ALKI-TRAZ ISLAND, NB—I just hate those news stories involving fatal accidents in which some sobbing survivor burbles about yet another daredevil too stupid to stay home in his recliner: “at least he died doing what he loved.”
It seems to me a little farfetched that anyone in his final moments would think: “Boy, I just LOVE having this snowmobile roll over and crush my head” or “Whooopeee, my parachute hasn’t opened!” or “Isn’t it fantastic that the Titanic band is playing my favorite song.”
Furthermore, they’re all rank amateurs when you compare their trivial pursuits with those of a real risk-taker like me.
Yup, I’m writing this at my camp on the wind-blown island of Alki-traz in the savage backwoods of New Brunswick and—like that irritating Brit survivalist guy on the Man Against Wild reality TV show—I’m doing it solo.
This runs totally contrary to my own long-standing rule that no one stays alone at Alki-traz. After all, it’s a boat ride and a long bounce over logging roads should anyone wake up with one of those life-threatening hangovers when the nearest hospital and Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is two hours away.
But certain things change over the course of life that can cause a real man to embrace splendid isolation, no matter how dangerous.
In my case, a major cause has been the normal post-retirement decrease in attention to personal hygiene, combined with body changes that have made snoring and flatulence increasingly toxic.
Plus, admittedly, biological inevitability has a certain negative influence on the availability of companionship. So many friends and relatives have had their ashes spread around the island that the lake water tastes of second-hand smoke.
I pay tribute to these dearly departed in the island equivalent of Holy Communion—a daily drink to their memory. To ensure fairness, the rule is one beer for each of them. There are worse ways to enjoy breakfast.
Actually, things start hopping before breakfast with some good old-fashioned trout fishing. I sit in my lawn chair beside the fire pit and wave my Clancy’s Ale at all the anglers motoring down to the lake to some magic location so secret that the fish haven’t found it yet.
The outboarders always remove their caps when they see the Clancy’s can because they know I am once again involved in an act of solemn remembrance. And extreme peril, too, because my perch is very near the water’s edge and if I fell in, I might get clean or actually swallow something that tastes like Bud Light.
The rest of the morning is dedicated to housework, which consists of burning the paper plate from the previous day’s hot dog lunch and canned-bean supper. (Even when camping, I believe in a balanced diet—as soon as I lose my balance and fall over, I stop drinking.)
This drudgery is interrupted by a different kind of physical exertion as I launch into a lively walk around the entire island on a well-beaten trail that must measure at least 40 or 50 yards. (Alki-traz is slightly smaller than your average island like PEI—hell, it’s slightly smaller than your average IGA.)
This is, admittedly, potentially risky because I could get lost, but I make it a point to never stray out of sight of Mount Moosehead, a unique cone of pure aluminum left over from the previous evening’s sunset-watching party.
The biggest danger, of course, comes when it’s time for a swim. I nearly poked my eye out grabbing the binoculars to watch the Snarl sisters jump off their dock in matching polka-dot burkas.
Things get really sketchy around dusk when I like to serenade the lake neighbours with a little concert on my harmonica and that always attracts a crowd, bearing bottles of beer as offerings to put in my mouth so there won’t be any room for the blues harp.
The gang’s all here right now and we’re watching another spectacular sunset that has more colours than the Toronto Gay Pride parade. The fish are jumping in the glow of the fire for the sheer fun of it while the bugs have been distracted by a breeze summoning them to the ripe pleasures of the outhouse. The sky is clear and we can see an array of heavenly bodies far superior to those of the Snarl sisters.
The adults and kids have finally agreed on musical taste as we’re all singing dirty songs by Bowser and Blue. If I suddenly grab my chest and keel over with the Big One, we can all agree I went “doing what I loved.”
With my luck, the fates and the Grim Reaper will punish me for a lifetime of sin by waiting till tomorrow morning when my still-living brain cells expand two hat sizes, my mouth tastes like burnt tofu and my eyeballs look like the latest map of Montreal road closures.
That’s okay, too. Then, witnesses can say: “at least he died BECAUSE of what he loved.”