Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A New Decade, Are You Serious?

I kid you not, until about a week ago it hadn't occurred to me that by midnight tonight we would be entering a new decade. What happened to the old one? One of the funny things about getting older is how we define time. It would have been unthinkable when I was younger that I would have overlooked such a milestone.

The decades of my youth are well defined. Starting in 1963, I can define every year of the sixties by momentous events, most of them bad.  Let's see. in '63 JFK was assassinated, in'64 The Beatles came to America, in '65, Malcolm X was assassinated, in '66 Richard Speck killed eight student nurses in Chicago, in '67 let's see, there was the the Six Day War, EXPO 67 (which we visited) and the Detroit Riots (the aftermath of which we drove through en route to EXPO). In '68 whoa, there was the Tet Offensive, MLK, the riots in Chicago, RFK, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the notorious Democratic National Convention and Nixon becoming president. In '69 there was the moon landing, Woodstock, and Fred Hampton's assassination by the Chicago Police to cap off the decade.

Wow, those glorious sixties!

Everybody breathed a sigh of relief fifty years ago today when that turbulent decade was about to come to an end. I had just gotten a Super 8 Movie camera and projector for Christmas and my first project was to film the New Years Eve party my parents threw in their basement. I captured the TV screen (black and white of course) on film as the clock struck midnight and the caption read "Happy 1970!" My other distinct memory of that night was burning a hole in my father's shirt with my hot halogen movie light. I don't know if the film I made exists today but boy I'd sure love to get my hands on it if it did.

I don't remember the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1980 but that year will always be remembered for one event, the death of John Lennon on December 8th, the moment my childhood officially ended. Next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of that event. Oh my God.

We define decades by all sorts of things, fashion, hair and car styles, politics, sports, news events, you name it. Most profoundly we define them by the people who come into our lives. The important ones may come and go physically but they never leave you.  My dear friend Scott, who just reminded me of all the splendid New Years Eve celebrations we spent together, (I joked with him that I was so drunk I could only remember the mornings after but that couldn't be farther from the truth), has an extraordinary talent. Well actually he has many and this is perhaps the most trivial of them. He can hear a song released within at least a span of thirty or more years starting in oh lets say 1963, and immediately tell you the year and possibly the month it was released. I have similar talent only greatly limited to a window of about four or five years worth of songs. Generally speaking though I can probably pinpoint a song to within about a half decade of its release for a good number of popular songs of the late twentieth century.

I don't know about Scott, but for me, I couldn't even come close for any song released after the year 2000, the last momentous New Years celebration I can remember. Perhaps it was because I had just turned forty and middle age was setting in. Much more likely it was because hands down the most momentous event of my life was about to take place, the birth of our first child. More than anything these past two decades, this century and for that matter this millennium for me have been defined by the lives of my children. Now, rather than placing an event as having taken place in such and such a year, my wife and I define events by how old our kids were at the time.

Fortunately for me, I now have the archives of this blog to help me keep track of the years since it was created, almost eleven years ago. I'm somewhat of an obsessive person when it comes to my passions and when a new passion comes along, it tends to push aside the previous one. So when I started writing in this space, I had no idea how long I'd be able to keep it going, I figured in all honesty I'd be happy if it lasted a year or two. But I also have an almost superstitious compulsion not to break a streak once it gets going. I attribute my current hip problems to my daily obsession with running about twenty five years ago. It became so out-of-hand that even if I got home after midnight, (I was a bachelor at the time), I would still have to put in my 3.5 miles before going to bed. I actually had to force myself to break that obsession as it was seriously interfering with my life and my health.

In that same vein, this year I made the conscious decision to cut back on the number of posts in this blog to two a month. As I'm a painfully slow writer, it was cutting into time I needed to spend doing other things. Yet I'm very proud of the nearly eleven years of posts on this blog and as a New Years resolution of sorts, I plan to keep on keeping on with it, by posting at least twice per month, as that has been the minimum number of monthly posts for the blog's entire life in this space.

I was never big into New Years resolutions until recently. Another tradition I've only recently picked up was making the proverbial "bucket list." A few months ago my son and I were walking together when we overheard a ten year old boy say to his dad that such and such was on his bucket list. That made me laugh as a ten year old God willing has a whole lifetime to pursue all sorts of dreams. On the other hand, life goes fast and before you know it you begin to realize you have more yesterdays than tomorrows. That's usually when most people start making lists of things they'd like to do before they "kick the bucket."

One of my biggest frustrations is that despite having studied several languages, I never learned how to properly communicate in any of them. So top on my bucket list is to finish what I started and properly learn Spanish, Czech and German (in that order) and to get to at least an intermediate conversational level in all the three. I chose Spanish first as that is the language in which I have the most competency. It's a tall order I know, and I may never get there but in the past two thirds of a year, I've learned enough Spanish to be able to read newspapers, getting the gist of most of the articles if missing some of the subtleties, and can carry on a basic conversation with native speakers who have patience with me.

Say what you will about social media, but there are now a ridiculous number of resources out there absolutely free of charge in which to learn a language. I recently joined a Facebook group run by one of my favorite Spanish teachers on You Tube. Within a week or two I was having a conversation in Spanish with a Japanese woman who was writing about a magical place in her country that I had visited over twenty years ago.

Now those of you who are bi-or multilingual may take something like this for granted but for me at my age, to for the first time have an exchange with a total stranger half way across the world about a very special place for both of us in a foreign language to us both, well to put it simply, words can't describe the thrill for me.

"Vale...", as mi profesor de español would say: "me enrollo otro vez" (I'm rambling again).

Perhaps another resolution might be to not ramble so much.

ANYWAY, with that I wish you all a very feliz nový Jahr.

Peace, joy, heath, hope and love to you all.

¡Nos vemos!

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