Aisle Of Wit

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Looking back at Twenty-One…

I was really excited to start 2021.  As those of you who know me already know, 2020 was a year of profound change for me and the world in general.  I navigated the birth of coronavirus, the death of Kobe and the summer of George Floyd protest riots with my own near-death, the end of my marriage and the summer of personal growth and despair unlike any I previously lived through.  I began 2021 with another new home, a newfound spirituality and a determination that twelve months from then I’d be in a much, much stronger place than I was at that time.

As we put ’21 in the rearview mirror I suppose my journey mirrors that of the world in general.  Indeed, a playbook much like the rules of the classic quiz show that had the same title of the year we will leave behind tonight.  The quiz show “Twenty-One”, as depicted here in Robert Redford’s magnificient movie QUIZ SHOW, featured contestants choosing to answer questions valued from one to eleven points in the hope of building up a score they believed was larger than their opponent’s.   In effect, mental blackjack.  If they hit 21 points, they could conceivably win the game, much like one would win a pot at a blackjack table if their card hand was that total.  Of course, if their opponent also hit 21, it was a push.  No money would be awarded, and a new game would begin, with the stakes for an eventual win increasing with each “cat’s game”.

In looking at where both I and the world in general are today I suppose we are indeed still in the middle of a contest where we continue to push and increase the stakes of the next round.  If 2020 was a year of change, 2021 was a year of stagnation.  Stagnation implies inertia.  But even inertia involves the expendicture of energy, and with every expendicture there lies experience.  And I guess we’ve had some unforgettable ones.  Let me briefly pause and take some inventory:

Winter 2021 was challenging.  January 6 was exceptionally disturbing to see unfold.While games were being conducted in actual arenas and stadiums fans were still banned from many of them including all the ones in LA.  Work was impossible to find.  Hope was sparse.  I found mine through physical therapy, regular gym workouts and slowly reshaping my wardrobe and style to something more becoming.  I had a few first dates, though not many second ones.  My new neighborhood 7-11 actually carried my beloved New York Post, giving me a few pages of comfort food journalism to hold in my hand each day.  I discovered a whole new slew of audio and video content and new technology investments to provide me with almost 24/7 entertainment.  I found a wonderful colleague to help me begin to construct the backbone to this site.  Biden took over, at least in name.  I found a place of worship to attend in person at the suggestion of a beautiful person who sadly became an ex-friend despite my best efforts to seek her forgiveness.  I did meet one of her friends in person, and that was a pretty special night.  So I guess it was an OK start.

Spring 2021 was pretty darn good for me.  I began several journeys embarking on a personal rebound tour.  I spent a week in Florida seeing friends old and new, traversing the state and staying at some pretty awesome AirBNBs.I got to see several sporting events under the most unique conditions a rabid fan may ahve ever faced–rows of seats to myself in limited-capacity stadiums, team masks joining my usual logo obsessions, and socially distanced urinals.  After a year where I did not attend a single live event it was an obsession of mine to get back in the stands and root, root, root for any team.   I got my first two vaccine jabs to be sure I’d be healthy while I “braved” these “crowds.  Despite the fears of so many who claimed to have had symptoms when they preceded me into the world of the vaxxed, my only symptom was a very slight pain in the opposite shoulder from where my second shot occurred that was forgotten watching UCLA nearly make the Final Four. The Final Four came back, albeit in a single city bubble with limited fans, as did actual seasons of team and college sports.  I found a new place of worship and a more personally comfortable way to express my devotion.  Much improved.

Summer 2021 was pretty amazing in hindsight.  I got to do my first Tik Tok.  I camoed in a short film that you’ll have to private message me for details on.   I checked another new baseball stadium off my personal bucket list (sure, the Mets lost, but like that’s news?).  In fact, I saw my beloved Mets in no less than four venues, and would have made five had it not been for Hurricane Ida.  I continued to shed more weight and build up muscle and shape like I had never seen in my adult life.   I spent a couple of weeks in my native Queens, holing up in a small furnished room not much more posh than the spartan garden apartment I grew up in a few miles away.  I met still more relatives and treasured friends from my past, got to see my first (and last?) COVID day/night Mets doubleheader free of charge from some pretty incredible seats, a historic day where the Mets’ season reached a new level of hope.  I got to hug my sister and my niece.And I got to spend my birthday in a strange but familiar city with one of the most awesome and stunning human beings I’ve ever met.

And the world was consistent with my rebound.  Full stadium capacities returned.  I saw an NBA conference final game at a fraction of a normal year’s cost.  Indoor restaurants returned.  I even worked at one for a couple of weeks, getting an actual paycheck.  Endless summer?  You bet.  On fire.

Fall 2021 provided even more opportunity and optimism.  I saw football games at a brand new stadium and Dodger playoff games for the first time in decades.  I had without question the most amazing Halloween weekend of my life with that same treasured and stunning friend, plus the chance to meet a few of hers that have quickly become equally as dear. I even finally got a day in court that had built up for nearly the entire year, a challenge that dominated my mind and provided far too much personal anguish.  The verdict came out in my favor.  I picked up a couple of clients, albeit for very short-term assignments.   I got my booster shot, with even fewer symptoms than my first two jabs provoked.  I spent Thanksgiving with some special relatives and had some pretty awesome experiences with them, even adding yet another new arena to my bucket list.  I had remarkable and unprecedented success in fantasy football, another personal renaissance for me, making the playoffs in both competitive leagues in which where there’s prize money at stake.  I guess net/net was pretty great?

And now we’re in winter again, with 2022 looming.  I don’t need to say it’s been it’s a rough and deflating December for both the world and myself.  Omicron is a motherf**ker.  I indeed survived a full year at the same address, but my current roommate somehow contracted this damn strain.  I’m 100 feet away from it and I’ve become as paranoid as anybody even though I’m as boosted and as healthy as possible.  I wear a gaiter and two tight but comfy masks around the common areas.  U keep getting passed on for full-time job opportunties.  Pretty awful rains and the proverbial “abundance of caution”, not to mention people apparently going on holiday vacation, resulted in a lag of anticipated funds that necessitated the cancellation of a much anticipated third chance to spend time with those truly beautiful friends.  I vowed to be somewhere else than LA earlier this week,  or even at a party, but that simply wasn’t in the cards.   In fact, the fact that I chose not to go to one such party on Christmas Eve that my roommate did go apparenty was how I avoided getting Omicron–we’re both pretty sure the loose protocols at that venue and the unmasked overly made up lips that refused to kiss him may have transmitted it to him.  Of course, I’m not alone in seeing holiday plans  and rosters unravel at the last minute.  A bunch of bowl games got canceled.  Hockey shut down for a week completely and just shut down their World Junior tournament.  The NBA and NFL have had their rosters disrupted in an almost insane manner.  Even I don’t recognize the players filling out lineups for my favorite teams.  Toronto fans are again banned from attending games for a few weeks.  But…at least for now…most of the games are continuing.  And so is mine.

I know I promised some personal predictions for 2022 today for those of you keeping score.  I’m gonna hold off for now, since this post is pretty lengthy already.  This is indeed the deadline to look back.  The net/net is stagnation.  Covid-19 is still impacting our lives dramatically, I’m still not working full-time (hell yes I’m available) and indeed the whole world appears to be on hold.   I promised one personal prediction today.  Here it is, with apologies to Martin Charnin.  The sun will come out tomorrow. Tomorrow will dawn, 2022 will be here, and we’ll have the chance to make some predictions, or at least some wishes.  If stagnation can be this exciting, imagine what progress will look like.  May we tip a cup o’ kindness together virtually tonight and look forward to better days for all in ’22.

Until next time…