A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Getting Old

Originally published: 30 September 2003

The world's oldest man - Yukichi Chuganji of Japan - has died, at the ripe old age of 114.

The world's oldest woman - who also hails from Japan - is still going strong at age 116, and my next move is surely going to be to the land of the rising sun. They make 'em old out East.

My greatest fear in life is death. Always has been. Which makes some of my extra-curricular activities (smuggling, arms dealing, prostitution, organised crime and money-laundering) seem a little silly.

In my world an out-of-place shadow is not a coincidence - it's a sign - and I always have one hand in my pocket and the other on my packet of cyanide pills.

Better a quick (if unpleasant) death by cyanide than 14 days of hell in the basement of a Colombian mansion with a bunch of blokes called Jesus who are anything but.

My extraordinary adventures aside, however, death is of real concern to me, if for no other reason than I enjoy life. Since I don't believe in any sort of an afterlife it means my time on Earth is of gravest importance to me and as such any life I have is gratefully accepted.

Death is coming - it comes to all of us no matter how wealthy or poor, clever or stupid, ugly or beautiful - and all we can really do is hope that in some way it will be dignified, and that it will give us enough time to have achieved our dreams, lived a good life, and had at least one occasion where naked women are stuffing our faces with all manner of hallucinogenic drugs.

I used to loathe old people. I hated them. I saw them as useless sacks of garbage who wasted our time with their remembrances of times which were always better than the present, and whose lives were simply an exercise in seeing how long they could stave off death.

I would proclaim to all who listened that I would far rather live fast, die young and to hell with getting to a point where I could no longer take a dump on my own, but as I've got older I've naturally revised my opinion somewhat.

If I do make it to any sort of venerable age the last thing on Earth I would want is some young prat thinking that because he has mobility and no grey hair he knows more than I do, and is worth more than I.

Western culture is just about the only culture which shovels old people out into the cold - most other cultures give old people the highest status in their community, as their lives have gained them knowledge and wisdom which can be passed down to younger generations to learn from and expand on.

Westerners stick them in old age homes and hope that not only will they die soon, but will leave behind some of their hard-earned life savings for us to profit by as well.

I can only but imagine the frustration getting old must bring to you. So often you become unable to take care of yourself, and have to suffer the indignity of people taking care of you - from feeding you to helping you ablute to getting you into your wheelchair and so on.


Younger folks get irritated by you and you feel like you must be a burden on them, and none of these things particularly appeal to me.

I look at our old folks and often wonder - did that old man, who is unable to walk and whose skin is mottled by liver spots - fight in a war? What tragedies has he seen, what joys, what change and what lives? Who has he met, who has he killed, who has he given birth to and what knowledge has he imparted?

What will I know by the time I die? Will I have fulfilled my life ambitions? Will I be happy? Will I have caused others happiness? Will I have killed? (The answer to that one is simple - many, many times, but I swear it was all out of sheer necessity, and motivated by nothing but profit or revenge).

I want to live for as long as I can, but do I want to live to be 114? No I don't. I only want to live until such time as I am satisfied that life has no more to offer me, and until I have achieved at least some of the things I have always wanted to achieve.

I'm realistic enough to know that it's highly unlikely that I will ever rise to the rank of Don, or that Britney will pop over to Claremont and come knocking on my door clad in naught but a thong and nipple caps, but I can sure aim for unlimited pizza, plantations of marijuana and a spin in a formula one car.

I don't want to get to the stage where I am no longer able to control my destiny without having visited my various destinations. It's the reason I try and pack in as much crime as possible before old age descends and it becomes unseemly to grope the firm young bottoms of barely legal girls.

I want to get old with dignity, which is not possible if you have lived a life without it, and while I still have my youth (plus an ever-increasing number of grey hairs) I intend to make the most of it.

As you can tell from this article I don't have much of value to say, but I can enjoy saying it nonetheless. And if I enjoy what life I do have then at least half the battle is won.

The other half will be enjoying the fruits of my labour once I am old, and hence the need to sow those seeds now. Then - if I do get chucked out like a lump of trash - at least I will be able to look at what I've done in my life and be proud of having lived it.

Maybe it won't matter by then. But maybe it will.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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