On the evening of the first day of the year, I spoke to two men who were going on diets and on the wagon. Fortunately for one of them, I do not think that he can be held to those spine-stiffening resolves because he was rosy with good will at the moment, having started the day at 5:30 a.m. with a nice, hot buttered rum against the cold of the Pasadena morning and the Tournament of Roses.
He had joined a designated driver to proceed from the bleachers to a tailgate picnic in Brookside Park, where he had several Bloody Marys and then watched USC lose to Michigan State. It was a good game but as some great philosopher has said, "Second don't count."
Watching such a game places the viewer under terrific pressure, so my friend managed several cups of coffee with a dollop of brandy in each one. By the time I was talking to him, his head was pounding like the engine of the "Skunk Train" in the redwoods of Northern California.
It is easy, nay, it follows as the night the day, that at times like this a person is prone to make resolutions so stern that only Cotton Mather could hope to keep them. Thus, I do not know if my friend is accountable for all his starchy vows. But maybe he'll keep them.
The other gentleman, who is going on a fat-free, salt-free, booze-free diet, doesn't know it yet. His wife told me. She is one of those small, Dresden-doll women with delft-blue eyes and a will like Balto, the dog who got the serum through to Nome. Her husband has probably lost at least five pounds by now.
Have you made a list of resolutions? Have you put together a bunch of hair-shirt vows that are high-minded and impossible? It must be the Puritan ethic and some squeaky-shoed ancestors with turned-down mouths that impel us to clutch these promises to our bosoms. Actually, I am going to try to do better. I am going to accept the fact that I will never be a size 4, although Patsy is, nor will I ever be able to type with 10 fingers.
But I am going to do better about getting places on time because I cannot stand to hear one more time that, "Punctuality is the courtesy of kings." And I am already doing better about putting away the car keys in the same spot in the left front drawer in the chest.
However, I am not going to listen to "War and Peace" on a cassette while I am going my appointed rounds. Nor am I going to learn Spanish, although it is totally ridiculous not to speak Spanish after having lived in Southern California all my life. Nor am I going to make bread out of stone-ground flour so I will glow with health. Nor am I going to learn to play medieval country airs upon the recorder.
It is sad, and I have come to the sullen acceptance after a number of New Year's Days, that I am really not going to change very much. I am going to conform just enough. We have already bought a wrench with a big long handle to turn off the gas and we did it before the Oct. 1 earthquake. We know where to turn off the water and the electricity and we have half-a-gallon of water, at least, in every closet in the house. That's after we saved a big bottle outside until it went bad and we realized we couldn't lift it anyway.
I put the water in the half-gallon Scotch bottles, which Patsy empties at a seemly pace. The other night, conscientious little thing that she is, she asked, "Am I drinking fast enough? Am I falling behind?"
I assured her that she was doing fine and that we had enough water for a week or so. She wants to do her part, which is admirable, but I do not want her to make the sacrifice of becoming tipsy just so we can have enough water when the really big one comes.
And we have some food. It runs to pate and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn, which, of course, would be useless without the microwave. I do intend to get some extra food for Peaches and Mrs. Goldfarb and keep it in the sun room, though why the sun room should stand when the rest of the house slides gracefully down the hill, I can't imagine.
I think I have a start, albeit modest, on the earthquake supplies. Oh, and we have a first-aid sack of rudimentary stuff collected by my dear friend, pharmacist Bill Econome at Sturges' Pharmacy, a center of civilization in these hills.
And that is really all I'm going to do about resolutions, in spite of Robert Browning and his reach exceeding his grasp.
It is simply that it is far worse for your character and your self-respect to keep skipping down the same old path while you berate yourself. It is better to face the fact that you are not absolutely perfect. Just almost.
I am going to take tremendous joy in small and fine things, like that young American eagle who got caught in the slipstream of a big jet and ended up in Ireland. He was found by an Irish ornithologist who let him rest from his jet lag, gave him a good meal, and sent him back to the United States on Aer Lingus, first class. I hope he had smoked salmon. I'm not at all sure he was caught in the slipstream. Maybe he had been looking across the gray-blue Atlantic for a long time and wondering what was over there. Then finally, he thought to himself, "What the hell, Sam, let's give it a go," and he ended up in Ireland.
For 1988, may we all do as well as that young eagle, head to the wind and the clean salt spray and end in Ireland. And to all of you who watch the sky, a happy new year.