A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

HERE’S TO 2003

As a teetotaler New Year’s Eve presents me with something of a paradox.

I want to toast the New Year, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to do so without anything more potent than Diet Sprite. I don’t know the protocol or anything. Does it even count if you toast with a glass filled with something that a 10-year-old can legally purchase?

Still, I’m going to try. I mean, what can it hurt? Feel free to raise your glasses with me, filled with . . . well . . . whatever.

Here’s to the New Year – may it be filled with peace (I know that sounds futile, given the current state of blustery rhetoric between nations; but it’s the dawning of a New Year, and hope runs rampant).

Here’s to the leaders of nations – may you be more anxious to find reasons NOT to go to war than you are in finding excuses to fight.

Here’s to fire fighters – may your hoses be clean, your trucks shiny and your fireproof gear under used.

Here’s to police officers (including the one who gave me a speeding ticket last week) – may your guns stay holstered and may you not encounter "attitude" at every turn (and when you do, may you be as nice as that police officer was to me when I gave him a little of my "shouldn’t you be out catching real criminals?" attitude).

Here’s to teachers – may you feel loved and appreciated for the indispensable part you play in society even though society seems to place more value on people who can run fast, jump high and get into all sorts of legal trouble.

Here’s to deep dish pizza.

Here’s to Hollywood – may this be the year that you come to realize that your view of "reality" bears no resemblance whatsoever to real-world "reality."

Here’s to the dedicated professionals at nursing homes and care facilities everywhere – Dad can’t tell you "thanks," so please take it from me: thanks.

Here’s to the guy in the white Honda Civic who I absent-mindedly cut in front of the other day – may you not encounter any more idiots on the road of life (but if you do, may I gently suggest you signal your displeasure with only one hand instead of two? You really should keep at least one hand on the wheel while driving).

Here’s to the families of missing children everywhere – may the lost be found.

Here’s to pistachios.

Here’s to beat up old cars that somehow still manage to get us from place to place – may you all find a good, honest mechanic like Tom Greenwood.

Here’s to the people who make airplanes fly, trains run and buses go more or less on schedule – may it continue to be "news" when you’re not on time.

Here’s to mothers and fathers everywhere – may we find plenty of time this year for important things like hopscotch, Monopoly, checkers and Go Fish.

Here’s to the brave soul who first dared to consider the possibility that shrimp might actually be edible.

Here’s to visionary newspaper editors – may the year be filled with positive, uplifting things to write about and report.

And here’s to you, dear reader – may 2003 bring to you and your loved ones peace, prosperity, happiness and joy.

Somebody pass the Diet Sprite – I want to drink to that.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through