|Ein Gartenzwerg aus San Diego|
The Before I Die project is not indigenous to San Diego. Rather, it is the creation of New Orleans artist Candy Chang who painted a chalkboard wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood in early 2011. The wall struck a nerve. Similar walls have sprung up around the world — Denmark, Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, Korea, China, Ireland, and across the USA.
As I walked by The Alibi yesterday, an employee washed off the night’s comments. “Every day I wash off the old and make room for the new,” he told me. “On the weekends, sometimes twice a day.” Dougie was dressed as a garden gnome for the job, but his tone was respectful, even reverent. “People write funny stuff, or hopeful, or whatever. Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking. One time, this lady wrote 'Before I die, I want to see my daughter survive cancer.' She told me ‘I know she’s not going to make it, but it makes me feel better to write that.’ I nearly cried.”
|Clearing away old dreams, making room new.|
That night in Kansas City when I was certain I was dying gave me clarity I’ve never relinquished. As consciousness faded, I regretted committing various stupid and cruel acts — and not pursuing things I wanted. After reviving, I made amends for my cruelty and started ticking off those missed opportunities. I learned not just how to drink whiskey, but how to make it; learned to shoot guns; published one good book and contributed to a bunch of others; got a fist full of degrees; traveled a lot more; backpacked through Europe (and still return as often as I can); taught myself several languages and software programs (none fluently, but each enough to do what I need); learned how to cure bacon and make sausages; and finally figured out how to fold a contour sheet.
I've achieved other goals both momentous and mundane and will knock out more before I'm gone, but even if I drop dead of a massive heart attack this afternoon, I will die knowing that my friends are genuinely good people, that my finances are in order, and that my family loves me. Everything else is gravy.
Goes well with:
- More about Candy Chang’s Before I Die project, including photos and directions for starting a wall in your town.
- A visit to The Alibi: 1403 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103