It is the custom for those of us in newspapering to officially recognize the start of a new year by categorizing to some extent certain events of the past year.
You will notice, for instance, front page attention given to The Most Important News Stories of 1986, embracing everything from world calamity to cute puppies, but that ain't all.
The soft side of newspapering also contributes to the spate of instant nostalgia with The Best Movies of 1986, The Best Television Shows of 1986, The Best Books of 1986 and The Best Tuna Casserole Recipes of 1986.
My job as a suburban columnist pales in comparison to those who sit in judgment on news and tuna, and it would be arrogant and presumptuous of me to tag along at the end of a parade of international significance with an essay on The Best Chicken Column of 1986.
But presumption and arrogance are necessities of nature if one is going to be either a columnist or a prostitute, both of which require an inordinate degree of self-confidence to assume in the first place that what we do is necessary and desirable.
I therefore, with appropriate immodesty, present My Best Column Topics of 1986. Boogie along as best you can.
The Most Dastardly Attack of 1986. A column about peppy, birdlike Marilyn Clark who composed a song celebrating Culver City.
A sweet woman who served me cookies and milk, Marilyn wrote "I Love Culver City" and then sang it for me in a kind of ding-dong, nursery rhyme cadence.
I wrote: "A song about Culver City is like a song about Lompoc or Spofford, Tex. The very idea is humorous."
As Marilyn sang, the whole room seemed to perk like a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and I was so overcome by a surge of human decency that I blacked out.
It was during this brief glucose coma that I wrote a column attacking Culver City, music, cookies, milk and anyone foolish enough to befriend me.
When I woke up, it was too late to withdraw the column and no one in Culver City will ever speak to me again. I have mixed feelings.
The Best Distorted Science Column of 1986. It was 3 o'clock in the morning and my wife and I were on a hilltop trying to see Halley's comet when a filthy hippie appeared on the scene carrying a dirty can of Budweiser.
He informed me that you could spot the comet by making a fist over a beer can while holding the can toward the horizon, a trick he had learned from his filthy father.
In fact, he informed me, his filthy father once theorized that there might be two Halley's comets, a conclusion no doubt reached over a couple of filthy Buds on a hilltop littered with wrecked cars and melon rinds.
My wife scoffed at the man. I didn't. He was, you see, 6-foot-2 and not in bad shape for someone raised on beer and garbage. I, on the other hand, am small and, well, delicate.
I used to hear my mother whisper to friends in a tone of dismay, "He has fragile bones and throws up easily."
So naturally I adopted the Two Comets Over a Beer Can Theory, and while that may seem a sellout to you, I view it as a necessary compromise for a man who throws up easily.
The Best Liberal-Baiting Column of 1986. How to tell a bum from a homeless person. I asked Santa Monica Mayor Christine Reed to help out on this one.
She categorized bums as aggressive, physically able to work and generally drunk.
I added that they also smelled like a mixture of dead dog and stale whiskey and quoted a friend as saying if you threw three people into the air, the ones that bounced were not bums.
Christine said you are not allowed to throw bums in the air in Santa Monica.
Those who Help the Homeless on Weekends bombarded me with letters. They hated the whole column, but objected most to my description of people smelling like dead dog and stale whiskey.
Compromise was called for again. One man's Giorgio is another man's carrion. I invited everyone to smell a bum themselves and write me their own descriptions. No letters followed.
The Best Sex Topics of 1986. A tie between Supervisor Mike Antonovich's efforts to close Elysium Fields, the Topanga nudist camp, and the day I discovered that man, by current feminist standards, has become little more than a convenient container for sperm.
Antonovich busied himself at least part of the year by attempting to cover naked genitalia in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The effort, though less than successful, enhanced his position as God's best friend in Southern California.
"Show me a hillside full of naked liberals," I wrote, "and I'll show you a conservative's highway to heaven."
The highway to heaven, alas, proved a rocky road for Mike in two instances. He lost both the Fig Leaf Fight and a campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Co-winner in the Bad Taste category was the Sperm Container column.
I was in an obstetrician's office and overhead three pregnant women discussing how they had searched for the right genetic sperm-carrier before allowing themselves to become impregnated.
I suddenly realized they had reduced all of manhood to nothing more essential than a handy container, shifting the perspective of sexual encounter from male conquest to catalytic convenience.
I could have lived with that, I guess, but then another of the women said wistfully, "When you stop to think about it, men actually have very little purpose in life except as sperm carriers."
I try not to think about it.