New Years Eve, 2020

“Bon jorn”, or “Good Morning!”in Altay, a Turkic language spoken mainly in the Altai republic and Altai Krai in the Russian Federation. It is Day 287 since the first California Lock Down. We just started to vaccinate healthcare people this week. There are 19 days more days of national shame to endure (Inauguration Day!).

I really hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I really enjoyed all the wonderful messages from around the world that this season seems to inspire each year. I was especially pleased to hear of how enjoyable these little weekly cosmic journal entries seem to be for folks. When you do something like this, its a completely selfish activity. I am no sure why but I guess for some reason, I feel compelled to explain myself as I proceed to our shared inevitable exit from this stage. Having said that, the fact that people aren’t slamming a big red “S” for SPAM across the document and forwarding it to social media, feels good. Doing the UJT and the Update does time time and effort. I have also had to teach myself some new skills as well. All of which, are good things for geezers to be doing in their tinged and tarnished years or so I am told anyway. I am sure everyone finds their own rewards but most have the good taste not to share it with everyone they know. I consider it a testimony to our friendship that you all put up with it so willingly. Thank you for another wonderful year on the planet.

So here we are. 2020 has been a year! Many of us have suffered terribly between the disease and the many other ripple effects from it. Events most of us took for granted were denied us – graduation ceremonies, promise, weddings, funerals, sports, musical events, business and holiday travels and many others. We lost our jobs, incomes, and in some cases our businesses.

In spite of all that, we humans did what we do! We sang and played together from our apartment balconies, the canals in Venice cleared, all over the world people published signs thanking our public service workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, police, sanitation, fire fighters; farmers, truckers, grocery store and logistics workers and military for their continued services under such dangerous times; We learned how to teach, share and learn via Zoom; We figured out ways to keep the disease from impacting our most vulnerable citizens – homeless, nursing homes and ships at sea after some very scary moments in the first quarter of the year as we watched the disease spread out globally from China.

And of course, no matter what happens some things stayed the same. The US Congress remains perhaps the most expensive unproductive organization in the world. The “Under the Jacaranda Tree” website still enjoys the highest number of typos found on any english speaking website on the web. Donald Trump is the center of the universe, just ask him. And so it goes… But I am not aware of anyone who isn’t happy about seeing 2020 in the rearview.

Every year between Christmas and New Years, I try to spend some time figuring out what I am going to do in the new year. I never did go in for New Year’s Resolutions per say, I prefer clearer, measurable ambitions and goals. As a much younger guy but also one of EDS’ older SED Phase Is, I learned that setting measurable goals and measuring progress towards meeting those goals really help to make sure we are doing the most important things most of the time. The day after Christmas this year, I got a cup of coffee and drafted, “My Ambitions and Methods to Achieve for 2021”. I am pleased with the document and recommend this method as a good place to start to build your best year ever. If its not too embarrassing, post it where others will see it and maybe help you when you falter… I haven’t decided if I am tough enough to endure the heckling associated with publishing mine yet.

This week I learned some stuff:
• This week my daughter became an instant Pecan Pie Jedi! From her first attempt and then repeated it for Christmas dinner. Both were so tasty. Way to go Jess!
• Our family enjoys playing board games, Rummy and putting puzzles together during the holidays. This year BJ came up with a new twist and got us a Leggo Fiat for us to assemble and we were able to finish it by Christmas night! Great idea but make sure you have someone with exceptional eyesight and good lighting as some of the pieces are very small and similar. Someone gave us the Cheaters version of Monopoly that I cannot wait to try.

• I learned that I love YouTube. I don’t subscribe but join as a guest but wandering around is such a blast! There are movies and old tv shows I think but I love all the user content. These are videos that people have made on almost any topic as well as clips from all manner of interviews done in the past with some of the most interesting people of our lifetimes. I learned that Harrison Ford knows at least one pretty funny joke- “There is a man who is working in the produce department at a local grocery store and he working stacking the oranges when a woman approaches him. “Excuse me but I cannot seem to find your broccoli. Can you help me?” The man replies, “ I am sorry Mam but we are out of broccoli today but we should have more in the morning” and he returns to his task with the oranges. A few minutes later, he hears behind him, “Erm, where do you keep your broccoli?” Its the same lady that he just talked to! “ As I said madam, we are fresh out of broccoli for today. Please come back tomorrow.” Again, he returns to his task stacking the oranges for a moment. But the lady gets right into his face and says,”Where is your broccoli??!” He says, “ Before I answer that again, could you answer a few questions for me? How do you spell CAT as catastrophe?” The woman replies curtly, “C-A-T”. “Fine and now how do you spell DOG as in Dogma?” The woman replies, “D-0-G. The man smiles and says, “Just one more – How do you spell Fuck as in Broccoli?” The woman responds, “There is no Fuck in Broccoli! As the man returns to his oranges, he replies over his shoulder, “ Now you got it! Come back tomorrow”. He got a standing ovation on Carson. I suspect all you heathens are still standing:)

• December 31st is the 366th day of 2020 – but tomorrow is New Years Day!). Today in 1600, the British East India Company is chartered; On this day in 1759,Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness; Today in 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in Menlo Park, New Jersey; In 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II; On this day in 1955, General Motors becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over US$1 billion in a year; Today in 1983, The AT&T Bell System is broken up by the United States Government; In 1991, all official Soviet Union institutions have ceased operations by this date five days after the Soviet Union is officially dissolved; On this day in 1999, the first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, resigns from office, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President and successor; Also today in 1999, the U.S. government hands control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties; Today in 2019, the World Health Organization was informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause, detected in Wuhan. This later turned out to be COVID-19, the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.; Queen Kapiolani of Hawaii was born today in 1834; Henri Matisse, French painter and sculptor was born today in 1869; George Marshall, American general and politician, 50th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate was born today in 1880; Simon Wiesenthal, Ukrainian-Austrian Nazi hunter and author was born today in 1908; Odetta, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress was born today in 1930; Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor, director, and composer was born today in 1937; John Denver, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor was born today in 1943; Val Kilmer, American actor was born today in 1959; Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican-American baseball player and Marine died today in 1972; Ricky Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor died today in 1985; Elliot Richardson, American lawyer and politician, 69th United States Attorney General pass away in 1999; And finally, Natalie Cole, American singer-songwriter and actress died today in 2015.

Website Update:
This week we made the following changes:
• A new UJT Vocabulary Quiz!!!
• Week 2 for the Musical Trivia Quiz
• This week I didn’t add any new recipes.

Writing, Ceramics, Stained Glass and Painting Update:
• My stained glass project turned out to be an excellent demonstration as to just how much more practice I need to do this thing well.
• This week I managed to miss my watercolor classes again!
• Grandpa Stories is still not re-published.

• Its a wonderfully weird feeling to be celebrating your grandchild’s adult accomplishments!! We are used to good grades or good baseball seasons and stuff but this is different. I mentioned that my grandson got his first paid job as an artist recently. This week we got to see final product of his work. “Vagabond 2020, The Covid Collection”, the publication that he created artwork in was released. This is an annual publication of poetry, prose and performance pieces. And with all the usual caveats about familial favoritism, I must say this body of work is impressive to hold in your hands. We all are all so very proud of BJ and his artwork. Well Done!

Music Update:

Once again, your fossilized DJ takes you on another meander through the dusty cobwebs of my music library. This week selections are my attempt to close out this very challenging year with some thought provoking tunes.

This week’s UJT Radio Program:
• James Taylor — Millworker — This is one of my all time favorite JT songs from his Flag album released in 1979. I hope you love it as well.
• Jimmy Buffett — Pacing the Cage — This Bruce Cockburn cover is one my favorite JB covers. Jimmy gets this song and it shows. This one comes from his “Beach House on the Moon” released in 1999.
• Dan Fogelberg – Stars – Dan sings a sweet sad sweet love song as only he can. This one comes from his “Home Free” album released in 1979. “ It’s getting easier each day to weep about you .. harder every night to sleep without you…”.
• Bruce Springsteen – Nothing Man — From the vinyl !!! This is a sad song from his, “The Rising” album rebased in 2002. There is a great You-tube thing on this song about 9/11… nothing fancy.. just the song playing and a bunch of stills of NYC after the towers. Made me cry.
• Bonnie Raitt – Have a Heart — There is something so vulnerable about this song. I always end up teary and trying to sing along. This one is from BRs, “Nick of Time” album, released in 1989 and was written by Bonnie Hayes, singer songwriter from San Francisco. Its one of my favs. Oh and I gots to plug Mr. Ricky Faatar who does the percussion and drums on this record. George and John from Somerset got me hooked up with The Flames, Ricky’s first band from South Africa. I came to love his music even more when he joined the Beach Boys.
• Seal – Dreaming in Metaphors – One of his amazing cuts from his second solo album with the same name,”Seal” released in 1994. Whenever I hear cuts of this album, I flash back to driving the Autobahn north out of Frankfurt to Utreck so we can catch the train to Amsterdam. There was a light snow blowing across the almost empty lanes of early morning traffic. I just turned up the Opel’s rather excellent stereo really loud and joyfully sang along with this wonderful song as we made our way further north.

That’s it… Do the best you can;  Laugh every chance you get;  And always remember …  The best is yet to come!  As always, thank you for being my friend!

Happy New Years, Y’all!!