Bidding Adieu to 2020

What a year it has been! (And I don’t mean that as a compliment.) Indeed, if I were to call 2020 a “crazy year,” that would be, by most accounts, an understatement. From COVID-19, cases of which continue to climb as news of rival vaccines suggest that hope is in the not-so-distant horizons, to seemingly-endless California wildfires, to dual hurricanes ravaging the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, to meth gators, murder hornets, and giant Saharan dust clouds – and to one exhausting presidential election in which the candidate that officially lost still refuses to concede – it seems that planet Earth has been on its collective toes since the year began.

January

The year began on something of an auspicious note. Though it would be a month before we would hear the word “coronavirus” uttered on a daily basis, my dad spent Christmas Day, and roughly two whole weeks afterwards, violently ill, with all of the symptoms that would later come to define COVID-19. He was never diagnosed as having had the virus, but to this day remains convinced that he caught an early case of the ‘rona.

January 7th marked the first of what would be dozens of noteworthy deaths in the world of sports, news, and entertainment. Neal Peart, the legendary drummer for the band Rush, died. He would be followed just two weeks later, on the 21st, by Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones, and just five days after that by Kobe Bryant, who perished on January 26th in a chopper crash that also took the life of his teenage daughter. Bryant and his daughter were flying over the hills of Malibu on route to Bryant’s charity basketball camp.

GringoPotpourri note: Upon learning of Bryant’s death, I wrote a tribute on FB in which I remembered seeing him play basketball once. I had secured floor seats to a Laker’s game, just a few seats down from perennial season ticket holder Jack Nicholson, and watched as Bryant took his time getting started, as if he had all the time in the world. By the second half, he was on fire, and scored 50 points just by himself. I am told that that’s the kind of player he was, playing the game for fun, not for a paycheck. I found myself defriended soon after my post by a former colleague who called Bryant a rapist, and (it would seem) apparently named me as part of the problem by not mentioning that side of the former LA Laker’s reputation.

You see, I didn’t know. I remember dozens of men – creepers like Louis C.K. and predators such as Harvey Weinstein – getting their just desserts when the long overdue #metoo movement took hold. I also remember other men – comedian Aziz Anzari comes to mind – being lumped into that group as well, only for their accusers to take a step back once the truth came to light that some accusations were specious at best. And for the life of me, I simply didn’t remember hearing Bryant’s name be among those mentioned.

I did a bit of research after being accused of taking Bryant’s side, and what I initially found (no, I didn’t invest too much time) suggested that Bryant and his accuser settled outside of court, and that no guilt was ever publicly admitted. That is my story, and I’m sticking to it. Even so…this issue begs a bigger question. If the accusations against Bryant were true, does that make him any less sensational of an athlete? For that matter and while we’re on the subject, should every Best Picture Oscar won by Miramax be revoked because of Weinstein’s depravity?

February

COVID-19 started making bigger headlines domestically, but it was slow to reach Tennessee, and mask mandates and toilet paper hoarding were still a month or two away. East Tennessee had its second-rainiest February on record (breaking the previous record, set just one year prior).

I found myself promoted to a long-sought-after position at the Knoxville call center where I work, and in charge of 13 impressionable agents.

The next day, February 5th, Kirk Douglas passed away at the age of 103. Father of Michael and star of “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus,” Douglas was the last celebrity from the golden age of Hollywood.

Three weeks later, my world was darkened when my best friend, Molly the Dog, died before her time. You can read my tribute about her for more information. All I will say at this time is that I miss my favorite girl, and I hope to someday see her again.

March

March saw my professional life upended when it was decided, perhaps halfway through the month, that we would deploy everyone at the office to a temporary, work-from-home environment. The transition was bumpy, as we sent everyone home, a few teams at a time, with a keyboard, mouse, computer, monitor, phone, headset, and VPN device. There were late adapters to this migration, and I was one of them. For some, they didn’t have viable home internet, while others lacked a private space in which to work. For me, the issue was that my townhouse was being renovated, and there was too much hammering and banging. So when a show of interest was taken for leaders willing to continue working from the center so that there would be some kind of on-site leadership presence, I was only too happy to volunteer – thinking that things would be back to normal in no more than two months’ time.

But I should have known that we were in for some tough times when my candidate of choice for the president in the 2020 election, Pete Buttigieg, dropped out the race on March 1st. A rising star in the Democratic party, “Mayor Pete” served two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and was credited with revitalizing a dying riverfront area in that Midwest city. Buttigieg was a Rhodes Scholar and a Naval intelligence officer who spent seven months deployed in Afghanistan. He speaks seven languages and is President-elect Biden’s nominee for secretary of transportation. Just as important, Buttigieg is gay. Although he narrowly won the Iowa Caucus and finished second in the New Hampshire primary, it is believed that concerns over his viability as an appealing candidate in the Bible Belt and other conservative-leaning regions led to his untimely decision to drop out. I would have loved to see him go toe to toe with President Trump on the debate state, but alas, it was not in the cards. Mayor Pete is just 38, and may have to bide his time until wider acceptance of LGBTQ candidates makes him a viable candidate and not just an also-ran. For my $0.02, he would make a great president.

One of my favorite Bravo Network shows was “Inside the Actors Studio,” during which Columbia University acting students were invited to sit in on interviews with dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of actors, ranging from Robert De Niro to Harrison Ford to the voice cast of “The Simpsons.” As such, I mourned the loss of the show’s host, James Lipton, who died on March 2nd. He was joined in death six days later (March 8th) by the legendary Max Von Sydow (star of “The Seventh Seal” and “Pele the Conqueror”), and by country star Kenny Rogers another 12 days later, on March 20th.

If the deaths of Lipton, Von Sydow, and Rogers merit a few words apiece on the subject, then the tragic death of 26-year-old medical worker Breonna Taylor on March 13th, at the hands of overzealous Louisville police officers, deserves at least a full paragraph. 

The police officers, who were initially acquitted and have yet to serve any jail time, were said to be on the premises investigating a narcotics deal that did not involve Taylor. A settlement of $12 million was eventually awarded to Taylor’s family, but as #blacklivesmatter protesters rightfully said, how much money is a human life worth, anyway?

April

The slow deployment of agents home lasted until early April, and I ended up committing to a schedule of three days/week at the office and two days/week at home. My landlord agreed to postpone renovations of my own unit as long as possible (although I would ultimately end up moving units the following month). While I wouldn’t hear the news until October, it was in April when one of my former bosses perished from COVID-19. He was never a candidate for the cover of “Men’s Health” magazine, and was the dictionary definition of a high-risk candidate for the virus. Lance, you are missed.

2020 has been a tough year for fans of the James Bond universe, and not just because the latest film in the franchise, “No Time to Die,” has had its release date pushed back several times. The first death of several actors who played prominent roles in the films was that of Honor Blackman, Pussy Galore herself. Blackman died on April 6th. I do not know the cause of death, but the film in which she appeared, “Goldfinger” is considered by many to be the best early entry in the series, though her character would surely have been given a different name were the movie to be made in the age of #metoo.

Brian Dennehy, star of stage and screen, died on April 15th. The barrel-chested character actor is perhaps best known for playing Chris Farley’s dad in “Tommy Boy,” or the no-nonsense sheriff in “First Blood,” but did you know that he also won two Tony awards? I have never seen the play “Death of a Salesman,” but am told that his portrayal of the production’s title character, Willy Loman, is generally considered to be theater’s best.

Fans of Hollywood and Bollywood cinema will recognize the face of Irrfan Khan, the Indian-born actor who appeared in dozens of Hindi films before transitioning to Hollywood stardom. He played the detective in “Slumdog Millionaire” and the adult Pi in the FX-heavy “Life of Pi.” Both films won multiple Oscars. Khan died on April 29th from a rare form of cancer. I was dismayed to learn that Khan was just 53.

May

I turned 45 (!) with little fanfare and began to realize that early promise of our call center reopening at full capacity by Memorial Day would be little more than a pipe dream. I moved in May as well – just two doors down, but to higher rent and a newly renovated townhouse that was as different as night and day from my previous unit, despite having the same layout.

Notable celebrity passings in May included Jerry Stiller – father of real-life Ben and fictitious George Costanza – on May 11th, Fred “Best in Show” Willard on May 15th, and “In the Heat of the Night” and “Unforgiven” character actor Anthony James on May 26th. They were all preceded by the legendary, flamboyant Little Richard, who died on May 9th from complications relating to bone marrow cancer.

Born Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard penned several 50’s and 60’s hits that still receive heavy radio airplay today. “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” are undeniable classics, and in 2007, “Tutti Frutti” was voted #1 on Mojo Magazine‘s “The Top 100 Records That Changed the World.” Damnably, he never won a competitive Grammy.

Even more damnably, 46-year-old Minneapolis resident George Floyd was killed on May 25th  while being arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill at a convenience store that he frequented. Eyewitness testimony and security camera footage revealed that Floyd was pinned to the ground, strangled to death when his neck was under the knee of one of four arresting officers on the scene. 

“I can’t breathe.” Eight minutes and 46 seconds. If historians remember little about 2020 long after this tumultuous year has come and gone, Floyd’s last words, and the amount of time he was pinned to the ground, will – and should – be among the details to never be forgotten. That the officers involved lost their jobs, and that their actions, so soon after the actions of those involved in the Breonna Taylor killing, led to a summer filled with protest marches across the country as part of the powerful and hopeful #blmmovement, matters little. Floyd is dead, and as I write this, his killers have yet to receive their day in court. 

June

June was an uneventful month for your favorite gringo blogger. I discovered a new hiking spot at Oak Ridge Forest and Arboretum, and spent an enjoyable Father’s Day in Johnson City, Tennessee, taking my dad to lunch at Freiberg’s Restaurant and walking off the meal with a stroll through town, its normally-bustling streets and parks devoid of people during a pandemic that, midway through the year, had yet to abate.

The Shakespeare-trained Ian Holm, who appeared as a track coach in “Chariots of Fire,” as the traitorous Ash in “Alien,” and as Bilbo Baggins in the “Lord of the Rings” films, died on June 19th. I would make an “LOTR” joke about how he is now reunited with his “precious”…except death is no laughing matter.

Polarizing filmmaker Joel “Batman Forever” Schumacher died on June 22nd, and legendary comedian Carl Reiner (and father of Rob) died on June 30th. Holm was 88, Schumacher, was 80, and Reiner was 98.

July

July was a tough month. I knew, after July 4th came and went and our physical call center remained shuttered to all but a few essential employees, that we were “in this” for some time to come. I spent a muted Fourth of July home alone, a far cry from Independence Days past in which I would take in fireworks celebrations in places as different as Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, and, once or twice upon a time, from as far away as Reykjavik or Moscow, no doubt raising eyebrows in my American flag t-shirt (kidding).

Legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who was most famous for scoring the Sergio Leone trilogy of “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” died on July 6th in Rome after taking a fall. Kelly Preston, upon whom I’d had a crush on since “Twins” premiered in 1988, died of breast cancer on July 12th. The exuberant Regis Philbin died of a heart attack on July 24th. The following day, the film and music industries lost Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green, “Enter the Dragon” and a “A Nightmare on Elm Street” co-star John Saxon, and “Gone with the Wind co-star and two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Haviland.

Residents of Georgia and members of Congress grieved the passing of U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who spent 30+ years in the United States House of Representatives, from 1987 until his death on July 17th. Just as noteworthy as his career in politics, Lewis helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, and led the first march from Selma to Montgomery. He authored a bill to open the National Museum of African American History, and fought for over 15 years for it to become law. In 2011, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Lewis died at age 80, of pancreatic cancer.

As if that wasn’t enough, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain died of COVID-19 on July 30th. Cain, on the opposite end of the political spectrum from John Lewis, ran for the Republican presidential nomination as a “Tea Party” candidate in 2012. Cain said some asinine things on the campaign trail and I wasn’t a fan, but still…he lingered in COVID’s grip for an entire month before passing. I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy. 

Preston was just 57 when she passed away, Green 73 and Cain 74. The others, however, were in their mid-80’s or above. De Haviland was 104. Perhaps there is comfort in knowing that they lived long, full lives?

August

I took my first vacation in 14 months, and lofty plans of going someplace fun in the Eastern United States, perhaps Cedar Point in Ohio or the dunes of coastal North Carolina, were tabled in favor of a simple road trip to visit my sister and her family in Memphis. Thanks, pandemic! Fun was had, and we enjoyed a few pool mornings, a trip to the zoo, and, as I took my time driving back home, solo visits to two little-visited state parks.

Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, south of Jackson, is home to what is believed to be the largest concentration of prehistoric, Native American burial mounds in the country, including massive Sauls Mound, pictured below. The site sits on the edge of a cypress swamp near the Forked Deer River, and has several miles of mostly paved walking and cycling trails. T.O. Fuller State Park is a small pocket of wilderness in the southwestern-most corner of Tennessee, with its own set of Indian ruins managed separately by the University of Memphis as the Chucalissa Archaelogical Museum (closed during my visit). A four-mile loop trail traverses the state park, and I made it less than 1.5 miles before turning back due to the oppressive humidity.

The highlight of that visit wasn’t the state parks, however; it was spending time with my nephew, the walking terror known as Junior. That kid, still two months shy of his second birthday at the time of my visit, has more energy than I do after three cups of coffee, and keeping him out of trouble is a 24/7 occupation. My heart goes out to the family dogs, who have the patience of Job yet live in constant fear of being climbed on or of having their tails pulled (not to mention other extremities). Junior is a great traveler, however, and I hope you’ll smile at this picture of him studying Memphis Zoo dinos:

Ben Cross, who died on August 18th, was something of a minor celebrity, yet he was seldom out of work. Among other parts, he had one of two lead roles in the 1981 Oscar winner “Chariots of Fire,” and he played Sarek in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot. My favorite role of his was that of Barnabas Collins in the short-lived 1991 Gothic horror TV remake, “Dark Shadows.” Cross was 72.

Ten days later, Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer. His loss shocked Hollywood as he was just 43 years old, and was primed to surely one day win an Oscar. (Early odds have him as the Best Actor frontrunner for this year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Having just watched it on Netflix, I can confirm his brilliance as the bitter trumpet player Levee; I only wish the rest of the film was as good.) I posted a tribute to Boseman not long after hearing the news of his passing; the “Black Panther” and “42” star leaves big shoes to fill.

September

September was an uneventful month, personally. Work was…work. I did find a new local swimming hole, an idyllic – albeit manmade – cove near Cherokee Dam. A hiking trail leads from the parking lot to the bottom of the dam’s spillway; steps to the top allow one to walk back along the retaining wall, with the promise of a swim in the murky, room-temperature waters of Cherokee Lake at the end as an incentive. Hope there aren’t any meth gators in that water!

The intersecting worlds of law and politics were rocked when, on September 18th, legendary Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at age 87. The cause: pancreatic cancer, the same disease that took the life of her Washington, DC colleague John Lewis. While the world mourned RBG’s passing, few people were ultimately surprised. What would no doubt have been the biggest disappointment to RBG herself was the fact that she did not outlive the Donald Trump presidency; she had, more than once, expressed that as her dying wish. To borrow a quote from Emmy winner Kate McKinnon, who regularly portrayed the late judge on SNL, we have all been “Ginsburned.”

On the last official day of summer, British-French actor Michael Lonsdale passed away at age 89. Lonsdale was perhaps best known for playing the dour James Bond villain Hugo Drax in the “Star Wars”-inspired “Moonraker,” but he also played a prominent role in the earlier thriller “The Day of the Jackal.” I recently gave Steven Spielberg’s 2004 drama “Munich” a re-watch, and was delighted to see Lonsdale in that film as well; I had forgotten he was in it.

October

October is usually the nicest month for weather in East Tennessee. A coastal hurricane may bring a couple days’ worth of rain through the area to kick-start the changing of the leaves, but barring that, Octobers are sunny and warm during the day and crisp and cool at night. Sure, pumpkin spice is everywhere, but you can stop running your air conditioner 24/7.

Although this can be chalked up to it being 2020, the month got off to a colder-than-normal start – the perfect time for me to discover that my furnace didn’t work! An easy fix, and temperatures normalized after those two or three unseasonable days. Except for pre-election jitters in which I learned that I am on the opposite end of the political spectrum from another close family member (and the fact that the usual Halloween costume contest at work would be a muted affair because of our center’s deployment home), the rest of the month was uneventful on a personal level.

The “Notorious” RBG notwithstanding, the Celebrity Grim Reaper was more-or-less on holiday in September, but returned with reinforcements in October. Two music industry deaths kicked off the month. On October 6th, “I Can See Clearly Now” reggae singer Johnny Nash died at age 80. Nash was an early pioneer for the genre, and signed Bob Marley to the JAD Records label of which he was a co-owner.

Alas, though, Nash’s passing went largely unnoticed that Tuesday, as guitarist Eddie Van Halen died on the same day. Van Halen was just 65, and another victim to the monster that is cancer. I loved the cheesiness of the David Lee Roth-led Van Halen of the 1980’s, and played less attention to the group once Roth went his own way, but the band Van Halen was as much about guitar work as it was about songwriting and stage presence. Eddie Van Halen was, is, and will always be a legend. Keep on rocking, sir.

If you were even a casual fan of the long-running CBS show “Two and a Half Men,” you’ll remember Berta, the show’s wise-cracking maid. Conchata Ferrell, who played her, died of a heart attack on October 12th. She was 77.

With apologies to the family of the late Chadwick Boseman, perhaps the celebrity death that loomed largest in 2020 was that of Sean Connery, who died on Halloween, at age 90. The seven-time James Bond (including the non-canon “Never Say Never Again”), one-time Oscar winner (for 1987’s “The Untouchables), and on-screen dad to Harrison Ford (in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”), was the star or co-star of dozens upon dozens of memorable films. Others include the Rudyard Kipling adventure yarn “The Man Who Would Be King,” co-starring Michael Caine; “Entrapment,” a heist caper with a much younger love interest for Connery in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones; and the little-seen, Gus Van Sant-directed “Finding Forrester,” in which Connery played a reclusive novelist.

Not every film was a winner. Connery had dreadful chemistry with Lorraine Bracco in the 1992 misfire “Medicine Man.” He was miscast as the father of Dustin Hoffman and the grandfather of Matthew Broderick in the 1989 bomb “Family Business.” And although I loved the film, the very Scottish Connery probably wasn’t the right choice to play the very Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius in the 1990 Tom Clancy Cold War thriller “The Hunt for Red October.”

Off-screen, Connery was a lifelong advocate for Scottish independence, a stance which long-delayed his inevitable knighthood, finally bestowed upon him in 2006. Thirteen years prior, he received flack for publicly clarifying his 1965 statement that women should be slapped. Today, such words would derail an actor’s career, and it is rumored that Connery wasn’t always the nicest of persons. The actor retired in 2003 after his last film, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” was poorly received, and even turned down an offer to return for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” He spent his remaining years at his castle in Scotland, but suffered from dementia later in life, and spent his final days in the Bahamas, where he died from pneumonia.

Whatever you think of Connery’s politics and treatment of women, it is hard to deny the impact he had as a movie star.

November

I am told that was some kind of election in early November? Just kidding. Tensions were high all across the country (and around the world, really), as we wondered if the 78-year-old Delaware senator and two-term vice president, one Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. could pull off an election victory in a year when, to many Americans, the stakes never seemed higher. Fears of election day violence were real, and early voting took place in record numbers. I believe in the tradition of standing in line on election day, and while socially distanced and clad in a face mask this year, the experience went off without a hitch otherwise. There were no protesters outside my local polling station, and while there was a sea of red MAGA hats (no surprise, really), the lines moved quickly and everyone was eerily quiet as they performed their civic duty.

My heart sank as early numbers came in that showed Biden behind in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, and other Eastern Time Zone states that the Democrats had hoped to carry. As the day ended with the results too close to call, I went to bed remembering the clusterfuck that was the 2000 election, and hoped for a late surge once all of the mail-in ballots were counted.

During the next two anxiety-filled days, I foresaw Biden narrowly edging out Trump, 270-268. Ultimately, however, a recount of mail-in ballots sealed the deal, and Biden won, 306-232. These results were finally certified just two weeks ago, and despite Trump’s continued cries of voter fraud (which may exist on a microscopic level, but on a level of 5 million votes?! C’mon!), Biden won every battleground state except for Florida and Ohio. If you consider the candidates’ messages – Biden’s of staying home and remaining safe, Trump’s that COVID-19 is nothing to fear because he rebounded thanks to an experimental vaccine delivered at Walter Reed Hospital – is it really so surprising that the vast majority of mail-in votes were cast for Biden?

As I mentioned before, Mayor Pete was my candidate of choice, not Joe Biden, but I’m still giving Biden the benefit of the doubt. And his historic appointment of California Senator Kamala Harris – the nation’s first female, first black, and first South Asian vice president – as veep will land both Biden and Harris in the history books, regardless of how they govern. Congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris! (You have a lot of work to do.)

Okay, enough about politics. November may mean “election” but it also means “Thanksgiving.” My dad and I journeyed to the western edge of the state to spend Turkey Day with my sister and her extended family – daughter, son, husband, step-kids, step-mom, dogs, cat, and the like. The holiday was relaxing but expensive for both my sister and I – the brakes went out on my car, while she was faced with a costly plumbing emergency at her lovely home. Highlights include the Thanksgiving smorgasbord, watching my nephew destroy his Christmas present from Uncle Scott (we exchanged presents early) by running it through dog poop in the backyard, and bonding with Sarge, the family pit bull.

On a sadder note, long-time “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek lost his lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer on November 8th. He was 80. Twenty days later, former English bodybuilder and Darth Vader body double David Prowse died at age 85. Of fucking COVID-19.

December

There hasn’t been much to report this month on a personal note, except that I bought an epic ugly Christmas sweater a few days and I hope to win my office’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. Check it out:

Another black entertainer of note, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr., was one of my favorite character actors. He is perhaps most famous for playing the bully Deebo in the 1995 comedy “Friday,” or for playing President Lindberg in the 1997 sci-fi vehicle “The Fifth Element.” Both films are considered cult classics of their respective genres, and I feel that this would please the actor greatly. Before starring opposite Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, he played the wrestler Zeus in the Hulk Hogan movie “No Holds Barred,” then turned pro several years later in 1996, as the professional wrestler Z-Gangsta. My favorite role of his was that of Winston, the taciturn bail bondsman in the 1997 Quentin Tarantino crime film “Jackie Brown.” I was worried when first reading that Lister contracted COVID-19 last August, but pleased to find out two weeks later that he had apparently beaten it. Alas not, it would appear. Lister was found dead in his Marina del Rey, California home on December 10th, from COVID-related complications. He was 62.

Sci-fan fans mourned the death of Jeremy Bulloch, who perished on December 17th from Parkinson’s-related complications at age 75. If his face doesn’t immediately spring into your mind, that is probably because his most famous role, that of bounty hunter Boba Fett in “The Return of the Jedi,” “The Mandalorian,” and other projects, saw him covered in body armor from head to toe.

______________________

There are still ten days left in the year, so my fingers are crossed and my teeth are gritted that we make it through the remainder of 2020 without any more sadness.

Of course, there will be sadness. Death always rears its ugly head around the holidays, and with over 250,000 dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone and more than 1,000 new cases daily, the wrecking ball seems poised to keep swinging for at least a little while longer. I predict twice as many dead – by the time herd immunity, safe and ready access to a vaccine is available to everyone, and general stubbornness over not vaccinating for political reasons wanes – before coronavirus seems like little more than a bad dream. Furthermore, rumors of a mutating COVID strain making its untimely debut in the U.K. suggest that there is still much to learn about the virus.

Will President Trump finally make that long overdue concession phone call to President-elect Biden, extending the symbolic olive branch that is needed more this year than any other? And on an “everyday” level, will movie theaters reopen, or are they to go the way of the dodo bird? Will my nephew stop running around in circles, bringing terror and destruction to everything in his path?

With all of these things, the answer is, “who can say?” Certainly not I, though I am cautiously optimistic. I look forward to one day being able to go the supermarket without wearing a mask, and to once again traveling around Europe with open borders, not having to defend myself as “Yes, I’m from the States, but don’t worry, I voted for the other person.”

In the meantime, we stumble along, trying to do more good than harm. For the most part, we succeed. For the most part.

If you are still reading after this many paragraphs, I thank you for coming along for this trip down amnesia lane. I hope you and yours remain safe for the remainder of this crazy year and into next year as well. Happy holidays!

Election 2020: All Bets Are Off

Eight years ago, I began this blog as wide-eyed expat who had just arrived in Mexico City. While the occasional post might have been about movies, family members back in the U.S., or travel memories to other parts of the world, the general theme was about my new life abroad – settling in, taking in the sights, navigating my blossoming relationship with a CDMX local, etc. Content was added, on average, once or twice a week.

Fast forward to 2020, the year to end of all years, and I hardly write at all, and just once about Mexico City. I am finishing up six years of Tennessee residency, and wondering what my employer’s recent announcement, that our Knoxville office will be permanently closing next year and all employees in it remaining 100% virtual, means in terms of remote living possibilities should a fish-out-of-water such as myself want to move to a different city.

First things first, though: we have an election to contend with…and it is sure to be a doozy. With a general sense of anxiety in the air, with a pandemic that seems to be rising in new cases, with a passionate #BLM movement that has staked some equally-passionate flames on the other side of the aisle, I feel that the stakes have never been higher.
Continue reading “Election 2020: All Bets Are Off”