I've never felt more adult than in 2003.
I learned to strike and hold the delicate balance between self-criticism and self-loathing.
I've tried mightily to follow the twin handwritten mantras tacked to the inside of my door.
"Thank God" and "Do Better" are oversimplifications, yes, but wholly applicable during my daily oscillation between humility, ambition, humility, ambition, humility.
Overall, though, my life's good.
In February I'll unleash Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black & White (Emmis Books). If you think I'm in Negrophonic sound now, you'll be fumbling for a mute button soon. The solitude I forged during a lightning round of summer/fall final edits bled into winter.
I am strong and -- except for the spiking nag of a rotten tooth that will be extracted by the time you read this -- I survived the bulk of this winter having stiff-armed the rampages of the flu by resting and nesting. Doing nothing and seeing barely anyone.
Every time I do peek out, the machinery of turmoil greets me. These are a few of my least favorite things, the entrails, in no particular order of disbelief.
The earth shook for 10 seconds in Bam, Iran, crushing 25,000-plus people. As the dust settles, rescue workers retreat because they didn't go there to unearth dead bodies. There's barely anyone to rescue. While we count down to 2004, they'll still be counting corpses.
After a scattershot conversation with some neighborhood cronies, I've again nudged my opinion about the responsibilities surrounding the death of Nathaniel Jones.
We've no leaders, and that's mainly what's frustrating and devastating in the wake of Jones' death -- that it might have been in vain.
Vanity will get the best of certain city council members (especially one whose last name rhymes with piece, as in "of the pie.") They misconstrued Jones' death as an opportunity for another round of political preening by preaching (Smitherman) and screeching (Reece). Playing the Queen City version of Charles in Charge isn't the point of joining (and rejoining) a virtually powerless group that needs to concentrate on building strong weak ties instead of sacrificing Valerie Lemmie for the sake of empirical rule. Chris Monzel should be crying tears of joy and relief and skipping into the sunset.
For someone who hates America, Saddam Hussein sure learned some pertinent English. He must have wiled away the hours in his spider hole learning how to say, "I wish to negotiate."
I wasn't so much relieved by his capture, because we're supposed to hate him, too. I was relieved because I'd hoped his capture would signal an end to the masturbatory-pro-U.S.-Toby Keith-detention-and-deportation-without-representation-lookin'-through-my-garbage-eye-spy rut we'd fallen into.
But I think it's only the beginning.
Trigger-happy murderers beating the previous year's record is officially an annual event in Cincinnati. We closed 2002 with 66 homicides and, as I write this in the netherworld between days, we're up to 75 mostly drug-related murders.
Guns. Dope. Murder.
Living here is like walking through a movie you thought you were only watching but didn't realize you were in. It's startling and unnerving and I don't know what to do about all this killing.
Whenever I see the Pope on TV, I comfort myself through the disgust and hurt of the endless trickle of victims of sexually abused and assaulted by priests by telling myself the Pope's head is hanging low because he's ashamed, not because he's old and feeble.
I wish Michael Jackson would also hang his head low and go away. Jackson and the co-dependent parents allowing their children to be alone with an adult who's strange to other adults (especially one who once traveled with a monkey and who idolizes Peter Pan) are guilty of piss-poor judgement.
Jackson should fire his attorneys for letting him go on 60 Minutes to tell the world he'd still share his bed with a child, even though his intentions aren't sexual.
Maybe Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen could guest-prosecute Jackson's case. That way, Allen could strike a sweetheart deal with Jackson like he did with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Either way, damage is done and there are victims. It's too murky to see exactly who they are, though.
Finally, in an unexpected haymaker, my newborn niece, Kennedy Anne Wilson, died and 36 days later my friend, Joseph Arthur Reid II, died.
I've got no choice but to reemerge, though now a little less protected.
But thank God. I'll do better.
It's everybody else I'm worried about.
Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.