Boondoggle: an activity that is wasteful or pointless, but gives the appearance of having value.
I’m officially naming this My Boondoggle Summer. I’ve pretty much done nothing worthwhile, but I’ve had a whole damn lotta fun doing it. It’s been a long time since such a happening took place. A long time. Like, maybe, 25 years.
A few years ago, my summer looked like this. We had moved across the country and into a house we had to remodel. Imagine 6 workers, me, and dogs trying to stay out of each others’ way from 7 am until 5 pm everyday. Imagine dust and filth and noise and everything you own covered in dirty plastic. Imagine trying to keep the dogs from running away through the open doors, nowhere to cook, washing dishes on your knees in the upstairs bathtub. Knowing no one. For 7 months.
This is pretty much what my kitchen looked like the day I started grad school. Imagine reading MOBY-DICK and lots of Steinbeck and poets-you’ve-never-heard-of and writing papers while all manner of butt-scratching and yelling and hammering and drilling and glass-breaking is taking place all around you. Imagine.
Then I broke my front tooth. My tooth turned blue. And I couldn’t talk right or smile for weeks.
Fast forward ….
Last summer, 2010, I was under the old machine gun to finish my thesis. I made time to go to Spain with my family, but soon after it was the cliched crunch. All I remember about last summer is panic. My thesis was due. I had no idea what in the hell I was doing. I barely recall last summer at all…. well, except for the house-shoes I wore to the library every day. (I had to throw them away in the end.) It was all THESIS, THESIS, THESIS. Get it done! Finish something! Come on you ingrate! Graduate goddgammit! You are 45 f-ing years old!
You. Are. 45. Years. Old.
When did that happen?
My summer of 2011 has been a BOONDOGGLE. A boondoggle of the nth degree. We’ve traveled and then traveled some more. We’ve had visitors. I’ve read books every single day. My toes have spent time in sand. I have not written a word of my book-in-progress.
My kitchen no longer looks like that awful photo. My children are living their lives and working and having fun. And I’m not finished having fun yet.
My book. I am thinking about my book. But I am not writing it. Not right now. This is my Boondoggle Summer. I feel like I should apologize, but I’m not gonna. Instead, I’m going to keep traveling, keep playing, keep reading. Reading THE LACUNA, SHADOW TAG, FEBRUARY, THE MASTERS, AMERICAN WEATHER, THE KNOWN WORLD, Lorrie Moore short stories. I’m going to keep this boondoggle going as long as summer will have me.