My alternative bucket list
You’ve heard of a bucket list, right? It’s that list of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket.
I have one, though I’ve never formally systematized it. But at some point before the Grim Reaper comes along and taps me on the shoulder, I’d like to see the Taj Mahal, get Bob Dylan’s autograph, visit the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris and finally, honest to Charlie, get around to reading “War and Peace” and “The Brothers Karamazov.”
Of all these, the last two might be the toughest to attain.
But I’d like to propose another kind of “bucket list.” This list would consist not of the things you want to do before your number is up, but the things that, when you are settled into your deathbed and taking stock of your life, you will have not one iota of regret for having never done.
And the first one on my list would have to be going on a cruise. This is a particularly easy call to make after that high-seas fiasco in February, where the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Triumph was somewhat less than triumphantly left to drift in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire disabled it. Vivid descriptions of overflowing toilets and spoiled food didn’t so much put me off going on a cruise as much as it reinforced an already long-standing aversion to the idea. I’ve always envisioned a cruise being not so much a relaxing voyage in gossamer sunshine but a waterborne slog marked by seasickness and boredom. The dreariest day in New York or London, by any stretch of my imagination, would be approximately 10,000 times better than being imprisoned on a boat and being held to the dictates of someone else’s schedule.
Second on my list would be hunting. Now, before you start cranking up an irate letter, hear me out. I completely understand why people like to hunt – creeping through the woods, on the lookout for an animal or bird, then making a kill. There’s an adrenaline rush, sure, but hunting is, from what I hear, also relaxing and gets you in touch with nature. It’s passed down through generations. And I’m certainly not a pie-in-the-sky animal rights activist who believes no living creature should be harmed. Until such time as deer start practicing birth control, culling the herd should be not just a pastime but a necessary endeavor.
I just don’t want to be the one to do it.
Having spent most of my life in cities or suburbs, it was not part of the culture in which I was raised, and if you don’t develop an interest early, I’m guessing you probably never will. And I haven’t. If I never get a turkey in my gunsights, if this Hundt never goes hunting, then I’ll be OK.
I’d be a whole lot happier reading a book somewhere. I have a good many on my shelves at home and packed away in boxes. But not the “Harry Potter” books. And not the “Lord of the Rings” books, either. I saw all three “Lord of the Rings” movies when they were in theaters a decade ago and I firmly believe I am well and truly set – there’s no need for me to revisit the movies, nor is there a need for me to read the books that served as their basis. Where “Harry Potter” is concerned, I’m even further behind the curve. The J.K. Rowling novels don’t ignite my curiosity, and I’ve never seen a single millisecond of the movies. That’s perfectly fine, too. You can have your fantasy, your witchcraft, your wizardry. I’ll redirect my eyeballs, my ears, my time and my energy elsewhere.
Last weekend, I was finishing a 125-page biography of William Henry Harrison by New York Times columnist Gail Collins (it makes perfect sense that it’s brief, since Harrison was, after all, president of the United States for only one month), and she pointed out that political rallies and speeches were big doings back in the 1840s because the lives of Americans were so dreary and devoid of diversion. They’d go see the speech or attend the rally because it was something other than back-breaking toil or chugging cider in the gloom of a darkened cabin. Now, the name of the game isn’t so much clinging on to any possible amusement but winnowing down your options.