According to the Chinese zodiac, 2016 was (more or less) the Year of the Monkey. Sadly, it’s felt a lot less like good ol’ Curious George waving impishly above, and a lot more like this:
Living here in America, most of the year was consumed with the election, ten seemingly interminable months of having the insides of my soul shit upon. Regardless the stripes of your political zebra, it was an exhausting, serpentine ride into a hazy netherworld. Hacked emails and baskets of deplorables, pussy-grabbing, post-truth, alt-right, Muslim registries, etc., all of it happening as the country once again went up in flames, stoked by police shootings, the Black Lives Matter movement, Standing Rock. On and on it went, the news a daily affront to living a wholesome life, although, if I were a pastor of a church and wanted a message on Eternal Hellfire, I’d simply replay a Presidential debate and note that if you’re bad, it’s like that forever…
And then, just when I thought I could yawn a huge sigh of relief on November 9th—and not because Hillary was “my” candidate: I did vote for her but only because the better option (Bernie) was gone and the remaining option (Trump) tasted like gargling diarrhea—suddenly there he was: the next President of our country, the Almighty Orangeness, Bullshit Braced in Brooks Brothers.
I don’t know if a lot of celebrities actually died last year, but it did feel like several really good ones went. Typically this sort of thing hasn’t really bummed me out, but I’m getting old enough now to have long-term memories of some of these folks. In other words, I wasn’t invested enough to be significantly impacted when Zsa Zsa Gabor passed, but I will note this: when Prince dies on your birthday it really does suck (although, from a more optimistic angle, hopefully it guarantees a lot of Prince played on the radio around future birthdays).
I turned 39 last April, which, measured dorkily, meant that it was my 40th annual revolution on this planet. My response was to quit my job, bum a piece of shit Ford Focus hatchback, and drive in a faltering lasso looping around the country. Some of that I’ve written about previously, likely some more will get spilled out in the coming days. The short form is that I saw a lot of baseball games, rediscovered the basic human decency and kindness in most of us, experienced the beauty of many national parks, caught some fish, drank a lot of beer, and wrote a lot of words that will hopefully someday find their way off my computer.
Like most years there were good times, bad times, and everything in between. I was fortunate to have the scales tip more toward the good than the bad, and I’m grateful for that. I lived some things well, others quite poorly. I loved some people well, others badly, and a small minority were fortunate enough to receive both. I’ve gotten better at some things I used to suck at, while others continue to hamstring me. I suppose that on many levels we’re all awfully similar to one another.
I’m proud of quitting my job and walking off: I don’t think it’s something everyone should do, and not simply because should‘s make my skin crawl. I think of it more like this: if I’m lucky enough to have a moment’s quiet before my death, a pause in which to look back and reflect on everything that came and went, I imagine I’ll appreciate my summer exploring and won’t regret that I didn’t spend more time at work.
In the coming days I’m going to spill out some more stuff about 2016. Some of it will expand on the above and some will be about god-knows-what. I’m not aiming for coherence, so if at the end of it all you’re upset about a lack of unity—well, knock it off. That said, stick around: sometimes the messes are far more interesting.