31 December 2016

2016: It Never Ends

Now it is time to say "goodbye" to 2016.

A lot of people I know are glad to see this year end.  One reason is, of course, the Presidential election here in the US.   The day after the election, at the college in which I teach, a mournful, even funereal haze seemed to envelop the hallways and the surrounding neighborhood--which happens to be part of the poorest (of 435) Congressional District in the United States.  The atmosphere brought to mind the accounts I've read of the 1952 "Killer Fog" in London:  Students and faculty members, as well as people I saw shuffling along the Grand Concourse and 149th Street, seemed to have had the energy even to gasp for air sucked out of them.

But even Trump supporters (yes, I know a few of those!) seem happy to see this year end.  For one thing there were the deaths of great and merely famous people.  I haven't made a count, it does seem that more have left us during the past twelve months than in other years I can recall. Some, as sad as they were, weren't so surprising:  I'm thinking, for example of Elie Wiesel, who was an old (if still vibrant) man and Muhammad Ali, who had been deteriorating for decades.  But others, like Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher, took most of us by surprise.  Then there were the no-less-tragic deaths of people of whom we never would have heard save for the ways they died.  I am thinking, in particular, of Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, Suzanne Joan Sippel, Debra Bradley, Tony Nelson and Larry Paulik, all out for a late-day ride in Michigan when they were mowed down by an SUV driver who was charged with murder.

Also, even though many voted for Trump based on empty slogans and other rhetoric, misperceptions about what (if anything!) he actually represents or simply plain, flat-out lies they believed, they (at least the ones I know) are no less angry or disillusioned than they were before the election.  What I find interesting, and almost amusing, is that they sometimes talk about the "liberal" media lying to them about crime, immigration and other issues--and tell me (and probably others) that the "liberal" media disseminated lies and misinformation that, in fact, came from the lips of Trump or his troupe during the campaign.

Anyway, the election has come and gone.  So have some celebrated people.  But there was still much for which I am grateful and happy.  My work life has gone well.  I have been writing (apart from this blog!) and my students and I are moving forward (I believe) in my "day job".  As for my love life...Well, let's say I've had a semblance of it, without really trying.  I don't think I've met (or will meet) someone with whom I will spend the rest of my life.  But then again, I haven't been looking for anyone like that.

This year, though, has brought me reunions with a couple of old friends and the beginning of a reconciliation with an estranged relative.  And it--like the past couple of years--has brought me into contact with people, mainly through this blog, in other parts of the world.  Perhaps we will meet some day.

If we do, it might be on a bike ride.  Cycling, of course, has been one of the constants in my life for decades.  This year was no exception.  I did some rides I've done dozens, or even hundreds, of times before, and saw, heard, felt and thought what I couldn't have--or couldn't have even conceived--when I first started riding. I also did a couple of new rides I hope to do again and, of course, took a trip to Paris, where I spent many happy hours pedaling through valleys flanged by gray and beige stone building facades, and along pathways that cut through parks and line the canals.

Riding has been, this year and in others, not merely a means of escape or even transportation, although it has served those purposes.  It has, I now realize, taken on another interesting role in my life.  When I first became a dedicated cyclist, as a teenager in the 1970s, it was a kind of rebellion:  Other kids abandoned their Schwinn Varsities and Continentals, Raleigh Records and Grind Prixes and Peugeot U08s the moment they got their drivers' licences.  I continued to ride.  Then, in college, a lot of my fellow students rode their bikes to class or for errands, but not for any other purpose.  So, even though I wasn't consciously rebelling, I was seen as if I were--or, at least, as some sort of misfit (which I was, though in other ways).  

After college came a series of jobs and moves (including one to Paris).  I continued to ride, and the wind and vistas--whether of wide boulevards or narrow alleys, or of industrial soot turning to suburban sprawl and, finally, to orchards and fields of horses--or of seeing the ocean spreading itself before me after a couple of hours of pedaling--have all imprinted themselves on my consciousness.  In fact, I feel as if they are part of my body, intermingled with every ion and neuron in me.

In brief, my cycling started off as a kind of rebellion--conscious or not--but has become the very thing that has kept me from feeling alienated from the world around me and, most important, myself.  If I've learned nothing else this year, I feel that lesson--along with my riding, blogging, writing and experiences with people--have made this year worthwhile, even rewarding, amidst all of the pain and confusion in the world around me.


  1. Midnight here, and this little country is began to celebrate 100 years of independence, with a four hour live TV national party with world class music, light shows and performance and dance. Many decades ago now I made series of decisions that allow me to feel pride and patriotism for this country and culture. I never regret.

    But, people of my other country: don't despair. The US weathered the great depression, 45% unemployment, suffered 500,000 dead defending itself against two fascist empires, fought just and unjust wars, healed itself, took Nixon, Ford, Reagan and George W in stride, and finished up the last eight years basking in the glory of the class act of the Obamas. The country is strong. In the end the Donald will be nothing but another dirty bump in the road.

    "Don't mourn, organize." - Joe Hill


    1. What about the death of the millions of voiceless unborn in the US that has taken place under the leadership of both Democrat and Republican presidents in the last forty plus years? A class act for the defenseless - I hardly think so.

  2. Leo--I am always happy to hear your perspective. Indeed, this country has endured much. I hope it has prepared us for whatever may come.

    Chris--It is indeed a tragedy. But I have met (worked with) kids who weren't wanted, and have known women (and men) whose bodies and lives were ruined by a moment of indiscretion, perhaps when they were very young. I'm not sure that outlawing abortion again will prevent such pregnancies.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.