Wednesday, December 28, 2016

FOR FEAR TONIGHT IS ALL

Maybe we should have packed it in back in January when David Bowie decided to check out. The Thin White Duke said it was time to go and we shouldn't have argued — but that is the arrogance of the saddening bores, thinking we knew better than Bowie. Thinking that anything good might follow.

Then: Alan Rickman Harper Lee George Martin Prince Muhammad Ali Garry Shandling Gene Wilder Patty Duke Edward Albee Leonard Cohen Florence Henderson George Michael Carrie Fisher Debbie Reynolds

Paul Kantner Maurice White Glenn Frey Keith Emerson Phife Dawg Merle Haggard Pete Burns Leon Russell Billy Paul Sharon Jones Greg Lake Pete Fountain Ralph Stanley Guy Clark

Fidel Castro Nancy Reagan Janet Reno Antonin Scalia John Glenn Shimon Peres Tom Hayden Morley Safer Rob Ford Elie Wiesel Donald Henderson Gwen Ifill Phyllis Schlafly John McLaughlin Pat Summitt

Abe Vigoda Garry Marshall George Kennedy Doris Roberts Robert Vaughn Zsa Zsa Gabor Alan Thicke Arnold Palmer Henry Heimlich Jon Polito Anna Dewdney W.P. Kinsella Michael Cimino Sydney Schanberg Pat Conroy Jim Harrison Richard Adams

Howard Kenyon Monte Schisler Jeffrey Potts

Childhood idols, vanished. Heroes, vanquished. Friends, slipped away to another room. Free thinkers. Contrarians. Iconoclasts. People who made paths where none existed before. Gone now.

She asks: “Do you think everyone is dying because of him?”

Him. The question startles.

“Not that they’re giving up but they’re stressing about it. I know for me personally it’s weighing on me all the time, every day.”

Really?

“Yes. It’s always there.”

Hmm. The specter of him, lingering in the back (or front) of our minds.

Truth: He’s part of the reason this year felt wonky; some of the people who voted for him held their noses (and breath) while doing it, and he has done little since the election to ease our minds. He tweets that the world was “gloomy” before Nov. 8; an argument can be made that it’s still plenty caliginous, maybe even more so because of his imminent occupancy of the White House. There’s crazy talk in the air — a meanness that feels new and menacing — and people are freaked out. It stands to reason that a few people surrendered. They let the weight crush their spirits.

Another truth: There were a few low moments this year when I considered not sticking around to see what happens next. Shit, man, forget about the election — Willy Wonka and Princess Leia died.

But as easy as it is to say “FUCK 2016” there was more to this year than death and despair. Much more.

This was the year of freedom from the factory, the year of taking chances and getting well outside a comfort zone. Doing things I thought I could do but had never done.

This was the year of discovery, of 23andMe. Spitting in a tube and mailing it off to learn about the people who came before me. Turns out I'm half-Japanese (no surprise) with a smidgen of Korean blood (big surprise). I learned about my great-grandfather on my dad's side and his strange and dark history.

This was the year when things broke through, when it felt like tenuous connections became solid and permanent. When the possible became probable, then certain.

This was the year of saying “what the hell" and pulling out the machete to blaze a new trail through unfamiliar woods. A lot of us did it in 2016, by choice and by force, and even as the year spewed its vilest bile we kept our heads down and kept moving forward.

Bowie said it best: Look at those cavemen go. It’s the freakiest show. We're living it; we're the stars of this movie. We may not be writing the script but we know our roles and we're agile enough to riff our way through the uncertainties. We survived 2016. We can do anything.

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