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A new year is beginning, and I couldn’t be happier. 2018 was not very good to me, I’m afraid. And I can’t figure out why. I worked hard and was kind and loving to my friends and family—the ones who deserved it. True, the Trump tax cuts have not benefited me quite the way I hoped but I’m sure they will trickle down eventually. At least that’s what Vern Buchanan’s secretary keeps telling me.

In the meantime, I have been taking a good look at the “man in the mirror.” Who among us could not stand a little personal improvement? I’ve been thinking of ways to perfect myself and have come up with a list of resolutions to guide me through the New Year.

Resolution No. 1: I resolve to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.  If you set the example, others will quickly follow suit. If only the whole world lived by my Golden Rule. I think my grandmother back in east Texas said it best. “Why can’t those Jews and Arabs get together and settle their differences like good Christians?”

Resolution No. 2: Exercise more. Fortunately, I have reached the age where you can exercise sitting down and it’s still considered legitimate. Here is my daily routine, all of which can be accomplished while watching Family Feud. I start with an ankle rotation, then move on to a couple of heel slides, then a series of three leg lifts. A “hinge and cross” comes next, followed by a “modified burpee.” Then I switch to Fox News and do a series of butt clenches. Then back to Family Feud for my favorite, “sitting in place.”

Resolution No. 3: Always speak kindly of others. There is nothing to be gained by being “snarky” or rude. For instance, it has been brought to my attention that Kay Kipling, the theater critic for this magazine, has been spreading it around town that I drink to excess. That is so laughable! I hate to tell you how much Ms. Kipling can put away during a well-timed intermission or two. And then there was that night at the Asolo when she wandered onstage during the second act of A Streetcar Named Desire yelling, “Stella! Stella Artois!” She had apparently mistaken the dimly lit set for the bar out in the lobby. But by keeping my mouth shut about Kay’s peccadilloes, I become the bigger person.

Resolution No. 4: Tell the truth. I will be scrupulously truthful with others and with myself. No lie, no matter how small, no matter how “white,” can long go undetected. From now on, if a woman looks fat in a pair of jeans, I will tell her so. If a colleague from the newsroom writes an article that is full of questionable facts and bad grammar, I will tell him. If a cop pulls me over just to meet his monthly quota of traffic tickets instead of catching real criminals, I will let him know. It may sting at first, but they will thank you in the end. And if you do this you will develop a wonderful reputation around town, similar to the one I enjoy. “Tell The Truth” should be everyone’s motto.

Resolution No. 5: I will be less of a “White Male.” Fortunately, this one is turning out to be a breeze, because I took one of those paternity tests from 23andme and it turns out that I’m not really all that white. And I’m cool with it, excited even. Three percent of me is Native American. Like Elizabeth Warren, we had legends in our family about our Native American ancestors, but mine turned out to be much truer than her trumped-up story. It seems that back in North Carolina in the 1700s my great-great-great-great-grandmother was kidnapped by Indians (that was the word that was used then), and when she was ransomed two years later she came back with a baby. Well, that baby is three percent of me.

I am also 17 percent East Asian.

This comes from my Slavic blood. Like Melania Trump, we Slavs descend from the great Asiatic hordes that swept westward from Mongolia, raping and pillaging Russia, and finally settling in Slovenia, where we became farmers, goat herders and fashion models. As a people we are guarded, pragmatic and famous for being stoic in the face of fools. So that’s the new me. A cauldron of identity politics, all bubbling and thrashing around, fighting for their fair share of my allegiance. “Good people on both sides,” as President Trump might say. And, as 23andme was quick to point out, I’m still 80 percent pure hillbilly.

Resolution No. 6: Never again will I take sleeping pills and laxatives on the same night.

Resolution No. 7: I will be a ruthless critic. Not of others (they deserve charity and understanding), but rather of myself. From now on I will ask, “Where have I failed?” and answer with brutal honesty. I realize now that when many of my columns were not sensational triumphs, not winning awards right and left as they usually do, the fault lay not with others but with me. They were so often 10 or 15 years ahead of themselves, too intellectual for the eighth-grade reading level and provincial background of the average magazine reader. In refusing to lower my standards, the blame was exclusively mine.

Resolution No. 8: I will groom myself better. Have you ever noticed that so many old men have “hit or miss” shaving habits, spots all over their skin, food stains on their clothes, and big tufts of hair coming out of their ears? Well, I’m not going to let that happen to me.

Although I do admit that shaving with all these deep crevices and crannies that you must dig into can be quite a chore. And blood thinners do such awful things to your skin. A poke from the dog will elicit a bruise, and a hickey—so I’m told—becomes a fearful thing to behold.

The food stains I can do nothing about. Today’s silverware is so poorly designed that it just doesn’t hold food properly. But the hair in the ears. Here is a dilemma. Do you get rid of it? If so, how? I can see I have some big decisions ahead of me.

Resolution No. 9: I will strive not for material things but rather for spiritual gains. It’s nice to have cars, watches, suits from the Men’s Warehouse and a glorious Sarasota home, but they are nothing compared with “peace of soul.” By living my entire life on a higher spiritual plane than most people, I have accomplished both. You can, too. Maybe not right away and maybe not as well as I did. But there’s always hope. Happy New Year! 

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