Monday, August 09, 2010

Something Involving a Bucket

This weekend I saw a documentary about the life of Errol Flynn, who lived hard and died of a heart attack at the age of 50.  Like Errol Flynn, I've been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, and I'm fast approaching the Big Five-Oh.  I would find this more worrisome, except that our similarities end there - unlike Flynn, I'm not a heavy drinker with a morphine habit who suffers from chronic tuberculosis, recurrent malaria, and a legion of venereal diseases.  No, my life hasn't been anywhere near as debauched, diseased, or pharmaceutically adventurous as that of Flynn, who made it his mission to "try everything."  That takes a kind of reckless bravado that I simply don't possess.

Considering Flynn's philosophy, I think he would probably appreciate the concept of the "bucket list."  Maybe he even had one - I envision a battered notebook containing a hand-written list of daredevil stunts, recreational drugs, and women's names, with little check marks in the margins.  I'm a birder, so my bucket list would have to include a wish list of species I'd like to see.  Not as exciting perhaps, but not as dangerous either (actually, I'm not so sure about that last bit; numerous lives have been lost in the pursuit of birds, most notably that Brit who was eaten by a tiger).

The first item on my bucket list was to find out why it's called a "bucket" list.  I basically understood the term, but I haven't seen the movie, so I resorted to the internet for my answer.  Turns out the "bucket" in bucket list is the one you kick when you die, which I should have been able to figure out on my own (funny phrase, "kick the bucket" I have to look into the origin of that old trope...).  Thanks to Wikipedia I also now know what the movie's 20 bucket list items were.  They include places (the usual "wonders of the world" sites), activities (a mix of the goofily idiosyncratic and cliche), and a few platitudinous selections that sound like potential topics for Oprah Winfrey, such as "find the Joy in your life."

I'm gonna have to give this whole bucket list thing some more thought.  I've already checked off one item (finding out why it's called a "bucket" list), and I know what some of my choices would be. 
Gotta see the Bare-necked Umbrellabird before I die.
Three-toed Woodpecker too.
Henslow's Sparrow too. 
Walk the Milford Track. 
Surf in Hawaii. 
Etc., etc.

One other thing I've learned about Errol Flynn:  in his autobiography he writes about his youth in Tasmania, where his father was a biology teacher who kept caged specimens of rare animals, including the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, as he called it.  Of his collecting trips with his father he wrote "we hunted the Tasmanian tiger, an animal so rare it took Father four years to trap one."  The last captive thylacine died in 1936, and the species is now generally believed to be extinct.  So Errol Flynn was among the lucky few to see an actual living thylacine. Now that's one I wish I could put on my bucket list. 


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