It's that time of the year again. Another 365 days in the can, put to bed, down the hatch, however you wish to phrase it. Gone is still gone.
Time goes a heck of a lot faster as a body grows older.
I never thought I'd become quite the cliché-monger I've turned into, but certain things the old folks used to say above my head when I was a child have, to my great surprise, turned out to be true.
Time really does fly, and the flight speed picks up as we age.
As I do every year, I am making me some resolutions.
I always make two, one internal and one external.
The external one is unfortunately a rerun from 1997. That's when I quit smoking, after 30 years of puffing away.
But in late 2004, I traveled to Thailand with a Thai friend. I spent days not seeing anyone, other than my friend, who could speak English. My Thai is extremely limited. And yet, I quickly adapted - my ex-wife always claimed I had chameleon blood.
The first day on the ground, the family was making an extra plate of food for me, which in Thailand means not hot. But I learned the word for hot, pet, and by Day Two I was eating out of the communal pots, which seemed to please my hosts no end. When introduced to newly arriving family members (my travel partner has 12 siblings), the first thing said about me wasn't "He's nice" or "He's stupid," but "He eats our food. He likes it hot!"
I was as proud as any other oddity would be of himself.
So after dinner - Thai food, real Thai food, not the dressed-up and toned-down stuff fed to us in most local Thai restaurants (good, but still a pale approximation of what everyday Thais are eating at home) - is one of the wonders of the world.
Afterwards I noticed all but the young, and my Americanized friend, were smoking (buurey, they called it).
I might say adaptable, you might say weak, but the inevitable took place: I started up again with evil Mr. Nicotine and devilish Ms. Tars. I strolled down to the corner store and bought Marlboros produced in Singapore under the auspices of the Marlboro Man for Asian cowboys. Thirty-eight cents a pack.
Now, here it is, 14 months later and I can't seem to get through the morning coffee without two Camel filters (Wides, of course; size does matter), and that's only the first cup of joe.
So, resolution number one, I must quit smoking.
I like to drink red wine and coffee every day.
Some people might say that neither bevvie is good for you.
But there are real doctors who say coffee, in moderation, protects certain functions. And everyone has read about the studies (which originated in Holland) claiming that moderate red-wine drinkers (moderation being two glasses a day max) outlive teetotalers (what have they got to live for anyway?, an imbibing cynic might ask). But there aren't any surveys I can find claiming that a nice, deep inhale makes you more potent or strengthens your heart.
Internally is also a rerun.
One of the things I loathe as I age is biased inanity. People spouting recent "facts" they just heard on CNN or Fox, say, as if it were their own.
And getting it wrong, too.
Within the past month I had some idiot tell me that Hurricane Katrina killed more people than 2004's horrific tsunami that swamped parts of Asia.
This particular rumdum is one of that seemingly growing (like weeds) breed of Americans who say everything in CAPITAL letters.
"WE ARE TOO SAVING THE WORLD IN IRAQ!"
"FORDS ARE BETTER CARS THAN HONDAS!"
"IT HAS TO BE MERRY XMAS! ANYONE WHO SAYS HAPPY HOLIDAYS INSTEAD IS A TERRORIST!"
Anyway, I trotted out the truth for this clown. According to the latest figures gathered by world health organizations, approximately 232,000 died in the tsunami. Another 169,000 are missing and presumed gone forever.
Katrina, bad as it was, killed 13,000.
This fool said, "That's what makes this country great. Everybody has an opinion, and it's allowed."
Well, sorry, Bubba, an opinion is "Fish tastes better than chicken." A fact, like there was wholesale killing of Jews in Europe by Hitler and his gang, is a fact. Just 'cause you don't wanna believe it because Granny is from Hamburg don't make it go away.
A reader calls
Another fella, this one on the Kitsap side of Puget Sound, responding to a column I wrote there about the proliferation of weaponry on American streets, called me up and, in between poorly expressed profanities and accusations, said that only 1,000 Americans were killed by guns last year, and "95 percent of those victims were killed in drive-by shootings."
This fool had gotten two of his mangled "facts" in one sentence: America was safe, and blacks (drive-bys implying same in this guy's twisted reasoning) were doing most of the killing.
I started laughing so hard at my caller's stupidity I had to hang up.
The truth is, Americans kill each other at the rate of 20,000 per year, give or take a thousand or two. In other words, 23,000 one year, 17,000 the next.
Not once in the 30 years I've been reporting crime and perusing the FBI-collected violent crime stats have I seen a year where less than 50 percent of the victims perished after they got shot.
People with guns kill a lot of people in the United States, every year.
Just since my graduation from college in 1979, more than 500,000 Americans have been killed by other Americans. At least 250,000 of them (a city the size of Boise, Idaho, counting the suburbs) were shot to death.
If we attacked crime the way we've attacked alleged terrorism since 9/11 (when not quite 3,000 Americans were slaughtered), we might live in a safer country.
Anyway, these two disparate but equally uninformed respondents, who unfortunately both believed the inanities they were spouting, brought out the Beast in me. I went off about them within hearing range of every friendly acquaintance I have.
My resolution this year, as it was last year, is not to lose my temper when confronted with unreasonably stupid jingoistic folk who twist the truth to suit their own prejudices.
This year, when someone starts talking about the "media" as if it were all ONE BIG COMMUNIST (remember them? they haven't died for many of our less bright, right-leaning Americans) CONSPIRACY, I resolve to walk away, or hang up, without first informing them how ill-informed and demented they are.
If there is no room to walk away, I resolve to say something like, "How about those Seahawks!" Or maybe "Isn't this the best of all possible worlds? Here! Now! Seattle! Yeah!"
If you see me smoking, well, you can probably guess what I just said to the earnest guy at the end of the bar who told me that nobody goes to heaven - not innocent children drowned in the tsunami, not even Gandhi, for God's sake - if they don't take Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
But I am gonna try.
Happy New Year's resolutions to you, too!
Dennis Wilken's column appears periodically in the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at editor@ capitolhilltimes.com.[[In-content Ad]]