How To Number a Notebook

One of the essential rituals of my journal-keeping is the numbering of the pages of a new book.

To me, touching each page is an incantation, invitation, prayer. Contemplate the glory and the words that will be scratched there. Time conflates and folds over and everything happens at once.

I keep five types of journals at all times: work, health, family, poetry. This is a film shot by Christian of me numbering Work Journal #53.

Recounting My Sobriety Day

I looked back at some of the writing I did on Sunday, September 10, 2000— my sobriety day.

I woke up “with bad hangover & very fuzzy”. I also wrote that I “decided upon waking what i had suspected and hoped: today is the day. i do not want to consume drugs or alcohol today. today. and i will go to an AA mtg tonight if i can find one. today is the day.”

I went to Church— 11AM Mass at Queen of Angels. The gospel was this story:

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man
(Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 9:32-34)

And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Since that day (and I hadn’t realized it was that day that I first heard that gospel), the idea of being opened has been key to me. It means not being cynical, having humility, approaching the world flat-footed and ready.

I always seek to be opened.

We sang Amazing Grace as the exit song, and I sobbed, as is not uncommon. I remember that we sang it all the way through— every verse. I am notorious (with my children) for never leaving Mass until the recessional hymn is completely through. The final verse put the hammer down on me— the concept of days and time was high on my mind as I was set to begin AA:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

So far, one day at a time, my sobriety has stuck, and I am greatfeul. Ephphatha forever and for all of us.

When Irma was a child

In 1993, John F. Burns, my favorite journalist ever, wrote an article in the New York Times: British Fly to Bosnian Girl’s Rescue. Here’s a snip:

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Aug. 9— After worldwide publicity about her plight, a 5-year-old girl severely wounded by a Serbian artillery shell was evacuated today from Sarajevo by a British military aircraft and flown to Britain, where she was hospitalized in critical condition.

The evacuation was made possible by Prime Minister John Major, who dispatched an executive jet equipped as a hospital plane to Ancona, on the Adriatic coast of Italy. The wounded child, Irma Hadzimuratovic, was flown to Ancona aboard a British military aircraft that shuttles relief supplies to the Bosnian capital.

The article affected me greatly. I wrote this poem that day:

Injured Child Flown to London

Sound of helicopter.

Fleeting adoration rained on her.
Like Jesus, palms were laid under the hoofs of her
donkey and daymares of a simulated crucifixion
froze her gaze to one spot
just below the horizon. She was here to be
buried, not kissed.

But the kissing continued. Like bees
people swept in and out of her face.

This girl and the atom bomb tell us one thing:
That for sure every person now dead has
built up a visible shadow taken from the sun
after years and days of
eating the sun while they stood in a field hovering over a
noontime meal or pausing over an axe near the woods and we
see this shadow
through the naked sockets of memory
placed into the hypothalamus of every
5 year old kid on Earth.

This is what the pygmies told us when they
bowed down to a crypt holding their maternal
grandfather’s elbow bone. This is what Serbia told us when
they swept down on a million straw men.

This is what Irma, tattered child of Bosnia tells us,
flying in grave condition to a London hospital.
Now it has a name and it’s Irma and she is
free of sin and we will kiss her but maybe
like a hurricane she will go away someday
if we close our eyes and put our hands over our head

August 9, 1993

© 1995 Daniel X. O’Neil

God bless us all.

First Day of School, 2017

Today was the first day of school for my youngest son.

I arrived early— I always like the sun position on the first day of school. Still high in the sky, but lowering— you can feel the lowering. Bright greens remain. Blooms are still relevant.

CXO got up to see him off. He didn’t have to. Off to college soon. There were two other years like this. It’s the incongruity that sets me off at times. Two O’Neil’s in the building at all times was a rule that served us.


What I Did on My Summer Vacation.


The two. S-L went to Canada and he got a nice T-shirt.

Camera on a car.

Better remote shot.

I am sucking in my belly. I am judged by time. It is normal. I like myself. I used to wear suits to work and I used to weigh more pounds.

This is me and my teeny tiny little baby. He is a junior in high school.

I have to hold my babies in every picture in which I appear with them. Pictures mean things. They never need to hold me; I hold them.

Back to bed, to await plain bagel toasted with peanut butter from Einstein’s Bagels.

Mirrors really are something.


Obligatory Mocking of One’s Father

He is entering a vehicle. By himself.  Carseats once ruled the first day of school.

He is going to operate the vehicle. He became licensed to do so yesterday. Used to rely on blankets from the trunk. Things change. For that, I am grateful. I will not relent on wistfulness though— it belongs to me for a moment. My family allows it to me.

And off.

Into the street.

Because he can.

And he is a little baby and a very good driver and strong and ready for anything.

And I let him go like this, one of a couple thousand letting-go moments.

Growth and joy and success and why are you going without me never mind of course this is awesome and perfect and I am happy.

Oh my he really is driving to school all by himself, Shade 45, no big brother.

We are good.

One day at a time, everybody.

Doing Los Angeles, June 2017

Recently I went to Los Angeles with my youngest son. I have a tradition of going on a trip, just me and them, when each of my kids turn 16. CXO chose Las Vegas in 2015. Caleb choose Los Angeles. So we went.

Once we landed, we went downtown to the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. A regal Place, doing business & absorbed with its own past, rightfully so. They deserve it.

Then we went to Soho House West Hollywood. Beautiful view.

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