It's nostalgia time again. A chance for newspapers and magazines and the folk who write for them to ruminate on the year gone by.
Time magazine has picked its Person of the Year, Channel 10 sportscaster Bruce Rader has selected his Plays of the Year, and The Pilot's Larry Bonko has winnowed through the year's memorable television moments.
Now it's my turn.
I bring you my Messages of the Year - a sampling of some of the more memorable - and expletive-free - outpourings from gentle readers in 2004.
As a fan of both brevity and irony, my absolute favorite e-mail arrived on Sept. 11, from someone we'll just call "Wayne." He was angry that I supported anti-terrorism laws.
I read your "article" about the Patriot Act. Your (sic) an idiot.
That was delicious on so many levels.
All too often it's the grammarians taking me to task. My sentences are fragmented, they fret. My participles dangle, they gripe. I use unattractive words. Bloviate. Schlump. Hairball.
One language lover penned an impassioned e-mail recently. You could almost hear his teeth gnashing. It went something like this:
Please get thyself to an English 101 class in 2005. On behalf of all fans of the English language, I'm begging you.
Sorry, I replied. Not a chance. There's like, no time to.
Not all missives come by computer. There was a choice one on my voicemail last summer, back when we were livid about the assault of a Russian exchange student at the Beach.
Attackers, rapists, murderers, they're all the same to me, sputtered an unidentified male caller. Find 'em. Arrest 'em. And fry 'em like a piece of bacon.
Ah, yes. That's the spirit. Gentle readers, indeed.
Usually it's easy to anticipate reader reaction. That was not the case Thanksgiving when I scribbled a piece - light-hearted, I thought - encouraging politically divided families to set aside their differences long enough to say grace and eat turkey.
So much of your article was pure scum and spitting on you would be a compliment... This administration is nothing but pure evil. YOU DISGUST ME!
In the interest of truth-telling, I admit that I tampered with that one. There were actually eight exclamation marks after that last sentence. And it was printed in 24-point type.
Such anger during the feasting season. Take a Tums, for heaven's sake.
Occasionally, Hampton Roads' Pollyannas complain that this space is not happy enough.
What a downer, complained Sherry recently. Surely you could find something to write about - at least sometime - that is upbeat.
Sherry. Sherry Baby. Look carefully at the column sig. Does it say "Up With People" anywhere? Quit your complaining.
Lastly, some of my favorite messages proved - if there was ever any doubt - that most of us are far more entertaining with our clothes off than on.
In February, when I wrote in favor of youth nudist camps, I received several grateful offers to stop in for a soak and to experience the joys of nudism in rural Virginia. I was also invited to participate in a "Dare to go Bare" 5K run in Florida.
All that, and I received this splendid salutation from one happy nudist:
My hat is off to you.
I'm t hinking that's all he had on.
So, let's all keep our hats on in 2005.
At the risk of sounding too optimistic, Happy New Year.