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We’re a decade into the millennium. How’s that workin’ out for ya?

Since 2000, social networking is our new way to reach out and communicate. Devices such as the iPhone have lightened our load by placing in the palm of our hands a phone, camera, computer and various applications, all at once. And we made history by electing the first black president.

Regardless of all these advancements, there are some tried and true basics that, by putting them into practice, might serve us better than making resolutions that we probably won’t keep. We can find them by simply looking back at some of the past year’s events:

1. A couple of months ago, who wouldn’t have wanted to be Tiger Woods? Young, handsome, successful—both professionally and personally, not to mention well regarded. Now, who would want to be Tiger Woods? Just maybe, comparing ourselves to others is a waste of time, and we should want what we already have.

2. Upon hearing how Tareq and Michaele Salahi got past the Secret Service to attend the White House state dinner, my first thought was, “Those two wouldn’t have gotten past my doorman.” To prove this theory, I spoke with one of my building’s sentinels, 32-year veteran Erasmo Acevedo.

LDM: What happens when people show up and ask to go upstairs?

EA: I call and tell the tenants they have guests. If they say OK, I let the people up.

LDM: What if the tenants say no or aren’t home, but the guests want to go up anyway?

EA: They can’t go up.

LDM: What if they are persistent and have a really good excuse and/or are really persuasive?

EA: They can’t go up.

LDM: But, what if…?

EA: They can’t go up.

(Note to Secret Service: this is how it’s done.)

If you are fortunate enough to have a job, especially in this economy, it’s worth doing well.

3. Some New York City denizens looked down their noses at the model/doorman marriage. New York State elected officials looked the other way when their constituents wanted same-sex marriage legalized. Millions across the country watched when Khloe Kardashian married L.A. Lakers player Lamar Odom in awe (at the E! spectacle) and horror (because the couple knew each other for only a month). According to divorcerate.com, “40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.”

Perhaps this would not be the case if we stayed out of other people’s marriages and took care of our own.

4. Everyone snickered (some were even so bold as to LOL) when Susan Boyle took the stage of Britain’s Got Talent looking like Dan Aykroyd in drag as Julia Child. People stopped laughing when she opened her mouth to sing “I Dreamed a Dream,” which is now the name of her debut album that has sold over a million copies since Thanksgiving.

Clearly, simply looking at someone is not the way to decide who they are or of what they are capable.

5. And from my own personal bag of tricks: Last year at this time, I was at my friend Diane’s holiday party whining (haranguing, complaining—pick one) because I didn’t know how, or if, my novel would ever get published. Now it’s out.

Things can change in a New York minute. Keep believing.

Incorporating even one of these could help you move into 2010 with a new attitude, which could lead to new behavior, which might lead to who knows what? Happy New Year.


Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel,
Fat Chick, by The Vineyard Press, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

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Back to Basics

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After living in Southern California for a number of years, Richard Swift has moved to Oregon, where wide-open spaces and pastures, far from urban life, lend well to songwriting and peace of mind. It’s a plan that doesn’t easily fit the conventional rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, but Swift traverses a non-traditional musical landscape—with insights and craftsmanship that spring from no well-trod path. On Dressed Up for the Letdown, Swift’s songs—carnivalesque, ragtimey and wonderful—stick out like a sore thumb in discussions of contemporary indie rock buzz bands.

Although the Minnesota farm native would rather look around than be looked at (he sings, “I made my way into the spotlight just to realize it’s not what I want” on “Songs of National Freedom”), he has spent a lot of time as a focal point while compelled by an urge to move away from it all with his wife and three daughters.

“I live in a town of 9,010 people,” says Swift. “That’s just how I like it. I want to hopefully be building a house outside of town at some point, but yeah, there’s not really too many people around, and I kinda like that. I lived in California for a number of years, and it started to do my head in.”

Dressed Up is hardly the cry of a man who needs to clear his head; it’s dramatically stylish pop, rife with saloon piano romps and tasteful guitar solos that mimic Swift’s lifting vocal melodies. Occasional playful psychedelia on the album calls for a vocoder effect or a programmed beat, but an organic structure overshadows everything else. “Buildings in America” ripples with memorable one-liners (“I played your heart, but I broke two strings”) and sporadic plinks that linger in corners not fleshed out by acoustic guitar before the whole damn thing shifts into a full-band showstopper of harps, muddied bass lines and swirling background noise. It’s a burst of color that seems extraordinarily out of place on this number, but it fits snugly into the magical aesthetic of Dressed Up, a work from someone who sounds like he’s seen the whole world 10 times over but would rather retreat to the modest rewards of near-isolation.

“Dylan moved out to the country after he got sick of the New York City life and wanted to raise a family,” Swift explains. “I think it’s a natural thing for people to do. It seems pretty natural to me. I just want a little bit more of tranquility in my life. Southern California is really tough; you find yourself wondering if you can compromise a bit just so you can pay your incredibly high rent that month, so it’s a lot easier to keep my overhead low and be able to create 24/7 and have a family and all that stuff. That’s more important than rock ’n’ roll to me, really."

April 21, Luna Lounge, 361 Metropolitan Ave. (at Havemeyer St.), B’klyn, 866-468-7619; 8, $10/$12. (also April 22 at Pianos).

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