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Dead by February

The greatest fear is dying like an idiot

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Until yesterday, I was hoping I'd die one day in the dumbest way possible. Take the person who owned a wood chipper dealership and decided to test one of his models by climbing on the conveyor belt while it was running, or that guy who jumped around with so much joy after scratching off a minor winning lottery number that he whooped it up right into oncoming traffic, or that fitness guru who dropped dead on the "Dick Cavett Show" immediately after declaring, "I'm gonna live to be 100!" How perfect is this? It would be impossible for your friends to keep a straight face at your funeral.

Because I, for one, have always been terrified of throwing a soiree where people are bored. I remember once I was mortified to get wind that my mother was throwing me a surprise 17th birthday party and had invited all the popular people in high school. I immediately had to dispatch my borderline-psychotic best friend Kathy to threaten them all into coming. Jesus God, what was my mother thinking? You don't just invite people and expect them to show up. Unless, of course, it's your damn funeral.

And what is your funeral but your own personal party over which you have no control. It's not like you can crawl out of the coffin and mix up the crowd. No, you're dead and so is your party. It's like a nightmare. The least you can do is go out in a magnificently stupid way so your friends can yuk it up a little over by the crab dip.

Grant, of course, is still convinced he'll be dead by February, especially now that he survived that choking incident involving a half-masticated hush puppy at the Local the other night. He was certain he was a goner there for a while -- so much so that, while clutching his throat, he was quite confused, really, because the mystic Mexican website said he had until February -- then someone performed the "hemlock" maneuver on him and brought him back to life.

"Now I know the Mexican website is true," he said. "February. I'll be dead in February."

"Are you sure it said 'dead in February' and not 'dead by February?'" I asked him, because Grant's Spanish is sketchy. I know I shouldn't talk, but at least I took lots of actual classes, while Grant, on the other hand, learned Spanish from a six-month stint picking up Mexican servicemen based in Isla Mujeres.

"Bitch, I know what it said," he huffed, and I suppose he had reason, seeing as how he's probably pretty attached to the days leading up to his last month. I wonder how it will happen. Will it be stupid? Will it be like that Brazilian guy who thought he could disarm a rocket-propelled grenade by driving over it, back and forth, with his car? Actually, that sounds more like the way Lary would die. In fact, we are all fairly amazed Lary is still around, what with all those secret government nuclear suitcases unaccounted for and assumed lost in circulation.

But it's speculated that Lary has even outlived his cat, Mona, who might be less dead than she is simply disappeared, probably due to having overheard Lary's instructions to me upon his demise, which are to strap his cat to his chest with duct tape and push them both out of a helicopter from a high altitude.

Anyway, Grant says the stupidest way he almost died was in Isla Mujeres. He refers to the incident as "the time I got thrown off a cliff by some Mexican fags," but in truth he had just fallen asleep on the mossy earth after a minor orgy in the woods after dark, and awoke the next morning to discover he lay within inches of a steep overhang.

"Oh, big whoop," I always say to that, because that's not really almost dying. Almost dying is when you've been thrown in the trunk of a car by a serial killer with the mind to drive you to a desolate patch along the roadside when suddenly it occurs to you to pull the wires to the taillights so the car would get pulled over by the police. That is almost dying.

That is a person with something to brag about. Unlike Grant, and especially unlike the kid in the video that Daniel sent me yesterday. This guy almost died because he, literally, thought it would be funny to have his friends film him while he shot a firecracker out of his ass. Daniel often e-mails me random video clips, to my mixed gratitude. For example, if not for him I probably could have avoided, for the rest of my life, seeing a woman have sex with a horse, but then again if not for him I wouldn't have seen the clip of this kid who fried his own ass off with a firecracker, either.

Because after seeing that, and the real pain on that kid's face as his friends laughed at him, it occurred to me that there are plenty of dumb ways to die that aren't funny. So now I consider what a gift it is, every day that I don't die like an idiot. Yes, a gift. Each one is like winning a little lottery. I jump for joy. I whoop it up. I observe oncoming traffic.

Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor columnist, NPR commentator, "Tonight Show" guest and author of two acclaimed memoirs, Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood , and Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories . For information on her writing workshops, The Shocking Real-Life Writing Seminar, visit www.hollisgillespie.com.

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