Ellin and I were watching something on TV last week, I don’t remember exactly what, when somebody blurted out: “You should live every day of your life as if it were your last.”
It’s an old platitude. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. But for some reason, I stopped and really thought about it. What if I did live every day of my life as if it were my last? How would that work out? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that living like that would be the dumbest thing ever!
I mean, here’s how every day of the rest my life would go.
Alarm goes off:
ME: (Yawn) Time to get up. What day is it? Tuesday? What do I have to do today? Oh wait, I just remembered. THIS IS THE LAST DAY OF MY LIFE! WTF?? I’VE GOT JUST 24 HOURS TO LIVE!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?? I FELT FINE YESTERDAY!!
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?? ALL THE THINGS I WANTED TO DO BEFORE I DIE??? EVERY THING THAT’S ON MY BUCKET LIST?? HOW THE HELL AM GOING TO DO THAT?? I’VE ONLY GOT 24 FRIGGING HOURS BEFORE I KICK THE GOD DAMNED BUCKET!
I COULD GO OUT TO THAT EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO TO. BUT WHAT’S THE POINT!!!? I’LL BE DEAD BEFORE THE MEAL’S DIGESTED!! FUCK THIS! THIS ISN’T FAIR!! SCREW IT! I’LL JUST GET SHIT-FACED DRUNK!
I wake up the next morning:
ME: Ohhhh! My head! Crap. This is the worst hangover I’ve ever had. What was I thinking? Drinking that much? Wait … oh yeah … THIS IS THE LAST DAY OF MY LIFE!! I’M GONNA BE DEAD IN 24 HOURS!!! OK, 23 HOURS, 57 MINUTES AND 12 SECONDS, 11 SECONDS … WTF??! WHY ME??!
And so it would go.
I’m sorry, but that’s no way to live. That’s the Groundhog Day from Hell. I’m quite happy with my life the way it is.
I plan on living the rest of my life going to sleep every night with the firm belief there’s a better than even chance I’m going to live to see the next day. And the day after that.
I was swapping old baseball anecdotes with friends on Facebook after Marilyn and I re-watched Ken Burns’ classic “Baseball” series recently. It began with memories of 1963, one year after the introduction of the New York Metropolitans into the National League.
The Mets were designed to lure back fans disenchanted by the flight of Brooklyn’s Dodgers and New York’s Giants to the west coast a few years earlier. It was also a great business opportunity to reclaim some of the money that overflowed the coffers at Yankee Stadium. The once three baseball team Gotham was now dominated by the Bronx Bombers.
The Mets began as a circus with aging baseball legend, Casey Stengel, as ring master and manager. George Weiss, ousted from the Yankees front office when Casey was dumped for being old and losing the 1960 World Series, was the Mets first General Manager. The old Polo Grounds, once home to John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, a young Willie Mays and a host of other legendary Giants, was now home for the Mets. You could smell the history. Sometimes you had to hold your nose.
It was a good year to be 20 years old and a budding reporter with a life long love for baseball. The national stage was being set by JFK and his new frontier. “Gunsmoke” was topping the TV ratings and Elvis was king of the pop world.
Now came the Mets! They had problems hitting, throwing and catching the ball. Otherwise, they were fine. There were instant heroes like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry, the error prone first baseman who had a minus fielding range. “Choo Choo” Coleman was a pleasant catcher who had problems with pitchers who couldn’t throw strikes. Elio Chacon was a flashy shortstop who did tangos as ground balls went through and around him. Roger Craig was a veteran starter whose fast ball was behind him … by several years … back in the ghost of Ebbets Field.
Opposing teams feasted on the new Mets. Baseball games were like batting practice for the other guys. Their batting averages soared and their earned run averages dropped against Casey’s Amazin’ Mets who lost and lost and lost.
Management decided to hype the circus atmosphere of the Mets by bringing in aging stars who normally would’ve retired. The over-the-hill retinue would include Richie Ashburn, Jimmy Piersall and Duke Snider. Even the legendary Willie Mays would show up a decade later in the dark autumn of his career. But it was storybook time for a young reporter in that summer of ’62.
Casey Stengel was wrapping up a 10 minute, one question interview that I’d forgotten as we shook hands. The Ol’ Perfesser tapped me on the cheek and pointed to Duke Snider as my next interview. I froze!! My boyhood hero, the Duke of Flatbush, was standing a few feet away from me.
You have to appreciate the moment and its back story. Growing up in the city of three baseball teams was a very special time. The time of three great, Hall of Fame centerfielders. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. There were myriad brawls over who was the best. There was even a song about the three heroes.
Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider was my idol. He was the sweet swinging lefty slugger from Compton, California. I had the Duke’s baseball cards, magazine stories and photos of Duke and his wife, Bev. I copied Duke’s swing and classic running gait, with elbows slightly raised as I rounded the bases after my imaginary grand slam home run. We still have his Hall of Fame plaque on the wall in the kitchen.
Now, he was standing next to me. My voice shot up several levels as the interview began. The Duke stared at me and mumbled, “I’m busy, Kid”. I just stood there. Crestfallen. Duke? Duke? I was still standing there when the Duke returned with a small smile on face.
Casey was standing behind Duke as he stood and politely granted me the interview. I was mesmerized. He apologized for his earlier, gruff manner and posed for a polaroid moment with me. Behind us, I could see Casey winking at me. As I basked in the moment, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see the familiar face of Jimmy Piersall. Casey again was winking at me a few feet away. It was a wicked grin. I was puzzled.
Piersall who didn’t resemble Tony Perkins who had starred in the bio movie, “Fear Strikes Out”, also had a strange grin on his face. It was a bizarre moment. In a blur of seconds, Piersall was running around the bases backwards with a bat raised over his head and yelling. I kept my distance. It was surreal!! Piersall approached me again, bat in hand and weird smile on his face. “I was just funnin’ with you, Kid”, Piersall explained. He went on with a rambling anecdote about the joys of playing for Casey and the Mets.
I don’t recall ever asking Piersall a question. It didn’t matter.
My tech aide, actually a pal from the college radio station, was laughing as he showed me the pictures he’d taken. We had proof. I hadn’t imagined the crazy events. I wish I had those pictures now!
So it was, some 54 years ago. One memorable summer afternoon, when all was right in my world.
I suppose it ought to be instinctive that a picture should have a subject, just as a book or a movie should have a plot.
Those of who read a lot, watch movies or TV, and/or write, know it isn’t necessarily as simple as it seems. It is surprisingly easy for a subject to get lost between clauses … or the movie’s theme to get buried under special effects. Or the beautiful rose to be lost amidst a sea of other flowers.
A photo needs a subject and the photographer needs to know what he or she is trying to say. If you don’t know what your subject is, you can be pretty sure no one else will know either.
My answer, over the years, is to move in close. To have a subject stand out, I try to make it easy for anyone to know what I’m trying to say. If you are shooting a single subject, just shoot tight and stay focused.
“Get it?” “Got it!” “Good.” – from “The Court Jester”
You’re given $500,000 dollars tax-free (any currency), what do you spend it on?
Paying off ALL my bills, then helping the people I love. Make sure the remainder — if there is anything left because half a million doesn’t go as far as it used to go — will be used to take care of our dogs, our family, friends, each other.
What subject would you like to study in depth, if given the time to do so?
Magic. I want to be a wizard.
Would your rather be stuck in a small plane with bad turbulence for 2 hours or be a passenger in a car racing the Daytona 500?
Do I have to pick one of them? Okay, I guess a car is closer to a roller coaster than a plane in turbulence. If I have to be at Daytona, I’m driving.
Another one of the bloggers with whom I have been in close communication for more than a year just shut down. I suppose I knew something was happening because he wasn’t posting as often. Nor was he displaying the cleverness and enthusiasm characteristic of his past work.
Why? He didn’t explain. I could take an educated guess. Several educated guesses and probably be right at least once. This is why I am afraid to invest heavily in virtual relationships. It’s not lack of caring. It’s my fear of losing those to whom I’ve become attached. All of a sudden, with no word of warning. Without knowing what happened to them, why they abandoned me. Wondering if I ever existed in their world. Or mattered at all.
This isn’t the first such loss. Or the tenth. There is constant attrition. People vanish. Poof. One day, you stop hearing from them. Sometimes they post something to let us know that they are going silent, but rarely why. More often, they disappear without a word of farewell or hint of an explanation.
I have thought about quitting. Each time WordPress makes another pointless change in the Interface, I think about throwing in the proverbial towel. Every time someone with whom I’ve become friends goes missing. To date, over the course of my three years of blogging, I take the hit, absorb it. I mourn and move on.
It’s getting harder. Personal and virtual losses pile up. I can’t help but wonder who will be next? Will anyone I know now be around in a few months? Are we allowed to grieve for those we have come to care about, but never met? After all, it’s just the Internet, isn’t it? I mean, we aren’t real to one another, are we?
You are real to me. I share your lives. I know your husbands and wives, fears and hopes, triumphs and defeats.
I am afraid. Because slowly, it’s going away. I can’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness and foreboding.
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