End of the Year

Rather than write about what might be happening in the year ahead, I thought it might be appropriate to review the year that’s closing.  Who would have thought we would see gasoline selling at less than $2.50 per gallon or record job creation in Oregon in 2014?  The Dow Jones Industrial Index just hit 18,000, and building permits in Albany are approaching levels we saw before the Great Recession.  Crime levels continue to decline locally and nationally as do traffic fatalities.

I have spent a few days in the hospital over the past couple of weeks having some kidney stones removed, a procedure that is almost guaranteed to darken one’s view of the world.  I am glad to report that I received great care throughout the ordeal, and I was really impressed with the customer service at Albany General Hospital.  I think the greatest gift I receive this year will be a pain-free holiday season.

2014 provided me with some reminders that productive life does not end at 60.  One of my closest friends completed and published five or six novels this year after a hiatus of about 30 years.  He published three novels in the 80’s and then took over a bookstore which demanded most of his attention.  The bookstore remains open; but now my friend has time to write, and he’s doing it with a vengeance.  If you are looking for a unique gift, purchase Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves or Dead Men Spend No Gold by Duncan McGeary.  I am just finishing a local treasure entitled The Gem of the Willamette Valley, which is a history of Albany written by Edward Loy.  This book provides a great picture of how Albany has grown from its beginnings to the present day and does so in a well-written and interesting way.

Albany celebrated 150 years as an incorporated city in 2014, and I think it’s safe to say that the community and country are in far better shape today than they were in 1864.  The violence and horror of the Civil War is long past; and, although race relations remain divisive, much progress has been made since the days of slavery.  Vast improvements in education, health care, transportation, working conditions, life expectancy, infant mortality, and every other indicator of quality of life are now taken for granted.

As 2014 closes, I can think of many more reasons to feel good about the year than I can to feel badly about it.  My family, like Albany, has had its share of losses; but it has mostly been a good year with many reasons to celebrate.  I hope the same is true for all those who find the time to read this column and will remain so in 2015.