How we, as individuals, perceive the world around us is as varied as the snowflakes. Everyone has an opinion (humble or otherwise) and I am (clearly!) no exception. At this time of year, conversation invariably turns to the passage of time and often, how quickly the year has flown by. For me (and I suspect many of you) it’s been a long and winding road. Some of you might recall that on New Years Eve last year, I found myself in the hospital, undergoing emergency surgery. After months of recovery and moving (twice!), I’m firmly ensconced in my new digs and reflecting on the last year—the good, the bad and (here’s where it gets a bit dicey) the ugly.
Thankfully, I’m still here—but it has been a bumpy ride and I know that I’m not alone. One of the many wondrous aspects of life in the country is the camaraderie and fellowship that resounds throughout the region. Regardless of personal hardship, friends, neighbors and loved ones gather year ‘round to lend a helping hand, and although it seems more prevalent during the holidays, here in the Catskills it never really ends. As I peruse my River Reporter photos snapped at events during 2012, I’m reminded of the rich, diverse culture that surrounds, and revel in the amazing scope of music, art, family events and (lest we forget, parades!) that mark the calendar. (To see my complete 2012 year-in-review photo album, “like” us at www.facebook.com/riverreporter .)
Speaking of photographs... and our theme, “out with the old,” the new year offers up an opportunity to address an issue that many of you have brought to my attention (repeatedly!). I often ask for your opinion, and apparently that has opened a “Pandora’s Box” that I did not see coming. While it’s nice to know that our very discerning readers of The River Reporter are paying attention, I had no idea that so many of you were looking at the tiny snapshot of me in the upper left corner of my column. While attending a performance at the Forestburgh Playhouse (www.fbplayhouse.org ) last summer, a complete stranger approached me and asked how old said photograph was? “Doesn’t look a thing like you,” she shouted. “Who are you trying to kid?” Slightly aghast (and mildly amused) I thanked her for her “input” and informed that I’d consider a change.
With camera in hand at the tractor parade, (www.visitcallicoon.com ) someone tapped on the window at a local establishment (www.cafedevine.com ) and beckoned me in, with the sole purpose of informing me that my picture reminded him of Jerry Lewis. I gasped and asked him if he really thought I looked 85? “Oh, no,” he stammered. “I mean, you know... back in the day.” Less than thrilled, I politely accepted his “compliment” and as I left, checked my reflection in the window. “Jerry Lewis?” I mused. “Really?”
It gets better. Just last week, while checking out “Trains on Main” (www.catskillartsociety.org ) yet another dear reader told me that my byline shot “doesn’t do you justice; you look like Dean Martin” (insert “Twilight Zone” music here), “except that your hair is gray. What’s up with that?” he concluded. Well, that’s true. My surgery seemed to coincide with a sudden change, (after all, my age couldn’t possibly be the problem!) so I did a bit of research. Sure enough, www.yahoo.com  revealed that “sudden, severe emotional stress, illness, surgery and medications can all contribute to this condition. When you lose several hundred of your older, darker hairs in one day, you are left only with your new hairs—the gray ones. This makes it look like you went gray overnight.”
As it turns out, the darker ones never came back. Tired of explaining this phenomenon (while fervently denying that I had previously been dyeing it), I’ve given in. OK, I have gray hair. Still I take exception to some of the comments. I refuse to believe that I look “just like Bob Dylan” as one lovely fan mentioned. I’ve heard George Burns, Bob Hope, Steve Martin and Woody Allen, to name a few. I’m (IMHO) fairly thick skinned, but some of these guys are either much older than me or dead. That’s great. Not one comparison to George Clooney or Anderson Cooper—Imagine that.
All righty then—in with the new. You asked for it, you got it. Here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, dear reader, to express your “humble opinion” on my appearance and cast your vote for my new byline photo which will be changed (by popular demand) here in The River Reporter. Pictured here are some of the contest choices. Others will be available for your perusal at www.riverreporter.com  or online at www.facebook.com/riverreporter . Send your responses (be nice!) to firstname.lastname@example.org . Let the voting begin.