2020 — it’s symmetrical and round and feels positive, don’t you think? (Reader, I wrote this sentence on January 2. And then … you know … 2020 was lit on fire.)
I am not one of those people who poo-poos new year resolutions. I love resoluting. I love self-reflection. I love a plan. I love an intention.
Here’s my process:
1. I spend a few weeks thinking about all the things I want to do, should do, have to do, and put it ALL on paper.
2. Now here’s the part I’m guessing most people don’t do. I categorize. Then I categorize those categories and keep going until I have rolled everything up into ONE comprehensive goal for the year.
Last year, it was simply getting all the stuff done that had fallen to the wayside while I healed. I learned that a little bit of effort every single day can yield big advances.
This year, everything on the list has to do with evaluating how I spend my time and energy. I’m giving something up every other month to see how that changes my life. I’m reaching for the analog over the digital. I’m moving not sitting. I’m joining things (this one raises my blood pressure, but I’m going with it.) What does 2020 look like for you?
I’m in the middle of doing Dry January. It’s the first edit in my year-long challenge of giving something up every other month. One year I tried to do a project every month and there just wasn’t enough time to research, plan, and execute 12 projects. Taking a month off in between creates some space where I will either keep giving the thing up or figure out how to reintroduce it into my life in a different way. And I’ll have time to plan for the next edit.
I read somewhere that alcohol is the only drug where you are expected to give a reason for giving it up. Here’s mine: living in Provincetown can be a little like living in Cancun during Spring Break all year round (or most of the year, anyway.) Now, I like a good cocktail on a Friday night and some fruity frozen bevvies by the pool, but when it becomes a feature of every single social activity you do, it’s time to reassess.
So far it’s been easy. Maybe a little too easy. I’ve found some fun mocktails to drink on Friday date night, the pool is closed, and no one is here in the dead of winter to lure me away for an afternoon of skinny pear mules. I’m thinking a sober Bear Week might be in my future for summer 2020. THAT would be the ultimate test.
“I Believe in Love: Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Final Year, In Her Own Words.” “After her double mastectomy, she still came to the class, this time with the drains still in.” A gangster, if ever there were one.
“‘I see any dinosaur, I buy it’: at home with the embattled owner of the Flintstone house.” “The very public legal battle is now pitting a wealthy and elderly Chinese immigrant who is bound and determined to laugh out her days against a wealthy and exclusive town where having a sense of humor may as well be a zoning violation.” Well, as long as she doesn’t hang any birdfeeders, she’d be welcome here in Provincetown!
“Patrick Stewart on Why He’s Returning.” “Stewart claims that Roddenberry circulated a memo at Paramount saying, “I do not want to hear Patrick Stewart’s name mentioned ever again in connection with ‘Next Generation.’” GASP!
“The Day That Never Happened.” “Have you ever had a memory, but you aren't sure whether you dreamed it or read it or saw it in a movie? Have you ever had a day that changed life as you knew it, but no one ever spoke about it again?” This is how Iranian-Americans are treated here.
“The Dognapping of the Century.” I started out the last two years reading a book about dogs. This year, I read Flush by Virginia Woolf, a pastiche detailing the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s beloved red cocker spaniel, Flush. (“‘Flushie,’ wrote Miss Barrett, ‘is my friend—my companion—and loves me better than he loves the sunshine without.’”) Flush was kidnapped and held for RANSOM three times!
The question most people ask me when they find out I live here year round is “what’s it like in the winter?” If you have to ask, it’s not for you.
Harvard Magazine just published an article about the “off off-season” in Provincetown. “The off-off season best suits city dwellers seeking a slow-moving, peaceful time, anyone immersed in creative projects, those who want to sit by a fire and read a book—and people eager to get outside and enjoy the volatile weather. ‘There are only about a thousand local people here, but they are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.’”
On a Thursday night in January we layered back up for the walk home across town after enjoying the $10 comfort food offseason specials at the Brewhouse. The winter ritual of layering up, layering down, layering up, layering down is an ongoing activity from January to March. We headed out into the crisp sea-soaked air for the trek to the East End. Even on the loneliest of evenings you’ll encounter at least one dog walker out and about. On the way, a piano player was tapping away at the keys for the bartender at Tin Pan Alley, the only other person in the place. A handful of locals were huddled around their beers at the Governor Bradford. The lights were on, the lights were off in different storefronts. The see-you-in-the-spring signs made us really glad we have each other.
The Super Mr. tells all our guests, “if you come in the summer, you have to come in the winter.” So far, no one has taken us up on that.
The Harriet Tubman stamp. For stamping your $20 bills! This seems like a productive way of getting out your Trump-is-a-sucky-person aggression.
Japanese mudballs! “The Japanese hikaru dorodango, or SHINY MUD BALL, is created by rolling earth by hand into a perfect sphere and polishing it until it gleams. Not only are the results truly impressive, but this calm and meditative practice, a traditional Japanese playground activity for children, has been rediscovered as a peaceful pastime for people of all ages.” Go ahead, stamp it with your Harriet Tubman stamp.
“A Skywatcher’s Guide to 2020.” Six eclipses! Three Supermoons! And a weird thing where Jupiter and Saturn appear to be only one planet.
Are you watching/reading/listening to …? Lost in Space (Netflix). What a wild ride season two is! I binged right through it on the edge of my seat. And Parker Posey, the Gen X doyenne that she is, douses every scene with subtle sarcasm. // You (Netflix). This show is my Chris Brown of TV shows. It’s super entertaining, but I HATE that I like it. // Star Wars: The Clone Wars in chronological order. I mean, why didn’t they release these in an order that made sense?? If you are catching up, follow this handy guide to watching the shows in a linear timeline. // Hair Love. Just nominated for an animated shorts Oscar! You’ll be bawling!
I, Dolours (Hulu). Dolours Price, a militant IRA activist, did this filmed interview on the condition that it would not be broadcast in her lifetime. She died in 2013. Brutal. // The Brink (Hulu). In this documentary, Steve Bannon seems truly surprised and weirdly giddy when someone buys his BS, which means this asshole has been making this shit up. There’s also a lot of sycophantic flattering going on amongst the men, which made me want to spray roach killer in their eyeballs. Despite that, it was really satisfying to watch Bannon lose it in real time over the 2017 election returns.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. The second book I read this year, it’s much like scrolling through someone’s brilliant personal Twitter feed: “There is a man who travels around the world trying to find places where you can stand still and hear no human sound. It is impossible to feel calm in cities, he believes, because we so rarely hear birdsong there. Our ears evolved to be our warning systems. We are on high alert in places where no birds sing. To live in a city is to be forever flinching.” // “Big Other’s Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2020.” For those of us who are always on the side of the Little Guy, this list contains opportunities to read “the best words in the best order.” // “BitchReads: 17 Memoirs Feminists Should Read in 2020.” Some of these look so good that I’ll be requesting several through my library even though my 2020 reading card is full.
Finding van Gogh podcast. The Portrait of Dr. Gachet, the last great portrait by Vincent van Gogh, disappeared from the public eye three decades ago. This podcast tracks down where it might be now. You will be jarred (or secretly thrilled) by the regular pronunciation of “van GOCCCCHHHHH.” // The Bitter Southerner’s “The Exactly Right Cake” episode. The recipe for Rainbow Icebox Cake “includes a cup of confectioner's sugar, two egg yolks, one cup pecans, half a cup of oleo margarine, one number two can of Dole crushed pineapple, two boxes of lime jello, two boxes of cherry jello, and one box of Graham crackers.” // “The Link Between Kitchen Countertops and a Deadly Disease” episode of Short Wave podcast. Your quartz countertop is killing people. // The “End-of-Year Bird Count” episode of The Weekly Bird Report on WCAI. “Christmas counters were ecstatic to see a Western Kingbird the day before the count, only to have a nearby Merlin catch and EAT the bird while horrified birders watched.”
The Ramy Official Soundtrack. Catchy tunes in foreign languages and Robyn. //
A Winged Victory for the Sullen. They describe their own music as “harmonic Robitussin.” //
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
January 19. Avenue 5 (HBO). Hugh Laurie captains a luxury space cruise ship where everything goes wrong. And it’s from the creator of Veep. Should be hilarious! // January 22. Awkwafina is Nora from Queens (Comedy Central). Speaking of hilarious! // January 24. Second season of Shrill (Hulu). Hoping for more of this!
Audubon Bird Advocacy Training. If I can’t feed my birds this winter, then I’m going to save them from Trump is a Sucky Person some other way. Join me!
As I write this, I am having a two dog day, one of my very favorite things. A few times a month, I watch my moms’ dog, Tipper Marie. She is not a fan of Stephen. And he watches her like a hawk in case she tries to steal his snacks. They co-exist peacefully when it’s just the three of us — mostly because I have learned to snuggle them at the same time despite each trying to hip-check the other out of the way. I’m also super careful about equally doling out treats to their two little expectant faces at the doggie snack bar in our kitchen.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a house full of dogs — my very own balanced pack. Some day. Maybe. Right now, I’ve got my hands full. Tipper just found the chicken jerky Stephen hid in the cushion this morning.
It’s resort season, folks, and I have started one of my favorite activities — reading (and judging) TripAdvisor comments. Here are a few unedited gems (and one very shouty ignorant racist) I discovered:
“A la carte: they have no idea how to cook stake or see food, period.”
“The Temezcal ceremony, led by Jesus, was life-changing.”
“Now in my new room it was full of big spiders with spiderwebs between the double ceiling. And I had no facecloths.”
“We went through the channels that the tv got and found that CBS the TV Station that showed Sunday Night Football was not not on! … Ok so 3 days later we go to the Sports Bar and the 3 TVs are off. We ask concierge to put the on. When we get back only one tv was on and someone was watching Tennis!”
“People should watch their young children closer...witnessed a 6 year old smashing all the hard boiled eggs with a large spoon...no parents in sight. A second child scooped up a plate of rice and used his hands to wipe it back off his plate into the main dish for everyone else to enjoy.”
“There was some type of dried (looked like guacamole) on the pillows. The white lamp shade by our bedside had blood all over it. And our mini bar was empty.”
“The hostess and the staff in the restaurants pissed me right off, if there were families who spoke Mexican, they were seated first NO MATTER WHAT and treated like royalty. … I kid you not when i say that EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT FAVOURS AND TREATS MEXICANS LIKE ROYAL AND THEY ARE BETTER THAN EVERYONE WHO ISN'T.”