I’ve heard this question a lot lately, thanks to my now-official state of post-bookstore managerial duties. Ironically, after all the emotions and cocktails yesterday, I went into the store this morning to unhook the two cable boxes, which I then brought to the Bright House offices on Curry Ford Road. That’s the kinda guy I am– who in their right mind would even dream of bringing a car to that traffic-choked neighborhood? But I did; also, it saved me from having to meet the cable guy in person at the store– you know how uncertain THEIR windows of opportunity can be. And I have a life to live.
Speaking of which, here’s what I have planned:
1. Ring up Tallahassee and tap into the abundance of unemployment funds they offer. Why not? We pay enough taxes; though the amount they give you is nothing to retire on, it provides a buffer. And I’m in very good company– the best-dressed people line up at the unemployment agencies! (It’s the latest thing in corporate chic.)
2. Finish my stories. Some of you are privy to my stories, and some are not. For years I have been working on a collection of shorts based on my early 1960’s experiences in Italian Catholic Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Everyone I ever met from birth through 1965 stars in them– family, friends, lunatics up on the Avenue– everyone. The lady in the bakery with the carefully-powdered goiter on her forehead; Mr. Gargiulo the fruit man with the permanent bend in his neck; Grandpa with the bastone; vomiting choir boys, mean dogs, the ladies in the beauty parlor… nobody is spared. These stories will propel me onto Oprah’s couch as one of her last guests, and I will be able to buy a house in Key West. Yes– I envision it. It will happen. One big editor has already seen them, and ALMOST loved them !!
3. Go to the beach. I haven’t been down the ocean in years. Key West doesn’t count; the only ocean there is for tourists. The rest of us avoid it. Maybe I will go to the naturel beach over at Playa Linda. Sssh! But I don’t have wrinkles at my age, nor do I want any, so I will enshroud myself in protective towels. I won’t look like a healthy, middle-aged man strolling the shore; I will look like Helena scanning the horizon as she awaits the ships from Tarsus.
4. Paint. I used to paint a lot when I was younger; my father showed me how, and then I took some classes in college. Remember, Carol? Remember the life-sized nude study that I had to paint? The canvas blew off the top of the taxicab on the Gowanus and I had to retrieve it– with the meter running!! The hairstyle made my subject look like Patty Duke circa 1963– and it was a man! What a class that was– all those young Hadassah lovelies, and me. And when my teacher saw my oil painting of some gnarled trees backed by a sunset, she said “maybe you can get a job painting landscapes for Woolworth’s.” Bitch. Just because she had one painting in a gallery somewhere.
5. Clean and organize. I’m not happy unless all the sheets and towels in the linen closet are arranged by color, pattern, warp, and woof. It’s nice to be able to look in there and know that at least one thing on Earth is as it should be. And I also have to replace all the baseboards, and paint the entire house. And plant vegetables and herbs. And get ready for an onslaught of company this year, The Year of the Visitors: Michael; Carol and Matt; Sammy; Matthew; and Nicola from Italy. God forbid they should have to do without baseboards!
6. Dust off the resume. I haven’t used it in many, MANY years– never had to! Remember in that book Sheila Levine Is Dead And Living In New York? Sheila didn’t get her job through the New York Times– she got it through Rose Lehman’s sister! That’s how I always got my jobs– through knowing someone. As a result, my time-warped resume has things on it like “assisted Moses with parting of Red Sea.” “Escorted Marie Antoinette up the scaffold.” “Helped Mr. Roosevelt forge the New Deal, even though Eleanor tried to take all the credit.” It’s time for an update, don’t you think?
7. Etc. This is what I’m most afraid of, because, in the past, etc. has consisted of roaming the house in tired pajamas; checking eMail every five minutes; opening the refrigerator every three minutes; drinking coffee all day; staying up all night reading mangy copies of Mildred Pierce and The Nun’s Story; driving to small towns and browsing through the petrified offerings in the local five and ten cent stores; and more! Etc. is the most fun of all, though guilt usually lets me indulge for just a few days. We shall see… but I do have this very clear, very good feeling that I’ll be on Oprah’s couch in a few months… stay tuned!