Once Upon a Time

(My dinner speech at the [virtual] Las Vegas Writers Conference… in case you missed it.)

Not long ago, children frolicked in playgrounds, families spent fortunes at Disneyland, people traveled to faraway places. Then we were told to “stay home, self-quarantine, shelter-in-place.” Bars and restaurants shuttered. Movie theaters locked doors and sporting events were cancelled. Libraries closed up shop. Businesses considered non-essential were told to take a time out. Even my housekeepers said they were working from home.

Golf courses, however, are still open. Go figure.

It was beginning to feel like a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Then I thought, hold on a minute. This is a writer’s dream come true. No distractions. No hanging out in a bookstore or the mall or going to the movies or the bowling alley (which, full disclosure, I haven’t been to since I moved to Oregon ten years ago). I can’t lounge in a coffee shop for hours chatting with other bibliophiles. I can’t even go to the gym. Nothing to keep me from writing my great American novel. Besides, if Mary Shelley could create Frankenstein in one weekend trapped indoors by stormy weather (at age eighteen, no less!), then I can certainly get a good start, if not finish, my own monster of a tale in the many weeks it appears I’ll be home.

 My age, you ask? Don’t go there.

Back up. I can’t go to the gym? I can finish off that container of double double chocolate fudge gelato in the freezer without feeling guilty about not going to the gym because I can’t go to the gym? That’s cool. I don’t have to worry that my dentist will give me a lecture about what the sugar is doing to my teeth because I can’tgo to the dentist? Double cool.

I now have all the time in the world to write. What could be better than that? I don’t even have to quit early on Sunday to go to my mother-in-law’s marathon family dinner. (Is today Sunday? I have no idea.) I can finish reading my library books and not worry about getting in trouble for returning them after they are due. I don’t have to organize all those receipts and documents to file my taxes for THREE. MORE. MONTHS. What a time-sucker that is.

This isolation is sounding better all the time.

So, since I have all the time in the world to write, maybe before I get started I’ll catch up on Stephen King’s twitter feed. Haven’t heard from him in a while. Then I’ll scroll through Facebook and read all the “we can do it,” “we’re in this together,” and “take care of yourself,” posts from friends. Except for that guy from high school who doesn’t know how to use there, they’re, and their.

I need to unfriend him.

But what about this “take care of yourself” message? I can’t even go to my hairdresser! Luckily, my Facebook feed has an ad for Madison Reed, a total hair color kit delivered right to my door. And it comes with a video tutorial! Awesome. I know I’ll feel so much better getting rid of the gray that I’ll have even more energy to write.

Maybe I’ll order two kits.

Then I wonder how others are taking care of themselves. Before I get caught up in character development or story arc, I’ll check Kim Kardashian on Instagram to see how she’s doing cooped up in her big mansion (isn’t cooped up and mansion an oxymoron?) Anyway, if she can survive being cooped up with four kids and Kanye, well, then I can handle my husband and my cat, Webster, (yes, he’s named after the dictionary) who just curled up on top of my laptop to take a nap.

I suppose this is a good time to make myself useful. Maybe catch up on ironing, which I haven’t done in two weeks, but then I realize, there is no ironing because I’ve been in my pajamas for two weeks. Or is it three?

This is the perfect time to watch the new season of Money Heist, which dropped on Netflix this week. Maybe I’ll sign up for Hulu’s 30-day free trial and binge watch the first two seasons (sixteen episodes) of Killing Evebefore the new season is released. I have so much time, in fact, I can sign up for Amazon Prime’s 30-day free trial and watch all three seasons (26 episodes) of The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, which I hear is marvelous. I might have to create a spreadsheet to keep all this straight.

Or maybe I should just make a big bowl of popcorn (my go-to meal when it’s my turn to cook) and zone out on the Hallmark channel’s three-day “Miracles of Christmas Movie Marathon,” which aired last recently and my husband cheerfully recorded. Who doesn’t love a little Christmas in quarantine?

But no, I can’t do that. I can’t sit for all those hours doing nothing. Sure, I sit for hours in front of my computer trying to write, but that’s not nothing. That’s writing.

Maybe I need a project. Yes, I’ll go on Pinterest to see what I can do with all these wine corks, because, well … I seem to be collecting a lot of wine corks. And speaking of wine, now that I’m home all day, I’ll be here to sign for my next delivery when UPS shows up. Salud!

And while I’m waiting for UPS, I could start writing, but I really want uninterrupted time, so instead, I think I’ll go on Amazon and order … oh, toilet paper temporarily unavailable. Well, I can at least order a book or two, because— though my husband disagrees—I can never have enough books.

By the way, my husband wants to move to Portland. Not that the city isn’t quarantined like Bend, where I live—because it is—but because topless dancers are delivering take-out orders. I am not making this up … well, not about the topless dancers delivering takeout. That’s true. Seriously; google it.

So, back to writing, or rather, waiting for Webster to wake up from his catnap to start writing. Which gets me thinking: when we say a ‘catnap,’ we’re talking about maybe 20 minutes, waking up refreshed and ready for anything. I have never known a cat to ‘nap’ for only 20 minutes. Webster could be zonked out all day.

Anyway, listening to continuous news coverage, we’ll all be homebound for a while, which means I still have plenty of time to write. In the meantime, I can do a few things around the house that never seem to get done, like cleaning out that mystery drawer in the kitchen. How many pizza cutters do I really need? Who has 4 carrot peelers? I don’t even like carrots. There are extra sets of keys to cars I don’t own anymore and to houses I don’t live in anymore. There are plugs to electronic devices that don’t exist anymore. I find a corroded 9-volt battery for the smoke detector in case it beeps in the middle of the night (which, of course, it always does). There’s a mix-tape. Who even has a cassette player?

And then there’s all that loose change. I look at the basket filled with pennies and think it has to cost more to make a penny than a penny is worth. As soon as I can go out in public again, I’m lugging these pounds of pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters to one of those coin-counting machines and buying myself something with the payout. Based on the weight, it’ll be a new car.

I make a feeble attempt at moving Webster off my laptop so I can finally begin writing, keeping in mind that he is a descendant of the tiger and I don’t want to lose an eye, or a finger, so that I can’t write. He does not cooperate. Not to worry. I still have plenty of time to work on that great American novel.

And since the health professionals keep emphasizing how important it is to exercise, I’ve taken up curling … with my Roomba and a mop. Unfortunately, my husband thinks he needs to be my coach. Then I remember that golf courses are still open, so perhaps I should take up the game (again), but since my husband really was a golf coach, that’s not such a good idea. Maybe I’ll encourage him to move to Portland after all.

I’m running out of tasks. The lint screen in the dryer is cleaner than when I bought it. I arranged the spices in the cupboard alphabetically (which makes me so happy), then checked all the expiration dates and realize I should have done this before alphabetizing because now all I have left is basil and cumin. (Is it cue-min or coomin?)

It suddenly occurs to me that Webster (the dictionary, not the cat) on the bookshelf in my office is probably expired, too, so this is a good opportunity to clean up and organize the room. I don’t need to keep tax records from 1999. I can get rid of the warranty for a flip phone. I can pack up all those magazines I’ve been saving with good ideas for home improvement, Christmas cookie recipes, best yoga poses (what was I thinking?), and cool room makeovers. Hmm. Maybe I should rearrange the furniture, move the desk to the other side of the room.

Oh, wait … I see an article about procrastinating. I really should read this.

And then I need a nap. I’m exhausted from all this not writing.

Eventually, all the bars and restaurants and movie theaters and hair salons and gyms will open again and I’ll leap out of my unmansion like a tiger out of a cage. I look forward to watching endless trailers in a movie theatre, to hanging out in bars (which I never did before), and to wallowing in book stores. Maybe I’ll even join a bowling league. I’ll wander down every aisle in Home Depot, whether I need anything or not, I’ll stare at the shelves packed with goods at Trader Joe’s, and yes, I’ll visit my favorite shoe store and try on every shoe in my size just to give my feet a treat from weeks in slippers. I might even stop at the gas station, even though I haven’t been anywhere and don’t need gas, just to reminisce about how it felt when I had to fill an empty tank.

And after running around all day and I finally sit down at the computer to write my great American novel, I’ll think, gee, where did the time go?

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Filed under books, English language, Las Vegas Writers Conference, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, writing, writing conferences

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