At the bookstore last week I spotted a featured title, “The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small.” It was a fat book with lots of pictures and recommendations for everything from howling at the moon at a Polar Park in Norway to climbing to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is a book that might have greatly appealed to my younger self, but when I started to look at it I suddenly felt exhausted. There is simply no way that I still have the time, energy, or money left to go on even a small fraction of these adventures. Instead of filling me with excitement about all the great things I could still do in this lifetime it made me feel like I had wasted half my bucket-listable vacation time going to see relatives in Omaha.
My younger self had naturally fantasized about visiting the Seven Wonders of the World: the Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal etc. But then at different stages of life I also fantasized about being the lead guitarist of Grand Funk Railroad, a fireman, and starting pitcher in the seventh game of the World Series, or more realistically becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or a tax accountant. Tragically (or luckily) as the case may be, none of these things came to pass. And although I have visited about a dozen different foreign countries (one of which no longer exists) and every state in the Union (except for North Dakota), I know I’m never going to match the record of my friend John who has managed during his 80 or so years to travel to every single country on the planet. The last country he visited was Yemen, which he finally got into just before Covid hit, even though the State Department travel advisory at the time stated: “Do not travel to Yemen due to terrorism, civil unrest, health risks, kidnapping, armed conflict, and landmines.” But what’s a little risk of being kidnapped by a terrorist with cholera compared to completing the last square on your bucket list bingo card?
My friend Larry has been to Machu Picchu with his wife Liz who insisted on going through with their rigorous itinerary despite the fact that she was still recovering from knee replacement surgery. When I showed him the book he said that in the future if there were any other bucket list destinations that friends insisted that they had to go to they planned on finding a nice picture of the place online, and then photoshopping themselves into it. Suitable for framing or posting on Facebook or Instagram. Because ninety percent of travel is just showing up in a photo-op.
Instead of collecting frequent flyer miles and communicable diseases jetting around the globe I’m working on a different bucket list. Here are some of my remaining goals:
Go for an entire day without once thinking about Donald Trump.
Successfully go out to eat one more time to our favorite restaurant on the West Side. (The last three times we tried we couldn’t get a reservation, and the time before that we couldn’t find a parking space within five blocks.)
Eat a bag of salted potato chips without worrying about my blood pressure or cholesterol reading.
Successfully go out to a movie with all three grandsons and sit through the entire feature without having to leave because somebody spills their soda in somebody else’s lap (usually mine).
Spend an entire afternoon on the couch reading a book, like I always imagined I’d do when I finally retired.
For the most part I’ve given up on goals and to-do lists. I’m not going to be able to go everywhere and do everything that I once imagined I would. I’m not going to be the first grandfather to play a round of golf on the moon. I won’t become the first banjo player to have a solo concert at Carnegie Hall. But one way or another I am going to make sure of one more thing: I am going to take a triumphant tour of the coffee shops of downtown Fargo, North Dakota!