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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year

As 1:37 tries to find 1:38 AM, I find myself wishing there was someone awake to ask me, "So, what did you do today?". There is not. Only my doggy is out of bed. Scoop just walked in to show me what remains of a giant treat our neighbor gave her tonight. The Milk Bone was too big for her to finish, so she's carrying it around with her. I think she is afraid I'll eat it. I'm eating everything else in the house, after all.

With the half-treat crowding her jaws, Scoop can't ask me the question. If she could, I would answer while 1:38 found 1:50. My answer would go a little like this:

At work I read a column by Mike Foley of the The Greenville News. He lamented he spends most of his time feeling too old to try the things he once loved when he was a younger man. And he counted New Year's as a cut-rate holiday. He vowed to try to be younger next year.

I called my county coroner. Still no word on how the woman found in a warehouse this weekend died. I already have my suspicions, but I have other things to worry about at the moment.

At lunch time I went to a funeral home. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was there to talk about his formation of South Carolina's Rainbow/PUSH chapter. Jackson wasn't rhyming or reciting Green Eggs and Ham, but he was talking a good line. Try this quote about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on for size: "He pulled down the Cotton Curtain and connected Mason and Dixon." Not bad. Our conversation was cut short because the funeral home had business to conduct. One of the County Council members actually said this...word for word: "I hate to spoil the party, but they have to bring a body in here." Talk about upstaging the Right Reverend. But really...who has a press conference at a funeral home anyway?

My lunchtime...chicken salad on white. Twenty minutes. No dessert.

By 1:30 I was due at the office of South Carolina's Speaker of the House of Representatives. We talked politics. Then we talked New Year's. After sharing his plans with me, he said, "I've always thought it was sort of a throw-away holiday. Always sort of a let down." I stole a grape Jolly Rancher off his receptionist's desk and walked out.

My day moved by too fast and my work started to pile up. By 3:30 I was watching a videotape and marvelling at another good quote: ""When you go out and you know you're drunk and you get behind the wheel of a car, you're driving a gun looking for a target." Two decent quotes in one day. Not bad.

At four o'clock I realized I never heard back from the coroner. I made some phone calls to learn the autopsy on the homeless woman wasn't over yet. Looked like we wouldn't know what killed her today.

At 4:30, the Deputy Coroner called. I was under a pile of work and three people were screaming at me. It is this moment when I realized that my entire life has changed in the last ten months and I didn't notice it. I thought about vomiting.

As it turns out, the autopsy couldn't determine how the woman died. No signs that anyone killed her. It becomes "connect-the-dots" time. She's homeless, it's been cold, she's been dead in an empty warehouse for two weeks. Figure it out. Now figure out who cares. Decide which is more depressing.

5PM--I was 700 feet in the air and watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in months...maybe years. I had to pee but helicopters don't have lavatories (at least this one didn't) and the pilot is saying something that is starting to get old: "I'll probably stay home. I've never been much one for New Year's parties."

Here's the thing: I like New Year's Eve. It's a wonderful time to reflect and realize where your life stands. Sure, the night is arbitrary as a date. Sure the Waterford crystal ball in Times Square has corporate sponsorship. But at midnight, you can lean over and kiss your lover, your friends, or your buddies. When I have enough to drink, I kiss everybody (sometimes to my wife's chagrin).

That's why I have spent the last two nights (about 12 hours in all) cooking for a throw-down at Mt. Willis. Bubbly and BBQ for New Year's Eve. BBQ beef brisket, shredded BBQ beef sandwiches, shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, three kinds of homemade BBQ sauce, two-bite BBQ beef and Pepper Cheese crackers, Sausage and Cheese biscuits (AKA Brad's Big Balls), crab-dip stuffed anaheim peppers, Chelle's Pinwheels, chilled shrimp, and ginger-marinated grilled shrimp. Plus, champagne, beer, and a nearly-stocked bar (seems like the bottles are less full than I remember).

It is now closing in on 2:30 AM and I may or may not be able to sleep. The dog has run off with her half-treat to curl up with the sleeping wife. The only sound in the entire damned house is my fingers on these keys and the light hum of the Dell at my knees.

In less than 24 hours 2002 will find 2003. I don't know what I will find in that year, but my suspicions are that my discoveries will be markedly different than years gone by.

I'm not complaining, but no matter how old I get, I can't get over the fact that life tends to change just about the time one gets comfortable.

I guess that's life's way of letting us know that a new year isn't quite as aribitary as we think.

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