Here are some predictions for 2010, because every hack columnist is required by federal law to trot out a list this time of the year:
1. A large, intensely hot sphere composed of flaming gas will rise in the east, hover in the sky, then descend to the west; it will be followed by a period of great darkness, yet none shall be afraid.
What, you want specifics? Sigh.
2. The Vikings will move to Los Angeles, but they will claim it's only a trial separation and swear that they'll come back if we all agree to some counseling.
There. Happy? Sorry. Can't fake it. I do not like New Year's Eve and I have even less time for New Year's Day. Even in my wild youth the idea of having a holler and a hurl because the date changed seemed to be a thin pretext, like dressing up in giant wooden costumes because it was Arbor Day. New Year's is the only holiday that has a song whose lyrics no one understands. Auld Lang Syne? What is that, Scottish for Oiled Long Swine, or something? Should auld acquaintances be forgot, the song asks. Well, maybe they should, if they borrowed a baking dish 10 years ago, then moved away. You make the call.
To which sensible folk say: Fine. You sit there in the corner, little mister, and tell yourself you're the first person to wonder about Auld Lang Syne if that makes you feel special. The rest of us will be over here snogging under the confetti.
Granted, New Year's has a purpose: It brings the holiday season to an indisputable conclusion. The officially mandated feasting-and-toasting interval is done. You can put away your stubby-handled cheese knives, America. But the old year never really ends like it should, with a big loud tonic chord, or a Wagner fanfare. We should all shout TA-DA and give the year a standing O, then fall silent for the newcomer, give it a flinty look like someone who just rode into Dodge City. Yer new 'round these parts, ain'tcha.
But no, the new year swaggers in like Caesar after he'd conquered Gaul, and the old year -- inaugurated with equal delirium a scant 12 months ago -- is dragged out the back door with dull hooks.
Man, we're a fickle bunch.
That said: I like the sound of 2010. I like round numbers. Never trust a year you can't divide by two, I say; there's something sneaky about them, unresolved, shave-and-a-haircut without the two bits. Welcome, 2010. Any bright ideas, we'd love to hear them.
It'll be more of the same for a while, I suspect. Routines, habits, familiar paths, comfortable assumptions: These things somehow managed to survive the stroke of midnight, and were waiting for us when we got up like a pack of patient dogs. At some point you realize that you're the same person on Jan. 1 as you were the day before, and the world is the same place as well. To expect otherwise is to expect a new car to appear in the garage when the clunker's odometer clicks over to 50,000 miles.
But still: high hopes. Plans. Resolutions. From this day we see the entire year spread out before us, a series of boxes labeled with the names of the months, and we imagine we will get things done. So much time, so many possibilities. The new year is always portrayed as an infant, which means it has poor bladder control and a Mommy fixation -- but it's actually as old as you are already. So go easy on the life-changing decisions. Don't join a gym or quit smoking today. Don't foreswear an Oreo because this is the year you'll get into the jeans you wore in high school. Think of today as the day absolutely nothing has to change. Tomorrow, too, and the day after that.
Change comes when you don't expect it or you really want it, and that has nothing to do with the date. Change comes from a place deep inside of us.
Specifically, the appendix, so if you've had yours out, sorry. You're stuck.