Thursday, November 26, 2009

Exit Strategy

This morning's run took me past several elderly buildings, two for sale. I had an urge to explore, the same feeling I remember from childhood. No matter how many people have visited, old places contain treasures, usually things we can't buy unless we hunt through flea markets and antique stores. At least one thing has changed since I was young -- I remember when we could have bought new the things I find.

After my run, I noticed a dusty folded piece of paper on the mantle in our bedroom, exactly the kind of thing you might come across in an abandoned site. It read: "Obama 289 McCain 321." A little over a year ago, Karen returned from one of her seemingly interminable stints at the polls and handed me that piece of paper. Today I tossed it in the copper bucket we keep handy to feed our fireplace, then caught myself thinking, "Is this something I should keep for posterity?" Fifty years from now someone might find it interesting. No, I left it there. Purgatory knows our houses already contain enough nonsense.

That decision was easy, but it set me thinking about other choices, like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Former President Bush's most lasting legacy may be the important lesson: have an exit strategy.

It might be fun to buy those old buildings I watched this morning. (Driving by in a car, you catch a glimpse; when running, you get to watch.) One was an old motel, with a restaurant, a line of rooms and a couple structures that might have been a laundry and game room. How about converting them into a retirement center? Right, in Glasgow, along the not-so scenic flat main drag? They'd be hard to sell -- no exit.

Guests often ooh and aah at my 9-foot concert grand, then they ask, "How will you get it out of here?" Don't worry. I have a plan.

By now, you know we have goats and chickens. Runner ducks are on the way. They cramp a traveling lifestyle. What if we miss our freedom? First, we'll sell the animals we've named. Second, we'll eat what we can't sell.

Virginia, transplanted from a neighborhood of millions to one with a few hardy souls, knew she could move again if things didn't work out. Karen and I have done that a few times, not because things didn't work out but because it felt right to move on. Do that too many times and no one will come to your funeral. Who cares?

Today's advice: Think things through. Always have an exit strategy unless you truly don't care, which also counts as a plan.

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