The Best and Worst of Times


Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1859. His book began with these famous words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” As I thought back on the events of 2016, I remembered his words and realized they expressed how I feel about the past year. Perhaps many years can be the best and worst of times simultaneously. But, for me, 2016 provided the largest contrast I can remember.

Before I give examples of both categories of stories, I must add that the “worst of times” were large, long, history making news items. The “best of times” had more personal meaning for me. Taken together, the 6 stories made 2016 an exciting, emotionally draining, joyous, brutal, catastrophic year.


Three stories brought me sadness in 2016. First: War in Syria. I have written about this subject earlier. (My blog entry of 11/20/16, entitled “Words of Wisdom.”) I think of the civilian deaths, destruction, and human migration resulting from the conflict. The violence is on a scale that, with enough emotional distance, is a horrifying embarrassment for the human race. Some people justify it; other people will not stop it. And, so, it continues toward its unknown, monstrous conclusion.

Second: Violence by and against police officers in the United States. During 2016, black men in many cities were killed by police officers for “questionable” reasons. In Dallas, Texas, in one day, 5 officers were killed because of their occupation, not their actions of the moment. Reasons for these actions varied. No long term solutions for the actions were found.

Third: A brutal, divisive Presidential campaign in the United States. It began with two candidates possessing high disapproval ratings. Negative qualities or decisions about both individuals continued to be revealed throughout the campaign. At its conclusion, one candidate won the Electoral College verdict and the other won the popular vote. Disappointed and angered voters were numerous on both sides. The nation was as divided as the election results.

Three stories brought me joy in 2016. First: The Chicago Cubs 108 year championship drought was ended. (Yes, I’ve been a baseball fan since 1950.) They were successful because: veteran players had fine seasons, young players matured into quality performers, and their manager continually provided ways to deal with the pressure felt by a favored contender from their first game to their last. The team played with continuous effort and joy, never desperation.

Second: The musical “Hamilton” found extraordinary success in New York City. A potentially dull story about a Founding Father of the United States was turned into an award winning, crowd pleasing, money making glorious night of theater. Its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, used various styles of music (especially hip hop) to tell a long forgotten story about Alexander Hamilton that delighted audiences, pleased critics, made money for its investors, and became the cultural giant of the year.


Third: My wife and I adopted a dog, Luna (AKA Bella Luna). She was found, pregnant, wandering in a field in Mississippi. She gave birth to 11 pups, nursed them until they were adopted, and –for months- was treated for heart worm. She was then transported North to Pennsylvania and waited for someone to choose her in spite of her illness. And, as the saying goes, we rescued her –and she rescued us right back. The second 6 months of 2016 were filled with her energy and activity (She is 2 years old.) and joy for our family of three.

2017 has begun. Reflecting on the past year, the painful moments cannot be forgotten. And the joyous moments will always be remembered.


About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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1 Response to The Best and Worst of Times

  1. Marc Kuhn says:

    And another plus in 2016 for us readers was Ron making the decision to begin this blog…and with postings like this one, 2017 promises to be a good read!


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