January Man

Early January is a perverse time. It cheers the future but is hardly out of sight of the year just done; it invites change and new deals without encouraging specifics; it trumpets a new season, but you wouldn't know it to look out your window--winter's just settling in and the weather's lousy. In short, January is a time of emotional and practical contradictions that are at best tantalizing, at worst cruel. What better month/metaphor for the upcoming presidential inaugural that, with a mix of grand parties and grander policy rollouts, will try and lay to rest the recent past that will almost certainly haunt us for decades to come? We plan, January laughs. For a while anyway.

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But I always liked the perverseness of January. It suits me somehow. It helps that my birthday is the 6th and I have no choice but to claim a time of year that nobody's really interested in claiming, not in the wake of major holiday hangover. Yes, I've got the space all to myself, which seems fitting for a writer. I know that the 6th is actually a big holiday for orthodox and other Christians who consider it the twelfth day of Christmas, or Feast Day of the Epiphany; in my old country of New Orleans, they call it King's Day. But it's still post-New Years and a lonely time, more isolation than celebration. In my 47 years on the planet I've met exactly one person with my birthday, my neighbor down the block who I only met four years ago when I moved here. Lonnie is a classic reflection of all things early January--practical, hardworking, warm but wary of too much enthusiasm. I'd say she was a perfect Capricorn, but she's churchgoing and I doubt she ascribes to astrology. I do know she doesn't observe King's Day, not since I've known her. She's not one to overdo things.

I'm a little sobered by the number this year. Maybe it's because I'm Obama's age and I can't help but feel a tiny bit of the burden he must be feeling right about now. The burden of not simply becoming president, but of representing so many Americans who for so long paid absolutely no attention to our generation and what it meant. By that I mean the black generation born in the 60s and the first in history to be raised without the long arm of Jim Crow in their lives. We know about the movement warriors of the 60s and the hip-hop generation that came later, but almost nothing has been said about the Obama generation inbetween on which so much hope for real change rested. That hope that was contained within black communities is now suddenly explicit. It's become everybody's hope.

I don't know that I like the attention. I prefer anonymity and the muddled expectations of January. Obama doesn't have that option. But then, his birthday's in August. I admit, we could use some of that sunny, straightforward, distinctly unperverse weather right now.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user craynol. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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