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Question mark

Goal setting and the lazy way to riches

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Lary says he's gonna wait until he's 60 before he sucks his first cock, which I think is ridiculous. "Why wait?" I ask. "What if it turns out you like it?"

"Exactly," he counters. "I figure if I like it I'll have little time left to do it."

I personally would never trust anything tender between this man's teeth, but that doesn't mean he should wait until he's 60 to be gay if that's what he is. Lary's gayness has always been a big question mark between Grant and me. Grant is certain Lary's gay and he just hasn't had the right amount of tequila to admit it. Me, I've known Lary longer that Grant, and I'm convinced otherwise. At best, Lary's sexuality remains a question mark. "Gay is relative," he says, and certain question marks are simply worth keeping.

But hell, who knows what any of us will be at any time in our lives. I remember back in college when I'd somehow convinced myself I was a straight-A student, and damn if my GPA didn't reflect this belief right up until I graduated. I'm talking about the degree I got after I flunked out during my first foray into college, after deciding to start over at another university.

I got the idea after going to Hawaii with what was left of my family after my dad died. My brother at the time lived in a beach town up the coast where he shared an apartment with a mob of horny grad students. He worked as a waiter at a steak restaurant, but he was in his eighth year at Long Beach State and would graduate eventually. I don't judge. Counting the two years I squandered before I started over, it took me six years to get my degree.

But back to Hawaii; we got the condo in Makaha through my sister Cheryl's connections. She used to wait tables, too, at another steak restaurant entirely, this one staffed by leggy dames wearing skirts shorter than the aprons around their waists and heels so high you could hunt bison with them. It was the closest thing to a Playboy Club we had in San Diego, and most of the patrons were rich guys with flared collars and pinky rings. One of them owned the condo and gave the key to my sister so we could use it for a week. It was located next to a massive Sheridan resort property, and that first night I got blotto on mai tais, stole a golf cart and crashed it into an irrigation ditch. Fun times.

The next morning I lay around at the condo, the one owned by the rich guy, too hungover from my copious underage drinking to go with the rest of my family to the Hawaiian culture center, where I hear a bunch of big-bellied men with tattooed faces roasted a pig and served it with poi. The condo was furnished like a corporate hotel suite, with no evidence of a personal residence at all except a collection of books on a shelf in the bedroom, one of which was The Lazy Man's Way to Riches by Richard Gilly Nixon.

Hell, I thought, I like riches, and I damn well know I'm lazy, as I'd been told I was lazy all my life. I remember as a child eavesdropping on my parents as they joked about the future employment prospects of each of their offspring, and when they got to me my mother pondered, "What will Hollis become?" and my father, without missing a beat, laughed, "Fired!" So this book must be perfect for me, I thought, as I pocketed it and carried it to the beach.

I read half the book, up until the part where it started to get specific about the path to riches, which involved mail order of some kind. But the part before that, which heralded goal setting and warned of the energy-draining effects of masturbation on the brains of young achievers, that part I read. "Read your goals every night before you go to bed, and every morning when you wake up."

So I made the list and kept it under my pillow, unfolding it every night and every morning. I wish I still had the list, because it would be fun to see if, all these years later, any of the goals listed so long ago match my actual accomplishments. Here are a few I remember: I want to be a straight-A student. Check. I want to own three houses. Check. I want to be a published author. Check. I want to be rich. Question mark.

The list was very long, believe me, and I read it every morning and every night for exactly five months until I fell in love with a bartender and commenced having all the energy-sapping orgasms the book had warned me about. But I still marvel at how just five months of resolute goal setting did seem to set a direction for me that led me to the life I now have, one with more checks and fewer question marks. I used to wonder what I would have accomplished had I just kept it up and forsaken all the side trails, but not any longer. Riches are relative, I say, and certain question marks are simply worth keeping.

Hollis Gillespie is founder of the Shocking Real Life Writing Academy. For more information, go to www.hollisgillespie.com.

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