Attention Baby Boomers - It’s Time to Kick the Bucket List!

Joe Queenan

The American bucket list is in a state of crisis.

Americans are so obsessed with running a 100-mile marathon in the Outback, visiting every Double-A baseball stadium in the country or flying in a hot-air balloon over Fiji that all the fun has gone out of having a bucket list in the first place. Compiling a bucket list was once the perfect way to pass the dreamy days of summer vacation. Now it’s just another form of work.

Today, everyone with a few bucks to spare seems to be fixated on bucket lists, given the many books on this topic.

You can’t start crossing things off your bucket list when you’re 29. People that young do not possess the moral authority to compile a bucket list. They should all go up to their rooms and play Warcraft for four decades. Mommy will call you back downstairs when you have reached full retirement age.

We are all familiar with the concepts of Too Much Too Soon (TMTS) and Too Little Too Late. (TLTL) Bucket lists are basically a clear-cut case of Way Too Much Far Too Late. They can seem like a consolation prize for not having a satisfactory life. If you are rapidly approaching the final curtain and you still have dozens of things pending on your bucket list, it raises the question of WHAT YOU WERE DOING ALL THAT TIME ??

Why didn’t you learn to play the dulcimer? Write that novel about vampires masquerading as hedge fund managers? Go back and visit Skip your roommate in college? What were you doing that was so important that you couldn’t do any of these ? And don’t say you were too busy snorkeling in the Blue Nile. Just don’t.

Bucket list accomplishments are like Fantasy League baseball: a cheap substitute for the real thing.

And that can prove terribly disappointing. Seeing Robert Plant live in concert in 2018 does not make up for not having seen Led Zeppelin in 1968. Attending a pallid recreation of Woodstock in 2016 is no substitute for having sat in the driving rain for three days at the real gathering back during the Summer of Love. As David Bowie once put it: “This ain’t rock and roll. This is genocide.”

Bucket lists create the impression that life is not so much something to be lived and enjoyed as a series of onerous obligations to be checked off.

People who report on their bucket-list progress expect their friends to be impressed, perhaps even jealous as they recite exotic adventures. Who cares?

How’s this for a bucket list….

1. Raise kids who won’t grow up to hate you.
2. Raise kids who take care of their aging mother and make sure she gets a nice send-off.

The last thing anyone should want to do when they retire is anything. A proper full-retirement age bucket list should look like this:

1. Stop working forever. 2. Tell your boss how much you loathe him on the way out the door. 3. Stop working forever.

Still, we all risk being shunned and ridiculed if we do not have a fully operational bucket list. Here, then, are a few thoughts on finessing this vexing problem:

Go vicarious. Pay other people to jump out of planes, swim with sharks, run a 100-mile marathon for you. Get a full report on how much fun it was. Lie to your friends about having crossed these things off your bucket list.

Borrow photos from friends who have gone on safari or ridden a chopper out in Sturgis, S.D., or played guitar with the guy from REO Speedwagon. Photoshop yourself into the image and tell everyone how thrilling it all was. No one’s going to check this stuff.

Slim it down. No-one needs to visit all 30 major league baseball stadiums. There are only four or five worth seeing; the rest are interchangeable clones of Camden Yards. It makes perfect sense to want to see the Red Sox play the Yanks at Fenway before you buy the farm. But why would anyone dream about seeing the Marlins play the Padres anywhere? No serious bucket list should ever include the words “See the Milwaukee Brewers.”

Get local. That is, get to know where you live better. Forget Mount Fuji, Mount Everest, Mont Saint-Michel. If you’ve lived in New York for 60 years but have never been to Rockaway Beach, Fire Island or the waterfalls in Paterson, N.J., get cracking. A regional bucket list would be filled with things you could do in a single day, such as swim in the East River and watch the sun go down over the Verrazano Bridge.

The same advice holds true elsewhere. If you live in South Dakota, make a visit to North Dakota. If you live in Iowa, give Idaho a whirl. If you live in Reno, spend a weekend in Fargo.. These are bucket lists for an age of lowered expectations. The hell with Paris.

No threats to life and limb. You don’t really need to swim with the sharks to feel complete. Swim with the manatees; you’ll live longer. Cross anything off your list that could involve crossing paths with the Taliban or needing to get your meniscus repaired. I don’t care how gorgeous Machu Picchu is, at a certain age the local microbes could be fatal to your heath. So, skip that long-planned trip to the Incan ruins; make do with Stonehenge. Same general idea.

A proper bucket list should never include things that are less impressive than things you’ve already done.

If you helped win the Second World War by fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima, you don’t have to visit Little Bighorn. If you saw Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore in San Francisco when you were 16, you don’t need to see Lynryd Skynyrd at Madison Square Garden when you’re 70. We shouldn’t need to tell you this.

Finally, remember that making a dream come true is not the same thing as showing off. Dreams are not pranks. When Don Quixote belts out his inspiring signature tune in “Man of La Mancha,” he’s singing about achieving the Impossible Dream. He’s not singing about accomplishing the Impossible Stunt.

A proper bucket list should be short and highly selective. It’s a bucket list, not a laundry list. It shouldn’t just be some cheesy variation on “Little Things I Gotta Do Today.” When Sir Galahad went looking for the Holy Grail, he didn’t have a long list

Nope, Sir Galahad only had that one item on his bucket list. Find the Holy Grail. And then chill.

Excerpted from the Wall St Journal as “It’s Time to Kick the Bucket List “

P. S. My thanks to the wonderful, humorous, irrepressible Joe Queenan.

This article received many Letters to the Editor, all complimentary. One notable one, from a man in Cincinnati struck a chord. He and his wife had visited Notre Dame, the Taj Mahal, Little Bighorn and other typical “bucket list” items. But he found the Holy Grail in his grandchildren…..His 8-year-old grandson entranced by the hyena in “The Lion King“ on Broadway, his young granddaughter, dressed as Belle dancing with the Beast at Disney World, his pure joy in holding his newborn twin granddaughters for the first time. Observations to which we can all relate.

So, for all of you lucky enough to be grandparents, enjoy every minute with them and stop searching for the Holy Grail. It is ours. We are indeed very lucky people! ~ Regina McNamara ■ ■