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The last time I appeared in this space, I wrote about things to do during this, the winter of our discontent. They were all out-of-doors or in open, public spaces. Here are a few more suggestions, but these are indoors activities, things you don’t have to leave home to do.
COOK. Dig out your old copies of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and try some recipes you’ve never had time to before. Of course, you can use any cookbook or the internet. I like Julia because her recipes are complex and therefore time consuming (I’ve got nothing but time), and the results are invariably delicious. Check the ingredients to make sure that you know what they are, that they are available to you and look up the meaning of “mis en place.” Go for an old favorite such as boeuf Bourguignon, coq au vin or cassoulet.
READ that book you were supposed to have read in high school or college that you never did. Make it a big one. Try Tolstoy. He really is a master. “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace” are both epic and wonderful. Something a little more recent? Try “Gravity’s Rainbow.” For non-fiction, Ron Chernow’s biographies are fat and rich. “Hamilton” and “Grant” are good ones. For the ultimate big book, there is always James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses,” but don’t try it without a guide (there are several good ones) because you might hurt yourself. I did. If you make it to Molly Bloom’s speech at the end (don’t cheat), it will be spring and the vaccine will probably be available.
WORK A JIGSAW PUZZLE. If you haven’t done this recently, you may be surprised. There are now wooden puzzles for adults with laser cut pieces in intricate shapes (a bicycle, a flower, an umbrella) that are not only fun but are “suitable for framing.” Some are original designs, some famous works of art, some copies of pictures or photographs you have submitted. All are fairly expensive, but if you look at them on-line, you’ll see why: They are very cool. Three of the manufacturers are Nautilus, Liberty and Wentworth.
WRITE LETTERS. I once asked my dad what his mother did since she had a maid to do what my mother did (cook, clean, wash, iron, etc.) “She wrote letters,” he said. Every morning, all morning. Yes, it is a lost art, but you can find it again if you want to. Rediscover the satisfaction of sealing an envelope and licking a stamp. Also, let the other guy rediscover the thrill of finding a personal letter in the mailbox. Use stationary, a special pen, a fun stamp. Why not just e-mail or call? No reason except that for once in your life, and maybe just for once, you have the time to sit down with pen and paper and say to someone you care about something that can’t quite be said any other way.
WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. You’ve always wanted to. Now’s the time. How about a family history or your memoirs? How about how to sell advertising space or grill a steak perfectly or make your own beer? Or tell about that guy you met hitchhiking in France one long ago summer. Or you could write a silly little piece like this one and try to find someone to post or publish it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you know more about it than I do. Now, don’t try to do it all at once. Hemingway thought he’d done a day’s work if he produced two good pages, and he often threw away the first. Start with one page and don’t think about the second until you get there. Also, don’t start out to write a book even if you end up with one. And tell your story as if to someone you know: one of your kids, your best friend, an old colleague, maybe your father, even if he is no longer around.
WATCH THAT CLASSIC MOVIE you’ve never seen. How about everyone’s #1, “Citizen Kane,” or another great Orson Welles film, “The Third Man?” Try Stanley Kubrick’s first, “Paths of Glory,” or Clark Gable’s best, “It Happened One Night.” More recent films showing up on best ever lists include “The Graduate” and “Chinatown,” or how about a classic western such as “Shane” or “High Noon?” All of these movies have one thing in common: They hold up well; they are as good now as they were then. Or you can tune into TCM, and let the people there do the work for you.
TAKE AN ON-LINE TECHNOLOGY CLASS AT THE EVANSTON LIBRARY. These popular zoom classes also offer one-on-one appointments and cover everything from computer basics and understanding the cloud to “how to use the internet,” “how to use your i-phone”, and “how to use e-mail.” User friendly for all ages.
MAKE SOMETHING RIGHT. What? I don’t know, but you do. Here’s an example. For years I’ve been bothered by an offhand remark made by one of my former students in a public speaking class about another kid in the class. Apparently the second kid had been terrified of getting up in front of the group. If I had realized it, I hadn’t done anything to help. So recently I tracked him down and apologized. He told me that not long ago he addressed an audience of four hundred, and I felt a bit better.
Always wanted to TRY YOGA OR MEDITATION? Now is the time. There is a huge variety of apps for guided meditations that range from a few minutes to a couple of hours, and YouTube has dozens of free on-line yoga classes guaranteed (almost) to relieve your stress and increase your peace of mind in the comfort of your own living room. Exercise classes are also available.
CALL SOMEONE EVERY DAY. Make a list of people you like to talk to. Include the usual suspects, but also people you haven’t spoken with in a while: old roommates, second cousins, even former spouses. Call one person on the list every day and have a substantial conversation. If you need to get out of the house, do this from your car. You probably don’t have to worry that the person won’t have time to talk because he or she is likely to be as bored and unbusy as you are.
Now, here are THREE THINGS NOT TO DO. Don’t change your TV viewing habits. In a word, don’t watch more. Don’t change your drinking habits. Don’t drink more. And don’t become a hermit even if you never leave home. Stay in touch with your family, friends and neighbors.