At the New Year one is supposed to look ahead while looking back; to make plans in anticipation of the year ahead, but also resolve to correct shortcomings in the year just concluded.
Such resolutions aren’t quite the same as number nine in the twelve steps — make direct amends to persons you have harmed — which are public and shared. Resolutions are private and personal. They often involve making amendments to oneself not amends to others.
I know we live in a sharing culture, but if I were going to make any resolutions about 2015 I wouldn’t tell you. To paraphrase an old blues song: Ain’t nobody’s business what I resolve. But I am prepared to discuss what I might do in the year ahead. Since I have reached a certain age, however, I am more likely to enumerate what I won’t be doing.
Jerry Seinfeld turned 60 recently and was on Letterman who asked him if he had a bucket list. He said if you changed the “B” to an “F” it captured the spirit of the thing. At 60, he had decided he no longer “had” to do anything. Including make lists of things he had to do.
I am tempted to call this my Seinfeld List for 2015, but it’s not things I’m going to refuse to do because I couldn’t be bothered. Mine is more like a list of things I’m not going to do because I couldn’t. Call it a Waited Too Long or Out of Luck List.
In other words, a growing number of things that might once have been on a bucket list are no longer in the cards. The spirit, once willing, is weakening and the flesh is off duty. Just think of all the ads aimed at my age group with their alphabet soup of sorrows — GERD and E.D., A-Fib and Low T. Obviously various fleshly adventures are going, going, gone.
I once thought I might like to do the pilgrimage to Compostela, not I hasten to add for religious so much as historical and cultural interest. But even in fitter fiddle I would never have contemplated a grueling, rocky, arid hike of 500 miles from St. John Pied-du-Port to Santiago. But now I doubt I would be willing to endure such a drive, especially since it would be preceded and followed by 10 hours in airplanes and airports which increasingly resemble the sort of torture devices favored by the Inquisition or one of the nastier circles of Hell.
For the same reason I’m never going to circumnavigate Shikoku on the 88 temple pilgrimage trail dedicated to the great Buddhist saint of Japan, Kobo Daishi. But if I could be teleported to the island and carried on a litter like a potentate, I’d love to experience it.
Back and knees just aren’t up to strenuous amusements anymore. For this reason I am also unlikely to see India, though someone close to me keeps promising if only I will agree she would promise not abandon me along the side of the road when I broke down like an old horse or hurl my corpse on a pyre by the Ganges. But if you think it might be necessary, better stay home. In fact, all travel requiring shots may now be ruled out.
Still, I have always wanted to see the Taj and the erotic temple sculptures of Khajuraho, a clear indication that some religions are better than others. I am sorry I will never get to see them or the Vale of Kashmir and the hill towns of Kipling, but all these sights are a horrific 20 hours by plane away and the last two are now in a free-fire zone for religious fanatics.
For the same reason I am not going to see Persepolis, Palmyra, Baghdad, Damascus, and a dozen other sites of noble ruins of the past located in the bloody present-day Middle East. If I not willing to fly long distances to see sights, I am certainly not willing to be beheaded for the privilege.
I feel lucky to have seen a little bit of China and Japan, a few stops in the southern hemisphere and a good many in Europe. But I am not sure how many of those remaining on a bucket list I am going to take the trouble to see. Vancouver, Santa Fe, San Miguel de Allende, Portugal, nor whether I will be able to do what it takes to visit museums I have missed in Mexico City, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Naples, Berlin and Amsterdam, nor others I’d like to return to and linger longer over in London, Paris and Rome.
I fear fewer and fewer plane trips over five or six hours or road trips of over four or five hours a day are in my future. I’d love to attend more film festivals, but would prefer they have no crowds to interfere with my pleasure. Many of the musical performers I once hoped to see have played their last waltz. If Van Morrison would be willing to drop by, I’d be grateful. I grew up near Cleveland, Ohio but have never attended a Browns or Indians game in their new stadiums. Probably won’t happen.
I come up with long works of fiction or non-fiction I ought to write about once a month, but I know I am too lazy to attempt anything longer than the semi-weekly blog. How ignominious to get halfway through some magnum opus and decide it was a waste of paper or to flop over, leaving it unfinished. Especially since it would have no readers and disappoint the author. No, I’m sticking with things short enough to finish before the ambulance arrives.
I am clearly not going to appear on Jeopardy or engage in anything else requiring fast recall. I have entered the slow-as-molasses recall years and am heading inexorably for the no-recall years.
Nor am I going to learn a foreign language. No aptitude, insufficient stamina. I have had two years of Latin, one of German, two of Spanish and can still say nothing but “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,” “achtung,” and “una mas cerveza.” I was almost forty when I first drove into France, down the Rhone from Geneva, stopped at Orange to eat lunch and, like countless others before me, fell hopelessly in love.
If I had even a little French I would became an expat, sleeping in parks, relying on socialized medicine and eating garbage from dumpsters, but what garbage — crepes, sauces, baguettes, 200 varieties of cheese rind. I am also not going to learn, at this late date to paint, so as to render the landscapes I love.
It looks like I am going to do what Cervantes recommended, “journey over all the universe in a map, without the expense and fatigue of traveling, without suffering the inconveniences of heat, cold, hunger, and thirst.”
That and watch TV, listen to podcasts, read books, and attend what movies arrive in Podunk in 2015. These have been unfailing sources of pleasure since my grandmother read me “The Arabian Nights” and my mother took me to see “It Came from Outer Space” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.”
And I resolve to eat lots of good things so that at my next annual physical I will get another stern lecture about cholesterol. Though not as peripatetic as a younger man’s, it’s a wonderful life.