On Being Alone

October 15, 2010

I think this may be true of all writers to some degree or another, but for me at least, a certain amount of alone time is required to attend to the business of wordcraft. For the most part though, I am a social person, and I quite like being out and about, meeting friends and making new acquaintances, many of whom end up providing fodder for my various writing endeavors. Case in point: Saki and I were in the bank making a long-overdue deposit yesterday, when we ran into Tom Rath, a Prince Edward Island writer of some note, and a person I consider a “good acquaintance.” We don’t know one another well enough to be friends yet, I think, but we seem to be on that road, and he is someone I am always happy to meet in my travels. We stopped in for a coffee together at Tim Hortons, and chatted about this and that, but primarily about the imminent departure of Saki-chan, who had less than 24 hours left in Canada before returning to Tokyo. “Well, you’re going to be knocking around that big house on your own for the next little bit,” Tom said to me thoughtfully, between sips of Tim’s finest. True enough, it was a subject that had occupied my thoughts off and on for the past week or more. For the next month, I will be doing my own cooking and cleaning, showering rather less often and talking to myself a bit more than I would typically do in the company of others. I will also plant my butt in my Aeron and get a good bit of writing done: the December Whodunit column for BookPage (and perhaps the January one as well if I get really ambitious), a whack of blog posts (including one about the cars of TV and cinema gumshoes, as the “Watching the Detectives…Drive” series has gotten quite a lot of response), and the finishing touches to the outline of the sequel to my as yet unpublished novel, Cadillac Haiku. And, if past years are any indication, I will be experiencing bipolar mood swings between giddy independence and abject loneliness, often on a minute-by-minute basis.

Anyway, back to Tom: in the course of the conversation, he and I traded our best recent jokes, two of which I feel compelled to share with you, as they are a) both pretty funny, and b) (surprisingly) not off color. The first one takes place in the clubhouse of a golf course, where the Saturday afternoon duffers have gathered for a post-game drink or two. One notices a friend at the bar, and calls out by way of greeting, “How was your game, Fred?” Fred ambles over, drink in hand, and replies, “Not so good, Al. I was partnered with Charlie, and on the 13th fairway, just as he was getting ready to take a swing, he had a heart attack and dropped dead on the spot.” Al is visibly shaken, and after a moment asks “What happened then?” Fred’s reply: “Well, you know, it was pretty much the ‘same old same old’ for the rest of the game—hit the ball, drag Charlie, hit the ball, drag Charlie…”

The second joke involves a New York mother, a member of one of the ethnicities known for doting upon male children, and her young son, spending the afternoon at the beach. Mom is slathering on sunscreen when she looks up to check on the whereabouts of Junior. To her horror, a rogue wave of epic proportion sweeps her son out to sea while she watches helplessly. She begins to pray, more strongly than ever before in her life (and in a marked Brooklyn accent, I might add): “Please God, return my son to me; he is such a perfect boy, and he is my entire life. Please don’t take him from me.” To her immense surprise, a second huge wave breaks upon the shore, and her son, bedraggled but very much alive, is deposited onto the sand. The mother looks back toward the heavens, shakes her fist at the sky, and says in a loud voice: “He hadda hat!”

So thanks most kindly, Tom, for the pleasant interlude (and the belly laughs). And now, butt in Aeron, back to the writing…