It’s stunning the amount of celebrities who passed away in 2016.
Losing Muhammad Ali was horrible but the end of two decades of Parkinson’s disease for the Champ made it easier. Not a huge fan of Prince but his guitar solo in “Let’s Go Crazy” and “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” reminds me that on my best day, I’m a hack of a player. Gene Wilder death was sad but thank God we still have Young Frankenstein.
Morley Shafer’s avuncular reporting always signified the weekend was coming to a close, Merle Haggard sang the “Working Man Blues,” Phife Dawg knew “We Could Get Down” and Elie Wiesel explained why it’s always darkest before the dawn.
And I love George Michael’s “Freedom.”
One name that won’t make the In Memoriam at the Academy Awards was my sweet, sweet puppy Shelly. I said good bye to her in March and there isn’t a day I don’t think about Shelly Belly. I still can’t believe she is gone. Good dogs are supposed to live forever.
Debbie Reynolds’ passing had special meaning for me. When working at the Wyndham (now Radisson) Hotel, Debbie came in three consecutive nights. She was doing a show somewhere in SLC and came into the club every night for an evening cordial. Her assistant found out I was from Las Vegas and invited me to sit with Debbie at her table. We talked about life in Vegas, blackjack strategies and what it was like to make out with Elvis (she had previous experience—I only own a velvet painting). On her last night, I told her it was an absolute pleasure to meet her and she came over to give me a hug. As I leaned over, she planted a smooch right on my lips.
It was awesome. If you have a chance to kiss a 70-year old starlet, I recommend you take it.
In the end, all of these deaths should serve as a reminder that life is pretty God damn short. If you’re lucky, you’ll squeeze out 78+ years on this big blue marble. You’ll be dead a hell of a lot longer than you’ll be alive, so might as well make the most of it.
And maybe that is what my New Year’s resolution should be: gratitude.
I know I’m doing better than a lot of people. I have a beautiful, smart wife, a terrific family, and a couple of decent dogs. I got two killer jobs, live in a cool house in a crummy neighborhood, and have a disproportional amount of great friends. Throw in a handful of vacations a year, a bit of fishing, the occasional ribeye with Kentucky bourbon, gardening, and a garage filled with tools, there isn’t much to complain about.
That’s the start. Being grateful for what I have.
Looking forward, there is a ton of uncertainty. I think Trump is a moron and will probably get us all killed after he raids the national treasury for every cent. Because he likes bright, tacky things, Emperor Trump will insist upon seeing the brightest, tackiest thing of all—a Trident II SLBM—before he sprouts horns and a bifurcated tail.
Jesus, people, how in the hell Trump going to be president? I guess if we can survive the second Bush, new Coke and a Point Break remake, we can survive a knuckle-dragging thug for four years.
In keeping with the concept of gratitude, the best way to keep PEOTUS from mucking everything is to be grateful for what you have. Special things like Planned Parenthood might need to be privately financed. Public radio might need a donation. Newspaper always need more subscriptions. When assholes spray swastikas on walls, threaten LGBT folks, intimidate voters, scare the living shit out of Muslims, or think goose-stepping should be back in vogue, think how grateful you are to live in this country and do whatever you can to stop them.
The worse year of my life was in 2009. I managed to sell The Woodshed and escape being divorced and thrown into debtor’s prison by the skin of my teeth. I salvaged my relationship with my then-girlfriend, now wife and got hired at Keys On Main. I started a blog, met some Tribune people and ended the year bruised and battered but not down. It was a kick in the shorts kind of year, but I got through it. 2017 is wrought with challenges but I’m the kind of guy who likes pulling myself up, dusting myself off, and getting to work. And if all of us keep this in mind, 2017 might actually be a pretty good year.
So, Happy New Years. Don’t drink and drive. Tip your bartenders and waitresses. Make sure you have aspirin and water on the nightstand. And call your mother.
One last thing: wish my buddy Fitz Whaley a happy birthday. The poor SOB was born on December 31 and usually gets jobbed on NYE.
Ben Raskin is a writer at the Pill Mill and bartends at Keys On Main Wednesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. He is constantly reminded that a lot of good punk music was recorded when Reagan was president.