'Summering' in My Own Bathtub
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
With few days remaining this summer, I realize that I have worked through the entire season and haven't had time to do my traditional summer ritual, something I started 20 years ago.
CHADWICK: That's DAY TO DAY contributing writer Annabelle Gurwitch.
GURWITCH: The summer of my freshman year in college, I headed off to London for a semester abroad. Before my classes started, I visited some family friends in their manor house in a tiny pastoral village in Dorset, home of the novelist Thomas Hardy. My days were spent tramping over rolling hills, baking shortbread and, at the end of each day, I would take up a position in one of the many upstairs baths, a freestanding, old-fashioned, claw-and-ball tub with steaming hot water, iced tea, a few candles and a book. It seemed only appropriate to read a lot of Hardy that summer.
I had no way of knowing that, in fact, this would be my last carefree summer, that my family had suffered financial setbacks, I would need to drop out of college, I would actually be working as a mime, dressed as a hamburger, handing out flyers for Arby's on a street corner in downtown Manhattan, when I finally finished reading "Tess of the d'Ubervilles."
For much of my 10 years in New York, as I was struggling to forge a career as an actress, I lived in an apartment which was so miniature that you could literally lie in bed, answer the door and fry an egg all at the same time. I also had a musically inclined woodworking neighbor who, for a period of four months, mistakenly believed himself to be in love with me and I with him. He would play "If I Were a Carpenter and You Were a Lady" every time I returned to the building.
The floor of my apartment was also slanted. It was a sublet of a sublet of a sublet rented from my yoga teacher, who was indicted years later in a pyramid money scheme. And on top of all of that, I had been told that Serpico once lived in the building, which might explain why shady characters were often lurking in the vestibule.
It's safe to say I wasn't receiving invitations to Capri, and the closest I got to the Hamptons was a train ride to Coney Island. But my apartment did have a great Art Deco, purple-tiled bathtub and a window which looked out onto vine-covered chimney tops. So after a long day of pounding the pavement, dropping off pictures and resumes to agents and performing in various off-off-nowhere-near-Broadway, depressing avant-garde productions which received even more depressing reviews--one of which consisted of the single word `Why?'--I would return home and observe my summer ritual. A few candles later, a tall iced tea and a soak in the tub could transform any ordinary city night into the Dorset countryside.
Now that I live in LA, I do a lot more summery-type things. My husband and I play baseball and swim at our neighbors' next door with our son. Of course, that's what we do all year long. But as an actor and writer, I still don't find myself in a villa in Tuscany in August. Why? Because now I have just enough of an established career to be lucky enough to work year round, so I haven't had my summer yet, until tonight, when I plan to brew some iced tea, light some candles, take a hot bath and read a good book.
(Soundbite of sigh)
CHADWICK: Radio stories, that one from actress and DAY TO DAY contributing writer Annabelle Gurwitch.
DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.