How To Make 2019 the Longest Year Possible

The month of December tends to carry with it a popular refrain, and it’s not “Jingle Bells,” “Let It Snow,” or “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” The line that I’m referring to is, “I can’t believe how fast the year went.” 

For a lot of people the year 2018 seems to be over before it even got started. I have one friend who casually remarked that the year had gone by so fast she couldn’t really remember anything that had happened. After a moment of deliberate silence I was compelled to remind her that she had actually gotten married over the summer. She gave me a look I still haven’t been able to interpret. 

It makes sense, really. Workloads are increasing, and opportunities for diversion are everywhere. All it takes is a friendly request to Alexa to drum up something amusing and before you know it, you’ve watched five seasons worth of Homeland in three days and smoked a pound of newly legal marijuana. That type of collapsible time-frame will hyperdrive anyone into the future, and yes, many will wonder where the time actually went. 

To be fair, the alternative is not very appealing for most people. I’m reminded of the character Dunbar in Catch-22, who spent all his time doing stuff he hated because it took forever and so his life seemed a lot longer than if he was engaged in activities he enjoyed, during which the time just flew by. It’s an offshoot of the old Oscar Wilde witticism, that if you live a clean and sober lifestyle you don’t live longer, it just feels like it. 

That’s why I make it a yearly tradition, every December 31st, to listen to the song, “The End” by The Doors for twenty-four hours straight while I sit on my couch in the dark. I got the idea from TBS’s lazy-ass scheduling ritual of showing A Christmas Story for a full day, starting on Christmas Eve and ending at infinity. It’s an exercise in madness to listen to one song on repeat for a full day, but I definitely feel better when it’s all over. There’s nothing so cathartic as being locked into twenty-four hours-worth of that nightmarish eleven minutes and forty-three seconds in which Jim Morrison snakes through his bleak musical landscape before acting out his nasty Oedipus scene for the big finale. It’s almost as bad as seeing Ralphie in that pink bunny costume twelve times in a row. 

That being said, here are some tips to make 2019 exhaustingly long, so as not to feel gypped at the end:

Throw out all technology: This is a big one. Get rid of all TVs, iPads, laptops, and phones. The first twelve hours without it all will feel like the whole month of January. Hide all knives and razors, as the potential for suicide during the first few days will be high. 

Stay sober: Save money! Avoid hangovers! Embrace clarity! And, feel every saturated second of every minute of every hour crash down upon you like a remorseless droplet from a Chinese water torture. 

Get a job at TSA as the security agent that monitors the exit to baggage claim: Yes, nothing defines twenty-five hours a day and eight days a week like sitting in the same spot in a hallway making sure nobody tries to sneak back into the secure area, which pretty much nobody ever does. Unintelligible bursts from your walkie-talkie will ensure you aren’t able to fall asleep or completely zone out. 

Watch every M. Night Shyamalan movie. When finished, repeat: There’s nothing more abyssal, time-wise, then the promise of a decent mystery slowly revealing itself as a convoluted traffic jam of a narrative. 

Go on a fishing trip: Groan under the weighty presence of life while staring at the glassy surface of a still lake. Since you aren’t drinking, either, this should feel like quite the marathon of nothingness.  

Go on a fishing trip with the most annoying guy in your office: Creative way to make something interminable that much more interminable. Encourage the geek to get specific about all his frustrations. 

Make 2019 the year of Bread: I don’t mean bread as in food, I mean Bread as in the 70s soft rock group. Listen to them on vinyl, with special attention to Everything I Own, If and Make It With You, and feel those minutes just slam on the brakes. 

Join up with the Amish: Hang out with the real experts of time stretching by doing chores for days, and sometimes weeks on end that could be knocked out in a few hours with even a rudimentary set of tools and machinery. Men, you may measure the cycle of the calendar by the length of beard whiskers, and women, the length of armpit hair. While churning butter try not to think about Facebook posts of who ate what at which restaurant. 

Find a cave, wall yourself up: Go the way of the true anchorite and completely cut yourself off from even basic time monitors like the rising and setting of the sun. Meditate deep into the murky recesses of the psyche. Consider that now you’re part of the Earth, an ancient stone spire quietly biding eternity until the sun breaks down. Eat your toe nails and dead skin for meager sustenance. 

There we go. Nice way to start off the new year. I’ve got to go dig out my Doors album now. January 1st can’t come soon enough. Until then…. This is THE END! 

Have a safe New Year everybody…

Ring Them Bells

Although I love the city of Atlanta, the holiday season is not its finest display of the year. The weather is usually more dreary than festive. It’s too warm to snow, the rain muddies the streets, and the skies are a dismal gray. There is a vicious surge in holiday traffic, so the pollution increases, and the potential for violence is only a horn-honk away. It’s Christmas time, after all, and nobody is in any mood to fuck around. 

Atlanta is a far cry from the sleepy towns of the woodsy Northeast, where the untrodden snow lies dreamlike through the hills. The roads are winding and unobtrusive, almost designed for sightseeing. The houses are tucked away like hermits. The air is heavy with the smell of woodsmoke wafting out of their ancient stone chimneys, and there’s a candle in every window and a wreath on every door. And if a weary traveler is patient enough to stop by a snowy field, they may thrill at the sight of an elusive reindeer bounding through the forest, or at least some horned beast that looks like a reindeer bounding through the forest. 

Down here in the city it’s nothing but famished coyotes and tomcats in heat, which all have their place in the urban food chain, I suppose, and it was one of these mangy animals I had to swerve to avoid hitting while I finished a few last-minute errands before heading north for the holidays. The rain was relentless, the traffic was as clogged as the storm drains, and this wet creature darted into the road, forcing me to veer onto an industrial side street, where I chanced to pass a nondescript Salvation Army building. There was a sign out front that read, “WANTED: SEASONAL BELL-RINGER.” 

What a lucky accident, I thought. Intrigued, I jammed on my brakes and hydroplaned into a parking spot right up front. I walked into the processing facility, straight into a crowded waiting room with every manner of aspiring bell ringer hunched over the application forms. A sordid bunch, they were; a collection of nervous tics, neck tattoos, scars, blood-shot eyes, and piercings. 

“May I help you?” said a woman to me from behind the front desk. 

“I’d like to apply for the bell ringer job,” I said. 

“Any qualifications?” she sighed, turning to look at the collection of misfits already seated in the waiting area and not wanting to add to it.  

“I played percussion in high school,” I said. She frowned, handed me an application, and told me to fill it out. I took a seat. The others eyed me warily. I was the competition, and not to be treated with any type of courtesy. 

A tense, perspiring man in a button-down shirt two sizes too small for him was bringing the applicants, one-by-one, behind a screen to be interviewed. It was about fifteen feet away from the waiting area, which meant the exchanges were clearly audible. What follows is a cobbled together transcript from the pool of applicants. 

Interviewer: “Understand this isn’t a year-round position.”  

Applicant: “That’s fine. I’m actually an aircraft marshaller in the off-season.” 

Interviewer: “What’s that?” 

Applicant: “I’m part of the airport ground crew that waves the planes to the gates with those lighted batons.” 

Interviewer: “Impressive. I mean, you have experience with gesturing.” 

Applicant: “Yes, thank you.” 

Interviewer: “You need to understand, though, you can’t get all wild with the bell. You can’t go all this-a-way and that-a-way with it. A simple up and down technique—gentle, friendly, festive.” 

Applicant: “Can you put me in front of a store that gets a lot of big juicy?” 

Interviewer: “A lot of what?” 

Applicant: “You know. Lenox. Phipps. Lotta big juicy mamas around there. Ba-donk-a-donk and whatnot.”  

Interviewer: “We’re a charitable organization.” 

Applicant: “Fuck dat.” 

Interviewer: “Can you perform, for extended periods of time, a simple up and down motion with one arm while the rest of your body stays relatively still, and do it with a smile on your face?” 

Applicant: “Yes, in fact I’ve got a serious porn addiction.” 

Interviewer: “In one way that increases your eligibility, and in another way it destroys it. We’ll be in touch.” 

Applicant: “So will I. Right when I get home!” 

Interviewer: “Tell me a bit about yourself.” 

Applicant: “I’m a big Anita Ward fan.” 

Interviewer: “Good. You take your bell-ringing seriously. Fine. Like a comprehensive embrace of the bell-ringing concept. Can you keep a steady bell rhythm?” 

Applicant: “Yeah, but if I see an attractive woman I may slowly and steadily increase the frequency of my ringing until it builds to an unendurable clanging, after which I might kind of collapse in satisfied exhaustion.” 

Interviewer: “…” 

Applicant: “What if I put the bell in my pants, and with a hip-thrusting motion, ring the bell in that fashion?” 

Interviewer: “Next!” 

Applicant: “What’s my cut?” 

Interviewer: “Your cut?” 

Applicant: “Yeah. I’m collectin’ money for you. I want my cut, or when you come to pick up the collection bowl you won’t find nothin’ but an empty chain danglin’ from a tripod stand and a broke-up fuckin’ bell layin’ on the sidewalk.” 

I heard the interviewer let out a quaking sigh of despair, and I understood. The spirit of the holidays seemed to be collapsing amid the weight of every debased notion, instead of the other way around. Just when all seemed hopeless, the door to the Salvation Army blasted open, and a figure shuffled in, some kind of radiant nimbus surrounding him. Everybody stopped and stared, and nobody said a word. He seemed to float on by us, straight up to the interviewer, and in a calm, dusky delivery he declared: 

“Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams, 

Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams,

For they’re deep and they’re wide,

and the world’s on its side,

And time is running backwards

And so is the bride. Ring them bells… Ring them bells…” 

“You’re hired!” shouted the interviewer, and with that, the rest of us shuffled out into the afternoon, that was suddenly not so gray. 

Merry Everything, Everyone. 

More Alembics…