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The Column: Welcome the new year with an open mind – Newsday

A friend said recently that I never change my mind about anything. This seemed passive-aggressive to me — mostly aggressive — and I quickly corrected the fellow, who, by the way, so far as I know, has changed his mind only once in more than 50 years.
After dismissing the Beatles as a flaky bunch of fly-by-night British rascals whose music would last no longer than a pint of Guinness at a Liverpool pub, my friend finally came around and, by the time of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” conceded that the bratty upstarts showed some, ahem, “talent.”
Otherwise, this individual, a fine person with admirable credentials as a writer, thinker and social advocate, has held steadfast to his convictions on matters political and cultural. I admit that he did reassess his stand on cilantro, which he refused to eat until his daughter told him, uh-uh, she would not pluck it from her guacamole and to stop being a fussbudget, a word I think we should hear more often.
But, back to me.
Contrary opinions aside, I consider myself a model of flexibility and open-mindedness — always ready to adjust my viewpoint, as necessary. Pay no attention as my children groan, “Yeah, sure.”
For instance, though a devoted fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I dropped them like a drag bunt when the team moved after the 1957 season, unthinkably abandoning Brooklyn for Los Angeles, a city with good weather and movie stars but no Coney Island, Ebinger’s crumb cake or a swell bridge you could pick up for a song.
Here’s something else: hamburgers.
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Once I ate them with the dazzling speed and ferocious appetite of a sink disposal.
Each year Mom, Dad and I would drive to Southampton for a visit with Aunt Ann and Uncle Jack, who had a tiny cottage in an unglamorous grove somewhere outside the ritzy village.
On the way, Dad stopped his ’39 Pontiac at a favorite diner off Sunrise Highway.
“What will you have, dear?” my mother would say as if her plump, pre-adolescent son might be pondering a Waldorf salad or broiled flounder and not the default choice long established.
“Hamburger, what else?”
Soon the burger arrived and soon vanished.
“Can I have another?”
It, too, came and went.
“One more?”
“Such a hungry boy, but you’ll get sick,” Mom would say. “Maybe Jack and Ann will grill. Just another hour.”
Deep into adulthood, I ate enough burgers to sustain the Wyoming cattle industry, but then someone I knew stopped eating meat and, so, open minded, as previously mentioned, and with unhappy memories of my mother’s shoe-leather pot roast, I quit, too. These days, I’m eating plant-based sliders at White Castle. Yes, White Castle.
There are other examples.
I tucked in my T-shirts until my daughter complained this was a serious breach of the fashionista criminal code and she would not care for me in old age should I persist. Bingo, untucked.
Oh, here’s a good one: For years, I did a comb-over to camouflage my expanding bald spot and glued the arrangement in place daily with extra-strength AquaNet.
One day a gorgeous female stylist at the local haircut place said, “You know, bald is beautiful.” Now my head looks like Yul Brynner’s in “The King and I,” and my wife touches up with electric clippers. “Just don’t sing ‘Shall We Dance?’” she begs.
I could go on.
All right, let’s be serious for a moment.
As we begin a new year with another round of virus jitters, partisan combat and news that the price of a ride on Elon Musk’s spaceship has shot up to $450,000, one may find himself wondering how much is certain and how much not — what should be closely guarded and what surrendered.
These are unsettled times, more than usual. We are tempted to dig in, bat away contrary ideas, tell ourselves we’ve got it right and let the world take a hike.
And, OK, my friend is correct. I’m slow to move off a position and trend toward the unshakable. Maybe he is, too, but that’s not the point.
How to stay open to change and true to your beliefs?
Not easy, I tell myself, don’t be stubborn.
One day, I quit eating hamburgers. All things are possible.
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