Sunday, November 28, 2010


For the past month I've been posting these entries by the week, instead of every day or two or three. It's like changing from the local train to the express. You don't get off at every station. You let the little depots whizz by between the warehouses, the marshes, the woods, the golf courses, more warehouses, and then you pull into Monday again.

So I've been thinking about the week as a concept, a word, and a landscape.

The concept is interesting, how we've historically corralled gangs of days into different-numbered weeks. The seven-day week is pretty old and well-established, but various cultures have had weeks of between three and ten days. And then there's the Pawukon calendar in Bali, which according to Wikipedia, "is a 210-day calendar consisting of 10 different concurrent weeks of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 days." Whatever sticks, I guess. For us, four cycles a month seems to strike a balance between exhaustion and refreshment. But it's all pretty arbitrary when you think about time as basically an unnamed flow of befores, nows, and afters. Less terrifying, more friendly, if you give them names and numbers. I myself once tried personifying the week from its initials as "Mt. Wt. Friss," a former professional wrestler. Haven't heard from Mountain Weight in some time.

As for the word week, it sounds like something a baby duck would say. I prefer the French semaine. It's got a nice heft, like a handsome piece of silverware. It's got seven letters, appropriately. And it resembles "Southeast Maine," which I also happen to like. Alas, we're stuck with week, with its weak creak of a wooden wheel going round and round. Never mind. It's fortified by weekend, which sounds like brunch and a movie.

As for the landscape, this week was a good example—maybe the best of the year—of how seven days can share a contour and common cause: in this case, the care, feeding, and burping of Thanksgiving, a large holiday with a long name and a refrigerated history that trails behind it, combining uptight buckle-hatted Pilgrims and their hipper, less-clothed Wampanoag neighbors, whose strange alliance and feast we restage in our homes with relatives and friends.

So, Monday wakes from its dream of the weekend. Blinks. Raises up on one elbow, lifts the blinds, sees the giant turkey in the distance. Scheiss. Lets blinds fall. Its job is to get the momentum going. Good luck. But it does, sort of. Cleans the stovetop. Does a load of laundry. Shops at WiseBuy with the winking Owl. Nothing very imaginative, but necessary. Monday is a scowling day, the first day, Big M with the owlish eyebrows. "What?"

Tuesday is the mayor of the week, the one who cuts the ribbon, digs the honorary spadeful of dirt, gives the commencement address at the high school. Also is no slouch on the dance floor. Tooz, it's called. Hey, Tooz! As far as this week goes, Tooz takes on the big jobs like the bathroom floor as well as some daring ones like toothbrushing out the grime in the rubber lining on the top of the freezer. And defining ones like going to the barber and springing for a beard trim. And the first guest arrives! Carol's brother, Norm, from California. Now the week becomes famous.

Famous? I'll show you famous. It's Uncle Wally! Thursday’s sidekick, Watson to its Holmes. "Wednesday's a half day." Yeah, right. Only the most-traveled day of the year. But Wally is the same old Wally, humming "Elmer's Tune" while doing a few of those last-minute chores, like sweeping the schmootz off the back stairs, changing a light bulb, trimming his nails. Wal-ly! Wal-ly! And more guests arrive! Jacqueline and Edmund. The siblings together again! This is getting exciting.

Ding-dong! Whoa. Giant turkey is at the door, wearing buckled hat, carrying blunderbuss filled with tulips. It's the day itself, granddaddy of all Thursdays, floating zeppalin cartoon characters down Fifth Avenue. Banquet table unfolded in living room, both green tablecloths, extra chairs. House filling up. Mark, Wendy, Emily, Benjie, Uncle Jacques, Aunt Mimi, Jill, Linda, Astrid! Kitchen gnomes basting the fowl every half hour till the thermometer pops. Jacques doing the gravy, Wendy the sweet potato, Edmund the collard greens, Mark the pies: pecan, apple, and pumpkin. The line winds through the kitchen, filling plates, sitting down, eating, more eating, the day filling up like the house with its own gabbling, gobbling expectations until, many loads of dishes later, goodnight, goodnight, thank you, goodnight.

What does Friday do for a chaser? Start with pancakes. And bagels. And then it’s supposed to be this big honking day for shopping. So some go down to Harvard Square. Some take a walk down to Spy Pond. Some take a long nap (lagniappe). This Friday spreads what’s normally the last third of Friday (release! liberation!) over the whole day. Movie? Why not! Do the Friday Times crossword? Of course! Catch the sunset, which is a good one. Then reconvene for supper, followed by a singalong. If you insist. This Friday is an expandable valise.

Saturday and Sunday are in the unusual position of bringing a little order to the proceedings. Thursday acting like a Saturday? Friday like a second Saturday? Who’s the real Saturday? Saturday! Prove it. Well, there’s Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me on the radio. And A Prairie Home Companion. And Saturday knows how to handle leisure. Thursday overdoes it. Friday can’t handle the responsibility. Friday’s a pirate, not a cruise director. Less is enough, suggests Saturday. Leftovers can make a meal.

Sunday rested. Bought a Times. Ordered in. Watched football. Sunday knows how to end a long weekend. Spend it all.

(Farewell, November!)


  1. very good item. you have made the best of the week. but the essay made me aware of the restrictive nature of 'a week' or any other social unit of time be it minute, hour or year. how dare these dopes ruin my time?!