Menu Close

Diarist A01 Day 22

EDLM Diary for May 12, 2023 


6:15 – the alarm sounds, stirring me from a half-hour of half-sleep. Lying there, cobwebs clearing, my disjointed thoughts include memories of last night’s heartbreaking basketball game. This suffering over sports is an illness. 


May 12 isn’t going to be the most everyday of days. The semester ended last week, so the rhythms of professional life have shifted from hustling to get this and that and this and that done under deadline to quiet, mostly uninterrupted days where I have to work up motivation to keep my office projects moving. And at about 7 last night, my boss texted and said, “Feel free to work from home tomorrow.” This changes things considerably, as I ordinarily have an hour one-way commute. This is going to be the first work-from-home EDLM diary day since the pandemic. 


The first effect of WFH is that I can start the day with a bike ride. I chit chat with C., who has to go to a PT appointment, as I put on sneakers and fill a water bottle. Then I pop the garage door and get on my bike, heading to the bike trail a mile from my house. It’s almost 70 degrees and humid but there’s a breeze, and it’s quite pleasant. I cycle north—the trail is uncrowded this early, just a few joggers or dog-walkers. This is the third day this week that I’ve started in exactly this way, and there are patterns: a gaggle of 4-5 old guys who walk on the trail each morning; a seemingly unhoused guy who gets food on a paper plate from a restaurant on one side of the trail and takes it to his tent in a little patch of woods next to the Kroger parking lot, the bells ringing at the blind school. (All this in north Indy, where I live).  


While I cycle my mind bounces among various things: stuff I have to do today (I forgot about an email I wanted to send first thing), a Zoom I need to set up, what to eat for breakfast, the weekend ahead, that damn basketball game. 


An hour or so later, I’m on the couch in my home office writing this, coffee brewing, having sent that email. Time for breakfast (mixed cereals, yogurt, fruit) and a little warming up into the day.  


It’s 7:59 — and I check work email before I assemble breakfast. One work email, quickly despatched, and a bunch of junk.  


I put together breakfast and watch the last half of Ted Lasso while I eat, pausing here and there to check my email box. C. comes in and sets up working at the dining room table. I finish eating and finish the show and go back to email, setting up a Zoom for this afternoon and answering a couple more messages. Now to work in earnest—I have a list of tasks, some of which require some writing and thinking, and I would like to have them done by two or so, so I can spend the rest of the afternoon working on writing projects. I deposit my dishes in the sink and set up in the home office. 


Almost three hours pass between writing emails and a couple of recommendation letters; I kind of can’t believe it when I look at the clock in the upper right-corner of my computer screen and see that it’s 10:48. — I take a short break to open this file and write some notes. I guess I’ve kind of been in the zone because I haven’t had many thoughts beyond writing and revising/editing these nomination letters and carefully wording this email and that. Now that I’ve come to the surface, I’m hearing the birds chirp outside and noticing that my butt is getting sore from sitting on this couch in my office. I usually make a point to set my alarm so I don’t sit for such long periods. In just the last couple minutes the phone has been vibrating with text messages: my dentist (or my dentist’s bot, rather) thanking me for having an appointment yesterday and asking for feedback (pass!), one of the rec-letter people coordinating submission with me; and a friend letting me know that he listened to Captain Beefheart today for the first time.  


I stand and stretch and walk about the place for a bit, then settle back in: time for a review of the to-do list and some quick prioritization. Outside, landscaping guys are running their loud machines. I write these lines and then open my email, and for the next hour or so work on my task list. I write promotional copy for Orientation handouts for the summer, and forward emails containing other such copy that others had to generate.  


At about Noon—I cut up some chicken and put it in a salad C made for me, and slather it with dressing, and cut a hunk of wheat bread, and sit on the couch in my office eating it and reading online (including the masochistic act of reading about last night’s basketball game, as well as checks of Twitter, Facebook, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post—also somewhat masochistic in these times). I play some trivia games online for a bit, watching the clock to leave time to prepare for a Zoom at 1:15, which will require me getting some thoughts together. 


At about 1:05 — I walk out to the living room and tell C (who works from home perhaps 90 percent of the time) that I’m getting on a Zoom in a few minutes. She says, “Give yourself a minute of pleasure first and go out and look at the yard.” The landscapers cleaned up and laid mulch etc, and it does indeed look very good. At 1:14 my phone rings—my boss, but for some reason it goes straight to voice mail. At 1:15 I get on Zoom and my colleague K gets on; we’re waiting for my boss. My phone rings again and it’s her, not realizing we are supposed to be on Zoom. She gets off and we get on Zoom, and discuss an Issue. At 1:40 she says she has to go pick up her partner, and will call each of us back in the next half hour. This messes me up slightly, as I was planning to go to a coffee shop and do some writing; I’ll just be a bit delayed. And during the delay, here I am, writing this. I am feeling tired and am ready for a coffee soon (please). I need to revive a bit because we’ve got a social occasion tonight—an outing of the West Side Dining Club (last heard from in my Dec. 31-Jan. 2 diary for this project). We’re going to a Pakistani place tonight. I would like to be awake for it. 


While I wait for my boss to call, I finish up and send the rest of the promo materials and send the recommendation letters. She calls and we talk for 20 minutes, debriefing about Various Issues. When we are done, I pack up, converse briefly with C., telling her not to clean up the kitchen as I will do that when I return, and go to the neighborhood coffee shop, arriving at about 3 p.m. When I get there I’m surprised to see an unhoused man, young-ish (maybe 30), sleeping at one of the outside tables, with his grocery cart full of belongings pulled up beside him and empty food containers on the table in front of him. Inside, I get a drip coffee from a tureen and sip it, finding it room temperature. I tell the barista that the coffee isn’t hot, and she says she’ll brew some fresh. I go to the basement and set up, only to find the conversation of my neighbor distracting; he’s a young guy who is talking volubly to someone on his phone in another language. So I relocate to a chair upstairs and open a book I’m reading for one of my writing projects and read in it. The hot coffee comes out and I make several trips to the urn to refill my small cup, noting that I start coming to life a bit as I drink. I’m feeling kind of uninspired, frankly, and engage in the kind of self-talk I’ve been doing since forever, saying it’s OK it’s fine if I have an occasional low-energy day and I’ll get back on the horse on Monday, &c &c &c &c. In this general mood I continue to read and make the occasional margin note, holding at bay fleeting impulses towards self-reproach at not making the best use of this time, especially given the gift of not having to drive on either end of it. Out the window to my left, I see the homeless man, hunched over a notebook, writing, and frequently scratching his head. He’s being more productive than me, I think. 


At about 4:30 I pack up and walk back to the house, noting as I pass that the unhoused guy is singing to himself and keeping time by beating lightly on the table with his hands. At the bar next door to the coffee shop, a couple early starters are seated at the outside tables. It feels like it could rain. Rush hour is starting and traffic is backed up by a couple blocks on 52nd Street, so, jaywalking, I have to tentatively take a few steps between cars and see if there’s anything coming from the east.  


Back home, I sit on the living room couch with C and chat about this and that. Her annual mother’s day story on Facebook (she always posts a memory of her mother on MD weekend); her sister’s week of having watched her grandkids; her nephew’s wife’s trip to South Africa; other memories of her mother; the restaurant we’re checking out tonight. I eat 2/3 of a banana while we talk. After a bit, I say, “Well, I’m going to clean up the kitchen and get a shower.” Yes, reader, all this time I’ve been unbathed. WFH, unbathed: like early Covid times. Except without the enervating fear of other people; and with the pleasure of coffee shops open for business and filled with unmasked people, happily chatting and drinking fancy beverages with silly names. 


I proceed, turning on some music in the kitchen using the circa-2012 technology of an old Ipod and an Ipod dock—which of course I stopped loading music onto years ago, so that playing its music on spin is like a time capsule of what I was into 10 years ago. (In today’s spin, including some skips: T Rex, Nat King Cole trio, Stevie Wonder, Beck, Sergio Mendez). I empty the dishwasher, wash some dishes, clean the counters. Then I floss, brush my teeth, shower, and dress—like a normal professional person, only 10 hours late. That brings me to about 5:30, and I open my computer and write these notes after putting some music on. (The sax player David Murray playing Grateful Dead songs). I’m starting to get a little hungry and am looking ahead pleasantly to the West Side dining club. I open a tab and look at the restaurant’s menu: Indian-like, but some intriguing differences, among them: beets! Beet masala, beet paneer, etc. And there’s an apparently beloved fried chicken truck that also sells its chicken inside. So, this should be cool. I listen to music for a bit, breathing and relaxing, and look at social media, until  

6:45, when we head to the restaurant, following google maps’ instructions to a strip mall a couple blocks from Lafayette Square, a 15-minute drive, C. driving. It’s a small L-shaped strip mall that also includes a Mexican bar and restaurant, a couple hair salons, one of them called “Dominican Hair,” a vaping store, and a couple others. The restaurant is long and narrow and has a chill, 90s light-green color scheme and a clubhouse vibe, with a ping pong table in front and another game table of some kind, along with some couches, along one wall. The dining area has tables of various shapes and sizes with aluminum chairs. The bass of a Mexican polka band next door is shaking the walls. J & M are late; M & P get there a couple minutes after us, and, as we sit and wait, through the windows we watch a steady stream of people enter the adjacent building, where a large party is going on (hence the live band). Mexican people, I gather, many of the men in cowboy boots and straw cowboy hats and carrying 12-packs of Modelo, the women in dresses, carrying gifts.  


J & M arrive almost a half-hour late, having gotten lost trying to follow their phone’s instructions, M bearing little vases packed with tulips for each of us. We order a bunch of dishes, including beets and paneer, “very spicy” ginger chicken that wasn’t, really; goat biryani (I don’t eat mammals any more so I abstained); naan and rice and a couple other meat dishes. Delicious, decidedly different spice palate from Indian. We pass dishes around and chat amiably and somewhat aimlessly—kind of a sense of nothing-much new with anybody. We have a couple laughs and linger for a while, parting at about 9 in the parking lot, where some party guests, the women dressed in floor-length dresses with spaghetti straps, are laughing and chatting in Spanish.  


Now we’re home and I’m back on the couch in the living room, typing this, while C. channel surfs. I pick up one of the two books I’m reading, A Fever in the Heartland, Timothy Egan’s non-fiction account of the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan in the twenties, focusing substantially on Indiana and D. C. Stephenson, the Indianapolis-based leader. I read for a bit, getting sleepy, while also monitoring the Phillies game on my phone. A little after ten, C. says she’s going to bed. I’m getting too tired to read, and the game looks interesting, so I put on headphones and get up the radio feed of the game and lie down in bed and listen to the last two innings, half asleep for much of it. I take off the headphones and put them on the nightstand, but not carefully, and they fall with a loud bang. C. stirs and says, “Are you OK?” and I say yeah I just dropped the headphones. Within a minute, I’m out.