Let’s put aside, for now, what a band/choir consisting of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Greg Lake, Keith Emerson, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Mose Allison, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones and who-am-I-forgetting would sound like. Or what sort of film Robert Stigwood (Producer), Garry Marshall (Director) and Vilmos Zsigmond (Cinematographer) could have created (or, for that matter, what television show Grant Tinker could have green-lighted) for a cast consisting of Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Abe Vigoda, Ron Glass, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Michelle Morgan, Jon Polito, Van Williams, Anton Yelchin, Robert Vaughn, William Schallert, George Kennedy and who-else-am-I-forgetting. Or what our culturo-political world would have been like if it had never included Muhammad Ali, John Glenn, Gwen Ifill, Fidel Castro, Richard Adams, Harper Lee, Kevin Meaney and no-really-who-else-am-I-forgetting.
Let’s also put aside, for now, the open wounds—across the entire political spectrum—resulting from the 2016 United States elections and the Brexit vote.
I will put aside, for now, the anxiety and trepidation I felt as I approached my 50th birthday. Because, you know what, the day—which became days—I turned 50 were terrific.
Here are six other positive moments (in no particular order) worth remembering as we prepare to lock 2016 into a custom-made Pandorica.
Chicago Cubs win the World Series. It does not matter if you prefer the White Sox, or even if you are not a baseball fan. When a professional franchise as storied and long-suffering as the Chicago Cubs wins its first championship in 108 years, that is an extraordinary thing. Even more extraordinary is the fact that this team fell behind three wins to one to a very talented and determined Cleveland Indians team, and needed to beat the 2014 Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, to win the deciding Game 7. If only Harry Caray had been around to see it.
Kirk Douglas turns 100. In a year where it seemed like we were grieving the loss of a beloved celebrity every other day, a number of them continue to thrive into their 90s (Betty White, Dick Van Dyke, Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis, Cloris Leachman—even Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 90 on April 21). Topping them all is Spartacus himself. Born Issur Danielovitch Demsky on December 9, 1916, Kirk Douglas made his film debut 70 years ago in a film noir called The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Indeed, eight of his first 16 films (Ivers, Out of the Past, I Walk Alone, Champion, Young Man With a Horn, Ace in the Hole, Detective Story, The Bad and the Beautiful), all made between 1946 and 1952, can be considered film noir. In my opinion, he is nothing short of brilliant in any of them (well, OK, I have yet to see Champion).
A woman is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Love Hillary Clinton, hate her, or something in between: after 228 years of exclusively male major-party nominees for president, a major American political party nominated a woman. Full stop.
The path is even clearer now for the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortes-Masto and other Democratic women, plus Nikki Haley, Joni Ernst, Mary Fallin, Condoleeza Rice, Shelley Moore Capito and other Republican women. My daughters could well have at least one female president in their lifetimes.
A political revolution. When Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-VT), a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, announced on April 29, 2015 that he would seek the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, he was languishing at 9% in national Democratic presidential nomination polls. As low as that was, it was already an improvement from the 3% he was garnering three months earlier.
No matter. When the revolutionary dust had settled, Sanders had won 23 of 57 nominating contests; including 11 of 17 caucuses. Overall, his 13.1 million votes accounted for 43.3% of the total Democratic primary and caucus vote (47.1% outside the 11 states of the Confederacy). You can argue which was the bigger accomplishment, Sanders’ expectation-smashing performance against the heavily-favored Clinton or Donald Trump’s vanquishing of 16 rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination (and ultimate victory)…but you cannot question the significance of either.
Quick personal note: my daughters and I met Senator Sanders at the storied Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH in September 2012. He was gracious and warm when I thanked him for his service.
Grace VanderWaal wins America’s Got Talent. Credit my wife for showing me clips of her audition, as she wows Howie Mandell and Simon Cowell, and her ultimate victory. Seriously, the poise and grace (pun intended) of a 12-year-old self-taught songwriter and ukulele player from Suffern, NY may be the single brightest moment of 2016.
One question for Simon, though. Why does she have to be the “next Taylor Swift?” Why can’t she simply be the first Grace VanderWaal?
Saturday Night Live finds its voice again. Ever since Chevy Chase started bumbling around the Studio 8H stage as President Ford in 1975, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has reflected the political zeitgeist, often with hilarious results. Even by those standards, 2016 was a banner year, as Kate McKinnon played Hillary Clinton (with a strange meeting in a bar) and Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Larry David kept popping up as Bernie Sanders (including a raucous encounter on a ship), and Alec Baldwin played former Virginia Senator Jim Webb before completely getting under Trump’s skin as, well, Trump. There were other notable portrayals, although Cecily Strong could not quite capture the controlled manic exuberance of MSNBC Rachel Maddow.
In my opinion, the writing and acting on SNL are sharper than they have been in years, in large part because the show is relying less on a handful of “stars” (the brilliant McKinnon notwithstanding) and more on ensemble performances.
And I will close with an SNL “sketch” that is easily the funniest thing I saw all year. David S. Pumpkins is now a thing in our home. For better or for better.
Please tell me in the Comments what other positive things occurred in 2016. Oh, and definitely feel free to like, share and follow this blog.
Until next time… Happy New Year!