Something we cannot know

Happy 2013!

I read about the death of Spencer Cox with great interest today. It’s not because I knew him, or was even remotely familiar with what he had done with his time here on this earth. It turns out that he did some amazing things, helping to get some of the first effective medicines to fight against AIDS to the market in the mid-1990s.

I remember the hysteria about AIDS in the early and mid-1990s very well, and if he had anything to do with helping to allay that hysteria, then good for him. He clearly had an impact on the lives of thousands, if not millions. I’m honored to devote a few lines of my blog to recognizing the things he accomplished.

But what really got my attention was his age. Spencer Cox was just a few months older than I am when he recently passed away. With New Year’s eve coming up in a few hours, it reminded me that some of us who will celebrate the arrival of 2013 won’t have another new year’s to celebrate after that. Certainly, if someone were to ask Spencer Cox on the last New Year’s day what 2012 would hold for him, his own death probably wouldn’t have been on the list.

I hope, with all that I have and hold dear, that 2013 is a great and full year for me and everyone that I know (and for you too, gentle reader, whoever you might be). I’d like to have another 12-25 new years to celebrate before my time on this earth is up. But I don’t get to decide when my supply of New Years will run out, either. And the truth is none of us can know this, with any degree of certainty.

I’ve said many times in this space that I celebrate life by commemorating death. Why else would I have written about Larry Hagman and Adam Yauch, about Don Cornelius and Champ Summers, and about Whitney Houston and Ronnie Montrose? They were all with us when 2012 began, but they couldn’t know that 2013 would arrive without them. Nobody wants to think about that, really, but let’s remember what Benjamin Franklin said are the only two certainties in life: death and taxes.

So as the ball drops in Times Square this year, and the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” are played for the only time all year, I plan to remember that the New Year might be a great one, and it might be an awful one, and it might even be a partial one (although, again, I certainly hope that it isn’t).

Here’s wishing everyone who reads this a happy and full new year in 2013, or whenever it is that you find this.

Something I learned from television

I remember Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing character very well. On Friday nights when I was about 11 or 12, my family would eat dinner on a Friday night, and then watch The Dukes of Hazzard on CBS, followed by Dallas, which was a show about lots of things I didn’t yet understand. For instance, it was several years before I realized that “the Cartel” they always spoke about on the show was referring to OPEC. I was a smart kid in some ways, but utterly clueless in others.

I was saddened to hear that Larry Hagman died recently, but I have something that I remember about him. And sharing those remembrances is what I do in this space, so here goes:

I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid. Gilligan’s Island, the Brady Bunch, Get Smart, F-Troop, and whatever else was on when the Cubs’ game wasn’t on. And so one day I was watching an old rerun of I Dream of Jeanie. I don’t know why I remember this, but it was a black and white episode, since it was one of those shows that was in both black and white and in color. The first season, beginning in the fall of 1965, was in black and white, but by 1966 everything was in color. So that narrows it down as to when the episode I’m thinking of was filmed.

Anyway, Larry Hagman played Tony Nelson on the show, and in this particular episode he was talking to his friend, Roger Healey. And as he was doing so, he tied a tie around his neck. I watched the motions that Hagman made on the television screen and thought “I can do that.” So I went into my Dad’s closet, took out a tie, and stood in front of a mirror. And after a time or two of practicing, I had learned how to tie a tie. So that’s something that Larry Hagman taught me how to do, entirely by accident.

I probably wear a tie two or three times a year, at the most. The act of putting on a tie for everyday use is something that’s dropped off quite a bit since the 1960s. But the next time I put one on, I’ll be sure to think of Larry Hagman.