New Year, New Me? Hardly. . .
No, I’m still the same cantankerous asshole that I was last week.
A little older.
A little wiser, perhaps.
New beginnings are a good time for reflection and introspection. So, this week I took some time out to take stock of what’s left of my mind and the vessel that contains it.
The results of this solipsistic navel-gazing weren’t pretty. . .
At this age and stage, I find that “personal growth” comes hard, if at all, and those acerbic personal traits and bad habits that have taken years to carefully cultivate have become an important part of what it means to be “me,” now worn like a warm robe of familiar comfort – an impenetrable bark that protects me from the slings and arrows of modern life.
I drink too much whiskey and howl at the moon, smoke Marlboros like a chimney and can consume my body weight in greasy fast food. As a result, I’m almost certain that my long-suffering heart and liver are the size, shape and consistency of a Honey Baked Ham (something I could confirm if I ever bothered to go see my equally long-suffering doctor. . .)
When it comes to any semblance of “work,” I procrastinate to the point of crippling dysfunction – a byproduct of my inherent laziness and Walter Mitty-like daydreaming – and my weird personality quirks, raging social anxiety and continuing struggle with OCD are legendary.
However, I still have some very old-fashioned notions of what it means to conduct oneself as a gentleman – and I represent the ultimate hypocrite: An unrepentant sinner with a strong moral compass.
Most people instinctively dislike me – and I get that – because I hate me too.
I like dogs more than most people – and when it comes to holding a grudge – I never forget or forgive a perceived slight. As most know, I would rather argue than eat – and always see the worst in others and situations (and I’m usually right, not that I would admit it if I were wrong).
I may not know the difference between Empirical Realism and Ontological Realism – and at 58 years old, I still haven’t mastered basic multiplication – but I can smell bullshit from a mile away.
The older I get, I have little patience and don’t suffer fools like I used to – and I have developed a molecular disdain for assholes who hold positions of power, charged with upholding the public’s trust in our governmental institutions, yet find a way to line their pockets – or serve the profit motives of their friends and political benefactors – and, in doing so, shit on everything We, The People hold dear.
Sadly, for good or for ill, I have no burning desire to change.
Worse yet, I take a perverse ego-driven pride in it all.
Screw it. In the words of the immortal Popeye the Sailor, “I yam, what I yam. . .”
Given the grim results of my recent self-examination – don’t be too hard on yourself if you are over 40 and find that those changes you promised to make in early January become less important, or fall by the wayside altogether, come mid-February.
However, there are a few pragmatic civic resolutions that I plan to keep this year – personal pledges that I hope all of you will decide to adopt as well:
In 2019, I refuse to accept the sleight-of-hand that is increasingly drawing attention away from the challenges of Mid-Town, our languishing beachside and Downtrodden Downtown – in favor of focusing exclusively on the promise of “New Daytona” currently under construction in the pine scrub off LPGA Boulevard.
How does the dilapidation that has become the pockmarked face of our core tourist area comport with Minto’s purpose-built, artificial paradise Latitude Margaritaville with its catchy marketing schtick “Palm trees swaying to an ocean breeze” and “Everyday feels like an escape”?
How does the threadbare Volusia Mall, or nearly deserted Volusia Square, compete with fashionably new, publicly-underwritten, “synergistic” shopping and entertainment venues like One Daytona or Tanger Outlets with their built-in “enhanced amenity fees” to cover overhead and reduce risk?
They don’t. They can’t.
Trust me, the people who stand to profit most wish that people like me would stop making the obvious comparison in public.
As I’ve written before, blemishes are meant to be covered – not openly discussed – especially when they transmogrify into gruesome tumors.
As the big money moves west, so does the focus and attention of our ‘movers-and-shakers’ – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, etc.
Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, our elected and appointed officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside and much of the mainland as developers continue churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.
I also resolve to hold accountable those who stood for public office on the promise of representing our highest and best interests in the halls of power throughout Volusia County – then proved themselves to be little more than the dull tools of their uber-wealthy political benefactors.
I will no longer accept the blathering of incompetent shitheels like our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, when he tries to convince us that Volusia County government is as transparent, open, honest and fiscally efficient it can possibly be (even as the next ugly scandal or shameful revelation surfaces like a festering boil) or yammers incoherently that sea level rise is a sham perpetuated by those who oppose his “friends” in the pro-growth community.
I will no longer accept the “Us vs. Them” mentality in places like the Ormond Beach City Commission Chambers or the haunted halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building, where speculative developers and the sutlers who subsist off the crumbs of unchecked growth, have hijacked government of the people, by the people and for the people, and replaced it with an oligarchical system which places profit motive over quality of life.
I will no longer equate the size of a person’s bank account – or the motivations of corporate poohbahs and university “trustees” who spend millions of other people’s money erecting phallic monuments to their own self-importance – with their inherent intelligence or strategic vision.
I will no longer stand silent while Volusia County Schools – a public taxing authority with a duty to educate our precious children and the largest budget of any government entity in Volusia County – remains mired in a pernicious cycle of mediocrity, seemingly incapable of reversing its perennial legacy of underachievement and shoddy organizational standards that have become ingrained in Superintendent Tom Russell’s administration.
I vow to honor the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women who police and protect our streets, fight fires, provide emergency medical services, manage and mitigate disasters, protect our environment and wildlife, treat and distribute safe potable water, strive to promote ethical economic development and tourism, provide essential services and work hard to humbly and professionally serve the true needs of their constituents in elected and appointed positions throughout Volusia County.
And I will never forget that those we have elected work for us – not the other way around – and continue to demand an end to the wholesale giveaway of our beach – Volusia County’s most important natural amenity and economic engine – and ensure the continuation of our century-old tradition of beach driving and access for all residents and visitors.
I still believe these things are important. I hope you do to.
Happy New Year, everyone.