Life Sentences: Resolute About Fun

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Before the winter blues hit, join our columnist in making a resolution to allow more frolic in your life.

Oh Happy Day. I was sitting and watching another cop show on the third night of the New Year, when I opened my e-mail to find that my oldest girlfriend has handed in her notice of intent to retire in Arizona and come home to New Jersey.

We have been friends since grade school in the 1960s and kept in touch since high school graduation—40 years ago. We went on a college search trip together, ended up in separate but equally freezing Midwestern schools, headed for Arizona after college and explored that state.

When I took a job in Utah, Linda stayed in Arizona. We would meet up for weekends in Las Vegas, sleeping in a two-man tent at the KOA campground and eating from 99-cent buffets at cheap hotels on The Strip. We were forced to get up early, because when the sun came up over the desert, it was 117 degrees outside and suffocating inside her nylon tent.

Those campgrounds were educational, too. If we used the public pool, we floated on a slick of tanning oil and stared in amazement at the women from different countries, most of whom did not shave any parts that showed when wearing a teeny bikini.

We were aghast! Agog! Astonished! Back home at the Jersey Shore, women wore skimpy suits and men (mostly tourists) who wore tiny Speedos (grape smugglers) on the beach made us giggle. But at least they shaved.

Back then, we were educated but poor and we refused to let poverty keep us from having a good time. Between cheap buffet meals, we played penny and nickel slots, mostly to take advantage of the air conditioning in the casinos. When the weekend ended, we hugged and wept and vowed to meet again as soon as we could scrape together the money for gas.

Sometimes, I shaved it a little close.

There was one time when we sat in the lobby of the Tropicana Hotel, just chilling before taking the long, hot drive back through the desert. I was actually praying I had enough gas in my used Chevy Nova to make it home. We went to the restroom, and it was there I hit the jackpot—on the floor was a $25 chip for the Trop casino.

We were such rubes, we didn’t know if it was real, or some kind of slug. It looked real, with a neon flamingo stamped onto it, but maybe it was counterfeit, and our Jersey patoots would be thrown in the hoosegow. I’d never live that down.

With all the courage of the desperate, I sidled up to the cash-out window and slid my chip under the grate. The cashier, who put her make-up on with a trowel, never even looked up. She handed me the cash.

We sauntered back to the ladies’ room, real cool, and broke into a “We’re Rich! Filthy, Stinkin’ Rich!” dance. Then we each enjoyed a Bailey’s Irish Cream at the bar, and split the change. I put my winnings into my gas tank, and sailed back to Utah without incident.

Good times.

Of course, I feel as if my friend is in for a shock if she moves back here. As I look out at my backyard, I see snow sculpted by high winds into waves like those on the beach sand in winter. The ground is swept clean but for one thing—for the past week while I look out across the yard, a plastic yellow grocery bag waves like a flag while clinging to the low bough of a fir tree.

In other seasons, I do a periodic trash patrol, but I’m not doing that in this icy cold. That rogue bag will taunt me until it finally lets go and blows away.

This morning, I found some photos of our gang from our late-September trip to Wildwood. It was still warm at the beach as we posed, with toothy grins, while the waves pounded the beach in the background. We look so energetic and happy.

My reply message was:

“These are great memories. I will look at them when the winter gloom descends upon me. I already feel the dying of the summer light. I think I need more frolic in my life.”

It’s true. The winter blues hit me in January, weighing me down like wet cement.

So, if it’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution, this is mine:

I vow to allow more frolic into my life.

Read: Life Sentences: Generational Gifts

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