Life Lessons From SLip f-18

Every once in a while I feel the urge to go back and revisit the world of Travis McGee, the boat bum, gentleman, womanizing warrior made famous by the late John D. MacDonald. McGee lives the ultimate bachelor life, residing on an old cruise ship named the Busted Flush in a Fort Lauderdale Marina, stops by the world’s longest running house party aboard his neighbor the Alabama Slammer, converses with his economist buddy Myer and chooses to take his retirement now, only working when he needs money. Of course his work involves solving mysteries and righting great wrongs so there’s always a good story, lots of action and plenty of beautiful girls to make the stories a great read. More than just entertainment however the words of Travis McGee contain a lot of wisdom and he is one of the original saints of the Church of No Fucking Clue.

Consider his approach to life. Early on in the series McGee explains “I work when the money gets low. Otherwise I enjoy my retirement. I’m taking it in instalments, while I’m young enough to enjoy it. I am commonly known as a beach bum. I live on a houseboat. I live as well as I want to live, but sometimes I have to go to work. Reluctantly. “ Now I realize that someone has to do the grunt work of life, man the counters, cash the checks, process the forms and other such stuff as the modern world requires. What I am not so sure of  is that it has to be me. I think there is more to life than scarping by and making do with a job you fucking hate, spending 10 to 12 hours a day commuting to do something that takes a little bit more of your soul with each passing day. As McGee explains in a later book “‘I am not a nine to five animal. I cannot swallow the myths which say that nine to five is a Good Thing because that’s the way nearly everybody else gets stuck. I cannot be an orderly consumer, with 2.3 kids and .7 new cars a year, and an after-hours secretarial arrangement. I am not properly acquisitive.”

A big part of the trap is that insane need we all have for “stuff.” We work at these miserable fucking jobs so we can have stuff. I was born without that gene. I need room for my books, a decent cable and decent internet connection to keep up with baseball and markets and I’m good. I left the real world back in 2008 to just write and do what I like to do and I have never regretted it for a minute.

McGee also addresses the need to stay alive and keep out of the ruts of the mundane existence. “Piss and vinegar can’t be summoned on command. The muted colors of a muted life will not suddenly brighten because you think it a good idea they should.” You cannot expect to live a risk free life, content with your 9 to 5 job, the Simpson’s and a six pack every night, maybe a little bowling and poker and expect to rise up to a true crisis or event. The mindset and mental skills won’t be there. By staying sharp, taking risks and seeing life, as it is each and every day is the only way to actually live it, enjoy it and overcome the obstacles. To give into mediocrity in life and attitude is to accept that you will pretty much just have to take whatever life gives you, as you will not have the juice to fight back.

Our friend Travis reveals in A Deadly Shade of Gold that he truly is one of us. Addressing the views of the absolutely convinced who cling so tightly to one religion or another he tells “”I know just enough about myself to know I cannot settle for one of those simplifications which indignant people seize upon to make understandable a world too complex for their comprehension. Astrology, health food, flag waving, bible thumping, Zen, nudism, nihilism — all of these are grotesque simplifications which small dreary people adopt in the hope of thereby finding The Answer, because the very concept that maybe there is no answer, never has been, never will be, terrifies them.” Once you admit that you do not know and do not know the right question much less the answer you are free to live life on your own terms flowing your own dreams, you own wishes and desires subject to the Hippocratic suggestion the we First do no Harm.

I think most people in the world, especially the rigid assholes who make up the Absolutely Convinced, could use a few afternoons reading a good book aboard the Busted Flush drinking some Plymouth gym with a beautiful bird close by. Perhaps then more of us could put into practice Travis McGee’s excellent advice to “Up with life. Stamp out all small and large indignities. Leave everyone alone to make it without pressure. Down with hurting. Lower the standard of living. Do without plastics. Smash the servo-mechanisms. Stop grabbing. Snuff the breeze and hug the kids. Love all love. Hate all hate.”

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