Happy New Year, y’all.
Why the above picture?
When I was a kid, Mom was a dedicated New Yorker subscriber. As far as I know, she subscribed right up until the day she died, and for that matter, quite some time after. Dad never got around to cancelling subscriptions to things Mom read; when I visited him over a year after her death, new issues to various Mom-oriented magazines were piled on the coffee table in their living room.
I don’t know why or when she started subscribing, but nonetheless, I can’t visualize our house in Blacksburg without there being a few New Yorker issues in each public room of the house, awaiting the eventual cull when Mom decided she’d read everything in them worth reading.
As a kid, of course, I was primarily interested in the cartoons. I didn’t understand a lot of them at first, naturally. Richard Nixon and Watergate were a thing, and newspaper editorial cartoons were always going over my head with references to bugs and plumbers. The New Yorker cartoons, aimed at the intellectuals among us, were even more cryptic. (Except for the cartoons of the legendary George Booth. Man was a goddamned genius.)
And then came the December 30, 1974 issue. That’s its cover, above.
I would have been seven years and three months old when that issue showed up in our house, and for some reason, it really left a mark on me. I stared and stared at the cover, trying to decipher its meaning — other than the obvious, that is, that the ‘4’ in ‘1974’ had been replaced in the circus act by a shiny new star, a ‘5’. I guess I wasn’t very up to date on surrealism. (Coincidentally, it was just three weeks later that the greatest New Yorker cartoon of all time, “Ip Gissa Gul”, was published. And yes, that was a Booth effort.)
And even though that one issue was just one of hundreds and hundreds that passed through our house, that’s the one I remember. And every year, when the old year dies and the new year takes the stage, it comes unbidden to my mind’s eye.