It was a freakish thought, an idea that I've never had in my entire life.
To make matters stranger, my wife had the same thought at exactly the same moment.
Tuesday night. The weather, perfect. We had walked a few blocks to the Village Green in our leafy suburban paradise, sat on the park bench listening to a jazzy combo play music on the gazebo. They did a medley of 1920s songs, including "Bye Bye Blackbird."
"That was one of James Thurber's favorite songs," I said, pointlessly. "He quotes it at the end of ''One is a Wanderer.'"
We wandered ourselves over to Sunset Foods, to pick up a few things, and while my wife was getting cold cuts, some turkey, some roast beef, my eyes locked on the olive loaf. I don't like olives. I'm no fan of loaf. But it was ... pretty, and pretty is halfway to appealing. The specks of green olive and red pimento. Festive.
"Someday I'd like to try olive loaf," I said, in the tone that people say, "Someday I'd like to go to Tahiti."
"I was thinking exactly the same thing!" my wife exuded. Soul mates.
Olive loaf always struck me like head cheese, one of those inexplicable foodstuffs that somebody must eat—they sell it— but I can't imagine who or why or how.
We briefly discussed whether we should indeed plunge into the void and buy some now. I had second thoughts; maybe it should be a Bucket List kind of thing. It was still unappealing. But before we die, certainly.
"Build up to it," I said. "Give ourselves something to look forward to."
Immediately the idea of a Low Rent Bucket List came to mind. I have written here about the insulting presumption of bucket lists—clueless would-be social arbitrators announcing what other people must do before they die. I concluded that except for getting a dog, such lists are fatuous.
But there are experiences that are both part of being alive and more accessible than snorkeling in Bora Bora. You should, before you die, go birdwatching. Or wear a fez. Or learn to ballroom dance (I intentionally picked things I've never done, as too many of these lists are individuals foisting their life experiences onto others).
Or eat a slice of olive loaf.
My wife, always the bold one, ordered a quarter pound of the stuff.
The next day, at dinner, we each had a slice.
"Like bologna," my wife said, "only saltier."
That sounds about right. It wasn't horrible. It wasn't particularly good either. At least now I know. Life on the edge.