I started 2010 like Batman¹.
From the moment my feet hit the floor on January 1, I was an organisational machine. My brain was a steel trap; oiled with printer toner and personal productivity mantras. I was ready for the most efficiently-executed year of my life. I’d spent long days (and longer nights) through the dying weeks of 2009 crunching figures and percentages, breaking my aspirations for the new year down to the tiniest possible steps – moving from general goals to specific steps and action items, from specific steps and action items to daily to-do lists, double-distilling the data so I could have it at my fingertips every second of every hour of every day. Entire tracts of pristine Brazilian rainforest sacrificed their existence for my reams of flow-charts, timetables, and resource allocation lists. Other people bought porn magazines; I pored over office supply catalogues (but I swear, I only read them for the articles). And forget fantasies of actresses and supermodels – I dreamt of label-makers and tablet computers (admittedly, I was also mentally preparing myself for the night when Parker Posey came to my house and said ‘Jesus. That’s the hottest filing cabinet setup I’ve ever seen… you sexy motherfucker.‘)²
2010 was my year to shine. My year for my latent (my extremely latent) Type A personality to finally emerge from whatever psychological basement it had been hiding out in and got things done. Took care of business, man. Made it happen, boss.
What I hadn’t foreseen was just how much I enjoy Ian Somerhalder’s portrayal of the well-dressed and conflicted Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries, and so I clawed my way to the middle of February before ’86 this noise, I’m going to watch The CW,’ kicked in, once again proving that when it comes to the United Nations of my ambition, my inner teen girl counts as all five members of the Security Council (zOMG Dean Winchester!).
And my poor, extensive lists found themselves neglected. And I had so many lists. Things To Do, Things Not To Do, Things To Do (And Make Sure No One Finds Out About. Ever.)… I even had a list of my lists so that I could keep all of my lists organised³.
Perhaps the saddest and most forlorn victim of my yen for total and complete vampire escapism has been the Life List I instituted towards the end of 2009. The more recognisable term is Bucket List, but the inestimable Zara Potts gave me strict instructions to rename it so as to avoid the negative connotations of the key term ‘bucket’. That bad boy was a masterpiece – the goals inside were neatly numbered, lovingly inscribed, and ascribed to the specific timeframes ‘2009’, ‘2010’, or ‘eventually/someday/I’ll do it when I’m not so worried there might be a spider’.
The upshot here is that my Life List has been gathering dust for a little while now – but recent events have encouraged me to bring that sucker back into circulation, update it, and put it back to work⁴. And so, without further ado, please. Enjoy a quick glimpse – a sample set- of the things I want to accomplish before my (I’m assuming tragic, moving, and irritatingly loud) eventual last breath.
Goal: Get a barbershop shave.
This desire stemmed in its entirety from the opening scene of The Untouchables. DeNiro, as Al Capone, is lying back and conducting an interview as he’s getting shaved and the barber accidentally nicks him. There’s a constellation of hangers-on, reporters, and various servitors in the room – and they all go dead quiet as the barber realises what he’s done and makes the mental leap that that tiny slice is probably going to cost him his life. DeNiro pats his own cheek, looks at the blood on his fingers, pauses for a deathly second… and then casually dismisses the terrified man’s concerns with an easy ‘S’allright.’
As a kid, I watched that movie over and over. Every time the concept of the classic barbershop shave was raised (yes, very occasionally, this happens) I’d mentally connect with the look on DeNiro’s face as he holds the power of life and death over another man for the smallest of mistakes (Greg Olear has this look on his face all the time). Also, I’d cry as I thought of Sean Connery buying it at the hands of Frank ‘The Enforcer’ Nitti.
So last year I went with two friends to a salon that offers the traditional shave; it’s an experience every man should have at least once. There’s a ritual, masculine atmosphere to the whole process, and with the addition of the thick hot towels, the careful lathering with almond-scented shaving cream, the pre- and post- shave oils… bliss. A good barber will also take you through the proper step-by-step technique for shaving, something that’s surprisingly complex. As a side note, springing for a shave for someone else makes for a great – and memorable – birthday present.
As all three of us noticed, however, the only downside is that yes, while being shaved, you do develop an uncontrollable urge to start seriously discussing whacking somebody later that day.
Items #10, #14, #15, #21, #32.
Goal: Eat an icecream from an icecream van/Peking Duck/Kung Pao Chicken/a fig/a Cadbury Creme Egg (respectively)
It took me until the age of 27 to realise I hadn’t eaten, like, a whole bunch of stuff. I was certainly aware of the existence of these dishes – and yet, I’d just never gotten around to eating them. Peking Duck and Kung Pao Chicken, in particular, had been broadcast across my cultural radar through TV, radio, movies, books and magazines for years, and it was more for the fact that I was curious than any great desire for taste that I decided to eat them. One by one, I set them up and knocked them down.
Ice-cream from an ice-cream van: technically, it was gelati, so I’m still not sure if I can legitimately cross this one off the list. I probably would have liked it better if I hadn’t heard the jingling bell, looked at my list, thought Icecream van! and gone running out of the house to chase it, on foot, through the streets. That Doppler effect is a real son of a bitch.
Peking Duck: I highly recommend ordering the duck at Old Kingdom, 197 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, phone: (03) 9417 2438. The accepted wisdom of the city’s connoisseurs is that Old Kingdom prepares the best Peking Duck in Victoria (perhaps Australia) and, after tasting it, I stand by this as a wholly believable claim.
Kung Pao Chicken: While Zara was in town earlier this year we hit up Sichuan House in Chinatown. Those spices were not fooling around, and I was sweating from underneath my eyelids three mouthfuls in. My mouth felt as if it was on fire, and it was only pride and hunger that kept me struggling forward.
In summary: impossible to finish.
A Fig: You know what? Not monumental.
A Cadbury Creme Egg: Jesus. I have never had such a sugar fix in my life. It’s like someone rendered down Shirley Temple and the Care Bears.
Minus the chewy fatty deposits.
Items #9, #17, #23.
Goal: Eat a Fool’s Gold Loaf/a KFC bucket (it has to be in an actual paper bucket)/Chicken Chow Mein
Look, I got onto this whole ‘food I haven’t eaten’ train of thought and the whole operation snowballed from there.
Goal: Skinny dipping
The meeting point between idea + potential = skinny dipping has literally never come up before, as amazing as that sounds. There was either never any point, or any possibility. And I feel like a crucial American Graffiti/Dawson’s Creek/Generic Teen Horror/Coming of Age/Exploitation Film developmental point was missed as a result.
Goal: Learn Spanish
The tricky nature of what I’m about rears its head here. It’s one thing to itemise ‘Speak Spanish’ as a goal, but how do you define that? Do you take one lesson and say ‘OK, I can speak Spanish now, cross that shit off the list?’ Or do you need to have a Spanish-speaking individual gauge and assess your competency, then arbitrate yea or nay?⁵
After much thought, the metric I decided on was that if I can go for a week speaking only Spanish (and while it’s tempting to cheat and not say anything but ‘Biblioteca!’ for a week and chalk it up as a technical win, I’d still consider that cheating), then I get to cross this one off the list.
Goal: Make Out With Someone Famous
Everyone I know has at one point in time commented on how attractive/sexual/alluring a celebrity is. And while I’m under no illusions as to the fact that being involved with a celebrity is any different to being involved with an average Joe or Jane, still…
As an exception to the above rule, I remain certain in the belief that any woman who makes out with Gabriel Byrne is instantly transported to an idyllic Celtic pastoral scene. By a river. Probably, there is peace, and horses.
I think the same thing happens with Daniel Baldwin, but it’s a dumpster in Queens. Probably, there are pieces of horses.
Goal: Baptismal Cleansing
I’ve only seen this done on movies and TV (which, apparently, is where I get all my information on both the world and how I want to live my life). I’m not Christian, so I don’t know if it’s – technically – blasphemy for me to engage in baptism as a practice. But that whole thing where you put on the white robe and walk barefoot down to the river (absolution or no absolution, I’m not messing up my Connies. Getting them clean is a total bitch) and some kindly mid-40s-or-older mustached white guy/hefty black guy washes away all of your sins… that’s a cool idea. I like that. I like that a lot.
Goal: Learn to throw real good
I learned early on that I wasn’t cut out to be a bowler, a pitcher, or a quarterback. I had complete and overwhelming jealousy for those lanky, shaggy-haired kids whose arms were like two long sheaths of thin but solid muscle connected by a greased ball-bearing, who could pick up a ball, or a rock, or an egg, and effortlessly flick and snap their joints back and forward again so that the projectile made a beautiful, clean arc through the air and impacted on the target like it was an afterthought on the way to some point three feet behind it. I don’t know how to learn to throw, or where to go, but this is one I’m not letting go of.
There are more. A lot more. At last count, the list stands at 81 items, with 12 crossed off – the ice-cream van notwithstanding. They range from the personal (Item #76: El Camino de Santiago), the curious (Item #8: Fire a Gun – I hasten to add I don’t actually want to cap somebody, I’m just very intrigued by the whole idea, given the permeation of gun fascination into Western culture… and also, I’m a 27 year old guy), and the spiritual (Item #40: Get Really High on Peyote). I think I’ve got time – I hope I’ve got time – to do them all, but more and more I’m thinking of adding some that are nigh-impossible, in order to get that perpetual yearning for accomplishment.
Which is something I’m told is important.
I think what’s more important is that you stand up and say to yourself, I want these things.
Especially Item #81.
¹ Screaming abuse at a lighting assistant.
² Yes. In my head, nothing gets actress and writer Parker Posey’s motor running like a well-organised workspace.
⁴ Straight pimpin’.
⁵ and Antonio Banderas don’t return my calls no more.