By Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

I just turned 74, George Washington’s Birthday. As a child my birthday cakes were red, white, and blue … white cake with red and blue candles and decorations. I remember little American flags on them. Once, maybe more, a toy plastic cannon angled at the “Happy Birthday.” That would be a real irony at this age. Perhaps I was ten or nine or eight before I began to realize that there was no relationship between George and me except the date.

A couple of years ago, my sister gave me a large coffee mug for my birthday. On the side in big letters is emblazoned: 


Bucket List:1. Keep


There is no number 2 or 3 or 4.  When I first used the mug, I did not like it at all that much. It seemed then to be a bit sassy and a lot cynical. I liked my John Wayne mug better. On one side is his cowboy bust on the other side is:

“A man’s got to have

a code, a creed

to live by.”

This is followed by his signature. All around these is a western background like Monument Valley. The “Bucket List” mug is just a dark tan, sort of like the color of an Easter suit only boys wear. 

At 74, I like “Bucket List” better than I used to. Though I like the image he personified, I am not the John Wayne of the movies. These days I remember too many codes and too many creeds I failed to live by, even though I wanted to. And there are no “do-overs”for them. I’m not quite at the “keep breathing” stage but I can imagine that more readily, than being the character sauntering off into the sunset at the end of “The Survivors.”

I recommend bucket lists, regardless of one’s age, but especially when the end of things is much closer than the beginning. I’m not a hypocrite in this. I’ve made a few, just not enough. While recommending, if you are still reading, the best wish one can have on a bucket list is to somehow love more clearly and more dearly than before.  This isn’t like travel or acquiring something, but it certainly is an accomplishment at least worth dreaming about. Loving more clearly and more dearly is risky like backpacking in Alaska or riding a motorcycle through the Rockies. Fact of the matter is, it is much more risky than anything one might list. Andloving is downright scary.  It carries no promises of accomplishment or returns. It believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

One thing I like about both of these coffee mugs is that they are big, they hold a lot. I don’t have to creep over to the pot for more as often. They are a fistful, not some dinky cup too easily sloshed by stiff fingers. A big hot cup of coffee in the morning is one of life’s bigpleasures not little. It’s better black, uncomplicated. It’s better very hot, not lukewarm like that bum church in the Revelation. It’s better brewed with some grounds left over in the cup, the way John Wayne and George Washington might have liked it, or at least the image, the dream, and story would have liked it. Life must be better than quick K-cups. It just has to be. 

The word “mug” is strange. It can be a large, cylindrical cup with a handle, like these two. Informally, it can also be one’s face. And how is it related to a “mugging”, as in violent attack, or too “muggy”, as in very humid weather? Across the water, mugging is cramming for a test. And generally, mug is a funny sounding word like mud and dud or rag and bug. Slug suggests a mugging. One might slug down coffee from a mug while watching a bug crawl across the rug. Merely breathing as the last bucket listing suggests is life’s final mugging. I am reminded of the character Wayne portrayed in “Cowboys” and “The Shootist”. I think I’ve had too much coffee.