OK, 1988 was a pretty dull and inconsequential year, save for that thrilling presidential contest between Colonel Flagg and General Anesthetic, and the inspired leadership of Chicago’s new mayor, Bossed.

But don’t dismiss 1988 without considering its real significance: it was exactly 20 years after 1968. And 25 after 1963. And one year after Harold. 1988 will be recalled, if it ever is at all, as the year in which we remembered what happened in other years.

What with JFK’s assassination of 25 years ago, and King’s and RFK’s of 20 years ago, and Mayor Washington’s death of one year ago, you could almost count on seeing a hearse every time you flicked on your TV. Or you might see rioting cops and students, followed by a multitude of graying former hippies being interviewed in their corporate offices for a where-are-they-now? and what-have-we-learned? story.

It’s important, of course, to study our red-letter days; it makes us wiser, or at least tougher at Trivial Pursuit. But it’s a little embarrassing when a year’s crowning achievements are the records it sets in documentary film footage and newspaper commemorative sections.

This perhaps is not so much infatuation with the past as disenchantment with the present. Face it, the staid 80s pale next to the rip-roaring 60s, and even next to the self-indulgent 70s. The Me Decade was succeeded by the Zzzz Decade. The 80s are a time when all hell stays put. As for heroes, our only larger-than-life figures are the dead people we’ve remembered so fondly and endlessly this year. The present characters know they don’t measure up; so Dan Quayle tries to be Jack Kennedy, Reverend Jackson tries to be Reverend King, and Tim Evans tries to be Harold Washington.

If ’88 was a vintage year because of ’63 and ’68, ’89 holds much promise, too: there’s a lot we can look forward to looking back on. Expect a plethora of specials celebrating 20 years since we walked on the moon, 15 years since the Watergate hearings forced Nixon’s resignation, 10 years since the hostage-taking in Iran. Public television and radio will tell us of the significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on its 25th anniversary.

Locally, look for lots of features on the blizzard of ’79–the blizzard that blew Jane Byrne into the mayor’s office–and special sections on the pope’s visit to Chicago ten years ago. There’ll be much to cover in sports locally, too: the 20th anniversary of the Cubs blowing the pennant, the 30th anniversary of the Sox winning the pennant, the 70th anniversary of the Sox throwing the series. (But don’t look for the Sox to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Comiskey Park’s disco demolition night.)

And it will be two years after Harold.

With so many essential stories, it’s bound to be another big news year, even if nothing much happens again.