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Life lessons, with arithmetic


Birthdays are endings and beginnings, a reason to look back and forward. I recently turned 39 for the eighteenth time, celebrating another successful year of not dying, and I thought I’d add up my life. Literally.

33.3 billion miles traveled around the sun. I can’t take credit for this one. Gravity and Newton’s laws of planetary motion were in charge, but I never once asked the planet to stop so I could get off and use the restroom.

Phil Wilke Phil Wilke

1.36 tons, plus or minus a few pounds. That’s the amount of green chile I’ve eaten since moving to New Mexico slightly more than a year ago. I’m a willing and eager convert, and New Mexicans are ingenious in finding places to put it.

22 states I’ve been in. I wish I’d traveled more. I guess I should pop over to Arizona while I’m in the neighborhood to check another one off the list.

156 (estimated) times I’ve watched the greatest movies ever made: “Casablanca,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “To Catch a Thief,” “Duck Soup” and “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension.”

1,456 hours (approx.), the amount of time I’ve spent watching The Simpsons and its reruns. I’m not proud. I should seek counseling. Hey, that reminds me of a Simpsons’ episode when a monorail salesman came to Springfield…

49 school concerts sat through as my daughter grew up and played bass in the orchestra. There is a special place in Heaven for elementary and middle-school music teachers.

18 mailing addresses during my 36 years in Lawrence, Kansas. Most of that was clustered into my undergrad years, but let’s do the arithmetic: I moved on average every two years. My parents wrote my address in pencil in their phone books.

Four – but a fifth is coming up. The number of Formula 1 auto races I’ve seen. Three of them were with a press pass, which is the ultimate “kid in a candy store” experience for a gearhead.

Four but holding steady. The number of distinct careers I’ve had post-college: firefighter, newspaper editor, freelance writer, public broadcasting fundraiser. I’m glad I’d had such a varied career, learning different skills from each. However, some are more transferrable than others. For instance, if you use your firefighting training of chopping through doors as a fundraiser, people are less likely to give you money than if you had called them on the phone.

Three but four if you count Texas. The number of foreign countries I’ve been to. I guess I should pop over to Mexico while I’m in the neighborhood to check another off the list.

10 or 12 depending on how you’re counting. The number of major league baseball stadiums where I’ve seen games. I’ve seen the Cards play in old and new Busch Stadium and saw the Rockies play in Mile High Stadium and Coors Field, so I’m fudging the numbers a little. Only 20 more to go.

Four World Series titles, two by the Mets and two by the Royals. There is always next year.

Eight degrees below zero. The coldest weather in which I had to change a flat tire.

A boatload. Cumulative number of LPs and CDs clogging Casa Wilke. I love each and every one. Old guy rock ’n’ roll mostly. If you haven’t heard Tonio K or Jules and Polar Bears, you really should.

Too many to count is the number of times I’ve cursed the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.

Too many to count multiplied by a lot is the number of mistakes I’ve made. I try not to make the same ones over and over, though that skill seems to have eluded me many times.

But here are the two most important numbers in my life:

Two, the number of most bestest daughters ever in the world who continue to amaze me every day; and, I’m one lucky SOB and don’t appreciate that nearly enough.

Phil Wilke is a recent transplant to Las Cruces, a frustrated Mets and Royals fan and freelance writer. He can be reached at wilkephil@yahoo.com.


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