Since Spanish class at VES with Senor Sullivan I dreamt of donning a pair of white slacks, a nice soft Egyptian cotton button down, a red kerchief, a pair of track shoes, and hitting the streets of Pamplona for a little jog...a very fast-paced jog. Throughout the years when news stations broadcasted highlights of the Running with/of the Bulls I always thought to myself - I could do that and I could probably do it faster than anybody else. I used to be quick, very quick and I used to be acrobatic. If there was a ledge I could do a back flip off it and land on concrete or grass or whatever. I used to have the clearest picture of doing a back flip off of some part of a bull to the cheers of thousands of adoring strangers in some plaza de toros, but then I turned 40. Some of my dreams have changed. This morning I watched some footage from San Fermin and my thinking was very different. I thought to myself, damn I wish I had done that when I could have. Maybe I have become older and somewhat wiser or maybe older should just be capitalized.
I used to follow up on all kinds of whims because they were part of my dreams. I used to tell close friends and family that I never wanted to look back and say what if. The locales for these experiences were never very exotic. Usually I had to stay within a gas tank or two, when gas was affordable, of Oxford and all I could take with me was whatever I could fit into the back of my car. Following up on whims left very little time for settling into well-paying careers so the existence was often bare bones and simple. Jobs were diverse but very low-paying. I worked as the shoe guy at the Rock-n-Bowl in New Orleans, mated on a charter boat in Key West, helped build a boat in Charleston, answered phones for a fashion designer in New York, washed dishes at a bistro, fetched coffee for the Treasurer of the National Gallery of Art, moved stuff for a world-reknowned sculptor in Canada, stocked shelves at an independent bookstore, and taught school. Now, my resume is too expensive to fax anywhere and nobody wants to hire a "flight risk" as I was once called. The whim pursuit has slowed down to anywhere I can walk or bike to.
One might say I already lived my retirement, which is great, but now I am going to have to work until I am 107, and I am fine with that. At one point I sold a bunch of bank stock that was at an all-time high to pursue some of my impulses. That was supposed to put my kids through college and be a down payment on a house. My family was furious and told me how foolish I was. Guess what...some very rich people who started running that small-town bank have made that stock almost worthless and there is very little hope that it will ever recover. Look who's the financial genius now! I satisfied a lot of urges and got out while the getting was good. Yeah, I have a fair payment plan with the IRS to take care of the capital gains but it's all good! I don't have to wonder anymore if I can play in the NHL. I can't nor ever could, but at least I found that out first hand and in a very hard way.
Seeing the Running of the Bulls this morning made me upset but it was only for the briefest moment. It is very rare that I ask myself - what if? A lot of what I tried to accomplish did not happen but I tried. I went after numerous goals and achieved very few if any at all. Are those failures, no, those are answered questions that don't bother me in my adult life. I am free to just get through life with a big old smile on my face while I try to pay off all that I owe.
These days I try to put my experiences down on paper. Literature was a bad influence on me. When I became too old to dream of making a living as a pirate I then dreamed of becoming a novelist, thus began the whims and thus began the infectious wanderlust. What my favorite authors wrote about I wanted to taste, touch, see, hear, and smell. Blame James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, Hemingway, Faulkner, and a few others for my whims. More often than not, when I look back, I thank them.
I hope I can fine tune my syntax because I am not going to be able to throw cable down in gutters for very much longer. The retirement age of 107 is a long way off so I better get some good words down on paper and pray that someone wants to load my experiences into a kindle. The thought of having to go work on a tv show this Tuesday makes my back hurt already. I don't want to sound like a broken record or anything but I think that this will be my last show...