‘On the day i die’ by John Pavlovitz

Birthday gathering at the Manor Care nursing home. This post by John Pavlovitz was on my facebook feed . I’m sharing his observations. Last week, my neighbor organized a group to visit his wife now in hospice with Alzheimer’s . That gathering reminded me of my mortality and the importance of staying connected with friends and family.

On the die I day a lot will happen.

A lot will change.

The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.

The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.

The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.

All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.

The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.

The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.

All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.

My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.

Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.

My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.

The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.

All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.

The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.

These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.

Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.

On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.

They will feel a void.

They will feel cheated.

They will not feel ready.

They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.

And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.

I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.

I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.

Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.

They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.

Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.

Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you’ve been led to believe matters, because on the day you die, the fact is that much of it simply won’t.

Yes, you and I will die one day.

But before that day comes: let us live.

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‘When I’m 64’ birthday book project for 2016 – 2017

A poem that inspired my book project.

Today is the final day of last year’s birthday activities.

A few months ago, a sidewalk poet in Fort Collins typed up a few lines for me that inspired the “When I’m 64” book project that begins tomorrow.

My 63rd year starts uneventfully tomorrow, May 2nd, with well-wishers on facebook and that will be the extent of it, but a yearlong celebration is stacking up to be action-packed. A smattering of events include:

  • a screening of “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” at the cohousing conference in Salt Lake May 19th
  • finishing up two documentaries – “New Deal Art in Wyoming” and “Art of the Hunt”
  • starting some new projects – in August “Plein Air in Thin Air” with a trek up the Grand Teton, teaching Arapaho kids movie production, Prince project in Wyoming
  • going fly fishing

When I turned 60 back in 2013, I had big plans to kick off a productive and action-packed decade. 

Instead, it was a big mortality wake up call. I barely made it through 2013 with a big reevaluation of life which is why I continue my tradition of celebrating for the year.

The cohousing community had a talking circle tonight about transitions over the past few months.

Most of the conversation was rather dark about health issues and mortality.

I tried having those conversations a couple years ago with my neighbors which largely fell on deaf ears. Funny how people believe their own observations. It will be interesting to see if their perceptions will match up with reality.

As many of you know by now, May 2013 started out uneventfully – the Bolder Boulder; then the top of the Cyclone roller coaster; then a shingles attack; then too much work – “Mahjong and the West, Governor’s Arts Awards, a wedding; then a week stint in the hospital and then another six weeks in the hospital – that time on my death bed.

I snapped out of it and now every day I wake up, I’m grateful. I’ve been culling through my stuff which includes  a bunch of newspaper columns and other muses.

I’m compiling all that into a memoir woven through my health recovery experiences over the past couple years.

I took a couple writing classes to scrape off the rust, but turns out there are a lot of authors with worse cases of writer’s block than me.

The class exercises were helpful fir stricture and tooics, though, hearing about and helping others slog through their writing struggles was the most worthwhile.

I may run some parts of the book for you to check out. I still have a few things on my 2013 list to complete including weightlessness, skipping stones, climbing a tree and writing a book.

Ode to Greta, and other furry friends

gretaGreta got to the end of her leash.

My long time friend, Barbara is probably my best friend considering we’ve managed to stay in touch after bouncing in and out of each others lives for 23 years – including some small and large emergency situations, which now includes pet hospice.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to know her German Shepherd, Greta, pretty well – good company, great traveler, friendly, attentive and smart. Your basic good dog.

Neither of us have children  which is one thing that binds us together and as such, I feel bad about Greta. Losing a pet is certainly not the same as when a close relative dies on you, though.

I relate to Barbara losing her dog. It was emotional. Losing my cats was emotional.

george and gracie smallMy tan and gray tabby cats,  George and Gracie, were given to me by a coworker when I was in Lander, Wyoming close to 40 years ago. Both were the runts of the litter. I fed both with a medicine dropper until they were able to get around on there own.

Both took a liking to me.

They better have.

Gracie stayed mostly indoors, but George was an outdoor cat and would  be gone for a week or more at a time. I’m pretty sure he had a second life some where else, but he’d always come back like nothing happened.

Every morning George would sit on the sink while I was in the shower. I don’t know what it is about cats and bathrooms.

One day, he wasn’t there.

It seemed like he lost his self esteem, was depressed. I started finding him laying in his litter box.

A friend of mine, John Mionczynski from nearby Atlantic City, Wyoming was a pet herbalist. John most recently is well known as a cable TV Big Foot expert. He came over and diagnosed George as having cat leukemia.

He prescribed a goldenrod mush. That worked for a while and George perked up for a few days.

In retrospect, it wasn’t the best choice since the treatment prolonged his agony. I picked up George and put him in the basket where he liked to sleep. The next morning I found him lifeless on the kitchen floor.

The loss of that cat was hard on me, harder than any of the other critters I’ve had to put down over the years.

I went through that alone.

I haven’t heard of many animals who die naturally, as George did. In Lander, there was a vet who made house calls. He was gentle but very matter of fact.

I asked about an autopsy. He told me not to worry, which sounded like he would take care of George.

I didn’t want to be a “crazy cat” guy and bury him in the back yard, but it wasn’t a very ceremonious departure. The vet placed George in a black trash bag and hauled him off.

As for Gracie? After George died, I moved to another house and she disappeared, probably got lost trying to find her previous home.

As for Greta?

I helped Greta to her bed on the porch. She had degenerative myelopathy and lost the use of her back legs and bladder. She was still with it, checking out the horizon, sniffing the air. She couldn’t hear much anymore.

After scratching behind her ears, I bade her farewell. Barbara had a couple other friends over for when the vet came.

Over the past year, I’ve been to memorials and wakes for three family members – my Uncle Rich, Aunties Jeannie and Elsie.

Those three relatives went out with little notice. They didn’t want a big fuss, considering that past funerals in my family were pretty big deals.

When my dad was in hospice care at the hospital, I had a good talk with him when he was still lucid and conversational but I wasn’t present when the plug was pulled.

I was unemployed for the first time and finally landed a job. We talked about that and both agreed I should show up to work for the first day on Monday.

He must have taken a fast turn for the worst because he died that Sunday.

Dad had a good run, but a miserable life the last few years with COPD. I think I had what he had, but his was misdiagnosed. I came out of it because of better technology – namely the Video-assisted thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) lung biopsy.

I probably should have stuck for an extra day to support my mother. She died of a massive heart attack in her sleep three months later.

Deaths are for the living.

I wonder why dead people try to control others from the grave. In both my parent’s cases, they wanted people to get together. Those were a couple pretty good wakes.

Funerals are about the only times all the cousins get together anymore, at least the ones within a few hundred miles. Auntie Elsie denied us of that, because she didn’t want what she considered a big todo, it actually had the opposite effect.

It’s odd that it takes a tragedy as an excuse to get people together. 

Pets on the other hand, alive and dead, are all about their people and happy we’re there regardless. Closing out a pet’s life is way less complicated than all the paperwork that goes into being sure a human is actually dead.

When the vet arrived, I imagine Greta didn’t know what was coming, but I know Barbara is okay with my mourning and the well wishes of others. I’ll always remember that dog.

As for me, there’s now Moon the cat who will likely out-live not only me, but everyone else.

Forget estate planning, who’ll take care of the cat?

Swish and spit

I got a call from my cousin, Leslie.

These days, whenever relatives call, there’s generally some sort of family emergency. This time, Leslie told me our Auntie Elsie died. She was 89 and after a fall breaking her ankle she was moved out of her house and into a rehab center in north Cheyenne.

I stopped in to visit her when I was in town before and noticed she had a banged up face. Cheyenne is a smallish town. Elsie’s roommate is the great aunt of some high school mates of mine. She said Elsie fell out of bed. What I wasn’t told, is that she was now in hospice care because of it.

I was planning another trip to visit her and get a couple bits of family history from her about the time she sprung my grandfather and her brother – my Uncle George – from a holding stall at the Santa Anita Racetrack when Executive Order 9066 was signed by FDR rounding up west coast Japanese – Americans.

Long story short, Japanese who lived in the interior like in Wyoming were viewed as being non-threatening and allowed to stay in their homes and Elsie was able to get them back to Wyoming.

After World War II Elsie chose to move to Boston where she attended dental hygienist school and upon graduation, returned to Cheyenne and worked for Dr. Carson, who ended up being our family dentist.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s going to the dentist was viewed, I think by everyone, as cruel and unusual punishment. Those belt-driven drills that moved the bits at the speed of a hamster spinning his cage were gruesome.

The classic diabolic dentist movie scene is when a Nazi war criminal played by Lawrence Olivier bores into Dustin Hoffman’s front teeth in “Marathon Man”.

I inherited my dad’s bad teeth. I don’t know if kids still get their baby teeth capped, but all my teeth were covered with stainless steel. If there were metal detectors back then, I never would have made it into a sporting event or through the airport.

My aunt the hygienist cleaned my teeth. She always made it fun for kids. This was during the days of cuspidors – those little round sinks with cold water swirling around. I’d get that gritty toothpaste which sort of tasted good squirted out by my aunt pulling the trigger on that high pressure water pistol that shot a straight stream from two feet away.

Then swish and spit.

I always liked the mist that splattered up on my face as the fast moving water sloshed up the ceramic sides of the bowl.

When it was Dr. Carson’s turn, he wasn’t the most personable guy, at least compared to Dr. Cohen, my pediatrician. After a few pleasantries, if I was in for a filling, he pulled out this Dr. Frankenstein contraption. It was a glass, graduated cylinder embraced in a stainless steel housing with a needle the size of a house nail. He would stick it in a bottle of Novocain, pull it out of the robber stopper with a squeak and squirt the air out before jabbing me various places in my mouth.

Elsie would come in and mix up the filling gunk, which consisted of mercury and silver. My mouth was so full of toxins by the time I was out of high school, it would make a tuna fish gag. I gave up my last old school filling when my root canal tooth finally gave way a couple years ago and replaced by a ceramic one. My dentist at the time talked me out of gold, because it would ‘show’.

I shouldn’t have listened.

There’s no wonder dentists are viewed as torturers.

I don’t have to tell anyone who’s experienced those low RPM drills how much more pleasant it is to go to the dentist now and have to submit to those water-cooled hydraulics ones.

When I have dental work done nowadays, I don’t bother with the anesthetic since the needle poke hurts more than the drilling and there’s no biting of the inner cheek because of the weird numbness.

At the end of the session, Auntie Elsie handed me a pencil and a toothbrush and I was on my way.

Dr. Carson’s office was right next to the Bunten Pharmacy on one side and a block away from Save More Drug and Thrifty Drug. While waiting for my ride, I killed time browsing the baseball cards and Beatle cards and waste my money one a pack or two of them.

Elsie was single and in those days, that was unique, but not unusual for my family with three of her brothers never marrying and a brother and sister marrying much later in life.

She lived in south Cheyenne with my grand parents and her brother, Richard. She eventually moved out to her own place. Rich stayed there until both grand parents died and eventually married. More on them later.

Elsie was quite the athlete – playing 2nd base in a competitive softball league and a 175 scratch bowler. When she quit playing, I think I have her glove in my baseball box. My dad gave me my first glove, which I still have. Not a good memory about it though. The neighbor kid, who was much older than any of us threw a ball at me that was catchable.

I was scrawny and my hand and arm weren’t strong enough to keep the ball from flying out of the webbing and into my eye. I think it knocked me out. I ended up going to the emergency room, but I was no worse for the wear.

The glove I used most of my Little League career I bought at a church rummage sale in November 1963. It’s a Rawlings Wally Moon model. It had a broken in pocket and I made many a good play with it. There were a couple fly balls I should have had but flinched when the fence came up on me. Those weren’t major league fences, they were chain link barely waist high with the barbed edges uncovered which aren’t allowed these days.

Elsie taught me how to bowl. Starting out, everyone uses the house balls. The problem was, finding the same or a similar one each time I went to the alley. I didn’t really get the hang of the game, even though my mom and dad were at one time avid bowlers. World War II put an end to that when they were both kicked out of the American Bowling Congress after Pearl Harbor.

Neither of them picked up the sport again after that. Besides, my dad had a bad back which kept him 4F and out of the war. I also inherited his back problems and was introduced to chiropractics and sat out my sophomore year of high school wrestling – a great sport for spindly guys like me.

I think chiropractors had the same macabre reputations as dentists – maybe they still do.

When I started working and had disposable income, Elsie talked me into buying my own ball and shoes. I wasn’t a great bowler because I didn’t spend enough time at it. I did bowl enough to win a bowling trophy while on a team in Lander, Wyoming.

That was a rite of passage.

About that same time “The Big Lebowski” came out. I related to the nerdy Steve Buscemi character, since I didn’t quite fit into the usual bowling crowd.

Bowling has changed. I got rid of my ball in an early purge, which I now regret. There’s no bowling alley in Boulder and the ones in Denver are these disco-like places with flashing lights and loud music.

The worst part is, the score keeping is automatic.

Keeping score with soft lead pencils projected overhead is a lost art form. It was a display of bowling knowledge. I was always lousy at math, but I could score a bowling game. I think I was good at it because it was very visual – marking those x’s and half x’s writing legible numbers. Some people were bad at it. Even if I wasn’t bowling, I liked to keep score.

After Elsie died there was no big to do, I come from a long line of low key die-ers. A few months earlier my cousin Alison called to report her mother – my Auntie Jeannie – had passed away. She had a stroke while sleeping and didn’t wake up. She had a small reception, nothing like some services I’ve attended.

Part II – What a long strange trip it’s been

Things have been getting better. I’ve been out of rehab for almost almost four weeks and I saw on the news over 4million more people have signed up for Obamacare since I did back at the end of December / beginning of January.

I started to drive last week, which has been liberating. I’m still not quite sure of the clutch foot in my VW van. I’m likely to get an automatic transmission vehicle and have been renting one for a week and getting around pretty well. I’m looking to lease a car.

Meanwhile, the Eurovan started right up after sitting fallow since December 16th. I’m able to push in the clutch and drive it. I have a love – hate relationship with it, though. It’s been nothing but trouble since the day I bought it, but luckily much of the failures were covered by warranty.

There still are some quirky things happening when it starts up. I take it to the garage on Sunday to get it looked at. Who knows when it will be out of the shop. I’ll check on Wednesday.

As for now, the car lease quest is now a waiting game hoping for a better deal. The one in December that I missed was zero down, 24 months $197 for a Ford Focus. The best I’ve been able to find now is zero down, 36 months $239 for a Subaru Legacy sedan.

I digress.

Meanwhile, I figured out that the main reason doctors get sued so much is because healthcare is imprecise at best. Hit and miss guesses based on the best information available at any given moment is the only way to figure out what’s wrong with someone.

Once a doctor and patient weigh the information and with a high probability have figured out what’s happening, the same process is followed for treatment. Patients who aren’t proactive and involved in their health care and rely on docs to make decisions make a huge mistake.

I’ve learned that a person really needs to be a strong advocate for themselves because doctors, nurses and everyone else in the health care environment could give a rat’s ass what’s happening with each individual patient. The squeaky wheel gets the bed pan was my mantra.

I’m still going through ‘dialing in’ process for my treatment. I don’t think I’ll ever be back to where I was before June, 1, 2013 – but who knows?

I’d say the “armchair patients”  who haven’t been in the healthcare system lately and think that modern medicine choices are black and white need to get sick to experience it themselves.

So far, so good on that front.

The things I notice these days, are public places that aren’t universally accessible. I stayed at a bed and breakfast as a break from hotels the other day.

It’s in an historic building and there were two concrete steps to get up to the yard, then four concrete steps to get to the porch. Once inside I had to navigate six stairs to one landing then four more stairs to the second landing.

Whaddya gonna do?

Truckin, Im a goin/ home. whoa whoa baby, back where I belong …

7 Answers About My Life Purpose

I don’t know if it’s an American thing, but we’re pretty good at coming up with lists. Maybe lists give a sense of order or accomplishment. There’s been a facebook game of tag going around about listing things for which a person is grateful.

 People wrote about their pets or their families or their homes and physical environments – their stuff. As for me, I couldn’t come up with much. I see life as an interconnection of events and encounters with the world around me and not any three things that make me feel grateful.

I ran across an article by a guy named Mark Manson on Ryan Van Duzer’s wall entitled “7 Strange Questions to Help You Find Your Life Purpose.” Since my two-month stint in the hospital and rehab, I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the last few months.

1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Like Woody Allen says in Annie Hall, “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories.The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else.”


From the summer of last year to a couple months ago, I’ve been horrible, I’m thankful that now, I’m just miserable.

2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?

I created some hard feelings towards me by a long time friend of mine about not always being straight forward enough or answering questions or describing situations vaguely. I probably do this out of fear of rejection or fear about being wrong. I have been getting better at speaking my mind, but I don’t think people really are interested in hearing straight answers.

3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

I forget to eat from time to time, but I always poop. Writing and editing make me forget to eat. I lost 30 pounds when I was sick and have gained back 20. Even when I forget to eat, I eventually eat even when it is an odd time of the day, usually in the middle of the afternoon. The one thing I advise young people as why they should get a good job, they can eat whenever and whatever and spoil their dinner anytime they want.

4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

As I’ve grown older, I don’t get embarrassed much these days. A couple weeks ago, I started attending yoga classes two or three times a week. I’m a klutz when it comes to the balancing poses, but that doesn’t bother me.  The women in the class make conscious fashion statements with their outfits and yoga accoutrements. I’ve noticed the yoga badge of honor is the worn out yoga mat with lots of toe nail gouges.

5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

I used to think that my participation in various causes would make a difference. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. There’s been quite a bit of controversy about domestic violence and the NFL.

I worked for a domestic violence prevention organization called Project Safeguard, my colleague, also a man completed our MPA degrees at CU Denver in the domestic violence prevention field. While DV is largely a problem of men, the solvency role is largely one reserved for women. It’s been very frustrating bumping up against that ceiling and not being able to do much. One idea I’ve had, but not the energy is to build a group of regular guys – ala the Promise Keepers – to take on the DV issue. Men have to set their own table, not join that of women.

The only people who can have a huge impact are very wealthy people and famous people who can buy change. Everyone else just follows along, It takes regular people like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown to be killed / martyred to raise awareness about issues and create social change. Maybe that’s how it’s always been for oppressed people.

I’ve come to realize that I can only do so much as an individual and hope others choose to do the same. I give $5 to political campaigns in Kentucky wondering if Alison Grimes can take out Mitch McConnell and on recently elected Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and hope I can be a small part of a change movement.  If I ever did anything personally, I imagine it would have to do with a hard-hitting documentary project. The world would be saved by now if we only had more spare time. My last stint in party politics I was the precinct 108 captain for the 2008 election cycle. This was when the Obama ground game was so good. The school was packed to capacity and the caucus oozed out into the hallways.

6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AN D WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

A long time ago I decided that I wanted to see and do things while I was young and spry enough to enjoy and not wait until I was too old. I’m also one who isn’t content just to travel someplace to look at stuff. There’s a Talking Heads album called Stop Making Sense. It’s laid out as a scrapbook and one of the cut lines is “Rich people travel thousands of miles to take pictures of poor people.”

Over the years, I’ve been to all the states multiple times except for only one trip to Hawaii. I spent a month in Uganda a few years back, made pilgrimages to visit the family roots in Japan and Peru. Lived and worked in Mexico for several years.

I’ve experienced quite a few events. Here’s a sampling – saw Mantle and Maris play, traveled to Washington DC and tear gassed during Richard Nixon’s 1973 inauguration and hung around at LBJ’s funeral; had lunch with Timothy Leary; went to one of Bill Clinton’s inaugural balls in 1993, trekked to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees in the 2001 World Series shortly after the 9/11 attack, saw Nebraska get creamed by Miami in the 2000 Rose Bowl NCAA National Championship game, climbed Devil’s Tower a few times, swam with dolphins in the Amazon River.

When I turned 60, I came up with a list of some things to do that year, then I landed in the hospital and didn’t quite get through everything, but the list continues in play. Going to Ecuador was on the list. I also haven’t been to Europe. Any travel would have to be around something unique. Maybe Harry will invite me over the Pond for a drink.

7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately. The question asks people to project out a year and as such, I don’t think it gets much serious thought and gives an excuse to put off thinking about.

When I went to visit Graceland the first time, I knew Elvis was famous, but I didn’t think he was THAT famous – all those Grammy Awards, clothes, jewels, cars.

Over the years I’ve accumulated stuff thinking it might be of interest to others. Turns out, I mostly have boxes of junk that I’ve been sorting through, trying to sell a few things and giving stuff to charity.

I watched a cable show called Tiny House about people wanting to downsize and live in homes that are a couple hundred sq ft in size. The downsize therapist had the “hoarder” separate things into three piles – trash, recycle /reuse, keep – it’s a pretty good method.

I’ve come to realize that the only people who have any business keeping their stuff are famous people. I’ll pass a few things on to others. My main hobby over the years is collecting autographed baseballs of all the players on particular Yankees teams. The internet took the challenge out of collecting, but I was able to fill out the odd ball items and the collection is largely complete. It’s been tough for me to let go of that stuff.

How do I want to be remembered? I googled myself to see what was out there in cyber space – mostly information that’s five or six years old and about my recent movie and TV business life. Nothing, really, about growing up in Cheyenne, at school at Hastings College, in grad school in Laramie, working in Gillette, and Lander or much about my time in Colorado.

If I were to leave behind a record of my life virtually, it would be my facebook and linkedin accounts. I don’t know if I want my social media life ended.

When Robin Williams died, there was a lot of attention paid to him for a couple weeks and then that story became old news. If a famous guy like Robin Williams fades into the past fairly quickly, I’m pretty sure, about all I’ll get is an obituary in a couple newspapers and someone will have to pay for those, if they get around to it.

I’ve put some thought into my final wishes, though. I want to be cremated and some of my ashes scattered on top of Devil’s Tower – I hope I don’t out live all of my old climbing pals; some scattered over center field in Yankee Stadium – that may be a secret mission. I have a grave plot in Cheyenne, that will then be unused, but I’ll have a headstone that says “Alan O’Hashi 1953 – 20?? ‘Was Supposed to be Buried Here'” or “Who’s buried in Alan O’Hashi’s tomb? Nobody”

WHAT’S MY LIFE PURPOSE?
There’s the material life purpose which has to do with “stuff” and the nature of this little quiz. I have grown frustrated with this because the American Dream is to accumulate and take up space and bigger is better. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that what is better is exactly the opposite. My purpose in life is to do good, do no harm and move away from the material. I sound like a Methodist. Methodists say “Stay in Love with God” but that doesn’t quite roll off my tongue.

Alan’s 50 things to do – and after an abrupt halt, hoping to finish in 2014 … 2015 at the latest

alan sand dune

Rolled down a dune at the Sand Dunes National Monument.

I turned 60 in May 2013 and have a bunch of things on a list of things to do. Here is the list of 50 things – some are things I’ve done in the past, others are new things, but I think are achievable. The list is dynamic and may change.Checking items off my list came to an abrupt halt beginning in June 2013.

Riding the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island was about the last thing that I finished before a topsy turvy ride began with a continuing bout with shingles, then an exhausting summer and fall fighting off various types of pneumonia that eventually landed me flat on my back in the hospital December 16th through January 13th; then in a rehab center until the end of the January.

I rehabbed at home for another month – watched the Super Bowl with a hose sticking out of my stomach. Rather than give more gory details here, check out the note about it, including my successful bout with Obamacare.

Here’s the link to my note “I tip my hat to the nurses who tended to my butt wound and Obamacare!”

http://on.fb.me/1fAHjXH

I’ve been on my own without reliance on home care nurses and supplemental oxygen for a couple months. Here’s the list of 50 …

1. Get reacquainted with a long lost friend or relative – I’ve started to do this more intentionally, due to a death in the family will be meeting up with a bunch of cousins in SFO. I had lunch the other day with Mary – a friend / colleague I hadn’t talked to in maybe 10 years. Don’t be surprised to get an email or message from me one day!

2. Write a song – I went to a BMI event in Crested Butte and would like to have a famous person perform it.

3. Climb a mountain – My Gillette, WY climbing buddy, Charlie, wants to get back up Devil’s Tower. I think this may be “on” for the Donkey Creek Festival the last weekend of June.

4. Enter the Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild Horse Race – I made a documentary about it. My friend Bob participated – but he was a lot younger. I’ve wanted to at least get on a team.

5. Go to Ecuador / Peru – I have family in Peru. I wonder if they are still there? Ecuador is a haven for Americans. No tourist visa required and the currency is the US dollar. I stumbled upon a pretty good documentary story about Ecuadorans coming to the US seeking the American Dream and Americans going to Ecuador seeking the American Dream.

6. Fill out the application to be in The Amazing Race – May not make the cut but want to get in the mix.

7. Go fishing – I’ve been carrying around the tackle and need to get it out. What gave me the initial bug was going on an ice fishing jaunt on the Art of the Hunt project. A couple pals offered a fishing outing.

8. Play the violin again – Last time I played was a Mozart piece accompanied by my friend Barbara many, many years ago.

9. Learn Photoshop – I’ve been threatening to do this and use Final Cut Pro as a crutch.

10. Take the train cross country – I’ve been one way or the other, but not at the same time. There’s a 15 day Amtrak USA pass that can be had for $439. This may be the way to go and looking for travel companions to join me for all or part of the trek. Next week, I’ll be taking the train from Denver to Penn Station. This comes pretty close to a cross country train ride.

11. Sort through all my junk and get rid of some stuff – I plan to get to this by 2014… 2016 at the latest! I took a bunch of Franciscan-ware to the 2nd hand store the other day.

12. Organize my photos – They are all over my computer hard drive and in boxes. I’ve been finding them in various boxes and using some for Throw Back Thursday pix on the facebook.

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Rain Delay Rox v Yanks

13. Get to a baseball game – Haven’t been to a game in a couple years, any game  – Little League, MLB. The Yankees were in town. I was able to get tickets to each game. It was raining like crazy that week. Rockies won the opener. The Yankees won the final two – when they get a one run lead, Mariano Rivera is amazing. He’s supposedly retiring this this. I’ll be in New York for a few days after Memorial Day and will catch the Yankees in Yankee Stadium against the dreaded Red Sox.

14. Eat a big steak in a contest – Watched ‘The Great Outdoors” with Ackroyd and Candy – got a hankering. I doubt I can finish one, but will be fun to at least try. I also saw that the Acme Oyster House in New Orleans has an oyster eating marathon, which sounds more appealing.

15. Crash an Oscar party in Hollywood – Could be there this weekend, but will be in SFO instead.

16. Light a fire with no matches – I have flint, no steel and no technique.

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Flying a kite, which is still in the car.

17. Fly a kite – I recall sending one out of sight as a kid and would like to do that again. It’s March and I picked up a $20 kite from Into the Wind kite store. I was skeptical that an expensive kite would be better than a plastic one. Diana and Mason were the witnesses to this activity up in Commerce City where there is a constant breeze. I’ve flown some kites in my day, but this one went up effortlessly in little wind.

18. Climb a tree – Hopefully, I won’t be evading any wild critters.

19. Navigate a kayak – I saw a documentary about extreme kayaking in Uganda at the headwaters of the Nile. This one may evolve into something else, since I’m not much of a water person.

20. Ski again – I skied last in Vail three years ago at the film festival filming a shot on the mountain with Michael C. Tom suggested skiing a sand dune – now I’d forgotten about that option, which would be different. I know there are places in the U.S. to do that.

21. Skip stones on a still lake – The trick is finding the right stones at the perfect lake.

22. Go to Sturgis on a motorcycle – Was invited by Egija to ZZ Top there this summer. Turns out I didn’t make it to Sturgis this year. Egija had a baby and decided she could either be a mom or be a vagabond videographer. She opted to stay home. Another item that rolls over to next year!

23. Fly in a hot air balloon – Not much of a challenge these days, but would like to film from above.

24. Eat a truffle rooted up by a pig – What’s a truffle, anyway?

25. Go bowling – I like to bowl, but nobody else I know does. I really like to keep score. I did bowl the other day. A young friend Alex had her birthday party at the Punch Bowl in Denver on Broadway. It’s one of those places with a bar, games, and eight lanes. The festivities were cluttered with eating, drinking with some bowling strewn into the mix. There were five bowlers and we didn’t get a complete game finished in an hour. It costs $13 for an hour of bowling, $3.50 for shoes. Nobody in the surrounding lanes knew anything about bowling etiquette. Plus the computer keeps score, which takes most of the fun out of it. There are no pin racks these days. the pins are suspended from wires. The knocked down pins are lifted up and the remaining ones remain suspended on the lane. I did manage to make a couple strikes and pick up a spare or two.

26. Learn to scuba dive – Duzer snorkled in the Downtown Aquarium in Denver. He also suggested the urban wind tunnel skydiving place by Englewood, which may end up on this list. I filmed Barbara swimming with sharks there for a possible urban adventure show.  I’ve always been more of a land lover and it’s time to get out of my comfort zone. A trip to Mazatlan may be in order for this one and a stay in my El Cid time share condo.

27. Hunt for fossils – Used to do this all the time when I was a kid, thought I was a young Dr. Leakey.

28. Spend an entire 24 hour day with a total stranger – Who will it be? The closest I’ve come on this one is when Pope John Paul II was in Denver. I happened upon a guy from Iowa who made the trip out. He was lugging around a watermelon to share and I had a knife. We hung around together from 6am to around 9pm.

29. Go sledding – Had a chance over the holidays in Estes Park but chickened out.

30. Finish a screenplay – I have a couple that need some work, “When the Emperor Was Divine” and “Columbine”. I did go through both screen plays and sent one off to friend who was soliciting screenplays.

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I read this book cover to cover.

31. Read a book from cover to cover – I’m obviously not much of a reader. I would have become a better reader had I not been forced to read about fictional characters like Dick, Jane and Sally. I finished reading “So You’re a Creative Genius … Now What?” by fellow introvert Carl King. It was to the point and lots of lists with bullet points, so it fit in with my learning comprehension style.

32. Eat healthier and lose a few pounds – This has been ongoing since January. I’m on the 16 hour fast schedule. So far so good. I’ve lost 1.5 inches of belly fat and holding steady. I’m pretty lean as it is and that has translated to three pounds.

33. Be an extra in a movie or TV show – I was in Catch and Release, but like being around the action. Turned out that I’m co-producing a couple movies this summer. I was contacted by BCDF Pictures about co-producing “Mahjong and the West” which is in production now in Jackson, Wyoming. BCDF has been successful getting films into the Sundance Film Festival, so I’m hopeful this will lead to #49 on this list.

34. Experience weightlessness (zero gravity) – I don’t know if there are any consumer options for this. I am told that it is pricey. I may get on a trapeze with some aerial dancers and experience zero gravity at the height of the swing.

35. Shake hands with President Obama – We probably won’t see him again in CO now that he won.

36. Eat onion rings at Holsten’s in Bloomfield, New Jersey – The last scene in the final Soprano’s episode.

37. Play the piano again – I plunk around from time to time. My music is amongst the junk set for purge.

38. Learn how to cook something new – I have to get out my rut! I did make a noodle kugel in the microwave, which turned out pretty well. I tried my hand at baking and made a couple sweet potato pies.

39. Try lutefisk again – I want to see if it is still as bad as I originally remember it. I found out from a Minnesotan that it can be had by mail order around Christmas time.

40. Organize a party and invite people not in my usual social circles – Who wants to attend? This will likely be a Cole Addition reunion of my Fairview Elementary School friends at the Cole Pool probably during Cheyenne Frontier Days.

41. Make amends for something that’s been bugging me for a long time – There’s one instance in particular…

42. Drop what I’m doing, buy a cheap airplane ticket to where ever and go – This will be ‘go with the flow’

43. Get back to writing thank you notes and not thank you emails – My mom would be proud of me.

44. Grow a plant from seed – Anyone have any good heirloom tomatoes?

45. Learn another language – I should just learn Spanish and Japanese better. My progress so far? When in San Francisco, I picked up a pack of hiragana and katakana flash cards. I read a newspaper from Ecuador to see how much I can figure out before google translating. I’d rather be more intentional about the Spanish, but I learned from immersion, so I’ll brush up by immersion.

46. Stay analog for a week – Easier said than done – how did I ever get along with internet? I accomplished this last week. It amounted to listening the the radio instead of television, facebook, mindless internet surfing; I made a reservation after finding a number in the phone book and called on the land line. Read a book made out of paper referenced above in number 31. I took hard copy directions trying to find Daniel’s new digs near Taos and compared them to the iPhone gps. Out in the middle of nowhere, the written directions were more detailed and the gps missed one of the turns. I’d say my work flow has changed. I was unable to abandon business email and cell phone calls; a few personal texts and a game or two of Words With Friends but other than these analog departures, it was a quiet week.

47. Walk more – I sit in front of this monitor too much. I went on a short hike the other day, which got my blood flowing at altitude. I walked the 2014 Bolder Boulder 10K. I was not sure how far I would make, but after the first mile, I knew I would finish the entire route.

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I rode the Cyclone in Coney Island.

48. Go to the amusement park – I’ve been wanting to get to Lakeside in Denver and ride the Cyclone. I rode the Cyclone at Coney Island. The problem with the modern amusement parks, is it costs too much to enter, like the Elitches in Denver.

49. Get to the Sundance Film Festival – The weather is always so bad and I have a place to stay.

50. Roll down a steep sand dune – coming back from Taos, a stop at the Great Sand Dunes National Park was made. After a short hike, I rolled down for about 40 seconds. Even being on the ground, my equilibrium was messed up and I lost orientation and had to self-arrest midway. Abby and Diana indulged me on this stop. Not knowing what to expect, I’m happy I chose the front side “blue” run, rather than the backside “black diamond”.