• A Bucket List of Little Things

    I do not want to climb Everest or see the Great Wall of China. Nor do I want to drive at Le Mans, compete at the World Series of Poker, or try to beat Joey Chestnut, the competitive eater, who can devour 69 hot dogs with buns in just 10 minutes.

    I do, however, have a list of little things that I would like to complete before my time is up. I have listed them in reverse order.

    20. A friend of a friend lent me $20 in Vienna in the summer of 1971 during a backpacking trip to Turkey. I said that I would pay it back but lost his address. Does anyone know a young American architect who lived in Vienna in 1971 and who was down $20? Just post onto my Facebook account.

    19. When I was a kid, Marie Briggs was the official baker at the Yellow Farmhouse in Vermont. Her molasses cookies and nutmeg doughnuts were legendary. I promise myself I’ll bake up a big batch of both items and bring them to Charlie Bentley, the only surviving bachelor farmer from that era.

    18. I have at least 1,000 thank-you notes that I never wrote, so I just bought an old Underwood typewriter as a form of penance. The first one will be to the plumber who, on Easter Sunday 1996, came out to fix our furnace.

    17. I never flossed properly and would like to learn.

    16. I love books but am running out of time. I have assembled my “book bucket list” of 72 books (including Middlemarch, which I have tried to read on three separate occasions but failed). You can find the list at

    15. I have read hundreds of terrible books (more than a few from Oprah’s Book Club) in my life and I want the time back. Since this is impossible, I will assemble paperback editions of these books and burn them this summer at an al fresco conflagration I have named The Flaming Bridges of Madison County. Everyone is invited; bring your own worst books.

    14. It used to be the mark of an educated person to be able to recite from memory. The five items I would like most to know by heart are Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee”; Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”; “Now is the winter of our discontent” from Richard III; “The Minstrel Boy” from “The Man Who Would Be King”; and the short first paragraph of Tropic of Cancer that reads, “I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.” Plus, I can never remember the theme music from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

    13. Many friends have passed before I got a chance to say a proper goodbye. Most have been cremated, so there is no headstone to commemorate with flowers. You know who you are, so, from the bottom of my heart, goodbye, and know that I still love you.

    12. I want to write a free cookbook for folks who know nothing about cooking. It would contain just 25 simple recipes, just about all one needs to know to be a good cook.

    11. I have always wanted to tie a decent clove hitch.

    10. I will lobby the federal government to reinstate home economics classes in elementary schools across the United States. A good education includes knowing how to cook.

    9. I would like to engage in an entirely frivolous but arguably noble political act of will, protesting something that will never change: war, campaign money, junk food, grown-ups who dress like their teenage children, or bad cooking. It’s comforting to be on the losing side once in a while.

    8. I have spent a lifetime thinking that I should enjoy shad roe, hundred-year eggs, durian, ­rognons de veau (kidneys), and saag ­paneer. I will no longer eat foods I don’t like.

    7. I would love to help my four kids discover the infinite joys of hard work. Since this cannot be taught, only learned, I will settle for a lifetime of mostly fruitless encouragement from the sidelines.

    6. I would like to make pretied bow ties illegal. Tying one’s own bow tie is the most elemental form of self-respect.

    5. I know that Dunkin’ Donuts’ coconut doughnuts are bad for me and I would love to give them up, but I won’t.

    4. I want to build a monument to things that are becoming obsolete but will be missed terribly: libraries, downtowns, typewriters, drive-ins, fountain pens, full-service gas stations, shoelaces, suspenders, Sunday suppers, big breakfasts, galoshes, and phones connected by landlines.

    3. I would like to live long enough to see my kids have kids who are as noble in spirit and kind as my kids are.

    2. I will never give in to reality, whatever that is. Everything is possible if you simply ignore what cannot be done. As my mother once commented, “What’s so good about reality anyway?”

    1. I will stop making lists and start living day by day, enjoying each and every bite of that occasional coconut doughnut.

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