Two events conspire to make me take stock: my 55th birthday, which was Thursday, and the end of the world, which is scheduled for Saturday.
The former is actually not so bad. I still remember my father's Life Begins at 40 party, when my brother, sister, and I made a brief choreographed appearance on the basement steps to watch my parents' friends party like it was 1966.
No one there really believed life was beginning. But 45 years later, Dad is still working on his golf game, and his youngest has just turned an age that once sounded ancient.
The latter event is more problematic. Fringe church groups have decided that Saturday marks the Beginning of the End. (See www.philly.com/blinq for a Judgment Day playlist.) The earth will supposedly cleave, escalating 200 million faithful to heaven and leaving the damned to hang below in increasingly unpleasant climes until consumption by hellfire, sometime before the World Series.
Assuming I'm going to be working on my tan, I've decided to prepare a bucket list. Life can divide into Must Do and Later, Dude.
I won't renew my Esquire subscription until after Saturday, but I will hit Paesano's for one more sandwich, most likely a Gustaio, that sublime bomber of grilled lamb sausage, sun-dried cherry mostarda, Gorgonzola, arugula, and roasted fennel.
I will run my dog along the Wissahickon and ignore that bill from Aqua Pennsylvania, which never learned to bank online. I will call the mayor's 311 line one more time to report a mogul course of potholes it never got around to fixing on North Second Street.
What have I failed to do? I haven't been to the Mutter Museum, but I've never been big on parts - eating them or seeing them float in formaldehyde. I'd like to take in the Barnes once more as it was meant to be.
I'd like to see whether I can still hit a fastball. OK, I never could, not since watching my older brother take one to the side of the head during Little League, perforating his eardrum.
Never got to the French Quarter, the Great Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal. Never retired to Santa Fe to pen trenchant nothings for the local sheet while grokking cacti and touching Indians.
Never saw the Grand Canyon, a redwood forest, or the world's largest ball of twine. Never learned to play the piano with both hands at the same time.
Since I'm listing regrets, I never really took care of my cars, organized my closet, or did anything with the basement other than use it as a short dump for sweet memory.
Six days doesn't leave much time. Just 144 hours, 18 meals, 1 softball game. If they try to sub me, I'll squawk.
With no money worries - I'm sticking with plastic - I'd want to ride out the end on a sea of Pappy Van Winkle's 23-year family reserve ($194 a bottle). I'd want to go north to watch the cherry trees bloom and drive south to dig my toes into the sands of the Outer Banks one more time. I'd like to be calm enough to catch a trout in a mountain stream and kind enough to let it go.
I'd like to see the Rolling Stones again, but in a small club and back in the day.
If the roads are jammed (I'm thinking Harvey Fierstein in Independence Day), maybe I could train to New York in time to finally catch a show at the Village Vanguard. Paul Motian's playing this week, in that tiny delta where 50 years ago he joined Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro to record on my favorite album of all time.
There's a recipe for a full life by the Cuban poet Jose Marti that calls for planting a tree, having a child, and writing a book. I'm two out of three. As a kid, I paid for a forest of trees in Israel, only to see them harvested into rifle butts. We're raising two sons, although they'd say our work is done.
But that book part will always haunt me. Two ideas for children's stories have survived the brutal spike of self-doubt. So maybe if Sunday morning dawns calm and cool, I'll put a fresh sheet of paper in the typewriter.
This has been a fun exercise, but a little empty. When I think of it, there's not so much I need.
What I really want is something simple and rare: I want to sit with friends and family and pass the remaining time by telling stories and laughing so loud it drowns out the noise of that ticking clock.