Friday, November 23, 2018

Poison

Scenes from a Mostly Happy Childhood:

Carl was five, in bed. His parents came and got him, took him into the kitchen, leaving his little brother asleep.

Daddy is going to leave, they said. 

Carl blinked. Leave?

He’s moving out. 

Carl was five. He didn’t understand. He started to cry. He turned away, went back to his bed, climbed in, pulled the covers up over his head.

Daddy didn’t leave. 

#

Jack was six, Carl, eight. They were at the swimming pool. Daddy was irritated that they weren’t learning to swim fast enough. He had shown them the strokes, how to breathe, but they were still afraid of the water.

So he tossed Carl into the deep end. Carl managed to flail his way to the side of the pool, absolutely panicked.

Then he tossed Jack in, and he sank straight to the bottom. Daddy waited, saw that Jack wasn’t coming up, then dived in to fetch him.

For years, Carl was terrified of the water. He compensated by learning how to swim at an expert level; became a lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor, mile-a-day in the pool, could hold his breath for four minutes. Carl taught himself to love the water.

Carl and his brother never talked about what Jack did to get past it.

#

They had a cocktail party when Carl was nine. His brother was seven. The house was small, so they were sent to their bedroom, told to stay there and be quiet, and keep the door shut.

They boys weren’t quiet. They bounced around, laughed, made noise.

The door to the bedroom opened. Daddy stood there, looking down the hall toward the living room, smiling broadly in the direction of his guests.

He stepped into the bedroom, closed the door, and his face changed from a smile to a snarl. And because Jack’s bed was closer, he caught the hard right slap and return backhand to the face, one-two, bam-bam! knocking him into the wall and asprawl on the bed.

Daddy never said a word. He left the room and shut the door behind him. 

Carl couldn’t see his face, but he would have bet his life Daddy was smiling as he returned to the party.

#

Carl and Jack were playing cowboys. Jack sneaked up behind him and cracked Carl on the skull with the butt of his toy gun, to knock him out like they did on TV. 

That didn’t happen.

Carl screamed in pain and outrage and took out after Jack as he ran hollering across the street into their yard. 

Daddy was working on the car. He looked up and saw the boys. Yelled something. Stepped between them to block Carl’s path.

Carl was blind with anger, he said, “Get out of the way!” as he lunged for his brother. 

Next thing Carl knew, he was looking up at the sky. How had he had come to be on his back on the ground?

Daddy had clouted him upside the head, a slap or fist, Carl never knew which.

#

Daddy, in a rage, grabbed Mama by the arm and dragged her down the hall to their bedroom. She yelled, Jack and Carl yelled, their little sister Susan cried in her crib. 

Daddy pulled off his belt and beat Mama, as the two boys stood there crying and begging him to stop.

Shut up or you’ll get the same!

#

Their parents were fighting. Mama found out Daddy had gone to bed with a woman he met while he was playing in a band at a local bar. She was going to leave, to leave!

It was a gray late-fall afternoon, probably a Sunday. Carl was eleven. He gathered up his brother and two sisters and took them outside to get away. They stayed out for hours. 

It wasn’t the last time they did that.

For Carl, that kind of gray late-fall day became instantly depressing. He knew why, he had tried to offset it, but the older a tape, the harder it was to completely erase.

#

Carl was thirteen. Daddy slapped Mama. Carl looked for something to hit him with, but before he could, they explained it.

He had caught her with another man, Daddy said.

Mama said, It was just Vern, the girl’s baseball coach. We were having a hamburger after the game.

He had his arm around her!

No, he didn’t! He had his elbow propped on the car seat. We were at Billy’s Drive In! Nothing more than that!

Carl was supposed to listen and choose who was telling the truth. He could not.

#  

Carl was sixteen. His mother was in the hall bathroom, crying. 

What is it, Mama?

Daddy is cheating on me again. He said he wasn’t gonna do it any more, but he has a woman at Major’s he’s seeing.

Carl was helpless. What could he say or do?

I’m sorry, Mama. 

#

Daddy died at 87, complications of Alzheimer’s, a fall and broken hip, kidney infection. Something got him unexpectedly. A stroke, heart-attack, pulmonary embolus? Nobody ever said for sure. Did it really matter?

Daddy and Mama never split up. Toward the end, they lived in different parts of the house, because she had finally quit doing what she had done her whole life, keep him the center of the local universe. Right up until he fell, he was dedicated to finding her and demanding her attention. The caregivers had to keep them separate. Turn your back, he was off to find and harangue her. He would yell. She would yell back.

He would demand: You want a divorce?

Yes! I do!

You heard her! You heard her!

She couldn’t stand him, and he wanted her to be afraid him. Both of them told Carl as much.

A friend of Carl’s said that the problems with men and their fathers fell into two categories: 

The father left. 

Or he stayed.

Maybe if Carl hadn’t cried when he was five, that would have made things different.




Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Woke Up Dead Blues

“Woke up Dead Blues”

BLACK SCREEN: SUPER, IN WHITE:


Woke up Dead Blues
A Song for the Zombie Apocalypse

FADE IN:

INT. BEDROOM - MORNING - EXTREME C.U.


A man’s closed eye. A beat, then the lid opens to reveal a bloodshot eyeball. 


Music: Guitar Intro


PULL BACK TO REVEAL:


A DEAD MAN lying on a bed, blinking at the ceiling. He sits up. Looks puzzled. Puts his hands on his chest, antics breathing. Looks around in horror.



                               SINGER (O.S.)
                            (sings)
I woke up this morning/turned out I was dead/


The Dead Man leaps to his feet, runs to the bathroom, snatches up a hand mirror. Holds it under his nose.

Save for the music, all is silent, no sound, (and MOS throughout.) 


SINGER (CONT’D)

Yes, I woke up this morning/turned out I was dead.

ANGLE FAVORS THE MIRROR


It doesn’t fog up. No air coming out. 


The Dead Man drops the mirror and rushes from the bathroom. 


CUT TO:
INT. BEDROOM  

ON THE CUT, The Dead Man rushes in, all in a panic. 


DEAD MAN
(MOS)
AHHHHHHH! 

SINGER
When you wake up not breathin’/it really screws with your head. 
Music: Turnaround to next verse


ANGLE ON THE DEAD MAN


He turns to look at the window. TRACK WITH HIS GAZE


ANGLE ON THE WINDOW - PUSH IN - A dark figure stands outside.


SINGER
The Reaper stood by my window/

CUT TO:

EXT. BEDROOM - YARD

THE REAPER stands there. Holds up one hand, beckons, like Neo in The Matrix: Come here.


SINGER
I heard him clear as a bell/

RESUME:


INT. BEDROOM - DEAD MAN.


His eyes go wide in horror, he shakes his head. No way!


SINGER
Yeah, the Reaper stood by my window/ I heard him clear as a bell/

SMASH CUT: 

THE REAPER

He taps the face of his wristwatch impatiently, then gives the Dead Man the “Come here.” gesture again.


RESUME:

THE DEAD MAN

Oh, no!


SINGER



He said, “We better get movin’/cause it’s a long way to Hell.

Music: Turnaround.


FAST FADE TO:

INT. BEDROOM - MORNING

The Dead Man is loading stuff into a back pack on the bed. The Reaper stands in the B.G. watching.


SINGER
Better pack some popcorn/he said with a smile.

ANGLE FAVORS THE REAPER

Probably can’t see it, but he smiles.


SINGER (CONT’D)
Yeah, you better pack some popcorn/he said with a smile/

REFIELD - ANGLE ON THE DEAD MAN - PUSH IN CLOSER ON HIS FACE

SINGER (CONT’D)
                      You gonna be hungry when we get there/and the food there is vile.

Music: Turnaround

FADE TO BLACK

FADE IN: EXT. EMPTY ROAD - DAY

The Dead Man and The Reaper, walking. Trudging.


ANGLE FAVORS THE DEAD MAN


He shakes his head. 


DEAD MAN
(murmurs, but MOS)
Motherfucker. Motherfucker. Motherfucker ...

SINGER
I’m a walkin’ dead man/right down to my shoes/

POV - THE DEAD MAN - LOOKS DOWN AT HIS FEET

SINGER (CONT’D)
Yeah, I’m a walkin’ dead man/right down to my shoes/

LONG SHOT - DEAD MAN AND REAPER

They walk slowly along.


SINGER (CONT’D)
              I’m on my way to meet the Devil/and I got the woke up dead man blues.

Music: Turnaround.

FAST FADE TO:

INT. BEDROOM - MORNING - THE DEAD MAN

The Dead Man sits on the foot of his bead, head in hands, looking morose.  


SINGER
I woke up this morning/turned out I was dead/

The Dead Man sits up, puts his hands down, but is still slumped and miserable-looking.

SINGER (CONT’D)
Yes, I woke up this morning/turned out I was dead/

The Dead Man shakes his head sadly, stand, shuffles O.S.
The bedroom is empty.


SINGER (CONT’D)
              When you wake up not breathin’/it really screwwwws with your ... head.
FADE TO BLACK


CREDIT CRAWL, Music over, then FADE OUT ...


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Setting Goals


It sometimes helps an activity to have defined goals. Not always -- go-with-the-flow and see where it leads is valid, but a sharper focus can be useful, and achieving various platforms on a long climb, helpful.

In martial arts, there didn’t used to be colored belts. They came to be many-hued in judo, primarily because the creator and head instructor, Kanō Jigorō, looked up and realized he had so many students he couldn’t keep track of who knew what. With standardized ranks denoted by colors for each, he could walk into a satellite dojo with a hundred students and know at a glance where, within a certain range, each student was.

If you are wearing that purple belt to keep your gi closed, then you know katas x and y, but not z.

Later, other arts adopted the scheme, and the secondary reason wasn’t long in coming: Breaking a two- or five-year arc into shorter, recognizable segments via belt colors was encouraging. A student looking at the long journey of a thousand miles might find several segments of much smaller distances easier to essay.

Six months to get that yellow belt was achievable; five years to that first black belt could seem daunting.

Um.

This brings me to my musical education. On my current instrument of choice, the tenor ukulele, I have in my repertoire a couple hours’ worth of material I can play from memory. Thirty songs, plus maybe fifteen instrumentals. This gets revised and adjusted — some songs I used to know I don’t play often enough to do so without looking at the words and tabs. Some new ones I am learning will replace older ones I don’t find as interesting. The set list evolves.

But the goal thing: I am going to crank up the Blue Yeti microphone and the QuickTime video recorder and see if I can’t get a recorded version of each piece I have. 

That’s the goal. Not planning on cutting any albums, but I have been dabbling with this kind of thing off and on for years, first with the guitar, now the uke, and a couple of times, it has come in handy. Seeing how you do a thing is a good way to learn how to do it better.

I had a pretty good version of “Dixie,” on the guitar that I recorded and stuck on YouTube. Still holds up, though I can’t play it on the guitar now. When I saw that the Ken Burns Vietnam thing was about to air, I remembered that I used to play “Ashokan Farewell,” which was the main theme for The Civil War series, on guitar, then ukulele. I let it slip away. When I went back to revisit and relearn that one on the uke, I had a video reference of me doing it, so I could look at the tabs and see where I held my hands when I could play it. 

No long-term use for these videos comes to mind. Probably I’ll put the best ones up on YouTube, though I don’t expect much of an audience, but that’s the point. The point is, it seems like a good idea in this moment …



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Check this Out

Not available yet, but ain't it cool?


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Funny Guy



Back when I spent a lot of time going to science fiction conventions and had duty as the toastmaster, or MC at the costume thingee, I worked up what I thought were some pretty good stand-up routines and snappy patter. Three of my favorites were:

Redneck in overalls with raygun

The Man With Nine Wives

Best Job in the World: Being an Optometrist in Metropolis (This one began with me reciting the opening for the old George Reeves TV Superman show, with a tape recorder playing me humming the music for that show as b.g.)

“Faster than a speeding bullet!” (Dum-de-dum-de-dum-dum-de-de-dum)

I was, I thought, a pretty funny guy. 

We have company coming up for the eclipse in a couple days, and my wife remarked that maybe we might want to buy a couple new towels. 

Me: Um, well, we’ll have to wash the new towels like five times before they get here. In two days.

Her: No, we won’t. Once will be enough.

Me: I went to see my buddy and his wife a few years ago, and his wife bought some new towels for me. I don’t think she washed them at all, though she might have, once. Have you ever tried to dry off with a new, unwashed towel? You might as well use a giant sheet of Saran Wrap covered in Scotch Guard. You do better sluicing the water off with your hands!

Her: I’m sure you exaggerate. 

Me: No, no I do not.

Her: Well, you can get what color you want. Those nice blue ones.

My wife is the sweetest, nicest, most lovable woman in the world, bar none, but like many women, she thinks that men worry about things like what color their towels are. 

Don’t you think the blue ones are nicer than the tan ones?

Uh … yeah, of course. Sure, I do. The blue ones. Definitely.

Same way I do while sitting at supper and getting into a conversation about the dinner plates: Don’t you just love the pattern on these dishes?

Pattern? They have a pattern? 

We have been using these dishes for twelve years!

Um. Oh, wait, you mean these dishes. Sure, I … love this pattern. Hey, look, it’s almost time for the news!

So I decided to shower before I headed to Costco. I was thinking about what I needed to buy, getting a new belt for the vacuum cleaner and all, and of a moment, I looked around. Did I wash my hair? I honestly couldn’t remember.

That ever happen to you? No? Just me? Well, crap!

Maybe senility is setting in, hey, Steve?

Could be. 


Which is why I have learned to write little notes to myself on the yellow sticky pad on my desk. Because memory is a sieve; if it is on the pad, I will see it eventually. 

Which is where the picture above came from. The note I wrote to myself to remind me to write this piece ...

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Trousers: A Free-Form Ramble

Trousers 
by
Steve Perry


“I grow old, I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled …”
T.S. Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The clock is winding down.
Yeah, so? Who wants to live forever?
Me! Over here! I do!
Or, maybe just for, you know, two or three hundred years? Or, even, a hundred and twenty or so, but in good health and full possession my of physical and mental abilities? 
I don’t think I’d get bored, haven’t been that in ever so long.
Moot point. These live-forever things are not going to happen, because that’s not how the system works, never has, and barring a major shift in physiology and medicine (and probably physics) never will. I mean, even if we overcome every obstacle and become disease-free and accident-proof, (and bulletproof), there’s the sun’s nova, and the end of entropy, and running out of coffee and all.
We Baby-Boomers expected something else. We were the biggest demographic going through time in this country, we were catered to, and we took that as our due. We produced the hippies–here, right here!–and our alternate reality was that the world was going to change to suit us.  Sociology was going to shift, we were going to the Age of Aquarius; disease, even death would be eliminated, and we would stand at the shining front of humanity going forth to sail among the stars.
Nobody saw Disco, Nixon, Bush, or Cheeto coming. Nobody thought that our wave would wash ashore as others before us had, and then just … ebb.
More Elliot, last line of The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang, but a whimper.” 
Though the jury might still be out on the “bang” part, because, you know, there is this loon who can access the nuclear launch codes and push the world-ending button. (If you still support this clown, I can only wonder how you managed to read this far.)
So, anyhow, the future came, and brought with it a fair number of shining miracles, but it was not the reality we thought we’d get. 
Now, we have to make the best of what we have, and in the case of humans, the current condition in the U.S. means men average three-score and seventeen, and women, a few years past that. A blip, our time here, blink and we are gone. We are children of the universe, as Desiderata has it, we have a right to be here, only … not for long.
The Reaper is always with us. He takes some of us at birth, some as children, others as young adults, but he really gets the scythe swinging as we start on the downslope past middle age. By a hundred, nearly all of us have been harvested. Another twenty, maybe twenty-five years? The rest of us are fertilizer, pushing up the daisies. That’s how it goes.
That’s a thermodynamic given:  Can’t win, can’t break even, can’t get out of the game. 
The question I’m addressing here is, once the lamps begin to dim, the microphones fuzz, the wheels grow creakier, what do we do with our remaining time? How are we relevant in our dotages? How best to have Golden Years?
How do we deal with the alternate reality we got instead of the one we expected?
Mens sano in copore sano, sure, sound mind in sound body, only at ninety, one out of two is aces, two unlikely. The Messiah may or may not be coming, but the end of the road for thee and me surely is. Every morning we wake up, it is closer than it used to be.
You Gen-Xers, and Millennials can yawn and tune this out if you want, but there is something here you will eventually need to know. It will apply to you.
When I was younger, I lived for a time across the street from a man who retired that summer. He spent his days, as nearly as I could tell, sitting on a glider on his front porch, watching the world go by. No reason to get up in the morning save habit, and I thought, he’ll be leaving the party soon. 
I moved, but kept in touch with my next-door-neighbor there for a time, and sure enough, the old guy across the street passed away a short while later. Maybe he was already ill, can’t say, but what I saw, he had given up. The parade moved along without him, as it does. 
The old guy who was a few years younger than I am now. 
As an early Baby-Boomer, I’m well down the darker side of the mountain, and  while I’m spry–and have been hearing the damned-with-faint-praise compliment for some years now: “You’re in great shape, for a man your age!”–let’s face it: sixty might be the new forty, but ninety is fucking old. You can be a remarkable track athlete at that age, better than a thirty-year-old couch potato, but a young jock will lap you all day.
Like the wave on the shore, we ebb.
We fade away.
The old become invisible, something the young step around without a second glance. Don’t think so? 
The cotton-top old lady, or the little old man wearing a hat in the car in front of you, barely able to see over the steering wheel? Going thirty-five in a sixty-mile-an-hour zone? Have you never thought, What the fuck, Gramps, get out of the road! I have. Still do, now and then.
It’s not just the growth-rings, but the mindset. Even if you don’t forget what your car keys are for, you will have, by dint of living, built up a certain amount of experience, even–dare I eat this peach?–wisdom, and you will as a result have likely pulled in your edges. You know places you don’t want, nor need, to go. 
Been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt three decades back, thank you, I’ll pass. That four-chord baby-heartbeat rock song the kids think is waaay cool? Heard that swiped riff before your Momma was born, sonny, and if I say “Teach your grandfather to suck eggs?” you won’t have a clue what the hell I’m blathering on about. Who would suck an egg? Ick!
Yeah. Ick, indeed.
Let’s go do something new and exciting Paw-Paw! Get out of your rut!
Yeah? Whaddya got?
Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah. Keep going. Nope, nope, ate those, saw that, drank too much of them, and, is there a toilet there? Let me check my iPee app …
It’s new and shiny to you, son, I don’t begrudge you wanting it, but I got sated in that particular cuisine some time ago, and now it gives me gas …
Mm. 
Here’s the trick, if you don’t want to wind up like the guy across the street in the porch swing? 
You do have to have some room in your cup. And, if you haven’t heard that far eastern homily? Here it is:
Once upon a time, there was a zen master. A rich and important professor, accustomed to being the smartest man in the room and in charge, went to see the master.
“I need,” the professor said, somewhat imperiously, “for you to teach me the ways of zen, so that I may be enlightened.”
“Let’s discuss it over tea,” the master said.
So they sat and the master began to pour tea for the professor, and in a moment, the tea welled and spilled, but the master kept pouring.
“Stop! Can you not see the cup is full?”
A zen grin: “Indeed. And just as this cup is too full, so are you too full. You must empty yourself before there will be room for zen.”
Yep, you need room; on the other hand, if you are past middle age and still in one piece, you must have learned something useful along the way, and your experience and knowledge are not necessarily things you want to dump to make room for something new.
Newer is not always better. If you forget your history, you could wind up repeating it. 
But, say it again: You do need some room. Some of those experiences and attitudes might not be serving you as well as once they did, and you can move those aside. Those attitudes that worked for you when there were water fountains marked “White” and “Colored,” maybe you can tuck those into a trunk and stow it.
It’s tricky, keeping the best of what is old and trying to get the best of what is new.
After thirty-odd years of banging about in seven or eight martial arts, I settled on one, and have spent a couple decades and some training in it. 
Now and again, during this period, I attended martial arts seminars given by teachers outside my chosen art. 
This is instructive in a number of ways, though usually not in learning many new techniques. A three-day session of six or eight hours a day is rather like trying to drink from a fire hose–too much material in too short a period, and I’m lucky if I remember more than a couple of things–and don’t tear my lips off.
As somebody with a fair amount of instruction in my art, like as not I will watch a teacher offer something different and look at it askance. Really? No offense, I will think but not speak,  if I do it that way, it will likely get me killed.
When one has any depth in any skill, whatever it is, the tendency is to view something that seems at odds with what one knows with a certain amount of skepticism. If you believe what you are doing is best, than something not-that will, ipso facto, be less-than best.
I have to allow that I could be wrong in what I know. Belief is not necessarily fact. If I go to see something different, I don’t argue, I do what I am shown and see if there is any resonance for me. I need to see if maybe I missed something, that what I know isn’t perfect. Never hurts to check.
If there are three teachers from three different systems showing me how to hold a stick, I can be certain they won’t hold it the same way. No, no, put your hand here, not there. They will contradict each other, and as a student, I just nod and move my grip. That’s why I went. To see. 
Chances are, I will go home and continue to hold that stick the way I already know how to do it, I confess.
The older you get, the more depth you have, the less likely you are to change your mind. I know this works, it has worked, and I expect it will continue to do so. If what you offer doesn’t measure up? Why would I change it?
Still, the cup needs to be partially empty. A little bit.
There is always the guy who comes not to learn anything new, but to show how what he already knows is better. He will gum up the works with rude questions, or refuse to apply the technique, replacing it with what he does. If a game has rules and you won’t observe them? You are wasting everybody’s time.
Don’t be that full-cup guy.
My path forward needs this realization: I tend to get too set in my ways. And without that bit of room for something new, I’m not playing the game. An old bumper sticker from about 1970: Concrete People: All mixed up and turned to stone.
When I began this essay, I had thought that it would be political. A piece on how to deal with the current political and sociological shitstorm in which the United States finds itself; advice on how to get active, make a difference, be part of the solution and not the problem. Which organizations to send money to, which marches to attend, grassroot-ery, like that. How we, as older people, could use our hard-won knowledge and experience to help the young move forward. 
Not going there, and here’s why: The young have to reinvent the wheel for themselves. We can’t just give them fire, they have to figure it out on their own. Always been that way. Can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve talked to who would move heaven and earth to help pave the rocky road for their children, only to discover that it is indeed zen: If they don’t experience it, the rocks aren’t real.
Can you remember rejecting your father’s values? Thinking that he had no clue as to how wrong his beliefs were for you?
I can remember that. 
Alternate realities. His. Yours. Never the twain to meet.
So, there might be young folks who appreciate your old-guy wisdom, but mostly, they won’t. Because what you have, they don’t. They literally can’t.
Old Man, you don’t understand what it is like to be me!
Actually, Young Man, I kinda do. I have been young, and I have been old. It’s you who is missing a piece of the puzzle. Come back and see me when you are my age and let’s revisit it, hey? Oh, wait. When you are my age? I’ll be dead.  Maybe you should write it down, keep it tucked away, then read it to yourself when you get closer to sundown. 
Read a short story some years ago, don’t recall the title, nor who wrote it, but the gist is this: A young couple come to a town, but it’s a Children of the Corn kind of place, full of doddering, evil, old people. They are trapped by the oldsters, the pair, and in dire peril, going to be sacrificed. They overcome the dangers, nearly fail, and barely manage to escape. And as they leave the village, safe, triumphant, one of the old men cackles out after them: “You’ll be back …”
Man, what a jolt that was.
We know that, us older folk. The young people who are going to live forever and be unlined and unbent? They don’t know it. They can’t, because … zen. If they survive, they will likely learn. Remember the parent’s curse: Some day, you’ll have children. I hope I live long enough to see it.  
What goes around, comes around. 
Um. So where am I going with this? Do I have a point?
Here: If you want to be relevant as an old man or an old lady, if you want what you do to have some meaning? You have to alter your own reality.
It starts at home. Before it matters to anybody else–and that really isn’t the point–it has to matter to you.
You have to find it. Something that makes you grin when you think about it, something that you look forward to, something that gives you joy.
Doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t matter what others think about it, when you get right down to the real nitty-gritty. 
If it is a thing you do alone, fine. If you can share it with others, better, because social interaction has value. 
It can be a job, a hobby, whatever. If the politics of our time disgust you? Step up. Put your money where your mouth is, paint a sign, march, and if you can’t do that, park yourself in a chair and wave your placard with enthusiasm. 
Not your thing?
Volunteer at the shelter. Drive somebody to church. Help the the old lady next door who is in worse shape than you collect her mail.
Learn to play the ukulele. Sing at an open mike. Take a yoga class. Learn tai chi. 
Read to children at the library. 
Crochet hats for the babies in the premie ward.
Learn Spanish from the TV soaps on the Spanish channel.  
Plant flowers. 
Something you always wanted to try, but didn’t have time? Take a shot, never going to be a better time.
Something you never thought about before, but it just popped up? Go for it.
I can’t tell you what that should be, nobody can, but if you can’t find something that calls to you? You are, as Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max said in The Princess Bride, “ … mostly dead.”
If all you are doing is marking time, if there is no there there? You have nothing to offer to anybody else. You aren’t relevant.
You can be, you can do, either works, both can, but it’s up to you. 
When I was in first grade, our report card marks were either an “S,” or a “U,” for “Satisfactory,” or “Unsatisfactory.” I was a clever lad, my grades were all esses, save for one: Under the category of  “Uses Time Wisely,” I once got a “U.” I was pushing seven years, I had of plenty of time, I shrugged that off. What did that old lady who was my teacher know? The old lady who was twenty-two.
Now? Now, if I live to the average age for a man in the U.S.? A bit over seven years is how long I have left. Hoping to beat that, of course, but best to use my time wisely, I’m thinking. 
The clock is winding down. 

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