Goodbye to 2004, with its share of troubles, and a toast or two to 2005

December 30, 2004|By DAN RODRICKS

DEAR READERS: This is my farewell column ... to 2004! Here's where we say goodbye and good riddance to another year in our lives and brace for the approach of 365 more days (minus time off for vacation) in the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin.

Usually, with increased dosages of Saint-John's-wort, I'm in a pretty good mood during the holidays, or I fake it, and we end up having some smiles in the last column of the year.

But, all things being relative, that's easier in some years than in others.

This year has been particularly horrible in its closing days - from the bombing of the U.S. mess tent in Iraq a few days before Christmas, to the monstrous global tragedy caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Asia, to an icy-road accident in Pennsylvania that took the lives of a father and son from Howard County last week.

I wasn't about to stand here, glass in hand, and toast the New Year in the usual way, without acknowledging these awful things.

But I can't let these events, well beyond my control or power, break the tradition, either. So please join me, even as the bad news continues to pour in around us, in a few wishes for the new year.

A toast: To better and renewed contact with our friends, and to letting bygones be bygones, and to picking up the phone to say hello rather than dashing off another e-mail.

Here's to winter: May the ponds and creeks freeze so our children can go skating. May the Maryland landscape be covered in snow. And may this be the year that local broadcasters present weather forecasts to snow-phobic Baltimoreans with an urgency at least one step below what might be expected of, say, a sarin gas attack.

Here's a wish that more Baltimoreans - and former Baltimoreans, and never-Baltimoreans who grew up in the suburbs - rediscover the glories of Lexington Market. Not to mention the glories of the velour sweat suit; you see a lot of them there.

Here's to Sidney Ponson: May El Sid shake his current legal troubles and return to the Orioles with a strong pitching arm and a newfound maturity - and a hobby that doesn't include buzzing beaches with his personal watercraft.

Here's a wish for Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, as he comes to the Baltimore area to campaign for governor: It's Droodle, not Druid Hill, and Blair, not Bel Air, and Auchentrolley, not Auchentoroly. Please, DD, pick up a pronunciation guide before you come here again.

May the mayor of Baltimore have better luck at picking a police commissioner.

May the president have better luck at picking a homeland security secretary.

May the governor of Maryland have better luck growing sideburns.

May William Donald Schaefer enjoy a nice lunch of fried fish, rice and beans at Rivera Cafe and Grill in the Broadway Market. Order en espanol, por favor, senor.

Here's to cell phones and how they've made life easier. But here's hoping you never get stuck in line at BWI behind a woman with a cell, a big mouth and lots of "issues."

Here's hoping the new paint job on the Howard Street Bridge goes from "all but finished" to "at long last finished" real soon. They could have painted the Great Wall of China in the time this took.

Here's hoping a foursome of golfers with municipal spirit pick up all the trash that has accumulated along the exit ramp from Perring Parkway to Northern Parkway, near Mount Pleasant. You know what I'm sayin'?

Now that Baltimore has been featured on television, over and over again, as a drug-infested hellhole, how about a new sitcom based in, say, Canton, or downtown, or Federal Hill: Six telegenic twentysomething friends - an interracial mix of three men and three women - face life and love in Baltimore. They meet at the Daily Grind (or the Starbucks in the Boston Street Safeway) and have many meandering chats. You have the lightweight actor type, the Martha Stewart wannabe, the hip-hop wise guy, the New Age oddball, an angst-ridden divorcee, a recovering debutante - you get it? Here's to David Simon's next project.

Here's a toast of admiration to Jon Leiberman, the journalist who stood up to his bosses at Sinclair Broadcasting when they planned to air that anti-Kerry polemic - some dared call it a "documentary" - on 62 television stations just before the presidential election and got fired for it.

Let's raise a glass to Asian oysters. Merely talking about putting them in the bay has apparently forced more production out of Chesapeake oysters, so let's keep talking.

And one more wish: May you all have the unexpected pleasure of walking into Edelweiss Bakery & Cafe, 6000 Harford Road, on Thursday afternoons, just when the accordionists are gathering to play and the room is full of gemutlichkeit. That's German for camaraderie, or "the warm, comfortable feeling one receives from pleasant surroundings and atmosphere."

You may be cutting back on bread and pastries in the new year, but we all can use a little more gemutlichkeit.

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