Quiet Desperation

Living on borrowed time, and in no rush to pay back


I conclude every calendar year of columns with one that explores what makes life worth living.

The time has come, the walrus said. This year’s will be a little different.

First, I think an important question to ask is this: Is life worth living?

Many think it is not.

And too many of the many are far too young. The statistics are very depressing.

Anthony Bourdain answered “No” in 2018. So did Kate Spade, and so did two former UCLA basketball stars, Billy Knight and Tyler Honeycutt.

Knight wrote, “I’m lost in life, and I feel like there’s no hope. I have no friends with me here. I have no wife, girlfriend. I have nothing.”

Knight had been arrested less than a month before his suicide and charged with sexually abusing a child.

It hasn’t been a pretty year in America. It hasn’t been great, that’s for sure.

But I’m planning to stick around.

My past lists have always included obvious entries, like Jennifer and the dog and fine art and films. I thought I would forgo them this time, and cite some that are more unusual.

Like the “tomcat smell” of eucalyptus. That was Raymond Chandler’s wording. I wish it had been mine.

Eucalyptus trees were common near our home in Fullerton, Calif. When I get a whiff now, I time-travel to 1958-60. I was a kid with a bicycle, a baseball glove, a transistor radio, and zero worries.

The color navy.

The Durango Diner, 957 Main Ave. in Durango. Don’t leave without asking owner Gary Broad for a jar of Durango Diner Green Chili. The best ever.

One-hundred-percent cotton, long-sleeved T-shirts. Plain front or alma mater.

Having food placed in front of me by a waiter or waitress who forgoes the perfunctory and insincere, single-word directive: “Enjoy.”

The best college fight song ever: Michigan’s “The Victors.” It was composed by a student named Louis Elbel in 1898, and it was first performed publicly by John Philip Sousa.

They named a field after Elbel. I think he deserves more than that. The song reaches into me for a number of reasons.

We lived in Ann Arbor and I became a devoted Wolverine. My father and sister both attended and graduated.

There might be more to it than that. It stirs my goosebumps.

Next: Paying attention to anything Kanye West says is still optional.

Next: my thesaurus. Stephen King is against them. But what would I do without synonyms? I’d be astray, adrift, afield, amiss, awry, lost, off course, off the mark and wandering, is what.

Next: the truth. Montaigne said, “The reverse of truth has a hundred thousand forms, and a field indefinite, without bound or limit.”

I am not referring to the misdirections needed for fiction. I am referring to honesty coming from those we elected and from those we trust, like educators and cops.

Apple pie.

Saying “No, thank you,” when an invitation comes across the desk I’d rather not accept.

Amazon Prime. It’s true. The convenience is beyond any reservations I would have if I had any reservations.

I would be in contempt of the concept if I did not mention this small weekly space, and the opportunity in it.

Hey, ‘19. I’m looking forward to you.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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