Wall of Death

“You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive”

Someone I knew personally died last week; he’s the third one in 2012, and the year is only a third over. He was a guy named Nate. I knew him because he represented his agency, the state Department of Transportation, in the same way I represent mine within the New York State Data Center Affiliate program. Early on, he would speak in such technical terms that he might well have been speaking Klingon, so little I understood. But as I became savvier with the data and the terminology, he became more comprehensible. He became a great resource for me. About 15 months ago, he discovered he had lung cancer, which had been treated until the last few days when he went into hospice. He died at the age of 61. I missed going to his funeral and the shiva, though I did learn about the best kosher supermarket.

In the same Sunday obituary section was news of the death of the adult daughter of a friend of mine. A sad story.

A couple of years ago, an old buddy of mine from the FantaCo days died at the age of 47 after a stroke. I posted his obituary, which I didn’t write, online. A few days ago, his sister wrote to me. She hadn’t seen him in 30 years, did not know he died until she saw my reposted document, and wanted to know more. I got her in touch with a former employer of his who wrote to her. She wrote back with a three-page thank you.

A woman on my floor who I would see regularly had been missing for a week and a half. She mentioned that her mom just died.

Yet with all of that, or maybe because of all of that, the song running through my head is Wall of Death by Richard and Linda Thompson, from their last album together, Shoot Out the Lights.

The lyrics:
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Oh let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive

Here’s a live version much in the style of the record.

From this article: “They approach the song’s declaration, joyfully or not, as a philosophy for living. Ideal for a pub setting, their vocals are stout. The same goes for the attitude Thompson has conjured. A world of risk and intrigue is favored over one with the comforts and predictability of an orderly life.

“A life of mystery and a hope of fortune occur when breaking from the ordinary. Thompson declares riding ‘The Wall of Death is the nearest to being free.’ He takes a dim view toward the rides (and a lifestyle) that offer a familiar outcome.”

So perhaps the lesson I’ve absorbed is to live your life to the fullest, for you just don’t know how much time you have.

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