Getting Busy

Multi tasking woman with eight arms, each doing a chore.My life is pretty busy at the moment. Don’t worry; I’ve not become one of those humble braggarts who respond to each “How are you?” with, “I’m soooooo slammed”. I am busy, though, as I’m sure you are. I’m also fortunate; I don’t have to work insanely long hours or weekends, or endure a brutal Bay Area daily commute. I can generally squeeze in a few early morning gym visits each week, and an occasional night photography class. I’m rarely forced to cancel weeknight plans because of a last-minute work conflict, and it’s been years since I pulled an all-nighter (on purpose, at least).

Even so, each evening I struggle to shake off the day and relax. I try to walk home at least one night per week — up and over some of San Francisco’s steepest hills — but once I cross my apartment’s threshold and kick off my shoes, I feel the inevitable pull of… multitasking. Preparing dinner (as Jerry Seinfeld says, take out is still effort), cleaning up afterwards, sorting through mail, and reading and answering emails – there’s not much time left for pleasure reading, or giving a movie my undivided attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to restart a DVRd episode of Frontline or Homeland halfway through, because I got so distracted by blogging/tidying/emailing.

Still image from German detective series, Marie's Mind For MurderThankfully, I recently abandoned my to-do list long enough to discover a German detective series, Marie’s Mind For Murder on PBS. Mariele Millowitsch stars as Cologne homicide inspector Marie Brand, a soft-spoken, gentle and sober alternative to Prime Suspect’s brilliant-but-self-destructive DCI Jane Tennison. When Marie is not solving brutal crimes, she’s tending to turtles in her husband’s reptile-specializing pet store, helping colleagues’ children with their math homework (she’s a numbers genius) or completing police paperwork using both hands simultaneously. Her partner, Inspector Jürgen Simmel, sneaks in friends to watch her fill out forms, double-time.

Committing to two hours of Marie and Jürgen each week is a departure for me because the series is subtitled, which makes multitasking impossible. To watch, I have to go all-in. I’ve loved getting completely lost in the smart plots revolving around decent characters (except for the murderers, of course) that are relatable, realistically sized and silicone-free. So far, all the violence has happened off camera – a most welcome change of pace.

Meanwhile the walls of my apartment are still standing. I haven’t been evicted or passed out from household dust inhalation. It’s a miracle.

I’m having so much fun, in fact, that I’ve branched out to The Returned, another riveting subtitled series (French, this time), broadcast on the Sundance Channel. It’s set in a small mountain community that is stunned when a group of residents — who have long been presumed dead — return, entirely un-aged and unaware of their seven-year absence. The episodes have languished on my DVR since last November. You guessed it; I put off watching, because of the subtitles.

Tonight I cooked and blogged, but also managed to carve out some single-focus me time with women’s Olympic figure skating. Yuna Kim just gave such an exquisite performance, I nearly broke down and cried. I’m glad I paused my typing and experienced it live (or, as close to live as prime time NBC coverage can get) rather than via DVR.

Living in the moment, one weeknight at a time. I could get used to this. At least, I am determined to try.