The Same Auld Lang Syne, by Rich Paschall

Another year has begun and we can see it is indeed the same as days gone by.  The old days are not forgotten as old conflicts rage on and new ones have arisen.  If old acquaintances happen to be forgotten as one year passes into another, old hatred, old disputes, old border wars, old and new religious battles carry on as if they will forever be remembered.  Are these disagreements worth the killing of men, women and children standing on the other side?

In our neighborhood, just as in many around the world we conclude our year wishing “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”  It is on our greeting cards and in our songs.  It appears in Christmas stories and is heard from pulpits and lecterns around the world. The invocations I read to those assembled at noon mass at our church on Christmas Day included a call for world leaders to truly seek world peace.  For this intention I said to the congregation, “We pray to the Lord.”  They responded to my prayer by rote, as we have the same response to all our intentions, “Lord hear our prayer.”

The Lord may hear our prayer but I think He surely means for us to work at resolving the conflicts that plague the world.  I am not convinced many really heard the intention or remembered it by the time they hit the pavement an hour later.  Do we want a new beginning or will things continue in the same direction?  Our history for this sort of thing suggests the answer.

Sometimes our world leaders do indeed seem to be making strides for peace, but these strides often suffer reversals when conflicts begin anew as they predictably do.  While Presidents, prime ministers and even royalty call for peace, how many are actually plotting retaliations and wars behind the scenes?  In fact, we would all think our leaders were careless and irresponsible if they were not prepared to take up old battles at a moments notice, or begin new ones if need be.

Even the current Pope, revered for his concerns for the poor, has condemned ISIS and violent groups and urged the world not to be indifferent to the suffering they have caused.  If we are not to be indifferent, than what are we to do?  Is it a call for those facing conflict to continue the fight?  Is it a call for outsiders to join in?

There are no easy answers to ISIS, the Taliban, the war lords and terrorist groups. If there was I hope we would have employed them by now.  How about closer to home?  What of the racial profiling, police brutality, gun violence and large prison populations?  What of the street gangs and drug cartels?  What of organized crime and the violence they are willing to commit?  How many marches in the street will it take to rid us of the same old acquaintances we know through the oft-repeated scenes?  Will marches alone bring peace to our homeland?

The sad truth of starting each year with a call for peace on earth is we end the year needing to renew the call again.  Perhaps it would be best if old acquaintances could be forgotten so we could start with a new and clean slate.  However, there are those who can not let go of the hate.  They perpetuate the cultural divide.  They do not wish to give up the fight or extend a hand across the border or the battlefield.  Is this what we were taught?  Did we say “Peace on Earth” when we really meant “Don’t let our enemies get any peace?”  What messages are we really sending when we learn that the greeting card verses are more fiction than fact?

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never be brought to mind?” Perhaps. And perhaps we need to start believing in the simple verses of seasonal songs and bring peace on earth. The answers to our problems are actually there in many of those simple holiday songs.  They have always been there.  It is contained in a four letter word we are afraid to use, especially when it comes to those we perceive as our enemies.  Do you know that word?  Love, as in Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself. They know on the streets we can not continue to live with the past wrongs, well some streets anyway.

Video: “It had to be said. Warning, Explicit Language”



In case you haven’t doped this one out, Garry is a passionate fan of NCIS. In the course of events, he has his acquired an NCIS cap, rain jacket, carry bag, tee shirts in various configurations. And a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood. I too have a sweatshirt and a tee-shirt, but mine is the Abby forensics sweatshirt with a hood and embroidered skull. Which suits me.

Although I enjoy watching the show — okay, I love the show — I am not quite as wholly committed as Garry. As Christmas started rolling into town this year, I asked Garry, as I do every year, what he would like for Christmas.

“An NCIS sweatshirt,” he said. “But not the hoodie. A regular crew neck sweatshirt.”


As it turns out, there is no such thing, at least not a good one from the CBS store. There are fake ones, but the reviews speak poorly of their quality and their tendency to shrink grotesquely in the wash. Carefully watching the show, I realize that Gibbs himself wears a hoodie. I pointed this out to Garry who still does not want a hoodie. He does not like all that stuff around his neck.

So with the clock ticking down, I ordered the 16-month official NCIS calendar.

I feared Garry might not like it, but I worried for nothing. He likes it. Today, he actually requested I take his picture with the calendar so he can post it on Facebook. He is past serious fan and has moved into fanatic.

Note for fellow fans: There’s a strong rumor that Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) will be back! Soon!

Recently, Garry has developed a passion for Star Trek: Next Generation. Given his propensity for full commitment to the fan experience, I expect him to start learning Klingon in weeks to come. I am eternally grateful to Netflix for having the entire series available. Seven full seasons to watch and we are just finishing the first!

Happy New Year, friends and fellow fans!


New Skin – If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?

winter sun January hadley

I can’t imagine wanting to be anyone (or anything) but me. Perhaps in a dream, I’d be a horse or an eagle. Or a dolphin. But that’s dream stuff, not living.

When I was a teenager, in those hyper hormonal years of Hell, I wanted to anyone but me — though even then, I never wanted to be anything other than human. I grew out of that pretty quickly and by the time I got into my 20s, was already fond of myself. At least the brainy part.

I’ve always had issues with my body. Ill health has stalked me from early on. By the time I was in my late 20s, I used to laugh, tell people that, with the help of modern medicine, I’m living proof the unfit can survive.

So here I am, alive and still complaining. I’m sure someone elsewhere has even more after-market replacement parts than me, but I don’t know him/her/them. I’m sure I’ll never be an unidentified Jane Doe on Ducky’s autopsy table because I carry 4 cards with serial numbers identifying various implanted pieces — pacemaker, two breast implants, and a heart valve. The piece of plastic fibula in my right leg predates serial numbers and two pieces were put in, but subsequently removed when they didn’t work.

So here’s the thing. I don’t want to be someone or something else. Not for a year or a day. What I want is to be is me. An all-original, functional version. With no arthritis or heart problems. Without cancer or bursitis.  Supple young skin, and silky, thick hair in a blanket down my back. I would like the perfect complexion my friends so envied and which I never appreciated until it was gone. I’d like my teeth and stomach too, please.

Fantasy aside, I’ll hang on to me, grateful to be alive. It’s New Year’s Day, 2015. A beautiful, bright, sunshiny day in the heart of winter. I ever-so-slightly over-baked the blueberry pie, but the prime rib will be perfect.

I will do my best to make this an excellent year.


It was an interesting year, in the sense of that apocryphal Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.”

May you live in interesting times” is actually an English expression which pretends to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Despite its having become so common in English as to be known as “the Chinese curse”, the saying has no actual Chinese source. At least none anyone has ever found. The nearest related Chinese expression is “太平” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which suggests it’s “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than as a man in times of war.”

Winter December Sunrise

Last year was the definition of an interesting time. From its beginning, waiting for my heart surgeon’s schedule to free up so he could fix me — and I needed a good deal of repair — to the long-running (tickets still available) show titled “Marilyn’s Recovery,” to the melodrama of our well going dry. Also known as “Jack and Jill went up the hill, but came down with an empty bucket.” From the miracle of friends to the rescue to the subsequent resurrection of the well. Never a dull moment.

There were long weeks of glorious autumn as we traveled through a glorious New England. Two great concerts. Friends from the past, new friends from afar. Good friends we laughed with and the lost friends for whom we mourn.

I posted nearly 1000 times, passed 200,000 views. Took an uncountable number of photographs. Bought another computer. New Kindles all around. Bonnie’s teeth took on a new shine.


Today, the calendar has flipped. It is 2015. Like the opening on a thousand sleazy movies, I’m living in an un-imagined future.

I remember being a kid and learning about how Haley’s Comet would be coming around the year I turned 39. I couldn’t imagine being as old as that. Nor could I ever have imagined I would see the comet on my 39th birthday from a rock in the Judean Desert, just outside Jerusalem.

I certainly never imagined 2015. The big movie of my young adult years was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). That year came and went 14 years ago. 1984, Aldous Huxley’s dystopian future, has come shockingly close to reality yet life trudges on. At some point, I got kind of old. Which surprises me less than realizing my friends are old, too. How did that happen?

The Beatles sang about “When I’m 64” and I’ll turn 68 in a couple of months. Gee. Life is a lot stranger than any fiction I might have written.


Let’s talk about funny. Like who makes us laugh. Do happy people make us laugh? Are comedians people whose lives are running smoothly, easily?

No way!

Funny people have problems. The funniest people are often depressed. Yet somehow, they can see a sparkle amidst the darkness.

Laughter is not so much a celebration of good times as a shield against despair. Humor is borne of irony, the realization that life is not merely imperfect, but frequently dreadful. So we turn our disasters into laughter because the alternative is endless weeping and wailing.

Another demotivational poster from one of my favorite sites,

The first time my world crashed and burned, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me. I promptly married a guy so much worse I get dizzy thinking about it 30 years later. When that fell apart — though it lasted longer than it should have because I wouldn’t admit what a horrible mistake I’d made — I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless back to the US.

When I finally stopped feeling like I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry which I should done in the first place, except he hadn’t asked. Minor detail.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and horrendous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery fuels humor. It’s a fact. Calamities, crises and disasters are high comedy.

Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is the ending. Tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses; comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of timing and style.

Funny stories weren’t funny when they happened. Now they’re funny. After I was told I had cancer in not one, but both breasts (they were having a two-for-one special at the Dana-Farber), I had them removed and replaced by silicon implants, but stopped short of adding fake nipples. Previous surgeries having left me with no naval, I now present myself as a space alien. You don’t believe me? It’s true.

I have a tee-shirt that say “Yes, they are FAKE. My real ones tried to kill me.” It’s a killer at parties and is high point of my cancer experience.

Fake breasts

When life goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket, folks who were sort of friends eye you with suspicion. Is bad luck contagious?. But there’s also a light whiff of satisfaction. They wouldn’t be rude enough to say so, but they’re overjoyed it happened to you, not them. Sorry about your life, really (furtive, smug smirk).

If you are a writer, out of the wreckage will come a book or at least a great post for your blog. See? It wasn’t for nothing!

Our personal traumas are collateral damage in a Darwinian battle of the fittest to survive. No one gets through life unscathed. Mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your more successful pals. It will give you something to look forward to. And, as a bonus, you will really appreciate the irony when your friends’ lives go to pieces later on. You’ll be able to give them great advice on how to survive their personal Apocalypse! Cool!

So no matter how horrible things are right now, don’t worry. You will stop bleeding and screaming. Eventually. Black depression will ebb. You won’t always feel you can’t breathe. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic and mild hysteria you will call “normal.”

Start laughing right this minute.  No tears allowed. Tragedy is hilarious. Heaven may be droll, but Hell?  Everyone is yukking it up down there.  Remember, it’s the first month of a new year. A fresh slate.  Anything could — and probably will — happen.


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. It always amuses me that my most popular post — for two years in a row — was that article on the 2012-2013 première episode of Criminal Minds. But my analysis shows that though they don’t get viral numbers, other pieces have done well — and have had a surprisingly long shelf life, with people searching them out and reading them long after initial publication. It’s been a fun 22 months with Serendipity. Now, with Rich Paschall aboard and maybe about to have a little more written input from our own Garry Armstrong, we’ll be even better in 2014.

Hope you’ve having a great New Year … and keep having it for years to come.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 78,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.



Tomorrow is the first day of a brand new year. Tomorrow you get to become anyone in the world that you wish. Who are you? You can choose to be anyone, alive today or someone gone long ago. If you decide to stay “you” share your rationale.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us METAMORPHOSIS.

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Tomorrow I won’t have arthritis in my spine and bursitis in my hips. My mitral valve will be young and sprightly. The cardiomyopathy will be a memory. My hair will be thick and healthy, my skin smooth and wrinkle free. Yes, it will be a new me. No more poverty, no more pain, no more bills we can’t pay.

Hosanna! It will be a fabulous day, a day of days and an unfettered future.

Hallelujah, bring on the trumpets!! Yay me!!

Me by Cherrie