I’ve always been a sucker for reading life lists and resolutions. I’ve learned not to make resolutions since I never keep them, but I do like lists. There’s such satisfaction as you cross items off, not to mention that things need to be in writing so I can remember what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. So how could I resist Geoff Norman’s article on MSN entitled Things to Do Before You Die?
Mr. Norman had a near-death experience. Going in for routine surgery, he had a cardiac arrest, which naturally made him contemplative about how much time he had left on Earth. His example of an original Things to Do Before You Die list looks a little like something you want someone to find it in your pocket in the morgue and be very impressed. All very manly things, too.
1. Climb the Matterhorn
2. Read Proust
3. Have a suit made on Savile Row
4. Drink a Bellini at Harry’s Bar
5. Shoot grouse in Scotland on the Glorious Twelfth
6. See a living great white shark
Mr. Norman then states, with considerable humor: Some items on the list are there just to make you feel good about yourself. After a certain age, the arithmetical truth is that you’ve had more than enough time to read Proust. You could have easily knocked off Remembrance of Things Past in the time you’ve spent watching football on television. Could have learned French and read it in its original language. So it isn’t about time. That item is on the list so you can think of yourself as sensitive and literary. You have, in short, been bullshitting yourself.
Of course, when you aren’t doing it to yourself, there is always someone around to do it for you. I have actually gone to Harry’s Bar in Venice and ordered a Bellini. This is one of those rituals like running with the bulls that has been sanctioned by Hemingway. There are sublime drinking moments in life, and Hemingway rendered them better than anyone. But maybe he ruined this one for the rest of us. When I was there, Harry’s Bar was full of loud, international expense-account warriors, and the drink was revolting. Sweet and tasting of, for God’s sake, peaches.I have fonder memories of a single can of cold beer after working all day with a shovel or a chain saw.
I like the taste of peaches, but maybe Harry’s is out. I’d still like to see Venice someday. And my husband always talks about running with the bulls in Pamploma, although I think he’d be much safer on a balcony with a glass of red wine, watching.
As he was recovering, Mr. Norman was still thinking about lists, and called his brother about something he remembered Satchel Paige saying. Paige was a great pitcher who never got the chance to show the wider world his arm until he was 42. As an African American, he was unwelcome in major league baseball until Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier.
Mr Norman writes: Paige, however, was not bitter. Life, he evidently believed, was for living and too short for that other stuff. And when he was striking out major-league ballplayers half his age, a reporter asked him how he stayed so young. Paige replied with the following six rules:
1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. And don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
Now there’s a list both Mr. Norman and I can get behind.
What’s one thing you’d put on your TTDBYD list ? I’m keeping visiting Venice, but if I never get there in the present century, I can always time-travel and watch the divine movie Dangerous Beauty. Rufus Sewall may have a wretched name, but the rest of him will do quite nicely. Reading Amanda McCabe’s lush, plush A Notorious Woman is not a bad way to spend a few hours, either. Loretta Chase is working on a Venice-set historical too, Your Scandalous Ways—can’t wait!
Here’s to a great 2008. May the things you’ve dreamed of get crossed off your list.
Attenzione! I’ll still be posting here at least once a week, but I make my debut as a Romantic Inks blogger on Sunday, January 6. Come visit every Sunday! It will be almost as good as going to church. 😉