Six days ago I was putting the finishing touches on a Wall Street Journal drama column. I was bone-tired and still a bit wheezy from my recent illness, and every sentence was a struggle. At length I decided I was done, hit a couple of keys on my iBook and sent the column to my editor, packed a bag, stumbled downstairs, and hailed a cab.
Ten minutes later I was in Grand Central Station, surrounded by cold-eyed soldiers in camouflage outfits. Ten minutes after that I was on a train, surrounded by a dozen brass-voiced construction workers who were chatting in the manner of the towel-snappers in a high-school locker room. The air conditioner was broken and the temperature inside the car was 95 degrees. (I know this because one of the construction workers had a thermometer and was taking bets from his friends on how hot it was.) At first I tried to look at the whole thing as a spiritual exercise, but I gave up at Spuyten Duyvil and spent the next half-hour longing for my fellow passengers to drop dead.
The construction workers bailed out at Peekskill and the car fell blessedly silent. A few minutes later the train pulled into Cold Spring. No sooner had I finished the three-block walk to the Hudson House Inn than I felt the weight of the past three weeks slipping once more from my shoulders. I checked in, took a cold shower and a long nap, and spent the next day and a half doing nothing. Not exactly nothing, of course–you never do “nothing,” just as there’s no such thing as “silence” outside of an empty anechoic chamber–but as little as it’s possible for a work-obsessed urbanite to do. I ate five good meals, read a P.G. Wodehouse novel, indulged in a little light channel-surfing, and sat on a park bench by the Hudson River, listening to the birds and crickets and watching the sailboats glide by. Outside of chatting with the very nice women at the front desk and talking to my mother and three friends on my cell phone, I doubt I spoke more than a couple of hundred words aloud.
Come Thursday morning I repacked my bag, walked back up the hill to the train station, and returned in due course to my desk in Manhattan, where 158 e-mails awaited me. Since then I’ve
seen an off-Broadway play
and visited a downtown club, written a set of liner notes for a CD by a band I like, spent a day at the Louis Armstrong House and Archives, watched a movie on TV, listened to my first Ani DiFranco album, and made my last corrections to the second-pass proofs of All in the Dances.
Had these things happened a month ago, I would have hastened to cram them into a breathless “Consumables” posting, but I was persuaded to do otherwise after running across my own obituary on the Web:
Critic Terry Teachout Consumes Too Much Art, Violently Explodes