The good, the bad and the ugly at the dawn of 2024


Here are 10 thoughts, along with my observations, to usher in 2024:

1. Almost four years removed from the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 is now more or less just another thing to contend with, thanks to vaccines and boosters. But it still stinks to get a positive test – especially when it comes after you’ve done all the right things.

I received the two original vaccines in 2021, three boosters over the next year-plus and the latest one this past fall. I also received the flu and RSV vaccines. Nonetheless, I wound up getting a rather disappointing “gift” on the third day of Hanukkah: a cold that, two days later, turned out to be COVID.

There may no longer be a stigma or a high probability of severe sickness with COVID, but the disease still disrupts your life. I had to cancel a couple of appointments, including a follow-up to a tooth extraction.

But as distressing as testing positive was, I’ve resolved to never again live in fear of the disease. Still, I will probably continue to wear a mask when shopping at large stores, pharmacies and at medical offices; getting COVID still messes with your head.

2. I desperately wanted this column to be free of the ugliness that has followed the carnage of Oct. 7 and the ensuing Israel-Hamas war, but some behaviors must be called out. I never thought I’d see people in high places defend loose talk of genocide.

If any other minorities were mentioned during the questioning of the college presidents in Congress, I firmly believe that there would have been no equivocating at all, but it seems that antisemitism has become far too widely accepted, even by people with advanced degrees and visible leadership positions.

What should have been said is that it’s never acceptable to be wishy-washy about genocide, and there’s NO context where it’s ever OK to do so, period.

3. It’s customary at this time of the year to wish for peace, and this year, we really need those wishes and prayers to be sincere and heartfelt. The killing must stop in the Middle East and Ukraine. Civilians are getting slaughtered in both devastating wars, and we run the risk of becoming accustomed to such suffering.

4. Voicemail has been around for a long time, but credit card and cable companies need to wake up and establish an option that immediately connects callers to a person. Calls to my cable company are something to dread because you’re put in voicemail purgatory for several minutes before speaking to a real human.

5. Speeding on local streets has reached epidemic proportions since the pandemic, which spawned a colossal lack of respect for laws and authority. It’s almost impossible to go the speed limit on side streets and town roads, and even on major roads such as Route 1, without being tailgated by people driving big vehicles – especially SUVs and trucks.

I’ve often been passed on those roads, even when a double-yellow line prohibits it. Not long ago, while adhering to the 40-mph speed limit, I was passed on Route 1 in North Attleboro by a vehicle going 50-60 mph.

The refusal to go the speed limit sadly extends to school zones, where the limit is 20 mph. One day, while driving by North Attleboro High School, I was passed by two consecutive cars going 40-50 mph.

6. That leads me to lamenting again that there’s too much anger out there. Road-rage incidents seem to be occurring more frequently, one more example of people acting without regard for others’ feelings or viewpoints.

That anger has led to the refusal of political leaders to compromise, and it has negatively affected our institutions at the national, state and local levels.

That negative atmosphere makes you yearn for the days when House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan could bicker about policy and still quaff a beer or two.

People must realize that we’re all going to wind up the same way – 10 feet underground – so we had better start acting like menschen before it’s too late.

7. The dysfunction of our political system is why volunteering beats political service by a long shot. Helping community groups work on projects is a far more meaningful way of making an impact.

8. Reality shows, including many new ones, dominated the fall TV lineup because of the prolonged actors’ and writers’ strikes, which pushed the debut of scripted TV series to January or February.

My two favorite reality series remain two of the longer-running ones: “Survivor” and  “The Voice.” The former, on CBS, never gets old and reveals a lot about human dynamics. The latter, on NBC, is not only a contest show that lets the public pick the winner, but it never fails to showcase plenty of superb and inspirational musical talent.

9. Is it just me, or do medical and dental offices think that people over 65 have no brain cells left? Why else would they routinely bombard us with a plethora of text messages, emails and phone calls about upcoming appointments? There’s no question that too many of those offices treat you differently as you age.

10. Last, but never least, I’m always grateful for the camaraderie of good friends, including many with whom I go back decades. And I’m humbled and thankful for the love of my family, especially my wife, Lynne, and daughters, Arianna and Alana. As I get older, that support means everything to me.

LARRY KESSLER ( is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at

Speaking Out, Larry Kessler