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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ten things I learned in 2007

  • After watching the VH-1 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s special, I learned that Canadian Reggae singer (I know, it's like Tiny Giant or Jumbo Shrimp, right?) Snow really was saying "licky boom boom down" in his hit single Informer. And now that I know those were the lyrics, I'm not sure I want to know what he was talking about, especially since another verse in the song was about people in prison staring up his bum.
  • Not to be sappy, but I learned that good friends can be people you communicate with only through a computer. What makes this kind of friendship is the sincerity of the communications, not face time. So thank you all for being good friends...even those of you who only come by from time to time, to hassle me.
  • I learned to deal with tragedy. Most of my adult life I have been fortunate in that I have been able to largely avoid tragedy. I've had two friends - two literal peers - die, both from a form of cancer. And every time I saw other people deal with tragedy I'd say things to myself like "I couldn't handle that. It would be too tough." And then Mrs. B and I lost our baby in October. And you know what? I was wrong. My initial emotions were that I was dreading each subsequent day after it happened, 'cause I thought we would whither up from the emotional burden and crumble. But that didn't happen. We faced it head on. We dealt with our grief. She has been a trooper. And we're still rollin' like Bonnie & Clyde. It was rough at first, and since then has been sad at times. But we've dealt. I never knew, 'cause I had not experienced that kind of tragedy, to what depth your true friends (those in your neighborhood and in your family and from your home town and online, etc.) would go to help you cope with your sadness. It's like cream rising to the surface. I really learned a lot about who in my life cared for me like a brother, which is how a true friend should feel, and who in my life was really a frienemy - disingenuous and full of talk with no substance. And one more thing along these lines: It is true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But it's also true that what doesn't kill you probably leaves a mark of some kind.
  • I finally became convinced this year that my solution to fixing violent crime will work: The common denominator I saw with every case of violent criminal behavior that involved an underage suspect was that that child's parents or legal guardians were clueless. They had no idea that their little Johnny or Susie was capable or armed robbery or violent assault or murder. And although kids can be clever in their concealment of bad behavior, parents should never be clueless. There's no excuse. If you have to snoop a little, do it. If you have to chaperon your kid's parties and get-togethers or shadow your kid like private eye, when he and his friends are strolling through the mall, do it. Do whatever you have to, to stay on top of your kids' activities and attitudes. Because, I propose that if your minor child commits a violent crime against an innocent person, and you "had no idea" they could be that way, you should have to serve 1/3 of his prison sentence. Institute my policy, and we will have a new wave of parental involvement in at-risk kids' lives in '08.
  • Let's go back to friendships for a minute. I learned that just because you've known someone for a long time, and just because you were friends, you have no obligation to maintain that friendship if that person has changed for the worst. Don't let anyone guilt-trip you into remaining on their team, because you "owe" them that much. An acquaintance of mine finally got the nerve to ditch a childhood friend, who's since turned into a coke fiend. He couldn't do it for a long time, 'cause he thought it was his job to stick by the friend no matter what. But while he agonized over sticking by the coke fiend, the coke fiend - perhaps under the influence, perhaps not - scoffed at his own family, scoffed at my acquaintance, and all his other friends, refused to even consider treatment as an option, and insisted that if everyone "loved" him they'd accept him as is. Not true. Sometimes the friendliest thing you can do is cut someone off until they develop a little love for themselves. I finally grew a set and cut off a long-term, mean-spirited friend, a frienemy in ever since of the made-up word, who exhibited little but selfishness. It was liberating. Try it some time.
  • You may not like rap music, but I learned this year that Eminem was right. If given an opportunity to pursue a dream, you need to not just take that opportunity, but lose yourself in it. Embrace it. Don't neglect your "pre-existing" responsibilities, but don't punk out on what you really want to do.
  • I learned not to be uptight. At one point this year, even before Mrs. B and I suffered our loss, I had become so consumed with work and home-maintenance that it felt like I was living a job 24-7. And so I wasn't enjoying down time. I felt like down time was wasted potential work time. Not good. And in my "fever," I started nitpicking at people's quirks, especially annoying neighbors. I attacked personality quirks with the same vigor I'd use to strike at full-blown bad habits. It took work, but I learned to give people a little more consideration by reminding myself that no one's perfect, especially not me.
  • I learned to not drink the Haterade. Being a hater is easy. It's like being lazy. It really doesn't take effort. But if you're a hater - a person who begrudges a peer his/her success or happiness, just because, or downplays that success, just because - then you are a miserable person. Haters don't hate in the traditional sense. They don't hold your race or your religion or your lack thereof, or your sexual orientation against you. They hold against you your joy, your ambition, and your accomplishments, because they aren't able to look at those things in your life without comparing them to their own life. And that's what sinks a hater every time - the inability to simply be happy for you. So while human nature occasionally "prompts" us all to hate a (very) little, I believe I have largely weened myself off the Haterade. I'll stick to coffee from now on, thanks.
  • I generally can't stand sports equipment slogans. But I learned to try to live by Nike's 1990s slogan: Just do it. I came across a lot of talkers in '07, people jaw-jacking about what they were going to do, people jabbering on about what they planned to talk about planning to do. I even found myself discussing plans more than actually carrying them out. So probably halfway through the year I stopped making plans and started doing. Some of the stuff I did worked, and some didn't. But I'm sleeping better now, because I know I'm trying and not just blowing hot air to convince whoever's closest to me that I plan on getting around to it one of these days.
  • I learned to be nice and courteous. And this is important, because these are two I've had to relearn. I think I had 'em in spades up until about two years ago. I've had fun in South Florida, but the fast pace, the bad driving, the rampant lack of consideration for strangers has contributed to me slowly becoming calloused. And that's not a good way to be. Fortunately, I self-diagnosed early enough in the year to start making conscious decisions to return smiles that I had been ignoring, and to hold open doors for the slow pokes trailing me at 2-feet-per-minute from parking lots into department stores, and to willingly scoot over on the bench at my train stop to make room for the large person whose bulk would surely squeeze the breath out of me, and to wave and say hello to the neighbor across the street, even when I don't feel like being friendly. I've seen the bumper sticker. Yeah, it's dumb. But mean people really do suck.

*Bonus - I'm still not doing new year's resolutions. I told you, less talky, more do-y.

So that's all the wisdom I have to wrap up the year, my friends. All I can say is that 2007 and all the haters this year nurtured can bite me. And 2008, let's get it on!

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  • Damnably well said, Sir! And a happy new year to you as well. Hope I get to have some of that face time in 08, because it's very nice to put a handshake and a smile to a name.

    By Anonymous og, at 12:35 PM  

  • Og, Happy New Year, my friend. I'll be in Chicago for at least a week in early August, maybe a little longer. Maybe we can meet halfway. There has to be a good place to get a steak and a pint outside the city.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:52 PM  

  • James, I bet your momma is proud of you, you are a smart dude. And thank you for sharing your list - reading it today made me feel good.

    All the best to you & Mrs. B in 08!

    By Blogger fiwa, at 3:10 PM  

  • Happy New year James (and kin)

    I enjoyed your journey about self realization. It's good to see and meet people who don't have to be beaten over the head to 'get it'.

    Best of luck in the new year.

    By Blogger KurtP, at 11:04 PM  

  • Sir,
    I just stumbled (linked) my way onto your blog yesterday and added it to my favorites list. I think you have a great attitude and a talented pen! Thanks for keeping it positive! Best regards for the New Year to you and yours,

    By Blogger Alison, at 11:29 PM  

  • Happy New Year to you and Mrs. B, James!

    It's so true that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, despite the scars.

    Your suggestion that parents of child criminals do time should be considered by lawmakers because I don't believe a person can go wrong at such a young age without parental neglect OR bad example. We owe our children guidance, love, comfort and so much more than just room and board. There should really be a required test for parenthood, although I'm not sure who could administer it fairly.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 2:08 PM  

  • A very enjoyable post, James! Ranks right up there with your very best work, which actually is probably about 99.125 percent of all your posts! Keep up the great writing work, in all respects -you really do a terrific job here, and there -and may you and Mrs. B have a very Happy, Healthy, Safe and Prosperous New Year. Peace, my friend.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 4:47 PM  

  • I'm with you on the crime sentencing.

    Also, your last point is fantastic. Mean people do suck, but that doesn't mean we have to suck, too. Thanks for the reminder. It's something I'm trying to remember every day of '08... and beyond.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 12:37 AM  

  • You sound like Bill Cosby w/ blaming the parents for "hood" activity. I'm always impressed w/ the parents who turn their children into the police. That's a heck of a lot more impressive than the family-that-sticks-together kind of mentality....

    Happy New Year.

    By Blogger M@, at 8:28 PM  

  • Fiwa, you're gonna make me blush, but thank you. And Happy New Year to you and yours too!

    KurtP, thanks much. Here's to more self-realization in '08. Happy New Year.

    Alison, thanks for the kind words. Come by often, and I'll be sure to reciprocate. Happy New Year.

    HeartsinSanFran, thanks for the affirmation on my theory. And Happy New Year to you.

    Jeni, you always flatter me...And I appreciate it ;>) Happy New Year to you.

    Melissa, I won't be singing Kumbaya in '08, but we could all stand to remember that last point a little more often. Happy New Year.

    Matt, there are worse people to sound like than Bill Cosby. I could sound like an uncaring, ill-spoken, ill-informed, self-centered, hyper-materialistic A-hole. But then I'd be Hollywoodish. And that ain't me.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:48 PM  

  • That was a beautiful post, Mr. Burnett.

    I wish you good things in the new year.

    By Anonymous jali, at 11:27 PM  

  • what about the neighbor with the pooper dooper doggy? hee hee.

    great post, and I especially liked the haterade part. We all need to do some retooling in that area.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:24 AM  

  • James, I love coming over to read your blog, you have a wonderful talent in writing and you bring such NEWS to the reader that we would probably not access otherwise.
    I am so glad you have continued to blog, and that you are able to share your views and beliefs with us.
    Happy 2008, let it be a happy year, no hate, just love.
    Huggs to your lovely wife too :)

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 2:53 AM  

  • Very valuable lessons. Who knew Eminem was so damn smart?

    I wish you and your loved ones all the best in 2008 :)

    By Blogger sognatrice, at 11:17 AM  

  • 2008 is going to be a good year, sugar! all the best to you & yours.

    By Blogger savannah, at 1:17 PM  

  • Seems like a fruitful year, all things considered. I mean, I'm sorry it was so tough -- really am. But I think you deserve credit for realizing you've taken something away from this year's experiences -- the good, and the bad.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 2:26 PM  

  • Jali, as always thank you. And good things this year to you too.

    Pamela, I'm still keeping a "special" eye out for that neighbor. And here's to less Haterade in the New Year for all of us.

    Cazzie, you've got a good spirit. Thank you. Happy New Year to you too, and I'll pass that hug on to my wife.

    Sognatrice, wisdom comes in strange places. Happy New Year.

    Savannah, thanks much. I'm feeling the same way. Hopeful. Happy New Year.

    ThirdWorst, good thoughts. I hadn't considered "fruitful," but that's a great description. I couldn't stand "The Facts of Life (mainly 'cause of Blair)," but borrowing a theme again, you really do "take the good....." Happy New Year.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:44 PM  

  • My first father in law had mad repair skills and told me that plastic wood was stronger than the origional material. Those things we replace in our lives, those scars that form over hurts and disapointments are likewise tougher than the stuff we were born with. Like you, I've been hurt enough that I know it's not something I want to do to other people. As far as new year's resolutions I do make them and I've never broken one. I only talk the talk if I can walk the walk. All the best to you in 2008 James.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 2:24 PM  

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