Monday, May 22, 2006

Ten Things I’ve Always Wanted To Do But Probably Never Will

I just finished one portion of a huge book project that I've been working on for the last five months, so there's nothing really to procrastinate... of course, there's always something to work on (I've got 14 freelance assignments on the board that need to be finished by July) and I start the next section of the book today. Sigh.

There is one thing I think I will never understand and that’s the myth of the mid-life crisis. You hear about it a lot, and it seems like a trumped-up, lame excuse to act like an idiot for idiotic reasons, making yourself look like a fool and hurt those around you: Some guy freaks out, buys a red sports car he can’t afford, gets ridiculous blonde highlights and an earring that actually makes him look every bit his age, and runs off with his secretary (that he also can’t afford) to some exotic island (he really can’t afford). To what end, to what purpose? Or maybe he has to do the whole comb-over thing, wear out-of-date clothes that he found in the back of his closet in the faint effort to look cool, and start using the lingo he did when he was actually younger… If it was cool to say “awesome” and “radical” back then, it must certainly be as cool, or more so, today.

In the end, he’s tired, broke, miserable and alone, but he’s got a great excuse to fall back on. “I had a mid-life crisis.” Oh, well, in that case, don’t worry about it at all. All of his infidelity, madness and narcissisms are washed away and quickly forgotten, and your wife? Your wife? I’m sure she’d take you back in a heartbeat. Poor you. Odds are good she’s living happily on half of what took you a lifetime to make, finally realizing that she had the wool pulled over her eyes all these years and that life is better when you're not caring for a man-child.

I don’t feel sorry for people who take this route, not one bit (then again, I don’t feel sorry for people who control their own fate and screw it up). If you’ve run out of goals and must revert back to your childhood for inspiration, just because you think your life is running out and you’ve accomplished nothing, then you’re not thinking hard enough. So, you concoct a lame excuse to dilute yourself into thinking that the best is behind you, and if it is behind you, you want to go back there. Ever see a guy on Skid Row in the grips of a mid-life crisis… or to the contrary, a millionaire wishing he had it all to do over again? Of course not, and that goes to show you, if it were real, it would happen to everyone.

At 33, I am roughly on the cusps of entering the middle of my life, but I see no need for a mid-life crisis; I think, for one, I just have a too much to do around here and no time to screw around at a Ferrari dealership or work on a new hair style. There’s kids to feed, lawns to mow, cars to fix, house to clean (and it’s two stories!), and don’t get me started on the sprinkler system at this place. It was installed by a hydrophobic blind man for a cockeyed client from Tucson who likes to breed cacti and tortoises (no, not together).

Plus, I can’t justify buying a sleek, expensive sports car, because there’d be no place for the two car seats. My hair is much too thick (yes, and luxurious) for a comb over; and I work alone, so the dog is the closest thing to a secretary I ever plan to have. When’s the last time you took a dog to an exotic island? Let’s not even bring up the fact that I don’t even wear cool clothes now, much less out-of-date ones, unless you think sweats and a t-shirt are cool then I’m freakin’ Fonzie.

In my own verbose and garrulous way, this is what I’m getting at: There’s always something you’ll never do in your life, be it become a sky writer in a biplane or a door-to-door foot massager who’s always busy on his feet because he’s on them all day. If you haven’t done it by now, that’s no reason you won’t, but there are a million reasons you can’t. You can’t dream about the past and the “what ifs”, and everyone, no matter how old they get, has a list of at least 10 things they wish they could do in their life before they die. Whether or not your list is on paper is irregardless; you’ve been collecting this list your whole life and they’re in there somewhere, waiting for the opportunity to come out. If you think you haven’t accomplished anything in your life, maybe this is just a wake up call to start. Here are some of mine (in no particular order):

1. Be a renown expert at any one given topic. I’m not really picky with the topic either, as I have a wide variety of interests, from wine and woodworking to history and travel. With my memory, that’ll never happen, ever. That’s why I own so many books. I read it, put it down, forget I read it, pick it back up again and read it again. I’m like a hamster. Wow, man, this is one long wheel I’m on.

2. Visit any of the Wonders of the World…and since there is only one ancient wonder left, the Pyramids, that narrows it down rather much, wouldn’t you say? Sure, we can add the modern ones to the list… but I think the Pyramids are on the top of the list. The catch is that I have no interest in visiting that part of the world any time soon.

3. Become an actor or a singer. Don’t laugh. I always enjoyed the stage whenever I was one it, so I think I would enjoy the entertainment industry in a restricted sense. You can act like an idiot on the street any time you want, but if they point a camera at you, poof, you’re a actor. Isn’t that how Tom Green got started… or was that Tom Cruise? Of course, singing is out, as I sing like a cat in heat on a fence.

4. Learn to fly a helicopter. Nothing further to comment on that, I just think they’re really neat, versatile and less expensive to run than an airplane (who has a runway in their backyard… I know, John Travolta does, you’re right. But I’m not a Sweathog).

5. Paint, sculpt or do something creative with my hands. Art for the sake of art, I guess, but I think I lack the patience to be an artist. A drop of paint here, a swipe there… just get out the Wagner and get it done. Seriously, despite the propensity for most of the great artists to go nuts and start lopping off appendages (I’m talking to you Van Gogh, can you hear me?), I think I’m mostly attracted to the silent emotions that art imparts on people, but the dichotomy of it is that I don’t understand that silent emotion. Art galleries, unless I’m seeing something historical by one of the “greats” is probably the singularly most boring place on earth. And don’t get me started on abstract art. Marcel Duchamp is not an artist… buddy, that was a urinal; then Sherrie Levine just paints one gold and calls it “appropriation art.” To me, it’s not just a urinal, but a plagiarized urinal.

6. Survive an emergency situation. I know, it’s rather Munchausen of me, but I’ve always been curious as to how I would react during a moment of emergency, when chaos and crisis abound. Would I lose it or rise to the occasion? Kara always says I’m calm in a touch situation, but that’s mostly because I don’t get how serious the situation is (or I don’t care), but truth to tell, I am a extremely relaxed and laissez faire sort of guy to begin with.

7. Drive across the country for no real reason or destination, just get in the car and go, free from it all, no worries, no responsibilities, see the sights… uh-oh, we’re dangerously close to mid-life crisis talk with this one. Careful. I just won’t do it in a Ferrari. That’s not saying I wouldn’t if given the chance, but I would choose not to buy one for this purpose as there’s no trunk space and they get horrible gas mileage. Yeah, that’s the excuse.

8. Join the Army. I think I would have made a great career military person, and my interest for this career started when they launched the first Gulf War in 1991, just before I turned 18. Odds are good, I would have gone over if I had joined and I’m sure it would have been exciting (as it was to hear the stories from the people I knew that went), but then again, odds were good for every man in this country to go to war if he had joined when he was 18, as it seems every generation has a war all to its own, from the Revolution to Iraq… every 20 years or so there’s a war of some kind, like national clockwork.

9. Invent something and get it to market. It’s not that I don’t have a bunch of good ideas (How about a personal hot-air balloon? No basket, just a harness. How about a straw insert that goes into a two-liter soda bottle that allows air to go in as the soda is poured out? Makes for a smoother pour and less bubble loss. How a box of kitty litter that doubles as the litter box, just pull off the side panel and it’s ready for your cat? No dust, no bags to store, dump the whole thing when your cat’s filled it) I’m always coming up with ideas for things, many times kicking myself for seeing them on the market years later. OnStar was my idea, a phone system that called for help when you pressed the button or got into an accident… I thought of that probably 15 years ago. How about the movie “National Treasure”? My idea. I started a book called Narrow Passage in 1997 that had treasure hunters finding a map on the back of a letter from Washington to Martha. I’d better stop giving examples, I’m getting bitter and it’s starting to show.

10. Live to be a 100 years old. Given my family’s history, this is probably a long shot, but it was always something I wanted to do, ever since I was a kid (okay, so I was a weird kid, so what). They say that life expectancy is increasing, and every time I hear it, I often wonder if they’re talking about mine or the kids born today. Since I think borderline obsessive-compulsive, the one thing I love more than having everything on my desk square to everything else and the desk is that love things in nice round numbers; 100 is about as round as you get in the age department. Plus, I’ll get to see what 2073 will look like, but I wonder what the centenarians who were alive when I was born thought of 1973. I’ll bet the word “hooey” was used, and it probably didn’t take them long to ask that someone turn down the music.

That’s it, 10 things I’ve always wanted to do. It doesn’t matter if I never get to do any of these things, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m not even able to do some of them (it’ll be a sad state of affairs if they start taking 33-year olds into the service). Truth of the matter is that I probably won’t do any of them, and that really doesn’t bother me. Sure as hell won’t stop me from dreaming; sometimes getting there is half the fun anyway.

What’s on your list?


Tris said...

Good posting...everyone likes lists...but go easy on the Marcel Duchamp slander. His "Nude Descending a Staircase" blows away ninety-five percent of the art that came before it. I'd proudly hang it in my house...even if it doesn't match the sofa.

tris said...

Good posting. I like lists. But fercryinoutloud go easy on the Marcel Duchamp slander. His "Nude Descending a Staircase" blows away ninety-seven percent of all art that came before it. Honest.

tris said...

Would it be redundant to write it again?

Ryan said...

At least it took some talent to paint that...although I don't see anyone (or anything) on a staircase, going up or going down. I don't even see a staircase either!


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