Leaving on a Low Note

Posted on May 12, 2011


This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about endings in life, and the following three proverbs came to mind:

All good things must come to an end.
All’s well that ends well.
Todd took a fourth piece of pizza even though some people haven’t had any pizza yet.

I realize the third proverb may not be familiar to readers, but I expect this saying will become popular when more people learn how Todd kept going back for more pizza even though he knew some people at the party were still playing dance pad and hadn’t eaten yet.  When those people found out all the pizza was gone, they were furious at Todd, and he was never invited to book club again.  Once you know the whole story, you realize my saying is just as catchy as the others.

If something in my life is going to come to an end, I hope it can end on a high note, but the odds are against me.  The universe tilts in the favor of entropy.  Job excitement fades.  Relationships become stale.  Children grow ugly.

How do you know when to quit?  How do you know when you’re hanging on too long?  How do you know when you’re risking 100% of your legacy in the hopes of making it 1% better?

Phil Jackson, possibly the greatest NBA coach of all time, is expected to retire after the Lakers were ousted from the playoffs.  Much of the analysis after his last game focused on the poor sportsmanship and cheap shots by the Lakers after they knew they had been eliminated, and commentators considered it a shame that Jackson’s final game would be remembered as such a low note.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the Laker’s poor sportsmanship, two players were ejected for hard flagrant fouls.  Also, there was a rumor that Kobe Bryant shot a referee in the leg, but don’t quote me on that because I’ve only heard that rumor from myself, and I’d like to hear it confirmed by someone who isn’t wearing a top hat and sitting in a tiny fort made of books while reporting the news.)

History is full of famous characters who had the world at their feet, but instead of being satisfied, they wanted a little bit more, took a wrong turn along the way, and lost it all.

Napoleon spent his final years in exile on Saint Helena because he wasn’t content with controlling Europe, but thought it would be fun to control Russia as well.  At one time he was considered so invincible that opposing armies feared him as superhuman.  Now most people only remember Waterloo as ABBA’s first hit and can’t recall a single victorious battle or Napoleon’s excellent recipe for banana bread. (I’ll give you a hint of the secret ingredient: bananas.)

The Emperor in Star Wars died ignominiously when Darth Vader threw him to his death.  Today we only remember him for killing all the Jedi and attempting to turn Luke to the dark side.  But nobody remembers the positives like his hyperspace rest stop beautification program, his attempts to recycle the planet Alderaan years before recycling was in vogue, or his rich baritone singing voice.

Good battle. Great album!

Today Vin Diesel is remembered for making terrible movies.  But nobody remembers earlier in his career when he also made terrible movies.

Most things end badly, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have ended.  That is why I am considering ending the following while still on a high note:

1. Once, I accidentally did a great Christopher Walken impression, and people asked me to do it again.  I couldn’t remember what I had said, and I wasn’t sure why they thought it was funny, so I will never do that impression again.  I’m leaving my Christopher Walken impression on a high note.

2. I’m retiring my parmesan cheese souffle.  I made it every few months for three years.  Eventually people will get sick of it.  Now that the souffle has been retired, it won’t be long before friends start describing it as the greatest parmesan cheese souffle of all time and start begging me to make it again.  Sorry, I don’t make that souffle anymore.

3. Todd, thanks for helping me paint the house last weekend and for allowing me to pay you back later for the paint supplies.  This was probably the nicest thing you’ve ever done for me, and I don’t anticipate our friendship could get any better.  That’s why I’ve decided this is a perfect time to stop being friends.  I hope you’ll remember the good times and not dwell on my refusal to pay back the money I owe you.

In the concluding, I cannot the importance overemphasize of high note leaving always.

Posted in: Columns