“Until you’ve been beside a man…”
Dateline: Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Tomorrow belongs to no one,
but today we can take,
today is ours,
to live, or to waste.
grab hold of today,
and hang on,
as it comes your way.
It’s not that I want to be young.
It’s not that I want to be old.
It’s, I want to be me.
Free of bosses, and bills. Free of taxes, democrats, republicans and punks on the news.
It’s not my head in the sand I want, it’s my toes.
For sunscreen, I want a Panama Hat the color of the sand, with palm trees and flamingos embroidered on the hat band.
I want to smell salt in the air, not exhaust.
It’s not about running away, it’s about running to.
I wonder why we spend billions of dollars to find life on Mars, when most of us are still trying to find life on earth.
So comes three old men – an orthopedic surgeon who used to operate on wounded Special Forces soldiers in a goat barn in Afghanistan, an ex-cop who now runs a Produce Department of a supermarket, and me, a cancer and brain tumor survivor who has spent the last 3 decades covering the misery we somehow keep inflicting on each other.
Each of us, in our own way, searching for life on earth, as it should be, as it can be, as it needs to be.
Between the footsteps we leave in the sand,
and the waves that sweep them clean.
“”¦you don’t know what he wants”¦”
In the book, “The Old Man and the Sea” the magic of Hemmingway to me, was in the words he used in between writing about the fish and the bait.
In between the fish and the bait, Papa Hemmingway, wrote a romance novel.
A story filled with tragedy, brutality, gentleness, spirituality, heartbreak and “¦ love.
Love of the sea by the man who penned the story and wrote, “He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her.”
And it is the love of the sea, that has brought two of the three old men here, to Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
“I’m 12 years old when I go fishing,” Dr. Mac tells me as he rips lure things out of the plastic Strike King bags, “the best time of my life growing up as a kid was when I was fishing, whenever I take a kid fishing I’m the same age as the kid.”
I’ll begin with Mac, because he is my friend, and I know him best, best because I read about him as a child.
I used to ride my 1960 red and white Schwinn Speedster bicycle down to Lincoln Park Pharmacy, in Tonawanda, NY”¦4 blocks from the Buffalo city line, walk in past the old lady at the cash register, down slowly past the candy aisle, and when I saw she wasn’t looking I ducked one aisle over to the MAGAZINE SECTION.
Quietly sat down by the all bent up and candy sticky comic books, looked around for the old cranky lady, and once clear, reached up over my head to the second shelf and grabbed”¦
“¦I was an especially jacked up 8 year old if the cover of the magazine had like a tiger, or mean looking elephant on the cover, or some guy hanging with one arm from a tree with a bayonet in his hands.
If it had a girl on it’s cover, I’d just sit there and sneak peaks at MAD magazine, but if it had adventure I was all over the magazine”¦I’d skim through the Ask Adventure section, stop for a minute in the Old Songs Men Have Sung stuff if I saw it BUT it was the men of the adventures (abentures as So-So would say) that I wanted to read about, but I had no idea that forty years later I would meet one of those men, and he would be my doctor.
“”¦you don’t know if he cries at night”¦”
Depending on when I ask him, and how he is feeling, he is either 52, 54, or 56, he has spent 14 years in medical school and is a board certified orthopedic fellowship training surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacements, yet he laughs when I call him in print, my butt-replacement doc.
Which by-the-way he is.
He spent 6 years in the Navy, and is the son of a Navy man, the grandson of a Navy man.
Then he joined the Army (14 years) where he became a Lieutenant Colonel running the most forward surgical unit in Afghanistan, “I took over a goat barn and made it our operating room.”
I have statues on my mantle, on his wall, he has heroism under glass, Special Forces patches, The Bronze Star, Combat Medic Award, and many others. To me, that’s Freedom, framed.
Dr. Mac lives a few towns north of me in almost Canada in Connecticut, a three wood from his joint would get you on the green in Massachusetts. Somehow, he lives on a farm like thing in this suburb with his wife Lee Ann and some rescued pigs, goats, possibly a chicken or two, and a couple of horses.
He does not do bored well, “I have been known to build a building when I’m bored.” I know, on the morning it rained here I was about to pick up a bag and bring it downstairs to put in the rental car, but Dr. Mac jumped up before me and grabbed it saying, “I’ll do it”¦I’ll do it.”
It’s best, just to let him have his way if he’s bored.
Or if you are a guard in a gated community that will only slowly point down the driveway, and not answer Mac’s questions, only pointing and never with eye contact.
Two days later we are still hearing about that, eh, incident.
Dr. Mac is born to do, not wait.
Not Bruce, though, Bruce is a man looking for peace.
I don’t know Bruce, only basically met him on this trip, him and Mac are best friends, “My only friend,” Bruce says, but I hope that at the end of this, he now counts two friends.
Bruce is a very interesting dude, HUGE vinyl music fan, “I have 1,500 to 1,600 records.” Has a music system I would die for, speaker cables specific to the system, an amp for each speaker, a turntable that sits on top of 9 rubber balls in a Plexiglas box, “so that it is seismically isolated and buffers vibrations.”
“I take weekly trips, usually buy 200 albums for maybe $50-bucks, run to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, the thrill is finding the album I listened to as a kid and hearing it all over again.”
Bruce doesn’t know it, but to a lessor degree, I do that too.
Bruce has told me, about a dozen times now, “Now after this I’m not going to say another thing”¦”
And then he does, and most times it knocks me over like this about his music collection, “The junk doesn’t matter”¦don’t know how the sound gets out, but the important part is not knowing the HOW, the important part is the SOUND.”
Bruce, is a private man, and to honor his privacy, as he has asked, I won’t say much more about his personal life, except that the man is a Hall-Of-Fame Grandfather, who gushes and lives for his grandchildren.
Bruce, is Ying, to Dr. Mac’s Yang.
I believe the universe has a plan for all of us, and that peace in life comes from sitting back and watching the ride, don’t worry about the bumps and bruises that come with the travel, look forward to the destination stop planned for you.
The universe, at one stop in the ride, put Bruce with Dr. Mac, and Dr. Mac with Bruce, and I think for both of them, it helps ease the ride.
From Bruce: “In a weird sort of way, this trip, this trip, isn’t about the fish, isn’t about the fishing.”
And standing behind him,
“”¦you don’t know if he don’t.”
Shame On The Moon