Dennis Dean, perhaps the smartest person in the world, a tech guru and a member of the Post’s elite management team, is also the person most responsible for my COVID imprisonment. To give him a modicum of credit, I believe his intentions are good and that he simply doesn’t want me to die a painful and gruesome death, so, OK. That’s fairly noble. And he’s also the idea man behind the Post and Business Journal’s staff members coming up with chores and lessons designed to make me the next Most Interesting Man in the World.

Today’s project: Learn calligraphy and write someone a fancy-looking letter making use of my skills.

Dennis provided me with a calligraphy kit that included three pens, some paper and some instructions.

I went to work on my new project on Wednesday, and, as has been the case with most of my little projects, calligraphy had me flummoxed for a while, chiefly because I couldn’t get ink to come out of the pens. That’s probably the No. 1 problem a calligrapher can face. No ink, no fancy letters.

“Give the pen a downward shake until ink comes out.” I gave the pen a downward shake and, yes, eventually ink came out dotting the floor. But when I put pen to paper, nada. More downward shakes—“this could take a while,” understated the directions, and, so, I did it for a while. Ink on floor, no ink on paper. I switched ink cartridges, going from blue to purple, like that would make a difference (this sort of logic reminded me of helping my dad change his car’s battery. At the car parts store the clerk asked him what kind of car he had. “A Lincoln,” said Dad. “It’s brown.”). As you might expect, I didn’t have any better luck with the purple ink.

Several more aggravating minutes passed, with me throwing ink around the yard like a Water Wiggle, but not getting anything on paper save for a serif or two.

At last, I did what I generally do when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. I quit. Stupid calligraphy.

Inexorably, time passed again. I slept, dreaming of choirs of serifs and dancing pen nibs. In the morning, because I’m no quitter (though that’s demonstrably untrue), I tackled calligraphy one more time. I gave the pen a couple of shakes and, literally miraculously, ink came out of the pen and onto the paper, and God was in his heaven.

I rigorously went through a few curlicue exercises, keeping the pen the prescribed 30-45 degrees to the paper. They looked OK, so I jumped from practice mode to pro level, a rapid leap demanded by my deadline and my self-imposed rule to not dawdle all day on these projects but rather to hurry up and become an expert in the given area by, say, noon, leaving me enough time to write the daily column and then begin work on my next assignment.

So I took a little time to write Dennis a thank-you note, because I wasn’t raised by animals. I hope it finds him well, and I remain appreciative of his (and my beloved Gov. Newsom’s) determination that I don’t catch a Covid, though I have to admit I’d take my chances, were it up to me, I’d go back. This is the longest I’ve been out of journalism in 43 years. Unless this counts.

Although initially frustrating, calligraphy ranks fairly high in the list of areas in which I may increase my dominance in the coming days and months, though I should warn you, if things ever get back to normal, and if the “new normal” means I can leave my house and go back to the plant, I intend to drop all my hobbies and give all my attention to horsing around in the office.

But for now, here are the standings:

  1. Sitting around listening to records
  2. Baking
  3. Calligraphy
  4. Learning Spanish
  5. Painting by numbers
  6. Making TikTok videos
  7. Yoga

In fact, the way yoga has become the battleground for a Trumpism vs. Newsomism war in our community, I don’t like the meditative art’s chances of climbing out of the basement. It’s more stress than I can handle.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.