Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Year to Remember, A Year to Forget

I admit it:  I've never been a big fan of New Year's Eve.  For one thing, I'm not much of a party-goer, and I don't understand the custom of going out and getting crazy.  Believe it or don't, I'm shy, and I much prefer hanging out at home and watching old movies (or the annual Three Stooges marathon on a local TV station).  And looking back on the year, I can always find things I wish I had done better, or said differently.  There's a lot of second-guessing, and I've always been my own worst critic.

When I was growing up, New Year's Eve used to depress me because it reminded me of how frustrated I felt:  back in the 1950s and 1960s, opportunities for women were still very limited and people kept telling me I had to learn to be like everyone else: marry young, have kids, be a housewife. But no offense to those who chose that-- it wasn't the life I wanted.  I wanted to be on the radio. It's what I wanted from the time I was a kid-- except back then, I couldn't imagine how I would ever be able to follow my dream.  I would listen to the deejays and wish that somehow I could do what they were doing, having fun on the air and playing music that cheered people up.  I'm glad I was finally able to get into radio, and I hope I made my listeners happy.  (I recently found some old fan mail from my deejay days, and evidently some folks really did enjoy listening to me on the air.)

Anyway, so here we are at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. I still am not a big fan of New Year's Eve, but at least I can look back with some satisfaction on what I've managed to accomplish.  In 2017, I had the honor of speaking at a baseball history symposium in Cooperstown (I discussed the work of five women sportswriters who worked in baseball's early years); and I also spoke at a conference at the Library of Congress in Washington DC about preserving recorded sound.  I wrote a number of articles, got quoted in some newspapers, and was a guest on several radio shows, including on Boston's WBZ, where I talked about Boston's radio history (of course).

And several times, I was asked to do a podcast: in fact, I was genuinely shocked when my friend Matt Cundill told me that my appearance on his Sound Off podcast back in October was his most listened to episode of the entire year. ... That was certainly a big highlight of 2017.  Another was finding out that nearly 13,800 people read one of my blog posts, about why Neil Peart decided to retire.  And then there was the best news: I had my three-year checkup, and my doctor tells me I'm still cancer-free.  There's no substitute for getting positive news from the doctor, and I remain eternally grateful.

But there was also plenty of bad news-- hurricanes (more than a million folks in Puerto Rico still don't have power), a mass murder in Las Vegas and another in Texas, and we lost some amazing people from the music industry, including Fats Domino, Gord Downie, J. Geils, Tom Petty, and Chuck Berry. And then... there was the year in politics.  (Don't get me started.)  This was not a great year for many of us, in large part because of the person in the White House.  No, it's not because Mr. Trump is a Republican-- I didn't always agree with Barack Obama, and he was a Democrat.  No, what continues to bother me about President Trump is how crude, how uncivil, and how petty he is. I can disagree with anyone on policy, but if you know anything about me, you know that courtesy and kindness mean a lot to me. Mr. Trump is proudly discourteous, and equally proud of being cruel to those with whom he disagrees.  I am mystified that his base actually loves this about him:  there should never be a time when casual cruelty is acceptable, nor a time when being rude is considered a mark of strength. And yet this is what 2017 was about-- watching the leader of our country be rude and unkind to people while his supporters cheered.

It was also not a great year to be an immigrant (even a legal one-- hate crimes are up, according to every survey I've seen); and there were moments when I wondered if it was okay to be Jewish in America:  if you remember the folks with the torches marching in Charlottesville (the folks Mr. Trump said included "some fine people"), perhaps you recall their chant of "Jews will not replace us" as they surrounded the synagogue in that city (and the police stood by and did nothing, sad to say). I still remember it.  I found it frightening-- it reminded me of another time, not that many decades ago, when similar chants were heard on the streets of Nazi Germany. I never thought I'd see such things in America in 2017.  But that's the kind of year it was.      

I noticed a lot more people seemed tense, irritated, and short-tempered in 2017-- even some of my students. I talked to a lot more people who seemed worried, even in the red states. And while the economy continues to improve (let's be honest-- it started in President Obama's second term; Mr. Trump, like most presidents, tries to say he did it all by himself, but that's not true), most people I know are all too aware that the gap between the super-wealthy and everyone else continues to widen. As many of us see it, Mr. Trump is not draining the swamp-- rather, he is using the presidency to enrich himself and his wealthy friends; and yet his supporters continue to believe in him.  Getting through year one of a Reality Show presidency has been disconcerting, to say the least.

And yes, the year had some good moments too, and I'm thankful for every one of them. I made some new friends, and reconnected with a few folks I hadn't spoken to in years. My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and I celebrated my 70th birthday.  And politics aside, I'm still happy to be alive and well and able to enter another year of blogging (my third). To all who read my postings, even when they don't agree, I appreciate it. To all who reach out on social media and engage with me in discussion, I welcome hearing from you.  And I'd also be glad to hear what you'll remember from 2017... and what you'd like to forget.  Happy new year and much love.

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