Fortunately for me, I learned to enjoy the simple things and pleasures at a very early age. My parents worked hard, and never lacked for money, but were very good at not giving me everything I wanted and asked for. They kept insisting I learn to be grateful for what I had and to enjoy the truly simple things of life. I’m sure I moaned, complained and whined a lot (I was very good at that), but I eventually learned to enjoy what was right there in front of me. My parents gave me every advantage to learn to love what really matters the most. For example, they always paid for field trips to hear the symphony do children’s concerts. We always visited historical sites and museums on vacations, and we traveled a lot, seeing places many of my friends would have to wait until they were adults to see on their own.
Here is a list of some of the very special pleasures in my life. I am sure you have your own list, and would love to hear from you about the simple things you like.
*Music is like breathing to me. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t listen to some sort of music. Anne Murray is my favorite singer and I have been a fan since she got started in 1970. I like most genres of music except hard jazz and opera. My taste in classical seems to run to the Pops, unless I can attend a live concert, then I’ll listen to pretty much of anything.
*I love to read, mostly magazines and newspapers. Both of my parents were avid readers and I am so glad they passed that down to me. I’m not much of a book reader, except for a collection of short stories. For some reason, I get bored reading books. I’ll read the first three or four chapters, then turn to the last two. The one exception is talking books. Because of my disability, I qualify to get unabridged recorded books from the National Library Service of the Library of Congress, using special cassette players. I can listen to a whole range of books being read to me, and thoroughly enjoy them. This is one government program that works well and is worth the tax dollars spent on it.
*I revel at movies and since the advent of VCRs and DVDs I love them even more. I could easily watch two or three movies a day. I use Netflix and enjoy getting things I wouldn’t go to a theater to see, but watch and learn from at home. My parents would take us all to the drive-in movies on Friday or Saturday night, and since they had good taste in films, I learned to appreciate the difference between well-told stories and the B movies.
*I’m just as crazy about live theater, and if I lived where it was readily available and I could afford it, I would attend regularly. Actually theater was a career choice for me at one time, and there are times I’m sorry I didn’t pursue it. I was very fortunate to get every part I auditioned for. My last stage performance was in college in Pogo, based on the comic strip of the same name.
*There are a few people who really get to do for a living what they love. For me it has been as a speaker. I have done it for 36 years now. It is a lot like being an actor, but so much more. As a professional you have to play all the parts: producer, writer, director, sound, lighting, wardrobe, travel. The funny thing is that as a speaker, I do what more people would rather die than do. In survey after survey, speaking before a live audience is either the first or second greatest fear, and many times far ahead of the fear of dying.
*My favorite cuisine is Italian, followed by seafood, then good old American fare, or what a lot of people call comfort food…meat loaf and mashed potatoes; mac and cheese; turkey with dressing and all the fixings; burgers and fries; sloppy joes; steak; fried, grilled or broiled chicken breasts with flavored rice; smoked sausage; beans and franks (we call them beanie wienies in my family); and, breakfast just about any time of day; all of the things that are not good for you. Interestingly, I could eat Italian food pretty much any time, and consider pizza a major food group. Seafood, to me, is best for lunch, including flounder, shrimp, scallops, and fried clams. But give me a Snickers, or some M&Ms with peanuts and a very icy cold Pepsi, and I’ll do just about anything you ask. Oh, and ice cream is a good bet, too.
*My hobby is Old-Time Radio shows. I have a collection of over 10,000 digitalized programs of all types, and love to go to bed early, listen to four or five good episodes of my favorites before going to sleep. What a joy and a pleasure.
*I love to drive along country and back roads, especially in early Spring and late Fall, with good tunes playing and checking out the farms, small towns, and natural sites. Of course, this is best done in a convertible. I think expressways are boring, and the only purpose they serve to me is when I have to be some place in a hurry.
*As much as I have traveled on business in my life, I still enjoy travel of all kinds: planes, trains, buses, ships and boats, and of course by car. And for me the greatest pleasure is the trip and not always the destination. I have been to 49 states and all the provinces of Canada, to some truly great cities and some not so wonderful. I have seen magnificent things and real tragedy, and have met the most wonderful, kind and generous people you can imagine everywhere. I would travel everyday of my life, if it were possible. There are so many places to see, and so little time. The places I look forward to seeing the most are Monaco, Denmark, Japan, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Switzerland.
*I love going naked, and really like skinny-dipping, although in my case the better phrase is chunky-dunking. (I’m sorry; I know some of you just became ill of the thought of me naked.) When I was a teenager I lived in South Florida in a town between Miami and Fort Lauderdale called Hollywood. There was an unofficial nude beach off the beaten track, and of course, there was always the dare to go there. Well, being who I am, I took up the dare for the adventure of it, and discovered I really liked it, and went back repeatedly…for about ten years…until the property was sold to the county and turned into a park. Since the beach was secluded they couldn’t give you a ticket or arrest you for being nude on the beach, but they put up signs and would give you a parking ticket in the hopes of discouraging you from using the beach. It didn’t work for me, or hundreds of other people. All I did was rack a lot of tickets. On Saturdays and Sundays there would be hundreds of naked people on the beach: singles, couples and families. There was an unstated rule of no sex on the beach, so it was just like any other beach in the area, except everyone was naked. I still enjoy going without clothes and do so every chance I get. If it were available to me, I wouldn’t hesitate going to a nudist resort or beach, and if they don’t like my oversized body, so what.
*While the initial cost can be expensive, I like my computer. I’ll explain this one at another time. Let’s just say for now, without it, my life wouldn’t be as rich.
*I love spending time with friends, especially my best friends, Linda and Travis. No matter how much time I get to spend with them, it never seems like enough. Of course, there is a Jim, Alyce, Katherine and her husband Russell, and hundreds of good quality friends that it is always a pleasure to spend some time with, even if it is just by e-mail or a telephone call. I have also been very blessed with great friends all through my life: Gus, Daryl, Howie, Beth, Rick, Glenn, Terry, Nancy, Catherine, Kate, Lin, and many others. I miss every one of them, and think about them often.
*I truly miss the greatest simple pleasure of my life, my late wife Jean. Even though she was financially blessed all the time I knew here, she was born and raised in North Carolina in less than ideal circumstances, so she really knew and understood about simple things. Because of the lifestyle she had developed before I knew her, she was obligated to do and have a lot of expensive things. But when we got together, it was the simple little things and pleasures that brought us the greatest joy. She liked to do so many of the same things I have and do: music, reading, travel, riding country roads, good food, good friends. There are just too many things I could tell you about her, but the most important is that I loved her and miss her daily. It just didn’t get any better than being with her, if it was just waiting in line to get into the movies.
Tell me your great simple pleasures and I’ll share them in a future column for us all to enjoy.
We’ve been here one month and for all of you been here with me, I thank you. I hope you will stay with me, as I believe there are a lot of great things to talk about and wonderful stories to be told. Again, thank you for your loyalty.