Although I am not at death’s door, there are those moments when I can see the door from here. To prepare for the Day of Atonement, I have a few requests for my all my loved ones (family and friends).
First, don’t say “He passed.” I died. Saying “He passed” sounds like I had a bad urinary experience or an unhappy encounter with cannibals.
“Two cannibalistic ship captains passed each other in the night.”
Second, don’t say “He is in a better place.” Repeated requests to all Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – have produced diddly squat so there is no corroboration for this assertion. You can say that I am in good company.
“You go to Heaven for the scenery and hell for the company.” –Mark Twain
I may have better luck with Buddhists because a Zen Buddhist pizza guy once said he would make me one with everything.
Third, please do not have responses say anything about resting in peace. I have no such intention. For eternity, I plan to pester, bother, aggravate and, in general, annoy anyone who ever incurred my wrath.
“Agitate, agitate, agitate.” –Frederick Douglass
If you wish to delay the inevitable arrival of death’s door at the end, you can listen to the interminable The End by The Doors:
I had an “Aw, shit!” moment the other day. We had received warnings of immanent, severe weather. It was the usual blurb from local meteorologists:
“Nothing to worry about (if you’re Superman).”
“Secure children and small pets to sturdy fixtures driven at least six feet into the ground.”
“If you are driving on a major highway, abandon your car now!”
“Good news. The storm has been downgraded by the National Weather Center from cataclysmic to merely life-threatening.”
I took the usual precautions by checking for loose objects, taking light weight items inside and resupplying my liquor cabinet. I went out on the back porch to watch the storm, which did turn out to be rather severe. As I sat there placidly and amusingly watching the rains beat sideways and the winds pick up, I noticed an object floating in the lake near my house. Someone, I thought, has had the misfortune to have their shed blown into the lake and slowly sinking.
At the moment, I realized that it was MY shed blown into the lake and slowly sinking.
How many times in our lives have we had that unfortunate moment when we realize that no amount of prayer, wishful thinking, incantations to the gods or promises of remorse is going to reverse the irreversible.
All of this, by way of my swamp of consciousness, brings to mind a winner of the Bulwer-Lytton contest. As you may recall, entrants to the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest are invited “to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels” – that is, deliberately bad. This one came immediately to mind:
“The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn’t heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn’t reacting yet to let you know.”
In other words, “Aw, shit!”
FOAF has found another winner. It undoubtedly appears elsewhere but, like pizza, is too good to pass up.
CALLER: Is this Gordon’s Pizza?
GOOGLE: No sir, it’s Google Pizza.
CALLER: I must have dialed a wrong number. Sorry.
GOOGLE: No sir, Google bought Gordon’s Pizza last month.
CALLER: OK. I would like to order a pizza.
GOOGLE: Do you want your usual, sir?
CALLER: My usual? You know me?
GOOGLE: According to our caller ID data sheet, the last 12 times you called you ordered an extra-large pizza with three cheeses, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and meatballs on a thick crust.
CALLER: OK! That’s what I want …
GOOGLE: May I suggest that this time you order a pizza with ricotta, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and olives on a whole wheat gluten-free thin crust?
CALLER: What? I detest vegetables!
GOOGLE: Your cholesterol is not good, sir.
CALLER: How the hell do you know!
GOOGLE: Well, we cross-referenced your home phone number with your medical records. We have the result of your blood tests for the last 7 years.
CALLER: Okay, but I do not want your rotten vegetable pizza! I already take medication for my cholesterol.
GOOGLE: Excuse me sir, but you have not taken your medication regularly. According to our database, you only purchased a box of 30 cholesterol tablets once, at Drug RX Network, 4 months ago.
CALLER: I bought more from another drugstore.
GOOGLE: That doesn’t show on your credit card statement.
CALLER: I paid in cash.
GOOGLE: But you did not withdraw enough cash according to your bank statement.
CALLER: I have other sources of cash.
GOOGLE: That doesn’t show on your last tax return unless you bought them using an undeclared income source, which is against the law.
CALLER: WHAT THE HELL!!!
GOOGLE: I’m sorry, sir, we use such information only with the sole intention of helping you.
CALLER: Enough already! I’m sick to death of Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and all the others. I’m going to an island without internet, cable TV, where there is no cell phone service and no one to watch me or spy on me.
GOOGLE: I understand sir, but you need to renew your passport first. It expired 6 weeks ago…
A man can dream, can’t he?
If the United States can elect its oldest president, a man with no political background or experience, why can’t it elect a true elderly curmudgeon? I can envision the day when, despite the (incorrect) prognoses of all the pundits, I sit in the Oval Office and determine whicih presidential portraits I get to hang on the walls.
I decided that I would pick a curmudgeonly president from each century.
The eighteenth century gives me only two choices – George Washington and John Adams. Adams is the obvious choice. He had no slaves; he considered his wife, Abigail, as his equal and he was, by all accounts, a true pain-in-the-ass. The result is immediate elevation to curmudgeon status.
Although the nineteenth century has many choices, there really is only one: Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was affected by depression, had a true black sense of humor and was, as I have often said, the greatest prose poet of the nineteenth century. Alternate choices may include Jackson, Cleveland and McKinley but these pale in comparison. Nope, Lincoln is my choice.
The twentieth century also has many choices. Perhaps TR or Coolidge or LBJ but, again, they really don’t qualify as curmudgeons (in my humble opinion). My first and clear choice is Harry S Truman (no period after the S. The S stood for nothing; Truman felt the need to have a middle initial.) Despite the critics who point to his dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima, Truman accomplished many achievements during his presidency (or presidentiary, as Will Ferrell pointed out playing the role of George W. Bush);
He also had time to pen and mail (by hand) a letter to Paul Hume, who was critical of his daughter’s concert performance.
“Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
Immediate elevation to curmudgeon status.
For the twentieth-first century, we have only three choices – George W. Bush, Barak Obama and Donald Trump. The first two are disqualified as being too cheerful. The third is disqualified, period. The Donald is many things but being a curmudgeon is not among them. We have only started the century so we will have to wait on the fourth portrait. It could be mine.
In the meantime, let me say to my fellow Americans…