Thursday, December 31, 2020

Building Up to an Awful Letdown

Today is New Years Eve and we are about to say goodbye to a year that few are sorry to see go. For those dying to see the clock strike midnight tonight, all I can say is be careful what you wish for.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, here are some thoughts about a few things that we might, (and I use that term with great care), be saying goodbye to shortly.

Donald Trump - Starting with the most ridiculous of all, if there is a silver lining to the year 2020, at least for the majority of Americans, it's that we'll be saying goodbye at least for the time being, to the cruelest, most corrupt, stupid, inept, incapable and yes evil president we've ever had. The flip side is there are at least 74 million of my fellow Americans who still think he's pretty neat. I'm not sure whom I distrust more, Trump, or the people who support him, but if its the latter, something's gotta give if we ever expect to come together as a nation, especially during times of crisis when we need each other the most. We certainly have not for our current crisis so obviously I'm not very optimistic. After all, if a global pandemic can't bring us together, what can? Stay tuned. 

The Chicago Bears - Yes, my son's and my favorite football team. I've written in this space before, probably many times before, that my favorite day in the fall is the day when the Bears lose a game and it becomes evident that they have no chance of making the playoffs. On that day I officially decide not to care about them meaning I won't have to waste perfectly good Sunday afternoons watching them. Yes I'm truly a fair weather fan of this team, understandably so as they've broken my heart (except for one glorious year), and more poignantly my son's, so many times. Those years where they're terrible from the get-go aren't so bad, it's when they string us along with an exciting season with a good team and collapse in one truly horrendous way or another.

By far the worst heartbreak came a couple years ago during a playoff game here in Chicago against Philadelphia. Down by a couple of points at the end of the fourth quarter and deep in their own territory, the Bears' offense made a valiant drive to get them within relatively easy field goal range. All that separated them from a chance to move on in the playoffs or going home was a very makeable last second field goal. 

In case you don't understand what it feels like to be a Chicago Bears fan, here is a link to a video that will give you an idea. That the call is in Spanish only serves to prove how misery is truly a universal language.

This year the Bears got off to a strong start winning five of their first six games. After that fifth win, the radio voice of the Bears Jeff Joniack, proclaimed that the chances for a 5-1 NFL team to make the playoffs is something like 80%. Never to be a team daunted by favorable odds, the Bears went on to drop their next six games, at times in embarrassing fashion. 

That cherished day when I decided I didn't have to care about them anymore came late this year, on November 29th when the score of their loss to the much despised Green Bay Packers 41-25, didn't come close to describe the complete humiliation of that game. 100-3 would have been a much more accurate score. I did give them one more chance the following week when they actually looked good against a pretty crappy team, the Detroit Lions. But they managed to lose that one as well into the waning minutes of the game.

I asked my son, kind of jokingly after that game if the Bears still had a chance at the playoffs. Turns out they did, one of those cases where one team, in this case the Arizona Cardinals, had to lose a couple of games and the Bears would have to run the table, winning the rest of their games. 

Well wonder of wonders, the Cardinals have so far obliged and the Bears have won their past three in somewhat impressive fashion. Which means this Sunday, if the Cardinals lose to the LA Rams, something quite possible, and the Bears beat, who else, the f-ing Packers, something not very likely at all, they will be in the playoffs, either way, setting the table for another heartbreak.


COVID-19 - Now we come to the 8,000 pound gorilla in the room for the world this year. Between the lives lost, the pain and suffering of their families as well as that of the millions of infected who did not die, 83 million at this writing, the livelihoods lost or put on hold, just to scratch the surface, this kind of genuine, universal suffering has not been experienced by the world since the Second World War. 

It was exactly one year ago when we learned about a strange virus that had been circulating around Wuhan, China. Back then which seems so long ago, for most of us, the virus seemed distant and remote enough to be not threatening. How foolish of of us.

Like any war, there are heroes and villains. We know who the villains are, I already mentioned one of them. But the heroes are countless, starting with the frontline health care workers who with little regard to their own safety, cared for the hundreds of millions of infected, providing not only treatment, but in some cases the only human contact the victims had in the final moments of their lives, so they wouldn't have to die alone. Then there are the workers deemed essential, who kept the world running, again with little regard to their own safety. And the volunteers who gave so much of their time to help out from making masks when there was a shortage of them, to raising funds to help those less fortunate. And on and on and on, there are simply too many heroes of this crisis to mention. If there could be said to have been a silver lining to this dreadful virus, it would have to be the indefatigable spirit of those human beings who put the welfare of others ahead of their own. 

Then of course there are the scientists who put their time and considerable talent into developing the vaccines that will hopefully one day eradicate the virus. As we come to the end of this difficult year, we may be seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Or it might be a fright train heading directly our way, we'll just have to wait and see. 

In either case, one day we will turn the corner with the virus and perhaps the one thing we should all hope for is that while life may return to a sense of normalcy, it won't return to where it was before the pandemic. 

Hopefully our capacity to learn from our mistakes will kick in. But I'm not going to bet the farm on it, we've been here before and seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.  

But wait, I'm not going to end the year on a sour note.

It's traditional at the dawn of a new year, to remember the people we lost the previous year. This year's list is heartbreaking, I wouldn't even know where to start. But global calamities do give us a chance at introspection, looking at our lives finding what is truly important.

In that vein, a friend of mine and former colleague, posted a call for members of a Facebook group devoted to former employees of our place of employment to list the names of colleagues who are no longer living. Dozens of people posted names, some of whom belonged to dear friends of mine, some to others I hadn't thought of for years, and a few of whom I hadn't even realized were dead. What struck me ironically, was something that gave me great hope.

If you'll pardon me, I'm going to quote myself from an appreciation I wrote on my friend's thread:

What this thread makes me realize is that we’re never really dead while there are still people around to remember us. My life has been enriched by so many of these wonderful folks, and to those of you who are reading this as well. And hopefully I’m passing that love and inspiration on to my children, as they God willing will to theirs. I think that’s a good thought on which to end this rather difficult year. 
Life goes on, as George Harrison once said, within you and without you.
With that I wish you a peaceful, prosperous, happy and above all healthy 2021!


Another New Year's tradition, at least around these parts, is to air old Fred Astaire, Ginger Roger movies on TV around 3 or 4 in the morning. As it's hard for me to stay awake that late these days, the following recording of what I think is a very appropriate song given the circumstances will have to do.


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