The "bucket list"
A “bucket list”, as I understand it, is a compendium of things I’d like to do before I “take the dirt nap”—another cutesy term I’d like to send down Orwell’s memory hole. Between grinding on Blaise Paschal’s essay “The Wager” about faith and the afterlife, and realizing that (a) I’m nearer the end than the beginning, and (b) we all have unfulfilled dreams and expectations, and the life that was not a dress rehearsal may not have turned out as expected, I’ve gotten all overwrought about mortality, and the direction my ship has sailed.
For no good reason, except it’s a hot afternoon the day after America’s birthday, and I’m alone with the dog and three-legged cat in the house, I gave some passing consideration to my “bucket list.” I know there are no “do-overs” in life, and the last time I tried to make amends to someone, I was rejected and told I’d be shot on sight if there was any further contact. That incident helped to me to give up the AA twelve-stepping, and accept those pesky personality defects for what they are: a part of whoever or whatever I am that I have to live with. As with the bottle of anti-depressant pills I flushed down the toilet in 1996, I decided that there are things I’ll have to live with or die with. As with the chronic depression and alcoholism, I’ve come to accept that my life is what it was, and the ripples have moved out from the source.
There are still a couple of things I’d like to do before I tell Ms. Possum “I’ll see you later” and take my last breath. One is revisiting a lifelong passion, and the other is the pursuit of something I flirted with, but never had the discipline to accomplish.
That’s right; only two things are on my bucket list. I have modest desires, and those are easily fulfilled. I’ve already had more fun than is legal today, and the most fun I can have with my clothes on. I’ve survived gunfights, driven cars and motorcycles at over 100 mph, played rock & roll for lots of people, been in the movies, and wrote a book that never got published. I’ve re-enacted the Civil War battles of my ancestors, rescued a couple of lost souls, mediated in domestic disputes, and avenged a couple of horrendous wrongs. I’ve fulfilled every carnal desire I could imagine, too; accounting for the most fun I could have with my clothes off.
I’ve also managed to alienate most of the people who ever knew me, caused my parents eternal sorrow and grief until the days they died, acted like an asshole in general, whined like a little girl when things didn’t go my way, and for every time I stepped up to the plate in life itself, there was a time when I turned into a sniveling bitch. A lie was the first thing out of my mouth, and if you didn’t guard your assets when I was in the neighborhood, I’d destroy them just to see the look on your face.
So, grinding on all this mixed media as I approach the Big 6-0, I feel like the proverbial waste of protoplasm I’ve ascribed to others. I always wanted to do good for others, and sometimes I deluded myself into thinking I was doing something towards that end while I was, in fact, doing the worst things in the world.
There are only a couple of things I still want to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil:
The first is the lifelong passion: I want to ride a horse again. I don’t mean some diluted form of hippotherapy where some highly-trained kid leads me around on a petting-zoo pony; I want to throw my 1849 McClellan saddle on a critter with spirit and take off down a dirt road. Catch up if you can, and Devil take the hindmost. I was riding horses before I was allowed to wear big-boy pants. I spent summers at my grandparent’s farm herding Black Angus cattle; the provenance of cowboys is not limited to what we think of as the traditional Wild West. Like Scarlett O’Hara’s daddy in “Gone With the Wind”, if I break my damn neck on a jump or a low-hanging branch, I won’t complain if that’s the last, great moment. The cars and motorcycles were great, but I’ll settle for a good hunter-jumper tear-assing through some foggy woods. I miss this so much I’m all teary-eyed just writing about it.
The other thing is a form of catch-up: I want a piano. Not a Steinway or one of those automated electronic keyboard things; just a nice old piano with 88 keys and a proper tuning. Pianos are percussion instruments. I tried playing trombone and cello as a kid, but when I got booted out of the 6th grade chorale for messing with a pair of tympani drums, I decided I’d learn to play the drums. The Beatles were doing okay, and the future looked limitless. The Doors and Cream were just around the corner. Everyone needed a drummer, and it promised to be a great way to impress girls and be a cool kid instead of a geek. My one musical talent turned out to be a sense of rhythm, and somewhere along the way I learned what the black and white keys on the piano mean, as well as the implications of tonality, harmony, and the circle of fifths—which is not a collection of whiskey bottles. I never had a formal lesson, but I got by with improvisation and knowing how to play a few chords. When my legs worked, I was quite adequate on a double-bass drum kit, and reached professional proficiency with some flourishes that are standard for today’s arena-rockers. Now, my feet move about enough for me to work the pedals on a piano, and I still know what the black and white keys will produce when I hit them with my fingers. I have no illusions about producing great symphonies; I just want to fool around. It’s got to be better than watching TV all day.
Other than that, the world can jump back and kiss my grits. I ain’t gonna be here forever, and there’s plenty that’ll be happy to see me go, but before I bring momentary joy to those I’ve offended so grievously, I want to have one more horseback ride and tickle a keyboard on a church house upright piano. After that, God can consign me to whatever I deserve.