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The checklist: resting place (√), elevator (√) and enemies list (√)
(No. 66) Should you prepare for the real end times? by Stephen P. Williams
I woke early this morning from a dream in which I had a bald strip from my forehead to my neck, like a reverse Travis Bickle. Apparently, according to many dream analysis websites, this means I feel insecure about aging. I don’t think this is true. Any other suggestions?
Different approaches to the inevitable
Photo by Oxana Melis on Unsplash
The other night I had dinner with a pair I’ve known and loved for about 25 years. They are one of the very few long-married couples I’ve been around who truly seem happy, and are always respectful towards each other. I admire this so much, as it's something I wasn’t able to pull off in either of my own two marriages. While each of them is from the Midwest, as I am, they strike me as die-hard New Yorkers. They are both in their 60s, and I was curious whether or not they planned to retire in the city.
So, in one of my typical upbeat conversation starters, I asked the wife if she thought they’d stay in New York City until they died. We were eating uni, an acquired taste which has a briny smell that always suggests the peak of life to me. She looked surprised, set down her chopsticks and then condescendingly said, “What? How would I know? You aren’t the first to ask that lately. Everyone over 60 seems to be preparing to die. My one friend told me she’d bought a plot in the graveyard in Brooklyn that still offers space. I mean, really?”
I nodded without speaking. I’d emailed that graveyard just the week before to inquire about a landing spot for my corpse, when it is ripe. I concluded that I could only afford a receptacle for my ashes.
“And then two couples we know are selling their houses in Brooklyn so they can move into elevator buildings so they won’t have to walk up the stairs when they are old and decrepit,” she said, disbelieving. “Seriously?”
Fortunately, she didn’t ask me if I had considered similar options. Because I have. I live on the fifth floor of a walkup building, and I’ve definitely had nightmare imaginings of what it would be like to be disabled in some way that made it hard to climb the stairs. I’ve also thought about what it would be like to live in a high rise, depending on the elevator to get up and down 30 flights to your apartment, and have the electricity go out, as it once did for over a week in my neighborhood. We were forced to walk uptown and wait in line at a pizza joint to charge our phones ($5 fee). The indignity. Imagine the indignity of being stuck way up high, looking out on a lightless world.
Still, I envied my friend’s perspective on not worrying about what will happen as she ages. (Her husband didn’t join in — he’s probably already put the downpayment on a condo in Boca.) But I also thought she was a little short sighted. I think about death often, not in some tragic way, but in the same way I would think about a long trip to Sri Lanka or Mississippi — trying to imagine what it will be like to enter an unknown landscape. I believe in preparing for my death. To me that means making it as easy as possible for my children to deal with all the paperwork, bills, passwords and friendships that I’ll leave behind. A few years ago I wrote a little manual to help them through that (it’s just a single printed page). To my surprise, I even included the names of a few people I do not want at my funeral! That my soul contains such next level bitterness took me by surprise, but good to realize it. (Those of you wondering if you’re on that list will not find out until the hallowed day, when you’ll be turned away at the door by bouncers dressed in long denim dusters.)
Curiously, my death-consciousness doesn’t make me give up on life. Rather, it makes me love it more. I love being alive. I love the colors I see each day. The way the sky over Manhattan creates a new design every half hour or so. I love meeting new people and I love holding my daughter’s dog. Today I went for a 5 mile walk around Central Park and was moved by the colors of the leaves. That walk in itself was an attempt to live longer. I’m as sentimental for beauty as anyone could be. I appreciate all that I have. But my motto in most things is: be prepared, but not over-prepared. And that’s how I think about getting older.
Yes, I probably will live in New York City until the day I die, as it seems like a good place to be a doddering old fool. But I’m hoping to take some vacations to the country now and then before that day. But who knows — when the judgement day comes, I might just want to pivot, and try something else, like starting a fruit orchard on a ranch outside of Taos.
I’m very curious to hear how any of you look at this issue. Do you prepare for death?
On this topic, I highly recommend this book:
Beautifully written and full of insight.
News about aging
45 minute cancer killer
A new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concludes that: “Over 46,000 cancer cases annually could be potentially avoided if the American population met the recommended 5 hours/week of moderate-intensity.” That’s about 45 minutes of walking per day. An article in the New York Times explains the findings in greater detail, and adds some helpful info. Stomach cancer appears to be the cancer that is most affected by people’s inactivity.
Supplements of the ultimate blabcaster
Plenty of people hate the podcaster Joe Rogan, with good reason. But there’s no denying that he goes deep into subjects, even if they are offensive. I came across a list of the nutrients he claims to take, and it’s mind boggling (I don’t earn anything for mentioning these products, though Joe Rogan does):
Luxurious retirement homes
The inestimable journal of class conflict known as The New York Times has published a review of several NYC based luxury retirement homes. Swimming pools. Fine food from fine chefs. Marble and gilt, but no guilt, just the way some people like it. Ok, it can cost $40,000 a month, but what’s a little cash to those who are used to living well. Best of all, these communities have rooms available, right now, just for you.
Selfie by Self, Santa Fe, July, 2020, when I was still a youthful 62.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. I enjoyed writing it for you. — Stephen