By Jan Worth-Nelson
Every day I keep dreaming of Down Time.
I used to crave adventure, no day complete without a conscious tablespoon at least of risky business, a routine to kickstart adrenaline, an agenda to keep me in the loop – the loop of life, baby. I aimed to be a player. If I didn’t push my limits a little bit, I lost a dram of self-respect. One time I had a lot to prove and I had a drive to Be There, wherever that was.
I hitchhiked across the country (everybody was doing it back then), I took a small cargo ship to remote Polynesian islands, I drank copious quantities of kava and other potent liquids. I partied with people whose language I did not understand, I ate fish eyes and tree grubs. I burned my bra in a Southern California bonfire and for a time, stood up for every cause.
And as for my, let’s say, romantic life, don’t get me started, unless you’re prepared to pour the next drink. I’m old now so to hear the endless anecdotes you’ll get bored and embarrassed. In brief, it sort of went like this: I got acquainted with a lot of men. I married a poet I met in a Flint bar. As might have been predicted, I divorced a poet I met in a Flint bar. In between, many dramas and soul-scorching experiences, some undignified and some to salvage dignity. Then I jumped right in and married again — my old friend from those Polynesian years. You know how it goes: a bunch of close calls you wouldn’t want your momma to know about…close calls, good material.
I’m not sure what happened to that girl.
The other night I was ready to cover a news event for East Village Magazine: the meeting of religious leaders with Mayor Sheldon Neeley “under the dome” (might sound inviting, but actually unglamorous—that poorly lit, beat-up room, worn-out relic of the Space Age) at City Hall.
For the record, my EVM team and I sincerely thought we were invited.
I’d had a long day and spent two hours at the Tom Sumner Show with my chums Paul Rozycki and Henry Hatter – I invariably find at least one opportunity to rant and rave at Henry, my best right wing friend, there, and he rants back (always intelligently) and then I give him a comradely kiss on the cheek as we depart. It works for us.
Then, my backpack loaded up with an extra cord, my phone, my laptop, pens, notebook, press pass, water bottle, I drove my trusty Honda into the city parking lot, found a spot that made me walk a little ways, for my health, and trundled inside.
Well, it didn’t last long. In the crush of big convivial pastors, most dressed in black, I had barely signed in when I got booted right the heck out of there.
“You can’t be here! NO PRESS!” the alarmed sign-in lady said. As a preacher’s daughter, I’m endlessly curious about men and women of the cloth, and had been looking forward to kibbutzing on their powwow with the mayor, so I tried at least peeking inside to check out the scene. I had just enough time to greet my friend Pastor Dan Scheid, resplendent in Episcopal garb, who said, “Jan, Jan! I didn’t know you were ordained!” and I sputtered, knowing my time was short, “Ordained in journalism” and then Neeley’s trusty press person Marjory Raymer showed up in a Flint minute and firmly encircled me out of there.
There’s a whole case that could be made about this, a sober case about journalism’s role and why elected officials shouldn’t be meeting with significant groups in private. And then there’s also that argument about how people won’t say what they really think – to really open up and tell the truth, so it goes, unless it’s a closed door event. Point taken. Forgive my head slapping naivete, but I thought pastors would tell their truth no matter who was in the room.
Whatever. I had another point altogether to make about this tedious anecdote.
I was glad I got kicked out.
It meant that I could tote my heavy backpack back to the Honda in peace, into the parking lot with all the ministerial black Cadillacs waiting like a bunch of wordless steeds, and drive home to a quiet evening with my man.
I could fix a ham and cheese sandwich with tomato soup and watch Jeopardy.
I could have some down time.
I never get enough.
When I retired five years ago, I thought I’d luxuriate in an endless bliss of free time.
I imagined I’d go days without obligations, overdosing on caffeine-free tea, lolling at the window and consuming all those novels I meant to read. I’d organize my manuscripts, polish off our Family Trust, clear out every drawer, throw away all the clothes I never wear, finally learn about all the perennials in my back yard and pull up all the weeds.
My anthem was the Talking Heads song “Heaven,”: Heaven, heaven is the place/ where nothing/nothing ever happens…” It’s a beautiful song.
But then East Village Magazine became my life, and now it seems something is ALWAYS happening. That is Flint, of course—no surcease from the action.
So here I am, rushing from one thing to another every day.
At least the other night I got kicked out of the dome just in time for dinner.
All my life I’ve been waiting for this thing called Down Time. Maybe I’ll get it some time. And I know what I’ll do with it: nothing.
My husband says that will drive me crazy. But I insist. Right now, nothing sounds really good.
May you also have some lovely Down Time in this frantic season—Happy Holidays!
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.