Every year at New Year’s, I vow to make resolutions, and every year I fail. We usually ring in New Year’s Day at my mother’s beach house on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I stay an extra couple of days alone and mean to think deep thoughts about what I should be doing next. I walk on the beach, I take the dog to the woods, but I rarely come up with much the pressure of the occasion is simply too great. I try really hard to get inspired, but mostly, I’m just cold.
The real New Year for me is the start of the school year. It’s one of childhood’s most useful hangovers: your pencils are sharpened, you’ve got a new notebook and a new pair of shoes. More important, you’re sick of summer- of the heat, the bugs, the endless disasters. Fall is cool, sane, and everybody’s on the same mission. Even the adjectives tell you to get yourself in gear. The weather is “brisk,” the days “crisp.” You’re all suited up, ready to get cracking.
In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal there were two especially good pieces. The first by the always hilarious and spot-on P. J. O’Rourke was all about Americans’ inability to actually enjoy a vacation “we work too hard at it to relax” and how summer‚ (being hot as hell and crowded with other relentless vacationers) is the worst possible season for them in the first place. The other piece, by the ever-stylish and adorable Rita Konig was about organizing your “back-to-school” desk, but also about the importance of the short break. She makes the excellent point that a long weekend in the summer seems so short that you feel like you’ve been cheated out of a “real” vacation. But that same long weekend in fall becomes a luxury that completely recharges you.
So, my first resolution is to make like Rita and schedule lots of long weekends (and to organize my desk). They are far cheaper than the Grand Tour, and cities “Chicago, Boston, Charleston, San Francisco” are dead sexy in the fall. It’s all about museums and restaurants, hitting the streets and walking a lot. Classic summer playgrounds “the Hamptons, the Cape, the Berkshires” are also at their best. The generally unattractive sea of humanity has evaporated and the weather is fine enough that you can still avail yourself of the shore or the countryside or a good book and a hammock. (See this week’s piece on the 1770 House and get inspired.)
The rest of my resolutions are a lot more mundane: clean out my email box (I can’t bring myself to type the number of messages it contains); walk at least five miles every morning; listen to more new music; thrill my editors by meeting deadlines; eliminate the terrifying piles on my desk; answer snail mail and phone messages the moment they come in.
I have a feeling I’ll excel at the long weekend assignment, but even a B-minus on the rest will be a huge improvement. I’ll have no excuse, really, since I’ll have so much more time on my hands to focus. All My Children and One Life to Live are making the move from television to the web, and I hereby resolve not to follow them there.