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Archive for Monday, January 7, 2008

Year-end wrap-up tough sell in 2007

January 7, 2008

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I decided sometime in the middle of December that I wanted to be one of those columnists who writes a year-end wrap-up. I've always loved those things. Take Dave Barry's annual month-by-month review of the year. He's the only writer who can make me laugh out loud. The word guffaw comes to mind, as unfeminine as that sounds. Hillary Clinton does a guffaw, and we all know how much flack she gets for it. Poor woman can't even laugh right. By the time I get to Barry's October, my stomach hurts so badly from laughing I can barely breathe.

But I'm no Dave Barry.

This year, Garrison Keillor did his year-end column on a bus ride to Bethlehem, Pa. That was really clever. I've never been to Bethlehem, Pa., but I could do one on a taxi ride to Bethlehem - the real Bethlehem - in which the Palestinian taxi driver said he'd get me there in time for the Christmas Eve festivities for only $2. My Jerusalem apartment was only 6 miles from Bethlehem, but despite leaving at 5 p.m., I didn't get to Bethlehem in time for the 9 p.m. celebration because the taxi driver decided to take a detour into East Jerusalem to pick up a refrigerator for his cousin. He strapped it to the top of the taxi. The refrigerator fell off a few times and took a whole neighborhood of men to figure out how to secure it. Then there were a series of other errands for other cousins - he had a lot of cousins. And, well, I didn't make it to Bethlehem until after midnight. But that story doesn't have any real point.

I guess I'm no Garrison Keillor.

Then I thought, perhaps I could make a top-10 list of all the stupidest things I've seen on TV this year. Take for instance, an electronic coloring book. The toddler hits a button and it fills in color. Why not just buy the kid crayons and a coloring book and let him use his hands for creating something rather than just for pushing buttons? So much for forcing a kid to color inside the lines - give him absolutely no choice. And then, just now I heard a commercial for a plug-in air freshener during which they played "Joy to the World" - yes, borrowing the tune of a sacred Christmas carol but then carefully changing the lyrics further into the song. I almost threw up. OK, top 10s need to be short, pithy statements. I don't have the knack.

I'm no David Letterman. Or to be more accurate, I'm no David Letterman writer.

Speaking of late night show writers, when is this strike going to be over, and why, oh why, doesn't anyone ever pay writers decent wages for their work? Did anyone else notice how lame the jokes are now that they're trying to get along without writers?

Then I saw a bunch of people praying their hearts out along various points of Interstate 35, that fateful road that goes through Dallas and all the way up to and beyond the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis. This conviction comes from a close reading of Isaiah 35:8. "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools shall not err therein." It's an easy stretch, according to some fervent Dallas wayfarers, that I-35 is the Highway of God. By the way, I do like the part of that verse that seems to say fools should stay off the highway. But does anybody really think that a road that goes through both Wichita and Kansas City could be the Highway of God? That's it! I've just insulted three-quarters of the population of Kansas. But I think I'm on to something. I'll do my wrap-up about numbers.

As I continued thinking about it, I became really excited. You know the ZIP code of Fred Phelps' church starts with 666. Has he thought about that? Given that wonderful coincidence, I could come up with some great picket signs. But then I realized with a jolt that the whole state government of Kansas is also in a ZIP code that starts with 666.

I've never been good with numbers. I've never even figured out what my lucky number is. Since my lottery picks never even come close, I'm better off leaving numbers to random chance. Similarly, maybe I ought to leave the year-end to the same randomness that 2007 itself displayed. How else could you possibly explain the Iraq war, Britney Spears and her younger sister, clean coal, high fructose corn syrup in everything and the governor's statement about how bad Kansas wines are?

I'm afraid I sound more like an Andy Rooney.

Anyway, by the time I finished contemplating what I ought to be doing for a year-end wrap-up, it was suddenly Jan. 2. And this column is running Jan. 6. Missed my chance. Now I have a whole year to think about it. Sometimes procrastination buys you a whole lot of time.

Elizabeth Black is a writer living in Lawrence. A southwest Kansas native who attended Kansas University, she recently returned to Lawrence after living in Chicago and then on the East Coast for more than 30 years.

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