The weekend’s most important sport event didn’t involve a bowl

I spend a lot of time putting together these weekly columns. Days, sometimes weeks of walking to and from lunch, kicking rocks down the street. Hours scribbling in various notebooks, then a night getting all of them together and typed into a computer file.

There’s a lot of writing, a little praying and great weeping and gnashing of teeth involved before I finally fall asleep sobbing and wake up to remember it still isn’t finished, and I’ve got to stay at work until it at least looks like it is.

So in the middle of all of this, writing a column about politicians and celebrity, I noticed the Australian Open final was about to start, (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (2) Roger Federer. I’m not a tennis fan in any way whatsoever. The sport bores me, especially when it doesn’t involve women I can objectify.

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Drugs are bad, but they’re good enough

There’s an interesting debate going on now about the nature of our drug laws.

If you look on the Odessa American’s website and read some of the comments to the Kopbusters sting and related articles, between the specifics of the Yolanda Madden case and the hoax itself, and ignoring a lot of abusive language, there’s a conversation about illegal drugs, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and what should be done about it.

Maybe we’re at a place where we can talk about the issue without shrillness or hyperbole, because everyone can admit something definitely isn’t right.

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Two things are constant: Change and the Constitution

Today president-elect Barack Obama gets to drop the “elect” and become president-proper. Whether he’ll make a proper president, no one knows for sure, but everyone except bigots and professional partisans certainly has to be hoping he will, out of self-interest if not patriotism.

Change is constant in America, and whatever our nostalgia, once we start preferring the old to the new wholesale, we’ll know it’s the end of us. But that hasn’t happened yet, and whenever we find ourselves exhausted, stagnant or frustrated, we manage to find a source of rejuvenation and come out the other side better for it.

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Remember, it’s only toilet humor if you laugh at it

When I was in high school, I played a football game at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. It was a JV match, so very sparsely attended, and other than the fact that it was very cold, and we won, I don’t remember much else about the game apart from the halftime.

See, partway through the first quarter I began to feel a call of nature of the second variety.

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The Arabs have a proverb: All sunshine makes a desert

It’s only natural when the New Year comes to start to think of all things new and yet to come.

Instead I think, “Gosh, 1999 was 10 years ago, wasn’t it?”

The thought just won’t fit inside my head. Somehow the year 2000 still seems somewhere up ahead. Sometimes I worry I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to get back to a place behind me, behind us, forever gone.

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Should have been a super year for Cowboys

The Cowboys lost Sunday and didn’t make the playoffs.

They needed one win to get in, and instead got blown out in the sort of game where if they’d played 100 games, the outcome wouldn’t have changed. The sort of game that makes you wonder if all the Dallas players owed their bookies money, or if Wade Phillips forfeited Saturday and somebody forgot to tell the team that that meant they didn’t need to actually play the game out.

In other words, it was ugly.

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Some light reflections on the Christmas season

I hate Christmas lights.

I know you’re not supposed to say you hate things during this season, and Christmas lights are an odd choice to be sore at, but I do hate them – gaudy, useless, charmless things. Hung up everywhere, adorning everything, contributing nothing except their own space. Pah.

My aesthetic sensibilities aren’t everyone’s. It would be fair to say my appreciation of what’s attractive is quite different from most, really. To me, uniformity, simplicity and order are the soul of beauty; a building made of red brick I find gorgeous.

The fact that dangling icicle lights, poorly strewn multicolor monstrosities and overblown displays with more figures on the lawn than there are neighbors on the block draw my disdain shouldn’t be surprising.

But if I don’t like the “tree” atop the American State Bank building, I very much like the orange bulbs running along its corners and roof. It satisfies my aesthetics, though something deeper and more necessary is still lacking.

This will sound sexist, but I’m a young man; it’s where my mind goes. Anyway, it’s the best analogy I can think up.

Fashion models are generally considered very physically attractive people. It’s obvious why: their job demands that they be pretty. Yet, see a beautiful woman on a runway, and somehow she isn’t. She has no charm in her. It’s her profession to adorn a stage, and she either does it well or doesn’t. However physically attractive, there is no beauty there. That she has good proportions means as much as a bartender’s smile or a stripper’s wink.

Smiles and winks are valuable, to be sure, but it means more when it isn’t self-conscious, and it isn’t trying, and it just is. Lovely because it can’t be otherwise.

I tell you, one stretch of Eighth Street at midnight – any midnight – looks better than all of Emerald Forest will this season. I’d sooner donate to Flint Hills than Starbright Village, sooner look south of Interstate 20 than go to McKinney Park. The parks department spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to dress up the city. And for what? To slap some lights on that serve no other purpose and are humbled by the twilight view from this building’s rooftop in mid-June.

I see more beauty in my drive home each night than all the self-aware and extravagant displays the world over and combined.

See, for all I’ve said, I don’t hate Christmas lights for anything more or less than this: They restrict what should be a daily and universal occurrence to a single season and a few plots of land.

Christmas lights hoard attention selfishly and force scarcity on what is already priceless. Priceless, precisely because it isn’t scarce at all – or at least doesn’t have to be scarce if we don’t let it.

The brake lights on a row of cars at a stoplight in Crane are far more dazzling than the downtown itself, with all of its expensive decorations hanging. No single artist, planner or group can take credit for my delight looking down on El Paso after sunset. It’s the product of hundreds of thousands just living, giving no second thought to the gift of their result. And if a string of lights on the street is pretty during December, why not a string of street lights in May?

Like gift giving, charity and basic human decency, the celebration of the divine, sublime and mundane ought not be confined to mere season.

Merry Christmas, all. With any luck, you’ll find Christmas lights draped across the dust of your windshield and dancing before your eyes all year and your merriment won’t have to end with the holidays.