Last Sunday, I woke up and decided to heed the advice so often given to those who feel, as I often do, that their lives are a slow, meaningless slog to the grave. Which is to say, I decided to seize the day, carpe the diem, and live that day as if it were my last.
No less a prophet than Steve Jobs claimed to live by this dictum, which he borrowed from Horace, Jesus, Gandhi, and many other wise, day-seizing people. If it was good enough for them, I figured, it’s good enough for me. And so began my attempt to live a single day with their shining eternal truth lighting my way.
I awoke at 7:30 a.m. and elected not to sleep in, for fear that too much extra snoozing might cut into my seizing. I didn’t shower either, because what was the point? So what if my pits reeked and my hair was a little greasy? Was it worth wasting five minutes in the shower to conform to some random cultural norm of bodily hygiene? No. Nor did it make sense to hunt for clean clothes when yesterday’s were already sitting there in a pile on the floor, easily accessible and ready to go.
Shunning my usual morning coffee and toast, I bee-lined it to the iHOP, where I’ve been dying to try their Cinnamon Double-Dipped French Toast, but have resisted out of the day-deadening fear that I might have to work it off at the gym. Normally, I would also be concerned that an iHOP-ian spike in my blood sugar and insulin levels might cause a seizure. But not today. Today was about seizing, not seizures.
The nearest iHOP is nine miles away from my house, and I calculated that I could get there in less than four minutes if I redlined my Nissan Altima to 120 mph. Which I did, and it was exhilarating. To celebrate, I piled extra berries and whipped cream on my French toast, and ordered two sides of bacon to go. While I ate, using a fork in each hand to shovel the food in my mouth as efficiently as possible, I mentally mapped my day.
First stop was the bank, where I withdrew all my savings, cashed out my 401k, and took the fifty-percent tax hit for closing out my Roth IRA early. Screw it, I thought—compound interest assumes you’re going to be alive tomorrow. I briefly considered flying around the world, but thought better of it when I realized that I’d be spending most of my last day on a plane. Instead, I ditched the Nissan and rented a cherry-red Aston Martin DBS Volante, which has a 510-horsepower V12 that tops out at 191 mph.
Ten minutes later, the Aston’s engine was purring at 135 per on Hwy 494, heading west to Gander Mountain, where I planned to buy the most kick-ass semi-automatic rifle they stocked. The guy at the counter was a little suspicious when I threw $1,000 at him and refused a background check, but I explained why I was in such a hurry and he understood completely.
“The nearest place to shoot that thing is somewhere in Dakota County,” the clerk advised. “Private land is your best bet. Just be sure to ask before you start shooting.”
I didn’t have time to ask. I just pulled up to the nearest farm and peeled off five large to a scruffy guy in overalls. Then I aimed my Walther HK MP5 at his field and mowed down half an acre of defenseless soybeans in ten seconds flat. When I ran out of ammo, I tossed the gun to the farmer and thanked him. I had other things to do, and didn’t have time to reload.
Next, I rented a helicopter and bribed the pilot to drop me off on top of the IDS tower. I’ve always wanted to parachute off the IDS tower, and this was my chance. Taking the prevailing wind into account, I figured I could float over downtown toward the Vikings stadium, admire the Grain Belt Brewery sign from above, then land at Gold Medal Park and catch a matinee at the Guthrie. This I did, but I bailed after about twenty minutes when I realized that I could be zipping down the Mississippi River on a speedboat instead.
But first, I had to hit all the food trucks lined up on Marquette Street. One by one, I sampled their fare, taking a bite at each truck and quickly moving on to the next. If there was a line, I grabbed a bite of someone else’s food and ran. At the Foshay Tower, I popped into Izzy’s ice cream, ordered a six-scoop sampler, and downed it as I sprinted toward Target field to catch the start of the Twins game. I got bored after eight or ten pitches, though, and left because the Twins were already behind 6-0.
The speedboat idea still appealed to me, so I dialed up an Uber and told my driver to take me to the St. Paul Yacht Club. On the way, I realized that no, what I really wanted to do was jet-ski up and down the Mighty Miss. So that’s what I did, buzzing everyone along the way as closely as I could, and giving all the tourists on that sad, slow paddle-wheeler something to talk about.
By this time, it was about two in the afternoon and I was running out of things to do. I could go to some museums, but didn’t see the point. I could go buy a dog, but what would he do tomorrow when I wasn’t around? I could check out the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, but I’ve seen cucumbers and potatoes before. I could visit the Science Museum, but why bother learning anything on your last day? Your last day is for living, not learning.
Finally, I decided to head down the Mississippi, find an eagle’s nest, and steal an egg. The appeal was that it was both illegal and dangerous, two factors that might have dissuaded me on any other day. But today was about living life to the fullest, maxing out the moment, not worrying about tomorrow. The nest turned out to be empty, unfortunately, so I basically wasted an hour climbing a tree.
As happy hour approached, I thought it might be a good idea to hit a few of the micropubs that are popping up all over town. In the time it took me to down a pint at Tin Whiskers Brewing Co., however, three new microbreweries opened their doors. I tried to keep up, but four more opened while I was visiting the previous three, and I soon realized it was a losing battle.
Fortified by a strong beer buzz, I hopped on the Green Line back to Minneapolis. Unfortunately, life is too short for a trip on the Green Line, so I got off and grabbed a cab. Destination: Manny’s Steakhouse, to eat the most expensive meal in town.
By the time I got to Manny’s I’d worked up a serious appetite, but the maître d’ wouldn’t even let me in. He said I smelled like beer and sewage and something else he couldn’t quite identify, and that my stench would offend the other patrons.
Fine, I said, I’ll go stand in line at First Ave., where no one will care what I smell like. Unfortunately, it was an all-ages show that night, so the only people in line were teenage girls, who seemed offended that I did not smell like bubble gum and strawberries. It didn’t matter, though, because all that beer was straining my bladder and I needed to find a bathroom fast. No restaurants would let me in the door, so I had no choice but to discreetly relieve myself in the 7th St. parking garage.
Evidently, a security guard saw me, because next thing I knew a police officer was tapping me on the shoulder. Not being a very enlightened fellow, he did not seem to appreciate my predicament, or my desire to squeeze as much meaning and purpose out of the day as possible. Instead, he cuffed me, shoved me in the back of his squad car, and carted me off to the police station.
I thought my life savings ($78,000 and change, which I had jammed in my pockets) would be sufficient to post bail, but all it did was raise a lot of questions. Where did I get the money? Who did I steal if from? Why was I carrying so much cash around? If the money was mine, rich guy, why didn’t I buy some clean clothes?
Instead of letting me go, they locked me in a cell with three other guys, two of whom claimed to be Jesus. Four hours later, my saintly wife came to pick me up, but she couldn’t bail me out of jail because all our money was in lock-up. Somehow she convinced them to take a credit card, and soon we were on I-94 headed home. I tried to explain what had happened, and more importantly why, but she is one of those people who worries about what is going to happen tomorrow, so she was not the least bit impressed.
While I was in jail, I thought of a dozen other things I wanted to do—see the northern lights, light a stick of dynamite, burn down an old barn, rob a Dairy Queen—but I had to admit, I was exhausted. Instead, as I showered off the sweat and scum of my adventures, I thought hard about the challenge with which I had begun the day. There was still an hour left. If this really were the last hour of my life, what would I do?, I wondered. Make love to my wife? Not an option tonight. Listen to Beethoven? Not in the mood. Get drunk? Did that already.
Then, as if Steve Jobs himself had shone the light of wisdom and truth into my blinking eyes, I suddenly realized what I needed to do in the last hour of the last day of my life. It was Sunday night, I had recorded the season six finale of Game of Thrones, and I simply could not end my last day on Earth without finding out if winter in Winterfell is any worse than winter in St. Paul.
So I reheated last night’s chili and sat down to watch the final episode of the season, when all (or at least some) would be revealed. This way I’ll get some answers to at least a few of life’s burning questions, I thought, and the day won’t have been a total loss.###