If you feel about this past year the way that I do, dear reader, you may question why anyone would want to relive 2019. Well, newspaper traditions being what they are, columnists are expected to write “The Year In Review”columns. At my age, newspapers and I have something in common. We’re both happy to have survived another year.
I began 2019 with a snarky multiple-choice test that mainly depended on my annoyance with President Donald Trump. That January column was to be the first of many columns inspired by our dysfunctional president. Sadly, your reaction to the column proved that you were even more annoyed at me than I was with the president. That theme (or is it meme?) persisted during 2019. Me annoyed with Trump. You annoyed with me.
After my equally snarky next column — this one about Trump’s proposed wall (how’s that going, by the way?) — I followed with a column about men and their underwear, of which I, at least, have first-hand knowledge. I like to think that January’s columns demonstrated the wide diversity of my interests.
February began with a personal reminiscence about my family’s politics. It took me about 70 years to find out that mom was a Democrat. I’m a slow learner. Mom spent her final years disrupting the current events discussions at her nursing home arguing about the inadequacies of George W. Bush. Mom — if you were alive today, you might actually appreciate good old Dubya. Sure, he never found the WMD, but at least he never tweeted and never held up aid to Ukraine.
As is my habit around Valentine’s Day, I handed out relationship advice in my next column. I mused that, in part, the longevity of my marriage of over half a century is due to inertia. Fran’s not mine. I’m sticking close by the fire these days. There’s practically no market for a man with one kidney (his wife’s), whose only skill is making restaurant reservations. I followed that column writing about things I learned recently (and forgot the next day). And proving that I can complain about the slightest things, I ended the month with a column in which I moaned about having to wipe down the tiles after I’m done showering. Incredibly, I returned to complaining about the shower in another column later in the year.
March always comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, at least that’s what mom used to say. Unfortunately, that was not reflected by March columns this year. The month opened with me writing an inane column citing what had happened on March 6 in history. What’s special about March 6? Nothing. And I took 900 words to prove it.
It was back to complaining in my next March column, this time about my voice- activated remote (yes, my complaints center on the trivial and are endless). I followed that column with another, this time grumbling about having to change the time on every clock and watch — TWICE a year — because of daylight saving time. In the same column, I debated the proper way to drape toilet paper. Over or under? (I can be helpful about so many things that no one cares about). In my final March column, I shared with you details of our momentous move from South Philly, where we’d both lived all of our lives, to Center City. I begged forgiveness for deserting you. Strangely, you didn’t seem all that sad that we were leaving.
The unquestionable highlight of my April columns was my return to complaining about my shower — this time the one in our new apartment. You know I’m desperate for non-Trump topics when I write TWO columns complaining about the bathroom shower.
In May, I ticked off a reader who had some special interest, likely monetary, in homeopathic medicine. I trashed it. Maybe the guy was just a big fan of St. John’s Wort?
June found me complaining about my Trump addiction. You agreed — and suggested it might help if I stopped writing about him.
In a July column, I proved (as if this needed proving) that my favorite topic was — and is — myself. Incredibly, I actually interviewed myself. In print. And I used two columns to do it. As if to sum up your feelings, I titled my first column in August THE LAST STRAW.
In September, reaching for a subject no one had ever had any prior interest in, I treated readers to a detailed explanation of “glamping.” Not one reader has shown even a modicum of interest in the origins of glamping since that column, either.
In October, I found your patience with me waning when I accused Trump supporters of belonging to a cult. Many of you wrote back assuring me that keeping statues of the president in your finished basements proved nothing. Yes, but you’ve got to admit that burning incense in front of those statues while repeating Trump’s inaugural address is a tad over-the-top.
You might accuse me of being cruel in one of my November columns, A BRIEF HISTORY OF LOSING, dealing with the inept history of the local Republican Party. But I wasn’t the one thinking Billy Ciangalini would be our next mayor. The saddest thing about November was that we had to say goodbye to sports columnist Bill Lyon.
By December, I fancied myself a film critic (is there no end to my talents?) with a review of THE IRISHMAN, or as I called it, THE MEDIGAN.
As 2020 arrives, I enter my 57th year as columnist for the Review. And what does it say about you, that you’re still reading this stuff? ••
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