The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

“Out with the old and in with the new,” goes the old New Year’s saying. The year 2022 decided that it would not go gracefully. I watched 2022’s final stormy afternoon from inside Peet’s Coffee at the local supermarket mall.

The Bay Area was shooting the rapids, metaphorically speaking, of an atmospheric river. Atmospheric river. It’s the weatherperson’s currently in vogue term for what used to be called a gully washer, or a rainstorm, or raining cats and dogs. At the risk of sounding old and out of vogue, I think I prefer the latter terms.

“Out with the old and in with the new.”

Out with torrent and in with atmospheric river.

The vernacular goes through constant change. Words and terms are out and replacements are in. Sometimes the changes are necessary and other times change just guts our language of creativity, color and verve. It turns rich dialectical brioche into sterile, insipid, stale white bread.

Well meaning people make it their job, sometimes with unmitigated presumption, to legislate changes. They sit around a conference room table and sap the energy out of communication. Maybe they aren’t well meaning at all. Maybe they just figure they need something to justify being on the payroll.
“We’ve run out of things to do,” said Stewart.
Miles thought for a moment. “I’ve got it! Let’s sterilize the English language.”

To whatever end, some folks at Stanford University figured they would begin the New Year on a forward-thinking note by unveiling its brand new language guide which aims to “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased … language in Stanford websites and code.”

That’s not an ignoble goal but the end result had Stanford, as the old saying goes, “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Given Stanford’s new guidelines, tossing babies is not a good look, linguistically speaking.

As a writer, or someone who just occasionally plays at writing, I peeked at portions of the guide and was aghast. At some point one has to decide if a change is appropriate correction or ham handed mutilation.

The changes outlined in the new guide include replacing the term “Karen” with “demanding or entitled White woman,” and prisoner with “person who is/was incarcerated.” A homeless person should be referred to as “a person without housing,” as if that’s going to bestow some measure of creature comforts on someone who is, like, you know, without housing.
“I appreciate the new moniker — I guess,” said the person without housing. “But a dry place in which to lay my head would be more helpful.”

The old saying “beating a dead horse” is, according Stanford’s language police, now verboten, as it “normalizes violence against animals.” My dad often used that term and I can’t recall a single moment when it triggered in me some deep seated urge to grab a stick and hunt down a deceased equine in the suburbs of the Bay Area. Oh, and by the way, trigger is also a no-no.

I get it, some words and terms have rightly been put to rest and there are certainly others that should be on the chopping block (Chopping block is probably on Stanford’s taboo term list as it might normalize violence against vegetables. One doesn’t chop an onion. The recipe calls for one cup of an onion converted into smaller pieces).

It seems to me that the Stanford folks went a smidge too far. It’s just another of those instances that has other Americans (American is another forbidden word by the way) looking at the Bay Area as a haven for “fornicating people who lack substantial education,” known in the old lingo as “fucking idiots.”


As I sat in Peet’s I watched the activity out in the parking lot where small lakes were forming. Shoppers hunched over in the rain, fighting (in conflict with?) the wind for control of umbrellas. It was the last minute shopping for the last parties celebrating the last minutes of 2022 and the birth of 2023.

Chips and beer, dips and wine, wings and vodka, veggie platters and whiskey. If you sense a pattern then you know why I decided to spend New Year’s Eve at home, safe and secure.

The storm was relentless.

The highways were a Disneyland adventure ride. Hydroplaning, spinouts, moon crater potholes, collisions and people with a snoot full driving in a driving rain.

Downed trees, local creeks on the verge of overflowing and tracts of power outages. There were waves, actual waves, on San Pablo Bay, where normally the roughest waters are gentle wakes tossed up by passing ferries.

I got home to find that the pool had overflowed.

***

Call it growing up, getting old, getting wiser or just getting, “get off my lawn,” stodgy and boring, we don’t do anything on New Year’s Eve.

We don’t even watch Ryan Seacrest. His hairstyle alone makes it hard to watch (said the man with no hair). I wonder how Ryan feels about hosting a New Year’s Eve show that’s still named after a dead guy, Dick Clark, who passed ten years ago.

We watched some good college football games and shared the observation that universities in the American South are bereft of cheerleaders of color.

After football, a couple of episodes of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and then off to bed by 10:30.

Lexi and I were awakened at midnight by illegal neighborhood fireworks displays. Nothing like starting off the first seconds of the new year by breaking the law. “Hey Mabel, my resolution for the new year is to be a scofflaw,” said Donald as he lit the fuse and ran like hell.

Cora managed to sleep through the barrage.

***

The year 2023 arrived clear, sunny and mild. Lexi and I took a sunrise walk. Five miles and we didn’t see a soul.

If you want solitude, find a nice trail at daybreak on New Year’s Day.

***

On the third day, Christmas was taken down and put back in storage, and no, it didn’t arise again from the dead. That arising from the dead thing is the other religious holiday that draws casual Catholics for their twice a year visit to church.

The last chore was to cut up the tree and put its remains in the green compost bin. I did the deed with a measure of deference.

Funny thing about Christmas trees. Selecting and then decorating a tree is a series of events steeped in reverential tradition. The first thing is to select a suitable tree lot, hopefully not one so crass and commercial as the Home Depot parking lot. Once at the lot the family splits up into patrols, strolling down rows of trees, sizing up Noble firs, Douglas firs, small trees, tall trees, full trees and scrawny waifs.
“Oh look, what about that one?”
“I dunno, it’s got gaps.”
“Howabout this one?” asks mom as she wraps her hand around the trunk.
“That is a good one. Stay there and guard it while I look around a bit.”

Once a consensus is reached, the tree is brought home, and stationed in a place of honor in the living room, usually before the front window so it can be admired by passers by. After it’s decorated the family gathers round, takes pictures and marvels at what is clearly the best tree on the block.

Once the holidays are done it’s, “Get that molting thing out of here.”

I felt sadness as I took our tree apart, tossing its branches in the bin. It really was a nice tree and it was good to us. It hardly dropped any needles, even as I took it out into the side yard to administer the coup de grace. Funny, I can’t remember getting so sentimental about a Christmas tree. Hell, we almost didn’t even get a tree at all this holiday season.

***

The year 2022 went out throwing a tantrum of wind, rain and fury. A fitting departure for a miserable bastard of a year, but that’s just my own personal observation.

From a personal standpoint I’m glad the SOB is dead and gone. You remember 2020? From that selfsame personal standpoint I’d have been satisfied with a redo of 2020. Yeah, 2022 was that bad. I saw enough doctors and went through enough anxiety and depression to last me – a lifetime? Well, let’s leave it at – a long time.

In the end, it’s all turned out well enough – I guess. All the parts are still working, though some are getting pretty rickety and others need some jerry rigging. I’ll turn 70 in 2023 and while I don’t so much fret about being closer to the end of the road, I just wish the road wouldn’t be so damned rocky.

The year 2020 was one of reflection, of wondering just how much reconditioning and patching I’m willing to put up with. I often think about my Aunt D. who was faced with the choice between dialysis and just moving on. She decided to move on and I can understand her choice. For decades I’ve been resolved that there’s only so much overhauling and cobbling I’ll accept.

***

Resolved.

Resolved that this is the resolution season, the time of year when people put their resolve on the line and publicize their intentions, to friends and strangers on social media, that they’re going to better themselves by giving up this or taking up that.

If you want to see resolutions at work, visit the gym during the first week of January to experience the population explosion, and then visit the gym again in March to witness just how quickly resolutions can lose their luster.

I don’t do resolutions. Not because I don’t see any room for improvement. Hell, there’s plenty that this old boy needs to work on. I just don’t see the logic in waiting for the turning of a calendar page to have an epiphany and act on it.

I have a theory that self improvement initiatives stand a better chance of succeeding if they’re started at any time other than January 1st. My feeling is that a decision in June, that your diet of bonbons and Pepsi needs a makeover, comes more from the heart (and an ailing gut) than it would in January, when your inspiration is likely driven by a folk tradition.

“Damn it’s the new year,” declared Homer. “I have to make a resolution.”

“And what’s that going to be?” asked his wife Agnes as she raised a doubting eyebrow.

Homer thought for a few moments. “Damn, I have to resolve something. It’s a New Year’s thing. Howabout this. I’ll get into shape, join the gym, lose this gut and get back in fighting shape.”

“Fighting shape, huh,” said Agnes with a roll of the eyes. “The only thing you fight is the twist off cap on a Corona.”

“Nope. I’m giving up the beer, and I’m going to start eating healthy foods, and instead of sitting at home watching sports I’m going to go out for runs. Maybe I’ll be a vegan. What exactly is a vegan? Does that mean I have to put veggies on my bacon double cheeseburger?”

February 12th, Super Bowl Sunday and Agnes was heading for the store. “Homer, do you need anything at the store?”

“Yeah, honey. Get a case of Corona and a few bags of chips. Ray and Chris are coming over to watch the game. Oh, and pick up one of those supermarket cheesecakes.”

“What happened to the health kick and not watching sports? And what about the gym? You haven’t gone in over a week.”

“Yeah I’m quitting the gym. It’s cutting into the beer and pizza budget. Oh and don’t forget limes for the Coronas.”

***

“I hope you realize that every day is a fresh start for you. That every sunrise is a new chapter in your life waiting to be written.”
― Juansen Dizon, Confessions of a Wallflower

11 thoughts on “Considering New Years: 2023

  1. Toonsarah says:

    We don’t party but we do stay up and see in the New Year. Partly habit, partly a feeling that it’s significant enough a moment that it deserves to be marked in some way. I hope 2023 is a better one for you, and indeed for all of us. Although in the UK the latter is perhaps a vain hope as, while we’re doing OK, far too many people are struggling financially and it will probably get worse before it gets better.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      A happy new year to you.

      Thank you for the well wishes. I’d like to resolve to have a better year. Some of that is out of my control. Resolve to better negotiate the challenges? Well, I don’t do resolutions so I’ll take it as it comes.

      “I hope 2023 is a better one for you, and indeed for all of us. Although in the UK the latter is perhaps a vain hope as, while we’re doing OK, far too many people are struggling financially and it will probably get worse before it gets better.” Sadly the same is true here in the United States and the current clown show that is going on in the House chamber is proof.

      Wishing you a happy new year and happy travels.

      Paul

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Mister M

  2. Well first to the words thing. Seems to me that currently there are far more words being dropped through disapproval than there are words being replaced. At this rate we will end up with an extremely limited vocabulary, like for instance replacing every superlative adjective with “super”. Just imagine that. “I’m super excited”. “He’s super rich”. “The weather was super bad”. Could happen, you know…
    The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever stuck to was to “stop pretending that I enjoy going to the gym”. That was somewhere around 1993 and I’ve not broken the resolution once in all that time.
    I had quite a good 2022 but I do seem to be in a small minority on that one. Light of the world, shine on me : beer is the answer.

    1. Paul says:

      It seems to me that those wanting to replace a vibrant language with a drab one are being super-cilious.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and I wish you a happy new year.

      Paul

  3. alison41 says:

    All that tedious PC thinking – what a pity those eggheads at Stanford are wasting time and brain cells on such a useless project. Sanitising the vocabulary will make little difference to the content of people’s heads.
    . I have probably transgressed most of the Stanfordian vocab rules, but hey! I really don’t care. I live in the Southern hemisphere where there is pretty much total disregard for legislation, in any sphere of life; never mind the niceties of language. And we have 11 official languages, so you can imagine the complications. It would (literally) blow the collective Stanfordian minds.
    Wishing you a healthy, happy year and looking forward to many more of your amusing blog posts

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Alison,
      The good news about the Stanford edict is that it’s meant as an internal guideline. For me that’s small comfort as it still represents yet another attempt to purify something that should contain some impurities.

      I feel for the folks at Stanford who are going to have to labor under these guidelines.

      I suppose this will be a small boon for the paper industry in that guides and manuals will end up being more verbose.

      Thank you for reading and commenting and a happy new year to you.

      Paul

  4. stacey says:

    I have some hope, small, but still there. 🙂 2023… come on!
    Happy new year.

    1. Paul says:

      Happy New Year Stacey,
      There’s always hope. Right now I hope the rain lets up soon. VERY soon.
      Paul

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