Five Things I’d Like To Do Before I Die

Monday, May 2nd, 2005, 10:29 pm

The guy who sits two cubes in front of me just got back from a week’s vacation. He went fishing, had a great time, good weather, fish were biting. I overheard him talking to someone about it and at one point he said, “Before I die, I’d like to spend a few weeks up in Montana fly fishing”.

Seems a reasonable desire for an avid fisherman. And as he doesn’t have one foot in the grave he might very well end up in Big Sky country someday battling trout with a featherlight setup and a hand-tied fly. But it got me to thinking–what do I want to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil two or three hundred years from now?

There are some obvious answers–write a few books, play a little poker, see a Vermeer. But that’s pretty blah stuff. I mean, I might actually DO all those things. No, I’m thinking bigger. More ambitious. Messier. So here goes:

1: I’d like to set up a real estate business, anonymously hire 5 guys, set them up for failure, and then come in one night and deliver Alec Baldwin’s “Brass Balls” speech from Glengarry Glen Ross. That’d be DELICIOUS. To be one dishing out the abuse instead of on the receiving end…

MG: “PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN. Coffee is for closers. You call yourself a salesman, you son of a bitch?”

“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, ALWAYS BE CLOSING.”

“You got leads. Mean Gene paid good money to get their names to sell them. You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit, YOU ARE SHIT, hit the bricks pal, and beat it, ’cause you are going OUT. “

Shellshocked salesman: “What’s your name?”

MG: Fuck you. THAT’S my name. You know why, mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. THAT’S my name.”

“You see this watch? You see this watch? That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing. Nice guy, I don’t give a shit. Good father, fuck you. Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here, CLOSE. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?”

This’d almost be worth going to hell over.

2: I’d like to rob a bank. At first I thought I preferred the more direct approach, march in with a stocking over my face and a sawed-off shotgun in hand and scream “EVERYONE GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR, THIS IS A ROBBERY!”. Quite the adrenaline rush. But that’s just not my style, especially the pistol-whipping and hostage-taking part. No, I think the subtle, late-night break-in is more my speed. Deactivate the security cameras, crack the one safe-deposit box I’m interested in, leave not a whisker of evidence behind.

It turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way. As my friend Jeff told me, “I often thought about how I could pull a heist so elaborate yet simple and straightforward that even the salty, world-weary Head of Interpol would shake his head and say, “Tres Belle Magnifique! C’est Bon! Blimey! Ah have nevair seen such poetry! Game, Set and Match, ‘Mr. Umberto.'”. That would be a good pseudonym for a master criminal, “Mr. Umberto”. Forget you just read that. That’s my name now.

3: I’d like to live in a foreign city for six years under a secret identity. My name would be something like “Jim Berger” and I’d have papers showing that I’m a Canadian citizen and I’d learn the language and make friends and get some sort of worker-bee job. Slowly, very slowly, I’d burrow deeper, get a new and exciting job at a government institute, win a few promotions, earn complete and absolute trust. And then one day the director would show up and the plans/prototype/serum has been stolen and that nice Mr. Berger is nowhere to be found and I’d be on a beach in the Carribean watching a CNN report on the theft with cars marked “POLITEZI” crowded around the institute.

“Monsieur Berger, ‘e was such a quiet zhentleman,” my flustered landlady would say. “Oh, Herr Berger, all the time laughing, all the time with a smile on his face for all ze co-worker-type persons,” my frightened supervisor would say. And then they would show a picture of me, one that did not reflect my recent plastic surgery.

I think that’d be totally cool. Well, so long as I was an agent for good, not evil. And so long as I could tell the difference. When I graduated from college with that oh-so-useful liberal arts degree I took the civil service test and thought about working for the government in some capacity. I looked into the CIA, mostly from curiosity, and learned enough to know that I probably wasn’t cut out to be a spook. They had a 30-question personality test, and one of the questions was something like, “Would you have a problem developing a friendship with someone who you planned to betray or to coerce into betraying their country?” I thought about that and said, “Well, yeah”. Next.

4: In large part we experience life through our five senses, but the intensity of our sensory stimulation is often outside our control. Listening to Mozart or the Beatles is available to just about everyone, but not everyone can see the sun rise over Mt. Everest, or smell fresh croissant coming out of the oven in a Parisian boulangerie, or make love to an eye-gogglingly gorgeous member of whatever gender floats our boat. Maybe we can get close to reaching what we would consider the ultimate experience, but unless we get lucky (or have lots and lots and lots of money) we’ll never soak our brains with the best electrochemical jolts this existence has to offer.

I’ve never seen the sun rise over Mt. Everest, but I have seen it rise over Mt. Nittany, and that was moderately spectacular. Never been to Paris, but I’ve been at Panera Bread when the Asiago Rolls are finally ready. And I’ve seen lots of beautiful naked women, some of them even in person. So while I’ve not reached the summit of sights, smells, and touches, I’ve at least made it to the first base camp.

I like to eat. I like to drink. If you saw me in profile, or if I landed on you from a moderate height, you’d know that’s the case. I’ve eated lots of good things in my time. Fried turkey, lump crab cakes, oysters, pirogi, Campbell’s Chili Beef Soup mixed with rice. And I’ve drunk me many a good beer. But it’s in the realm of taste that we are most limited in our ability to reach the maximum of pleasure. I can look at a picture of the Earth from orbit and be awestruck–but I can’t look at a picture of caviar (or a truffle, or a perfectly broiled steak) and get an approximation of its taste.

So if I ever hit it big, I want to drink a really, really, REALLY expensive bottle of wine. I think wine is about the priciest foodstuff on the planet, and from B-school I learned that the market sets value on products and services according to its intrinsic worth. Or something like that.

Every year my wife and I and some friends go to the Finger Lakes of New York for a big wine festival up there. Good time, mucho drinking. Last year I tried a wine from the McGregor Vinyards called Black Russian Red. It was so…freaking…good. It was about the best thing I’d ever tasted. Just divine. I splurged and dropped $40 on a bottle of wine I probably won’t open until 2008, by which time I will undoubtedly have done something to ruin it.

Now, maybe you’re thinking $40 isn’t that much to spend on a bottle of wine. And perhaps you’re right. But one of my favorite wines from up there goes $10 a bottle, and the Black Russian was vastly superior to it. So…if a $40 bottle can be that good, how good could a $500 bottle of wine be? Or a bottle that costs 25 grand? Exactly how good can something TASTE? I don’t know, but I sure as hell would like to find out.

Now, I know that there are wines out there that maybe cost less but are superior in quality. Maybe I’d hire some sommellier savant and give him a few hundred grand and tell him what I’m looking for and tell him not to skimp nor disappoint me. I’m not looking for some overlooked gem of an Australian cabernet. Bring me a beast of a Bordeaux or something from 1865 and don’t worry about the price, dammit.

So I’d look high and low for the most expensive bottle of red I could find (don’t care much for whites) and pop the cork and drink it. All by myself. No, not by myself. I’d invite 50 or 100 of the biggest wine snobs in the world by placing ads in Wine Spectator and and anyplace else oenophiles congregate. And I’d let them watch as I enjoyed a masterpiece in a bottle.

“Oh, Christ, is this GOOD!” I’d hopefully moan.

“Does it have cherry undertones?” a snob might say.

“It’s got fucking undertones out the yingyang,” I’d say before taking another sip and hugging myself with delight.

“Might I have just a tiny, teeny snip?” another snob might ask.

And I’d turn my head and show a blissed-out grin and say, “Oh, Good Lord, no.”

5: I have no desire to become famous. Well, a little bit of fame would be nice. Not enough that I couldn’t go to the mall without being mobbed by the proletariat, but enough that I could get a decent table at a restaurant at the last minute. And enough so I’d be the center of attention in any strip bar I visited. But leave me in peace at the grocery store, OK?

With six billion people on the planet it’s hard to stand out from the pack, and if I’m doomed to obscurity, well, so be it. But there’s one thing I’d like to do that I can only accomplish if I’m famous, even for a day. I’d like to punch out a paparazzi.

Is there anything that announces your arrive on the grand stage than a scuffle with some unscrupulous photog from some gossipy rag? Is there a lower form of life than the paparazzi? Well, perhaps, you’ve got your Mugabe-class dictators to choose from, but they’re not far removed from the vilest scrapings at the bottom of the barrel.

It’s a free country, and I’m a big believer in freedom of speech and of the press, but I also value the right to privacy. Espeically my privacy. And I wouldn’t be shy about resorting to hysterical violence to protect it. I wouldn’t want to copy Sean Penn with the solitary right cross or the supermodel-preferred extended middle finger. No, if I had my wish, I’d put a Sonny Corleone-beats-the-shit-out-of-Carlo beatdown on the bastard.

“MEAN GENE, MEAN GENE, OVER HERE!” he’d scream as I leave my house, flash turning night into day and the shutter sounding like the clattering of a light machine gun. And I’d leap at him like a leopard on Andro and start rearranging his facial structure like a jigsaw. In my fantasy there’s definitely a point where I’m bashing him with the lid of a trash can, just like Sonny, and then kicking him into the gutter. Right before I smash his camera and toss a few bills beside him as compensation. My only hope is that there’d be another photographer there to record it all.

OK, there’s five. I’ve already thought of a few more off the top of my head. As I look over this list I see that they’re all about me satisfying my most base and savage desires, often at the cost of others’ suffering and humiliation. To which I can only answer–yeah, ain’t it cool?

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14 Responses to “Five Things I’d Like To Do Before I Die”

  1. ToddCommish Says:

    What about two chicks at once?

  2. BG Says:

    If there was an adult Make-a-Wish, and they would grant just about anything reasonable, I’d like to fire a shoulder mounted missle into a tanker truck full of gasoline.


    By the way, the expensive bottle of wine thing? Just like I’m sure there are pieces of classical music so delicate and intricate that you need to have a doctorate in music just to appreciate what you’re hearing, really expensive wine probably falls into the same category. While I’m sure a $1500 bottle of French red from the 60s is spectacular, without the proper basis through which to articulate why it’s so good you just wouldn’t appreciate it.

    Most pricey bottle I’ve ever downed (by myself in one evening)? $110. And yeah, it was tasty as a mother…

  3. BG Says:

    Boy that “proper basis through which to articulate” comment came off sounding a bit haughty of me. Let me follow up by mentioning that I absolutely do not have that proper basis personally, I’d just be some idiot shoveling veal and $1500 wine down his gullet.

  4. Human Head Says:

    “It’s got fucking undertones out the yingyang,” I’d say before taking another sip and hugging myself with delight.

    Best. Line. Ever.

  5. AlCantHang Says:

    How the hell don’t you have that book deal yet?

    Great stuff.

  6. iggy Says:

    i heart gene.

  7. Pauly Says:

    Gene, you just wrote your first Truckin’ story. Shoot me an email.

    This is for you (and for me):

    5 Things I’m Going To Do before I Die…
    1. Piss on the Pyramids.
    2. Kiss a girl on a rainy afternoon in Paris.
    3. Score hash in an alley in Katmandu, Nepal.
    4. Drop the Hammer against a pro in Vegas.
    5. Meet Mean Gene.

  8. Proto Says:

    I’ve been to Paris, and yes, you have to go see it too. As well as Rome, Berlin, Geneva and London.

  9. Otis Says:

    I see somebody beat me to the comment punch…nonetheless…

    “It’s got fucking undertones out the yingyang” ade me laugh.

    Mother trucker, you are a damned good writer. Get thee to a publisher.

    And why the hell don’t you meet us in Vegas?

  10. Jefferson Kweder Says:

    Well played, Mr. Umberto. Check, as they say, mate.

  11. StudioGlyphic Says:

    Greatest post in a long time. Add this one to the greatest hits.

  12. Reg Says:

    I think GlenGarry Glen Ross is one of the most underated movies, that is a great scene,

  13. open365dayz Says:

    Hi #NAME#. Just found your site via toys. Although I was looking for toys I was glad i came upon your site. Thanks for the read!

  14. Gene Bromberg » Blog Archive : A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words...a Thousand Hits...a Thousand Whatever Says:

    […] egregious) and in general I try to stick to the truth as much as possible. While I find the idea of living a double life quite appealling, I don’t know that I’m energetic or ambitious enough these days to […]

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