Well, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Instead of my usual round-ups of books, movies, and opera, and since I decided in October to just abandon any thoughts of serious blogging until 2021, I’m going to take a cue from one of my favorite books of the year and simply run down the year I had. (Never fear, I couldn’t resist making a few lists here and there and, of course, my annual list of singles that got me through it.)
JANUARY — My year starts off great. I return to San Francisco from New England just after the New Year ready to get both a major work project and my Century+ project off the ground. Noir City at the Castro has an “international” theme and I manage to catch the France, Italy, and Japan nights. January will turn out to be the last time I am out of the city limits until December.
Top Five Films of the 1910s Viewed for A Century+:
Shoes (Weber, 1916)
Male and Female (DeMille, 1919)
Snow White (Dawley, 1916)
Judex (Feuillade, 1916)
J’accuse (Gance, 1919)
FEBRUARY — As per usual, the Math Greek flies up from L.A. for my annual Oscar dinner and pool. We eat food from my local taqueria, drink Parasite (peach) and 1917 (cherry) margaritas, and have make-your-own Irishman sundaes. My French cousin drinks a little too much despite having an important interview the next day, nevertheless gets the job, and her new boss goes on to win a Nobel Prize. Coincidence? I think not. Best of all, my favorite film of the year actually wins Best Picture! But, hey, what’s this? The MG comes down with a mysterious virus the day he leaves. It hits him like a ton of bricks but, no, we have no idea if it was COVID. I also get hit with a ton of bricks, but in my case, we know for sure it was a case of the work project from hell. My year starts to go downhill very quickly, even before the shelter-in-place orders.
Top Five 2019 Movies (FINAL):
The Farewell (Wang)
The Nightingale (Kent)
Little Women (Gerwig)
MARCH — In early March, the MG comes up again and we are already talking about him staying long term. I’ve begun stocking supplies, including what will be the first of too many cases of wine, and we notify the landlord of our intentions in case of a lockdown. We also attend a critics screening of First Cow with the ever-generous Mel Valentin. I buy sanitizer wipes at the Target next door and wipe everything down before sitting down in the almost empty theater. This will turn out to be the first and last 2020 movie I see on the big screen. In a sign of what is to come, my March 14 outing to the ballet to celebrate La Belle Chantal’s birthday is cancelled. The MG heads back to L.A. to take care of a few things, but ends up renting a car to drive back one-way on the day lockdowns are announced for both San Francisco and L.A. We think this might be for a month or two. Maybe three. Spoiler alert: He’s still here.
Top Five 2020 Movies (so far):
First Cow (Reichardt)
La Nuit des rois (Night of the Kings) (Lacôte)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Hittman)
Palm Springs (Barbakow)
APRIL — Having started my #LockdownCooking Twitter thread on March 17, the first full day of sheltering in place, I get used to regularly cooking for two. This sucks. I don’t really like to cook, but I don’t like to eat takeout often. (I usually restrict it to the five days a month or so that the MG is here.) I can’t figure out why I feel like I’m cooking all the time until I realize that usually when I cook just for me I have leftovers for days so I can eat home cooking almost all the time without cooking constantly. It takes me far too long to realize this and adjust accordingly.
Top Three Most Used #LockdownCooking Recipes:
Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas
Garlic Butter Sheet Pan Salmon & Asparagus
Paloma Tequila Cocktail
MAY — At the beginning of 2020, I had planned to take the second half of May off to attend two different weddings, a family affair in France and that of my college roommate’s eldest son outside Seattle. These were obviously both cancelled (to take place as small private ceremonies months later). This was probably for the best as I invoice 150 hours for the first two weeks in May and the project from hell shows no sign of becoming less hellish. Thankfully at this point my other two projects have wrapped up and I don’t drop and break my laptop until late June (because, of course, it’s 2020).
Favorite Discovery of the Year (Household Products division): Dr. Bronner’s sugar soap. The only way I could get my hands on some hand sanitizer early on in the pandemic was to order a lavender gift box from Dr. Bronner on Amazon. In addition to two spray bottles of sanitizer, the box included a pump bottle of lavender sugar soap. Like everyone, we had been washing our hands a lot, so much so I had started to use hand lotion, something I actually never needed before. However, after a week or two of washing constantly with the sugar soap, I found myself asking the MG, “Is it me, or is this stuff making our hands softer?” If you’ve never tried it before, do yourself (and your hands) a favor. Runner-Up: my LapGear lap desk
JUNE — By June I finally work up the nerve to read The Hot Zone, a non-fiction thriller about Ebola that the MG sent me back in February as we started to get prepared for the inevitable. I really struggled to get through books this year, and not just because they were too scary to contemplate. But I read a few good ones, especially as I wait for my laptop to get to and from the Lenovo Repair Center, which has a three-week backlog since they moved to what would become a COVID hotspot at the beginning of the pandemic.
Top Five New-to-Me Books Read in 2020:
A Journal of the Plague Year (Defoe)
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae (Burnet)
A Holiday for Murder (Christie)
The Hot Zone (Preston)
JULY — In July, we realize that there is at least one flea in the apartment. Or, rather, I do, since I am the one with all the flea bites. I have no animals. Although I am convinced that it came in via one of the many dogs that are now living in my “dog-free” building, the exterminator assures me that it probably came in via the tree just outside my window. While the endless vacuuming and apartment prep are a pain, the most difficult element of the pest control visit turns out to be finding a place to go during the six hours we must vacate the apartment. We end up renting a car and heading out to La Belle Chantal’s place for a backyard visit.
Favorite Discovery of the Year (Food and Drink division): Fresh kielbasa sausage. For the early part of the pandemic, I mostly sourced groceries through Whole Foods (when I could get a delivery time) or by waiting in the line at the nearby Trader Joe’s. However, at some point, I realize it might be safer to go to smaller local stores and the outdoor farmers markets. At the Ferry Building Farmers Market, I discover a vendor who makes fresh kielbasa sausage, which I had never had before (although I pretty much eat kielbasa any chance I get). Runners-Up: Bicycle Coffee medium roast; Rue Lepic’s fried chicken with jalapeño coleslaw sandwich
AUGUST — Just as I begin recovering from the July flea circus, seemingly all of California catches fire. Between the fear of new fleas and the smoke, our windows remain closed all the time. (The full implications of this practice will not emerge until late September.) The project from hell continues apace, and yet I begin negotiating and background work on what will be my two major projects of 2021. Otherwise, August is somewhat of a respite and I begin to miss the fact that I can’t travel in a major way, especially since the fires mean there is nowhere to go even for a weekend getaway.
Biggest Regret of the Year: Not crossing another national park off my list
SEPTEMBER — In September, I discover mold on a suitcase in the closest. Turns out that making room for an extra person by stuffing your extra things in the walk-in closet, and then never needing to go in there for different kinds of clothes, and having your windows sealed shut all the time, is really not good in terms of humidity levels and air circulation. I get rid of the suitcase, bag up all my clothes just in case, and generally move everything out of the closet. As I slowly go through items, I realize the problem is worse than I thought and end up getting rid of bunch of stuff. Most of my clothing looks okay, but everything that can be washed is, with added vinegar. This is more exhausting than trying to source groceries at the beginning of the pandemic. This is not helped by having a minor medical issue and call to the doctor turn into six different in-person Kaiser appointments over the course of ten days. Never fear, after 6 weeks and approximately $6000 in medical tests and procedures, I’m fine. Oh yeah, and the sky did this one morning…
Favorite Discovery of the Year (Accounting division): Kaiser’s Medical Financial Assistance (MFA) program
OCTOBER — October is filled with mold remediation projects and stress over medical issues and the upcoming election. However, the resulting de-cluttering of the apartment leaves me feeling really good, like a psychic weight is off my shoulders. I further reduce the psychic load by accepting the fact that my Century+ project is just not going to happen this year and being okay with that. I make a pact with myself that I will not even think about blogging until the end of the year (except, of course, for my annual first lines challenge, which I have been putting together throughout the year as usual).
Favorite Television Series of the Year: The Queen’s Gambit
NOVEMBER — I vote on Election Day and then proceed to obsess about the election results for weeks. I rejoice in the fact that Orange Foolius will soon be gone. (Not soon enough.) My brother, cousin, nephew, niece, and I surprise my sister with a Zoom call on her birthday. This is not a thing we normally do, even in the pandemic, but clearly we should do it more often because it lasts six hours. I remain stunned that anyone even contemplated getting together in person for Thanksgiving.
Favorite Discovery of the Year (Games division): Pandemic (the board game) on Steam
DECEMBER — I reach December absolutely exhausted but feeling lucky to have survived the pandemic so far, worked steadily throughout, and lived through it all with the MG by my side. I finally leave the city limits again to rendez-vous with La Belle Chantal’s family to visit a Christmas tree farm and pick out our trees. I love having a tree again after so many years spent away from home at the holidays. I remain hopeful that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel and that it is not an oncoming train. I hope you can say the same.
May the new year bring us all a little more peace, love, and joy.