2020: [sigh of not really relief, but not defeat either]

 It’s time for my annual wrap-up quiz. Warning: I’m writing about 2020 here. Trigger warnings galore! And some political bluntness, for which I’ll say, if you disagree with me, well…I do not care. For a taste of how I’ve been seeing the year just gone by, consider this tweet:

It’s been my view for some time that everything going wrong for America and for the world, all of it, consists of self-inflicted wounds, and I have seen nothing to make me think otherwise for even a second.

But now, on to the quiz.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 

 My resolutions never change much: “Read a lot, write a lot, eat healthier, walk more, listen to more music.”

As these go, not bad! The toughest one is “eat healthier,” which is a back-end kind of thing: I have no problem finding newer healthier foods to like. It’s staying away from the less-than-healthy ones that tends to trip me up! This is something I need to work on big-time.

As for the rest, it was a decent year. I wrote a fair amount (though a lot of my writing time this year was spent on editing existing manuscripts, so drafting was on the backseat for a chunk of the year). Reading was a constant, and I really have made effort to listen to more music! 

Did anyone close to you give birth? 


Did anyone close to you die? 

 I suppose it’s almost miraculous that in the Year of COVID, my answer to this is, No. But I know of people who have died, and people close who have suffered a lot of loss (and not all of it COVID driven, since the rest of Death didn’t exactly go on holiday because of the pandemic). 

What countries did you visit? 

 In my mind? Tons. 

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020? 

 A Federal government that isn’t led by a delusional authoritarian grifter whose appeal is distressingly wide. 

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 

 It was 2020. I got to the end of it without having contracted COVID-19 as of this writing. This was not a year for grand accomplishments, I suspect…though I did get a book ready for release, and more! Detail to come in another post. 

What was your biggest failure? 

 I took entirely too much random delight in chucking rocks at online trolls. 

What was the best thing you bought? 

 I probably bought way too much stuff this year–adding to the overalls collection and purchasing books, of course–but the thing that’s brought the most direct happiness to my ongoing existence is the pair of Bluetooth ear buds I picked up in June. I had watched a YouTube video that was randomly recommended by that platform’s algorithm (why, I’m not sure, it was just someone’s “day in the life” video diary thing), in which a person put on earbuds that had hooks to go over the ear, and I thought, “Wait, they make those?” A bit of Googling turned up my Soundcore buds. 

Whose behavior merited celebration? 

 Anyone who wore a mask and socially-distanced themselves, no matter how hard it may have been to do so. 

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Not even my skills with the English language can convey my disappointment at how much farther the Republicans can descend in this country. As I write this, a bunch of them in Congress are gearing up to “object” to the certification of the Electoral College results, based on zero concrete evidence of any “fraud” whatsoever. It’s pure banana-republic dictator shit, this business of “We respect the election as long as the guy in charge wins” and it’s just appalling. Add to that the QAnon lunatics, the science deniers, and the ones who refuse to wear masks or maintain social distance because of “FREEDOM!”, and you’ve got a deeply dangerous state of affairs in this country. We can’t long survive this large a percentage of our citizenry being completely off its collective rocker.

I’m also disappointed in what I see as America’s rejection of collective thinking and its growing lack of imagination, but that will have to wait for another post. 

Where did most of your money go? 

 Books, booze, food, gifts, and vintage overalls. And I paid down some debt, which was nice. 

What did you get really excited about? 

 In 2020? Day trips to Ithaca and Letchworth and the Finger Lakes area. New flavors I’ve tried. I’ve made green tea a part of my daily routine of late, and I’m loving it! (I also discovered just this week, when the last of my Christmas gifts came in the mail, just how much tea is in a pound of the stuff. Note to self: order the stuff 8oz at a time, moving forward.)


Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Oh, who the hell knows. On a personal level I’m pretty happy and doing fine. When I start thinking societally, though–ugh.

On a political note, I’m really increasingly disappointed by my country. Maybe I’ll write more about this later, but re-electing the Joni Ernst’s and the Susan Collinses and the Mitch McConnells of the world is a staggering failure of citizenship, and the fact that more than 70 million of my fellow Americans looked at the current state of affairs and decided that they were fine with it is horribly depressing. 

Thinner or fatter? 

 A bit thinner! No idea about the poundage, but I own overalls for which I have never been able to fasten both sets of side buttons–and now I can. This amazes me. Now, my progress in that regard has probably taken a small beating the last few weeks, but I did develop some healthier eating habits in 2020 that won’t be hard to replicate. I can still do the “gluttony” thing on occasion, but I’ve finally reached a point where doing so is fun for a very short while, but then my brain goes, “Oooog, gimme salad and fiber and lean protein, please.”

Richer or poorer? 

 I’m doing better than a lot of Americans. And we all should be doing better, shouldn’t we? I really hope I live long enough to see this country finally start to pivot away from the trickle-down, “If we just let rich people have more and more money they’ll eventually rain it down upon us all” bullshit that’s been the economic wind in America’s wings since 1981.

I’ll say this for American conservatism: when it managed to convince most of America that the major factor holding them back was what government was taking out of their paychecks instead of what their employers were never putting in their paychecks in the first place, it won a rhetorical victory for the ages. 

What do you wish you’d done more of? 

 As always, reading, writing, and walking. (Same as last year.) 

What do you wish you’d done less of? 

 Chucking rocks at right-wing trolls online. Yeah, it’s fun to mute them and watch them reply anyway, but still…it’s not a terribly productive use of time! 

How did you spend Christmas?

With family. We used FaceTime to include my sister, which was…well, obviously it’s not the same, but it was actually a fun way to manage to include someone who wasn’t able to be around due to circumstances and shit. Other than that, Christmas was what it always is for us: a quiet time spent with family. I don’t come from a large and close extended family, and The Wife’s family lives far away as well, so Christmas has never been about large gatherings and traveling around to multiple houses to put in appearances. It’s always been about home, and I expect it always will be. I hear people complaining about how their holidays were ruined by COVID, or how they were going to defy the Big Bad Government to go to their giant get-togethers, and I reflect anew on the degree to which this particular crisis has forced an awful lot of Americans into my lifestyle. I haven’t yet figured out to what degree their reactions to this amuses me or depresses me, but it’s definitely some of both. 

Did you fall in love in 2020? 

 She’s from the Niagara Falls area, you don’t know her. 

(Yes, that’s a quote from The Breakfast Club.)

How many one-night stands? 

 Come on. I never had one-night stands when they were an option. 

What was your favorite TV program? 

 ABC canceled Bless This Mess, which was a hilarious fish-outta-water sitcom about two NYC liberal hippie-types who inherit farmland in Nebraska, so eff you, ABC. (The show was not about “Let’s make fun of the hicks!”, if you’re thinking along those lines. It was a collection of zany weirdos and full of character-driven comedy that was some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in years. If you watch it, the short first season–only six episodes, if I recall correctly–is mildly amusing, but the show didn’t take off creatively until the second season, which was sadly the last.)

ABC also had a cool detective show called Stumptown, set in Portland, OR, that I liked a lot. They renewed it for a second season…and then when COVID shut down production, they ended up canceling it instead. Curse you, ABC!

CBS has a sitcom called The Unicorn which we like a lot. This follows a widower as he starts to emerge from grieving; he has two teenage daughters and a wonderful support system of friends around him. This show is in its second season and is worth checking out. It’s sometimes bittersweet, but it’s never depressing.

Oh, and we like The Mandalorian a great deal. We’re slowly watching Season Two now, rationing it out for maximum enjoyment. Of course, the Internet has already seen to it that I’m spoiled and know what happens at the end, so thanks, Internet. Sheesh. 

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? 

 I really don’t like hatred and I try to avoid it. 

What was the best book you read? 

 I refer you to my Books Read in 2020 post from the other day, where my five-star reads are highlighted in bold

What was your greatest musical discovery? 

 Oh, music! Music might have saved me this year, to the point where this blog was almost exclusively a music blog for a whole lot of the time. Aside from my year-long deep dive into Beethoven, I also did a lot of listening to the work of Black composers, which often featured in my semi-regular Tone Poem Tuesday posts. This was a partial response on my part to the Black Lives Matter movement, because surely one way we can start to acknowledge the importance of the Black lives that we whites have for so long completely marginalized and ignored is to engage with Black art. This will remain a focus of mine, moving forward.

As far as specific Black composers go, I’ve really become a fan of Florence Price, whose music I featured several times.

Non-classical? Well, none of these were “discoveries”, but I’m discovering a real fondness for ELO, which I am starting to consider one of the most underrated bands in history, and Taylor Swift, whom I am starting to consider simply a genius.

What did you want and get? 

 President-elect Joe Biden. 

What did you want and not get? 

 A United States Senate not ruled by Mitch McConnell, whom I believe to be the single worst American of my lifetime. (Though, if Georgia voters manage to come through, I still may get this.) 

What were your favorite films of this year? 

 2020 was the first year of my life that I never set foot in a movie theater, and I only watched a single movie new to me, courtesy of Netflix. That was Enola Holmes, which I enjoyed greatly.

I love film and I wish I had more time to watch them. I suspect my retirement, when it finally comes, is going to be a big film-fest. 

What did you do on your birthday? 

 I don’t remember specifically what happened on my birthday, but my sister was in town and we did some antiquing and visiting comics stores. The next week was our annual trip to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes, which took on a very different tone given that the annual Apple Harvest Festival was canceled due to COVID. 

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019? 

 It’s a struggle, every morning: “Which shirt do I want to wear with which overalls?” 

What kept you sane?

Books and music and dogs and cats and overalls. Walks in the woods and by the water. I cope best when I’m allowed to focus my energies inward. 

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I’ll give a shout-out to author and podcaster Dana Schwartz, who is a fine writer and the host of the wonderful podcast Noble Blood, which focuses on the sordid and grim side of history. There have been episodes on each one of Henry VIII’s wives (not all of whom were beheaded!), and a particularly effective episode about King Leopold II of Belgium and how he spearheaded some of the bloodiest acts of African colonialism. My favorite episode focused on one of my favorite stories from the history of science, the life of Tycho Brahe. Schwartz focuses that episode on Brahe’s life, instead of coming at it from the standpoint of Johannes Kepler, as most commentators do.

What political issue stirred you the most? 

 God, so many to choose from…but Black Lives Matter remains staggering to me. That a cop could just casually kneel with his knee on the throat of a black man until he died is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever seen, closely followed by the ability of so many white people to argue that there was really nothing at all wrong with this.

And there’s also my country’s response to COVID-19, a response so perfect in its malignant incompetence and rejection of science that it truly makes me believe that whatever greatness lies in store for humanity, America will no longer be much of a factor in driving it. 

Who did you miss?

The geeky people who frequent the local cons! I was just starting to get comfortable with the idea of hanging out at local conventions and trying to market myself there (I was even going to release Book Four of The Song of Forgotten Stars at Nickel City Con in May), but that’s gone. I miss festivals–Ithaca’s Apple Harvest Festival, the Sterling Renaissance Festival, various others that we like to frequent. I miss some favorite local restaurants that we pray manage to hold on long enough for the vaccine to finally start beating back this virus. 

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020: 

 The same ones as always:

Read a lot, write a lot. Listen to music. Go for walks and look at sunsets. Take all the pictures you want. Learn new things and try new stuff. If you have a dog, take him for walks. Buy books for your daughter, even when she complains that she likes to pick her own books (let her do that, too). Nothing fits your hand so well as your lover’s hand. Eating out is fine, but learn to cook things, too. Have a place to go where they know you and what you order. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood passions now and again; you weren’t always wrong back then. Overalls are awesome, it’s OK to wear double denim, and a pie in the face is a wonderful thing!

To all of this I would add something that wasn’t really a lesson I learned in 2020, but which I saw illustrated in events so stark as to have it all be writ large in the fiery letters in the sky: The United States of America desperately needs to re-embrace rational and collective thinking, and ditch its mythologies about rugged individualism and the eternal wisdom of “the Founders”.

I’d sum it up with a quote from the afore-mentioned Enola Holmes: “Our future is up to us.” 

If you take selfies, post your six favorite ones: 
Oh, to have reached another weekend! #sigh #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #gap #gapoveralls #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls
Another in my ongoing "Possible Future Author Photo" series! #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #key #keyoveralls #herringbone #vintageoveralls #overallsarelife #sweater #sweatersandoveralls
Just a casual guy in the forest #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #spring #nature #hiking #trees #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #key #keyoveralls #bluedenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife
This pandemic has done wonders for my vintage overalls collection. New Ely overalls FTW! #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #ElyOveralls #denim #bluedenim #rawdenim #denimoveralls #vintageoveralls #overallsarelife
Wine tasting on a crisp fall day! #UpstateTravels #wine #yum #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #sweatersandoveralls
What a perfect day it was! #ahhhhh #basking #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #sweatersandoveralls
A manufactured pose while my coffee steeps. #ootd #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #lee #leeoveralls #hickorystripe #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #doubledenim #denimondenim
Finally the coffee was done. #yum #coffee #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #GuessJeans #GuessOveralls #blackdenim #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #plaid #flannel
Yeah, I’m doing eight, because I can.


Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Boy, have I been dreading this question. A song that sums up 2020? How could there possibly be a musical expression of how this awful year was and the effect it had…but maybe, just maybe, 2020 was sufficiently calamitous to provoke at least a beginning to a long-needed reassessment of the American paradigm of life, business, and profit?

This made me remember the last episode of House MD, which ended as Dr. House, having faked his own death, took off on a motorcycle trip with his best friend Dr. Wilson, who at this point was dying of cancer and had only months left. As they motor off into the hills, this song played out the end of the show, and if this is a bit morbid (and maybe sexist in one verse), well…these are the times in which we live.
So here’s Guy Lombardo.
You work and work for years and years, you’re always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin’ dough
Someday you say, you’ll have your fun, when you’re a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you’ll have in your old rockin’ chair
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
You’re gonna take that ocean trip, no matter come what may
You’ve got your reservations made, but you just can’t get away
Next year for sure, you’ll see the world, you’ll really get around
But how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground?
Your heart of hearts, your dream of dreams, your ravishing brunette
She’s left you and she’s now become somebody else’s pet
Lay down that gun, don’t try my friend to reach the great beyond
You’ll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blond
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
You never go to night clubs and you just don’t care to dance
You don’t have time for silly things like moonlight and romance
You only think of dollar bills tied neatly in a stack
But when you kiss a dollar bill, it doesn’t kiss you back
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Let’s make 2021 better, shall we? I’d love to be able to post some optimistic and more cheerful answers to these questions in one year’s time. Remember Ms. Holmes’s quote above: Our future is up to us.

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One Response to 2020: [sigh of not really relief, but not defeat either]

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    You are mentioned in my blog re this topic, which I have (for sanity's sake) stretched out for a while.

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