The thing about adventures is that you don’t know when you’re having them. They happen quickly. And if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss them.
I’m not talking about huge adventures. Obviously, if you’re zip-lining across the rainforests of Belize, you’re having quite a day. No, I’m talking about the little life-events that we somehow didn’t notice until quarantines, social distancing, and face masks came along.
Like the adventure of:
Trying New Restaurants. What a great adventure, walking into a hole-in-the-wall joint and wondering: “Will this food have tentacles, or will it be delicious?” That is an adventure.
Specifically, I am thinking about the time my wife and I stopped at a barbecue joint in middle Texas and the waitress said that “turkey fries” was the special. I was thinking, “Why not?” I love fried food.
I cleaned my plate. People in the cafe were elbowing their neighbors and pointing at the redheaded Floridian. A few truckers made the Sign of the Cross.
That was a great day. Remember adventures like that? Oh, we used to have tons of them. We never even knew they were happening.
There was the adventure of meeting friends for supper. The adventure of your cousin’s godawful piano recital. The adventure of the DMV. You never knew if you were going to get Cheerful DMV Lady, or DMV Lady From Hell.
There were the adventures found in little storefronts. Places where you’d buy something small, like a book, a knick-knack, or surgically sharp Japanese cutlery.
Or the olive store. Yes. That’s right. Last year, I found a store that specialized in hard-to-find olives. I didn’t even know such things existed. A Greek lady let me sample hundreds of olives until my mouth was stinging.
I was buying olives like a stockbroker hyped up on Mountain Dew. “I’ll have fifty pounds of Manzanillas and Seveillianas,” I’d say. “And gimme a pound of Arbequinas.”
My bill was something like $2774.19 because—and here’s something else I didn’t know—olives cost big money. My wife didn’t talk to me for three months.
Still, that was a great adventure.
But lately, my adventure ratio has dwindled to about nothing. These last few months I have found myself fantasizing about the ordinary adventures I once had. And I get to wondering what things would be like if we had a COVID-free life again.
Oh, if only. I know exactly what I’d do. I would go for a long drive. And I wouldn’t stop. I’d go out West, up North, northeast, southwest, or along the Eastern Seaboard. I would see as much as I could. I would happily go broke staying in quaint bed and breakfasts from here to New Brunswick.
I would walk the trails of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Accadia, and Glacier. I would visit more independent bookstores. I’d go to interesting mom-and-pop restaurants.
Like the restaurant I told you about earlier. Or ethnic places where the owners speak broken English and get excited when the bell above the door rings because you’re their first customer all afternoon. Where they don’t even let you order for yourself before they’re saying, “You seet’a right’a there, I cook’a something you gonna like!”
I’d also have a few adventures involving baseball. Even if I couldn’t attend games in person, I’d go to an old waterhole, like the old days. A dim-lit establishment where the TV above the bar has a fuzzy picture.
A place where the guy beside you is white-haired, unshaven, and comes from the old-school baseball tradition. A guy who has no phone to play on. A man who gets hacked off when his batter strikes out and cusses at his beer.
I’d give almost anything to have World Series Fever again. A boyish fever that spreads faster among kids than any virus ever could. A condition that gets so bad that young men start memorizing the numbers on the backs of baseball cards.
I would involve myself in almost any exploit that included being in a crowd. I miss that. Maybe a big festival, or a convention where the main attraction is seafood, jazz, blueberries, Canadian manufactured elevators, or steel ball bearings.
In my youth I would wander around the Destin Seafood Festival grounds, listening to the music, eating weird festival food like deep-fried shark on a stick, or deep-fried Oreos, or alligator tail.
The Seafood festival T-shirts were a big deal back then. Everyone wanted one. Each year the shirt always featured a local artist’s work. You would stand in a 10-mile-long line, eating your lukewarm eel on a stick, waiting to buy a T-shirt. And it was a true adventure.
So was going to beer joints where mediocre bands would play earsplitting music. Where giddy couples would take the dancefloor and twirl to “Mustang Sally.” Or they’d slow-dance to “Together Again.”
Young lovers would stand dangerously close to one another making young promises. They would promise that the rest of their lives would be a grand adventure. They would kiss each other while dancing and swear that no matter what anyone else said, the greatest thrill was simply being together.
Sometimes I wish somebody would have told me that I was having so many adventures while I was having them. I can be pretty blind at times. I wish someone would have pointed to the little things in life and said, “Hey! Pay attention, kid! You’re not going to live forever! Life is full of fun! Don’t miss it!”
Which is why I wrote this to you.