By Patrick F. Cannon
I abandoned the daily grind in July, 2001. Since then, I have earned my living by being retired. Yet, I have managed to find enough badly-paid work to keep me reasonably busy. This is all to the good, since I have no hobbies, other than golf, which I indulge in weekly during the fair weather months, assuming it doesn’t rain.
The current mandated isolation has therefore not much changed my daily routine. For example, my faithful dog Rosie (I was not responsible for that name, by the way) is right now conked out near my feet, but will eventually bestir herself, thinking that it has been an eternity since she last had nourishment. Her idea of sustenance, in descending order of preference, is (1) people food, (2) doggie treats, and (3) dog food. She also requires – since she’s now 15 – regular medications of various expensive kinds.
Because of these medications, she needs more frequent forays to the out-of-doors, although I’m told that some people train their doggies to do their business indoors on disposable mats. If they are physically incapable of walking their dog, I suppose this is acceptable. If they are, it’s abominable. It’s bad enough to have to pick up your dog’s excrement on a sidewalk or lawn, but in your own home? Please don’t invite me.
When you walk your dog now, you are likely to see only your fellow dog walkers. They will take a wide berth when passing, but will often give you a wan smile and a “hello.” In the good old days, they might have added “my, what a cute dog.” I would thank them, but stifle the urge to respond: “where in God’s name did you get that mangy cur?”
Since my wife Jeanette is first to take the dog out, usually at around 6:00 am, I am able to read the newspaper after breakfasting, check my e-mail and do my morning exercise and toilet, then take Rosie for her second walk. It’s usually around 9:00 am when I get down to work. Some days I’ll work on this blog, which I have done weekly since the Fall of 2015. On most days, I’ll pursue my main literary labors.
These have involved publishing five books on Chicago architecture and architects, graced with the stunning photographs of my partner, Jim Caulfield. Most days, I’ll work on the text of our new book, a survey of housing in Chicago from the 1830s until now. The time spent writing pales in comparison with the time spent cajoling owners and others into permitting us to photograph their residences; and, of course, the photography itself. Alas, all of our books have required the same kind of dogged effort, and considerable research to boot. I have often envied fiction writers, who can make it all up and get even with their parents and siblings at the same time.
Before the current isolation, I could vary the schedule with trips to the library, the supermarket, museums, or even the local cinema. Now, of course, the library and theatre are closed, and my daughter Beth is doing most of the shopping for us, as she believes, probably correctly, that we’re more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Fortunately, Jeanette has had some consulting work she can do at home, in addition to keeping track of her many friends and family by phone, text and e-mail. So, we manage to have enough to do. If you’re looking for something to keep you busy, here are some recommendations:
- You can start writing your autobiography. I’m told your children will benefit from knowing their family’s history, and you will be able to put yourself in the best possible light. As part of the process, you could join Ancestry.com and get lost in the past, which always seems better than the present.
- Read War and Peace. I have the Modern Library edition and see that it runs to about 1,100 pages. If you do 100 pages a day, and take the weekend off, that’s two weeks of ennoblement. Actually it could take longer, since you’ll find yourself constantly going back to find out just who Gratskalnikov is. As an alternative, you could finally read Moby Dick. Depending on the edition, it only runs to about 400 pages, and it’s fairly easy to remember the character’s names. The main character – other than the white whale – is a fellow named Ahab, rather than a Russian with the unlikely name of Pierre.
- Clean up your photo files. You may actually have photo prints that need sorting, but most of us have our more recent photos in some sort of computer file. I could probably spend many productive hours deleting the duplicates and the truly bad from laptop and phone, but I won’t. But don’t let me stop you.
- It’s Spring! Sort of. So if you have a yard, venture forth with rake, shovel and clippers for that Spring cleanup. Also, isn’t this the year you’re going to grow your own organic veggies? Now’s the time to turn over the soil, enrich it with compost and fertilizer, and plant those seeds!
- If you don’t have a yard, isn’t it high time you deep-cleaned your house? Now, many hard-working wage slaves use cleaning services, claiming their busy schedules don’t leave enough time or energy for domestic concerns. This excuse no longer works, does it? Besides, cleaning services would break the law if they showed up. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you?
- Haul out that unused musical instrument and give it a workout. Sit by an open window while you’re strumming your cords, and share your talent with your neighbors. So much the better if you play the trumpet or tuba. Or perhaps you’re a frustrated contralto?
- Hit the bricks! Not literally, as the average brick doesn’t understand violence. Daily exercise of some kind will both pass the time and improve your health. I myself spend at least 20 minutes most days riding my stationary bike, and doing countless repetitions with a massive 15-pound dumbbell. I find that most people have some kind of exercise apparatus gathering dust in the basement. Whether treadmill, elliptical trainer or exercise bike, rescue it from ignominy and work up a sweat.
- Order food from your favorite restaurant(s). It’s my understanding that the majority of the younger generations (X, Y and Z?) never learned how to actually cook. Either they picked up prepared food at the grocery store; ordered pizza delivered from Guido’s; or actually dined out at a favorite restaurant. Since learning how to cook at this late date will likely lead to tragedy, I suggest you pick up food at restaurants that are struggling to survive.
- On a more serious note, send actual cash to the performance venues you would generally attend. They struggle at the best of times; this is not the best of times.
- Finally, if none of the above appeals, you can binge watch The Beverly Hillbillies and envy their wealthy lifestyle.
- Oh, did I mention the daily nap? I usually take mine at about 1:30 pm.
Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon