Here it is early September when everything begins. School gets going again, and meetings (what would we ever do without meetings?). Congresspersons go back to Washington and pick up where they left off braying, which is always nice. And the whole bloomin' debate about everything and nothing resumes.
When I left for vacation last month, Congress had departed and the Iraq debate was heating up - how reassuring it was to note that Washington would take to arguing about Iraq with nobody home. When it was running at all, Amtrak was running off the rails. The stock market was floundering. Catholic clergy were in the soup. Corporate corruption was hot as was the West Nile virus and the story about a Russian mogul having fixed Olympic figure skating. Palestinians had blown up a bunch of students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
Nevada was making more of a name for itself by (a) going to court over the storage of nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain and (b) considering the legalization of marijuana. Oh, and on the really cosmic level, physicists at the Brookhaven National Lab rocked the scientific community when they speculated that dances by subatomic particles called muons suggest the universe may contain a hitherto undiscovered shadowy form of matter - a form, presumably, that only The Shadow knows.
And what since? What happened during the last half of August - just in case you weren't tuned in?
A new president in Colombia. Concerns about a double-dip recession and who would lead, yes, AOL - and could you believe it about Martha Stewart? A prevented baseball strike that well might have pulled the plug on a dying game. In Zimbabwe, the meanest sort of racism - even with self-imposed starvation (QUESTION: Where are the leftie Western apologists for Communist Robert Mugabe now?).
Floods in Europe. An IMF bailout of Brazil. Like his recent predecessors, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams seeking re-election and behaving miserably. USAir gone toes-up, and United and Continental almost. The turret of the Monitor raised. A forum in Waco on something (was it about the late David Koresh or the economy or Iraq or arming pilots?). Hints about, oh groan, more Gore in '04. And the study stories - one suggesting (for the diet-conscious) the identification of the hormone that causes the feeling of fullness, the other suggesting that caffeine lowers (that's lowers) skin cancer in mice.
Not much changed in nearly a month.
If you were tuned out or on vacation or whatever, you'll want to know that, with August gone and September here, the principal concerns remain what they were: Iraq, corporate corruption, the economy (and the stock market and double-dip), West Nile, priestly predation and the Middle East.
Now we face the prospect of wall-to-wall, 24/7 anniversary treatment of 9/11 to surpass coverage even of the events of the day itself. There is this, too: a growing personal sense, about which more later, that a developing problem meriting our greatest attention is our neglect of, and consequently the appalling condition of, the nation's boys and young men.
And so, onward into the new year. In this business of news and opinion, perhaps the most rewarding on the planet, the job is to monitor the meandering scene, complete with all its newness, sameness, surpassing highs and dreadful lows. This year - from Labor Day to Memorial Day - will boast its share of all.
Again, it begins.