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Routine

Routine rapidly has established itself, crept into the confusion perception barely awakened by jangling alarm bells, settled into the exhaustion that culminates in midnight collapses. Perhaps this routine is the body’s way of withstanding being required to do things it loathes: nobody wants to rise at a quarter to six to teach a class of disinterested French teens, nobody wants to brave the chill of presun November mornings, Mediterranean mild that it may be, so that he can make the last train that will get him there on time; he weaves these activities into a pattern to make them acceptably familiar, acceptably expected. Something like, I am sure, the attempts of cults past and presents to find historical precedent for their eccentricities.

And so, in just over a month, my days have settled into routine. I work little — that is to say, I spend little time at the schoolhouse, work-working away like an obedient cog only-slightly-squeaking in capital’s never-stalling terrible machine — and spend my free moments in pursuit of things I’ve deemed beneficial. When I wake at 5:45, it is more by choice than by necessity, so I may copy out a few phrases of Greek to translate during the day, and feel as if I am two lines closer to comprehending Pindar Sappho Homer Plato. When as rain thickens I consider the leaky shoe on my left foot, I think of the time of day I can have cheese, cheese not replacing my shoe has purchased (I should note here that I’ve been frequently returning mentally to the passage in Ulysses wherein Dedalus does accounting of how nice it is to be free and clear). When I can squeeze in a story by Borges from Ficciones, I think what a nice change of pace today was : something latinate but not gallingly French. Secretly or perhaps not so much so my mind aches to speak labyrinthine sentences to preserve its mothertongue, which I work into poems celebrating the turning of the leaves. Or sentences I put on here. Largely, I think, because I am disconnected from mass media and mass culture, I have felt little urge to do things other than those that I want, and have felt great urge to do those that I do want. And these pursuits of the petty pleasures of dead grammars, the writing of poetry, have dug their ruts into my hours and become patterned routines, routines cantilevering my days.

Within the grander routine of each day there reside more delicate patterns of specific activities, less monotonous and far more impressive in their intricacy. Of intricacy, ritual, I have learned from the French. For instance, the performance of dinner is no simple affair, but its complexity has its awards: one ought begin with an aperitif, either a cocktail or a glass of sweet wine, of which I prefer muscat, to be served alongside a bit of peckable fingerfoods such as potatochips or crackers, which by no means need be much different from the varieties present in alarming proportions in American vending machines, but which ought be eaten in sensible proportions daintily, after the French fashion; an entrée of uncooked vegetables should then follow, perhaps a mushroom salad made with apple cider vinegar and a bit of lavender, perhaps a cucumber salad dressed with goat’s milk yogurt mixed with minced garlic and mint; the main course may be composed of a small portion of beef, if it’s affordable that day, or perhaps pork or chicken or simply a cooked hearty vegetable, an economical choice being the vitamin rich potato; then comes the cheese, stinky or mild, to one’s liking; to close the meal, one must have a small dessert, such as a chocolate cream or a ganache au cafe, which, if one is so inclined, as I often find myself to be, might be accompanied by a cup of stovetop espresso. To lack anyone of these things, after one has become accustomed to having each, throws the cycle of dinner out of balance, and trips up the entire following routine of the day. In the wake following a meal without an aperitif or without the lingering sweetness of a dessert, one feels as if he were driving a car with unaligned tires. Disconcerted, discomfited, desirous of an immediate remedy. To avoid such troublesome circumstance, one ought stocked up on both liquor and chocolate.

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