Thursday, July 05, 2012

The "bucket list"

I abhor the term “bucket list.” It’s an overly cute term coined by some screenwriter so aging A-list movie stars could make yet another paycheck and provide for their grandkids’ future. (And given the debt that’s being piled up for them by the minute, those grandchildren’s great-grandchildren will be struggling to pay off the interest and penalties in the Brave New World where America is a relic of the coming Islamic Caliphate…but, never mind! That’s day after tomorrow, and at my age, I’m only concerned about tomorrow. As long as I continue to get my goodies from the government, and Ms. Possum can collect her Social Security as we grow older together, it’s not important that our hypothetical great-great-grandchildren may have to sell themselves into slavery to the non-productive cargo cults of the world.)

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.


Blogger Beerme said...

I like it! You can get a pretty incredible keyboard that sounds amazing, for a tiny amount of money. I know they aren't real pianos but they sound like 'em. I recently bought a banjo. Get with me when you get somewhere and maybe we'll play a little bluegrass!

July 06, 2012 5:41 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I know there are amazing synthesizers and almost-authentic-sounding pianos out there, but nothing equals the sound of that felt-covered wooden hammer striking a string wound so tightly over the frame. There's an inherent energy and vibe in a real piano that simply can't be reduced to an electronic sound.

As for playing along with someone, I don't have the chops for it. My vision is more of a player in a piano bar on an extremely slow day: I make a chord, and add a few notes of melody, in a slow, leisurely fashion. My playing would be more of a meditation than a Keith Emerson exhibition.

I actually called some local stables today. A one-hour trail ride averages $30, only one would consider letting me bring my own tack and saddle, and no galloping or jumping is allowed. I understand their stance; it's other peoples's horses, and there is liability involved. I'll probably have to sign a multi-page release just to wander a mountain trail for an hour.

I might call some local pawn shops about a piano, just for fun. Assuming I found something affordable, I'd then have to check it out to make sure the keys don't stick, make a place for it, and hire a tuner to make it pitch-perfect after it's flexed into its final spot.

It's nice to dream, though. Lots of nights, I dream of walking again. Puts a pall on the whole day when I wake up and have to hit the wheelchair so's I can get to the bathroom.

July 06, 2012 6:18 PM  
Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Hey Possum,

I hit the big 6-0 this year myself, and I just went through a similar period of reflection. I had the proverbial mid-life crisis in my 40s. I guess this must have been a late-life crisis (or as my daughter called it -- a "3/4 life crisis"). I just started thinking about all the things I never did in life and felt miserable. I'm over it now... I think.

Best regards.

July 07, 2012 1:18 PM  
Blogger Boberin said...

Those seem like worthy and doable dreams indeed. Dreaming big is fine for the old farts know better. I'll be 57 in a couple weeks so I'm getting to the age were I hope I know of what I speak...just like the rest of this gang...

July 09, 2012 1:01 PM  
Blogger Boberin said...

As Supertramp so eloquently put it many moons ago..."Crisis? What Crisis?"
I love that album

July 09, 2012 1:03 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

In a conversation today with Ms. Possum, I remarked that I might be having my "mid-life crisis" about twenty years later than the average bear. If that's "mid-life", I reckon I'm going to live to about 120 or so...assuming I don't fall down the steps heading for bed tonight, and the world doesn't end on 21 December. (That'll be a hoot; buying the farm with the rest of the carbon-based infestation of God's little green footstool.)

July 09, 2012 10:39 PM  
Blogger camojack said...

It's good to have goals.

July 16, 2012 3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buy a piano!!!!

July 18, 2012 7:14 PM  

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