As 2006 stumbles to a close, we in the media are predisposed to follow certain end-of-year traditions. We are honor-bound, for example, to give you the current cost of all the gifts in the "Twelve Days of Christmas." You know the drill: "At Schmenge Brothers Nursery, a six-foot pear tree will set you back $47; two turtle doves cost $56," etc. etc. (The cost of "11 lords a'leapin'" is typically problematical, but you could always go down to Backstreet late on a Saturday and ask around.)
And of course, no year can end without the media providing a complete list of notable folks who have passed away in the previous 12 months. I'm always surprised when I look at such lists. Sure, you remember the "Crocodile Hunter" died in 2006, or maybe Jack Palance, but how about Curt Gowdy, Gene Pitney, Betty Friedan, Buck Owens, Don Knotts, Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett? Yep, all of 'em departed this year. And each of them, if I stop and think about it for a minute, contributed something to my life -- whether it's that seminal Pickett yelp in "Mustang Sally" or the many hours I spent watching "Barn" on The Andy Griffith Show as a kid. They made a mark, however small, on our lives.
The end of a year gives us a chance to take a breath, to reflect on the passing of time, to perhaps even wonder what kind of mark we'll leave behind. We tend to take stock of ourselves as December wanes. We'll start that novel. We'll exercise every day and lose that pesky ring o' pudge around our middle. We'll learn French.
But hey, it's a new year and we're all entitled to dream a little. We're all due a little hope that the year ahead will bring joy and laughter in some measure. And that may be as good a thing to strive for as any -- to help joy and laughter gain a foothold in these troubled times. Laughter, after all, acts under the theory of displacement, wherein two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If we laugh, despair flies. If we celebrate, sadness recedes. And truth always displaces fear.
So here's to joy and laughter and truth -- and a shiny new 2007 for all of you.
Note: Next week's Flyer will be our Annual Manual issue. The next regular Flyer will appear on January 10th, 2007.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."