Quiet Desperation

Looking near and near for the best things in life

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted 12/22/20

Annually I submit a list of things that make (my) life worth living and it’s usually a snap to write. After all, why wouldn’t life be worth living? Then 2020 showed up. It walked in the door …

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Quiet Desperation

Looking near and near for the best things in life

Posted

Annually I submit a list of things that make (my) life worth living and it’s usually a snap to write. After all, why wouldn’t life be worth living?

Then 2020 showed up. It walked in the door wearing muddy boots and talked with its mouth full. Just about everything we did without thinking twice was inverted, reversed, changed, canceled, restricted, even haircuts.

If you are reading this, you’ve made it this far. Close to 300,000 did not. The number of pandemic-related cases is in the millions.

In the past, I tried to go beyond obvious examples: my dog, films, music, friendship.

When I began scribbling down nominees for this year’s list, I thought about digging deeper.

But why?

Nothing in 2020 was more important or meaningful to me than Harry, whose complete obliviousness to current events was the finest antidote on the market.

Harry doesn’t know that 2020 has been any different than 2019, 2018, or 2017, the year he was born.

He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.

If you have a 3-year-old son or daughter it’s likely they’re out of the loop too. But one of these days, you will have some explaining to do.

I will never have to explain anything to Harry. But if I did, what would I tell him?

It’s been inexplicable.

This year has brought out the very best in people — and the worst. For every affirmative story about man and womankind, there’s an equal and opposite.

I’m one of the lucky ones. A friend said, “You’ve been social distancing your whole life,” and she’s right.

A pandemic doesn’t impact a retired recluse the same way it does an employed extrovert.

But I haven’t taken any chances. No restaurants, no gatherings, games, concerts, parties, picnics.

Harry and I have two or three walks a day. And two or three films. I keep a long cue: mostly ones that were made before movies became soused with special effects and gore.

A friend half my age sends me a “Song of the Day,” and it’s generally a song by someone I’ve never heard of.

Invariably she introduces me to a performer or a band I can appreciate without wincing. Have you heard of Phoebe Bridges?

We both like Nina Simone. Django Reinhardt. And Bob Dylan, who just sold his entire songwriting catalog to Universal Music. For an estimated $300 million.

As for friendship this year? It’s been emails, by the hundreds, and daily from some of my best friends.

Artist Mark Friday and I exchange complete drivel: wordplay, puns and jokes.

We created lists of our favorite humorists: on film, television, record, in print.

Bob and Ray, Groucho Marx, W. C. Fields, Steve Martin, Steven Wright, Dorothy Parker, Nichols and May, Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Oscar Levant, Soupy Sales, Fran Lebowitz, Leslie Nielsen, Bill Murray, Rudy Giuliani.

He’s a Three Stooges man. I’m not.

Some days, one of us will initiate a random topic, like a vegetable. What evolves is drivel, sophomoric, anecdotal, epigrammatic, ironic, satirical, hyperbolic, irreverent or droll.

Our correspondences have been tonic. Restoratives.

When I see I have an email from him, I know what I’m in for: a smile.

However, we’re both conscientious enough to know that a lot of what is going on in the world and United States can’t be compromised with a quip.

What makes life worth living? Life.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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