One of the loser presidential candidates was yocking up his Bucket List recently, and it saddened me a little to think that I don’t even have one.
Things you hope to do before you kick the bucket. High-speed, high-risk, damfool derring-do mostly, at least on the Spike side if not Lifetime’s. For this pol, it was hosting Saturday Nite Live. For Janice, I remember, it was the one dance with Gene Kelly. Old-timers called it seeing the elephant. After which you could die satisfied.
The Bucket List is for youngsters, or anyhow for the young at heart, and I had me one once but like dour St. Paul outgrew most of its listings. Accomplished a few of them but often as not with a kind of Peggy Lee disillusionment as background coda. Is that it? Well, OK then.
I wasn’t an imaginative child; never occurred to me that I could do or be anything I wanted, that I could cast my aspirations on the stars, as Mutt Jones used to say; and so my Bucket priorities were always a lackluster bunch.
For instance, I hankered for a time to be able like the Man of Steel to leap a tall building in a single bound. But once you’ve leapt one, and landed safely on the far side of it, what then? Five minutes, the exhilaration already gone, your new ambition, like it or not, is jumping two tall buildings in a single bound. Then pretty soon you’re Evel Knievel, with100 buildings to leap. Or 200 school buses. Or the Grand Canyon. Eventually failure becomes a certainty, so why not just give up at the start and avoid the disappointment?
There was a time when No. 1 on my list was to become a Boy Scout. But there were about 15 knots you had to know how to tie just to make Tenderfoot, and I learned to tie two of them and that was it. The rest were sons-a-bitches I still wouldn’t be able to tie if I’d practiced every hour these past 50 years. Sooner or later — for me, it was when I had mastered that second knot, the square knot, and knew that only futility lay ahead — you just have to settle for some lesser achievement, like joining the FFA.
I recently saw the Scoutmaster of that knot-happy nincomtroop. He’s in the nursing home, oblivious, and I thought it cold wit indeed by the sylvan deities that monitor scouting that he could no longer tell you what a shoelace is, or what it’s for, much less prestidigitate the whoremonger into a sheepshank. The moral being, I suppose, that mortality sucks. And it all evens out, merit-badging and wrestling steers, and nobody cares, not God, not Baden-Powell’s ghost, not you or me or Alex Trebek once Final Jeopardy concludes another taping.
I was a delegate to Boys State long ago, years before Bill Clinton was, when future delegate and dillweed Huckleberry was still crawling around on the dirt floors of his granny’s log cabin. Boys State was the same flag-wrapped hooey then, but it nonetheless fueled my first and last elective political sally. That venture’s only virtue was that it was modest. I didn’t run for any of the glory offices — Boys Nation delegate; governor — as Whistle Britches and Fat Boy later would. My aim-low agenda was the Federalist Party nomination for the lowly office of City Attorney. I don’t know why City Attorney. As I said, my Bucket longings were pretty pedestrian. Maybe I thought it would come with a powdered wig. A shingle calling me Esquire. Possibly it was a concession to practicality, knowing that while I’d need hundreds of votes to win one of the election bigs, and scores to capture even one of the middle-level idiot posts such as General Assembly member, I might need no more than five to wriggle into one of the City Attorney slots, possibly as few as three.
Surely even I could get three votes, but lest suspense begin to gather, I just don’t remember. It might have been a landslide, either way. All I’m sure of is that like all Bucket listings it made no difference then and makes none now. I was lucky that it left no scars, that it repressed no guilt to hector my twilight. Even for City Attorney, I would’ve survived defeat without undue psychic trauma. Less likely is that I could have survived victory without it turning my head. Jeez, to think it might be me out now in these primary rarees playing the Fool and calling it Spoiler.
Well, OK then. Bucket aspirations of callow youth, long vamoosed and no regrets jumping their old claim. Never a quarrel from ol’ moi with the chips falling where they fell. Nor any of contesting the Devil for the hindmost, whatever the hindmost is. The last Bucket temptation I remember was the big-screen TV. But there again the short lifespan saved my bacon. I dawdled long enough to realize that however big it was, it wouldn’t have anything better on it than the same old regular crappy TV shows. Even Mr. Frank’s Jumbotron can’t show you better football than the ordinary hoodlum millionaire kind.