2009 was the year …

Barack Obama takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts to become the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Photo: Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

... I truly understood the Who song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Most of my adult life, I’ve been pretty jaded politically. It took an unnecessary war in Iraq, the complete collapse of the economy and the obliteration of our civil rights to get me truly interested in changing things. So, with Barack Obama’s victory, I finally felt like part of the equation and that fixing a broken system was possible. But it’s been nearly a year, and we’ve only increased our involvement in the Middle East, more of my friends and family are jobless than ever, and torture is … still going on. So I get it now. The Who weren’t hollering a rallying cry to the troops to guarantee that things change. They were cynically echoing the empty threats of those who think they can effect change, only to remind us at the very end, “Meet the new boss … same as the old boss.” -Ken Miller

... I learned to play nice with others

Compromise is tough for me because I’m right about everything. It’s not just my beliefs, it’s my opinions too. They’re correct 100 percent of the time.

How did I come to be so confident in my judgments? 1) I’m an only child, and 2) I lived by myself for six years. So I never had aanybody to correct my mistakes (the ones I didn’t make) or point out my flaws (the ones I don’t have).

But throughout 2009, I lived with a roommate—a roommate who, turns out, holds opinions and beliefs of her own. Now, that alone didn’t bother me; what bothered me was that many of her opinions and beliefs were different from mine.

Given that I’m 100 percent right about everything, it follows that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. But when I tried to explain that to my roommate, she got offended. Turns out she, like me, holds her beliefs and opinions with conviction. She’s got beliefs about acupuncture, about immunization, about holistic medicine, about pharmaceutical-industry leaders, about senators and congressmen, about pesticides, about astrology, about ghosts, about mediums, about “energy,” and about karma … and I agree with none of them.

We had a couple of small “discussions” and two major “disagreements” and I walked away from them frustrated and sad. She did too. We didn’t convince each other of anything; we just upset one another.

So six months ago I decided a new strategy was in order. It’s counterintuitive, radical: I kept my mouth shut every now and then.

Pleased with the results, I tried an even more radical strategy: actually listening to my roommate so I could understand where she was coming from.

Again, I was pleased with the results.

And so was my roommate.

Now, we still haven’t convinced each other of anything, but we are getting along beautifully. And, more importantly, she hasn’t kicked me out of her apartment. That’s impressive when you consider how intimidating it must be to live with somebody so consistently correct as me. -Rick Lax

... that nothing would heal

I limped into 2009 with a broken foot, quite llike the nation. Obama took office: hope, change, integrity. It took me till August, dragging around a hefty boot-brace much of the year, to accept that I’d never get the money out of my house that I put into it. I count that less as denial and more as a refreshingly unironic/desperate embrace of that hope for change. Still haven’t heard from the lender. Many of my friends and relatives lost jobs or had hours cut this year. Yesterday I read Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter’s comments introducing a feature on the cash-grinding Goldman Sachs: “Taxpayers have put up an estimated $17.5 trillion toward guarantees, loans and bailouts since 2008, and what have they to show for it? They’ve seen their net worth drop by an estimated $14 trillion.”

The other day I heard a TV debate about whether mid-level execs at bailed-out firms should have their salaries legislatively capped at half a million dollars. Annually. The debate was rancorous: It’s unAmerican to cap salaries! In companies that received tax-dollar bailouts.) I cocked my head the way a dog does when it doesn’t understand what you’re saying. I’ve done that a lot this year.

Carter went on: “The number of people in the country without [health insurance] coverage now totals almost 50 million—just shy of the combined populations of Canada and Australia.” UnAmerican. I took a Thanksgiving turkey to a bedridden old lady in a shithole Las Vegas apartment who had bedbug bites on her skin and cat feces on the floor and Metro cars in the parking lot and a feeble lock on the door. How could I look her in the eye and not feel like a mini Goldman Sachs?

My foot never healed. My lender never called. But I do have health insurance. Still, broken-foot co-pays and other deductibles exceeded my budget this year. Add it to the swelling financial travesty of the house. Bet it all on CityCenter, a shimmering monument to the moneyed, may it save Vegas. I cock my head like a perplexed dog again. Count my blessings. Learn to walk with a broken foot. -Stacy J. Willis

... I started going native

To say I resisted assimilating in las vegas is putting it mildly. I moved here from San Francisco two years ago on New Year’s Eve. Even before that first summer, I felt like David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth: a reclusive, shade-loving book-reader in a noisy, overheated, honky-tonk world.

I realized something had changed while driving home one Friday night on a strangely, sadly empty 215. I glanced at the glowing Strip skyscape and felt an unfamiliar wave of affection. Poor old Vegas! I hope she pulls through this dry patch.

Somehow it took me two years to realize—hey, I live in Las Vegas!

I’ll probably never be anybody’s idea of a party boy. But this year alone, I’ve had some of the best concert experiences of my life (come on: Leonard Cohen, Morrissey and Lady Gaga?). I screamed with laughter at Fright Dome. I was told you’re not a real Las Vegan until you’ve seen Wayne Newton (they didn’t mention that I’d have to hear him, too). Done and done.

It’s kinda great to live across the street from a casino that has a pancake house, multiplex and a 24-hour Fatburger. Not to mention Mary’s Hash House, Capriotti’s, Johnny Mac’s ...

When I finally stopped struggling, I started to have fun, make friends and experience this place as a townie. Before anyone thought of the Strippermobile, I was mooned by frat boys in a jeep on the 215. (I lit their show with my brights). And a hooker politely but unmistakably hit on me as I innocently played a giant slot machine. Another lifetime first, courtesy of Las Vegas. This place has taught me you’re never too old for those—and I’m sure Vegas will continue to deliver. -Joe Brown


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