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you saw a flash of lightning thought it was God taking your picture

November 6, 2008

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My dad has at times urged me not to waste so many years like he did cutting firewood in the Northwest, freezing winters in Nova Scotia, abstract trips to Central America, Volkswagen vans and the like.  He wishes that he had gone faster toward one real thing.  A steady job, a retirement plan, not a 50-year-old red Ford pickup and countless cords of Douglas Fir sold around the island to be burned in woodstoves in February.  He says he wasted 20 years, and I am shocked by this admission.  Not my dad, who is so interesting, wandering and steady.  I do not want my dad to regret this life, but this warning will not keep me from mine.  I have always learned best from my own mistakes.

I do want to move faster towards one real thing. I understand that a glamorous bohemian youth does not make up for an empty savings account in middle age, but doesn’t a glamorous youth count for something? 

Of course homelessness is not romantic, but when I see a man lying in the sun-drenched afternoon park reading a book, and I think of my day spent exploring a neighborhood, and I think of the people in glassy offices, I at least want to give the homeless that little submission of romance.  It seems to me it is worth more than my dollar, although I’m sure it is not.

Three days ago I felt like I could be happy forever being a passenger in a car driving through an early fall city listening to LCD Soundsystem.  Today, I want to skip out on my rent, and move South to fall in love with the earth all over again, and save someone, probably myself from a life of tedium.

I was on the bus last week coming home from work and it was sunset.  We were lumbering up Market Street, and I looked around and realized that everyone seemed to be in their 20s, and for some reason all inhabiting the middle part of the bus, standing and sitting in an island of youth and beauty, and I felt a surge of happiness that we might be the ones to push through the change.  And it was that glimmer of joy that I get sometimes that reminds me of when I was really happy, and gives me hope that I could be that way again.  Not that happiness ever made me a better person.  A guy in a Northface jacket with paint splattered all over it and a guitar slung over his back sings softly to no one in particular, and I look away shyly before he can meet my gaze, and I still call my mom all the time to ask the most mundane questions.  But I don’t waste time.  I spend it freely, because when I run out it won’t matter anymore anyway.

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