A great Baltimore bar, but not such a great lifestyle for this Baltimorean
Earlier this year, probably in July, I began noticing that friends on Twitter1 were posting this weird little grid in yellow, green, blue, and purple, declaring their Connections scores. I’m no bandwagon jumper; I’ve avoided Wordle all these years. I was in an intensely monogamous relationship with the NYT Spelling Bee, with occasional flirtations with Letter Boxed. But I got curious about this new game and tried it.
Connections ask players to look at 16 words and divide them into four categories of four. It was in beta this summer, then added to the official NYT list of games in September. It asks you to think on multiple levels, to see every meaning of a word. I tend to get it quickly, except when I don’t. The fact that one gets only so mistakes makes it even more fun.
And once it’s over, you’re so sad because you have to wait until the next day to play again.
In mid-August, I finished my 30th book. Maybe it’s my 31st, I can never keep track and I’m tired of looking it up. But I didn’t submit the book until mid-September for various reasons. And while the last two weeks of August were full of back-to-school missions, and the first week of September was consumed by a (wonderful) wedding in the family, my life was suddenly very, very quiet and contained. I was idle for the first time in years. So my day began with puzzles: Spelling Bee, Connections, Letter Boxed, even Tiles. I also filled my hours with a secret project that I’m not going to talk about in public until November or December. I met friends for drinks at the Idle Hour, a Baltimore bar so wonderful that I hope I don’t regret telling people about it.
But drinks were a once-a-week thing at best. Every day, I would sit at my dining room table, work my puzzles, then take walks and listen to recordings related to my secret project, and ask myself all the musical questions: Where Am I Going? What’s it All About, Alfie? Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?
I got crafty. I began experimenting more and more with decoupage, making a pair of shoes for the bride and groom, using photocopies of their multiple (yes, I’m bragging) Shouts & Murmurs pieces. I then made a Homicide 8-Ball for my ex. (All your questions have to be about murder.) I took a paper-cutting workshop with Rosa Leff and, boy, did I suck at it. But it gave me even more appreciation for the work of this amazing artist. Undaunted by my lack of talent, I made plans to attend a mosaic workshop at my beloved AVAM.
My father retired from The Sun2 in September 1995. He was 18 months older than I am now. He kept his hand in for a while, writing op-eds and books reviews, but freelance opportunities began drying up in the late ‘90s, early aughts. He became increasingly idle and I don’t think that was good for him. He died in 2014.
Someone — maybe my mom? — told me that women are better at retirement than men. She said women have an innate talent for puttering and projects. Lord knows, at 92, my mom is walking this walk, even if she wasn’t the one who talked this talk. She is taking advantage of so many things at her new home — lectures, musical performances, an outing to Camden Yards. (Go, O’s, btw, but I’m too superstitious to say more about them.)
Maybe this is all true. A little sexist, but true. However, I’m trying to stay in the writing game for another 10-15 years. So — hooray — I have a wonderfully challenging revision ahead of me, the best possible kind: My editor has asked me to take a good book and make it better. The manuscript is winging its way back to me; soon I’ll be working on my own puzzle, the most joyous book I’ve written in years. Oh, and by the way — it centers on a secondary character in the Tess Monaghan universe, Mrs. Blossom, and, yes, Tess makes an appearance. Via FaceTime, but that still counts.
Read/Reading3: Happiness Falls, Angie Kim; California Bear, Duane Swierczynski; Tom Lake, Ann Patchett (audio); Doppelgänger, Naomi Klein (audio).
Rereading: Tony, Patrick Dennis. One of my favorite Dennis books. There’s a lot in Dennis’s books that hasn’t aged well, however, and his depiction of a Black gay poet in Tony is a particular low point. But his willingness to ponder how the duped sometimes remain fascinated with those who duped them makes for one of the darkest books in his bibliography.
Me, me, me: I bought a beautiful typewriter. I did not realize it had an Italian keyboard. (Olivetti, duh, Lippman.) Still using it.
X does not exist. X does not mark the spot. I recognize X only as the ratings for films with gloriously punny names. You’ve Got Male. Village of the Rammed. Fuck You, Elon. (I could have concocted an X-rated movie pun involving his name, but he’s not worth the effort.)
The paper where my father and I once worked is now the Baltimore Sun, but it was once two newspapers known as The Sun and the Evening Sun. Locals called them the Sunpapers.
My reading looks sparse because I’m doing so much reading for the secret project. About which I’m being uncharacteristically mum because I’m worried I’m not going to finish it.