So. The world is going to end in six months due to an asteroid hurling itself towards us. What to do, what to do.
I mean, there are a lot of things I would miss: video games, comics, the next Avengers movie. There are also a ton of things that I wouldn’t miss in the least: The Kardashians, The Bachelor, hipsters, the Kardashians…
But what would I do with my last six months? How could I possibly spend what time I had left in a meaningful way? What would I do that would make me happy.
I would go for a walk.
Most people know me as a hardcore geek. A comic book reading, action figure buying, video game playing, Firefly watching geek. You would think that I would spend my final moments reading comics or trying to finish playing every Final Fantasy game in numerical order, but they would be wrong.
Unknown to most people, for a period of time I gave up almost all my geek tendencies and became a huge devotee of the Beat Generation. The Beats were a group of friends and writers based in San Francisco and New York that wrote about life, drugs, jazz, taking nothing for granted and living for the moment. I immersed myself in their writing and way of life, especially the work of Jack Kerouac.
Kerouac epitomized everything I wanted to be at that time: free of responsibilities, indifferent to material possessions and consumed with a desire to write and chronicle ones life. I started journaling and smoking, listening to Charlie Parker and making plans to see the country. While I did move to San Francisco for a time and lived in a one-bedroom apartment with three friends, I never hitch hiked cross-country like my hero Sal Paradise in Kerouac’s seminal novel, On the Road.
In the book, Paradise travels down the fabled Route 66 with his partner and spiritual companion Dean Moriarty, based on Kerouac’s friend Neil Cassady, experiencing life and love along the way. Something about that always spoke to me and seemed incredibly romantic. To be on the highway, traveling toward some undefined destination and letting things happen as they may, it just seemed like the perfect way to live your life.
After a time the real world came knocking and I grew up, got a job, a wife and responsibilities and put my Beat novels away on the bookshelf. Kerouac and the Beats are still a huge part of who I am, but they took a backseat to everyday life and everything the Beats thought was evil about our society. But every spring, that wanderlust still hits me like a ton of bricks and I’m tempted to throw a rucksack on my back and hit the open road.
So if you were to ask me how I would spend my last six months and what I could do that would make me happy, I would go for a nice long walk. I would pack up my rucksack and head west, stopping anywhere that seemed even remotely interesting along the way. Since the world is going kaput anyway, money wouldn’t be an issue and I could really make the most of my time and soak in all the experiences and people I meet.
I would start in my hometown of Philadelphia and head out, trying to see every place that is on my “Things to see before I die” list. The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, New Orleans, Yosemite, Niagara Falls, Seattle, New York, the Great Lakes and last but not least, Las Vegas. All the while soaking in all the sights and sounds and doing my best to live every moment like it could be my last.
And do you know what the really funny part is? I would still write it all down. I would journal the whole time, every step I took, even though there would be no one to read it in a few months time. I always felt that in order for something to be real, it should be written down and preserved. If for no other reason that it makes experiences more genuine because it’s like your living it twice.
The first time, you’re immersed in the moment, living it and trying to take it all in, then, when you write it all down, the minutia comes flooding back. You remember the smells, the way the shadows played across the ground, what the people you were with were saying and doing. It’s like you’re watching as an observer, but you lived it too.
So there you have it. If I knew there were only six months left until everything came to a spectacular end, I would go for a walk. A long walk of exploration and unfulfilled desire that I know would have a conclusion at some point. I could think of no better way to spend my last moments on this earth.
That and I would start smoking again. I mean, why the hell not?
David Goodman is a writer living in Philadelphia, blogging websites like Geekadelphia and The Quarter Bin.