Got It Good

The mindful ramblings of a recent visitor


As Lily Tomlin said in one of the routines where she pretends to interview herself: “Lily, when did you leave Detroit?” Answer: “As soon as I figured out where I was.”

It has taken me longer to figure out where I was, but better late than never.

I just got back to St. Louis, Mo. (pronounced “Misery”), where it is 274 degrees when you factor in the heat index. Suffice it to say that it’s hot. Perspiration is useless; it just sits there. Seriously, it’s a steam bath. I know, you’re jealous. I completely understand.

Because: Sonoma County, wow. Roses like I never saw in Portland, Ore. Seems everything grows in Guerneville. And the ocean! And stars you can actually see! And sunny days with cozy, cool nights. (Yes, I know you think your winter is horrible. Try zero degrees for days and days, and 30-mile-an-hour winds that don’t stop.) Such friendly people, such good food and wine. I shall return soon, oh yeah. As soon as I figure out where I am.

Because I recently realized, at the ripe age of 54, that my support system was lacking. I had burned a few too many bridges, I suppose. Do not ever stop talking to friends. No excuses. So I reconnected with my high school friend, Michael, who was visiting St. Louis for his father’s 90th birthday. We flew back to San Francisco together. Lemme back up . . .

Back in the ’70s, Michael and I drove out West to see my sister in Palo Alto. When it was time to return to the state of misery, Michael said, “I’m staying.” OK, I thought. Good luck with that! What a fool, I thought, he knows almost no one, is leaving his family and friends, but OK. He stayed. l left.

Some 30 years later, I wonder: Just who was the fool? Well, I guess neither one of us was (and I can hear a few of you saying ‘You were!’). But let’s just say that he has had a more vibrant life so far, and let’s just say that I was a bit naive. Fortunately for me, he had the good sense and good fortune to acquire a house in Guerneville. So I visited.

I guess I’m really speaking to myself and those like me who haven’t been enjoying life as much as we would like. If you live in the North Bay, I hope you are counting your blessings. Maybe you’re not. You’re probably too busy enjoying yourself. At least you should be, we all should be; we should do our best to work our least. I have been working for many, many years. Once, my mom gave me a birthday card I won’t forget. It had a cartoon of a horse on the cover with text that read: “You work like a horse all your life, and what do you get?” I opened the card. “Old!” it jeered. “Happy birthday.” Damn if she wasn’t right, as usual.

A few weeks ago, I read the article in the Bohemian about working less (“Why Work?” July 7). I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to do so. But I need not have worked so much. I have always had more than I needed.

My point is this: if you don’t need the money, don’t work so much. Work just enough to get by. Sadly, it’s taken me this long to figure that out.

One afternoon, I was at a gay resort in Guerneville. We had stopped by to look at the beautiful flowers at the pool. There were lots of men there in swimsuits (and not), just having a good time. I thought, there was a time when I would have tsk-tsked such “laziness”—Catholic guilt and all that, I guess, or envy or both. How dare they enjoy themselves! Shocking! Now I realize: that’s the essence of life. As Auntie Mame said, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

So I say, enjoy this moment. Stop reading and talk to someone, in person. Smile. Enjoy yourselves.