Sunday, July 01, 2001


It's summertime, and my living is easy

        I have lots of things to do. I am a busy man. Also, important. When my time comes, I want to look back and say I always gave 110 percent. I was a real action man.

        But not right now.

        Don't bother me.

        A month or two ago, somebody called me to go somewhere to do something for some group or whatever. I think it was important. Maybe I missed it.

        The thought troubles me. But not much. It's summer. I'm working hard on breathing and making sure I blink enough.

        Most people say they don't feel like doing things. I act on the feeling. Nothing ventured . . . nothing ventured.

        I wander out to the deck and look at the big tree. Someone told me it was a “shag-bark hickory.” I could look that up, but I won't. I assume the person was right. The bark sure is shaggy. Now, when people visit me (I never visit them, it's too much work), I look up knowingly and say, “Behold my shag-bark hickory!” and they think I'm smart.

        I have six months of unanswered mail. It's piled up like Mount Rumpke. Dear Constance Reed, of Connecticut Avenue in Cincinnati: I will write you back.

        To Bob Osher: The story idea you gave me is moving and joyous. I promise to call you about it. But I can't seem to find the phone. I believe it's way in the next room.

        Dear MasterCard: What payment?

Slowin' down

        I'm not lazy. I'm reflecting.

        People now are infected with this great need to achieve. Heaven help them. They want to lead “full” lives. So do I, and as soon as somebody brings me my bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, I will.

        Mothers read Proust to their children. In the womb. Fathers coach six teams at once. Both run their kids all over the known world: Games, friends' houses, malls, camps, tutors, shrinks.

        Not me, man.

        My kids hitch-hike, or they don't go at all.

        I have a 15-year-old. The great thing about that is, you can do nothing and still get something done. “Cut the grass, boy!” I command. “Clean the grout with a stiff-bristled toothbrush!”

        Occasionally, I will expend great effort and get a beer. “Someone get me a beer!” I shout.

        When I'm feeling zippy, I move from the deck to the room with the TV. I turn it on and watch whatever's playing. I don't change channels. Too much work. I see a lot of women talking about cooking or ex-husbands. Maybe they're talking about cooking their ex-husbands.

        I don't know. I don't pay attention. Too much work.

        You tell me what's better:

        Standing in line for hours for a 90-second thrill ride that makes you want to throw up?

        Or nothing.

        Sitting for three hours in Cinergy Field, watching the bad Reds next to a guy who thinks beer is a vitamin?

        Or nothing.

        Piling up the family and hauling it halfway across the country in a crammed car, to go to some beach where everyone suffers third-degree burns and demands to play stupid miniature golf every stinkin' night?

        Or nothing.

        People want me to play golf. Please.

Relaxation a lot of work

        What I really want is a porch. A porch with screens and furniture with cushions that smell like summer. That would take too much work, though. I'd have to call someone to build it.

        So I sit on the deck that came with the house.

        I don't know how people in tropical countries get anything done. It's summer all the time. I picture a whole nation of guys, hanging out on their decks, staring at the shag-bark hickory.

        How did Tom Hanks build that major raft in that movie Cast Away? I'm on that island by myself — no phones, wives, kids, weed-whackers — I'm propping my feet on the coconuts and taking a toe-count.

        I'd go there, too. In a minute. If it didn't take so much work. Until September, I'm on the deck, pondering the strain of breathing.

       Contact Paul Daugherty by phone: 768-8454; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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