This was the year that was survivable

As the year 2001 heads toward its close, I look back on it as a variable year. I’m not minimizing the Sept. 11 debacle, but here I’m reviewing my personal milieu and the cultural womb in which my body thrashes. Some trends improved, some slid. From my personal point of view, 2001 goes down as an iffy year.

It became the year my appliances began deserting me. My faithful Braun electric shaver refused to accept any more recharges. The digital face on my Timex watch suddenly went blank. My kitchen faucet took on a drip. My toilet began acting up. Paint flaked off my microwave. The table lamp blinked spasmodically. One of the windows no longer opened. One night, my computer printer ran amok, churning out page after page of meaningless code. Happily, turning it off overnight enabled me to restore it to healthy functioning.

In spring, when most people are smelling the flowers, I contracted a virus which flattened me and caused me to lose 10 pounds in a week, an amount of flesh I could ill afford to shed. When I looked at my shrunken body in the mirror, I came close to crying. By year’s end, however, I had gained my lost muscle back and even added some bulk. Generally speaking this year marked a distinct improvement in health from the year 2000, when I endured two different surgeries in one day.

The year 2001 became one of economic anxiety. The cost of living went up faster than my income. The rent, utilities, medical insurance and prescription drugs all took disproportionately bigger chunks of my revenue. I ate out much less often, saw fewer movies. I settled for Budget Gourmet cheapie microwave dinners in place of Marie Callender.

I made a paper napkin do for more than one meal. Practiced giving myself haircuts with an electric clipper. Did the coin-operated laundry every three weeks instead of every two. Squeezed the toothpaste tube until Mr. Colgate cried for mercy. Used shorter lengths of dental floss. Picked up every penny I saw lying.

Both the spring and fall editions of The Vanguard benefited from harmonious and talented staffs. My classes proved challenging and productive. I applauded the final restoration of the Simon Benson House.

Not so encouraging was the news that the legislature will be hacking funds from our academic budget. Tim Young, who I assume is the former PSU student body president, is now a Duck at U of O and a member of the Board of Higher Education. Tim has been fighting for us.

Particularly annoying are the commercials I currently see, plugging Oregon State University. Here is a university inexplicably $19 million in the hole and they’re spending more public dollars on television. Plus, they’re hitting up the state for beaucoup millions to beef up their veterinary medicine school. And they’re sinking big bucks into a new campus at Bend. Young, among others on the board, are questioning all these expenditures in the light of possible cuts of up to 10 percent in the higher education budget. The latest news from the Board of Higher Education suggests the Bend campus may be scrapped or delayed.

But the Oregonian concedes that OSU has powerful friends in high places. On Nov. 21, an article advised that curbing OSU spending “may be politically difficult.”

I’m cheered by a Willamette Week article on Ted Kulongoski, Democratic candidate for governor. WW complained that Ted proved vague about his proposed programs but he became specific about one item. He wants to build Portland State into a great university.

John Kitzhaber is winding down his term as governor. I find myself wondering if Kitz will follow the example of a predecessor, Neil Goldschmidt. Once an ardent populist, Goldschmidt traded it all for the color of money.

I found myself terminally bored by the World Series victory of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here toiled a crew of athletes totally colorless except for the Neanderthal pitcher, Randy Johnson.

The National Enquirer told me Whitney Houston is dying, victim of her reckless lifestyle. Mariah Carey struggled and it’s a tossup whether she’s on the slide or will climb back up.

This year we learned that Tiger Woods doesn’t win every golf tournament. Barbra Streisand won’t go away, despite the fact she hasn’t done anything of note in decades. She obviously has one of the world’s greatest publicity machines. Michael Jackson’s comeback proved a yawner. I sometimes feel I’m the only one in the universe who doesn’t care if Britney Spears is a virgin. I weep for the apparent terminal illness of Beatle George Harrison.

Garth Brooks talked about how much he enjoyed retirement, which made two of us. Then he recently unretired. Shania Twain remained absent, off practicing motherhood.

The biggest showbiz shock this fall is the sudden collapse of “The Simpsons.” I can only guess they hired the former writers for the Seinfeld show. Speaking of that, Jerry’s three supporting bananas, Julia, Michael and Jason – all demonstrated their impotence by flunking out on three separate sitcoms.

Another show headed for the ashcan is my former favorite, Ally McBeal. Ally’s love-em-and-lose-em formula wore out. Peter McNicol is leaving (along with the delightfully bitchy Lucy Liu), Only Ally and Jane Krakowski will remain from the original cast.

It finally occurred to Jennifer Lopez that her career didn’t allow her to hang out with a bunch of thugs, so she ditched P. Diddy Combs and married Mister Nobody. J. Lo’s ridiculous demands for diva treatment earned headlines and gasps of disbelief.

Summing up, I found 2001 a survivable year. I’m not doing the swing, a dance I didn’t particularly care for in its previous incarnation. In that bygone era, a mockery of a motto attached itself to one of the big bands: “Swing and sweat with Charlie Barnet.” Precisely my feeling.

On the cusp of 2002, I continue to resist the fashionable trend toward “cocooning.” I’m still out there, enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.