If I had to pick two words to summarize 1995, those words would be "reasonable doubt."
What I mean is, any reasonable person has to have serious doubts about whether this year should have been allowed to occur.
A big reason, of course, is that this was the year when we had to endure The Trial That Lasted At Least A Century. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining about the verdict. If a jury of 12 citizens, after thoroughly considering all of the evidence for approximately 20 minutes, honestly came to the conclusion that O. J. Simpson had not been proven guilty of committing the crimes in question, then far be it from me to point out that they have the collective intelligence of beef jerky.
No, it was not the verdict that was the problem with this case. The problem was -- and here I must search for precisely the right word -- lawyers. There were way too many of them. The sheer mass of lawyers overwhelmed poor pathetic Judge Lance Ito, who, during the course of the trial, was buffeted by a relentless gale of lawyer-generated wind that gradually started eroding him, so that he became smaller and smaller as the months wore on, until finally he was just this nervous little fringe-bearded face poking up over the top of his desk, praying for this awful ordeal to end before he completely lost his mind and started shouting objections at himself via a Cookie Monster puppet.
It's hard to believe that anybody is still sane after the year we've all just been through. Just in case you forgot what happened, let's swallow our anti-nausea medication and take a trip back in time, starting with ...
... when, as the nation rang in the new year, an estimated 25,000 newly elected Republican congresspersons, sworn to enact the Contract With America, descended on Washington, D.C., and immediately begin a series of marathon late-night sessions, passing more than 200 major new pieces of legislation before it was pointed out that they would not legally take office until Jan. 4. Meanwhile, President For Now Bill Clinton, refusing to play "second fiddle" despite the GOP congressional takeover, met with a number of top world leaders to discuss possible ways in which they might get appointments with Newt Gingrich.
Abroad, Mexico's economic crisis worsened when International Monetary Fund officials, after an audit of the Mexican treasury, announced that four of the remaining six chickens were sick.
In sports, the National Hockey League season finally resumed, fueling speculation that it had stopped. Speaking of excitement, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers in a Super Bowl so exciting that Steve Young and Jerry Rice filmed the "We're going to Disney World!" commercial during the second quarter.
In aviation news, a South African Airways airliner, heading from London to South Africa, was forced to turn back when its fire alarms were triggered by methane gas released by 72 pigs in the cargo hold.
Speaking of pig flatulence, in the Trial of the Century, the O. J. Simpson defense team produced an expert medical witness who testified that Simpson, as a result of injuries sustained during his playing career, no longer contains DNA. And speaking of sports, in ...
... the crippling baseball strike dragged on into its seventh brutal month, forcing many desperate players to sell some of their Ferraris as they waited for emergency Red Cross shipments of gold chains. Meanwhile in Washington, the House of Representatives, continuing to take bold action, voted to repeal all the even-numbered amendments to the Constitution. In other political news, Dan Quayle, in a statement that shocked observers because virtually all the words were spelled correctly, announced that he would not run for president. Dozens of humor columnists committed suicide.
In the Trial of the Century, the specter of a mistrial arose when it was reported that some jurors, in between recesses and sidebar conferences, might have heard some actual testimony. An angry Judge Ito sternly instructed them to disregard it.
In space, crews of the Russian space station Mir and the American shuttle Discovery attempted a historic docking maneuver while orbiting the Earth, but were forced to abort when they realized, at the last instant, that they were orbiting in opposite directions.
On the educational front, critics concerned about the "dumbing down" of America objected to a new version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" in which the famous scene where Beth dies is replaced by a scene where Beavis sets fire to Butthead's shorts.
On Wall Street, the Dow hit yet another record high, although of course every stock you personally own went directly into the toilet. And speaking of high finance, in ...
... the United States, in a bold move to end the peso crisis, lent Mexico an additional $60 billion, secured by what Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin described as "a real nice blanket." And in a true Latin American news item, the United States, which imports and consumes the vast majority of the world's cocaine, threatened, with a straight face, to punish Colombia for not doing its part in the War on Drugs.
In another true item, the governor of the state of Washington, Mike Lowry, announced that he wanted Lolita -- a killer whale that has spent 25 years entertaining tourists in the Miami Seaquarium -- returned to her original home in Puget Sound. This plan met with vehement opposition in Miami, where Lolita is one of the few public figures not currently under indictment.
In other domestic news, the city of Denver was forced to again delay the opening of its multibillion-dollar new airport when a study showed that, because of an engineering error, both main runways were located inside the terminal.
In Trial of the Century action, Judge Ito dismissed three more jurors when it was discovered that, in an effort to beat the competition, they had already published books giving their first-person accounts of the trial, including the verdict.
On the health front, researchers for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who had previously issued scary reports about the fat content of Mexican, Italian and Chinese food, as well as movie popcorn, announced that sandwiches also are dangerous. "Water is still OK," stated the researchers, "but we're keeping an eye on it."
In the Academy Awards, the American movie industry heaped honors on "Forrest Gump," the heartwarming story about a person who succeeds in life despite having the same IQ as the target audience of the American movie industry.
In sports, Michael Jordan announced that he would quit playing baseball and return to what made him famous in the first place: Wheaties commercials. And speaking of big business, in ...
... the baseball owners and players graciously agreed to resume making millions again. Fans vowed to boycott the games, but the lure of being able to eat $4.50 hot dogs while watching unshaven men spit proved too strong to resist. In other financial news, Lee Iacocca and billionaire Kirk Kerkorian tried to buy the Chrysler Corp. for $21 billion, but the deal fell through in a dispute over whether the price included floor mats.
In Washington, the House of Representatives finally decided to take a break after discovering that it had voted, without debate, in favor of amending the U.S. Tax Code to include the rules to "Chutes and Ladders."
In the sad-news department, Ginger Rogers twirled gracefully off the stage; Howard Cosell went to that Big Ringside Seat in the Sky.
In a true consumer-news item, the First National Bank of Chicago announced that it would start charging customers $3 if they wanted to do business with a human teller instead of an ATM. "This is the wave of the future," explained the bank's CEO, Leo Mullin, moments before what appeared to be a computer chip fell out of his left nostril.
On the animal-rights front, alien beings landed in Washington state and announced that they wanted to return Gov. Mike Lowry to his planet of origin. Meanwhile, Lolita the Killer Whale, squeaking through a spokesperson, announced that she wished to be set free and had needless to say retained the services of Johnnie Cochran. In the Trial of the Century, Judge Lance Ito dismissed four more jurors for snoring. And speaking of justice, in ...
... a major blow against crime was struck in New York's Central Park, where two city police officers -- this is a true item -- cited a grandmother for allowing her 4-year-old grandson to urinate behind a bush. Thousands of joyful New Yorkers, at last free to leave their homes and walk the city without fear, danced in the streets, where most of them were killed instantly by taxis.
In international news, the Clinton administration toughened its policy regarding Cuban refugees, triggering an angry reaction in Miami, where protesters attempted to disrupt traffic, but were forced to give up when they realized that they couldn't screw things up any more than they already were.
In Washington, Sen. Bob Packwood, having been accused of trying to stick his tongue into the ear of every female in town for the past 25 years except Barbara Bush, found himself fighting for his political life when the Senate Ethics Committee, after a two-year investigation, released a report charging that the letters in "Sen. Bob Packwood" could be rearranged to spell "Do Neck, Paw Boobs."
Speaking of sex, a Harris survey was released showing that 70 percent of American men do not view birth control as their responsibility. This resulted in the usual round of male-bashing by the usual critics, who as usual failed to note the many areas in which men take on more than their fair share of responsibility, such as spider-killing, channel-changing, referee-critiquing, scratching and traffic gestures.
On the animal-rights front, the Miami Seaquarium was ordered to free Lolita the Killer Whale after a trial in which her attorney, Johnnie Cochran, told the jury: "If she blows her spout, you must let her out."
And there was this absolutely true item: Philip Morris Inc. recalled 8 billion cigarettes because -- get ready -- the filters contained a contaminant that might cause "temporary discomfort, including eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness, coughing and wheezing." And speaking of unbelievable but true stories, in ...
... the launch of the space shuttle Discovery was delayed because the big external fuel tank had been damaged by -- really -- woodpeckers.
On a happier note, Air Force pilot Scott O'Grady was rescued six days after being shot down in Bosnia, where he survived by eating insects. News of the rescue caused widespread rejoicing everywhere in the United States except the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which issued a report warning that insects contain a lot more fat than people think.
In other consumer news, the Abalone brothers, operators of the nation's largest narcotics-trafficking operation, announced that they were recalling 3.7 million grams of crack cocaine because it contained a chemical impurity that "could cause postnasal drip."
In Washington, the U.S. Senate, deeply disturbed by the proliferation of pornography on television and the Internet, voted to burn the Packwood diaries. Meanwhile Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, taking on the extremely powerful senior-citizen lobby, held the first of what he promised would be several hearings on alleged abuses by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Simpson's body was found the next day welded inside a 55-gallon drum filled with denture adhesive.
The Trial of the Century, dragging into its seventh month, suffered another setback when an obviously exhausted Judge Ito, attempting to wish the jurors good morning, accidentally dismissed five more of them. Elsewhere on the legal front, Lolita the Killer Whale, finally headed for home after 25 years in captivity, was stolen on the way to the Miami Airport.
In the entertainment industry, charming British actor Hugh Grant, who makes regular-looking guys everywhere want to puke, got caught engaging in an act of close companionship with a woman named Divine Brown. News organizations immediately pulled all available personnel out of Bosnia to cover this story.
In sports, the International Olympic Committee, ending a bidding war hotly contested by Salt Lake City and cities in Sweden, Canada and Switzerland, announced that the winner of the 2002 Winter Olympic games was: the Nike corporation. Elsewhere on the international front, the United States, angered by Japanese trade practices, threatened to impose huge import tariffs on Japanese luxury cars, but backed down when the Japanese threatened to make VCRs even harder to program than they already are. And speaking of luxury cars, in ...
... professional basketball players, who make millions of dollars apiece, announced that they were thinking of going out on strike. "We have no idea why," they said. "It just seems like the professional thing to do."
Speaking of rich people, Forbes magazine released its annual list of the world's richest billionaires, headed for the first time by two Americans: Bill Gates, who controls a vast software empire, and Louise A. Sneeple, who was being paid by the word as a stenographer in the O. J. Simpson trial.
In government action, the House of Representatives celebrated the Fourth of the July, as it has for the past 25 straight years, by passing an unconstitutional anti-flag-desecration bill. Congress also held hearings into the Whitewater scandal, which continued to burgeon and as of this writing has been traced back to before the Civil War.
The troubled space program was dealt yet another setback when a judge declared the shuttle Discovery to be a federally protected woodpecker preserve.
Jerry Garcia went truckin' off to his Final Gig.
In weather news, the East Coast was battered by hurricanes Alma, Bubba, Chester, Denise, Earl and Francine, which did a combined total of $350 million damage, most of it to the hairstyles of TV newspeople who insisted on remaining on the beaches so they could do dramatic on-the-scene reports.
Abroad, France threatened to test nuclear devices in the South Pacific, but backed down at the last minute when the United States threatened to retaliate by executing Jerry Lewis. Not everybody felt that we got the better end of this deal. And speaking of big movie stars, in ...
... Kevin Costner finally came out with his long-awaited, spectacularly expensive motion picture "Waterworld," which is set in the future, after some kind of horrible calamity has struck the Earth and wiped out all traces of acting ability.
On the legal front, the Trial of the Century hit another snag when Judge Ito, seeking to let off steam by dismissing a few jurors, was informed that there were none left.
In sports, Mickey Mantle struck out swinging. And in another touching story line, totally rehabilitated boxer Mike Tyson, released from prison and taking his first major step on the comeback trail, took just 89 seconds to knock out a nun.
On the political front, President Clinton announced a major new administration initiative to combat teen smoking after Chelsea set fire to the Lincoln bedroom.
At the Citadel -- the South Carolina military academy where courageous specimens of Southern manhood receive the rigorous training and character development they need to be able to fight any enemy, meet any challenge and face any danger -- many courageous manhood specimens became extremely upset when, for a little while, they had to go to school with -- Yikes! -- a girl! Oh no! Cooties!
In fashion, Calvin Klein was forced to cancel a major new advertising campaign after many consumers objected strongly to the use of highly suggestive photographs of a semi-undressed Bob Packwood. In a far more successful marketing campaign, millions of computer users purchased Microsoft's amazing new "Windows 95" program, which provided an instant boost to the nation's economy in the form of the enormous phone bills generated by users calling Customer Assistance in a desperate mass effort to get this amazing new program to work.
In a tragic reminder of life's perilousness, a brush fire raged in Long Island's exclusive Hamptons, causing an estimated $583 million damage to Ralph Lauren's main gazebo. And speaking of tragedies, in ...
... a beleaguered Bob Packwood, finally throwing in the towel, announced that he was resigning from the U.S. Senate to apply for a job as a waiter at Hooters.
In a more uplifting story, on Sept. 5, a nation starved for heroes saluted Cal Ripken after he set a Major League baseball record -- unlikely to ever be broken -- by playing in two consecutive games without adjusting himself on-camera. The Miami Heat lured superstar coach Pat Riley out of New York with a contract worth $4 million per year, the bulk of which will be paid in the form of hair gel.
In weather news, the East Coast was battered by hurricanes Pete, Queenie, Ralph, Samantha, Todd, Uma and Victor.
On the culture scene, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland with a spectacular all-star concert featuring Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan and Colin Powell.
William Kunstler died, but immediately filed an appeal.
The Washington Post and New York Times published the Unabomber Manifesto, which was so lengthy, dull and unintelligible that it will probably win several important journalism prizes.
In the Trial of the Century, after nine grueling months, the defense rested its case, leading to a moment of unprecedented drama when O. J. Simpson rose to his feet and announced, to a hushed courtroom, that his butt hurt.
On the educational front -- this is a true item -- a San Bernardino, Calif., off-duty police officer accidentally shot a hole in the wall of an elementary-school classroom where he was giving a presentation on gun safety.
Speaking of true items in ...
... the Trial of the Century came to an abrupt halt when the jurors, after painstakingly reviewing every single item that they wanted to pack in their suitcases, left their hotel, paused briefly to drop off a verdict and rushed out of the courtroom to meet with their book agents, almost knocking over the legal experts explaining to the TV cameras why the deliberations would probably go on for weeks. O. J. Simpson, a free man again, immediately began his relentless quest to find the real killers, taking his ceaseless search to the fairways as well as the greens, leaving no divot unturned.
In an unforgettably dramatic and spiritually uplifting story, Pope John Paul II visited New York City and spent four exciting, historic and intensely emotional days stuck in traffic trying to leave the airport.
And in another historic event, an unprecedented gathering of African-American men -- estimates of the crowd size ranged from 43 people (the National Park Service) to 956 trillion (the Nation of Islam) -- heard the Rev. Louis Farrakhan deliver a speech that is expected to be completed in March of 1998, at which point it will be translated into English.
In international events, the United Nations, celebrating its 50th anniversary, held a party that went on until 4 a.m., when police were called to break up a big fight that started when Sweden threw up on Cameroon's date.
In another major international story, the voters of Quebec went to the polls and, in a historic vote with deep significance for Canada's future, elected Colin Powell prime minister. And speaking of nations in turmoil, in ...
... Congress and President Clinton were unable to agree on a budget, resulting in a shutdown of the federal government that caused massive traumatic nationwide disruption for maybe eight ordinary citizens. The president announced that he was sending home 800,000 "nonessential" federal employees (Al Gore was halfway to Tennessee before he found out that this did not include him), with "nonessential" being officially defined as: "Any federal employee whom you can observe at work for several weeks without detecting a single clue as to what his or her job is."
The big stumbling block was a disagreement between the president and the Republican leadership over whether to pretend that the budget would be balanced seven years from now, or pretend that it would be balanced 10 years from now. The two sides were finally able to reach a compromise when they realized that they will all be safely retired, with pensions, before the public realizes that nobody is ever going to balance the federal budget.
Meanwhile, in a story that received less publicity than the budget crisis, but will, in the long term, have a much longer-lasting -- and far more serious -- impact on the American public, Bill Watterson announced that he was going to stop drawing Calvin and Hobbes.
On the crime front, in yet another example of why living in Dade County, Miami, is nothing whatsoever like living on the planet Earth, police were investigating three drive-by shootings in which the victims were attacked by a motorist wielding -- this is an absolutely true item -- a crossbow.
But all was not gloom and doom in November: It was also time for millions of Baby Boomers to take a nostalgic trip back to "Strawberry Fields" as ABC-TV broadcast a much-ballyhooed three-part documentary on the Beatles, featuring the debut of two never-before-released songs performed by Paul McCartney,
Ringo Starr, George Harrison and -- through the miracle of electronics -- Colin Powell. Elsewhere in the media, in what some critics charged was an example of undue influence by the tobacco industry, the respected TV news show "60 Minutes" reported that cigarettes "cure acne and baldness."
And speaking of good news, in ...
... grateful taxpayers learned that over the past 20 years the CIA has spent $20 million employing psychics to help gather intelligence. Although the psychics failed to sense that, for example, the Soviet Union was collapsing, they were credited by high-level intelligence officials with helping field agents locate "at least six" lost sets of car keys.
On a far more serious note, President Clinton, in one of the most difficult and controversial decisions of his presidency, announced that he would deploy U.S. troops to prevent the Browns from leaving Cleveland and heading for Baltimore. In other federal action, the nationwide speed limit of 55 miles per hour was lifted, although the odds are that nobody will pass this information along to whatever federal agency is responsible for procuring the "SPEED LIMIT 55" signs, the result being that the government will continue to purchase these signs by the millions for at least the next 40 years.
In sports, the troubled University of Miami athletic program was dealt a serious blow when the NCAA imposed stiff sanctions under which the football team, for the next three years, will be restricted to only semiautomatic weapons. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins struggled through a disappointing season, leading to an unprecedented level of public support for replacing legendary coach Don Shula with (I promise this is the last one) Colin Powell.
On the entertainment front, the Disney company -- which has been under fire from conservative groups for allegedly undermining family values -- finally had reason to celebrate with the huge success of its big holiday movie "Toy Story," the delightful and heartwarming tale of a cowboy named Woody who becomes very jealous when his master, Andy, starts sleeping with a spaceman named Buzz Lightyear, who ... No! Wait! It's not what you think!
Anyway, as 1995 draws to a close, we need to remember that, despite the foregoing stories, it was not a total waste of a year. There were some positive developments. For example ... let's see ... hmmm ... OK, I thought of one: Roseanne and Tom Arnold did not get back together. And I'm sure there were many other happy developments, including some, I hope, that involved you.
And so as 1995 staggers off into history, let's just be grateful that we got through it. And let's also hope that 1996 will be a whole lot better.
Although we have every reason to doubt it.
DAVE BARRY is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist. His weekly column, "To Wit," appears in Sun Magazine.