Impromptu (and Candid) Thoughts

(A Four-Minute Read)

I retired at the age of forty-eight. Which caused a few years of tumultuous adjustment—tears shed over this self-imposed exile from the stage; once applauded by audiences, admired by peers, and stopped by strangers in the street; how could I not feel some bereavement over the waning of my celebrity, the weekly fix of approval? This was followed by a frenetic period of two greenhorns building a dream in the wilderness. Exhausted, we gradually settled into unhurried mornings and idle afternoons near the Gulf of Mexico and eventually beside the Mediterranean Sea. America wasn’t the same; in the end, we just got worn out by all the hate. Admittedly, there’s no shortage of that in Spain, but back in America, the hate is wrapped in religious hypocrisy and ignorance, handed down from generation to generation. All that god is love nonsense. Over here, hate is more honest and carries a semblance of intelligence and less religion. We were no longer interested in the American dream and religious bullshit. Not in the least.

What do we find interesting?

Living uptown at the foot of Mt. Tibidabo in a grand building with two elevator banks and a doorman. Feeling the lingering pleasures of a drink well crafted and a meal well eaten, we listen with satisfaction to the sounds rising from the street five stories below: the honking of horns, the shouting of children and the barking of dogs in the park, even the siren of an ambulance. Together, they all combine to form the symphony that is the city of Barcelona on a warm summer night.

After six decades, one wishes to travel more, eat better, own less.

At least, those are our wishes. One can enter one’s final stages of life laden down or light-footed, and we are committed to choosing the latter. At this point, there is no better way to end one’s day than with a few sips of a good Rye Whiskey, a few pages of an old novel, and a king-size bed with distractions. Knowing that in this free-thinking country, in this European life, we fashion ourselves. We pick our place in this world, our companions, and how we’ll spend our days, and that’s how we go about fashioning.

Time becomes something we can make.

And I make it with the first real friend of my life, and she and I have more than our fair share of pleasure and enjoyment on these endless summer days, and nights. About those eternal days, to please Hitler, the Spanish dictator Franco made summer days too long—it does not get dark until after 10 pm. So, to counteract his plan’s imperfection, I intend to fend off their influence. How does one fend off the influence of a summer day in Spain? You start by serving cocktails at four in the afternoon. Then, having thanked the Spanish farmers for our bounty, knowing god had nothing to do with it, we pass the olives and anchovies. We talk about dreams that have been long since realized and ones that are still to come true. We dredge up stories we’ve dredged up before. Around the second cocktail, the tragedy of the nuclear family inevitably comes up. But we aren’t about to break into tears. After over a decade and a half of estrangement, we feel like every tear in our body has dried up. They have dried up from an old and relentless anger—anger stoked by that long parade of preachers and teachers and politicians, wannabe dictators all. At every stage of our life, we have met them. But nowhere had we encountered as many dictators as in the cult called church. Every deacon, preacher, teacher, missionary, and religious leader had their hands out and their heads shaking, looking to say NO! and SHAME! at every opportunity. Waiting to invent another rule and punishment to circumvent pleasure of any variety.

Maybe when one shifts from the life of doing to the life of being, one became less sentimental, less susceptible to the influence of others.

Filled with more righteous anger but less tears. You understand that the only temptation to resist is to continue being the person whom others expects one to be. When the conversation flags, rather than adjourn into the gloaming wonder of the vernal evening, we open the windows wide, savor the sea breeze on our skin, talk about the next European city to visit and where to spend Christmas. Perhaps a fairytale Christmas in Vienna or Salzburg nestled among the Alps. Inevitably, Gina will ask, Are you hungry, Mr. Elrod?  I’m always hungry, I say.

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