It is evening here, and with the waning wispy light come sounds. The forest brims with the hoots and rustles of creatures beyond imagining, invisible mammals of the night and their avian sidekicks, unwitting beneficiaries of my successful anti-highway development campaigns in this secluded county. Across the bay, where the fish leap and trickle in the lushness of my forced overstock, a final purply blaze sparkles atop Mount Winchester, whose peak is still covered by the spring’s last desperate snow.
I admire the remnants of my goat-cheese-and-porcini ravioli, and feel both serene with knowledge and anxious in anticipation of Roger’s magnificent braised rabbit loin, which he always serves with a huckleberry coulis and herbed balsamic polenta cake. As always, between courses, I begin to write. For write I must, as dictated by a cruel God, a crueler agent, and my public, cruelest, and yet kindest, of all.
It was not always so. In those spry days before I became this prizewinning rustic, this dotard, this paragon of arcadian selfhood, my life was unencumbered by schedule. I could write a chapter in an hour and still have time for Coltrane over dinner, the actual, physical Coltrane, who wrote Giant Steps for me, his favorite thing. Then came the years with drugs, and Vietnam, and my bitter public divorce, followed by a close bid for the Maryland governor’s mansion. But now I find myself here, by the mountains, and the water, and the ancient woods. I have settled, at last, into routine.
These preceding five-odd years were productive ones. I wrote three novels, a history of the Middle East, and a volume of jokes about professional baseball. I had experienced periods of equal fecundity in the past, but never with such focus, or with such a gifted cook at my behest. I owe all to my special regimen, which I will now share with you in the spirit of writing well. The days do vary slightly; at times I dine with luminaries brighter than the sexual potentates listed here. Nonetheless, as my dear friend Burroughs once said: Never quit. Never stop writing. And never lend money to a federal agent — but that is advice for another day.
4 AM: Snap awake with first hint of dawn. Remember mother.
4:30 AM: Coffee. Rouse Roger for massage.
5 AM: Swim bay with improbable speed. Two hundred sit-ups. Oatmeal-cranberry scone.
6 AM: Write as though possessed by all three Furies. Shove towel in door crack. Scream, “Why is there so much noise in the world?” Write more.
9 AM: Engage in spirited e-mail exchange with assistant books editor of Slate.
9:45 AM: Wield pen as Jove would wield thunderbolt, only with more wit and finesse.
11:45 AM: Crumble onto couch. Descend into pit of mental blackness and despair as wicked storm cloud of grief and doubt envelops soul. Ponder suicide and eternal sojourn in hell.
12:30 PM: Lunch.
1:45 PM: Take perfectly ripe dessert peach into maple grove. Enjoy tender juice as it runs down cheek. Play guitar. Sleep.
2:30 PM: Exchange bitter, recriminatory email with Christopher Hitchens.
3 PM: Write as though cannibal Huns were beating down door with hatchet. Write more. More, dammit!
6 PM: Curse self briefly. Pour Glenlivet for cursed self.
6:30 PM: Phone conversation with drug czar Barry McCaffery. Assure him that all is proceeding according to design.
7:15 PM: Guests arrive for dinner. Tell anecdotes about Anais Nin to put them in proper mood. Yell, “Roger, you half-wit! Where are my venison chops?”
9 PM: Produce hookah. Talk of stolen days in Turkey.
10 PM: Make love to woman from Brazil, Montreal, Villareal, or Israel. It matters not where, as long as place ends in “l.”
11 PM: Offer woman crackers. Kick her out of bed for eating them. Write for solid half-hour, without feminine interruption.
11:45 PM: Conduct pithy Instant-Message exchange with Garrison Keillor.
12:15 AM: See shadowy visage of Wally Trumbull, former roommate at Exeter, over bed. Tell Wally that soon you will be joining him in sylvan eternal pastures of heaven.
12:30 AM: Brain ends daily roil. At last, chaste, perfect, unstained sleep. Good night, my darling genius. Good night.
2:30 AM: Roger shoots himself in head, but, as usual, doesn’t die. Mop up blood and put him back to bed with aspirin. Resolve to write piece about strange domestic situation for Times weekend section.
4 AM: Wake self up. Dust self off. Start all over again.