1973 Fascinating Diary of an Arizona Musician Openly Struggling with Depression, His Career and His Relationship

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 On offer is the interesting personal journal of a man named Bill. Bill is an American pianist who seems to have a hand in investing. Bill is open about his mental health struggles with depression (and from context, anxiety) and his efforts to get ahead professionally. He is also very open about his struggles with Dorothy, his romantic partner. 

While we found many clues about who Bill may be, we don’t have enough contextual clues to find him. We do know that Bill is trying to make it as a pianist in Arizona, that he is in a relationship with Dorothy (who has two girls named Kerry and Dorrie, and who is attending Maricopa Technical College for design). We know that Bill has a brother named Jim who lives with him and a sister named Bet who he sees regularly. Bill was apparently born in New York and now lives in Arizona. His birthday is on May 14th. His father died on February 23, 1973, and he writes extensively about the death and his trip to New York for the burial. 

At the time of his writing, Bill is living and working in the Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona area. Life is a struggle for him trying to find work and also trying to manage a dramatic and fraught romantic relationship with Dorothy. His daily diary records the ups and downs in his musical career (if you can call it that…) and, most interestingly, in his battle with his own mental health. Bill is an interesting fellow who has an interest in politics, recording his time listening to the Watergate hearings and other US political notes throughout. 

Bill does not write every day, but when he does he usually fills a full page in his bouncy hand. The deep emotion behind his entries are further enhanced by his propensity to highlight his big feelings with capital letters, underlines and punctuation. Some excerpts give the flavour of Bill’s writing:

“Slow day. Didn’t feel really on top. Drove to Basha’s to get tomatoes. Picked up tax book. Called Eddie Guilliame, mgr of Ye Olde Lanterne in Scottsdale. I’m to go in at 6:00pm tomorrow for an audition. Vacuumed pool. Played some piano. Got together set for tomorrow. Carol and Heather here in evening and stayed over. TV and sundaes in evening. To bed about 11:00. Dorothy stripped dining room chair in garage. Feel OK. Hope I get job tomorrow. I feel pretty confident. I’ll feel better when I get working” [Jan 11]. 

“Very hard day. Dorothy unhappy with my not doing anything today. Dishes were in the sink. Bad argument in music/art room. I took drink to quiet down. Drank too much. Later went to patch it up rather than let her go to bed without saying I was sorry. NIGHTMARE!! Can’t even write about it. Total catastrophe. Said so much drunk that I’d never dream of sober. COULDN’T UNDERSTAND BEING SO DEFENSIVE WITH SOMEONE WHOM I LOVE SO MUCH AND WHO LOVES ME. A TRAGEDY!!” [Jan 25]. 

“Called ALL places I have a chance to play. Felt good. DOING! Was to get two calls back but no dice. Have to keep plugging. Jim called from Gary’s. Had been to see Tom and will be here Tuesday. WILL BE GOOD TO SEE HIM. I MUST PUT EMPHASIS ON GETTING WORKING AND SOME SORT OF A CAREER. IT’S DANGEROUS TO PUT TOO MUCH IN OTHER PEOPLE OR PERSON. VULNERABLE!!! Dorothy and I watched second half of DIVORCE HIS/DIVORCE HERS. Tragedy. Felt better when she showed me even a little affection. I’ll be OK if I can get through this. Otherwise, I’ll be NO ONE. NEED DRIVE and GOOD SPIRITS. This has been a wide gamut of emotions since leaving NY” [Feb 7]. 

“Began going to places to see about playing piano. Mountain Shadows, Camelback Inn, Bill Moses. Called agent Tommy Reed” [Feb 19]. 

“At apartment. Stereo playing “My Heart Tells Me”. I feel sad. (11:00 P.M.) I feel alone. I know I am not what I want to be. I don’t want to lose Dorothy but I can’t know what to do” [Apr 29].

“...Nodded in afternoon. In evening to Elks. Played with Rick Love & sax player. Sax very good . Felt good after a few beers. We did very well for first time together. They liked us. ... I feel alive. NOT SO CRITICAL OF MYSELF. ... Talked to Jim’s boss Mickey at Elks. Told him how much Jim thought of him. GOOD TO PLAY HAVE TO GET BETTER AT IT” [Sept 22].

For a social historian, this diary offers an insight into the struggles of a local musician living with a mental health condition that impacts every aspect of his life. It offers a peek into a man trying to establish himself as well as chronicling the roller coaster ride of a relationship during this process – in many way a microcosm of the pursuit of the American Dream. For anyone interested in Arizona in the 1970s, Bill gets around and records his visits to many local establishments.

This dated diary measures 8.0 inches by 5.5 inches and its page-a-day format contains 365 pages plus memoranda. The book is about 50% complete. The faux-leather cover has some damage on one corner. The spine binding has separated from the book along one seam. The binding itself is in good condition as are all of the pages. The handwriting is legible. Overall Fair. 

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