Andersen: Here’s to the new year!
Now that we’ve passed the formidable segue from holiday blitz to post-party’m denouement, the early weeks of the new year are rife with paralyzing measures of ennui and turkey aftertaste. Welcome to the tryptophan hangover.
Gifts are all unwrapped and glossed over. Holiday-travel debacles are complete and vowed never to be repeated. Family tensions are abating from the smarts endured during the holidays of love. In sum, 2014 has settled into the predictable routine of “another year.”
Now is a time for reflection akin to what the late E.B. White, in a long-ago New Yorker, snipped as the “moment of clarity” we writers occasionally possess and then feel compelled to describe. Here are some musings as we venture into the deepening millennium.
It begins by marveling at “Airborne America,” what must be one the flightiest countries in the world. With 643 million passenger miles logged in 2013, airlines in America carted us back and forth across the airways in staggering numbers.
We’re too busy to drive, too scattered for cohesion and too bored to stay home, so we test the patience of TSA bag searchers who confiscate the tiniest nail files, which we still try to carry on, only to react with surprised indignation when they’re taken away.
Airline security has improved over the strip searches of the past, but it’s still a hassle, especially when your pants are a size too big and tend to waggle down your hips when you raise your arms, beltless, in the scanning booth.
In Aspen, private jets own the skies. Where I live up in the rural Fryingpan Valley, the flight path goes directly over my house. During the holidays I witness about one plane per minute on their final approach to Fun City.
I won’t dare decry this traffic for fear of being branded a radical anti-capitalist, and I know that each passenger soaring overhead contributes to our swell economy, and I know about the ease and convenience of private planes. Still, the onboard luxury and the “ka-chink” of cash registers does little to assuage my sensibilities as jet emissions and noise rain down on my otherwise placid Walden.
Just when my wife and I thought it was safe to go to the movies we saw “Twelve Years a Slave” and came home shaken and whipped. Scenes of debauched slave marketers and owners wickedly flaying their “property” brought home known horrors with gruesome realism.
It is not that violence doesn’t have a place in story telling, but that audiences have only so much tolerance for the sadism of film producers who lavish the whip graphically and often on paying customers.
A scan of current film synopses reveals that most of today’s pictures capitalize on killing, shooting, stabbing, raping, beating, torturing, drugs, alcoholism and other riveting human foibles.
“Hey, honey,” I ask my wife when considering a film, “how about taking in a blood bath tonight?”
This marks us as quaint, old-fashioned Pollyannas who seek a world view where people are actually nice and stories have meaning beyond bloodletting.
Lastly, I wonder when, if ever, climate change can be discussed as a serious issue that doesn’t trigger consumer umbrage for suggesting that overconsumption lies at its root.
I’m assured by the meliorists that technology will fix it all very nicely and, when that fails, that the next generations will take it on along with Medicare and Social Security. How convenient for us baby boomers to assign accountability to our children’s babies, continuing the legacy of deferral, procrastination and recklessness that we formulated during the Sexual Revolution.
We Americans appear to live in bubbles with osmotic qualities that allow certain stuff to pass in and out, but only where it enriches and gratifies the host. Inside these bubbles we sit happy and feckless, filled with wonder at the world and our exalted positions in it.
I’m as guilty as most, eyeing the world with morbid fascination from my Fryingpan sanctum, holding my breath as a queue of jets roars across the friendly skies above my pastoral and blessed existence.
Here’s to the new year. Gulp!
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Monday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.