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Singing Into Silence
April 18, 2000

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My friend finds this moment irresistible. She once broke into "Lullaby of Broadway" before the Conductor could start. I was there. The conductor turned bright red and made sort of a huffing sound, and whirled on her. Laughter burst through the crowd -- this guy was pompous to begin with, and we were a college crowd. Kate was asked to leave and I went along with her. She swears she just couldn't pass up that rich, creamy silence, even though no one was there to hear her.

Which is why I'm writing this journal.

Some Days in the Life of Eric Alfred Burns
April 18, 1999

Keeping a resolution is kind of an amazing thing, really. It's simple enough to say you're going to do something. We're programmed to do that. When your mother asks you to take out the trash, you call down the stairs. "I will in a minute, Mom!" Of course, that minute takes two minutes, and then eight minutes, and then three hours and she calls up three or four more times before she has to march right up those stairs, place you under arrest, march you downstairs with a rifle pointed at you and force you to carry the trash out to the curb, like a P.O.W. in a camp.

Sometimes, though... sometimes your Mom calls upstairs, and you call back down "I already took the trash out, Mom!" And she looks under the sink and yes -- yes, the trash has been taken out. And she's so amazed she has to sit down for a few moments.

Some things have changed for me over the past year. My life has grown and evolved. I've had true horror enter my life, and real hope. The only thing I'm sure of is I'm not the same person as I was on April 18 of 1999. My life isn't the same life it was then either.

And this journal isn't the same journal it was then either. It's changed. Not just cosmetically. In a very real way it's changed as I've changed. And I think maybe I've changed in part because of the journal.

I've finally received the comment from a reader. The "why do you bare your life to this journal" comment. That'll be tomorrow's subject, but one thing I found interesting was the "bare my life" part. This journal -- especially compared to some I've seen -- isn't particularly confessional. In fact, it's prosaic. I select little slivers and build essays around them. On days when I have nothing to say the entries are short, mostly fueling the Writer's Commitment. (One point of journalling is the enforcement of habit. If you write every day, it's easier to write every day. The Journal keeps that connection going.) But I don't see this as my life going on here. I see it as (hopefully) entertaining for you, and I hope that it keeps people appraised of what's going on if they're interested... but remember, there's always more that happens then you see here. Especially when it comes to other people. I'll tell the bits of their public stories that pertain to what I'm saying here, but I'm not going to tell private secrets of their lives here. And by derivation, there are parts of my own life that won't appear here.

I hope that doesn't kill the "voyeuristic appeal" (to quote one commentator) of the site, but you should know the ground rules.

May 13, 1999

That was all true once. Every bit of it. I wasn't looking for an outlet for my painful life. I just wanted to write some little essaylets and force myself to put something in here every day. Well, the Writer's Commitment sure lost force for the Journal somewhere along the like (look at the scant four entries for the month of May). But so did the anti-confessional aspects.

There are some folks, back home... some folks who wished I wouldn't talk about things like this. They'd rather I not talk about Elizabeth June. They'd rather I not talk about when people are mean, or callous. They want me to come out here every week and talk about how wonderful things are in Lake Wobegon.

But I can't. Because it's not true. And if I lie -- if I tell you things are always wonderful here... well, some of you will want to move out here, won't you. And they wouldn't want that back home. And you'd be angry too, because it's not true.

They want me to keep the bad things about Lake Wobegon hidden. To keep it inside the family. Not share it with outsiders. But you know... in the years of doing the News, and in the years of doing this show... I've come to see the listeners of this program as... well, family.

Which is insane. Which is completely nuts. Which is as nuts as Elizabeth June talking to her Sears Roebuck cutout friends in the woods.

Garrison Keillor
"The News from Lake Wobegon"

One thing that's happened is how I view you. Yes, you, the reader. You've become someone to me. Now, that someone isn't very clearly defined. I mean, I know who some of the readers are. They e-mail me and comment on my entries. They ask questions. They say "cool." And some of them showed up because they saw a link elsewhere. Some of them are old friends. Some of them are family members. One guy showed up because he did a search for his own name -- Eric Burns -- and he got me. Another guy was looking to register "" and ended up reading the journal. With some it was random. Any number came up from strange searches.

But that's not what I mean. When I talk about you, the Reader, I don't mean my father, or my Aunt Edie or my cousin Billy. I don't mean my friends Frank or John Bankert or Mason or Karen. Or anyone else.

I mean you. And you know who you are, and that doesn't preclude my Aunt, Frank, Dad or anyone else. But come on, it's just you and me here. A one on one relationship between my words and your eyes. And if you share that relationship with a couple of hundred other sets of eyes, it really doesn't matter to you, now does it?

And so that one on one relationship has become closer, to me. I put more of myself in here. I admit more. I let myself feel more.

This is a terribly stupid thing.

I mean it. Anyone can read this. Anyone at all, on Earth. If I put my fears and hopes into this journal, people who hate my guts can read it and use it to hurt me. If I tell the truth about my life, that truth can hurt other people. It can expose me. It can come back and bite me, hard. And I don't actually know you, do I? I mean, I'm doing all the talking and you're doing all the listening.

But there is a value to this relationship, too. It means a lot to me, knowing you're there. Knowing that I can share these hopes and these terrors and these observations and someone will hear them.

A year ago, I was in remarkably good health for a big fat guy. I had an excellent life, but kind of a solitary one. I had contact with a lot of people, and I was well liked, but friends in my daily life -- other than coworkers I saw to the end of each workday and that's it -- just weren't part of that.

Since then, I've nearly died. I've nearly died for Christ's sake. I've had to remake myself totally. I have a handicapped placard on my car. I've got an entirely different diet. I have to take a couple dozen pills a day.

But I also have people I spend time with, away from work and away from computers. I've seen movies and I've seen sunsets. I've been places I've never gone before, from Northern New Hampshire to Washington D.C. to Virginia to Rye Brook, New York. I've killed a bonsai and I've kissed a girl or two. I've written poems and role playing supplements and short stories and essays. I've overseen and managed and administered and adapted.

Yet if I look at the bio of myself from that first entry, it's still pretty accurate:

I'm a "manager" in "information technology," which means I play with computers and talk to people on the phone. Sometimes I drink coffee and go to meetings. I have a staff -- a front desk person, a systems administrator and a hardware technician. I work at a school that's bought into computers in a big way -- if you want a nightmare, imagine three hundred and forty students, ages 13 to 19, carrying around two thousand dollar powerbooks you're responsible for keeping running. It's entirely Macintosh centered -- my local Mac rep calls me up on a regular basis. My tech has warranty certification from Apple. I get lots of new toys on a regular basis.

It's a good life.

All that is true. Oh, I don't drink as much coffee now (Chai and tea are more in my daily routine). But I still get new toys on a regular basis, I still have lots of meetings and talk on the phone and play with computers. I still have a front desk person, a systems administrator and a hardware technician on my staff, along with a Web Developer. A couple of the faces have changed, but not the positions.

Without this journal, I'd think back over the past year and, but for my Cardiomyopathy, I'd figured very little has changed. With this journal, I realize everything has changed. The changes are all right here, in electrons and HTML.

So, here's to the first year. 174 entries, counting this one, which means I had a 47.5% posting rate all told. Not bad. Not bad at all. And here's to change. And to annotating the changes as they come up.

Here's to you. And what the heck -- here's to me. And to my life. It still doesn't suck.

Anyhow -- more later.

Biographies generally are
a disease of English

George Eliot
(Marian Evans Cross)
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