The Hyperion Chronicles
“Badder than ol’ King Kong; meaner than a junk-yard dog”
#77 One Last Thing Before I Go
“Fiat Justitia et ruant coeli.”
“Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” ~ Last Words of William Watson
“You should make a point of trying everything once, except incest and folk dancing.” ~ Last Words of Sir Arnold Bax
“That we spent, we had; That we gave, we have; That we left, we lost.” ~ Last Words of Edward Courtney, Earl of
“O God, if there is a God. Save my soul, if I have a soul.” ~ Last Words of an unknown soldier at the Battle of Blenheim
“Here I lie, Martin Elginbrod, Have mercy o’er my soul, Lord God
As I would do were I Lord God, And Ye were Martin Elginbrod” ~ Epitaph of (presumably) Martin Elginbrod
What are the things we want to do before we die? What do we want to watch, whom do we want to see and what do we want to leave behind? Somehow, all of this came up the other night at dinner with my flatmate "Robert." I asked Robert what his “last meal” would be, and then I kept thinking of more and more things about what he would want to do, wish for, and say. The conversation was so interesting to me that I came home and immediately wrote it down for you, my loyal readers. What, if anything, profound it says, you can judge for yourself.
Hyperion: What would your last meal be?
Robert: Fried shrimp and steak, with home made pumpkin pie and freshly whipped cream
Hyperion: What about a last restaurant?
Robert: Chichi's Mexican (a chain down in
Hyperion: Last movie
Robert: Top Gun (Robert is a former Navy Pilot)
Hyperion: What’s the last book you’d read?
Robert: Something on how the Council on Foreign Relations rules the world. [Note: this is a group that conspiracy theorists believe run the world like the Masons or the Illuminati or Microsoft]
Hyperion: What about one more TV show?
Robert: Oh, I don’t know. Some old Dallas Episode, where JR screws somebody over.
Hyperion: (laughing) Did that ever happen on
Robert: (smiling) Once or twice, I think.
Hyperion: What about watching a game? Is there any game you wish you could watch again or for the first time?
Robert: Something with Roger Staubach…
Hyperion: You mean with the Dallas Cowboys, like in the Ice Bowl?
Robert: I think that was Don Meredith. No, I mean something earlier, when Staubach was at Navy...
Hyperion: You and the Navy! Get over it!
Hyperion: What about playing a game? What last game or sport would you like to play?
Robert: I guess some football.
Hyperion: You mean in the prison? [Note: Robert was assuming he was in prison; hence the last meal]
Robert: Yeah, inmates vs. guards
Hyperion: Would they call holding? [Note: being honest, the guy at the next table said this first, but Robert didn’t hear him]
Robert: Well, it’s prison, so you have to have some special rules. No holding until after the game in the showers (at this point the people next to us started cracking up)…No late hits, and nothing stashed in your uniform, so I guess that Forty-Niners receiver is out. [Note: this was right after the game when Terrell Owens had a Sharpie pen in his sock]
Hyperion: Let’s change the subject. What about one last album?
[At this point I have to break in and explain that the night before I had been downloading ancient music (from the ‘70s) for Robert, and he proclaimed that Bridge Over Troubled Water was the “Song of the Century.” This is of course ridiculous, especially if you know how rough and gruff Robert is, but does raise the interesting question of what IS the greatest song of the century. For my purpose here, though, I brought up music more to see what the guys next to us would say when hearing this giant of a man proclaim love for Simon and Garfunkel. Okay, back to the conversation]
Robert: I don’t know…something by Elvis, I guess, or maybe the Eagles…I like Conway Twitty
Hyperion: Is that the guy who did Dorf on Golf?
Robert: No. That’s Tim Conway.
Hyperion: (cringing) What about song?
Robert: I told you. Bridge Over Troubled Water. Song of the century. (The guys next to us gave me that “only white people” grin when Robert said that)
Hyperion: What about a piece of art?
Robert: Does the first Marilyn Monroe calendar count? (Everyone laughs) I’d pick one of those Magic Eye things. I’ve never ever seen one, and I’d like to once before I die.
It was at this point we decided to head back home, but I kept grilling him before he had to leave town.
Hyperion: What if you could write one more thing?
Robert: A letter to my….
Hyperion: (breaking in) No, something to the world.
Robert: Something about how the government is out to screw the little guy.
Hyperion: You’re a broken record!
Robert: At least I’m consistent.
Hyperion: What about one last letter?
Robert: My wife. My kids.
Hyperion: Which one?
Robert: Both. But, I’d have a section the kids couldn’t read. [Here he raised his eyebrows like an old silent movie villain. It was hysterical. I wish you’d been there to see it]
By now we were pulling into the driveway, and I knew I had only another minute or two, so I went for the big finish.
Hyperion: What else is there? Um…what’s the last thing you’d like to do?
Robert: Uh…fishing with my family. Somewhere in Alaska.
Hyperion: Bob, you’re in prison. I don’t think you can do that.
Robert: Well, you asked. Fishing anywhere with my family would be great, as long as it was in a boat.
Hyperion: What would your last wish be?
Robert: That the country go back to actual Constitutional rule.
Hyperion: (sarcastically) You’re an inspiration to us all, Bob.
We started loading up his truck with his gear, and I knew I only had time for one more question, so I made it a big one.
Hyperion: What’s the last thing you’d say?
Robert: That Bridge Over Troubled Water WAS the Song of the Century.
Hyperion: (laughingly) That’s probably why they’re executing you in the first place. C’mon. I’m serious.
Robert: I’d say goodbye to my wife and kids.
Hyperion: That’s a cop-out. Besides that.
Robert: I don’t know.
Hyperion: Throw me a freaking bone!
Robert: Just make something up
And that was it. We argued about it for another minute, and then he left, and I thought about what he said. He didn’t have too much trouble with anything up to the end. I wondered if there was something to that. Was this just spitballing, another form of the ranking game I love to play, a weird version of “Which would you rather?” I wasn’t sure. I decided to ask my friend Anna the same questions, to get a female perspective, but all she was interested in talking about was French kissing and fashion. Finally, I decided to turn the microscope on myself, and answer my own questions. They are printed below. You can try it too, and send me what you come up with. If your answers are interesting, I might include them anonymously in a future column. Robert only got about ten minutes to answer everything, so that’s all I’m giving myself, and if you answer them, or ask someone else, hold them to that. We’re not looking for a Pulitzer Prize winning essay: just quick thoughts on the fly. Reassure whomever you ask that you won’t hold them to it when they get condemned.
Last meal: My mother’s chicken curry, with monkey bread, lots and lots of fresh berries (I’m not going to be around for the belly ache, right?), really good beef jerky, my mom’s butterscotch pudding cake, and this drink we used to have on holidays: 1/3 OJ, 1/3 Cranberry juice, and 1/3 7-Up; all chilled to slushy
Last restaurant: Bern’s steakhouse in Tampa, Florida
Last movie: If the final Star Wars installment was made, I’d hate to leave this mortal coil without seeing that. If not, I probably wouldn’t be able to resist Casablanca one more time [Note: It has been made by now, and while I freaking loved it, I'd still watch Casablanca]
Last book: Victoria’s Secret Catalog. Just kidding, Grandma. Crime and Punishment, unless Jordan has written the last book of the Wheel of Time by then
Last TV show: I would pick the MASH TV finale, but after Crime and Punishment, I’d probably want to laugh, so I’d choose The Simpsons, when Homer becomes a manager for a country music singer
Last game to watch: I’d like to say Tiger Woods winning his first Masters, or the Duke-Kentucky NCAA tournament game from 1992. If you know what I’m talking about, there’s no need for further explanation. If you don’t…find someone who does and ask them. I still get goose bumps. However, I’m sure Jesus would make fun of me if I had turned down the chance to see the Brooklyn Dodgers—NY Giants 1951 playoff game, which included Bobby Thomson’s “Shot heard ‘round the world.” Probably the greatest game in the history of sport. Of course, I would love to see the look on Hitler’s face when Jesse Owens won those gold medals. Sigh. I better move on, or I’ll be on this one forever
Last game to play: Paseo Dos, with my closest friends, while sitting in line all night for Star Wars tickets
Last album: I would say my cd of Simpsons' songs, but I’d probably want to spread myself out. Rachmaninov is tempting, as is something Garth Brooks, but I’d have to go with Billie Holiday, Lady in Satin. That’s a tough one
Last Song: Not to be confused with Song of the Century, which is another column all together, but the last song I’d want to hear would probably be Finally Home by Ben Markley. No wait! Karen Carpenter’s Solitaire. How poetic
Last Piece of Art: Hmm. Can I put the Victoria’s Secrets catalog here? No? Haters. I’d like to see the roof of the Sistine Chapel, and the Taj Mahal, but if it had to be brought to me I’d like to see something drawn by my friend D before I die (hint hint)
Last thing to write: My theory on Inevitability, and my Nobel Prize-worthy medical innovations (and somewhere my brother took a deep breath and rolled his eyes)
Last letter: I don’t want to say the name, but she knows who she is
Last thing to do: I’d want my family and/or other death-row inmates to sing “The Other Day I Met A Bear” with me
Last Wish: Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. Aw, whom am I kidding? I’d want everyone I know (and everyone I don’t) to read The Wheel of Time
Last Words: My timer shows I’ve zipped through with ninety seconds to spare, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. Let’s see. Do I want to be inspirational? Do I want to make a prediction about the future? Do I want to be funny? Do I want to say something cryptic, that people will puzzle over for years trying to figure out? Oh, yeah. I like that one.
I briefly consider quotes by T.S. Eliot, Billy Joel, Homer (both Greek and Simpson), and Padan Fain, but that would be unoriginal, and the only things I can think of are either too morbid or predict my everlasting life, something dying immediately after would drain impact from. Hmm. This is tougher than I thought, and of course, now I’m out of time. Maybe it’s enough that I know what kind of thing I want to say. And maybe I’m as bad as Robert.
This would normally be the place in the column where my preacher-roots would take over, and I’d point out that time is precious, each day could be our last, don’t put off today…, mom should send me butterscotch cake, etc. However, I still don’t know what to make of it all. Is all of this deep thought, or just deep something else? Let me know if you figure it out.
And those are my last words…at least until next time.
November 19, 2002
Motto comes from "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce. Watch the video here.
Update (08/27/08) - I know now what I would say