Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Accounting Down

A brand new year! Boy, if ever there was a time to start that self-improvement regimen I've been meaning to start for, oh, about a lifetime, this is it. Clean slates, fresh calendars: half the world or more is resolving to do better today, the first day of the first month of the rest of our lives and, you know what? I aim to join them. What's more, I aim to shout my resolutions from the rooftop! To share, unbosom, maybe even express a best-left-unexpressed thought or two!

Yep, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Any second now.

Honest.

Okay, I give up: where do people like Dorothy Gale, people who believe saying something makes it so, get their nerve? I mean, it wasn't any of that clicking-of-the-heels hocus pocus that got Dorothy back to Kansas; it was her telling anyone and everyone within earshot that "there's no place like home" that did the trick.

For that matter, where does my friend Vicky, who swears by a similar MO ("modus operandi" to you learned folks; something they used to say a lot on "Hawaii 5-O" to those of us who flunked Latin), get her nerve? She's never woken up in her own bed after spending a weird night in Oz or anything, but that doesn't keep her from making wishes and resolutions all over the place; wishes and resolutions, I might add, that rarely, if ever, come true.

And not just on New Year's Day or in the aftermath of a tornado, either, no sir. Vicky makes them whenever she gets a hankering to be a better Vicky, turn over a new leaf, get right with the cosmos, whatever; no Auld Lang Syne soundtrack, catastrophe or crisis of faith required. Indeed, she once told an entire wedding party - during a toast to the bride and groom, both missionaries - that it was her intention to "...quit the corporate world and join the Peace Corps. ASAP."

Never mind that that was in 1988, and never mind the unprintable name she called me when I asked her, after a more-than-polite four years had passed, if she knew what "ASAP" meant. Making such a declaration before a roomful of people you know you'll see again, and again and yet again, takes guts.

As does making a public service announcement out of everything you resolve to do in the name of self-improvement, whether it's quitting smoking, giving up red meat, or vowing to say absolutely nothing about people you've got absolutely nothing nice to say something about.

But Vicky just waves my admiration away with a dismissive, "Pooh! Nothing gutsy about hedging your bets."

"Hedging your bets?"

"Yeah, the way I figure, telling people about your good intentions helps keep you accountable. The more people you tell, the more accountable you are."

"Hmm, so I guess you didn't tell many people you quit smoking."

"Shut up and pass me the ashtray," she says, in that sweet way nervy old friends have about them.

But sweet and nervy enough, I wondered, long after we'd finished our Porterhouses (medium for her, rare for me; hey, I'm not the one who gave up red meat), to make me want give this whole resolution, declaration, statement-of-intent-to-improve thing another try? To, yikes, broadcast it?

Well, let's see. Ahem.

This year, I resolve to eat nothing after 10:00 p.m. No, make that nothing in bed after 10:00 p.m., 11:00 on weekends.

Say, that wasn't so hard. Okay, on to resolution number two.

This year, I resolve to watch no more than two Lifetime Movie Network movies a week. No, make that three Lifetime Movie Network movies a week - four if one is based on actual events, which, of course, counts as a documentary and therefore really doesn't count at all.

Gee, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!

This year, I resolve to learn a new language. Oops, scratch that.

This year, I resolve to clean up my language. At least when in the company of those under 18 or over 65. Oh, what the hell; make that, "or over 75." Have you ever crashed an American Legion party?

This year, I resolve to match every poison pen letter I write with a letter of commendation. And, considering how many poison pen letters I write (incidentally, do Governor Davis; Oliver Stone; Senator Byrd; the California Public Utilities Commission; Al Sharpton; and assorted other of my pen pals think their silly "cease and desist" orders scare me?), that's a pretty tall order/fat resolution. Still, no one ever said self-improvement was supposed to be easy.

This year, I resolve to give an opinion only when it is asked for - whoa, hold it right there.

No one ever said self-improvement was supposed to be impossibly difficult, either.

Happy New Year, Ojai!

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