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December 31, 1999

I know this is what winter is supposed to look like, the bare trees stark against a gray-white sky. But I've grown used to the sunshine, and I guess I'd hoped that on the last day of my century, my favorite century, the twentieth, the sun would be bright and the sky would be blue. It wasn't a conscious hope, because it didn't occur to me until I woke up to the wintry December morning that reminded me of what I was losing, rather than pointing toward the brilliant future.

Everyone I've ever known has lived in the twentieth century, and too many of them won't be making the now too short trip to the twenty-first with us.

1999. This year turned into a kind of holding pattern, didn't it? Why would we remember it, except as the prelude to the new age? Columbine. Hurricane Floyd. Nasdaq. Earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan, floods in Venezuela. John F. Kennedy, Jr. dies in a plane crash. Episode I. All of these will soon be as much a part of ancient twentieth-century history as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the Dust Bowl, the crash of 1929, Gone With the Wind, and the crash that killed Will Rogers.

John Adams, William McKinley, Bill Clinton. The three American presidents who ushered in new centuries.

In this century alone we've gone from Mae West to Marilyn Monroe to Jennifer Lopez. From Citizen Kane to Jaws to Godzilla. From Frank Sinatra to the Beatles to the Backstreet Boys. From the Model T to the Mustang to the Lexus. From records to tapes to CDs. From Irving Berlin to Cole Porter to John Denver. From Mickey Mouse to Crusader Rabbit to Santa's Little Helper.

Okay, that's enough of that.

I draw no important conclusions from any of these observations, because I believe that in the end time goes on and people are people. We don't stop at midnight tonight and start over. All the good feelings and good will of a mighty celebration dissipates quickly once the days start adding up again. Today is December 31, 1999, just another day in the long continuum of time. There was a December 31 in 1899, and there was one in 999, and there was one in 99, whether the people living in that year knew it or not. And there will be one in 2099, and in 2999, and beyond, even if no one is around to remember that there was one in 1999, and even if the date has a different name by then. The world will keep turning and the oceans will keep rolling up to the shore, regardless of what men and women do. That's as comforting a thought as I can come up with on this melancholy day.

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