To Laze, or Not To Laze, We Ask the Question

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: In past years, JRW conversations in August have been about trips, summer camp, fairs and festivals, summer blockbusters and pedicures. Well, except for the (self-administered) pedicures, none of that is happening this August. So...what to write about? I checked “This Day In History” and discovered August 10 has been largely awful throughout recorded time (except for 1622, when Ferdinand Gorges and John Mason were granted the patent for the Province of Maine from the Plimouth Council for New England.) Then I decided to check holidays and I hit gold.

August 10 is National Lazy Day.

Yes! Official cover to live my best life. I confess it, I love laziness. I can spend a whole Saturday morning in bed, reading the New York Times, playing Ultimate Jewel on my phone,and otherwise being a total drain on society’s resources. BC (Before Children,) Ross and I would stop at Joe’s Smoke Shop after church, buy the actual physical Times and the Boston Globe, and proceed to spend three-plus hours at one of Portland’s brunch spots, dining, drinking, and swapping the sports section for the arts and culture pages. (Don’t worry, we tipped very well.)

“Before Children” is the operative phrase, because having a child of any age in the house is the ultimate enemy of repose. (A puppy, as Lucy and Ann are discovering, is the PENultimate.) First, you’re rising at dawn to feed and diaper them and keep them from electrocuting themselves. Then, you’re rising at dawn to get them off to school and to chauffeur them around to their events. Finally, they’re young adults and back living with you - because of course they are - and you’re rising at dawn in order to get work done before the rest of the household gets up at ten eleven noon.

This is tragic, because I am a person who does sloth very well. I loll, I flop, I veg, I nap. I can be lazy with a book, with the TV, or - one of the best sorts of lazy - just sitting in a pretty place with a drink and no time limit. This is in contrast with my sister, who is one of those people who can’t be idle. Downtime for her means only working on one task instead of three. Or my friend Roxanne, who began her long-delayed staycation from her high-pressure job by...painting her front porch. I tried to persuade her to let the porch peel while she sat in a rocking chair with a glass of lemonade and a novel, but some of us do not have the gift of indolence.

How about you, Reds? Are you someone who needs to be doing? Or can you lounge about unproductively? And if you can, what is your preferred mode of laziness?

RHYS BOWEN :  I’m a doer, Julia. I am not good at lolling, relaxing. If we go to a lovely beach in the sun I’m great for the first day, lying under an umbrella and reading a book. But then I’m telling John that we can rent kayaks, take Spanish lessons, visit historic sites. And I can’t go more than a couple of weeks without writing. This is why I’ll be up to Royal Spyness book 54 by the time I turn 90.

JENN McKINLAY: I’m the worst sort because I think I’m being idle but the fam will tell you that I’m a fraud. I schedule “people watching” in between “getting coffee” and “surf lessons” on the vacation itinerary and pretend I’m being all relaxed and chill when what I’m really doing is taking thirty minutes to study people because that’s what writers do -- so I’m actually working. I’m terrible at doing nothing, which is why the only time I read is during those precious hours before I fall asleep. My favorite part of the day.

HALLIE EPHRON: When it comes to lazing about, I’m improving my skills. I’m still not good at doing nothing, but these days I can stretch out “deciding what to make for dinner” into an hour-long project that involves excavating a packed freezer and vegetable drawer, followed by several visits to to check out what they suggest doing with the disparate ingredients I manage to corral. It can take me thirty minutes to rearrange my office and computer set up to eliminate my double chin and highlight my awards and book posters for a Zoom meeting. Another half hour to put on makeup and decide what to wear. And I manage to squeeze in the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Washington Post daily. Also a terrific short free newsfeed that I highly recommend for news-consuming lazy people: 

LUCY BURDETTE: Not good at lazing, especially these days. How am I launching one book, finishing another, and managing a new puppy during a pandemic and a week-long blackout? Not well! You would think it would force relaxation but that hasn’t worked so far. I think I need lessons on this….

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Failure. Utter. Example: Recently, completely over-scheduled and totally nuts, I said to Jonathan, "I am going to just SIT HERE and watch TV for 30 whole minutes and not get up and not do anything else. No email-answering, no graphic design, no shipping, no laundry folding, no social media." And he looked at me like I was nuts. "That's what people do," he said.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I claim NATIONAL LAZY DAY as mine!! I am very good at sloth! I can spend a Saturday or Sunday morning reading three newspapers and reheating my coffee. My dream vacation is to lie in a hammock with a book, or to sit in a London or Paris sidewalk cafe and watch the world go by. I can sit and watch the koi swim in my pond--so relaxing. Unfortunately, I don't get to indulge my laziness all that often, as there are always THINGS TO DO. So annoying. I think Julia and I should take a sloth holiday together...

JULIA: The doers versus dreamers in our group broke out exactly as I suspected. We Reds have talked about doing a river cruise or some other sort of trip together - I can see now it will be me and Debs lounging on the deck while Rhys, Hank, Hallie, Jenn and Roberta take city tours, cooking classes and hiking excursions.

How about you, dear readers? Can you be a layabout? Or is your idea of relaxation doing just one more thing?

Red Hot News! Julia's 6th Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne mystery, I SHALL NOT WANT, is a Kindle Daily Deal and is available at all US and Canadian ebook retailers for only $2.99! But hurry - this deal is only good for August 10th!