Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Some people when given four years to live would rush out and complete their life's work: A novel, a ring-trilogy opera, found a new nation and declare independence from Britain. But what I did right after the neurologist laid that ALS junk on me was go feed my penny jar into one of those coin-redeemer machines. Well, and not all of them. You see, I had forgotten to get my parking stub validated. The fee was $7.50. And I only had six dollars on me. There were 85 cents in coins down in the little coin slot near the floorboard. And I had a couple of pounds of pennies in a throw-away plastic water bottle. So some lady in a Mercedes Benz SUV idled behind me while I tried to shake pennies out through the narrow neck of the water bottle. I induced them by making the farky finger in and out of the narrow neck. Eventually the attendant sensed there were enough and allowed me to drive away after I gave him a handful. We made a gesture like hands cupping water from one to the other. I had been saving these pennies up for two years. I wanted to feed them through one of those coin counters at the supermarket and get the cash. It's OK with me that the machine takes 8.5 percent, because pennies are worthless. Sure, you could get rid of them if you made a point of carrying them around and spending them, but that's not how I live my wild and free lifestyle. This ingot, as it were, of pennies had sat variously in my car or on my desk for about a year since the bottle filled up. A dream deferred. Now, as I left the neurologist's office, with a sentence of death (come and get me - hah!) hanging over my head, I resolved to feed the rest of the danged pennies into the supermarket coin machine if it was the last thing I did before I died. So off I went. The machine counted up roughly $6.38 (I think) and the machine gave me $5.70. I was expecting green bills but it was a voucher I could use at the cashier. They can give you cash if you want, but I wanted to shop. I picked out some pork breakfast sausages, laughing inside that my general practitioner that morning had suggested I go on a low-fat diet for two months to control my cholesterol. Forget that, I don't need less fat right now, I need more. The sheathing that covers the nerves is made of fat. This is why it is crucial for children below the age of two to get lots and lots of healthy fat in their diet. Myelin. Maybe not pork fat, but hey, the ink on my diagnosis was still wet, and pork fat seemed like a gesture in the right direction. Also I picked up some waffles, two for $3.40 or something if you have the evil supermarket bar code card, which I do, under a false name. So I thought. At the cashier it came to over nine dollars. I nixed one of the waffle boxes and it still came to over six dollars. So I nixed the other waffle box and went home with sausages and no waffles. And some green bills. So I accomplished my dream. I fed the pennies into the coin machine at the supermarket. You may think this is silly. And then I did go home then and tell my wife the situation. But I did the penny thing first because is was symbolic of doing something fun for me. Because it satisfied my curiosity and desire to play. This desire is the root sensation of a life properly lived, I think.
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