In Which I Ruminate On How 2016 Took A Barb Wire Wrapped Louisville Slugger To My Childhood (And Why 2017 Can’t Be Any Worse… Can It?)

Hello fellow denizens of my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. It’s been too long. How’s your 2016 going?

Yep. I went there. 

2016… the year that took a barb wire wrapped Louisville Slugger to my childhood. Why barb wire wrapped? Because Negan, i.e. the current and IMO worst ever, most evil villain on “The Walking Dead” TV show who is also the current and IMO worst ever, most evil villain in the comic book that the show is based on. That is all. I equate that statement–“because Negan”–to my current mentality with only a few days left to go in this cursed 365 day cycle of sunrises and sunsets: Because 2016

Never in my 41 plus year life on this side of the aforementioned proverbial wormhole of existence has there been a year like this. I remember a conversation or two back in my collegiate and post-collegiate days about which passing of one of my childhood icons would affect me the most. I remember a bevy of answers from my brethren. But for me? The answer was simple. Musician? Hands down: Prince. Actor or actress? Easy: Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher. Guess what guys? Two of the three above mentioned icons are now gone. Hashtag RIPPrince, hashtag RIPCarrieFisher. Thank God Harrison’s still kicking else I’d be curled up in a fetal position on my bed, unable to face the world outside my bedroom. Good thing I moved the PS4 up there, huh? Sarcasm…

Ah f*ck it. You get the point. Because 2016. 

But it doesn’t end there, friends, Romans, countrymen and women. Oh no. The passing of Prince and Carrie Fisher from this realm to the next would be enough to sum up this year in one word: Sh*tty. It would be the equivalent of that first swing of Lucille Negan hit you-know-who with. You know: The one that popped you-know-who’s left eyeball out of its socket. But 2016? It’s been a full on bludgeoning that resulted in… well, if you know “The Walking Dead” you know what I’m getting at. No need to make you vomit up the last of the Christmas cookies or the leftover ham from Christmas dinner that you consumed earlier this afternoon recalling the vision of what was left of poor you-know-who after Negan was done with him/her. 

Consider the following list of celebrities that we lost this year. More specifically though? The ones that my generation lost because frankly (no pun intended), and not to take anything away from anyone else that’s suffering this has been an ESPECIALLY bad year for the 35-45 demographic. 

In chronological order, then:

David Bowie

Alan Rickman

Glenn Frey

Abe Vigoda

Dave Mirra

Vanity

George Gaynes

Harper Lee

Tony Burton 

George Kennedy

Nancy Reagan

George Martin

Keith Emerson

Frank Sinatra Jr.

Phife Dawg

Garry Shandling

Doris Roberts

Chyna

Prince

Muhammad Ali

Gordie Howe

Anton Yelchin

Pat Summitt

Elie Weisel

Garry Marshall

David Huddleston 

Kenny Baker

Gene Wilder

W. P. Kinsella

Arnold Palmer

Janet Reno

Leonard Cohen

Florence Henderson

John Glenn

Alan Thicke

Zsa Zsa Gabor

George Michael

Richard Adams

Carrie Fisher

Debbie Reynolds

Vera Rubin

And those are only a handful of names. There’s probably double… hell, TRIPLE that but I focused on the names of the celebs… the icons that passed this year that held the most significance for me. I remember dancing to George Michael’s “Father Figure” at a Seventh Grade Dance. Florence Henderson and Alan Thicke, i.e. Mrs. Brady and Mr. Seaver (respectively) were the TV parents of my youth. W. P. Kinsella? The man behind arguably my all time favorite movie, “Field of Dreams.” Kenny Baker? R2 f*cking D2. Muhammad Ali? Simply “The Greatest.” Gene Wilder? Willie Wonka and Victor Frankenstein (pronounced “frahn-ken-steen”). I could go on and on but I won’t. Because I’m beat tired. And emotional. Because 2016. 

I just read that list of names to my wife, who is a half a decade younger than me (but still a member of that 35-45 demo) and in a number of cases, she punctuated the reading of a name with “old,” or something similar. And she’s right. But here’s MY point: There are days where my childhood growing up on that little street in “J-Town,” Pennsylvania seems only a day or two behind me. And back then? These celebs… these icons were not old. They were young. Inviolate. Immortal. But they weren’t. They’re gone now. And I find myself sitting here at 10:27 PM on Wednesday the 28th of December, 20f*cking16 passing this rambling piece of Mental Flatulence with a shocked look on my face. Kind of how Rick Grimes looked both in the comic and on the TV show as Negan killed one of his closest friends in cold blood. In truth? I’ve got nothing. Because? Because 2016. 

To be frank (pun intended this time), I’m not blind to what’s happening. I mean, I GET it. I do. I’m getting older and by association, everyone around me is also getting older. Time IS a fickle bitch, John Locke (booyakasha, “LOST.” Respect) and there’s no stopping it’s relentless march forward. I mean sh*t, I blinked and I was 41. That’s how it feels some days. And the way that 2016 has unfolded with ruthless, lifetaking precision drives that point home HARD. It’s not that we’ve lost more icons this year than in other years. It’s that I’VE lost more icons that have direct significance for ME and my contemporaries than we have in previous years. And as much as I’d like to say that 2017 is going to be better in truth? I can’t. I can HOPE it will be better but it would really be little more than a brief respite from the inevitable. I know… reluctantly… that the upcoming years are going to suck for the celebs… the icons of my childhood. I only hope that Harrison Ford holds out long enough to make a new “Indiana Jones” movie that washes the taste of “Crystal Skulls” out of my mouth. 

So what do I… what do WE, the children of the late 1970s, the 1980s and early 1990s do? How do we reconcile the depressing fact that this is going to continue to happen with greater frequency moving forward with our desire to live a happy existence on this, or ANY side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? I see two answers to that question… two possibilities. The first? We can simply forget that we’re getting older, embrace the mentality of an early 20 something year old (despite the fact that our bodies are, for the most part, NOT 20 something bodies) complete with endless selfies, naked Snapchatting, swiping left or right, “text-speak” and emojiis, embrace a handful of NEW, younger icons and pray that our bodies hold up. Survey says? Nah. But that’s just me. 

And the second? We can accept who and what we are at this juncture in our respective lives as reflective of the aging politicians, athletes, musicians, actors and actresses we grew up with complete with the flaws, ailments and white/grey hair that comes with it and simply try to be the best, healthiest and happiest 35-45 year olds that we can be. For our families and for ourselves. This advice is something I REALLY need to think about this frosty night on the cusp of a New Year. 2017 is going to be a year of change on a number of fronts here, there and everywhere. It needs to be a year of change for me personally, as well. But that fellow sh*theads? That’s another blog entry… another piece of Mental Flatulence for another time. Not tonight. Hashtag friedandemotional. Hashtag because2016. 

For the moment? I think I’m going to close it out for the night the same way I opened it up. Because Negan. Fans of the comic book know this next part and fans of the TV show hopefully WILL know it within a few months. Despite how bleak things look right now there’s a little teeny, tiny bit of hope on the horizon. I’m 41 years old and looking forward to taking an incendiary torch to 2016 in a few days. I’m ready for 2017, for better OR for worse (I certainly hope its the former). This? This is the halfway point for us 35-45 somethings, friends. We’ve made it this far. Our legacy… what we will go to our graves being known for lies ahead and not behind us. Will our legacies be the equivalent of Prince’s legacy? Carrie Fisher’s? I certainly hope so. That spark of genius exists within all of us, we just need to kindle it into a flame, and not take a barb wire wrapped Louisville Slugger to it. Because?

Because hope. 

Good Night, fellow sh*theads. Duty calls. It’s name is “Final Fantasy XV.” Good thing I moved the PS4 upstairs, huh?

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