Welcome to what, by my rough calculations, should be Column No. 6,150. In the four decades since Philip Heisler, the late editor of the late Evening Sun, assigned me this column, I’ve rarely, if ever, composed a list of resolutions for the new year. Resolutions are mostly about self-improvement, and that gets you a one-way ticket to Nofunland, and it’s very cold there this time of year.
Still, I’ve decided to make an exception for 2020 ― resolutions for myself and for a few other people.
Me: Go fishing in Canada and scout real estate in Ontario just in case the November election brings about a second chapter to the current disaster.
Lamar Jackson: We like the way you scoot and scamper out of bounds before the opposition can get a big hit on you. Please, for the love of God, keep that up.
Me: Continue to resist Amazon. Patronize local retailers as much as possible, even if it costs a little more, even if parking is a pain, even if it requires human contact.
Everybody else: Consider the same. All the shopping we do with a click of the mouse or a touch of a screen is not only killing local retail but further isolating us. Human interaction seems to be headed toward anachronism. You don’t need a degree in anthropology to see that as a bad thing.
Me: Resist the self-checkout at supermarkets. I like technology but no longer see the good in every machine that replaces workers and, in the case of the self-checkout, forces us to do what store employees should be doing.
Yama Sushi Bar: Don’t go changin.’ Do the thing that’s hardest in the restaurant business — maintain excellence.
Me: Leave the car at home and take the bus more often.
MTA bus riders: Use a headset while listening to music.
People of the Villes (Cockeysville, Sykesville, Davidsonville, Jarrettsville): If you haven’t been to the city since 2015, make a new effort. Visit a restaurant you used to patronize. Come for theater or a concert. Visit a museum. Check out the renovated Pratt. The city has loads of problems, but plenty of suburbanites still love Baltimore and don’t want to see it fail, so please don’t stay away.
Mayor and City Council: Have you seen the sorry condition of Harborplace and the hole in the ground that used to be the Mechanic Theatre? Do something.
Me: Reduce soda intake to zero and, when traveling, drink more water from reusable bottles.
Everybody else: Stop throwing away, in the streets or trash cans, plastic bottles that should be recycled. If there’s no recycling receptacle available, take your plastic with you.
Me: Read all the short stories and skinny novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez again. Also, finish the new English translation of his journalistic writing, “The Scandal of the Century,” then loan it to the young guy at work who’s been asking about it.
Everybody else: Visit a public library and, if you’re looking to buy, patronize our local bookstores.
Pour moi: Make another effort, during summer vacation, to read just one volume of Marcel Proust’s “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” and ward off feelings of guilt or despondency if I fail.
Mayor Jack Young: Resolve to keep a positive outlook. Don’t worry. There is life after City Hall.
Me: Be more encouraging to young people. Show more interest in what they’re doing in life and where they’re headed.
Talking heads on TV: Drop from your rhetorical repertoire, “It is what it is,” and “At the end of the day,” and, most of all, the combination, “At the end of the day, it is what it is.”
Sports talkers on radio: Stop pluralizing, and thereby depersonalizing, athletes — “You take your Matthew Judons, your Marlon Humphreys, your Earl Thomases ...” — as if there’s more than one of each.
Kirwan opponents: If you must join Gov. Larry Hogan in opposing the Kirwan Commission proposals for improving public education in Maryland because of their anticipated costs, fine. Just stop calling it “throwing money at schools.” That’s a tired expression that dismisses the long, hard work of commission members and others who care deeply about getting schools — and the kids who attend them — up to 21st Century speed.
Everybody: Plant a tree this year, or support a local or state organization that will. If you had to take a tree down, replace it somewhere. People with sprawling lawns: Make this the year you give more space to trees. Joe Meyers built his house on a hayfield in Freeland 45 years ago, and his widow, Lee Meyers, recently introduced me to his legacy: a grove of tall pines he planted as saplings at the top of a hill and “nurtured like they were kids.” He also planted and cared for spruce, maple, oak and gum trees. Joe Meyers died five years ago; his headstone at the nearby Methodist cemetery has the likeness of spruces etched into it. If you feel helpless about climate change, don’t. There’s plenty we can do here on the ground. This year, plant trees, and care for them.