2021: The Year in Review
It wasn’t my plan to post a "year in review," but I see friends such as Richard Chamberlain and Jon Kitley doing it and realize how much I enjoy the process of looking back, especially at a point where I feel there may finally be some stability on the horizon. (Plus, I didn’t make a year-end post last year.) Please bear with me (or skip ahead); mine’s going to get a little personal first, before I dive into the fun stuff.
There was a wonderful article in Monday's (Jan.3) The Morning email from The New York Times called, Reason for hope. It succinctly summarizes the COVID-19 pandemic in a few simple paragraphs. Since the last two years have felt like a long nightmare with no end, I appreciate the way it puts the crisis in perspective using bite-sized pieces that don’t make it feel so overwhelming.
Reading the article got me thinking about a period that extends further back than 2020 and how a whirlwind has been spinning for me for a much longer time than that. I’ve decided to put those personal events into the same format and weave them into the pandemic paragraphs. My hope is that the exercise will help put other things into perspective for me and mark a spot for moving forward.
The Time Before
The first sign that trouble lied ahead arrived on February 5, 2018, when Ginger, the dog Michael and I rescued at the end of 2013, violently attacked Cosmo, our Yorkie. One day short of a month later, we surrendered her in Kansas City. I sat in the car afterwards weeping uncontrollably. It was as if this reaction released emotions that had been building inside, as well as started a chain reaction, even though I wouldn’t realize it until later in the year.
The middle of 2018 brought good things with trips to Los Angeles (Batman ’66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum, Planet of the Apes anniversary screening at USC, Curse of the Werewolf screening with Yvonne Romain), Pittsburgh (Pride), and Washington D.C. (work, but got to see some filming of Wonder Woman 1984 with Kristen Wiig.) I attended Planet Comic Con and Crypticon with my friend Richard, who got married in April.
Then all hell broke loose, starting with the death of my former boss and dear friend, Maria Leslie, on August 9, 2018. Eight days later, I saw my father alive for the last time and he died on August 20, casting a shadow on my daughter’s wedding on September 22. A month later, I left my 20-year relationship with Michael and moved into an apartment in North Kansas City. I took Fanny, the dog we got after Ginger, but had to put her up for adoption because…
…the next two years would require me to spend large amounts of time with my mother in Enid. Even though Mom had falls in February and September of 2019, I acted as if life would continue as normal. I took her to Chicago for my niece’s middle school graduation, went to Pittsburgh for Monster Bash with Richard, and set up a vendor’s table at Enid Comic Con. As a reminder that life was not going to continue as normal, I had surgery for a hernia on August 30, 2019.
In Fall of 2019, work provided me an opportunity to relocate to Minneapolis, and I moved on November 1, still intending to spend a good deal of time in Enid. The year my mother believed she should wait before taking drastic had passed and it was becoming clear she wouldn’t be there much longer. Then COVID-19 hit.
COVID-19 is so named because it began spreading in China in late 2019. In the U.S., doctors first detected a case in Washington State in January 2020. Both cases and deaths then surged.
Most of 2020 is a blur. We never did return to the office, and I could work remotely in Enid as easily as I could work remotely in my new apartment in Minneapolis. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I moved Mom to an independent living “cottage” in Chicago near my sister and subsequently sold her house in Enid. Soon after, my dear friend Jack Harris, for whom I was Power of Attorney, died in Kansas City. I organized an estate sale and the sale of his home.
Around the holidays, I did something I never thought I would do: adopt a cat. A lifelong "dog person" (as you can probably tell), I previously knew neither the first thing about taking care of a cat, nor wanted to learn. However, bringing London home with me was the perfect thing to do at the perfect time. She's affectionate... funny... a great companion. She's my little girl!
By February, new cases were plummeting, and by spring, the virus seemed as if it might be in permanent retreat, at least in highly vaccinated countries. On June 2, President Biden gave a speech looking ahead to “a summer of freedom, a summer of joy.”
Indeed, fully vaccinated, I often acted like the pandemic had ended. I went to Palm Springs for my brother-in-law’s birthday and spent a couple wonderful days in Los Angeles with my brother, including Disneyland. Richard came to see me in Minneapolis. I took my mother to the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (one of us loved it.)
Then came a second, much grimmer turning point: the emergence of the Delta variant, in late spring. It caused many more infections among the vaccinated than earlier variants, but the overwhelming majority of these breakthrough infections were mild. As a result, communities with high vaccination rates were mostly protected from the worst outcomes.
I began to explore my new home, spending cherished time with Kate. We sat on a rooftop for lunch on Father’s Day, went to a Minnesota Vikings game, and watched movies on Halloween. She, I, and her mother went to see Billy Idol in concert. Cincy continues to welcome me at family events and I’m reminded every time that there's a reason I moved to Minneapolis, even if it would later be so that I could help provide emotional support when Kate unexpectedly divorced.
Still, the emergence of Delta meant that 2021 often felt like a frustrating year of pandemic purgatory. In addition to the direct damage from Covid, the disruptions to daily life — intended to slow the spread of the virus — have brought their own costs.
The Time Ahead
I don’t know if using the word “tragedy” is being too dramatic, but a lot of sad things have happened to the world in the last two years, and for me personally in the last three years. I’m glad I went through this exercise, though, because I see a lot of happy things also happened. I’d like to start fresh in 2022, instead of adding to this chapter, starting a new one. It will no doubt have happy and sad things in it. That’s life.
Children have fallen behind in school, and many are experiencing mental health problems brought on by isolation. Americans’ blood pressure has risen, and drug overdoses have soared. Even people who have avoided the worst of the pandemic’s damage often feel fed up. And now the latest variant, Omicron, has sent cases soaring to their highest level yet, and raised the prospect that 2022 will be another year of pandemic purgatory.
We went back to the office two days a week after Labor Day and will begin (as of now) our permanent hybrid work schedule on January 18. I want desperately to be optimistic, but I’m finding it difficult. Headlines aside, I work in human resources and have unfortunately seen firsthand what the pandemic has done to people’s state of mind. I hope we can all make an attitude adjustment; instead of asking “when will it end,” by asking “how will we live with it?”
One way I’ve always lived with anything has been by watching movies and by writing about them. I’m going to lighten up a bit now and share the obligatory statistics about movies I watched in 2021. There were 260 of them. Most (216) were full-length motion pictures; however, three were short films, one was a television special (Liza with a Z from 1972; thanks, Jay), and 40 were 1970s TV movies for the TV Terror Guide feature on my blog.
I’ve put them into categories...
...and sorted by their eras...
...and rated them with the following distribution:
Then I looked at the rating distribution by category...
...and by era:
"Best" Film of 2021
The Power of the Dog
"Favorite" Film of 2021
tick, tock... BOOM!
Favorite "Discoveries" (specific)
The Devils (1971)
The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)
Favorite "Discoveries" (series)
Gamera ( favorite: Gamera vs. Guiron, 1969)
Paul Naschy (favorite: Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf, 1972)
Favorite Action Film
The King's Man (2021)
Favorite Animated Film
Superman: Red Son (2020)
Favorite Comedies (tie)
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
8-Bit Christmas (2021)
The Power of the Dog (2021)
tick, tock… BOOM! (2021)
Favorite Horror-Sci Fi--Fantasy (tie)
Fear Street: 1978 (2021)
Favorite Horror-Sci Fi--Fantasy Discoveries (tie)
The Unknown (1927)
Honeymoon Killers (1970)
Favorite "1970s TV Terror"
Dying Room Only (1973)
"Least Favorite" Films (tie)
Crimson: the Color of Blood (1973) Horror
Fer de Lance (1974) TV Terror
I've been thinking a lot about movie-watching lately and have some other thoughts I want to share at a later date. Check back soon...