Letter From The Publisher

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Welcome to 2021.

Man, it feels good to be able to say that.

For virtually this entire “chapter”, I have concluded each of these letters with some sort of statement along the lines of “Here’s to hoping we’re putting this all behind us…” and then I end up repeating it in the next issue as, unfortunately, we haven’t put a damn thing behind us. Things just carry on and on and on…

But as I sit here shortly before Christmas banging this out, I’m excited for 2021 just like all of you if for no other reason than it’s a definite chance to at least put stupid 2020 behind us, no matter what follows us into 2021.

So as I enjoy a glass of wine in front of a fireplace and feeling a bit reminiscent, I have been thinking about what this shitty year has actually taught us. Sure, lots of frustrating things have happened and a whole hell of a lot of people have really struggled this year, yet despite these challenges, let’s see if we can’t find a few positives from “2020 – The Year From Hell”.

1. CROWDS
I’m one of those people that generally wants to avoid crowds. “Wanna go to NIOSA ?” a friend might ask me and I look at them as if they are growing a horn out of their head. “Are you out of your mind? I can’t think of anything I’d want to do less than go to downtown and rub elbows with 200,000 drunken fools!”
This year, I’d jump in the car and say “Let’s roll!” Man, I miss people. Going to a packed concert at Gruene Hall. Spurs games. Stock Show and Rodeo. Dickens. Packed basketball games. I would give anything to be able to be crammed in with a bunch of other folks and just enjoy the energy and the excitement that only people can bring. We’ve all been isolated and “spread out” for so long…so I’ve personally regained an appreciation for being around people.

2. MEDIA
Well, if we ever needed an event for us to finally all agree without question that the “media” shouldn’t be listened to, well, it was COVID that did it for us. Talking heads spewing and screaming their eternal message of “FEAR” nonstop 24/7, no matter which side of the fence you sit on in this particular issue. If you think COVID is junk science, boy oh boy has the mainstream media pissed you off this year. If you think COVID is something to be worried about, you’re livid at how passive the media has told you that we all have taken it. There’s no middle. Basically, they preached to us that we all hate each other and one faction wants everyone to die, and the other faction wants to simply destroy the country. Meanwhile, they just cashed the advertising checks. Ta-da. I tell you in these letters all the time that I haven’t watched an actual news broadcast in several years now, but I’m not immune to the infiltration of the “news” online. It’s everywhere and there’s no escape. I read that Old Timer wrote in this month’s piece that we all (as a collective society) should agree to turn off the news for one full year, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s time. We need to regain our sanity. All of us.

3. FAMILY
When COVID happened, my dad had just had a stroke. A big one. We would show up daily and just sit with him because that’s what family does. As we pushed through March, the hospital got weirder and weirder with strange requests like masks and screen questions. We as family just shrugged our shoulders. My mom was with my dad, went downstairs to get a cup of coffee, and while she was gone, the hospital locked itself from all outsiders. She wasn’t allowed back to him. For 4 months. It was unbelievably cruel to everyone involved.
My dad would call constantly and moan about his loneliness. We’d explain why we weren’t allowed in, but he didn’t give a damn, and I wouldn’t either. He just wanted his family. It hurt me to see him go through that, and for my mom to be so anxious and struggling throughout.
Then I think about the elderly in the nursing homes – ugh – that’s simply brutal as we sit here on month 9 of “2 Weeks to Flatten the Curve”, knowing that they are sitting around their quiet rooms alone. For those of you that chose to forego the holidays because the government told you not to, I know that your heart ached also.
I know that we all have that brother/aunt/mother/grandparent/cousin/whatever that can get on our last damn nerve. Every Christmas they leave us pissed off and muttering “I swear that guy drives me nuts…” but THIS year, I bet you’d give pretty much anything to be able to sit around the living room, drink too many mimosas and hang out with your Crazy Uncle Billy this year.

4. FREEDOM
I’ll avoid becoming too political here, but being told where you can eat, what you must wear, how many can come to your Thanksgiving dinner, where you can go, and when you are allowed to work…are not ideal situations. Yet they are a current reality.
I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m a control freak. One of the things that I absolutely rebel against even if the demands are “I want you to go into this store and buy anything you want!” I’d immediately say “Why this store? What about that store? Maybe I don’t want anything from this store. Why do you have to tell me what to do?” It’s not healthy, but it is what it is. You can imagine the major struggles I’ve had this year when I walk into the gas station and the 19 year old kid barks at me “Sir!!! YOUR MASK!!” Oh man, it’s all I can do to keep it together.
This is perhaps the scariest part of this adventure: the complete CONTROL of our government. No thanks. I’m more libertarian at heart. My favorite Facebook group is “Libertarians – Violently Taking Over the World and then Leaving you Alone”. I snicker everytime I read that. But that’s a pretty good mantra for how I work. You do you, man. You want to be protected from COVID? Stay home. But telling me I can’t earn a living is not how this works, and it needs to end soon. I’ve predicted since the beginning that as soon as people start struggling to EAT, things are going to get bloody. I’d like to avoid that, and I want my freedoms back. I’m sure you do, too.

5. HAPPINESS
Have you had fun in 2020? Yeah, you’ve laughed and had some good days, but no, 2020 is not a happy year. It’s been grueling. If you’re not hurting personally, somebody you know is. If you’re happy with the way things are being handled, your neighbor isn’t, and they tell you about it all the time. You’ve lost friendships. Your kids are miserable at school with its weird rules. Your parents miss you more than most years. Your job has been destabilized and you’ve gotten scared. Your friends miss you. A whole lot of shitty things have happened this year, and you miss just having a boring ol’ week and ending it with a happy hour with your friends where you all laugh and high-five and hug. Instead, it’s been grey day after grey day of scary news and mask-wearing and dire economic reports. While you might be doing “ok”…you want your happiness back.

And so do I.

But here we are, turning the page on 2020. I’m trying to be positive this month and find some positive things that we all appreciate a bit more after this year, but it’s a tough exercise. But you know what? We’re all getting the distinct privilege of being able to turn the page, an honor many don’t have who we might have lost this year just like every year when we lose friends and family.
So maybe that’s the big celebration: You’re alive. That’s it. LIFE itself is the most precious gift of all, and so long as you have LIFE, you have everything I suppose. LIFE could always be better, but it could always be worse too.
So as I sit here on a cold December evening watching a crackling fire in my fireplace, I’ll just say that I’m glad that if you’re reading this, you have been bestowed the highest honor of having LIFE flow through your veins. Appreciate it. Honor it. Celebrate it.
And then take that LIFE and honor those things I outlined above. You never know when everything could be taken from you…so appreciate it while you have it.
Welcome to January where we all say “Hey 2020…KISS OUR ASS!” Explore your life, celebrate it, and treat it the respect it deserves. May 2021 turn out to be the greatest year of our collective lives, and may we all be hugging our friends at a Gruene Hall concert very, very soon.
Smiling,

Ben Schooley