Who popularized that phrase anyway, and what exactly does it mean?
Like any enterprising journalist with a reputation for accuracy, I needed a credible source. So I looked it up on Google. Other than being the name of a B-grade movie about a tattooed teenager, and more recently a British TV series, I didn't find a lot of credible information about the expression. It's likely that the phrase got mixed up with "living the life of Riley," an expression that suggests an ideal contented life, often living on someone else's money. That phrase has been around since World War I and was the focus of a humorous radio and TV show in the 1940-1950s.
Pope, in using the expression, definitely was referring to an ideal, contented life. Well, I don't completely agree that the cruising conditions were ideal--as you know if you've been reading the blog--but you could say that I lived on Pope's money for a while. He paid for 3/4 of the boat upgrades and operation and the majority of marina fees.
For our first month back home, however, I definitely felt like I was "living the life." Retired. Happier than being on the boat. My fears calmed down, I was warm and dry, and my days were calm and uneventful.
A leisurely day at the botanical gardens with Pettit (pictured) and Leslie
It's never a good idea to take "the good life" for granted, though, whether you're enjoying harmony at home, a fantasy vacation, or being "in the zone" during extreme sports. (Not that I personally am into extreme sports.)
Anything can happen. Your orderly, well-managed life can change in an instant.
On Wednesday, I took a bus to REI to pick up my bike after getting a tune-up. Rode home 11.6 miles, mostly along trails. I felt fine--until I entered the 14th Street Bridge, at which time my sense of peace and contentment started developing hairline cracks. Bike commuters whizzing out of DC came at me at top speed, on a narrow sidewalk bordered by 8-foot-high steel railings. There was barely room to pass--yet they didn't even slow down.
I held my breath each time black and yellow spandex flashed by. Felt vulnerable. Recalled my ill-fated bike ride in December.
As it turned out, I didn't get my skull split open against the steel rails on the 14th Street Bridge.
Around 9:30 pm, however, Pope staggered into the house, dazed and dripping blood. He had wrecked his car a couple of miles from home, trying to drive back from Chesapeake Bay after a sailboat race followed by eating and drinking. He probably fell asleep at the wheel.
The visible damage
An hour later, we were startled by screaming and banging in the street. Our local burglar had struck again, smashing car windows in front of our house. (We suspect drug addicts in search of anything that can be sold for cash. Maybe they are in cahoots with the perps who murdered a man in 7-11, a few doors away.)
The noise was from owners returning to their cars and unleashing their fury on the neighborhood. Not locals, I guess, or they would be inured to the violence of broken car windows and stolen bikes.
The point is, anything can happen to upset the apple cart and send the bruised and battered remnants of Riley's ideal life straight into the dumpster.
What's left after upsetting the apple cart
Today, Pope is patched up and is out scouting body shops. The first body shop, and our insurance company, want to write the car off as a total loss. Value: $0. We are discussing whether to buy a battered old pickup (reminds me of our battered old boat...) or just share my old but still-decent Honda.
So...are we "living the life"? Who is the wise guy who dreamed up that phrase, anyway?
* From Hamlet, Act III, Scene I:
To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?