I think of September, more than January, as the start of the new year. A time for listmaking. (1) Resolutions for personal improvement. (2) Tasks to do at work. (3) Present activities giving me particular pleasure in life.
I pass over lists one and two to discuss the third.
Playing basketball. As a lawyer, much of my life is sedentary. Playing basketball is an opportunity to run around, shoot baskets, and yell. Unlike jogging and swimming, basketball is a social activity involving intense verbal exchanges. This being a family newspaper, I will omit the exchanges.
Bicycling. I keep my bicycle in the living room by the fireplace. For New Yorkers, Central Park is the country in the city. Bicycling is a wondering way to enjoy the pleasures of the park. Cleaner and cooler air, magnificent trees, and at night in the summer, fireflies.
Travel. As a family we lived modestly, my widowed mother being the sole bread- winner. No automobile. No house in the country. A rent-controlled apartment.
Mother's financial priorities were education and travel, both mind-expanding activities. There is no more pleasurable way of learning than travel. And the experience stays with you.
As a young man I visited India and west and east Africa. To this day, I follow developments in these areas and everywhere else I have been.
Reading. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the Sicilian writer, wrote "The Leopard" (1958), one of my favorite books. His biographer, David Gilmour, writes that "Literature was essential to Lampedusa's life. It gave him most of his ideas and much of his happiness."
I feel the same. A summer project has been to reread favorite plays, among them, "Tiger at the Gates" (1935), by French playwright Jean Giraudoux. In the play, Hector tries very hard to prevent the Trojan War from happening. He gets no help from the lawyer, Busiris. "Discover a truth which saves us," Hector pleads. "What is the use of justice if it doesn't hammer out a shield for innocent people?" In practicing law, I will try to remember his words.
Opera. On my bureau I have tickets to 15 operas. One Italian (Puccini's "Il Trittico"); one Czech (Janecek's "Jenufa"); three American, among them "El Niño," by John Adams; three French, among them Berlioz's "Les Troyens," running from 6 p.m. to midnight; three German, including two long Wagner operas, "Meistersinger" and "Parsifal"; and four Russian operas to be presented by the Kirov Opera next summer in New York none of them short, I am sure.
I enjoy opera. Basketball and bicycling keep me in shape for these long evenings.
Writing. And I enjoy writing. I find writing relaxing. This is far different from the way most people feel about it. Writing encourages me to be more aware of my surroundings, of what I am doing or reading. As much as I enjoy it, I am glad I went to law school and do not depend on writing for my livelihood. To quote Rodolfo in Act I of Puccini's "La Bohème":
"What's my vocation? Writing! Is that a living? Hardly!"