“Regrets, I’ve had a few/But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do/And saw it through without exemption”

— Paul Anka

Let’s begin with a spoiler alert: I may well end up being at least a little critical of one of your all-time favorite songs. But, remember, it’s only my skewed way of looking at it and I don’t really know Jack (not his real name) about your taste in music, so, the heck with me.

Anyway, whether sung by Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, or, I suppose, anyone else, there is no doubt that a particular song will strike a chord with many people. Sinatra and Presley are two of the biggest stars ever. Why they would become so identified with a song about living your life as best you can, is, at least, on one level, a bit beyond me. Yes, rich, famous people have problems, too. I get it. Still, Elvis’s rousing ending to his version seems somewhat overdone.

But, if you get past these two guys, I think the real passion for the song would have to be found in bars; places where people congregate to drink alcoholic beverages.

And by bars, I mean bars, like the days when movies were in black and white. The “Set ’em up, Joe” kind of places, where smoke was mandatory. There was no drinks menu; the drinks were either beer or liquor and gin and tonic, scotch and soda, and so on. They were not cocktail lounges, and the men (almost exclusively) who served the drinks were bartenders, or occasionally barkeeps, but certainly not mixologists.

The lights were always dim, and not in a great, atmospheric way. They seemed dim because something was missing — light bulbs, joy, any sense of enjoyment. Much of the time, neon signs presented the bulk of the light.

In the scenario in which I see “My Way” being so at home, there are almost exclusively men, who may or may not have started out looking for women at some point, but are now just sitting around a bar looking for an explanation of what it is about sitting around a bar that makes them spend so much of their time doing exactly that.

There may be an occasional woman, but, generally speaking, women have more sense. They also tend to drink in places with better atmosphere. The bars I’m thinking about are joints.

So, the customers may be alcoholics, or not. They’re probably people who can stop anytime they want to, but don’t want to. I don’t think they stopped by just for the one drink.

As the night goes on (this is quite a scenario I’m presenting, is it not? There is a point coming, though, if you can hang in a little longer), the jukebox gets quite a workout, and it’s the three tunes for a quarter juke, by the way. Depending on the neighborhood, there could be some popular ethnic choices — “Irish Eyes are Smiling,” for example, or anything by Frankie Yankovic and the Yanks, or even Mario Lanza.

As the night starts to wind down, though, a quarter will be dropped, C6 or D8 or whatever will be punched and Frank or The King will start pouring comfort on everyone’s hurts. Eyes will begin to tear, hearts will begin to soften, and someone actually may join in, off key, probably, but with complete conviction.

After being played once, it quite likely will be played again, at least two more times. But then, the night is over. The melancholy hangs in the place almost as thick as the smoke, and it’s time to go. Regrets, hah! What regrets. I did it my way, buddy!!!

Whew. I may have gotten a bit carried aware with my metaphors and my passion for film noir may have leaked out, but still …

I tell you all that, to say this: for me to claim “Regrets I have a few, but then again too few to mention” is silly. For me, the world is too big, too wonderful, too amazing, too full of choices not to have a fair number of regrets, assuredly not a few.

Seriously, we are presented with so many great choices virtually every day that getting half of them right would be a wonderful thing to sing about.

I was always one of those people who would try to live my life so that I could look back and not have to say, I wish I had done … whatever, when I had the choice. And even with that philosophy, I have all the regrets, and more, that one man can carry.

None of this is a bad thing, by the way. Regrets, no regrets, it doesn’t really matter all that much, at least not to me. The point is to have done the best you can, make as many good choices as possible, and let the Sinatra or The King sing about the rest.

Just one final thought about the song: the English lyrics were written by Paul Anka, who also wrote “(You’re) Having my Baby.” Just sayin’.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.

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