A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/25/22: Why Meat Loaf Matters

 A huge loss recently was the singer Meat Loaf. His music was entwined with my adolescence. He was the soundtrack and the aspiration of my younger self.

The album Bat Out of Hell came out in 1977, an explosive debut for the rising star. I don’t know how many of the songs became big hits, but some of them seemed to be playing everywhere. The biggest hit, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” was the song of that summer, a summer when I had just begun to drive and was just aware of the power of songs on the radio. The cut is driving and frenetic, barely a moment of release in its churning base-driven frenzy. In Boston, the radios had substituted out local announcer, Dick Stockton, for the famous spoken part by Phil Rizzuto so the song had a local charm. And, oh yes, I was “barely seventeen” at the time. Meat Loaf was singing about me. He was singing to me. And even if I could only dream about being in a situation like the doomed protagonist in his epic song, I felt the passion and the heat every time the song played or each of the thousands of times I listened to it on the LP.

The album and the singer stayed with me as I grew up. In college I discovered Rocky Horror Picture Show and Meat Loaf’s soulful, murderous Eddie was a powerful and haunting presence (whatever did happen to Saturday night?). His later music was elegant and emotional. I noticed his touch as a producer in songs I loved like Bonny Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” But it was the powerful virtuosity of his first songs that stayed with me.

His voice was a gauge by which I measured mine. In 1978-79, I was just coming to terms with possessing an expanding tenor voice, singing both classical and jazz in college. Intensely proud of my upper range, I wanted to be great. Meat Loaf’s voice was the reach just beyond my grasp, particularly on the ballad “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  I sang through the song an untold number of times, sometimes with the record, sometimes on my own, in showers, common rooms, bedrooms, archways, hallways. I must have been a real pest. It was the high notes I was aiming for, those magnificent soaring lines that Meat Loaf made so effortless and for me were a hash of squeal and falsetto. I never got there back then and, with time, tucked the song away into my file of memory.

The other day when Meat Loaf died, “Two Out of Three” popped into my head at once. With the miracle of Amazon Echo, Alexa was playing the song for me almost before I had asked her to. I was singing along, every word etched in the deep recess of my long-term memory. Sailing through chorus and verse, the mature tenor me stayed with Meat Loaf high note for high note. Then the bridge, at the stratospheric line about the “Coup de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box,” miraculous to see, I was still in the game. But Meat Loaf had another register and the song transposes even higher, “never be able/ to give you something/ something that I just haven’t got.” Beaten again and at last. Well played, Meat Loaf. Again and finally, well played.

Ah well. What’s a heaven for?



A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/20/22 - Is Time Money?

The adage goes, “Time is Money.” As with many an old saw, this is one of my most pet of peeves.

I don’t dispute that time is valuable. It is a non-renewable resource, the only one that all humans have in their personal possession. Time is also an unknowable and unmeasurable asset. None of us can speak with certainty about Time except in the broadest of platitudes and generalizations. “There are only twenty-four hours in a day,” we say. “There are seven days in a week,” we remind ourselves. Even these are arbitrary. There are twenty-four hours in a day only because we have decided to measure time from sunrise to sunrise and because we have chosen to split into the odd increment. Even then, it is an uneven balance, changing as the year (another arbitrary designation) rolls along so that some days will have slightly more or slightly less time in their documented hours. The week is even more profligate. There is nothing special about seven days. A Sunday need not be distinct from a Tuesday or a Friday.

What is most at dispute is the concept of value. We make the tacit assumption that life (and therefore time) has value and in felicitous circumstances I hope it does. We can choose to appreciate the beauty of our time, of each breath, of each whisper of breeze on our cheek, of each delicate color of sunset. But that is a choice. For some bleak souls, time is a curse – loneliness, illness, pain, the whole litany of things that are also part of the human state. I guess it is safer to say time is precious, although even that is a value judgement. Perhaps, the truest and blandest statement is that time is finite.

Which brings us to my peeve. “Time is Money” implies that money is the equivalent of value or even that the finite nature imparts a monetary value. But money and its pursuit are the most arbitrary of goals. The implication that any moment spent not in accumulation is wasted is both erroneous and insulting. The statement makes Money the defining factor for all of endeavor, not what we do with the money nor what pleasure it may provide.

I would argue that Time is not Money, but the reverse. Money is Time; time to enjoy the fleeting moments of beauty and humanity that our finite and precious moments offer us.



A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/18/22 - Against Radical Education Reform

 Yesterday, I bit off more than I could chew. I tried to write an essay about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth anniversary and got weighed down in awkward description. My anger got the better of me in a way that Dr. King would not have accepted. There is too much to respond to and too much need to speak out.

Today, I’ll try to clarify my writing in discussing the radicalization of attacks on educational freedom. Contrary to the conservative argument, educational freedom is not achieved by banning teachings or books. How could outlawing thoughts be any form of freedom? Rather, it is in allowing open thought and discussion to foster, even when those avenues may not be comfortable or glorious.

There are a few facts that are glossed over by the proponents of strict governmental control on teaching. The first is that education is not a comfortable experience. By definition, it is a step into the unknown and that may make a student leery. But facing the unknown and learning to accommodate one’s expanding knowledge is an integral part of growing. I was exceedingly uncomfortable learning calculus. It made me feel foolish to struggle through many of the mathematical ideas and to get low grades. But I would never have expected or wanted my parents to try to ban it from the school curriculum.

Another fact is that Critical Race Theory is NOT being taught in grade school curricula. It is true that History and Social Studies are now being taught through a broader framework than the “Glory of Our National Heritage,” but that should not shame or discomfort anyone who is interested in learning more than a superficial truth. What IS being taught in a graduated fashion is the formation of critical thinking skills pertaining to American and World history – context, nuance, perspective. Parents should welcome this since it will make their children better prepared for the subtleties of real life beyond the safe harbors of the schoolroom and home.

Finally, there is no scenario where the umbrage of a single parent or even a group of them should influence the curriculum for all children. A parent or even a collective organization must not have control over what is offered in education to all students. I guarantee that what I want my child taught is not the same as what you want your child taught. There already is a mechanism to control the interaction between curriculum and student. It is called parental involvement. If a child is uncomfortable with a facet of learning, it is the parent’s place to discuss it with them, not the school’s or other parents’ responsibility to compensate.


A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/16/22 - The State of the Game

For a Patriots fan, the season crashed to an end yesterday in a dismal drubbing by arch-rival Buffalo. I have no problem with the Bills being is ascendency for a while. I have always liked them as a team, lamenting their four straight Super Bowls with no victories, one of the saddest records in professional sports if only because of the dire disappointment that each sequential loss caused.

This was a season overall that failed to capture my attention in a grand way. I still think this and last seasons (not just for the Pats) should have huge asterisks next to them because of COVID and the odd ebb and flow of teams and players. The Tennessee Titans were (are) the number one seed in the AFC – that should tell you everything you need to know about the year past.

After so many years of not just relevance but predominance by my team, it is disconcerting to have them as after-thoughts. Rebuilding was inevitable. Even if TB12 had stayed with the Pats, they were still going through vast changes in personnel, in coaching, even in philosophy. Brady’s last year with the team was a disappointment all around, especially after three Super Bowls appearances in four years before that. Despite how things look, Brady will not last forever and eventually the team would have been faced with the need to work in a new Quarterback, whether that be Mac Jones (who I think still has the potential to be very good or great if he listens to Belichek and Saban and not to his press) or someone else. The Pats were not terrible this year, except in the first and the last few games but they were so ordinary that the whole season felt like it was mired in doldrums from the start. In many ways, this was worse than the horrific Billy Sullivan days. At least those teams had a horror show comedy vibe about them. These Patriots teased with brilliance (they might have won two or three more games with a little football luck and better officiating) but more often they just, well, were. They just filled up one side of the field with little expectation of the great or the horrible. And that’s a side of our team that we have not seen in ages, perhaps never in its magnificent and checkered history.

So where from here? Root for the usual suspects, I guess. Brady is still in play, so hope for an eighth SB win? Wish for Mahomes to regain his freebooting, swashbuckling form? Or perhaps side with a Cinderella? I have no resentment to the Bills as I’ve mentioned before and would not hate to see them win it all. How about those unlikely Titans or the Bengals?

There are teams whom I wholeheartedly will root against. The Cowboys of course – no pandemic or likeable quarterback (go, Dak!) can change that. The Packers have lost all semblance of sympathy in my eyes due to the arrogant boorishness of Rodgers. And despite upbringing and family ties, I still can’t bring myself to rally around the Steelers while Big Ben is behind center.

All of this (except of course the Cowboys) is subject to change.  If I can get the energy and excitement to even care about the playoffs. As I said at the beginning, the season is over. Who cares about the rest?




A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/12/22 - Dental Wars

 I am in a continuous battle with my teeth.

When I was young, there was a Mankin legend that my teeth were soft because my mother used Erythromycin during pregnancy. Or perhaps it was her smoking. But I will take full responsibility. Most certainly, it was my affinity for Twinkies and sugary cereal that led to the myriad of fillings that I carried around through childhood. Add a hockey injury that took out my front tooth in 9th grade and I had a mouth that was more resin and amalgam it seems than native enamel.

As we have all learned, yesterday’s brilliant innovation is often tomorrow’s headache. Some of the resins and amalgams, not to mention the “Space Age” plastics that my former dentists used had a functional life that was far shorter (thank the lord) than mine. Dr. Brill and Dr. Berman paved the way for plenty of work for dentists to come, whether through well-meaning progress, poor technique, or outright malevolence I will never know.

I don’t mind the work, to be honest. Dental treatment has never held any terror for me, even on the day I discovered that I could bite the inside of my cheek without pain the first time I had Novocain, proceeding unsupervised to tear it to shreds. Maybe it is my Puritan upbringing that tells me I deserve the pain. Maybe it is that the work is actually rather fascinating. Regardless, it is not the procedures themselves that I resent. It is the wasted time. The parade of hours spent captive to HGTV while the dentist or hygienist scrapes and drills.  Or maybe it is the unrelenting nature of the issue. It never rains but it pours. I will complete one major treatment when the dentist will say, “Hello, what’s this?” and find a new crown to replace or new cracking in a hitherto innocent molar.

No end in sight, but I guess it beats the alternative. I remember being with my aged father in Chicago for his last ever AAOS meeting. I had found a hideaway on the busy exhibit floor for us to rest and had scouted out a Diet Coke and a gorgeous chocolate chip cookie for him, his two favorite foods. He bit into the baked good, made a small face, then reached into his mouth and pulled out a tooth, unbroken but unmoored. He shrugged, wrapped it in his napkin, and returned to his snack. What was one less tooth at his time of life especially compared with the joy of a chocolate chip cookie?


A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/10/22 - There's Something About Betty

A nation often mourns the death of a beloved figure. I was in Ottawa on the day that the Friendly Giant died. He was the star of a CBC children’s show for forty or so years. His passing was so important that Canada observed a National Day of Mourning.

There were many icons who passed this year, some more revered than others, but all of note. Yet none of them struck the national consciousness quite like Betty White. Her death prompted front page stories on all major newspapers and even was the headline banner in some. She was eulogized and tributed throughout all media, both traditional and social, and by generations ranging from contemporary (she was almost 100 at her death) to GenZ or whatever the youngest crop of influencers is terming themselves now.

Which leads to the important question: Why did Betty White command such attention? She was a well-known television star, a celebrity host when such a thing was dignified, and an acknowledged spreader of sunshine. But others answer all those callings and do not generate a fraction of the outpouring. What was it about this particular actress engendered this much adoration?

Part of her draw was the sunniness of her persona, which by all accounts was genuine and not just on-camera. She radiated optimism and happiness without ever seeming callow or naïve. She could exchange quips (or even frank insults as her late work in the underrated “HOT in Cleveland” demonstrates) without losing the welcome affection. She may cross swords with you, but there are no grudges, only respect and love.

She was also very typically American: in looks, in cadence, in movement. In her we saw the girl-next-door growing into the favorite aunt or great-aunt. She was wise without being condescending. For decades Americans have wanted to be advised but not talked down to, and no one seemed to have a better voice for that than our Betty.

But maybe the reason she resonates so much is that her death has been a punchline for so long. There have been any number of Betty White Is Dead hoaxes throughout the internet, staunchly countered immediately by her loyal fandom. Even this time, I could not respond to the initial report until I had seen it confirmed in other sources. For years, we have been fascinated by her age and experience. We learned that she is older than sliced bread, than the NFL, than any number of institutions that we hold as foundational. Thus, she became a bell weather of the country – the clock by which all experience is measured.


A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/8/22 - I Don't Fry


I enjoy cooking. I’m not a recipe type of cook. I get an idea in my head, summon the vision before me, and then armed with some basic culinary skills (I do know how to make a roux) and a cabinet full of spices, I produce the meal. Most often it works out with only the occasional misadventure. There are few meals that get hidden by the dreaded napkin as the cereal box gets pulled from the shelf. Some are admittedly works in progress. I have produced plates that were too monochrome; too yellow or too gray – easy fixes for the next time. I have mistaken chili powder for cinnamon and made some of the most interesting matzoh brie we’ve ever had. I have overdone the pepper, the sugar, the salt, the heat in my tinkering. But the overall ratio is good. About 80% of my experiments are ‘keepers’ with only a small few chalked up to experience.

So last night, when I tackled a fried cheese spinach salad with Mediterranean spices, I figured the worst that could happen was a high calorie novelty that didn’t make the grade. The noise and the excitement that accompanied the meal were an unwonted surprise.


Let me set the record straight. I do not deep fry. I have never willingly slid a morsel of food into a scalding oil bath. Nor do I have experience with a shallow fry except for one successful batch of latkes many years ago. My frying experience is limited to sautéing or stir frying, or the occasional pan-fried steaks or chicken paillards.

But I know how to follow directions, as follows: The cheese was cut. The egg wash applied. The inch or so of vegetable oil was seething in its deep pan. In went the cheese pieces to a satisfying sizzle. I covered the pan with a screen to prevent spatter, all best practice. But when I lifted the screen mid-cook to turn the morsels, a large drop of hot grease leapt out onto my left foot. The cheese bits decided to glom together, hindering the turning process. Here am I hopping on my unsinged leg, trying to separate or at least flip a chain of ever crisping curds. I manage the flip and slip the screen back over the pan at which point grease on the screen ignites. A portion of the screen melts as acrid smoke rises. Smoke alarms awaken with their noisy bombastulating.

For what its worth, the final cooked cheese was quite tasty, those pieces that didn’t have mesh melted on top of them. The smoke alarms are comfortingly effective. The small spot of burn on my foot turned out insignificant. And we found out that the new puppy is remarkably chill in a crisis.

The fried cheese, and in fact my deep oil frying, have been relegated to the back shelf forever. I give the recipe two stars: tasty but not worth the pandemonium.



A YEAR IN ESSAYS - 1/6/22: Me, the Networker

 In my old medical practice, I had no concept of what Networking was. Granted, I was never the kind of specialist who sat back in his office and waited for the patients to come. Rather, I was in the field, meeting the front-line doctors, teaching and learning from them at the same time. Similarly, I would spend time with the therapists, teachers, coaches and other first observers of childhood injury or disability. I wanted to be a part of the village that was raising the child; one of the components of a child-centric system. I guess I was networking all the time

My plunge into Networking (capital N) came from a desire to plug in after I had retired from clinical practice and moved cities, starting a second act career. I had no firm vision what that second act was, but I knew that to get to it I would need to meet people in the community. Also, the people in the networking gave me companionship in a city where I knew no one. So, I donned a suit and tie (a formality long since abandoned) and attended my first Network lunch uncertain as to what I would find. And the rest is history.

What did I find? By and large, my experience has been rich and interesting. I have found a range of professionals from thought-bursting entrepreneurs to down-level marketers. I have found pundits and sales folk. I have found people who have been in the business since the days of Noah and people whose ears still gleam from their mother’s first grooming. My networking partners have been glib, tongue-tied, eloquent, wholesome, ribald, funny, deadpan – the dictionary will run out of adjectives before I’m done describing them. But each and every one has had a story and innate integrity as to why they were there and what goals they carried.

I was surprised by how active Networking is. When starting, I kind of thought we would each stand up, say a few words about ourselves, sit down and pretend to listen and then collect business cards and referrals. The business cards turned out to be fact. When I first started, I had huge piles of the things, uncertain as to how to organize or stow them and what to do with them after the initial salvo. I still collect the occasional card, but now it is only for the people I know I will contact immediately. I don’t keep cards for rainy days, because inevitably on that rainy day, even if I found the card, I would not remember the gist of the intro or why that person had interested me in the first place.

The reality of Networking is that the ’30 second’ is the least involved part of a given session. Sure, I enjoy performing my little spiel. I like to change things up weekly, try to find a new topic or a new spin for each presentation. But even with that, at the meeting, the 30 second is a mere drip of time. The critical part of networking is turning my mind to envisioning how my interests and ideas mesh with each other member who stands to give their 30 second. I firmly believe that the contact point in networking is seldom the point of sale. It is not the product. It is the overlap of culture, philosophy, history, and interest that forges a synergy. To find those things, you must listen as loudly as you can, hear the nuance of the story, the context and subtext behind the flashy tagline. Networking is like people watching. You watch and hear the members go by and you make up a tale about each one. The difference is that at some point it is right to step in and become a part of the continuing story.



A YEAR IN ESSAYS - 1/5/22 - Go, You Grenfell!

This morning I read a story about a sports team that arose almost literally from the ashes. Grenfell Athletic is a soccer squad based in London made up of survivors and community members affected by the horrific fire at Grenfell Towers in 2017. Almost immediately, from the sheer weight of the tragedy, members of the community sought to band together in a healing way. Football (as is the correct term) is a uniting force, even if that unity is directed into anger against another squad. The amateur/ semi-pro Sunday side was formed and has found both growth and athletic success. A truly memorable story.

Which gives us pause to think about the oddly outsized weight given to sports in western society. During the early stages of the pandemic, despite the fear and uncertainty of pestilence, one of the major concerns was “Will sport survive?” The English Premier League took some heat for returning to the pitch after nine or so months to finish the abandoned season (’19-’20) in front of empty houses. The NHL encapsulated their playoff teams into two bubbles (one in the US and one in Canada) to award the Stanley Cup. In that case, not only did they not allow fans, but the teams were forced to live in seclusion for the entire length of the ordeal (in the finalist’s case for more than two months) leading to who knows what scars. But people responded, watching the games in all their eerie silence. Was it a normalizing salve or just a novelty in the disinfectant envelope in which everyone was secluded?

Sports are important. No, rewrite that. Recreation is important. There has to be something that shifts the human mind from its working drudgery or its lonesome self-reflection. Something that gives, what, joy? A surcease of boredom? A moment of outward facing relief? Maybe the effect is in recreation’s ability to recharge the functional parts of the brain and spirit. I have often equated watching a game with waking sleep, not in terms of REM, but in terms of stopping the mind from churning. But there is also the fellowship aspect of sport. In the case of the EPL or the NBA or the NHL, even though we were not in the bubble with the teams, we at least were sharing the moment unconsciously with each player and each fan. And for the teams themselves, they are sharing the panoply of emotions – grief, relief, guilt, healing, despair, optimism – with each run out on the pitch and each ball kicked. 




A YEAR IN ESSAYS - 1/4/22 - Announcements

               A couple of days ago, I went on Facebook to announce my essay adventure. Although my announcement will be overlooked by many, and may come off as arrogant bragging to a few, I think it was a bold gesture. I’m not boasting about writing an essay a day. I’m committing to it, in the easiest way I know how, with all of its accountability. Most likely none of my FB friends will come asking, “Hey, where’s that essay you promised?” But they might. The task is not my secret anymore. It’s out and about.

              One of the things I intend to do this year (intention vs resolution – is there an essay in that?) is refine my coaching message. I am a firm believer that the best way to achieve a goal is to start it, get into its rhythm, be drawn into the routine of the effort. My son, Cameron calls it “not breaking the chain.” Once a certain number of links are forged and a length of chain emerges, it is easier in your mind to envision continuing to build it than to break it.

              But goals are nebulous things. “I want to write a book about…” is much different than “I want to write THIS book.” The clearer the vision of the goal is, the more real the target seems.  It’s why I have heeded the advice of always preparing a cover for my NANOWRIMO novel before I start writing. The cover gives the novel permanence, or at least a potential archetypal place in my life. I am not creating from whole cloth so much as filling that space.

              In many ways, that was the effect of my Facebook announcement. Even if there is no real expectation among my friends that they will see an essay a day, there is the potential expectation now. I have given myself an audience and a deadline. Now, I just need to fill in the ellipsis in between.             


A YEAR IN ESSAYS - 1/3/22 - 366 Poems

               For 2021, I collected a poem each day, writing a short commentary discussing why I chose it, why it was important to me, what the beauty or significance of the work was. At first, the choosing was easy, but the commentary hard. My early entries were things like, “I once sang this text” or “I studied this in school.” Later, the choosing was more difficult, but I was in the groove with the poesy, finding language and meaning, discussing meter and rhyme (or lack thereof), channeling my high school self. Remember when we could all parse a poem?

              There were some surprises in the selection. The poet most chosen (at seven days) was … <drumroll> … Emily Dickinson. I recalled her work or stumbled on her work or was moved to include her work more times than any other poet, leading me to revisit all of her poems. Other citations inspired me to read or reread the collected work of Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings, the essential Rumi, Edgar Lee Masters’ haunting Spoon River Anthology, and collections by poets I had never encountered before, like Paige Lewis or Sheryl St Germain. I reexamined Elizabeth Browning, never a favorite and found her to be more influential (with three entries) than her husband Robert (with two). New authors were an eye-opening inspiration. I had never regarded Hilda Doolittle’s work with any great esteem before now, and I ‘discovered’ wonderful works by Cynthia Zarin, Li Po, and Denise Levertov, to name but of few. I found beautiful poetry by Queen Elizabeth I and added it to a collection that included six works by her bard Shakespeare, two by the enigmatic Kit Marlowe, three by the ever-dependable Ben Jonson, one by her near-contemporary Petrarch, and even one by her father Henry VIII.

              Of no surprise was my inclusion of six poems by Yeats, always a favorite, and the same number by Dylan Thomas, whose “Fern Hill” was seminal in my literary development. Five works by cummings made the list, and a similar number by TS Eliot, whose language gave me so much commentary to work with, and Robert Frost, whose subtle kindness worked its way through his crusty Yankee-ness. Six poems came from the Bible, that magnificent anthology, and six from Longfellow of all people, not because of his skill but because of his omnipresence in how we teach American lit. I was pleased to find a way to sneak in Comden and Green, Sammy Kahn (twice!) and two of my favorite lyrics from Paul Simon but I could not bring myself to find space for the so-called rock laureate Bob Dylan or for either Lennon or McCartney.

              The enterprise inspired me to write poetry of my own, and I rather arrogantly include two of them, along with one from my son that is a daily inspiration. Perhaps the best effect was the impetus to collect my entire library of poetry books in one place, from the beaten and much loved paperbound Palgreave’s Golden Treasury that I inherited from my brother to my newest treasure, The Norton Anthology. The books barely squeeze into a large shelf only if one is in circulation at all times, and if I excuse Home and Virgil, my classical and neo-classical friends, and the five-volume Heine that I mysteriously found in my father’s library. 

              It was a glorious year, steeped in the poetic art. I hope that I continue to find solace and inspiration in that realm.


A YEAR IN ESSAYS: 1/2/22 - I Have a Cold


              I have a cold. Which reminds of the elegant Esquire essay, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” written by Gay Talese in 1966, when magazines like Esquire mattered. It explores several days in the life of the aging icon, as he faced his declining years and a TV special that purported to reveal his mob connections (what a shock!). But it is really a study of self-doubt and recrimination. It should be mandatory reading for any writer – or anyone for that matter, but who does mandatory reading anymore?

              In 1966, Sinatra was still at or near the height of his powers. He had not yet recorded “My Way” or “That’s Life” and still sold albums as regularly as any artist, despite the onrush of the ever-threatening young folks, such as the Beatles, the Turtles, etc. Within a few years, Sinatra would cover the Beatles’ hit “Something”, regrettably in my mind. But he was no longer the Chairman of the Board. Or perhaps it was safest to say, there was no longer a Board for him to be Chairman of.  Various scandals, jealousies, personal foibles had created cracks in the Rat Pack. Or maybe a huge swath of America had grown tired of watching privileged morally challenged men cavort in drunken nightclubs. We look back now at such times with deep nostalgia (“Those were the days”) but when they were the days, there was little to celebrate about them except by an aging and increasingly reactionary crowd. Sinatra understood that, or at least with his defenses down and feeling under the weather, he gave into the weight of his advancing irrelevance.

              The profile made him seem almost human. Sinatra hated it.



             So, this year, my New Year's challenge is to write a brief essay every day.

            Last time I journaled (in handwriting and at bedtime – not the best time to try to remember to write) I set some rules. Or perhaps it was the time before: Any subject or genre goes; short story, poetry, essay, description of a menu – it doesn’t matter much. There’s no one here but me and you, dear reader. I will not tolerate wallowing or whining. There has been far too much of that at times in my life. And I will not accept perseveration. I will try for good writing whenever possible, by a broad definition of ‘good’. Perhaps there will be entries I choose to share on this, my semi-forgotten blog but I will not be ashamed to write things I don’t want to share either. 

            Where am I coming from? 2021 was not a great year, although not as bad as 2020 or even 2019 with its long string of personal losses. COVID was still very much in play, but for much of the year, vaccines had made life a bit on the normal side. I had stepped into two Board roles that I have enjoyed and been very proud of. My family was well, and late in the year, we got Lydia, our new puppy. The Holidays were joyful for a welcome change, and we were able to achieve some of the festivity that I have longed for since Auld Lang Syne. I wrote my 11th NANOWRIMO novel, this one a time-hopping farce, Wodehouse meets Doctor Who. We built the kitchen of my dreams. On the worry side, I started this year with a COVID scare (all clear).

            Was I strong in 2021? I think so. I helped no fewer than four or maybe five networking groups weather the storm of shutdown. I learned that my voice is listened to, sometimes too much. And that I have both coaching and leadership skills. Will I be strong in 2022? I don’t know. It takes a lot, doesn’t it?

            Resolutions? Not really. Mostly positive goals: This essay log; tackle my first creative non-fiction; a few bad habits that need to be addressed; but mostly keep the ship pointing forward and watch the scenery float by with a mindful eye. It is a time in my life to begin savoring. 

             Happy New Year!