I wake up most mornings thinking of ways to escape, even if just for a while, the distressing reality of life in America today. Many of you may also be looking for respite, given the daily onrush of alarming news. I cope by immersing myself in activities that bring both peace and a sense of accomplishment — simple doings that drown out the maelstrom that is Trump World 2020. 

 

Today I’ll share some of the activities I’ve successfully used to block out the unending, apocalyptic blasts from the White House. Consider this a public service blog introducing you to several handy Trump-blocking activities. So, in no particular order, here are my tried-and-true therapies to relieve anxiety caused by Trump and Covid-19.

 

Cooking

I’ve always loved to cook. As a matter fact, I spent a year at age 24 trying to learn to be a chef. I cooked at a French restaurant in Key Biscayne for 50 cents an hour. Then I worked at the Doral Hotel (pre-Trump ownership) as a broiler man and pantry chef. In short order, I learned that loving to cook and spending one’s life in the restaurant business were two starkly different things. Now I concentrate on cooking, baking and pickling. My most recent obsession is making Bread and Butter Pickles using cucumbers from my garden. They’re easy, quick to make and delicious. 

I am also much enamored of a recipe for Peach Pound Cake from The New York Times. I have made it twice. 

One of the problems, though, is that I cook for only 1.5 people. (Lucy doesn’t count as a full person in terms of food consumption.) So I must figure out who gets the extra food, then deliver it. All this activity consumes time and satisfies the soul (to say nothing of the palate). So cooking and delivering food is one reliable escape mechanism. 

 

Gardening

Like cooking, gardening has been a lifelong love. My vegetable garden is large and keeps me pretty busy. This year, though, things have turned out a little differently.  I’ve gobbled up loads of time by pulling up every weed and pinching off every sucker from my 22 tomato plants, generally becoming obsessive-compulsive about my garden. Why? Because it both distracts me and improves the coming harvest. I’ll soon have bushels of tomatoes for friends, which in turn will require more deliveries — time not spent watching the bufo toad who runs our Injustice Department kissing Trump’s behind. 

 

Learning New Sports

 

No, I am not personally engaging in new sports. Heaven forbid. No, I’m educating myself from the safety of my armchair about the world’s most watched spectator sport — European football. Never having understood all the leagues, I started from scratch but now I  know enough to feign expertise about the English Premier League (EPL for us football ruffians). Still waiting for me are La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, and the most incredibly difficult of all — the UEFA Champions League. I enjoy studying the nomenclature, rules and other intricacies of the sport. You simply cannot listen to Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room and master details about European football at the same time. My other joy in the sports world — the LPGA — is returning today and will consume some time as well. 

 

Frenzied Reading

I am never not reading a book, often two. Most are available on Audible, so you can listen while delivering baked goods and vegetables, i.e., you don’t have to listen to news on the radio at all! This week’s reading includes a satire I enthusiastically recommend — Christopher Buckley’s Make Russia Great Again.  I confess to having mixed feelings before reading it. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of a satire on something as malevolent as Trump World, even though I’ve loved all the other books by Buckley, who happens to be my brother-in-law. Well, my misgivings were entirely misplaced. The book had me laughing out loud many times. It is delightful, witty and fun. Unfortunately, unlike the next three books I’ll recommend, it’s too short. I read it in one day. Please read Make Russia Great Again. You will thank me. 

 

Many years ago, my sister Francie, a voracious reader all her life, advised me to take up the great Russian novels. She had read many of them and talked me into it. I limited myself to Dostoeysky and Tolstoy, which occupied me for quite a time. After finishing Crime and Punishment, I remember thinking that the book I most looked forward to reading was Crime and Punishment — again. I didn’t do so until now. Isn’t 2020 the perfect time to re-read this classic of world literature? I’m reading one chapter at a time, thoughtfully savoring every paragraph. 

 

At the same time, I’m reading the latest novel by one of my three favorite living authors*, David Mitchell. It is called Utopia Avenue. My son, Hank, has read all of Mitchell’s books and persuaded me to do the same years ago. His plots are complex (think Cloud Atlas), but reward the reader amply. Hank has a mind and memory best described as encyclopedic (except about sport which he abhors), so Mitchell’s novels are made for him. Thanks to Hank for shepherding me through Mitchell’s novels. Utopia Avenue, which I’m about 200 pages into, promises to be a great read. 

 

I can’t overlook my other favorite living author, Hillary Mantel. Her final novel in the trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, The Mirror and the Light, came out earlier this year and transported me from the depressing drone of pandemic and political news in April. I also discovered her novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety, which provided hours of escape in July. If you are a French Revolution devotee, you must read it. 

 

I’ve always thought it a duty and a privilege to be well-informed, but keeping up with the news this year has been unrelentingly dispiriting. We are assaulted by repetition (on the Covid front) and horror (on the Trump front), 24/7. We need to escape from the noise because it will become deafening by Nov. 3.

 

So there you have it — my principal means of escape. They’re pretty harmless and they work. They do for me, anyway, and might for you, too.

 

P.S.: It occurred to me that those of you who have known me longest and best might accuse me of having omitted a major escape tactic of mine. I am prone to the occasional wager. A wise man, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, said a lot of memorable things. If you doubt it, Google “Satchel Paige quotes”. I particularly like this one: You gotta make a bet everyday of your life ’cause you might be walking around lucky and not know it. 

 

* Mitchell, Buckley, and Mantel

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About Buck Close

Buck CloseDeacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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