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The Return of Random Notes By Rick LaClaire Once more it is the end of the year, time to evaluate the days that constituted this checkered span we called Twenty-Ten. Or was it Two-Oh One-Oh? Or maybe Two Thousand Ten? You know, up until the twenty hundreds, you never had a problem like this. It was so simple. When it was Nineteen Sixty-Eight nobody ever butted in with “One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty-Eight” or “One, Nine, Six, Eight.” Heck no, it was just plain old Nineteen Sixty-Eight and everybody knew it and lived with it. Then came that stupid year Two Thousand — or what some referred to as “the Millennium” — and the year-tags got all screwy. It’s like being newly-married and wondering what to call your in-laws. Do I call them “Mom” and “Dad,” or “Missus” and “Mister”? Or by their first names, like peers? It took me fourteen years to sort that out. I just call them “Ma’am” and “Sir.” Twenty-Ten blew in on a low note. It was a cold freakin’ winter. Friends who’ve lived here all their lives had never seen anything like this. After ten freezes, I lost count. My garden was obliterated. No bugs though, that was nice. Then I got sick. Hospital sick. What a jolt that was. A restricted diet and medication for three months ensued, sucking the fun out of everything I love: eating, and… well… eating. I’m still not fully recovered. Are you going to have that last pork chop? And man, what a crummy year for business. Last year was terrible. This year was worse! I didn’t think it could get any worse. But it did. I feel bad for our president; he’s taking a lot of hits for it. He didn’t cause this. Our collapse was long in coming and what we need now is some severe leadership to put us back on track. I don’t think we’re going to see it with this guy. Like I said, it’s not his fault. But he’s the man in The Big Chair. The spitballs stop there. Is this what Shakespeare meant by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”? No weddings this year. One funeral. Could have been worse, I guess. I think back to the good old days like Twenty-Oh-Eight: seemed like a wedding or funeral every month. Come on, man! Give us old folks something to do. Get married or die, okay? Some may say “what’s the difference?” You know, when I think about it, I wear the same suit to both. Anyone who reads me (Hi, Mom!) knows I get a certain bug up a certain orifice when it comes to the subject of beach renourishment. For one thing, the word “renourishment” is not even in the dictionary (I checked), which means to me that it’s a phony, made-up word. Well, a “renourished” beach is just that: a phony, made-up beach. For weeks this spring, during the absolute height of tourist season, Melbourne Beach was once again subjected to this annoying, noisy, life-killing waste of money, fuel and time. Now tell me if this makes sense: they expand the size of the beach to attract tourists, but close down the beach to do it when most of them are here. Now I’m sure the people who live on the ocean think this is just ducky. “Oh good! Now we can have a hurricane and we won’t have to worry about losing any property!” Yeah, right… I’ve seen fairly lame nor’easters take it all out overnight. Then, two days of southeast winds will bring it all back. Well, some of it… That’s the story of a beach. It’s not a static thing like a mountain range or a canyon. It’s an ever-changing, very delicate biome that depends on this change to satisfy the native flora and fauna. For six months at the end of my street there was not a single sand flea, calico crab, or coquina clam to be found. The fishing suffered horribly. Finally, in mid-October, I noticed the return of the sand fleas. And finally, by mid-October, surf fishermen were filling their buckets with long-absent pompano. Something beach renourishment doesn’t affect though, are the migrating species. That was extremely evident in the fantastic autumn mackerel run this past season. And they were big ones, bigger than usual. I always know I’m having a good fall run when my tennis elbow kicks in. That’s from trying to tame line-smoking two-foot Spanish on a ten-pound spinning outfit. Yeah, the elbow still hurts (and it’ll hurt for six months), but I could listen to that drag sing and watch that fluorocarbon rip the shore break all day long. And what a beautiful fish. They fairly glow when fresh from the foam. And all those pretty spots… “Brook trout of the surf” I like to call them. Truly a prince among cannibals at that time of year, and cannibals they are. Fishing may be a cruel sport, but what those fish do to each other is far worse than our human intrusion. Nearly every mackerel I landed this fall had some kind of wound; a chunk of skin missing, bites out of the tail, gaping slashes… When mackerel see another in distress (like on a fishing line) they go into feed mode and chow down, be it bait or brethren. As always, summer was a hot one in 2010. As I get older, my tolerance for heat seems to be slipping. The only good thing about this summer was that work picked up. But of course it was so freakin’ hot that I had to dig deep for incentive to work. It was also a banner year for mosquitoes. You may or may not have noticed, but I sure did. You see, my workshop is not air-conditioned. I cut lumber, use stinky glues and solvents, and simply can’t operate under re-circulated air. To compensate, I begin work earlier and leave the windows and door open. Mosquitoes love the early morning. They also love my feet and ankles. Why do they always bite on the ankle-knob or Achilles tendon? They’re such nasty places to itch. The skin is thin and slides around when you scratch, so you get no relief. Is my blood tastier in those spots? They like the back of the knees, too. Between the sweat and the mosquito bites I’m surprised I got any work done at all, but then bingo, September arrived. It was like someone flicked a switch. Temperatures plummeted into the 80s. It dried out. I actually felt like working. This past fall was one of the most beautiful we ever had, and it came right on time. Somebody please tell the mosquitoes. 2010 was an election year, and that always has an impact on what I call the “Guff Factor.” In other words, how much annoying brainless drivel can you stand? I’ve never seen elections full of more guff than this past one. You know, I think I say that every election year. The most annoying facet of Guff Factor 2010 was the amount of negative campaigning. It’s all there was. My mother always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s solid advice, and if any of 2010′s candidates had followed it I might have felt more like I was voting for someone rather than against someone. It almost made me not want to vote at all. For a year that began so dismally, 2010 has shaped up fairly well. By “fairly well” I mean better than expected. My business figures are not great, but they have at least risen to normal. I can work with that. After all, “normal” is the new “fantastic.” And if we take that attitude and carry it into the next year, things may very well become fantastic. At least 2011 has no elections in it.