The Joys of January

January 26, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

An article in the Times the other day caught my eye. Under the headline "January Is the Cruelest Month," it stated, as if this were news, "By late January many of us residing in northern latitudes aren’t sleeping well, overeat and are looking forward to the long sunlit days of July."

Well, duh. I've known that for years.

Not sleeping well? Check.

Overeating? Check.

It might have gone on:

Grouchy? Check.

Blue? Check.

Procrastinating? Check.


Huh? Oh, yeah. Check.

The article attributed this seasonal malaise to lack of sunlight and the way that the sun's absence disrupts internal mechanisms that are rooted in our DNA. I've suspected this for a long time. My great-grandparents were all Irish. But I believe that my more relevant forebears were natives of a tropical isle who got shipwrecked in Ireland for a couple of generations before heading to the U.S.A. My body is not designed to endure long, dark winters.

Which is, so it seems to me, what we get in Washington. Our winters are pernicious. They're not so severe that you can cheer yourself by feeling that you've accomplished something by surviving. They're just long enough, and cold enough, and gray enough to be depressing. It's been worse this month because my back went out a few weeks ago and I had to cancel a trip to Italy that was supposed to alleviate my blahs.

I know. There are billions of people in poor parts of the world who would gladly exchange their problems for mine. Right now, I don't care. Let them get their own blogs.

My rampaging Seasonal Affective Disorder (the medical term) got so bad this week that I decided to go to Nats Fest. Nats Fest is yet another manifestation of the genius of American marketing departments. They're starting to persuade us to pay them to market to us. I pay money to wear a hat that advertises a golf course. The golf course should pay me to wear the hat, but it doesn't. The Nats had the audacity to charge $20 to come to the Washington Convention Center to let them try to sell you game tickets, souvenir jerseys and autographed baseballs. Had I been in my right mind, I would have sneered. But I was so desperate for reassurance that winter will end that I went. The Nats are, after all, the boys of summer.

I walked to the Metro station at Friendship Heights. There was a damp, chill wind and the sun was a vague smudge behind lowering gray clouds. Travel by Metro on a Saturday is almost as excruciating as January. If the Metro system gets any more decrepit, it might as well tear up the tracks and turn the tunnels into bicycle trails. One track was under repair between Union Station and DuPont Circle. There was a delay and then another delay. And when I got to Metro Center, the escalators were out of commission. The picture above and left, of the egress from the station, is as close as I can come to a visual representation of the season.

Evidently, I am not the only one suffering from the January malaise. Thousands of people paid their way into the convention center, standing in long lines to get pictures taken, to pay for autographs, to watch the Nationals unveil the latest racing president: William Howard Taft. I am not a fan of the Taft decision, I should add. I agree that the racing presidents bit needed a makeover. But I would have liked to see a quartet of recent presidents: Bush II, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. That lineup could cause some bile to flow. Or maybe an all-obscure quartet: Van Buren, Buchanan, Pierce and Fillmore. Fans could win prizes for identifying the winner.

At least a thousand fans pressed into a makeshift press conference enclosure for the chance to ask questions of Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Christian Garcia and Tyler Moore. They were toughies. What's your favorite restaurant? (Harper favors Guapo's.) What sort of car to you drive? Werth said he had a monster truck. Moore had a sports car whose precise brand was indecipherable to my non Mississippi ears. Harper had a Mercedes. So did Garcia, and he was a September-call-up rookie relief pitcher last season. Werth said he had a Mercedes, too.

Werth, by the way, looked like he's been spending the off-season in a cave in the North Woods. His hair flowed down his back. His beard obscured his neck. To say he looked like Ted Kaczyznski would be to insult the Unabomber's standard of grooming. Indeed, it appears that a lot of Nats pass the off season staying in shape by running away from razors. Second baseman Danny Espinosa (signing autographs at left, above) looked like he was trying to get traded to the House of David.

I thought about standing in line for half an hour for a chance to have my picture takern with the Nats' new centerfielder, Denard Span, at right. But I didn't. Span and the rest of the team may have only a couple of weeks until it's time to begin spring training down in Florida. I don't have Spring to look forward to until Spring. 

So I went home. There's an exhibition down on the Mall at the Hirschorn Museum by the dissident Chinese artist Ang Wei Wei. From what I understand, Ang took tons of twisted rebar from the wreckage of poorly built schools in which thousands of children died during the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Ang  and his staff straightened the rebar and re-fashioned it into abstract sculpture which is said to remind some viewers of prison bars and others of seismic faults. 

I think I'll go see it tomorrow. It might cheer me up.




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