One of the minor ironies of my job is that in order to take time off, I have to see shows in advance and stockpile columns to be published in my absence, meaning that I usually end up spending good-sized chunks of my holidays recovering from the spasms of overwork that make them possible. In the five days preceding my trip from New York to Smalltown, U.S.A., for instance, I saw four shows, filed three Wall Street Journal columns and a Commentary essay, and caught a cold. On Wednesday I went to bed at two and arose at five-thirty, and by three o’clock that afternoon I was knocking on my mother’s back door halfway across the country, suitcase in hand. I slept for ten hours that night and took a two-hour nap the following day, after which I felt like myself again, more or less.
Outside of sleeping, I haven’t done much since I got here. My mother and I watched Cool Hand Luke and To Have and Have Not and took a drive around town to look at the Christmas lights. I check my e-mail from time to time, but it isn’t easy to surf the Web with a dialup connection nowadays, so instead I’ve been watching The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, which is a bit like listening to a kindergarten teacher from an upper-middle-class suburb cheerily reading horror stories out loud to her class.
I’ve finished one of the books I brought with me to Smalltown, a dullish biography of Tom Stoppard, and now am trying to decide whether to read myself to sleep with Bleak House, Fathers and Sons, or Master and Commander. I need to make up my mind pretty soon, for it’s drawing close to midnight and my eyelids are growing heavy. The only sounds I can hear are the soft whir of my iBook, the flickering whisper of rain on the rooftop, and an out-of-tune train whistle wailing in the distance. All my pieces are written, all my shows seen. For the moment, the rest of my life can take care of itself.