Insensible Cities

Cries and Whispers

It’s a new day, another one. I have another gig, another three-month relationship has ended, and I’m growing another bushy beard. But it’s a new beard, which means it’s gonna be sexier and more spontaneous than the old one. Indeed, it’s an exciting time for old Hesiod, trapped inside the house, cowering under great heights of classic texts, music scores, CDs and LPs, and DVDs of The Great Courses. I’m gonna clear-cut my way out of this jungle though. I’m gonna be reborn in the world of other people, people with friends, people with promise.

Idle hands… yadda yadda… You can get a lot more evil done if you make a schedule. At times like these, I adhere to a strict plan. I don’t strictly adhere to it, but I let it influence my hourly activity with guilt and iPhone alarms.

A Strict Plan for an Autodidact with Free Time, Annotated

8 to 9 a.m.: wake, break, news

This is the time to get the lead out, eat some eggs (break(fast)), and keep current with the news.

What I actually did from 8 to 9 a.m.: slept

If I woke up now, I’d still be drunk; if I wake up in an hour, I’ll just be hungover.

9 a.m. to 12 p.m.: LITERATURE or PHILOSOPHY

A three-hour block is the perfect increment for getting started with, getting into a rhythm with, and winding down from a careful discourse with a work of substance. 

What I actually did: woke up at 10, called a guy, called another guy, smoked a cigarette, drank a cup of coffee, read a couple pages of Euripides’s Helen

Yesterday I was offered the gig with Randy Houser, a fine country singer with a new single on the radio and a new label deal with some momentum. His manager and I negotiated for a little more money than what I was making with Scotty McCreery, so I accepted the job this morning. This is good because Ruby and I just broke up, and I don’t feel like seeing her every day on the Paisley tour.

Then I called Scotty’s band leader and quit; he took the news like the pro/bro that he is. He didn’t try to lure me back by reminding me that in a couple weeks we’re playing American Idol again, in a month we’re playing LP Field in Nashville where the Titans ball, or in July we’re opening for the Beach Boys (Brian Wilson AND Mike Love). It wouldn’t matter anyway. He knows I don’t care about quality of shows—I’m only in it for the money.

12 to 1 p.m.: lunch, news

Here’s a chance to feed the brain and watch a bit of SportsCenter to catch the NBA Playoff highlights.

What I actually did: smoked a cigarette, started writing this

For the last five days, I sat on my couch and watched every single game on TV—I don’t need highlights. I also don’t keep up with regular news at all. Whenever I try, I get sidetracked by looking up the GDP growth of Syria or ruminating over the etymology of the name Trayvon. I figure it’s not important enough to pay any mind unless people are still talking about it ten years after the fact. Apparently someone flew planes into the Twin Towers. That’s fucked up.

1 to 4 p.m.: CREATIVE or PRACTICE

This is the minimal amount of time required daily to be productive. This includes writing, composing, and practicing an instrument. All other blocks of time serve this one, meaning that this period is allowed to bleed into the other ones—not vice versa. This week you’ll need to pay special attention to learning these new Houser tunes.

What I actually did: wrote this, smoked a cigarette, ate three Oreo cookies, watched reruns of Kids in the Hall

Way to stay productive, Hesiod. This shit’s brilliant. And sexy.

4 to 6 p.m.: workout, shower

Weightlifting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Six-mile walks on the weekends.

What I actually did: drank a martini, showered

I worked out yesterday… or the day before, I don’t remember. My body needs to rest so my muscles can develop.

6 to 8 p.m.: dinner, relax

This is the time to prepare and enjoy a nutritious meal. Watching Jeopardy is always a fun way to keep the brain limber for the next leg of work.

What I actually did: met my buddy at the bar, drank a martini, went to the Schermerhorn to hear Charles Ives’s Universe Symphony

Meadows plays for Taylor Swift. We’ve been friends since back in the day in V-A, and he actually got me into the country sideman thing. We had a rock band called MoneyPenny, an awkward hybrid of Britpop and Southern rock, that was toooootally gonna make it. We had a van and everything. One day I got a phone call offering me the gig with Alter Bridge for a European tour of their second modern ROCK-rock-rock album. I stood to make a ton of money, but I’d have to leave my band. Meadows advised me to decline the offer, and I did. A month later he took the gig with Josh Gracin, the singing Marine. A month after that, Meadows called and told me he’d convinced Gracin’s bandleader to let me fill in for their bass player who had just left to go play for Taylor Swift.

The next day I flew out to Medford, OR. I charted the seventy-five-minute set on the plane, and the limousine dropped me off at the venue in Yreka, CA just in time to play in front of 10,000 people in cowboy hats. After the first song, the bandleader turned his head and said, “Congratulations, bass player. You don’t suck.” It’s the greatest validation I had ever felt and will ever feel. I didn’t make it back home until a couple months later, and it was for just long enough to pack my bags and move to Tennessee. That was five or six years ago. Who’s counting?

8 to 11 p.m.: MATH or SCIENCE

Time to study for that dreaded LSAT. Also, this is a chance to remaster all that precalculus for the GRE class I start teaching in November.

What I actually did: came home, drank a martini, smoked a cigarette, studied physics

I don’t feel like studying for the LSAT tonight. Yale is for rich kids.

No precalculus either. Isn’t it ironic how GRE classes are almost always taught by people who couldn’t afford grad school in a million years? Standardized tests are for rich kids.

Physics makes me feel like an idiot. Every time I think I have a grasp on quantum mechanics, an intermediate-level question involving math proves me otherwise. I’ll get it eventually. I don’t have anything else to do… except for learning those Houser tunes, but I have three days.

11 p.m. to 1 a.m.: MUSIC or FILM

Time to unwind with an offering of sensuous beauty. Monday is classical music, Tuesday is classic film, Wednesday is jazz music, Thursday is documentary film, Friday is pop music, Saturday and Sunday are wild cards.

What I actually did: drank a martini, watched the Lakers game, fell asleep on the couch

There’s a razor-thin line between having a broken heart and justifying laziness with the indignation at getting dumped. These things go in phases. Phase I is relief from exhausting intimacy, Phase II is Lay’s Potato Chips, and Phase III is blogging. I’ll get back on track tomorrow.

Hesiod James is a Nashville sideman. He plays bass.