drinking through the list

Weintrauben Flasch by Martin Fisch

Having a bucket list seems to be the thing to do as you get older. Most of my friends have one and they are slowly working their way through everything they must do before they take that last ride into the sky or to the caverns of the earth. I have a list of things to do before I check-in to the departure lounge but my bucket has a hole in it. Occasionally new things are added to the list but they fall through the hole and I forget what they are.

Most of the things on my list have been suggested by other people who have their own ideas of what I should do and when I should go to the departure lounge. Some of the suggestions were good and I have followed them. Twenty years ago my oncologist suggested I start drinking a better quality red wine. I didn’t ask him to clarify what he meant because I didn’t want to hear the answer, but I followed his advice. He also told me that people who drink alcohol are more tolerant to chemotherapy than non-drinkers and I proved his theory. It had something to do with the liver function. My lawyer suggested I spend all of my money before my final flight to avoid disputes among my children over the equity of their inheritance. Drinking better quality red wine has helped achieve my lawyer’s advice. The problem is I am not an actuary or a prophet so I don’t know how much red wine to store for future consumption and I don’t want my children to fight over the old wine. The bank has suggested I take out a higher limit credit card and the real estate guy suggested I have my house valued ready to sell. The insurance company has suggested I increase the coverage of my assets and the local car dealer advised me I should upgrade my car before it is too late. My broker advised now is the time to take advantage of the bearish market and buy more equities, and the government has warned me that there will be tough times ahead for older people so I should save. Most of the advice has come from people who have some stake in the outcome but I am not someone who is easily rushed into making a financial decision unless I am the beneficiary.

I have lived by a simple philosophy of when you are young mix with older people and when you are old mix with younger people. So I am taking my advice now from my grandchildren who don’t know anything about wine, insurance or equity markets. They don’t want me to sell the house or upgrade the car. Both are just fine with them. They do know about credit cards because they see their parents use them. But they don’t understand yet that there should be money in the bank to cover them or where money comes from, only where it goes. They don’t ask me for anything because they know I would say: “go talk to your parents”. Nor do they want me to go to the departure lounge yet because I am a source of independent advice, a standby driver, confidant and a story teller about the good old days. When they ask me a difficult question and I am lost for an answer I change the subject and tell them about the good old days and search through my vast collection of photographs to prove the point. I can’t help them with their schoolwork but I remember the good old days. When I want some help with my iPhone, iPad, computer or anything else electronic I go to them for advice, sometimes even assistance. There isn’t much point in asking my older friends. The fourteen year old is a wizard with X-Box, Satnav and anything else electronic in the car. The twelve year old is a computer whiz, creative, artistic and great at making videos. She is my creative and computer adviser. The seven year old is a whiz with electronic games and anything related to recording television programs. He has a wisdom way beyond his years. If I ask them what should be on my list of things to do they reply: “What would you like to do? (or) Do something you want to do!” They don’t tell me where to go, or when, and won’t hear of any talk about the departure lounge. While I would like to solicit advice and help from a wider range of young people the other grandchildren are too far away or too young to understand. So my current advisory panel is limited to three. I would happily expand it if the other grandchildren were close by.

It is nice to talk to positive young people because they don’t talk about their current or recent illnesses, medication and supplements, only their achievements, ambitions and the latest electronic gadgets and games. They are focused on the sunlight not the darkness. Going to lunch with them is a simple and quick exercise. There is no long discussion over calories, diets, what we can and cannot eat and drink, and whether we should order white or red wine to match the food. It is poached eggs on toast, a muffin, pretzel, vanilla ice cream, chocolate milk and we are out of there. What the grandchildren don’t know but some of my older friends do is that I have long had a barrel list which I find larger and more positive than a bucket list especially one with a hole in it. For many years now I have been quietly visiting the major wine growing areas of the world under the guise of a vacation. There I explore the wonders of winemaking and drinking with people of similar tastes who take a simple approach to sampling red wine. Drink it, don’t sip it and spit it out. And I have learned how to read a large hard cover book with one hand while holding a glass of wine with the other, a useful skill for traveling between vineyards. And when asked which is my favorite wine I give a generic answer: “red”. But new vineyards and wine makers are springing up around the world, faster than I can get to them. This year I visited the grape growing and wine making areas of Valais, Ticino, Etyek-Buda, Neszmely, Moravia and Saxony; and three great wine stores in the US on Second Avenue, New York City, and Hyde Park, NY and Winchester, MA. There are so many more to visit and so little time. Richard Carlson, author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it is all small stuff” (1997) wrote “When you die, Your “In Basket” Won’t be Empty. I worry about my barrel being full of unfulfilled dreams and wineries I haven’t seen, and the departure lounge not having a better quality red wine.

Image: Weintrauben Flasch by Martin Fisch via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock, a former senior Australian executive of a mining company, first visited China in 1972 at the end of the Cultural Revolution and before diplomatic recognition by the Australian and US Governments. This was the first of many visits to China during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, he traveled throughout China with a trade delegation and revisited Shanghai where he stayed at the Shanghai Mansions Hotel and discovered the “Last Bottle of Gin in China”.