Discover more from The Writing Shed with Tommy Tomlinson
A pirate looks at 59
Plus my weekly shareables, including a brilliant magician, a legendary book team, and why bourbon is so damn expensive
Here’s the headline reference, in case you’re not fluent in Buffett:
My pirate credentials are pretty thin. The mascot of my high school was a pirate; our yearbook was called the Cutlass. High school was also a time when I drank lots of rum, purchased from a liquor store in my hometown that did not trouble itself with minor details such as IDs. We’d pull up to the drive-thru window (of course liquor stores in Georgia have drive-thru windows) and hand the cashier $14 in wadded-up bills and say “Give us this much alcohol. And make sure some of it is Bacardi.” The official definition of keelhauling is dragging someone through the water underneath a ship as punishment. I have never been literally keelhauled, but I imagine it feels something like the morning after half a dozen Bacardi and Cokes.
I turned 59 on Wednesday. It has been a long time since I had a Bacardi and Coke. But it has not been long at all since I looked out at the ocean and wondered where the hell the time went.
The main thing I wanted for my birthday was a special joystick that manipulates time. I want something I can jam to the right to fast-forward through 99 percent of all meetings, and pull to the left to slow down long weekends with friends so I can savor every … last … second.
The joysticks are unavailable. Supply chain issues.
If there were no suffering in life, there would be no joy. And if life never ended, the days would no longer feel so precious. I would say that’s the kind of thing you think about when you’re 59, but Jimmy Buffett wrote “A Pirate Looks At Forty” when he was in his twenties. The thoughts come and go, like the tide.
That song, by the way—that’s about a real guy, a modern-day pirate named Phil Clark who hung out with Buffett in Key West, before Buffett got famous. Clark was known for running drugs and romancing beautiful women and occasionally tending bar at a place Buffett and some other regulars hung out. Clark would charge the regulars’ drinks to tourists who were too toasted to notice. He ended up fleeing from the law and living under an alias and washing up on the beach somewhere in California. That’s some pirate shit, definitely. Pirates don’t get old. Which is one reason I don’t really have the pirate in me. I want to run out the string as far as it will go.
There’s some attraction to the swashbuckling life—guys like Mike Leach loved the idea of it—but it seems to me, at 59, that the real adventure is figuring out how to love your family harder and stay in touch with your friends and do the stuff you care about and constantly reach for joy.
All the time knowing that the clock is running.
I might have told this story here before … years ago, I flew into the Newark airport for a trip to New York City. I got a cab and we headed up the highway and pretty soon I noticed two things. One, the cab driver was going VERY fast. And two, he did not have a rear view mirror.
It took me a second to gather myself before I leaned forward and spoke. “So,” I said, trying to stay calm, “no rear-view mirror?”
He smiled and gave a dismissive wave to whatever might be behind us. “That,” he said, “is in the past.”
I do not recommend this as a driving tip, but it’s not a bad way to live. Whatever time we have spent is behind us. Whatever we did with it is already done. Onward, y’all. Raise the flag and set sail.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
This week’s SouthBound was a replay of my 2020 conversation with comedian Fortune Feimster. She has one of the best coming-out stories I’ve ever heard.
I’m a sucker for stories on magicians—especially those who do close-up card tricks. The NYT profiled Juan Tamariz, who might be the greatest to ever do it.
My favorite everyday bourbon is Weller. You used to be able to get it for $25 a bottle. Now I can’t find it at all in Charlotte. The problem: All those OTHER damn bourbon drinkers.
DOG NEWS: While I work on my book, I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: Can dogs smell time?
We really enjoyed GLASS ONION—maybe not *quite* as much as the original KNIVES OUT, but we saw the first one in a movie theater and the whole concept was fresh. You don’t have to have seen the first one to watch this one. I loved Daniel Craig’s wandering accent, loved watching Janelle Monáe act, and especially loved one particular joke that I’m still laughing about six days later.
We blew right through all eight episodes of THREE PINES, the series based on the Louise Penny novels featuring Chief Inspector Gamache, and a tiny village in Quebec with lots of secrets. It’s structured as four two-episode mysteries, plus a larger overarching story, and it’s really well done. (Thanks to brilliant subscriber Debra for turning us on to this show.)
A role model for us aging folks: Edith Pearlman, who became a literary star at age 74.
Here’s one more version of “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” featuring Zac Brown and Mac McAnally.
See y’all next week, everybody.
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