A finer day

Published on: August 29, 2012

It’s important to help others but it is also important to enjoy the ride in this life. Crossing into Florida on a thousand mile drive home, I realized that this is a pretty good time and a very fine day. Mitch Traphagen Photo


Carly Simon sang, “We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway.”  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. In all honesty, we don’t even know if there will be a tomorrow. But I think we all need to think about the days to come. Making plans and being excited about the future is what we need to return to as a nation. Individually, however, I think we also need to accept the fact that we simply don’t know about that. Nothing is guaranteed, and nothing should be taken for granted. Planning for the future but living in the moment seems to be the recipe for making these days the good old days.

One of the few perks of air travel in this twisted world of security theater and reality is that the flights offer copious amounts of time to simply think without the interruption of phone calls, text messages and emails (yes, airplanes have WIFI now but that doesn’t mean I have to use it). I love just losing myself in thought on an airplane; I think it’s healthy and somehow mentally rejuvenating.

On this flight, I’m thinking about two people who have left us — or, at least, left this earth. I am thinking about my Dad, who passed away at the age of 43. I was just 15-years-old and was there when he died. He taught me a lot about life in 15 short years, but I know with certainty that he had much more to teach. He laid some important groundwork for my life, teaching me to respect things and to be respectful, teaching me to be curious, and perhaps most importantly, teaching me that the well-worn path may not be my path.

I think that things happen for reasons that those of us left behind can’t always understand. I know my Dad had plans for life; I know there were things he wanted to accomplish yet. Right now, the lesson he has left for me 35 years after his passing is don’t take too much for granted.

During the flight, I watched my favorite music video of Carly Simon performing “Anticipation” at a small concert on Martha’s Vineyard. As much as I like the song, as beautiful as Simon is in that setting, these days I watch the video to see the concert musical director and bass player, Tom “T-Bone” Wolk. Like Simon and the rest of the band, he is having a great time making great music for a small and happy audience in a beautiful setting. The stage was a pier in the small town of Lobsterville.

Wolk was an extremely talented, versatile and well-known musician. He passed away in 2010 at the young age of 58. Those who knew him, including Simon, described him as a good man. There is something haunting about watching him in the video, but there is also something magical in seeing just how much he was enjoying himself.

Seeing him smiling and having a good time at that moment in time, I am reminded that life is short and fleeting. The time to do something you’ve always dreamed of, the time to be a decent person to others, the time to smile and enjoy yourself, is right now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. Over the course of 15 short years, my Dad taught me that, too. And much more. I haven’t always listened.

Remembering my Dad laugh at the stupid things his teenage son did (or better yet, not laughing when he probably wanted to explode with laughter); remembering his full-belly laugh at something he loved, his passion and compassion, and seeing Wolk happily performing in the beautiful yet impractical and improbable setting on Martha’s Vineyard all tells me that it is OK to be doing something less than practical by buying a sports car 1,000 miles from home.

In “Anticipation,” Carly Simon also wonders if she’s really just chasing after some finer day, wanting something better than what she has right now. I am flying to Washington DC to buy an inexpensive sports car that I have not yet seen. I go by gut feel, and thus far, my guts have not let me down. I am getting older, however, and somewhat less prone to risk. If it turns out that the car is not the right one, I’ll walk away from it, hop on the Metro, and spend the afternoon visiting the very cool Newseum before catching a return flight home. My total cost for the risk of it not being the right car will be less than $300. If worse comes to worst, that’s not bad for a quick break to the Capitol and, either way, I’ll come home happy. Seeing the early morning sun outside of the aircraft window, I have a feeling it will be a beautiful day.

Indeed, life is short.  I want badly to help others with everything I can muster, but enjoying the ride in this life is important, too.  Besides, I know my wife, Michelle, will love driving a cool little car to work everyday.  That thought makes me happy.

As I crossed the Florida border behind the wheel of a new-to-me sports car, I pulled into the Florida Welcome Center to just slow down, catch my breath and smell the ocean in the air. I looked at the car, watched kids and families celebrate their arrival to the Sunshine State and became fully aware for the first time in a long time that this time is pretty good, I am home, here with you, and it was a very fine day. Right now, I don’t need to chase after anything else.