From The Side of the Road… New Year’s Rulin’s for 2024

Peter Thompson, noted California bluegrass DJ and former concert organizer, recently e-mailed out a copy of Woody Guthrie’s New Years resolutions from 1942, which Woody called “New Years Rulin’s.”

It was a long list, with 33 items on it, and had wonderful little illustrations to go with each resolution. It was lengthy enough, I was thinking as I read it, that Del McCoury could have set it to music and included it on the Del and Woody project, and it would have made a very nice addition.

Some of Woody’s items were pretty ambitious, including these:

21. Bank all extra money

27. Help win war – beat fascism

31. Love everybody

Others would be pretty easy to check off the list:

4. Shave

5. Take bath

11. Change socks

These three struck me as being more appropriate as weekly or even daily resolutions (depending on your views on hygiene).

Then there was Peter Thompson’s and my personal favorite:

14. Listen to radio a lot (in 1942, this was the equivalent of us resolving to watch a lot of YouTube videos in the new year)

One of the reasons I’ve always appreciated Woody Guthrie’’s songs is that behind their pure simplicity, the lyrics paint vivid pictures, and they also make you think. His New Years list got me thinking, too: why do we make these resolutions every year, knowing that based on past results, we’re likely to break them by Groundhog Day? Come to think of it, why do we celebrate the arrival of the New Year at all?

If we’re just excited that time is passing, I think our excitement might be a little misplaced. As anyone over 30 can tell you, the passage of time is usually not our friend. It ages us, and it leads to the deaths of our loved ones and musical heroes. It goes too quickly at Christmas, then slows down mysteriously when we’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

If the passage of time is so celebration-worthy, we shouldn’t stop with the New Year. We should celebrate the New Month, the New Week, the New Day, or even the New Hour. 

It might seem extreme, but it would make resolutions like Woody’s “change socks” completely appropriate and easily achievable, although if we went all the way to “New Hour’s resolutions,” the constant sock-changing would soon become tedious. In general, though, if we did make “New Hour’s resolutions” we’d have a much better chance of meeting our goals, because we just naturally have a more realistic view of what we can accomplish in an hour. Only very deluded people would believe they could lose 25 pounds, or record a duet record with Vince Gill in the space of an hour.

If you’d like some guidance, here are some possible New Hour’s resolutions, geared towards the bluegrass musician. Good luck achieving your goals for the next hour.

1. Change strings

2. Sing all of Barbara Allen and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (this will take up most of an hour, so I would save all other resolutions for future hours)

3. Disguise voice and call up radio station requesting own song

4. Send an actual postcard to someone who wouldn’t be expecting one (the IRS, for example)

5. Manage finances better (this is pretty easy to pull off for an hour, especially if you don’t go anywhere. Start by just putting the loose change on your dresser into your pocket)

6. Spend more quality time with family, or, if they’re not around this hour, think about spending quality time with them

7. Start a family (this could take more than an hour, but you could at least begin with the initial phone call)

8. Spend more quality time with your manager, booking agent, or publicist (suggestions: go roller skating, bowling, or just have a fight about something)

9. Watch less television (unless you just started watching a show that’s an hour long)

10. Listen to the Carter Family’s version of Foggy Mountain Top, then google “Long-tailed Roustabout” because you’re pretty sure it’s a species of woodpecker

Happy New Hour! Note: it will not be necessary to play Auld Lang Syne 24 times every day.