I noticed the other day that I’d stopped taking time off on weekends. No, it’s not that I’m in the vise-like grip of an obsession: it’s that my weekly routine gradually changed without my quite realizing it. Now that I’m a working drama critic, I usually see press previews of Broadway and off-Broadway shows on Saturday and Sunday, making it all but impossible for me to get out of town (save by complicated prior arrangement) or do much of anything else. Of course this doesn’t preclude my knocking off for a couple of days in the middle of the week, but since I’ve never in my life had a job that required me to work on weekends, I’m finding it hard to get used to thinking in terms of taking, say, Wednesdays and Thursdays off. My recent trip to Cold Spring was a step in the right direction, but the fact that I hadn’t been there since November says something unpleasant about my continuing failure to adjust to the rhythms of my new life. More often than not I spend the entire week writing and going to other performances, then glance at my schedule on Friday night and suddenly remember that I’m not done yet.
An old friend of mine used to take every Friday night off without fail. He’d come home from work, retire to his study, eat dinner from a tray, and spend the whole evening listening to his huge, meticulously organized collection of 78s, through which he worked his way in strict alphabetical order every few years. No matter what else was happening in the world, however dire it might be (or seem to be), he shut the shop down one night a week and disappeared from the world. I spent many Friday nights with him in the last two years of his life, and I enjoyed them not only because he was a great listener, but also because spending the evening with him prevented me from spending it in an aisle seat or a noisy nightclub, or at my desk.
In the years since my friend died, I’ve never had a night of the week I could always call my own, and though I have countless excuses for my inability to do as he did, I know it’s really my fault–just as it’s my fault that I’m writing this paragraph when I know I should be snuggled up in my loft, reading Proust in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Perhaps my first novel will start like this: For a long time I used to go to bed really, really late….