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John Boston: Have we already botched New Year’s?

How Beige Was My Valley

Posted: January 1, 2009 7:16 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
"I'd love to change the world. But I don't know what to do. So I leave it up to you."
- Lyrics from the Ten Years After rock song

Maybe it's just optimistic me, but I feel like something big, something good, is coming my way in 2009, something that transcends the miracles of the Everymoment.

Years ago, I semi-finished a novel. One of the characters was Cooper Wayne Wilson, America's top and retired serial killer, who asks himself a primary question: "Is it possible to change?"

It's Jan. 2. We're not even 48 hours into 2009 and safe money says some of us, myself included, have already bungled a New Year's resolution.

Puttering around the stalls a year ago, horror of horrors, I found a diary of mine from when I was 21. Thumbing through the yellowed pages with the familiar scribbling, I smiled.

The dark comedy was that many of the things that bothered, scared or depressed me at 21 were the same issues still facing me at 58.

Could 37 years have passed and the only thing different is that I've only doubled in weight and lost those beautiful, thick curly locks?

Good luck to our president-elect, Barack Obama. His campaign pitch was the elephantine promise: "Change."

Forget the recession. Forget terrorism, climate, dwindling natural resources, shifting cultural demographics, war or the terribly flawed college football computer rating system. Change is the defining issue facing our country, the SCV, ourselves.

We change, if not, poorly - slowly.

I chuckle over mistakes made year after year, then look at the Middle East. Century into millennia, they continue to shoot themselves in the foot and other inconvenient places, seemingly never learning a thing.

I almost displaced a retina horse-laughing at that clown school called Congress. Then, I catch myself. Me? I still carry grudges from eighth grade. I say prayers daily, asking for their removal.

The grudges, granted, are smaller, but are still lurking, ready to mutate to werewolfian stature. How hard is it to change for the person who wakes asking God for guidance on how to blow up children?

It's 2009. I'm determined to lose 40 pounds. I wanted to lose 40 pounds in 1985, the year I stopped playing basketball. I've lost a combined several tons the last 2.4 decades.

Somehow, I've managed to hunt down every single one of those unwanted fatty addendums of me and mold them back into my waistline.

Something familiar always follows. What could it be? Soul or Guardian Angel? Hope? An ability elevated to an art form of fooling myself? I truly believe - this time, beginning my fresh 58th January - I will get down to my fighting weight.

More important, I believe that, yes, this time, I will change. I will get to become that elusive creature - myself.


Speaking of ethereal beings, what of that legendary creature called "we"?


That pronoun/swear word is like the Bigfoot. There have been thousands of sightings, but does the beast really exist? "We" is the spinal cord and cop-out of any good chest-thumping editorial.

With index fingers pointed skyward, journalists, politicians, educators, moms, dads and the generic corner soapbox pundit all poke their own hole in the ozone layer before announcing: "We Need To Change..."

When The Mighty Signal was on 6th Street eons ago, someone posted a marvelous observation, written by that epic genius, "Anonymous." It said: "The strongest human emotion is neither love nor fear, hate nor sex. It is the desire to edit another person's copy."

Not that I'm self-centered, but I strongly feel that mini-poster should have been issued to the world with my sheepishly grinning photo attached. If I had the attention span, it would be interesting to count how many times in an hour I commit the sin of other people to change.

As we all do.

Some yearn to make the world safe for democracy, some ache to make it safe for anarchy and all shades in between. Every moment, all over our oblate blue spheroid, billions of wills collide: mother-child; boss-employee; terrorist-victim.

It is a penultimate in Chaos Theory and quite the miracle we're still here.

There are so many wonderful quotes on change, all approximately the size of a good, plastic blow-up hammer that makes a delightful cartoon squeaky noise when you bop some unsuspecting troglodyte over the head with it. I like this one from one of the world's best teenagers:

"Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn't know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong."

Anne Frank wrote that in her diary.

That delightful, precious, special girl. In an Amsterdam attic, on her 13th birthday, Anne was given that famous diary that she spent the next two years filling.

A Nazi informant disclosed her hiding place in 1944. Anne was sentenced to a concentration camp and survived unspeakable atrocities. A year later, a beautiful life was no more.

I still ponder two things. I wonder. Did Anne's Judas suffer any pangs of conscience? I also wonder: how could anyone wallow in self-pity after reading Anne's rosy outlook and not at least attempt to better themselves, their environment.

It's the first bloom of January, with all its possibilities. History mocks me with countless failures: the country's, the community's, but especially mine.

Crazy me, it's 2009 and I feel giddy with possibility. Like my imaginary serial-killer friend, Cooper Wayne Wilson, today I shall endeavor to remember the past, but not let it define me.

It's 2009. There might be days when I can change the world. There'll be days when I have the strength to change my underwear.

John Boston has earned 117 major national, regional and California awards for writing excellence. His work appears but Fridays and Sundays in The Mighty Signal.


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