The Case for Living

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on September 23, 2009

Hello Enthusiasts –

This will be one of my more reflective posts. No reviews, no new places, no tips. I’ve been out and about, but I’ll save my recent travels for future posts. Rather, today will be some broader thoughts inspired by recent events.

One of the questions I get most from you fellow enthusiasts – especially those of you who I haven’t seen in awhile – is “do you ever work?” (the second most asked question is “how do you avoid getting fat with all that eating and drinking?”) It’s usually said with a smile, but with an undercurrent of questioning my serious mindedness or a tone of judgement about what is perceived as a “bon vivant” lifestyle.

The honest answer (as I hope at least some of you know) is that yes, of course I work. Hard. But that’s not all I do. I investigate. I adventure. I explore. I search for new things. I consciously try to extract everything I can out of life, from the mundane (“look, a new coffee place. Wonder how their muffins are?”) to the more adventurous (“I heard about a new hole in the wall somewhere in the ‘hood. Let’s go find it.”). Hence … the amateur enthusiast.

Why am I talking about this? Because a friend of mine (and many of yours) died very recently. He was basically my age, and he left behind a wife, two young daughters, and a community of great friends. He was extraordinarily healthy, happy, and full of life – he knew how to live. And he got cancer. The unfairness of this tragedy is almost too much to contemplate.

But I don’t want this to be maudlin. I want it to be inspirational. I know this is a cliche, but things like this do provide perspective. And, for me, it made me think about how we all choose to live life. So many of us, especially in political life, are always striving. Thinking of the next job. Gossiping about who’s up, who’s down, and who’s next. Prognosticating about election results or comparing notes on the latest scandal. And even more broadly, we live in a culture that values “overwork” – we ‘lament’ how many built up vacation days we have or how long it’s been since we’ve gotten out of the office for lunch or the last time we left the office while it was still light, but what we’re really doing is boasting about how hard we work. Which is what is inherent in the half-joke-but-half-not question people ask me about how I live the (admittedly somewhat exaggerated) life I talk about in this blog.

But in the final analysis, when we look back on our lives, what will we remember? What will we value? What will matter? We’ll remember the memorable nights out with friends. We’ll remember the trips we took, the places we saw, the experiences we had. We’ll recall fondly the time we turned on that little side road and stumbled onto the delightful little diner in the middle of nowhere. We’ll remember the time we overcame our fears and actually jumped out of the airplane. We’ll remember the time we splurged on the best meal of our lives. We’ll remember the big stuff – the big trips and the big life experiences and the big events. But we’ll also remember the small stuff – the night we won the trivia contest at the Royal Clayton’s, or the time we went to half-off night at MOCA, or the way the buildings look at dusk from the Standard rooftop, or sneaking through the DWP building to watch the Academy Award arrivals at the Dorothy Chandler, or climbing all the way up to poke your head out of the top of City Hall. We’ll look back and remember the laughter and the dancing and the traveling and the exploring and the experiencing.

So this blog isn’t really about Downtown. It’s not really about restaurants or cocktails or lunches or nights out. It’s about discovering. It’s about adventuring. It’s about remembering to balance the professional with the personal. It’s about appreciating – actively, consciously appreciating – what life has to offer and going after it, in whatever way we can. It’s about being militantly optimistic, and avoiding the easy slope to cynicism and sarcastic detachment. What this blog is really about, is living.

And that’s the best way I can think of to honor the memory of a dynamic, inspirational friend who left us before his time. To live.

Thanks for indulging me, and happy travels.

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