A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—-“ JOHN SEDWICK, Union Civil War General
Not that I am planning on going to my reward any time soon, but I was looking for a topic to write about and ran across a page of Last Words spoken by famous men and women. I’m sure most of us would like to kick off leaving a few brilliant words that will be remembered and quoted down through the ages. Some are heroic, like Lawrence Coates when he knew he was dying in the Antarctic and was becoming a burden to the others, who themselves were struggling to survive, said, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ John Jacob Astor IV was no less noble aboard the Titanic when he said ‘The ladies have to go first. Get in the lifeboat, to please me. Goodbye, Dearie. I’ll see you later.’
Some are quite funny. William Saroyan said, ‘Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. What now?’
Bogie (Humphrey Bogart) checked out with ‘I never should have switched from scotch to martinis.’
Errol Flynn said, “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I enjoyed every minute of it’.
While Oscar Wilde said ‘Either that wallpaper goes or I do.’ The wallpaper won from what I gather.
When it comes to my turn I want a team of stenographers on hand in case I come up with something brilliant that will be written down and maybe put on a monument of me wearing big boots and a hat with a feather in it and placed in a park. (Not Couchiching Park, monuments there seem to disappear and never return)
I find it interesting that when most famous people die there always seems to be someone sitting beside the bed with a notepad. In 2021 it will likely be a reporter with a cell phone and those last words will be headlines in half the newspapers in the free world within an hour.
To the best of my knowledge I have never said anything that will live through the centuries, well maybe one. It was about brassieres. ‘What kind of lunatic would invent an article of clothing that opens at the back anyway? That’s like building a Cadillac with no doors and the only way to get in is to climb through the back window.’ That bit of wisdom probably won’t be carved into my statue.
Whenever I browse through a book of quotations like Readers’ Digest’s Treasury of Wit and Wisdom the one in front of me now, or any one of the half dozen I have on my book shelves, I often wonder if the person to whom it was attributed actually said it. I have no doubt Stephen Leacock really said ‘I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it’ because Stephen was a humorist and university professor,but some of his other quotations show up as the musings of someone else who claim to have originated it long after old Stevie had gone. I have long suspected there has never been a politician who ever said anything worthwhile, but their speech writers, now that’s a different story. JFK’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ comes to mind although Trump’s ‘A very Stable Genius’ could only have come from the genius himself.
Woody Allen has some great lines about a lot of things but especially about religion. ‘The lion and the calf will lie down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.’ The universe is merely a fleeting idea in God’s mind – a pretty uncomfortable thought, particularly if you have just made a down payment on a house.’ and the classic ‘Not only is there no God, try getting a plumber of the weekend.’
Since at the tender age of 83 I am just approaching the halfway point of my allotted years and I still have a lot of time to think up a good exit line. On the other hand I can’t think of a way to finish this damned column so that doesn’t bode well for me to come up with a snappy line that will live forever.
It’s only 11:00 o’clock in the morning; perhaps later on after the witching hour of 4:00 and a wee dram of single malt I will be able to think of an absolutely brilliant farewell. I guess it doesn’t really matter if I think of it this afternoon; I still have 83 more years to come up with something.