"I seem to spend every waking hour thinking, hearing, comparing, figuring, solving, wondering, asking. For what? God, I'm so curious and I want so much---and I'm very impatient. Sure, the rational me knows --sit tight!--it'll come, it'll come in time. But when? Ah, the agonies of waiting."
---from the journal of twenty year old Bunny Jill, 1963
On the top shelf of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, in a dark corner of my bedroom, is a collection of my "subway journals" from the early 1960’s. For years, those journals have functioned simply as shelf fillers-- part of this accidental archivist's accumulation of books and things that look like books. If my memory serves, the writings in those old diaries are nothing more than hasty notes scribbled down during daily travels on the BMT, to and from my job as a Bunny at the New York Playboy Club.
I had not looked at them in decades.
I knew---or thought I knew---what they contained: the youthful, superficial ramblings of an unformed, narcissistic, young woman—a confused girl, cast adrift in the world of theater, dreams, and Greenwich Village. Surely, the contents would be boring. Perhaps I should destroy the half shelf of yellowing journals so that no embarrassing revelations could ever fall into the hands and onto the eyes of those who might be shocked by the sophomoric writing of Bunny Jill, the precursor of me? Would I, a seventy year old self-proclaimed woman of the world, be shocked by (or more likely, disappointed with) the notes of my very young self?
I sat on the floor, next to my sleeping dog. I began to read. Memories flooded back to me. I felt dizzy re-experiencing some of my youthful actions, reactions, and thoughts from those early years. I read slowly, deciphering my youthful, impatient scrawl. I smiled, recalling the wildly mercurial moods of that just-married nineteen year old as she made initialforays into the seductive territory of self-discovery.Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of useable material for the book project my daughter is tackling: colorful descriptions of people and events from those early days at the New York Playboy Club; good anecdotes. Sketchy notes sparked my memory. Long forgotten incidents appeared, unraveled. I found myself smiling, recalling wonderful scenes--scenes unexplored since they originally unfolded. What a free-spirited young woman I was!
Reading those long ago writings and musings---as if from some perfect future---I wistfully reconnected with that searching and wondering young self. I recognized and embraced her tender soul—all these decades later. For years I have ignored her; relegated her to a remote place in my life. Yet through it all, she has been here, willing to talk, to share with me our personal coming of age saga.
The raw and honest emotions of that me languished in those journals--and in certain infrequently visited, dark corners of this mind of mine--for years and years and years...Imagine!
She struggles to explain herself; to make sense of her emotions, her dreams:
“It’s getting so every time I get on a subway, I take out this little book and commence writing. Often I don’t know exactly what to write. Here I am, on page 33 already, and I’ve hardly begun to say anything---mainly because I haven’t a direction to follow. Shall I tell you how I came to be riding this subway? From the beginning? Growing up? Going to school? Shall I tell you my fears, hopes, anxieties? Would you be interested in what happened to me today? Shall I expound on the abstracts? Shall I tell you about people I see and know? Events that occur? Frankly, I can’t decide. But I shall continue to scribble and scrawl and fill this book with me. I’m certainly not going to make an outline and follow it along page after page. I mean, who am I writing for anyway? No one. This is just a pleasant way to relax---it does relax me---writing down whatever it is that’s exciting me. So, let’s clear up one thing. I’m writing for me! So I can spell wrong, be repetitious if I choose, be redundant, repeat myself---what the hell---“
More than the people and events, a foot and afloat in Manhattan, Bunny Jill's journal chronicles the lonely, searching of this adventurous young woman who touches me deeply; who reminds me that I am made of her longings and short-comings. I grew out of her loneliness, fears, and desires, as I grew into the realities that define me today. I am the lonely continuation of that girl, that young woman who wanted to be seen, appreciated, loved and who hardly knew how or where to begin…
“I am anxious to get out of the rut I’m in---working, I want a vacation---living, I want to move---playing, I want new games---“
The quasi-mystic part of me knows or pretends to know that Then is Now---or something like that. I am that girl and she was always preparing to be me…In page after page, she writes of love and looking for love, connection, validation. She had the tools---she just didn’t know it. I have the tools---I just don’t always use them…
“I am Playboy bound this a.m. Another day of new people—more people. I am only beginning to realize how gregarious an individual I am. I thrive on conversations, exhibitions, crowds, faces, new and different personalities—Everyone---everyone gives me something by their very presence---a look, a smile, a frown---and I return to some, the same and to a few others a great deal more. I consider myself a character."
I read on…I re-live some painful moments about relationships and personal and financial failings…And then I read:
“It’s so pleasant being at peace with myself. I am happy. I feel terribly well-adjusted. The World is okay. There’s just so much---so very much---I can only know a small fraction of its worth---I love the World."
TRUE! Out of the mouth of a babe…