I’m a middle-aged semi-homebody whose chosen line of work requires me to spend a fair amount of time traveling. I don’t do it resentfully (except for the time I spend sitting on airplanes and in airports, which is pure hell). Not only do I love my job, but I often get to travel with Mrs. T, which makes everything infinitely easier. But even at its best, hotel life is…well, hotel life. No matter how long you’re staying in one place, you have to pack up all your stuff at regular intervals and go somewhere else, and “all your stuff” necessarily means “whatever you can cram into a suitcase.” Sooner or later you find yourself longing to be back home again, where you can empty out your suitcase and hang up your clothes in a closet that belongs to you.
I came home at midday Saturday after two months of near-nonstop coast-to-coast travel. On Monday there was nothing whatsoever that I absolutely had to do: no deadlines to hit, no shows to see. It was a reasonably sunny day and the weather was mild, so I took a long afternoon walk through the neighborhood, something that I love to do but haven’t done in far longer than I care to admit. I ended by climbing the West 187th Street Steps, a 130-step staircase that leads from the well-named Overlook Terrace to Hudson Heights, where Mrs. T and I live.
Time was when I climbed those steps four or five times each week, but life got complicated, and before I knew it I was sedentary once more. My walk was a down payment on a promise I made to myself months ago: When the weather gets nice again, I’ll start walking every day. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t, but at least I did do it yesterday, and once in a row is absolutely better than not at all.
Mrs. T is in Connecticut, so I spent the evening alone, contentedly curled up on the living-room couch. I lit a candle, sent a how-was-your-day e-mail to Our Girl in Chicago, tinkered idly with the script of my new play, started reading a biography of Roland Hayes, and watched Doc Hollywood. From time to time I looked around the room and reveled in the pieces of art on the walls, some of which are new enough that I haven’t yet had time to get used to their presence in the apartment.
When the movie was over, I went into the kitchen, where our compact discs are shelved, and brought back Everybody Digs Bill Evans, a 1958 album to which I last listened around the same time that I last climbed the West 187th Street Steps. Soon the air was full of gentle, pensive harmonies, and I found myself wondering, not for the first time, whether I was spending too much time on the road for my own good.
It didn’t take long for me to decide, as I always do, that I wouldn’t have it any other way—for now. What, after all, would I give up in return for being able to spend more time at home? The sunsets on Sanibel Island? My new career as a late-blooming playwright? The opportunity to direct Satchmo at the Waldorf at Palm Beach Dramaworks in May? The wonderful shows that I see all over America? No, it wouldn’t be a fair trade…not yet. I’m just not ready to start living a different kind of life.
That doesn’t mean I can’t try to strike a better balance between staying home and living out of a suitcase. Sure, you can listen to Everybody Digs Bill Evans anywhere in the world, even on an airplane. Somehow, though, “Young and Foolish” sounds different when you’re listening to it in your own living room, looking at your own copy of Milton Avery’s Gray Sea, and remembering that you’ll be spending the night in your own bed. That’s awfully hard to beat.
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Bill Evans plays “Young and Foolish” in 1958: