Earlier this year I read War and Peace and Anna Karenina back to back. Earlier this week I started The Brothers Karamazov. If it’s any good, and it’s said to be, I’ll go directly to Crime and Punishment.
I should have read these epics eons ago, especially since I spent my professional life messing with words. But I spent my leisure time carousing with the Demon Rum a bit more than was prudent.
The Demon Rum and reading are not good mixers. Even so, I have always read more than your Average Joe. My wife thinks I’m the smartest guy she ever met. By smart, she means well-versed. Culto, in her idiom.
When I quit toiling for cash on Dec. 19, 1999, and thought about what I would do with my increased freedom, I decided I would read a lot.
I also thought I would help orphans and old ladies, but I’ve yet to do that.
I had renounced the Demon Rum earlier, March 30, 1996. Mix that in with no more working for money, and you can see the free time we’re facing.
There was even time to pack two bags and move alone to another country, learn a new language, dance in the moonlight.
I’ve yet to read a single book in the new language because so many remain unread in English, and Amazon’s Kindle makes them accessible and cheap.
Orphans and old ladies still await my attention. Maybe next week. Or after The Brothers Karamazov. Or perhaps Crime and Punishment.
Or never. May the Goddess forgive me.
Not quite the same thing. Death is the moment. Dying is the process. Most accept death. It’s the dying that disturbs us.
Some skip the process, driving directly into death, or so it seems. You go to sleep one night saying, See you in the morning — to your sweetheart.
You turn off the reading lamp. And never wake again.
These are the fortunate people, providing it doesn’t happen when you’re 42 years old, or in that premature ballpark.
We have no statistics, but let’s assume most people feel the process in one way or the other. Prolonged or brief. The latter is preferred, a brief process.
Say, a car crash after which you spend some time on the pavement before the moment arrives.
The prolonged process that we all fear is cancer. There are other prolonged processes, but cancer is the most popular one to dodge if you can.
If there is no pain and discomfort, the process still is troubling because you know. There is one way to avoid the process, but you still know.
Think of Hemingway and his shotgun in Idaho. Or the suave actor George Sanders who killed himself by downing five bottles of Nembutal in Barcelona on reaching age 65 because he figured the best of life was behind him.
So death and dying are not the same. I wish a speedy death to you all. But no time soon. And may you all miss the process, going directly to the moment.
Say good night to your sweetheart. And a kiss.
Lying in bed at sunrise, looking through the window and 20 yards farther, I spot him sitting there.
A lone hummingbird on the peak of a loquat tree.
Lone hummingbird borders on redundancy because a hummingbird will almost always be alone if he has anything to say about it. Smokin’ love would be the only thing to alter that misanthropic attitude.
Even though my specs still sit on the bedside table, I can see that hummer sitting there through the window 20 yards away. I later measured the distance.
There is something written in a dusty old tome to the effect that if one sees a hummingbird atop a loquat tree immediately on waking, life will turn out better than average.
One would prefer this omen earlier in life, but this will surely do.
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(Note: This upbeat item is dedicated to my cyberamigo Ezra in the State of Maine who thinks The Unseen Moon tends too often toward the grim.)
Just $1,700 a year save me and my wife from being poor.
Television news told me today that official poverty in the United States means an annual income of $22,300 or less, and we surpass that max by a measly $1,700.
Our income is my Social Security plus a miserly pension from the Hearst Corporation. We are borderline po’ folks!
And yet we live in a big fancy house, own two cars, eat in restaurants more often than we ought, have no debt whatsoever and — the Goddess willing — we’re flying to Buenos Aires next April for our 10th anniversary.
Plus, we usually vacation twice a year in a suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
How is this possible? Easy. We do not live in the United States.
My advice: Get out of there.