Dumb little photo thing in a bus station. Worked, though.
The yearmeter hit 2005 coupla months back, I just hit fifty-nine, and I’m deciding what to do with my life. (Inexplicably you may not care what I do with my life, but I’m writing the column.) I’m going to screw off. You may ask how you could tell the difference. Dunno. I don’t do fine distinctions after lots of red wine. (Keep reading. There’s probably some kind of deep philosophical import in here somewhere.) Lupita my ace travel agent just got me tickets for the Galapagos and some other wacked-out parts of Ecuador. Big-ass turtles.
I’m going to be explosively useless, take inutility to a higher plane. My daughters arrive in shifts to help me. They have a talent for adventuresome uselessness. Can’t imagine where they got it. (That’s them. They’re the only thing I ever really did right. It’s enough, though.)
You may be thinking, Fred doesn’t sound mentally organized today. Some underlying pathology is breaking through. Herewith a revelation: The key to a philosophical existence is cheap Mexican wine. Violeta and I stayed home this evening, jitterbugged again in the living room like soda-shop teenagers in 1950, and split a large bottle of Padre Kino red. It’s like Mexican Ripple except you wouldn’t want to put ice-cream in it. I wondered what else I might ask from the world. Outside rockets boomed down toward the Expiatorio, idiots honked, and drunks ran into each other and over unwary innocents. (Sky rockets, I mean. The US is not bombing Mexico into democracy. Yet. But the locals worry.) Nother Saturday night.
This has been a good year for a curmudgeon. Things go badly everywhere, lending a comforting continuity to existence. A tidal wave ate most of Asia. Slugs and ferrets rule the world with low cunning. There is an expectation of cholera in Indonesia. NASA or somebody says that there is hope that an asteroid may hit the earth in 2010.
Instead of working, I’m going to cultivate a talent for quietly disliking a great many people and things. To hell with Marcus Aurelius, Churchill, Pericles, Popsicles, what have you. I’m going to pattern myself on Eeyore, a great thinker and less of an ass than most.
I figure I’ll continue hiding in Messico. I recommend it to all. Actually no, I don’t, as there are already entirely too many gringos here. Try the Philippines. But I’d like to offer to all the little sensible advice I have accreted in most of a lifetime. Bail while you can. You can both run and hide, at least for a while. When you are sixty, are you going to think, Gosh, I wish I had another thirty years to do whatever depressing and deleterious thing I’m doing now?
I can’t flee. I already have. I’m in Mexico for the long haul, having inexplicably acquired a splendorous lady that I’m not about to throw over for anything this world offers. (When something good happens, you gotta figure that you’re being set up. Look over your shoulder.)
Up north vast swarms of people with maxed-out credit cards wobble in ethylated pre-suicidal fugue states engendered by uneasy contemplation of the mortgage on some prestigious McMansion in Brookmill Estates or Dalebrook Mews or Meadow Brook Dales. (No mews is good mews. I can’t brook those mews. Sorry. Blame Padre Kino.) Outside of these badly constructed shoeboxes creeping across the landscape like mold, two Volvos with massive payments. A Volvo is a beautifully engineered, well-built statement that the owner has the soul of a dung beetle. Twenty or thirty years roll pointlessly off into the future because they are trapped in the retirement program. It’s like sharecropping, but without a crop.
Pasado manana my other lunatic daughter arrives. The Reed family sloshes in and out of Guad like barrels from a shipwreck.
I tell my kids, never get into a retirement program. Save your own money. Steal. Set up a business, found a cult. Learn credit-card fraud. Retirement programs are indentured servitude with a better address, the financial equivalent of a lobster trap: You can get in but you can’t get out. Half the US is running at $6500 on the Visa and counting the last fifteen years until life begins.
Don’t do it.
Thank god most people can’t distinguish between what they want and what they think they want. It keeps them up north. A buddy of mine lives in Jocotopec in a $130 a month house, small but nice enough, better than a cardboard box in Brooklyn. Fast Internet is $50, his wife is a peach, the ghetto blaster plays music stolen online. He sits on the roof and watches the storm clouds roll in over the lake as if they had a grudge to settle, and gobbles chops and beer under gaudy sunsets like fluorescent oriental rugs.
People pay too much for vanity. Who are we kidding? We all scratch, belch, pick our noses one leg at a time. Are you a partner at some swinish law firm in New York? I’m awe-struck. A tee shirt and shorts constitute adequate cover for anyone who doesn’t need props to respect himself. Owning more house than you can live in is a sure sign of insecurity. Suits are what you wear when doing things you shouldn’t want to do anyway.
They say clothes make the man, a frightening thought but one that seems to hold true. You wear a coat and tie to the drone farm every day, worry whether the knot is tied right, feel humiliated if you get a ketchup stain, and pretty soon you turn into a very worried creature. I did that for a year once at a mausoleum of the spirit called Federal Computer Week, a trade journal of the governmental dead in the remote suburbs of the Yankee Capital. Just walking in the door made my cojones retract into my abdominal cavity. I’d sit there, looking like an Executive Ken Barbie, with my fingers autonomously seeking something to throttle. I know why boys take their guns to school and kill six teachers. It’s because rifles have small magazines.
Switch to a Harley tee-shirt and cutoffs, take up knocking over Seven-Eleven instead of sucking up to some tedious editor with a mind you wouldn’t use to blow your nose, and the world changes. In Mexico you never feel like you need a hall pass. It’s like being a grownup. Or in the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina.
Guadalajara ain’t bad, but I want to get up in the mountains around Mazamitla, get a place with a big interior garden and a burro that says Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehonk! and a guacamayo that shrieks obscenities in Spanish. Chilly mornings, not too much oxygen.
I didn’t tell you that this was going to make sense.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well.