Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Black Jack for Madame Maxime

“Remember in elementary school you were told that in case of fire you have to line up quietly in a single file from smallest to tallest? What is the logic in that? What, do tall people burn slower?”

W. Hutcherson.-

To the freakishly tall but always loyal Miss Alice,

I was gonna give you some good ol’ fashioned Father Tots advice on your birthday but I figured that if you can survive the swine flu and not lose face in front of the hypochondriacs, you pretty much learned everything you need to know about life in your twenties. However, as a father I must bestow my wisdom, so bear with me in my utter ramblings of nonsense. The more I think of it, the more I realize that my twenties were all about self-discovery. About finding out who I was and if I liked myself enough to have a coffee with Me in the mornings. Don't let anybody fool you, some days are shitty, some years will most definitely be shitty but the overall picture is that you get to a certain point in life where you can actually do the chicken dance because you felt like it and not care enough to think about it the next day. Most people get to be forty and they can’t do the chicken dance. Those, my dear, are called adults. [Warning: this only applies to the chicken dance.]

I tried to find something that inspired me when I turned 21 so that I could share it with you but, alas, I became of age in an era where Hotmail forced you to delete messages. Yes, there was a time when “your account limit has been reached” was the standard for discriminating between deleting or saving a message. And I look at old photo albums –again there was a stone age where we ‘developed’ something called ‘film’- of myself at the time –dashingly handsome as is my custom- and can only think when I look at the guy with the Head and Shoulders hairdo that stares right back at me, that I had fun. I just had fun. I found out late in life that I no longer belonged in places or that there were certain things that could tire me. Hence, you stating that I'm 200 years old. But in those ages, the world was mine. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. The 'trouble' is, I didn’t do anything.

You know how people make lists? I want to hang glide, and cross the Gobi Desert barefoot and read the entire “A” section of the Encyclopedia Britannica (Aardvark, Adams, Adenoids) or take a soul searching trip through Gucci to find the perfect shoe? I made tens of thousands of those lists. And the fact is -other than having two majors before I was 27 (didn’t even come close, I finished at 29), learn to speak French (bohn jewer), live in another country (I switched rooms; score!)- that I never really did wine on the valleys of the Loire, de-worm orphans with the Peace Corps, watch the entire Best Picture Winners, walked the Way of St. James in Buddhist silence or gave the perfect kiss in Salzburg.

But that doesn’t mean that my twenties were wasted. In fact, those unreachable goals were the ones that made me appreciate the pleasures of a night of Blue Curacaos’, get to know people whom I really (and still) wanted to hang out with, share an imperfect movie on a perfect night, walk on breezy Boston mornings to public libraries in search of victory while loudly complaining about the cold or give away sloppy kisses on platforms of murky train stations. All the tiny life lessons that I gave Manuel long ago, were the ones that really made young life be a lesson. Vienna and Salzburg can wait. Blue Curacaos’ are meant to be drunk while a 'guitar gently weeps'. And there are so little guitar weepers left. So, make lists. Make dozens of them. Oodles. But don’t measure your life by how many items you cross out. Rather, on the dozens of further items that you pencil in as time goes by.

Have fun Miss A and don’t worry about everything else (you will but I can’t be blamed for not saying so). Just concentrate on finding the card game that you prefer to play. Everything will change in your twenties. Radically. But nobody ever leaves them without having found the card game that defines who they really are and what are their stakes. Try everything, from Blackjack to Baccarat. Eventually, every roulette stops at the right number.-

Father Tots.-

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