I’ve seen worse on New Year’s Day – death in the snow one year, hearing of death in the Caribbean two years later.
The fiscal-cliff frolics are a passing diversion. The schmendricks of Congress will eventually be shamed into pretending to be rational adults for a while.
It’s all made-for-television fare, like the musty pageant of Kathy Griffin trying to de-pants poor Anderson Cooper on CNN. Are they not ashamed? Well, Boehner and McConnell don’t seem ashamed. Why should a network?
But I’ve seen worse days.
New Year’s Day of 1971 started with my being marooned in a mountaintop motel in Harlan after a snowfall. I had rushed to the coal-mine explosion in Hyden on the night of Dec. 30th, and spent the next day unable to drive because of the snow.
Now in the early hours of a new year, I tried to learn how thirty-eight miners had met their doom in an explosion. I went to the first funeral the next day, a rush job for the shot man of that crew.
It took people a while to figure out he had been using outdoor explosives, with a live spark, underground. Mixed with rising methane gas, it blew the mine to kingdom come.
Happy new year.
Two years later, we had moved from Kentucky back home to Long Island. The temperature was close to 60 on New Year’s morning and I went running in my shorts. When I got home I discovered Roberto Clemente had died the night before when his plane dove into the sea off San Juan, while ferrying goods to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. That striking man with Harry Belafonte looks and the best right-field arm in baseball was gone.
The next day my photographer friend Luis Requeña told me how people were staging impromptu memorials in the barrio.
Clemente vive aún.
Forty years ago I was mourning a hero. Today, what do we have? Schmendricks in the House. Happy new year.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.