Recently, I wrote an essay entitled, SLIPPING AWAY, which was published by this online magazine. You know how you get those “I should have said” moments? Well, this blurb is one of those; that is, perhaps happenings I should have mentioned in that essay. |
There’s a Ben Sidran song performed by the NO NAMERS BAND called “Last Dance”, which is a metaphor for life’s conclusion with a pleasing jazz tune. Here’s the first and final verses: It’s your last dance / Your last chance / Find the one you came with / Make some romance / It’s your last dance, baby / Pretty soon we gotta go / We are here right now / But tomorrow? No one knows.
We’ve lived in Arizona for going on five years, and I’ve been playing the “last time” game for maybe the last ten. It started in Carmel, IN when I trained for triathlons. I had specific venues where I ran, swam, and rode my bike—all very pleasing settings. In such beautiful surroundings, training was invigorating, not grueling in the slightest way. For instance, the bike ride was down the Monon Trail, over 50 miles of trail through woods, over bubbling creeks, passed trendy restaurants; a gorgeous ride.
The Monon is an abandoned railroad line that some enterprising, foresighted individual thought would make a terrific bike trail if the tracks were removed and the trail paved. He was right. I much prefer it to the one that hugs the Pacific on the west facing beach cities in Los Angeles. Anyway, as we prepared to move west one late May, I looked around and said to myself, “This will be the last time I’ll ride the Monon.” The finality of the statement momentarily stunned me. Life is full of such moments, especially if you’re one whose moved around the planet as frequently as I have.
There are many places where, say, you vacation or have family / friends to which you’ll likely return. The “last time” game doesn’t work there. Others are places I will never return barring the extraordinary; a green belt through 60 to 90 foot trees where I used to run in Kingwood, TX; a rooftop tennis court at the Akazama Center in Riyadh, KSA; a red clay tennis court in Pau, France; a hard-surface tennis court at the Heliopolis in Cairo; running the streets of Celle, Germany and Abu Dhabi.
Other examples are more involved with daily life. These are thankful “last times”; such as a time I peered out my office window in Riyadh, and wondered if I would ever return home; sitting in an airplane hangar in Baghdad, and wondering if I would get out alive; and sitting on a plane to Paris on our wedding anniversary leaving my wife behind. Those were agony-in-the pit-of-the-stomach “last times”. There is no longing or sadness in leaving such experiences behind for good.
During one’s salad years the idea of a last anything is bizarre; something beyond your need to care about or even acknowledge. However, there are also “last chances” that aren’t at all what they say. These reappear with irritating regularity. For instance, some kind of a writer’s digest appears in my email daily offering me the last chance to learn to become a writer. The inference is that unless I return a positive response immediately, their offer will be taken off the table for good. Unfortunately, it never is. When I unsubscribe—not knowing how I subscribed in the first place—it doesn’t work. Next day, another final offer.
Several years ago I received monthly “last chance” telephone calls (voice mails) from the Internal Revenue Service(s). See the slight change to the last word? Some dude (or dudette) with subcontinent Asian accent said unless I called them back immediately, federal officers would show up at my door to haul my sorry ass in. Just for kicks I answered their “last” call, which came in on my mobile device. The conversation went like this:
“Mr. Myers, I see from our records you owe a substantial amount of money, but I have authority to reduce that, plus the fine, if you cooperate this morning.” The male voice was very stern, but lightened when he offered me a life line.
I was all contrite. “Oh, golly gee, that sounds serious, but I don’t understand because I file every year, and there has never been a prior inquiry.” I tried to sound very nervous.
“Our records show that you owe us over $20,000, but if you agree to work with us, I can reduce that amount to $2,000. But you must do this immediately—right now—or I’ll have no choice but to send the marshals in. They’re standing by.”
“Okay, if you give me a mailing address I’ll send you a check.”
“No, no. That’s not how this is going to work. Our records show you have a VISA card. (Writer’s comment: easy guess) You’ll need to stay on the phone with me, drive to the closest WALMART where I will give you further instructions. You must stay on the phone. Do you understand.” The threatening voice was back. “The marshals will be tailing you. But first, I also need your social security number.”
“You already have it since it’s on my annual filing.”
“You must verify it to me.”
What a load of crap. “I don’t know it by heart, but will go find my card, okay?” I planned a dirty trick learned from my friend, Keith. “I won’t hang up.” I then played a game of Sudoku on the computer. Ten minutes later I picked up the phone. “I can’t find it. But my wife’s next door, and she has a record of everything. I’ll go find her.”
The guy on the other end was clearly exasperated about having to deal with such a clueless, vacuous victim. “Listen, never mind. We’ll get it later. Head for WALMART with your VISA; and do not—DO NOT—disconnect the phone. Stay on the line with me.”
“Okay. It’s about 20 minutes from here. Mind if I play some music along the way?”
“Fine. Just stay on the line.”
I walked around and slammed a door (like I was leaving), set my phone by a CD player, put on the opera “Dialogues des Carmelites”, turned it up ear-splittingly loud, made a sandwich, and went back to the computer for more Sudoku and a crossword puzzle. Twenty-five minutes later, I turned off the CD player, and picked up the phone. “You still there? I’m at WALMART.”
I heard a loud sigh. “Yes, now I will give you instructions—“
“Damn, you should see this fat lady oozing out of her tube top and tight pants. If you want, I can send you a picture. It’s amazing that there’s a mate for everyone. Who’d want to procreate with her. You should see her kids—“
“MR. MYERS! Please pay attention. This is very important if you want to stay out of jail!” His patience was wearing thin. You could hear the stress in his voice.
“Oh, no! Sonofabitch!”
“I forgot my credit card. I’ll have to return home and get it. You can listen to the rest of—“
After a volley of loud obscenities, the line disconnected.
I couldn’t wait for the next Internal Revenue Service(s) call. Sadly, it really was the last time.
By Gene Myers who is not a crook. (I picked up that line from Tricky Dick for the benefit of readers who are American history fans.)
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