in Spanish.  My friend and former sister-in-law, Dana Graham, taught me what to do:  memorize the vocabulary words.  Then go to class and learn how to conjugate the verbs.  Then practice, practice.  I can’t speak much Spanish at all, these days.  I got A’s in Spanish from Jim Flightner, a wonderful man and professor of Spanish and Portuguese.  In fact, I took a semester of Portuguese, a beautiful language, from him.  Most of the students were headed for Brazil, so the Portuguese class was businesslike and intense.

I recall, when I was in the 6th grade, copying images of conjugated benzene rings out of a chemistry textbook.  I had no idea of what I was copying then, but now I’d recognize them as images of aniline dyes, or at least the chemical structures of organic dyes.

I felt a certain futility then, because I didn’t know why I was copying them, but I’d copy them now in a heartbeat.  In fact, I’ve since learned that’s what gives organic dyes their vivid colors:  conjugated aromatic molecules.  These terms, like “aromatic” have precise meanings in chemistry.  In literature, aromatic might simply mean having an aroma.  In chemistry, aromatic compounds have characteristic six-sided carbon structures with alternating single and double bonds.

Aromatic compounds may also serve as receptors for electrons, or “free radicals.”   Those who frequent so-called “natural supplement” stores may remember seeing compounds that serve as anti-oxidants.  They are simply conjugated aromatic compounds in pill form.

Oxidation refers to removing electrons or adding oxygen.  Reduction refers to adding electrons or removing oxygen.  For example, a metal, such as iron, tin, lead, is said to be “reduced” when it is in its metallic state.  It is oxidized when it is in its ionized or rusted state.

Some of that may seem like a foreign language, but I have loved it

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