Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Duval Before People

Rusty moves in mysterious ways which I doubt he himself could explain had he the power of speech. Ever since the lockdown when we would come to the top end of Duval Street (known as Lower Duval for local reasons too impenetrable for mortal minds to grasp) and we would sit together on the water's edge looking out into the blackness of the night over the harbor. The city was silent and clean and virus-free. 
Nowadays, as though he too suffered from nostalgia he likes to come back to the Ocean key Resort and peer out across the docked jet skis and pine for the Good Old Days. I was looking at the reflection of the hotel in the car window and pondering how to frame it between the leaves when a man walked ponderously by and asked how "it" was going. Bored I blurted without even thinking. I wasn't really bored and I have no idea where that thought came from. "Aren't we all" was his sad reply as he shuffled heavily back to the diverting life of a Key West tourist on vacation.  Well, I thought, don't we make a happy couple.                 
Key West is full of signs, little white flaps of paper pasted to doors windows utility boxes and lamp poles and most of them express sorrow at closures forced upon them by the coronavirus. They are so common nowadays I hardly notice them but for some reason a notice posted outside Sloppy Joe's caught my eye. Street closures will happen at random for a few days more as we finish up street repairs.   
That should all be done by now and what a brilliant time to complete the task of repaving Duval Street. Usually the water bucket at Casa 325 is full of crap such that Rusty won't go near it but one benefit of fewer visitors is clean drinking water I guess. He was at it like a water buffalo in drinking hole. When he came up for air we pressed on St Paul's at the corner of eaton where there happens to be a viewing station.
I was ready to sit and look for a while. 8:30 am and it was balking hot so Rusty wa sokay lying down for a bit. We watched a few people amble by, some bicycles and presumably some coronavirus particles wafting though I couldn't be sure. Key West does look pretty with a little rain and some aggressive budding of flowers.
I am told Duval Street later in the day is a total shit show of exposed faces no social distancing and crowds everywhere. Oddly enough having been living a  monastic life of self denial since the Ides of March I prefer to avoid sharing my breath with the idiot crowds packing Duval Street so I take the word of eye witnesses that it is so. My wife's hairdresser told her that she took a golf car t tour to see for herself and it was as described. 
In order for my wife to cut her hair she heard from a friend of the existence of a very careful hairdresser and very expensive hairdresser who takes sanitation mask wearing and social distancing very seriously. It sounded to me more like a Prohibition era speakeasy than a haircut but apparently she presented herself at the appointed hour and had her temperature taken, washed her hands and was one of two customers in the room much further than six feet apart and everyone was masked all the time. That's for a safe haircut these days.
Meanwhile the crowds build and crowds cluster and masks are a symbol of weakness they tell us. This can't end well can it? A vaccine please...anyone?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mallory Morning

Where were you last Friday morning having breakfast? Not here I doubt, sharing a waterfront view with three pigeons and a friend.
I cannot imagine the day might come where I might find a refreshing night's sleep waiting for me in the public space that is Mallory Square, and I have done some rough sleeping in my time, but Key West is a different space for different folks. 
I did not pose Rusty but I do feel the picture accurately reflects his feelings about chickens. He will cross the street rather than share the sidewalk with a chicken. He takes social distancing to extremes with wild chickens. I applaud his wisdom as he got chased down Appelrouth one time by a chicken and I dropped the leash in surprise and had to hare after him. And keep ahead of the chicken.  Discretion is decidedly the better part of valor when it comes to the wildlife in town.
I don't recall why I took the picture below but I applaud my good taste. It looks like I might even have painted it, which I did not as my talent extends nowhere, but it is growing happily alongside the Key West Welcome Center at Mallory Square. The public restrooms at Mallory Square are not open in case you were wondering. I wonder about that a lot, as it happens. The coronavirus has a lot to answer for.
I stood there for a few minutes and watched the comings and goings, on the water...and I was not alone in my pleasure.
I don't know what he was expecting to see or who he was waiting for but there was an intensity, a longing perhaps that made me hope that whatever it was he got the full measure of it eventually.
I took this next picture to post on Instagram "one if by sea, two if by land" but after a conversation I had at the liquor store I'm not sure the joke would carry over too well. 
I went to Walgreens liquors for a bottle of the hard stuff my wife wanted, inexplicably as she isn't much of a drinker and she doesn't bake so bourbon seemed out of character. I nevertheless hastened to obey and found myself with a giant bottle of Four Roses cradled in my arms. The woman wants bourbon she gets bourbon and if I buy the biggest demijohn in the store some may be left over for yours truly after she's finished tippling. "Time to refill on the demon drink" I remarked to the excessively young clerk who looked at me in horror: "Demon drink?" she said shocked. "Well, you know" I stuttered clutching my giant bottle ever tighter, "Prohibition and all that" I said noticing it wasn't quite eleven o'clock and I felt like a dipsomaniac of long standing. She looked at me as though I were mad and I couldn't figure out how to escape so i kept digging and mentioned 1920 a hundred years ago and so forth. "my family hadn't even arrived here in 1920." she snorted. It turns out Jamaica didn't have prohibition, which I knew, but she thought that fact exempted her from thinking about an era in the US when alcohol was illegal. Anyway she looked at me and said "I was born in 1995 and what happened in 1920...." her squawk of indignation faded away and I shuffled out backwards as though departing the presence of royalty.   History ain't what it used to be. Or knowledge of history at any rate.
Gratuitous Rusty photo resting after his morning's labors.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday Clouds

Boca Chica Beach is a reliable spot to snag a solitary sunrise and when the clouds are out the sky looks good. Rusty finds this place less and less interesting but I like to stop off here on my way to walk him in town. On a breezy Friday morning it was just about big free and this place is packed with no-see-'ums on a  good day. 
After Rusty laid an egg, conveniently disposed of in one of the many trash cans around here he simply sat down and watched the light and the birds and the clouds. In the picture below I totally failed to catch a dive bomber but instead of deleting it I found I liked the effect - you can see the splash between the green and the blue just hinting at the undersea life and death drama. Pretty cool eh?
Then Rusty sat and because these walks are his time I did the same, nothing loathe to sit around and be gormless for a while. 
It has been so hot lately even people who don't complain about the heat have been heard to moan piteously from time to time. While mask wearing has become the latest political division deployed across the country the old fallback of climate change must surely entered the thoughts and minds of people breathing Sahara sand and choking on this astonishing heat.
I have sat in Harmattan winds while trying to ride a very exposed motorcycle around North African sand pits and the experience was not at all pleasant. I wasn't terribly excited to hear the winds were blowing sand from West Africa into our neighborhood. Apparently they have brought high heat and strong breezes but no visible dust as the main bundle of sand for once missed the Sunshine State. But the heat has been ferocious.
The good news is that the dry sandy air is supposed to tamp down hurricane activity for a while. You might imagine that the possibility of a severe storm this year has been on a  few people's minds and fervent hand clasping is the order of the day.  It's hard to imagine what the outcome of another Irma landing might be on a tourist economy already half washed up. 
The irony remains that even in this time of cholera the Keys as a getaway is a high priority and a balm for minds wracked by lockdowns and exhausted by monotony. I get the feeling that were the government to discover dangerously high levels of radiation blanketing the Keys the numbers of tourists wouldn't drop even then. Such is the need for hot sun and palms. I need to harness some of that enthusiasm even as I find myself changing into my second shirt of the day while the first one crumples into a small ball of sweat. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tourist Problems

Friends visiting from Tennessee got out just in time. Or they would have, had their view of Key West been the usual "drinking town with a tourist problem."  They drove by and waved goodbye as Rusty and I were walking on Caroline Street yesterday morning in a race to get to the air conditioned  car on another roasting day. A few hours later the officials in charge of alcohol sales sent down a decree across the state from Tallahassee: no more bars. I guess Sloppy Joe's was right to not waste time re-opening. I thought to cheer you barflies up with some chicken yoga  from in front of the courthouse:
With around 22 million Floridians, this is the third largest state by population and  second only to Texas in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Yesterday the Sunshine State reported 9,000 new cases of coronavirus and several hospitals around the state have no more ICU capacity. More precisely one in Homestead and three in St Petersburg, wrenching back it's old title of God's Waiting Room, from the days when it was a popular retirement center (when I lived there incidentally...). Rusty mentioned he was tired of handouts and in the spirit of independence for which I admire him he took a position of valet at Ocean Key Resort. 
It is wearisome to repeat the obvious but considering the incubation period of the virus and considering how too many people preferred to ignore social distancing and others fought the mask requirements we can only assume that during the past three weeks visitors to the Keys have added significantly to the viral load. The number of infections two weeks to a month from now will surely be interesting. At the moment the official numbers stand around 188 and stationary at four deaths. The health department in the Keys is led (I use the term loosely) by a lawyer not an epidemiologist, who has led by being invisible so I don't put much stock in official figures. The Sheriff is running unopposed this Fall which is hardly surprising as he is the sole countywide official who has stepped up in this mess and offered old fashioned leadership. It took the Sheriff to close down the roads into the Keys, a controversial action that has now proved conclusively to my mind that lockdowns work.
Work. Ah, there's the rub.How do you lock down a tourist economy and expect people to starve? An Irish friend of mine remarked how slowly they are re-opening across the Atlantic and how low infection numbers are in the Republic, but the Irish government pays it's citizens $500 a week to stay in lockdown. In Florida you can't even access unemployment benefits and in a  country where health benefits are all too often tied to your work,  joblessness is a double disaster. Under these circumstances locking people down was a non starter. All the virus had to do was wait and indeed here we are...Politics however continues and the election for mayor promises to be extra interesting this year.  Reduce cruise ship arrivals? In the year of joblessness thats looks like asking a lot:
Our own vacation plans are scotched as we pariahs from Florida can't drive north at will so Maine is out. For the geographically challenged you can't drive a van from Miami to Maine without crossing New York State or Canada and both are closed. New York is threatening fines and forcible quarantine of two weeks if you don't quarantine voluntarily and our Florida tag will be a bit of a giveaway even to New York State troopers...We are looking at Wisconsin via Chicago at this point though we may be restricted to the Southern States where the "no virus here" pretense is at its finest right now. In the end we are lucky to have no tickets, no reservations and no need for much social contact at all as we travel. 
I don't remember my time on a ventilator fondly so I relish every day I can be out and about before the gathering of the crowds. I find myself enjoying the colors and vibrance of a city in bloom and that makes it a good day. It's blazing hot, like an airless September, but my past two days off saw no rain so I was happy to be out alone with Rusty to enjoy them. And my Tennessee friends were actually sorry to go so coronavirus aside, it's another day in a bar free paradise which as I don't much like bars isn't as bad as not being able to drive to the cold misty shores of the Pine Tree State.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Pretty Pictures

A walk in early morning sun enjoying the colors and the water and the peace and quiet. Have a taste...









Thursday, June 25, 2020

A Viral Wildfire

I have worked in a police department for 16 years, and I'm as surprised as anyone about that, even though I am self aware enough to realize that I would make an abysmal police officer. I am far too inclined to believe people and hope for the best even though I know the best is an unlikely outcome. Working in dispatch and being a non sworn civilian (we use odd language in here) I have come to understand there is no such thing as coincidence. 
For instance yesterday I got an alarm call advising (funny language we use again) there was a fire alarm at a Duval Street restaurant, and almost simultaneously a responsible person or responding party (odd language  we...) called in a transformer explosion five blocks away on Angela Street. Coincidence? Hardly because as it turned out the alarm was triggered by the power outage following the transformer failure. Despite my instinct to assume I sent one engine to the alarm and another to the transformer. One related to the other, thus is was not a coincidence.  After 16 years of this stuff I don’t believe in coincidences much.  
While coincidences aren't real, and that is as broad a generalization as I can come up with at the moment, unintended consequences are real, very much so. I love unintended consequences as they are  the lesson any living human being should carry around with them. While I am not at all fond of the coronavirus and its tedious intrusion into the spontaneity of my life, I have greatly enjoyed the numerous ironies of the unintended consequences of the new rules for living in a  time of plague. Social distancing? I'm in! Working from home? My wife loves it! That's the easy stuff. It gets much harder from there.
It seems like a lifetime ago but there used to be a rule that you couldn't enter a bank wearing a  hoodie or sunglasses or a baseball cap so when I had to go to the bank to get an actual cashier's check to pay the van factory, wasn't I amused by the requirement I cover my face up. I am not an epidemiologist and I don't play one on Facebook so if the scientists who study this disease say wear a mask I am perfectly ready to do so, at risk of losing my masculinity and self worth in our current bizarre chapter of culture wars. What makes me laugh is how suddenly wearing a face cover no longer poses a hold up threat. Let's rephrase that: Covid-19 or hold up? Which do you think is more likely?  In Key West? Well, I know now the coronavirus numbers aren't at all encouraging. That's not a coincidence either when you know what's been going on.
The coronavirus has opened up a huge crack in the papered over civility of modern life, and that has created unintended consequences which worry me a lot more than before. I find the arguments against mask wearing seem to e rooted in cruelty and lack of consideration that really gets me down. Until I found myself in a wheelchair and later pushing a walker to get around I had never really paid much heed to handicapped parking except when I couldn't park there and the lot was full. Suddenly the little blue square gave me permission to go out and struggle and strain and make my way among the able bodied. 
When I hear people say with the casual cruelty of unthinking certainty that those who are at risk from coronavirus should just stay home I think of my own period of infirmity and how much I valued the ability to get out even though my legs didn't work. Handicapped parking denies most people prime parking spots close to attractions, but they gave me a chance to get out of the house and mingle, even at knee height. I wonder how it is that wearing a mask for the public good has become an act of political submission rather than an act of social solidarity, of being in this together, of looking after each other. I just don't get the glee with which the thoughtless pronounce their indomitable will to hurt their neighbors. It makes me wonder if after Pearl Harbor  they would have sued Japan for peace to avoid having their summer vacations in 1942  disrupted. We are lucky the generations before us knew how to meet the challenge of hardship and deal with it.
Is it any surprise Willie T's bar closed after the reopening owing to coronavirus infection among the staff? Shanna Key has apparently done the same and I suppose more will follow. Sloppy Joe's says they aren't going to reopen July 1st as originally thought... The number of daily reported cases in Florida has reached 5500 and Homestead Baptist Health has reported its ICU is full. Despite, or because of the cataclysm Duval's pedestrian zone is back! This is the weirdest unintended consequence: Duval Mall has been recreated on the lower end of the street. I loved the idea of a pedestrian zone on Duval Street and after some experimentation businesses outside the two block zone last year felt they were losing out so they shut the whole experiment down. It seemed like that was the price one paid for success. Nowadays too many people are crowding the sidewalks of Lower Duval so the street has been barricaded to traffic...whatever next?
So on the one hand you can go into a business, indeed you must go into a business looking like  a bandit, plus you can walk some of Duval Street with impunity to allow social distancing.  But as much as locals struggle to maintain the economy and protect themselves from the idiocy of online epidemiology, infections are going up. Northern states who did their legwork early on now threaten to ban Floridians from their states unless we quarantine on arrival. I can hardly imagine the fun of sitting in the van, the three of us spending my vacation stationary on the New York stateline.
There is an Alice-In-Wonderland quality to every minor decision or choice in life these days. I who have retained my paycheck through it all miss the bad old days of the checkpoints. Now we have an economy limping along, infection rates going through the roof with the median patient age dropping, and a country divided over the simplest of public health actions. I wonder what happens next and how much worse do things have to get? I for one am not going anywhere  near Duval Street during the day and I marvel that Key West maintains the allure of a desirable vacation destination, but people keep coming.  
The stories from the Upper Keys  that we hear are equally hallucinatory of huge crowds coming down from the mainland lining the narrow strips of beach where they congregate without masks and no social distancing and act as though they live in a  state where the virus could never spread like wildfire. I have no idea where this all ends but I have equally no idea about the simplest of things these days. The only thing I can think is that in some indefinable manner things can only get worse. Oh and by the way I don't think the heat is a deterrent to the spread of this thing. At least the 100 degree hell we are enjoying doesn't seem hot enough. Maybe it needs to get even hotter, heaven help us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Golden Van

An idea made real. A future defined. The last great adventure my wife said to me after 26 years of marriage and many trips.  The farcical millennial lifestyle: hashtag vanlife. Yes we two old farts, and a dog, can't forget the dog, will we hope take off joints creaking to emulate the fresh young things with their YouTube Upspeak and rivettingly enviable lifestyle full of sunsets and beaches and impossible clean interiors....this will be a different story I fear.
The idea of a van was born out of a series of choices over the years that directed my travels in other different directions. I used a motorcycle as a youth for pleasure while happily able to spend less money. In California I got into sailing to satisfy a long held desire and discovered the pleasures of living on the water and discovering places from a totally unpredictable angle. There was nothing like coming ashore in a strange place in  a dinghy.
One day I discovered the interior of an RV which was a revelation when I compared it, even in the primitive 1980s to my kerosene stove, my small sailboat with no heating, a small cramped toilet and no shower or running water. Wow!  I thought, you get a  lot for the money in an RV however at that tender age one is inclined to hold excessively romantic notions of oneself and all the bold writers wrote of sailing as heroic travel and decidedly not National Lampoon's Vacation in a station wagon. I was rugged and revelled in my pointy bed.
Time passed and I did try van traveling, once a disastrous cross country journey with a dying Volkswagen, and later a commute to a job in a van with a bed and a camp stove to allow me to reduce my journeys to a distant job.  Neither experience was well planned or executed and sailboats remained my preferred means of escaping the humdrum. But time passes and older travelers sometimes end up with dogs who don't want to go sailing and husbands who got sick of sailing with dogs and the work they entailed. At the same time a new form or RV travel had the great good timing to appear on the scene a few years ago.
There was another thing and that was that I do enjoy travel. Sailing was a great way to boff around and be romantic but as far as seeing things it does have certain limitations. A trip to the interior from the coast requires wheels so in an effort as it were to eliminate the middle man (and keep Rusty happy) we thought about traveling in a  self contained home. 
My accident gave me the time and the inclination to think long and hard about how to spend the rest of the time left to me. From being rated unlikely to survive  to being told that I would most likely be able to walk again I found myself wondering why I got to live. "Everything happens for a reason," is a fatuous saying which implies that one is too important to be killed off pointlessly. My accident was not Fate telling me to get a move on, it was just the product of inattentive driving by a driver with almost no insurance. However the saying I like to apply is "making lemonade when handed lemons," which is a saying that allows us to write our own endings in life. I had a job with excellent health insurance which, as I grew up with socialized medicine is a requirement for my peace of mind. Then when they told me to do physical therapy I threw myself into it six hours a day and any weekend they needed overtime I asked to be their patient. I made my own lemonade. By the way, the reason I am retiring in 2022 is because I qualify for Medicare that year. I take health insurance very seriously and try not to leave that to chance because "I am healthy" or some other such platitude. I only look spontaneous but I try to make sensible plans. Hence the van after years of thought.
You could argue that good works and settling in a community and being part of the fabric would be the most recognizable way of contributing to a purposeful life but my talents such as they are point in a different direction. I like Webb Chiles' phrase describing his own peripatetic sailing life of "going to the edge of human experience and sending back reports" as my template for this van journey. The tug of staying put is always there, as Key West is after all as good a place as any to live, but the call of the unexpected is stronger. There will be time enough to return after the exploration is done to settle down and wait for death.
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The van is a Promaster 3500 extended, a high roof cube with lots of standing headroom inside a box 21 feet long overall and six feet wide. The living space is about 12 feet by 6 feet behind the cab which is a standard 2020 Ram Promaster van cab. These machines are designed as work vehicles and lack many of the electronic amenities of lane control and automatic braking and such beeping bells and whistles which I did not want. 
Promasters come with one engine and the designation 1500,2500,3500 refers to suspension capacity as the boxes come in various lengths. We went for the biggest box as  17 feet we found was too short to give us an expansive interior feeling. Promasters are work vans as I said and to give you an idea cruise control is an option. I went for that.

Most are sold in standard white but we went for a hundred dollar option and special ordered a gold colored van which took four extra months to be delivered. I came across Custom Coach Creations by accident while perusing RV Trader online and lamenting the lack of a commercially built van that hit all the needs wants and desires we had for a mobile home...They are a family business based in Deland, North Florida and the business grew out of the owners' own love of travel. What I discovered is they will build what you want the way you want it and they have a reputation they enjoy maintaining.
We had some idea we wanted to developed from our years of traveling by sailboat and as eccentric as they sounded the crew at Custom Coach Creations got to work. 
You can see samples of their work on Facebook as well as their website. One issue we had seen raised frequently by vanlifers is how to cope with bad weather. It's easy to be  a picture postcard perfect van dweller in the right conditions but dark gloomy weather with rain and cold dampened proceedings quite severely. We decided we needed an interior to try and counteract that problem. So we built comfortable benches in the back which at the press of a button become a queen sized bed across the back of the very broad Promaster.
From a commercial design by Pleasure Way we copied the idea of having front office space with swiveling front seats and tables that unfold when the cabin seats face backward. Thus one of us could be asleep in back while the other might be reading or computing up front a whole 8 feet away...The van is littered with 12v and USB ports everywhere we asked for them so one need never have a device with a flat battery.
I had wanted an all electric van, dispensing with gas stoves and fridges both of which we had used while afloat. My thinking is that traveling with gas creates issues on ferries and cargo ships when we send the van overseas, plus every country seems to have its own gas fittings and filling systems. To ensure we have plenty of power we went with a monster electrical installation: 600 amps of Lithium battery storage fed by a 3000 watt inverter to provide 110 volts as well as 12 volts (there will be a test later) in turn fed by 400 watts of solar panels on the roof and two alternators under the hood. Three hours driving or four hours idling should charge the entire system completely from empty. There is a separate battery for the engine so if all else fails we can start the engine and refill the entire bank from dead. This $15,000 package (more or less) should keep us cool warm, cooking, refrigerated and fed.
There's even a cell phone booster on the roof and a TV antenna of all things inside the air conditioner unit. I'm not an electrical engineer but I play one in my van...
The toilet, also known as the spare room hence the absence of photos as we chucked everything in there for the trip home...sorry about that; as I'm sure you'd like to see our 2.5 gallon Thetford porta potti before we soil it with use. Or not. CCC's fabric queen, a miracle worker called Michelle who leads a team with whose work my exacting wife could find no fault. I never saw a cleaner  more smoothly finished van interior. 
We wanted a faucet with a boat style foot pump but Bob the boss talked us out of that water saving program by pointing out the faucet over the sink reaches outside the van and can double as a shower for us or even for Rusty...done! However he was puzzled by my request for a shower compartment with no shower. My wife was fine with this mad plan as she had found she preferred solar showers on the boat rather than using the pressure water system we had. So my idea was to put a hook in the ceiling and hang a shower filled with either solar heated water or with water heated on the induction stove. The bonus is we use less water, far less, and secondly the solar showers are cheap, easy to carry and can be used outside the van in clement weather. Our reasoning made sense to us. The porta potti has a small unobtrusive tank to make it easy to dump anywhere there is a toilet without having to use an RV dump site. I am of the opinion there are more public toilets in the world than specialized RV dump stations. On a nicer cedar smelling note here we have Dave the Carpenter who wore a mask and made last minute decisions for us on the placement of a few items we needed to make a personal decision on, the shape of the table, the location of the shower hook,which is exactly what makes this a custom van:
I even asked for a spare water pump for under the sink and Custom Coach Conversions did not let me down. I hope you understand that even before coronavirus I wanted our van to be as self sufficient as possible, not in the hopes of becoming hermits but of being able to travel further without worrying all the time about stuff breaking and not being able to repair it, or wasting face time with strangers asking them where the RV parts store is (or isn't).  Everything is a compromise of course and we tried to thread the path between reducing complexity and maintaining a pleasant living environment. For instance even though we will travel with hikers' water filters we did specify the biggest water tank possible please and Bob gave us fully 35 gallons (140 liters in Canadian currency). Enough for a month of comfortable living:
This whole idea may strike you as lunacy but in my defense I can only say that we have done stuff similar to this previously and enjoyed it. We have tried to balance the needs of first world sybarites with the requirements of long distance travelers. We shall break no exploration records nor shall we claim world class endurance feats or acts of driving derring-do but I hope we shall see things worth seeing and do things worth doing such that one day we may wash up in the old folks home in Key West with plenty of stories with which to bore the other inmates. It's hard to justify even to myself the notion that it is worth leaving Key West to do this thing so I hold on to the idea that we can come back as idle retirees which would be lovely. I could stay in my job for twenty more years working hours that pay well, in a position that has better health benefits than any other in town, and in a department that offers security and comfort but... In a world gone mad on Internet aphorisms I'm sure you can find one to suit your taste that advises you to live your life before it's too late. For instance this one isn't too saccharine:   
We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize we only have one.
My family got even more mad when I left  and emigrated and never went back because they had been mad at me to start with. After a quarter of a century away they did grudgingly admit that my emigration may not have been at all a bad idea. I am used to disapproval but after 62 years I have figured out that if I don't do this I will regret it. Luckily my wife feels the same way and my dog has no choice. Oh and the cost of the van thus tricked out with mood lighting, a television, cell phone signal booster, air conditioning, etc etc etc...$89,000 including van, conversion, tax, tag and all. And some people spend that on tricking out a pick up truck. Lunatics!