Nineteen ninety-nine was a very good year, yes, a very good year.

Murtagh borrowed my snow shovel and forgot to return it. When the blizzard hit he swore he had given it back. That didn't bother me as much as Murtagh, a stockbroker, telling me he got a bonus this Christmas of $500,000 just for answering the telephone.

It was a very good year.

The merger of my company with Willies Shirt came off without a hitch. Ten thousand people were downsized. I survived but they took my parking place away from me and made me a parking valet. Now I have to go to work on the B4 bus.

Except for that it was a very good year.

My mother-in-law refused to stay in the senior citizens home and my wife insisted she move in with us. I had no objection except that she hates me.

It was a very good year.

My son Lannie decided to visit Vietnam on an American Express tour. In my generation no one wanted to go to Vietnam. Now the kids think it's groovy.

Still, it was a very good year.

The IRS claims that I could not write off my 20-foot sailboat, which sank during the hurricane. I insisted all of my business took place on that sailboat. They say I owe them $14,000, plus penalties.

What kind of year was it? A very good year.

The fire in the attic last June didn't do much damage. What did the damage were the axes the firemen used to chop open the roof. The insurance company insisted someone was smoking in the attic, which was a bald-faced lie. The company suggested I do what any decent client would do--sue them.

Yes, it was a very good year.

The plumbing went out just before our Thanksgiving dinner for 14 people. We found a plumber in the Yellow Pages who dropped by and charged only $250 to tell us we needed all new pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms.

In spite of this, it was a very good year.

What I hate about Christmas is that a lot of people don't bother to thank you for the presents you sent them. Hoffman received a bag of walnuts from me and never bothered to call. I sent Tommy Bailey a subscription to the National Review and there was dead silence on his end of the line. They won't be on my list this year.

It was a very good year.

My son Ticker was nabbed for not paying $600 in traffic tickets. It cost me $3,500 to find a lawyer specializing in unpaid traffic tickets.

If you have to ask how much it costs to keep your children out of jail, you can't afford it.

Except for the fact that my plane to Buffalo was canceled and our luggage was lost in Newark, it was a very good year.

(C) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate