A Life of Motley Leisure

When I was nineteen years old I wrote a novel called “The Castle-Builder.” It’s posted to this site. The descriptor I wrote for it is “A man sets out to build his dream house. Then he has to live in it.” Sometimes I hit the nail upon the head.

It was my first year in college and I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. For the first time I thought I might have struck upon an answer.

I pictured myself having a comfortable amount of cash in my pocket, building a beautiful home in balmy nowhere, being king of my castle, shutting out the world, and living happily-ever-after. I thought that this might make me happy. I thought that this might be a good goal for my life.

But I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d game it out. I wrote a story about a Friendly Protagonist and put him in just such a situation. I made him build his dream-house and then I made him live in it.

The result was eye-opening to me. I realized that the building of the house was far more interesting to me than the living-in-it. For what would I do then? I don’t do well with nothing-to-do. Idleness does not suit me. In fact, it royally pisses me of! Self-knowledge!

And this is from a fellow who is remarkably well-suited to solitude. I can go for days, weeks all on my own. Sometimes I even prefer this, and flourish under it – when I have something to do.

I’ve variated upon this theme in other prosings – And All My Own comes to mind.

But in regards The Castle-Builder, it occurs to me in retrospect that I failed to isolate an important variable. I asked: what if I lived in my dream-house? But the difference between a dream-house, and any house, is quite minimal. I didn’t know that then – I had never lived alone; the closest I’d come was a semester in a freshman dorm – but I know it now. My little apartment is fully meet with my needs. Domes, spires, kingly halls… all would be gilding the lily.

In point of fact, I think I would rather live in an apartment in the city than in a castle in the country. There’s more to do here, and that is all I want.

Well, since situation – domestic, at least – is not an interesting variable, I ought to turn my striving to one that is. It behooves me, as ever, to sit and think: what do I want to do? How do I want to spend my time on this earth?

The short answer is that I want to put myself to a great project. The shorter answer is that I want a fucking job. But I’ve a year left of graduate school, so that happy hope is at least a year removed. I’ve time to fill.

And: man does not live on job apps alone. Nor on job alone. I’ll have time to fill then, too. Vacations to take. Things to do.

What do I want to do?



I enjoy art museums. I enjoy art museums the same way some people enjoy respiration.

Not all of them. Abstract art never did it for me. My tolerance for medieval and ecclesiastical art is limited. So little of The Cloisters and less of MOMA… but the Gugg yes, the Met quite, and the Frick is Valhalla with a gift shop. Now you know.

And so: where does this leave me?

  • I have been to most every art museum from Manhattan to Maine. There are a few still on my list. I should make a more complete list, and get on that.
  • I have been to most every art museum in London, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Sienna, and Florence. I should update my lists, and see what’s left to see.
  • There are plenty others I have not seen. I should make my list, check it twice, and go to.



A good city is a good museum.

Wandering the streets of Venice was one of my happiest days on this earth. I think Amsterdam is a Venice by any other name. I could people-watch in Harvard Square till the cows come home. I’ve still not seen Pompeii.

  • Make a list of the cities I have not yet visited.
  • Make a list of those parts of them most worth seeing.
  • Get to.


I like to eat. (Perhaps you’ve noticed?)

I also like to cook. The one is not far from the other; eating informs my cooking – almost as much as what I cook determines what I eat.

My culinary adventures are somewhat greater than that of the average Mainer. They are nowhere near what I should like them to be.


  • Make a list of those dishes that I should like to try. Make them, or have them made.
  • Make a list of counties and try samples from the cuisines of every one. (I’m working on this. I should work harder.)
  • Make a list of ingredients – herbs and spices – wines and foods – that I have not yet tried, and wish to. And do.
  • Make a list of those restaurants that I should like to visit. Be it Etxebarri or Itanoni – or going back to Vinland here in PTL.



I like to make things.

I have a difficult relationship with making, because it takes up a lot of time (and far far more, if one wants to get good at it) but it is not something I want to spend that much time on. But on the other hand, I don’t like doing things unless I can be good at them. Paradox.

When I make things, it is so that I will then own and use them. But I would like to own and use things of great beauty, the best of things. Since I am unwilling to put in the time necessary to be able to make Best Things, there is no reason that I should devote myself to making. I should rather have better craftsmen make them for me.

As such, my list is:

  • None.



I like to bicycle. I need the exercise. (The latter does not swallow the former.)

I do not have much of an interest in competitive bicycling, racing or the like. I have some interest in what I might call Challenge Biking – Newton’s Revenge and all that. Not as man versus man, but as man versus the world… one hill at a time.

More than anything, I like bicycle touring. I like getting places under my own power. I like stopping by the roadside in a way that I do not like doing in a car. I like being fucking exhausted at the end of the day.

One day I would like to bike from Deadhorse to Ushuaia. One day I would very much like to bike from sea to shining sea.

  • Take my list of bike touring routes – and start actively, aggressively, doing them.
  • Make a list of Things I’d like to do with my bike – mountains and canyons and &c.
  • Bike.
  • Bike some more.



All these things I do, I like to keep record of them.

I like photography. I like small movies. I like small audio recordings. Especially of things I encounter while walking cities or going out in the world.

As such, I should:

  • Get a real camera.
  • Learn how to use it, very well.



  • I love kayaking.
  • I do quite enjoy snowshoeing. I have snowshoes; I’m waiting on the snow.
  • I might consider getting a fatbike, for winter riding.



Many if not most of these activities require that money be spent. I don’t have that much money. So they are on hold a bit.

Some of them do not require that I spend much, or anything at all. I should focus on these.

Some of these activities require investment, but give reward. I have a bicycle and it’s the best purchase I’ve ever made. (I think I do not need to sink any more money into it. I think this makes me very, very happy.)

I should, then, go do some shopping, and see if I might find things worthy of making the investment.

Things that will help me use some bloody time.


~ by davekov on 30 September 2015.

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