Engagement parties, Christmas miracles and Viva Magenta

Well, here we stand again troops, in the waning rays of yet another year gone and the entire globe one year more imperceptibly scarier than that preceding it. Gazing over the precipice’s edge of 2022, my dear readers, how would you rank our new decade so far? Off to just a bumpy start? Or outright cursed?

Last weekend, I watched a new NOVA documentary on, of all fascinating topics, Arctic sinkholes. Uh huh. That’s the level to which my ‘What-do-you-do-for-fun-Howard?’ bar has sunken these past three years.

Apparently, beginning in 2014 but unnoticed until 2022, the north polar regions of Earth began exploding, helter-skelter, with craters the length of football fields — methane buildups from melting permafrost. And here we thought simply eating less red meat would mean less cows farting, thus averting future runaway greenhouse disaster. How cartoonishly quaint were our soporific ideologies of a George Jetson future.

Computer programs used today to predict how overly-heated Earth will get have only just begun factoring in methane, a greenhouse gas that traps roughly 25 times more heat in our atmosphere than CO2. It’s the ecological equivalent of the SAW movies and ISIS snuff theater all rolled into one.

Imagine an innocent victim caged in a spa vat of slowly rising acid — his bubbling flesh flecking away, layer by layer, internal organs going to soup. Well, Earth is our metaphorically chained victim here, and our still-young 21st century its corrosive dissolvent.

Now, I don’t know about y’all, but if 2020, 2021 and 2022 are any indicators of whether the world will be in a happier place this same time next year, then I’m seriously considering following Walt Disney’s Pioneer Land lead — having my body cryogenically frozen until such a futurama date as those mythically “better days around the corner just ahead” finally make their turn. I’ll be the one clutching Bab’s anticipatory vinyl of “Happy Days Are Here Again” inside my cryochamber.

Let’s get all positive-feedback-loop/tipping-point right to it. Shall we?

Dear Howard: I am an only child, middle-aged; my parents are both dying and I just came out. At 52, I finally met the love of my life. His father threw us an engagement party at Thanksgiving, which my ailing octogenarian parents drove (all alone) for four hours up from south Texas to attend — only to proffer their regrets once they’d gotten here!

Spontaneously, Mother decided she’d throw Dad (who, by the way, has dementia) under the bus. Apparently, according to her, Dad’s health couldn’t deal with the jolting shock of his only child being gay, happy at last and marrying a man. My mother, on the other hand, seemed quite healthily robust over my newly-freeing queerness, only to act heartburned by the engagement party, itself sighing, “I’m only afraid it could cause your father another heart attack or a stroke.”

Howard, I just pray God did not hear the names I suddenly began calling this woman in my head. I could not believe what I was hearing out of my own mother’s mouth: “But you didn’t tell me there would be people and a cake and that we’d have to dress up?” Calmly shaking, I asked, “Mom, why did you even bother coming all the way up here to Dallas at all, if not to attend my engagement party? You two are the only family I have.” She seemed to take offense, answering, “Well, to show you that I could still drive, of course.”

So basically, Howard, my engagement party only factored into my parents’ lives to the extent of providing my mother a plausible reason to prove she’s not yet a danger to herself and others on the road. A month earlier, she’d already suffered a diabetic seizure behind the wheel, subsequently passing out. My father, there in the passenger seat beside her, lacking the wherewithal to even reach for her emergency candy. Miraculously, their car drifted to the side of the road without further incident, and a good Samaritan pulled over to their rescue about a half-hour later, undoubtedly saving their lives. Yet, somehow, my father’s discovery that I am marrying another man would cause him a stroke? — Anonymously Aching

Dear AA: This has nothing whatsoever to do with you, at 52, suddenly flinging open the closet door upon your poor, blindsided parents and everything to do with your mother’s refusal to face the sobering reality that great longevity extracts a great price. Anyone who lives long enough must eventually face the hard truth: Either hand over the car keys willingly, or else force someone else be the class act in your proxy.

Being a health threat to only one’s self is one matter; being a safety threat to the general public at large becomes a whole new bucket of snakes. Oh, just FYI, the news that one’s son is getting hitched has never once, in the entire history of our civilization, caused so much as a single stroke or a heart attack. No, such dire outcomes as these are only reserved upon hearing news that, oh, one’s son just mowed down a kindergarten class with an AK-47.

Dear Howard: Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Have you ever experienced one?— Dr. R

Dear Doc: Short, sweet, and miraculously succinct . . . just the way I like my questions best! As for any miracles that I, personally, expect this Christmas? Oh, well, you know. Just the usual image of sweet baby Jesus appearing atop my IHOP breakfast stack — halo and all!
Which reminds me, my merry magi revelers, this just in: Pantone has announced its 2023 Color of the Year (rumroll, please): Viva Magenta!
Gurl, whu? Now, everyone, don’t start tooting those New Year’s Eve horns and twirling your noisemakers all at once! Truly though, in just what kind far-out/funky-ass, alien corner of the prism spectrum lurks Viva Magenta? Wait, no! Please tell us it ain’t that purplish-pinkish-reddish neon horror?
Bingo, Ringo! Yep, that’s the one, folks! Viva Magenta: Sanctioned to freshly kick-start next year’s sorely-needed new course change, as it represents, quote, “A hue with a lust for life — a saturated shade honking at the threshold of fuchsia, definitely not organic but not quite electric.”
Happy electric New Year’s, kidz! Welcome to our new 2023 magentaverse!

— Howard Lewis Russell

Unanswered prayers still shadowing you around from 2022, guys? Indeed, here to a welcoming inn you have arrived, and answers for all in 2023 can always be found ‘neath the mistletoe of AskHoward@dallasvoice.com. Hint: I’ll be the one sporting lips of viva magenta; you can’t miss me!