It is recommended first of all that you do not lose your cadence, that
lovely something in your voice, and also that you patent what you’ve
got and bottle it for later because it’s a long trip and you may run
out; also that you write a chapter of your memoirs now before you
forget, and that you continue to break rules wherever they conflict
with your stated intentions; that you operate a voting machine not
only when moved to do so by principle or amusement but in accordance
with the general expectations of a democracy, and be sure to visit
Paris; also that you quit any job that does not please you and if you
have been thinking of taking up the mandolin or the banjo, do it now.
It is also recommended that you be sure to remember not to forget to
eat the things that agree with you, and that if you have not yet found
the clothes that match all the variations of your spirit, you do so.
There is much to do, much ground to cover, much equipment to pack. The
rest of your life is bigger than the rest of a sandwich. You can see
all of a sandwich but you can’t see all of your life. It has a
horizon, but it’s not round like the earth. If time were round, then
you could get up high and see farther over the edge, but we don’t know
exactly what the shape of time is, do we? Time is warped in some way,
we feel certain of that. You can get high enough to see over the
horizon, but you can’t get high enough to see the future.
So you pack for the unforeseen. You pack the best you can. You take a
camera and plenty of film. You take medicine and contact information
and you make a list of the mantras you’ve been given, the mantras that
work, and the places you are drawn to that you know you must visit
along the way. Some people are drawn to Tahiti; me, I think I have to
see Cape Horn because I am drawn to the kind of treacherous passage
where a sailor is reefing the jib with ice in his beard. I am drawn
like a child to the image of a crossing — the crossing of a river,
the crossing of an ocean, the spanning of a distance, the arrival in a
And that’s what you’re doing when you’re talking about the rest of
your life, isn’t it? You’re talking about a planned arrival in a
strange land. So as I said, you pack carefully.
That doesn’t tell you much about practical matters, and I can see that
you are already getting upset with me again. So I can say this:
Do not arouse the ire of wives. They will bring ruin down on your
head. Keep doing what you are doing, but restrain yourself where the
making of enemies is concerned.
Have a regimen and a routine, a thing you do that always works, so
that you can always do it when people fail you. It’s something
different for everybody. If you don’t have anything that always works,
find something and perfect it — a certain drink that never fails, a
song that gives you goose bumps, a certain walk on a certain path that
always elevates your spirits, a meditation that always calms you, a
food you always like to eat.
You need somebody you can always call, too, but people will change and
even if they stay the same they die, and then they’re gone. You can’t
depend on them. You need more lasting bulwarks. You will find a
favorite meeting you always like to go to and then everyone will buy
houses and move away. You will find a friend who promises you things
and doesn’t come through. So a practice that always works must be
solitary or of the earth or of the mind; people will change and let
you down. You need something older than people.
So live near a river or a mountain or a stream. Live near something
you can walk to where you go, Ah.
List these things so you don’t forget them. Write them down, so when
you’re stuck you can go down the list and say, OK, the chocolate
mousse that always worked is not available right now because it’s 2
a.m. and the mousse is available at a certain restaurant in Paris and
I am not in Paris. I am in Austin at the Broken Spoke about to lose my
wheels. You go down the list. A certain walk around Land’s End in San
Francisco: ditto, you’re not there, and it’s too late to fly there.
You keep going down the list, which you keep in your purse, until you
find a thing you can do that will work: somebody you can always call
to cheer you up. So even though it’s 2 a.m., you make the call and
wake the person up and talk for a while, explaining as you do that the
person is on your list of people you can call when nothing else will
I know this isn’t very practical, but I don’t even know where you’re
going. So you have to choose, not me. All I’m saying is, take the time
to choose wisely. Be frank with yourself. Don’t take a Bible if you’re
not a Bible reader. Don’t take sunscreen if you never put it on.