ALTHOUGH I HAVE BEEN without a steady job for almost two months now, hope springs eternal. I wake at 7 -- the hour I used to arise for my work with the Peace Corps in downtown Washington.
I have a job interview this morning at a high school in Arlington. It takes me an hour and a half, by public transport, to get there.
For the umpteenth time I curse my vulnerability as a carless foreigner in suburban America. Fortunately, I make the interview on time.
The principal insists he would like to hire me as a history teacher but I would require certification by the State of Virginia. This setback makes the journey home seem even longer. Decision: When I get a job my first purchase will be an automobile.
I rush lunch and then take more subways and buses to another local school where I coach soccer in the afternoons. I watch the final scrimmage and make the dreaded "cuts." Those 12-year-old faces are so eager and enthusiastic; I hate having to tell 20 of them that they will not make the school team. The rejected students appear to take it well. On the way home, I wonder: Do they really?
I shower quickly, eat lightly and begin strumming my guitar. Tonight will be my first professional singing engagement in the United States and I am excited about my appearance at the Cellar Door in Georgetown. Although most of the audience have come to hear the heavy rock band also on the bill, they receive my original acoustic songs patiently and -- on occasion -- with real warmth.
Despite my nervous disposition, I make only one obvious mistake -- a bum chord on my first number. This augurs not too badly for tomorrow when I should be more relaxed.
Another day, another job interview. This time it's the World Bank and a proposed research/writing position. This is my third interview in pursuit of this job and, as ever, I enjoy it. I always find World Bank people impeccably professional yet unafraid to reveal a passion for their work and commitment to the goals of international development and the eradication of world poverty. I know I would love working there. I am told I will have a definite decision soon.
The afternoon is taken up with soccer skills and drills. Our first game is on Thursday, but the team has a long way to go. I wish we had more time to practice.
I am more comfortable at the Door tonight and I pluck up the courage to try out a couple of new songs. Eilish, my wife, tells me they sound fine, but her opinion is not exactly objective. The Door management, however, rebooks me for a show in November.
After the set, I chat with the leader of the rock band on the bill with me. I discover that he is a bright, articulate graduate student at the University of Virginia. Eilish and I joke about just how many "closet rockers." There might be in academia.
I appreciate the opportunity to sleep late. I also enjoy a lesurely breakfast, Washington Post in hand; I've missed reading it the past few days. Around 11, I continue the seemingly endless task of pruning and rewriting my doctoral dissertation on President Kennedy and the Peace Corps, which will be published by an American university press next year. I wonder why I am so wordy; 700 pages have to be cut to 350.
The afternoon is beautiful. My first autumn -- or "fall," as Americans so quaintly call it -- in Washington. I love the clear blue skies and cool breezes. The only cloud on the horizon is the poor skills of my soccer team. They need more practice.
I rush from my school soccer coaching session to another with a local select team. Chris, my fellow coach, and I agree that their skills are improving.
The evening is spent relaxing with our good friend and fellow Scot, Father Casey. He tells me he likes my book, "Twenty Years of Peace Corps," which was published last week. He kids me about the historical profession and about being "unemployed and unemployable." Food for thought.
A return to old hunting grounds. I visit the Peace Corps t pick up a few copies of my book to give to friends. Some Peace Corps staffers ask me to sign their copies. This is the kind of work I could get used to! There is talk of RIFs and unemployment. I leave feeling not quite so lonely.
The afternoon brings the first official school soccer game of the season -- against Kemore. They slaughter us, 3-0. I knew we needed more practice. I try to keep the team spirit up on the bus ride home. My reputation as a coach is severely bruised.
In the evening, President Reagan's speech does not help matters. Sounds very much like reheated Thatcherism to me. In the light of my British experience, the supply-side side is unconvincing.
I teach some physical education in a local elementary school. One of the kids informs me that I "talk funny -- like Prince Charles."
We play traffic lights, donkey and piggie in the middle; they laugh loudest when I'm in the middle.
In the afternoon, I give my school soccer team a pep talk along the lines of "it's not the winning, it's the talking part." They seem unconvinced and decide they would rather "murder" Kenmore in the return game. Oh, well.
Eilish and I meet friends in the evening. We eat delicious Portuguese stew (a mixture of beef, clams and vegetables) and enjoy an exchange of views on the different cultural mores of Europeans and Americans. We agree only that the stew is indeed delicious. Decision: I must avoid making sweeping generalizations about Americans -- especially in front of them.
I audition for a new recording/production company setting up in Virginia. They seem to like my songs and voice.We agree to begin recording next weekend. One of the leading members of the company is a lawyer. Eilish and I joke about how many "closet rockers" there might be in the legal profession.
We dine out in Georgetown and enjoy the atmosphere, characters and chablis at Au Pied de Cochon on Wisconsin Avenue.
My select soccer team has a game in Maryland. It takes us five hours to get there and back. It's all worthwhile. The boys win, 7-2.
I go running in Georgetown in the early evening. The new shopping park is splendid and gives Georgetown an even more European ambience.
I return in time to receive a phone call from Scotland. My parents are certain that Mrs. Thatcher's policies have ruined Britain. They ask if I have any definite news on the job front. I hesitate and then tell them about the World Bank and the Cellar Door. Hope springs eternal.