Year 1991 is at hand. The numbers, that is...


December 31, 1990

THE PALINDROME year 1991 is at hand. The numbers, that is, read the same forward or backward. Calendars, as it happens, march only straight ahead; still, those numbers can lead to verbal antics:

In Ninety-One --

No need to run (for most officeholders)

L But '92's election race is now begun (for White House types)

Let's still have fun (no matter what the economy, the militarists and the ozone hole do during 1991)

There'll always be a pun (foreign despots should not think that this sleep-gap, chronic-fatigue-syndrome nation is Bushed)

'90's end leaves much undone (from debt retirement to drug abatement to school improvement)

Let there be sun (a.m., p.m. and Sunday)

So hit the ball a ton (for a home team losing more often than winning)

Oh, be my honey bun (Valentine's Day is coming)

It can be done (alleged bumper sticker on Baltimore buggies in the last previous palindrome year, 1881)

All hoist another 1! (sing high, sing low, at midnight tonight)

* * * A KINDER AND gentler Italian currency is due in 1991. The Rome Treasury is issuing a new 1,000-lire bill with a picture of the 20th century educator Maria Montessori, replacing the traditional 1,000-lire portrait of the 13th century traveler and China hand, Marco Polo.

Since the late Mr. Polo is a national giant, this means either that the 1,000 lire is being devalued, or that Ms. Montessori, the psychiatrist who taught the individuality of small children, is the national hero for the current age.

Of course, 1,000 lire isn't what it used to be, but it still might fetch a lesser candy bar.

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, Americans drank 24 gallons of milk and 18 gallons of soda, on average.

Now, the average Joe or Jane Consumer drinks 21 gallons of milk and 46 gallons of soft drinks a year.

The dairy industry blames the fall-off in milk consumption and the rise of a soda-drinking public on advertising. Dairy farmers spend $60 million a year hawking their product while soft-drink manufacturers finance a half-billion-dollar effort.

Marc Goldman, a big-time New Jersey dairyman, and outgoing Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota are trying to persuade the dairy industry to levy a tax on itself in order to fund a multi-million dollar advertising war with the soda industry. Mom couldn't get you to drink your milk, but, they believe, Madonna might.

Mr. Goldman is also confident that there is a future in products like strawberry milk and root-beer milk, which he has sold in the past.

We wonder what color the cows are in a world of root-beer-milk-craving Americans.

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