The Middle Ages: As I approach retirement, I’m embracing a new mantra: So what?
For me, retirement will be a verb. In a couple more years, I’m going to find a small town in North Carolina and join the volunteer fire department.
It’ll be a healthy outlet for my abundant testosterone, which can be suffocating at times. And I can save lives. And I can keep active, while making new friends.
Maybe I can finally drive a firetruck, a lifelong obsession. There are a few universal male dreams: playing quarterback, opening a bar, driving a firetruck — honk! Honk!! HONK!!!
That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the male mind.
There is a boyishness to a well-made man that helps him endure a lifetime of mundane daily obligation. It’s not selfishness; it’s survival.
In North Carolina, I can hang out with my pal, Dan, who has moved his family there. For Dan, clever banter is a food group. We’ll toast the weekends with a glass or two of Southern shellac (bourbon).
I’ll also buy an old rowboat. I’ll anchor it in the middle of a rural lake and take long naps in the Southern sun. If I forget to fish, so what? If the old boat sinks, so what?
That’s my new mantra: “So what?”
You can apply “so what” to almost any situation. Forget to brush the dogs? So what? Forget to water the Christmas poinsettia that refuses to die? So what?
Moron on a motorcycle rakes off your side mirror? So what? At our age, you never look back anyway.
I’ve found “So what?” to be my version of “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Like, the other day, I forgot to start the dishwasher. As I told the kid, Sports Illustrated makes a very stylish dinner plate.
“Forget to start the dishwasher again?” he asked.
“Soooooooooo what!” I said.
This kid. He went away recently for spring break, packed quickly, like he was breaking out of prison. Men hate to pack, and my 16-year-old son is nearly that — a man, with occasional bursts of boyishness.
“Bye, Dad,” he said at the airport, on his way to visit cousins in Chicago.
As he left, I got the first bad buzz of empty nesthood, a profoundly life-changing condition for a generation of parents who have probably over-invested — emotionally and financially — in our kids.
When he leaves for college in two years, my only dependents will be these idiot dogs, one of which might be a wolf. Since early April, the demi-wolf has been shedding tiny finches of fur that I constantly chase around with a broom, trying to keep them out of the salad.
The other dog is even worse, an insolent 300-pound Satan.
Certainly, I want to find a retirement that will make them both happy.
Empty-nesting is suddenly a disease in our little suburb. My attorney, Billable Bob, just announced he is moving way west, near Ventura, joining Goldberg. My buddies Gino and Dave have empty-nested to Manhattan Beach — Camelot on steroids.
For me, a college town is probably a better fit: Madison, Oxford, Ann Arbor. College towns are the best towns, sporting a naive (almost silly) idealism, beer bongs and enormous marching bands (America’s greatest cultural achievement).
Look, Los Angeles has been very good to us. When I eventually drive off, I will cry the first 100 miles.
So why go? Lots of memories in our little honky-tonk house, yet also a haunting sadness. My late wife, Posh, got some junk mail the other day from a mail-order company she used frequently.
The card read: “We miss you! Come back and get 25% off!”
So sweet of them to reach out like that.
For the record, the kids and I really miss her too. If she came back, we would give her a full 30% discount. Heck, we’d probably give her 35% off if she agreed to make us one of her famous Italian feasts.
What am I running from? That.
And the local baseball fields where my older son’s ghost still steals second base. I see his goofy freckled grin in every dugout. I’m running from ghosts and once-good memories that now hurt like clouds of wasps.
I’m also running — to be sure — toward better times ahead.
A new location might also help me finish the novel I’ve been grinding away on. It’s really coming together. I’m now almost 400 words into the 90,000-word manuscript. At this pace, I’ll finish by the year 2099.
The novel is called “Celebrity Blood,” a title my buddy Jeff suggested. It’s about an exclusive blood bank reserved for the rich and famous, and the shenanigans surrounding it.
So when I’m not napping in my rowboat or saving lives on a firetruck, I’ll be finishing up “Celebrity Blood,” the first book where you’ll actually root for the vampires to drink up all the humans.
Place your orders now.