The “legendary notebook,” reads the official website, has been “used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries. From Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin.”
These men used Moleskines, says a card tucked inside each book, making me feel very intellectual chic as I peel a thigh-bent ‘skine out of my front pocket. My fingers, on their way to retrieve a fine felt-tip pen, pause to contemplate my new explorer’s ‘stache. Because I am in Accra, I ask the waitress for another Castle Milk Stout, and I admire how the setting sun lights up the bottle.
Yes, I filled many-a-Mole during this last year of travel, pouring ink on pages, stuffing its “expandable inner pocket made of cardboard and cloth” with soggy rupee notes, Thai baht and East African shillings; or with heart-shaped Bodhi leaves from sacred sites; or African postage stamps; Indian to-do lists from our three months in Birpara.
From the front of my notebooks, I scribble scene descriptions, overheard dialogue, and idea dumps for blog entries, stories, etc. From the other end, I work backward, coating pages with phone numbers, hotel addresses, calculations, and local language greetings. When the two ends meet, the book full, I store it and immediately crack open a freshie.
At the end of our trek in Pakistan, I asked our guide, Karim, to draw a map of the route we’d just completed.
WITH ITS VARIOUS DIFFERENT PAGE STYLES IT ACCOMPANIES
THE CREATIVE PROFESSIONS AND HAS BECOME
A SYMBOL OF CONTEMPORARY NOMADISM.
Indeed. Indiana Jones carried one, tucked next to his whip. I am the Marlboro Man, a pen instead of a cigarette, scribbling by candlelight in another medieval place. Like Hunza. Or Benares. Or Angkor. Or Kparigu.
One afternon in Casablanca, I dip my fingertip in coffee to color a drawing of hills outside the Dakar airport; then I smear dirt from a potted plant to paint the smoke from burning trash above dusky sillhouettes of mosque towers and blocky homes.
And now there’s this. Here. In America after 15 months abroad, with a stack of books, thousands of photos, and there still are so many empty pages.
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Â© Images and text by Joshua Berman, All rights reserved.