If I die Monday, may my tombstone read,“Died doing what he loves.”

On Monday I go in for Jaw Surgery. If I die, I want my tombstone to read, “Died doing what he loves.[1]

I’ve never seen a footnote on a tombstone. Nor ellipses. I’m updating the medium. The joke makes it more palatable.

I joke because I’m afraid. I’m afraid because it’s frightening. I’ve never been closer to death than I will be on Monday.

I’ve always mused on death. I wrote my first auto-obituary at 13. The same way some people use the largesse of space to decrease their anxiety; I use death to accept depression. When I wake up late enough that I feel grumpy, the phrase “death and taxes” echoes in my mind. It reminds me of two crucial elements – timeliness and humor. One makes today matter and the other makes life worth living.

I’m spending tomorrow and Sunday advising a local high school youth group, and Saturday with my dad. If I die, let it be known I went out doing what I loved.

 

[1] Self improvement.

Okay, cocaine.

A Mattress.

For three months, You’ve driven around with a twin-sized mattress, originally acquired as a gift from a friend. You thought you might use it in your #VanLife #Van. After a week’s trial, however, you elect to use your previous queen-sized foam squishies instead. What to do with this large nuisance?

Option 1: Give it away.

  • You posted on facebook–one nibble but no bites.

Option 2: Donate it.

  • Goodwill doesn’t take mattresses. They’ll accept it for disposal, however… if you pay them $20.

Option 3: Discard it.

  • You can’t just put it in a dumpster. Grrrrrr.

Option 4: Ask that homeless man steering his bicycle up the hill, “Hey – would you like a twin-sized mattress?”

  • “Yeah!” he’ll say, and a huge weight will lift as you drive up to the gate of the forest where he lives.
  • His name is Pete. He has rough hands and a nice smile. You feel giddy that you made him smile.
  • You park your van on the street near his place.
  • As the rain begins to plink, you feel a kinship with the misfit.

Then I guess you won’t be pulling the plug? 

As my sister drives to Reno, I explain to her and my mother that I don’t want to be resuscitated. Nor ventilated. Nor any other life-preserving “–ated” with a low forecasted-quality-of-life.

They reject my request, which Mom communicates by saying, “I didn’t hear you…” as though pretending not to hear it will avoid it happening. I hadn’t expected that response.

Why would I rather have my plug pulled?

  1. Low quality of life for those in such a state?
  2. Comfort with the idea of death?
  3. Existence as a societal detriment?

The first and second seem unlikely: In most cases, humans adjust to our circumstances, and comfort with the idea still doesn’t make it desirable. The third seems reasonable, but assumes a low likelihood on me becoming a high-positive force again.

Perhaps the gruesome images of end-of-life patients that I saw earlier today impacted me. Perhaps in a soberer state, I’d rather live as long as possible in case medical science improves sufficiently to salvage me. If I prioritize my life, this seems the most reasonable conclusion.

In any case, my sister feels uncomfortable talking about these plans, but they’re valuable plans to have.

I was trying to prioritize them. I’ve heard tell of family members being in difficult situations because they didn’t know the patient’s wishes. A large part of this explanation was to spare them that difficulty, but they’d apparently rather have that situation than this conversation. And I don’t actually care enough to press the issue or put a legal solution in place. In case it ever comes up, whatever they choose is fine by me.

We did, however, agree on one thing: after we’re dead, dispose of us in the cheapest way possible. Now, I’d also like to add: dispose of me in a funny way. I’d like to go out doing what I love.

Even Meth Heads call their Mom…

… if only to ask for money.

“Can I borrow your phone? I need to call my mom. I’ll give you a dollar; don’t even need to touch it. “ This comes from Chris, the Chicago Bulls hat with misshapen teeth and meth sores.

I dial the number for him, put the phone on speaker. “It’s 3am in Ohio,” Chris’ mom tells him.

“I’m sorry,” Chris says. “I didn’t realize.”

“Did you get the hundred-dollar MoneyGram I sent you? Can you come home? I’m worried about you. Have you talked to your dad? Did he send you any money?”

“Not in a while.”

“Okay, here’s the code:”

Chris’ Mom gives Chris the number for the MoneyGram. Chris writes it on his palm using the pen I lent him.

“Thanks, Mom. I gotta work in the morning, but I’ll call you at lunch.”

Chris played online poker until the US government shut it down seven years ago. Now, he teaches tennis and plays poker in Vegas, but one-tabling live is not the same context or variance as twelve-tabling on the web.

I suggested he go international—like to Cali Colombia, where he can play online again and live like a king for $1k a month. As a bonus, I told him about two ¿cartel members? who lose $1k per day in the only non-profit casino I’ve ever heard of. (A money-laundering front for the cartel? Probably.)

Chris calls his friend Red. Red’s got something for Chris. Chris writes an address on his palm next to the MoneyGram code and the “HoHoHo” he doodled while chatting with his Mom. I don’t know what Chris is going to pick up, but my money’s on meth. When he asks me for $3, I don’t know why I give it to him. Maybe it’s pity. Maybe it’s hope.

I wish he would go to Cali. The cocaine cartel in one of the most dangerous cities in the world would probably be safer company.

Twice Now I’ve Danced at a Salsa Club That Isn’t There

On Sunday the carpenter fixing my bathroom door tells me, “You must go to this salsa club. Only tourists are allowed so you can dance without feeling self-conscious.”

“Sure,” I say and have the apartment manager write down the information: “Tuesday, 6-11pm, in front of La Clinica Tequendama.”

Tuesday, I arrive to La Clinica at 6:15pm. I can’t find the club, so I text my Airbnb host. “Thursday,” he responds. I call this the “Tuesday/Thursday Problem.” I wander the streets until I find a mariachi band playing Parcheesi.

IMG_6157.JPG

They teach me the game in a language I barely understand, start me at a disadvantage, neglect to teach me two rules that end up resetting my pieces, and I still kick their asses to the tune of $3000.

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From Left to Right: Julian, Alberto, [I wish I remembered his name], Nacho (Yes, that’s what he said his name was), [That asshole who said it was my fault that I didn’t know that capturing an opponent’s piece was a mandatory move], [The singer, whose name I also forget].

One man, the one in the back of this photo, asks if I have a girlfriend. I say no. “My daughter is 24,” he says and makes obscene gestures. The only one of these gestures repeatable in polite company is his repeated tugging down on his lower eyelid to signal a wink, coupled with the sultry words, “muy bonita.” He asks for my phone number. I give it to him. He asks for my father’s number. I politely decline. He doesn’t call me, so I suppose the match is off.

Tonight, Thursday, six Ubers cancel on me. I arrive to La Clinica at 7:10pm. The clinic receptionist points me in the wrong direction, or maybe I don’t speak Spanish. The druggists at the store across the street don’t know the club I seek, but they’re a bored, fun couple so we talk for a while. I ask whether they sell earplugs. They say, “for swimming?” and I say “For music.” They say, “You mean headphones?” and I say, “For when the music is too loud.” They think I’m French because my Rs are French. I don’t take offense because my Rs are French. They ask if I learned Spanish back in San Francisco.“Just here, this week,” I say, so they’re impressed. They don’t know I’ve already had this conversation six times.

I watch a futbol match while drizzling honey on a fried chicken wing.

IMG_6167.JPGNo kidding: they even give me gloves for the honey.

The religious man on my right asks me to buy him a coffee. The boy on my left asks whether I came to Colombia on a boat or a plane. The kid leaves. I buy the man coffee. He shows me his bible. I teach him to pronounce “Gideon.”

I walk to the far, far corner drugstore. I finally find earplugs. They’re expensive, but so is my hearing. They cost 13 marranitas (pork belly stuffed inside a ball of green plantain) or 31 empanadas. That’s not how the locals count money—just how I do.

I walk by my mariachi buddies. They aren’t playing Parcheesi so I only stop for a moment. Don’t want to get engaged too many times in one week. I order an Uber and eat a marranita while I wait. The vendor moved to Cali 6 months ago. In Venezuela, where he used to live, he didn’t have food for 4 days. His mother and brother moved here too, but his father’s still in Venezuela because he loves the land.

My Uber’s choice of music is the Latin version of alt-rock. I tell him I like his music taste. We get into a rhythm. He loves salsa dancing. I love salsa dancing. He loves marranillas. I love marranillas. He has a nine-month-old son. I use condoms. We exchange numbers to hit up a club together sometime.

Home, I realize the salsa club was inside me the whole time.

(Editor’s note: $ is also the symbol for Colombian Pesos. Total value of $3000 COP: approximately $0.94 US.)