The Ghosts of New Years Past…

I was thinking the other day about the New Year, and wrote a little piece about it. I started trying to recall the first New Year’s celebration that is logged away somewhere on the hard drive of my brain. I can’t really remember a specific one. Isn’t that strange?

I remember early Christmases. Oh how well I remember that Red Wagon that Santa brought me back in 1954 when I was only 4 years old. We lived in a little old Mill house up on Sixth Street in the proverbial “Mill” town of Trion, Georgia. It was the last Christmas in that house before we moved to a new house that my Dad was having built in another part of town. I guess things were not too bad that year. If we could afford that wagon, and the set of Hopalong Cassidy guns and the outfit that I also got AND move later on to a new house then things were going pretty good. We lived in that new house for eight years until Dad could no longer afford the payments, and we had to move out, back to “Hot Town” just two streets over from where we were celebrating in 1954.

There were a lot of good Christmas memories at the “new” house. My brother was born while we were there. There were “cut down” cedar trees every year in front of the big “picture” window that my Mom was so fond of. There was the year of the Lionel train; there was a year in which I got a telescope to view the Universe and its vastness. I never appreciated the years there as I should have. There was the one wonderful Christmas back in 1962 I believe it was, when it snowed. One of the VERY few times that “heat miser” let it snow in Southland! How beautiful it was to come out and look through that big window that morning and see the snow falling in huge feathery flakes, and the snow already piled up high in wind drifts against the trees. Santa that was the year you were supposed to bring a sled, but we had to make do with cardboard boxes cut up into home made flexible flyers! And oh we did. We slid down the hill at the cemetery across the road from my house until the dead people there must have thought Jesus was coming back, what with all the commotion. I don’t even have a clue what I got that year for Christmas. I got a WHITE Christmas. That was enough. That was sufficient in itself to provide memories to last the rest of my life. Surely any toy would never have been impressive enough to do the same.

Oh yes, Christmas memories are not hard to come by. But New Years? That’s another thing altogether. My folks never made such a big deal about it. Some of the time we were at my Grandparent’s house and went to bed with the chickens even on New Year’s Eve. Even when we were at our own house, I can’t remember any New Year’s parties, or any celebrations that were held in anticipation of a New Year. It just came. The years just stacked up, and you greeted them with the same anticipation that you did any other day.

After my wife and I married in 1969, we started marking the New Year.

I think that every year now since we have been married, my wife and I have done something to mark the New Year. We let the kids sit up and watch Dick Clark blather on, and watch the big ball drop at Time’s Square and the “Peach” drop in Atlanta. I can’t remember if there were any years that we were not together, or not many really that the whole family hasn’t been around. Just the last few years, I think we have gone our separate ways to some extent. Most of the time now, we go to my daughter’s house and play board games and then do the count down. Backwards from ten to zero and ZOOM, in comes another year.

It’s all pretty humbling when you step back and think about it though. This year we are marking as 2014 A.D. (At least those of us who use the Julian calendar. The Chinese and the Muslims both have a different “New Year” then we do. This year the Chinese New Year starting on January 14 and will be the year of the Horse, very appropriate. The Muslims use the Hijah Calendar which was created by Mohammed) Most people make the mistake of thinking that A.D. stands for “After Death” when it’s Anno Domini or “In the Year of our Lord” It was “invented” if you will in/about the year 525 by Dionysius Exiguus to figure out when Easter was. But, I digress. Think of 2000 and 14 of those babies! Just think of all the monumental things that have happened in those 2014 years. Break out your history books sometime and thumb through them. There are some Earth Shaking years wrapped up in there. Some years that changed human history forever. Some of them are ones that are a no brainer. 1945, the year that the first Atomic bomb was used. That one changed the world forever didn’t it? There are some that are more obscure, but nonetheless just as important. How about when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517? Although Luther didn’t know it at the time, that year broke the hold of the Catholic Church on Christianity. Just think how much that change our world.

How about September 11, 2001 as a recent year that changed history? It definitely has, and will continue to, as we move through all of the ramifications and repercussions of moving through this Brave New World we are now entering into.

Think about all the new technology that has developed since World War II. For some reason, that particular War more than any other has seemed to be a catalyst for the development of Science in leaps and bounds. It’s amazing what has taken place, but it’s scary at the same time. I just heard a man talking on the Radio not more than a week ago saying how one day soon all humans would have special chips inserted into their hands so that they would not have to have cards, or even any other forms of identification in order to buy things, or go places. No more credit cards, or passports just that little non-removable chip to tell the world who you are. I am glad I am about past the point where I might be around when they institute THAT little bit of Science one of these New Years. I am afraid that they would just have to skip me on that one.

I have also heard where more and more people are now using biotechnology which identifies human embryos outside of the human body for things such as disease, genetic malformations, and most prevalently for the sex of the baby. Pretty soon it’s going to get down to the parents being able to say: “I want a boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, who has an I.Q. of at least 150, and we are going to want him to be a pianist” The new Eugenics, and yes it will probably get to that point one day if whoever decides on this type of thing (and who will that be?) decides to let it get that far. If it’s our Federal Government, then God help us, it will certainly be a mess. It could already be in use as far as we know in some countries out there. Think about it. There are a lot of countries who don’t even have the constraints of Ethics which we have in the U.S. (And that’s saying something right there, buddy!)

Now there is also word of a new Computer program being developed which can store everything which is on a human beings brain on the hard drive of the computer. It can’t store the emotion, or the spirit of the person. Just what they knew or know. Think about the uses for that, when a program can be bought which you can store Grandma or Grandpa’s knowledge on. Maybe they will fix it up where you can put a 3-D likeness of the person on there, and actually program it where it can seem like you are communicating with them. “Hey Grandma, do you remember back when I was 13, and fell down your steps and broke my arm?” “Of course I do Honey” it answers back. “That was really a bad day”


They say what the mind of man can conceive can be turned into reality. And to think I have been reading Stephen King for years. Oh boy.

That’s all pessimism though, and maybe things will actually turn out for the good in some of the upcoming New Years. They are coming up with treatments and cures for more diseases every day, and doing things to relieve the suffering of humanity. Yes, believe it or not there ARE still some humans out there who work on things to benefit others without the thoughts of greed or manipulation guiding them. (Not enough of them though!)

I heard where there are Cancer treatments being developed through genetic research, where people’s own cells (I believe stem cells if I am not mistaken) can be used to attach a killer “trigger” to, which only affects cancer cells, so that when the cells are introduced into the body they kill ONLY the Cancer and leave everything else healthy. What a good year it will be when they can use that one.

That type of genetic research, where genes are modified to take care of human problems and suffering can be a good outcome. What if they could eliminate suffering of all kinds? Some people would think that a world without suffering would be wonderful. But I wonder. I wonder if ALL suffering should be eliminated. Seems like that would take away a little bit of what it means to be human, but that’s just my opinion.

Then there are those that will tell you that all of this must be leading up to the “end of time” Yes, that’s right, the end of all the “New Years.” In Christian beliefs Christ himself is going to return again in one of these New Years for those who are his children. According to many Christians, the signs are out there for all to see. The diverse Earthquakes and disasters (remember the tsunami several years ago on the day after Christmas?) the continuing problems in the Middle East, especially between Jews and Arabs. The widespread and very dangerous spread of new antibiotic resistant disease. The famine which affects more of the world every day. The lack of Love in people for other people. Matthew chapter 24 chronicles what Jesus had to say about it. Read it and decide for yourself. A lot of people already have.

I am not sure of everything that is happening, I will tell you that for certain. At my age, a lot of the new technology is fascinating, but it’s like a double edged sword. My religious indoctrination says the signs are out there, but the scientist in me is in conflict with the theologian. The reader of the written word in me, the seeker of knowledge, wants to keep abreast of everything that’s going on in the world, but sometimes over analyzes or doesn’t understand the significance of what is being input and processed by my teeny brain. The realist in me knows that things can’t stay the same, but the dreamer wants things to stay like they are, or go back to the way they were!

Remembering New Years? Do you see know why it’s hard to do. When you get stuff like this in your head, then it sometimes just starts to run together like syrup across pancakes.

I am glad it’s almost 2014, and I am super glad I have made it this far and if nothing happens I will be watching the ball drop in times square at midnight December 31, and I will be hoping that this year may just be THE year when everything starts to come together for the good of everyone in the world. Happy New Year to everyone in The Year of Our Lord 2014.

Going to the Movies

When I was a kid, back in those “dark” ages, I remember walking to the old Trion movie “show” with a quarter, and being able to not only buy admission but also popcorn and a coke.

The movies were mostly Westerns and an occasional Sci-Fi film, but many a wonderful summer afternoon was enjoyed at that big white monstrosity of a building. The multi color play bills advertising upcoming movies hung up on the walls all over the place. Famous stars like Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne would be staring down “at ya Pilgrim”

I went to see “The Hobbit” with Ted and Paula this afternoon, and continue to wonder if all this high tech is really worthwhile. The ticket lady said: “That will be 10.50 per ticket because it’s in 3-D” “Do you have just regular old Technicolor?” I asked. “No” she replied.

So we got our tickets, went in and waited until two minutes before the film started before they let us in. They were having problems cleaning up they said. I wondered if the previous crowd had rioted over the prices.

Anyway the movie started, and I put the big clumsy 3D glasses over the top of my regular glasses.

Now, the movie was kind of good. It was all pretty much non Tolkien, because most of the stuff they wrote into the screen play ain’t in the book. But great entertainment. The 3D thing just bugs me though. I used to get excited over black and white movies, and well directed and written movies of any kind please me very much. I just think 3D is the latest ploy, and latest toy they use to fleece people. Kind of like if you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bull s**t. Peter Jackson has it in him to do better. I cried after the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, sitting there listening to Enya sing “May it Be” That was a great movie! This one…good entertainment.

I really hope they get over this phase, cause next time I go to the movies and they tell me its 3D I’ll probably just go home and watch “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives”

The best thing by far was being with Paula and Teddy. That pretty much makes up for everything else….and the movie was exciting…I’ll have to give it that. I did not fall asleep…not one single time. “The Duke” woulda been proud of me.

On being Frank Sinatra

I was just listening to Frank Sinatra the other night. That man could really sing.

I never really listened to Sinatra a lot before September of 1968. Before that time, I was an Elvis fan first. I like some other rockers too. Jerry Lee Lewis was another. I liked a lot of the other crooners besides Sinatra earlier on in my life too. Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Andy Williams. I sang “White Christmas” every year at school from 1964 through 1967. I could do “Everybody Loves Somebody” and sound just like Dean Martin, I’ll guarantee it. Paula and I went on our one and only cruise back in 2011, and I went to nightly Karaoke on the ship and sang that song. The rest of the cruise, I had people coming up to me in the dining room and saying….”There’s ol’ Dino” Yep, I do a pretty good imitation of him.

But Sinatra? I could never imitate him very well. I didn’t do it in High School because I had never listened to one of his albums before. Oh, I had heard him on the radio of course. “Strangers in the Night” was a hit song during 1966. It hit number 1 on the pop charts that year. His daughter also had a hit with “These Boots Were Made for Walking” in 1966. It seems that that was a good year for the Sinatra family. But, Sinatra’s album “Watertown” which came out in 1970, only sold 30,000 copies. He just sort of retired from recording new stuff after that. He got dissatisfied with the way his voice sounded and although he performed in Vegas, things were never the same.

I only discovered how much I loved his earlier music in that early fall of 1968. That’s the month I started to college at West Georgia College in Carrollton. West Georgia still had a real “small college” feel back in 1968, and I’m glad I went there. Another reason I’m glad I went was because that’s where I met my future wife. But…back to Sinatra.

My “assigned” roommate in Strozier hall at West Georgia College, who’s name was also Larry, was a real record collector. He brought his record collection, and his record player to college with him. I didn’t have squat besides the clothes in my closet, so I asked Larry if I could listen to his record player while he was gone to class. He told me it was ok, but “You might not like my taste in music” At first, I had to agree.

There were no rock and roll records in his collection. No Elvis, no Beatles, no Rolling Stones. There was Sinatra, Nancy Wilson and Deon Warwick. There was about 6 Sinatra records, and his record player held five albums at a time, so I took Sinatra. It was a good choice.

The albums were all from the fifties and early sixties…up to that 1966 album from which “Strangers in the Night” came. There was Cole Porter songs like “I’ve Got You Under my Skin” and there were songs from movies like “Three Coins in the Fountain” There were the greats: “Come Fly with Me”, “The Days of Wine and Roses”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “The Lady is a Tramp”, “That’s Life”, and my favorite of all of his songs “It Was a Very Good Year”. My next to favorite was the oft recorded Paul Anka song “My Way” I think he is best remembered for that song, but I liked “very good year” the best.

It hit me the first time I heard it, and it still does the same to me after all of these years. He had a great hit song in the seventies with “New York, New York,” too. That was in 1979, and Sinatra is remembered best for that song, even though it came from a Liza Minelli movie.

All of those records that my roommate brought with him to college changed my tastes in music. I went on to listen to just about every album he had brought. I got to like Patti Page and Doris Day. I listened to Rosemary Clooney and Eartha Kitt. I took the measure of Billy Vaughn and Burt Bacharach. If not for those albums, I’d have never have loved music as completely as I do, and would have missed a lot of good moments in the history of music.

Larry and I were roommates for that entire year, and after that year I married my permanent roommate!

I do still love Sinatra though, and I’m glad for YouTube so I can dial up the old hits from time to time. I grew to even like Nancy Wilson too. Larry said I would…..

Putting ourselves to the test

I try to watch sunrises and sunsets as much as possible. I frequently make photographs of them, as any of you who are my friends well know. I love the days that I live on this big blue marble. I certainly enjoy everyone of them, and will try and continue to do so.

But, I am fortunate. So much more so than the vast majority of other human beings on the face of the earth.

All around us there is hunger, and homelessness. Even in our fortunate country there is plenty of it out there. If I could end it all with a snap of my fingers I would do it. If I had the money to end it all…..would I do it? Or, would I say: “I earned this money, and it’s mine” even if I didn’t need a fraction of it?

If I was living in luxury, would I have the same attitude as I do now, as this person who lives paycheck to paycheck, and always has?

It’s an interesting question to ask yourself. If you could do magic, like the finger snapping thing, and end all poverty, hunger, sickness, homelessness and disease in the world it’d be easy to make that choice, wouldn’t it? But, if we were billionaires with lots of real money, would we try and do the same things?

I think that the answer to that question is pretty much self evident.

Maybe I’ll venture out and buy a lottery ticket for tonight and tomorrow. If I won, I could put myself to the test.