New Vistas

    Pilgrimage to Sturgis, Part 33

    Issue 175


    After a long trip from Minneapolis, a long session with the Bhagwan, and a long ride in the dark following Melody’s car, we were exhausted when we finally got to the cabin at her dad’s trout pond. We both crashed onto the bed and fell asleep moments later. That’s the last thing I remember till the next morning, when Melody woke me with coffee in hand.

    “The old folks from the senior facility will be here soon,” she said, “we should have breakfast before it gets too busy.”

    I jumped into the shower, put on some fresh clothes, and noticed the senior citizens’ van was already parked in the lot as I walked to the dining room.

    The seniors were all seated inside waiting for their breakfast and Melody was in the kitchen helping her mom, so I sat at the only spot left, at the end of the table.

    They remembered and greeted me. Olive, the heavy, retired insurance adjuster got up and hugged me. “How was your trip back east – where was it again?”

    “Minneapolis,” I responded; “I visited some new friends I’d met in Sturgis during bike week.”

    “Oh, you’ve got to stay out of Sturgis during bike week,” one of the them said. “It’s crazy out there. Bikers drag racing on the streets, semi-naked women parading around, heavy drinking and fights everywhere. Oh I’m telling you, it’s a den of iniquity. You’ve got to stay out of Sturgis during bike week.”

    “Have you ever been there during bike week, Floyd?” Olive asked.

    “Oh no, I would never go there. I’ve heard all about it and seen it on the news, it’s horrible.”

    “I’ll tell you what’s horrible Floyd,” Olive proclaimed, “war, famine, plagues, and tyranny. A bunch of people getting together in a small town to party with the blessings of the town fathers is not terrible, it’s a celebration of life. I wish I’d spent more time doing such things when I was young.”

    “My too,” Terry interjected with his Australian accent; “Ay’ve enjoyed bein’ an airline pilot, but I shuld have spent more time partying with the locals in all the places I flew. Ya get it in yer ‘ed that you’re a professional, and ya just forget that down inside, you’re also a kid who still wants to have fun. Then you watch it on TV yers laita and regret wat ya’ve missed.”

    “Oh, I don’t know about that,” Floyd responded; “a person could get hurt at those wild parties you know. What if you got beat up, or run over, or sent to jail?”

    “What if you get cancer, or a heart attack, or a brain aneurism?” Olive argued. “Anything can happen at any time Floyd, you might as well go out having fun.”

    Paul, the retired physics professor, was always slow to speak if he spoke at all, but he felt compelled to announce: “most behavior is driven by fear, self-contempt, or love. The first two result in frustration, but if you live life in pursuit of what you love, you’ll love life, even if it presents challenges you might otherwise want to avoid. To some people, the experience of attending a big party like Sturgis is worth whatever it costs, even if it’s a night in jail for partying too much. Who are we to judge? They’ll certainly have better stories to tell their grandkids than us.”

    “Aye mate, that’s the guds-honest truth.”

    Melody came out of the kitchen carrying plates of breakfast. “That looks terrific, Melody,” Olive piped up, “That’s why we come here instead of eating at the senior facility. Reconstituted eggs and vegan bacon just don’t taste like this.” Everyone agreed. “That stuff tastes like packing material.”

    “Did you tell them about our visit to the Bhagwan last night?” Melody asked me.

    “Why don’t you tell them?”

    “Just a minute,” she said as she returned to the kitchen to get more plates of food.

    “How’d you know I wanted ham and poached eggs?” I asked when she got back.

    “That’s what we had left over,” she responded as the seniors snickered. “Perfect, thanks.”

    “Well,” she addressed the table, “we went to the Bhagwan’s again last night, and he talked about happiness.” She had the attention of the entire table as she recalled the Bhagwan’s session. That started a table discussion on happiness.



    One thing about these seniors, I thought to myself, they’re engaged with life. They are not sitting alone feeling sorry for themselves, or focused on negativity. I remembered a neighbor who did nothing but bitch and moan about everything after he retired: his wife, his family, his car, his friends, his appliances, the news, even the neighbors who seemed to be happy. Come to think of it, he especially complained about them. He was basically a good guy, but I got so tired of his moaning, I avoided him in the end. When I met his estranged son at the funeral, he seemed like a very pleasant, decent man – not at all as he had been portrayed by his father.

    When my focus drifted back to the conversation at the table, the seniors were taking turns lamenting the things they’d never done. How’d we get to this, I wondered?

    “Look, we’re going around in circles on this subject,” Olive said in her authoritative voice, “so let me tell you a story.”

    “Oh good,” Floyd whispered, “Another story.”

    “One of my co-workers never seemed happy. This was surprising as she’d worked her way up from an executive assistant to being recently promoted to the Western regional manager of our group of insurance adjusters. She made good money and lived in a nice house with her family, so why did she never smile? I asked her that one day at a conference over dinner. We were sitting on the balcony of a beautiful resort in the woods overlooking a lake. We might have had a few drinks.”

    “What, you had a drink?” Someone blurted out. Everyone laughed.

    “You’d think she’d be wanting to celebrate her promotion; I would! But she never did. So I asked her, ‘Evelyn, what on earth is it going to take to make you happy?’”

    “I have a goal, Olive,” she responded. “I won’t be satisfied till I get promoted to being the first female CFO of this company.”

    “Well that’s your problem, Evelyn,” I responded. “You’ve decided you can’t be happy till you reach some distant goal. What if you never reach it? You’ll have spent your life being unhappy for nothing. And you’ll probably spend your retirement bitter that the world didn’t bend to your wishes. Most people who can’t be happy unless the world tilts their way are never happy.”

    “Oh, that sounds right,” Floyd mumbled. “I never thought of it that way.”

    The table broke up in two- and three-way conversations making it impossible to follow any of them. When the din died down, Paul spoke up.

    “Here’s how I see it,” he said. “One person compares where they are now with some ideal, and they are unhappy because they haven’t reached it. Another person compares where they are now with where they used to be, and they are happy for the progress they’ve made. These two people may be in exactly the same position in life, yet one is happy and one isn’t.”

    “Good point Paul,” Olive piped up, “No matter how good life gets for them, people who are always chasing the horizon will never be satisfied. It’s the people who are grateful for where they are now, how much they’ve learned, and for the support they’ve received along the way who are happy.”

    “Exactly, Olive, the difference is that happy people possess an attitude of gratitude,” Paul responded, “and vice versa.”

    The same is true of those who get upset by watching the news,” Olive rejoined. “They compare life today with some political ideal, and they get distressed because we aren’t there yet. But if they compared life today with that of their ancestors, they’d be happy for how far things have progressed.”

    “Bloody right, mate!” Terry added; “it’s all in ‘ow ya look at leyfe.”

    Melody turned my way and whispered, “Isn’t that pretty much what the Bhagwan said?”

    I smiled and nodded in agreement.


    Header image courtesy of PRODUCTION.

    3 comments on “Pilgrimage to Sturgis, Part 33”

    1. When I started to read this pilgrimage I couldn’t have imagined how much I would just enjoy the tails, then emphasise with the burgeoning what’s life about and now take life lesions, at 65!

      I’m just 65 and having been dropped by an IT company I’d worked for over three decades helping to support then develop a unique scalable computer with built in database and development languages, the last five years have gone from bad to worse.

      I have a reasonable private pension, which I had to take early and reduced, and should receive a state pension next year – I should be happy. Having not managed to achieve what I wanted, down to staying on too long with the product I’d worked on without the support it needed as it seemed to be turned into a cash cow for future products with poor regard to existing product customers, I’m starting to become like the guy mentioned above who complains about everything. I really try hard not to, but with being professionally dropped as I had at 60 I found the mostly younger folk in IT didn’t seem to care much about what I could still offer, focussing more on that I probably wouldn’t be working much longer… Other industries don’t seem to have the same concerns of age, however, I failed to find anything I wanted and could do. Savings dwindled, hence having to take my private pension early, then COVID struck us all followed by the war in the Ukraine 🙁

      I guess the above revelations came at the right time for me, hopefully, it’s not too late as I don’t think friends, family and relatives avoid me that much. I need to let go of having the car I’d promised myself, the holidays and certainly really high end audio from PS Audio. I can still be interested in such things but it’s certainly time to take stock on what’s important to me. I don’t have a family of my own, probably down to way too much work time spent and using up all my focus – and it wasn’t even my company like PS Audio is for Paul. It was, however, what I wanted to do and all my choice so there’s no point now being angry or complaining about everything.

      So thanks Montana, your thoughts and recollections have certainly helped…
      … sure there were other things I wanted to do over the past decades but no one else’s fault I didn’t. There were offers of other work and social life and, perhaps, it’s not too late to move on with what I want and can afford to do with a more positive attitude.

      1. Alan, the older I get, the more I am thankful (and grateful) for some of the most mundane things in life. I can take a hot shower whenever I want, I have a roof that doesn’t leak, I don’t live in a war zone, or a famine zone. I am ambulatory at 70 (am I really that old?), and although I can’t run or play table tennis anymore, I realize it could be much worse. If you think of life that way, it might brighten things. Don’t get me wrong, I can still complain with the best of them, but I know how good I really have it!

    2. While I have read all of the stories by Jan here over the years(!?), I blew off reading this one until today- Thanksgiving. WOW. Jan’s story was fantastic and caused me to just be happy today, but reading Alan and Rich’s replies really hit home.

      At 53, a PS Audio Stellar Phono owner, an IT Salesperson, unmarried and just plain unrealized at this late point in my life, I feel for each of you. I recently pursued my dream of selling high-end audio gear through a national retailer and while I passed 3 interviews, 7 hours of homework and 6 tests, the sales manager gave me brush off with a weak excuse at best. Right as I was seeing the dream come together, it was ripped from me and stuffed back into the status quo of my life. I am still a little pissed off…

      But I am not going to give up hope! I am dejected and the dream seems quite dead, but I definitely have bursts of happiness and love that I will build upon to get back to the happier me. I think the big gap is simply more friends to spend the time. Friends and family, and no matter the glow of personal success, will sustain us with a smile and a sigh.

      God bless all three of you on this day and I wish for you each nothing but happiness and the blessings that can a smile and connection can bring.

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