2020 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  I always say that memorable does not mean it is necessarily positive, and this year more than most will include some negative experiences.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 25th annual list.

When considering 2020, there are three memorable things that for good or for ill (mostly ill) affected just about everyone.

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic hit the United States in March and life was turned upside down. Apparently the monkey paw’s finger curled when it heard me say that I wished I didn’t have such a long commute and could spend more time with my kids. We’ve all been home together every day since St. Patrick’s Day. Family togetherness has its plusses and minuses but we will surely always remember this time. And working from home is kind of boring, but I did get to make use of my back porch as an outdoor office for five months after neglecting it for most of the 13 years we’ve lived here. Of course, I am very grateful that we have a home, my wife and I are still employed, and no one we know has succumbed to COVID. We are extremely privileged.
  • 2020 also saw an uprising in the Black Lives Matter movement that’s been developing since at least 2013, after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The mass protests touched every corner of the country and the world, even our neighborhood, and we were gratefully to see so many people out in support. It feels like something changed for the better this year in America’s reckoning racial inequality and violence, although there is still significant progress to be made.
  • Finally, there were the 2020 Elections. The defeat of Donald Trump, who never should’ve been president in the first place and should’ve been removed from office long ago, was a positive outcome. As unenthused as I am with Joe Biden as president, at least we have a chance to steer the country away from full-on fascism. Early in the year, I actually attended a presidential candidate rally for the first time when I saw Bernie Sanders by happenstance on Boston Common (back when standing in crowds of people wasn’t scary!). Through the year I’ve been trying to do my part to support progressive candidates and causes throughout the country, including the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff elections. I also got to vote in Fenway Park!

With that said, here are 17 more memorable things about 2020.

  • Boston By Foot – I spent most of the first two months of this year researching and writing a walking tour of Boston Common that I hoped to debut this year about indigenous people and early European settlers on the Shawmut Peninsula prior to 1630. That tour will hopefully go out in 2021. Instead of walking tours, this year I did presentations online, including a 10-year anniversary retrospective of our trip to Amsterdam, some storytelling events, and a live presentation from Franklin Park.
  • Myrtle Beach – On February break, we traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Visiting a seaside town in the offseason was an odd preview of the empty streets and eerie silences that would become familiar once the pandemic hit the next month. But we also got to go go-karting, tour the beautiful Brookgreen Gardens in the rain, see sharks and jellyfish up close at Ripley’s Aquarium, and play the links at the home of the Professional Min-Golf Masters tournament.
  • Games, games, games – For the past five years or so, I’ve joined some fellow Boston By Foot guides for team trivia at bars in Boston once a month. Early in the pandemic, we tried virtual trivia through Zoom instead, and without even discussing it began playing weekly. Sometimes we even won! We also kept in touch with some college friends in Virgina by playing Jackbox games online. At home, my daughter made it a goal early in the pandemic to play every board game we own. I think we did it, maybe?
  • Another one of Kay’s accomplishments while we were home a lot this spring, was learning how to ride a bike and becoming quite adept at it!
  • Being home meant spending a lot more time in our back yard which was always an underappreciated luxury in the city. We even got a hammock, a pool, and occasionally a homemade slip & slide.
  • Father’s Day was warmly celebrated with cards, a walk in the woods, and turkeys.
  • Crane Beach – I took Kay, our beach-loving child, on three visits to Crane Beach in Ipswich. The first visit in July was really the first time we did anything that felt normal in this pandemic year and the stress of daily life melted away for a few hours. The other visits were cooler and gray, but we still had fun building in the sand and jumping in the waves.
  • 4th of July – Sometime in mid-May, people in our neighborhood began launching fireworks on a nightly basis. We knew that this would be a big year for homemade artisanal firework displays on Independence Day and there’s something to be said about being able to watch from the porch rather than schlepping to the Esplanade. The kids and I also went to a drive-in movie for the first time.
  • Baseball – I didn’t pay much attention to Major League Baseball’s shortened season (and I’m going to pretend it wasn’t a real season so I don’t have to acknowledge the Dodgers as World Series Champions). The biggest heartbreak in our household this spring was the cancellation of the youth baseball season. Not only do the kids love parenting baseball, but hanging out with the other parents during games is a big part of my annual social activity. During the summer, Peter was able to play games with two teams, and then in the fall played in a tournament and on a Fall Ball team on a full-sized diamond. He even hit his first home run! Meanwhile, Kay got to have some practices and pick-up games to scratch the baseball itch.
  • Susan’s father has been ill most of the year and had major surgery in July. We had to adjust to Susan being away for two weeks, and then she surprised us by coming home early. On the sweet side of things, Peter has showed his support for his grandfather by talking with him about Florida Gators sports.
  • The absolute highlight of our year was our visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I made all the reservations for an exciting expedition in January and February, and then worried for six months about whether we should actually go. Luckily everything worked out and we spent a week in the great outdoors of nature’s wonderland! I published seven blog posts with a travelogue of our adventures, starting here: https://othemts.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/day-1-salt-lake-city-to-grand-teton-national-park/
  • Kay embraced Halloween with great enthusiasm this year including delivering treats to her friends at the beginning of October, making thematic art, carving pumpkins, and dressing as Darth Kayder with a dark chicken apprentice. We also enjoyed seeing the Zoo Lights at Franklin Park Zoo.
  • Peter spent his last day as a 12-year-old in the emergency room as he broke his clavicle after a fall while playing flag football with his friends in the first snowfall of the season. He was impressively resilient in dealing with a painful and inconvenient injury to begin his teenage years.
  • Plymouth – Typically, 3rd grade classes visit Plymouth, MA on a field trip but Kay only got a virtual version. So on Veteran’s Day we met up with a classmate and visited Plimoth Patuxet and the Mayflower II, coincidentally on the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact.
  • Kay celebrated a socially-distanced 9th birthday party in our backyard with a Star Wars theme, complete with decorated cupcakes and lightsaber battles.
  • The first big snow fall of the year lead to some great sledding for Kay and her friends.
  • Finally, we embraced Christmas whole-heartedly by getting a gorgeous tree, three different advent calendars, and opening gifts galore. We also enjoyed meeting up with Kay’s buddy again for Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.

Previously:

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year for the first time and not necessarily books published in 20202. For previous years see 2019, 2018,  2017,   2016,   2015,   2014,   2013,   2012,   2011,   2010,   2009,   2008,  2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

Books published in 2020 are in bold.

Books Read in 2020

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews. (A) is for audiobook.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


There aren’t a lot of good things to say about the year 2020, but it was nevertheless a year filled with great music. Here are 20 of my favorite songs for 2020. Please use the comments box to add your favorites. And check out the end of the post for links to my favorite songs lists of previous years.

“Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

“Be” by Mourning [A] BLKstar

“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

“Ferris Wheel” by Sylvan Esso

“Hapi feat. Big Rube” by Spillage Village

“Is There Something in the Movies?” by Samia

“Lifetime” by Romy

“Los Angeles” by HAIM

“The Low” by Jonah Mutono

“Mansplain” by Thick

“Phenom” by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple

“Sing Gently” by Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6

“Siyabuela” by Asher Gamedze

“Take a Piece” by The Big Moon

“Take What You Can Carry” (Scientist Dub One) by Mia Doi Todd

“Tenebrist” by The Ballroom Thieves

“walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2019

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2009201020112012
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201720182019

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


I’ve reviewed 23 albums on this blog in 2020, and probably listened to just as many that I didn’t feel compelled to write about. From this list I’ve selected five of my favorite albums that I recommend you give a listen.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Everyone liked this album and with good reason.

The Ballroom Thieves – Unlovely

The Boston-based trio released one of many albums that speaks to our time, on both the levels of personal relationships and social movements.

Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

I am unable to rank my favorite albums, but this is most likely contender for my #1 album of the year, and also the most important.

Run the Jewels – RTJ4

“Speaking to our times” is the theme of this years list and no one does it better than Killer Mike and El-P.

Sault – Untitled (Rise)

We may not know who Sault is, but the British collective released not one but two of the great albums of 2020.

My Favorite Songs of 2020, So Far


We are halfway through the year 2020! Only halfway, you say? Yes! But all things considered, there has been some good music from this wreck of a year.  Here’s a list of 20 songs I love from 2020.

If there’s a song that you think belongs on this list, let me know in the comments.

“All That” by Sparks
(also consider “Lawn Mower” and “Onomato Pia“)

“Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

“Anyone Can Play Guitar” by Midwife

“Be” by Mourning [A] BLKstar
(look forward to a full review of the band’s album The Cycle in the coming weeks).

“Clean Kill” by Coriky

“Daily Jobs” by Bee Bee Sea

“Devil Put the Coal in the Ground” by Steve Earle & The Dukes 

“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa
(also consider “Boys Will Be Boys” and “Break My Heart“)

“Emotional Devotion Creator” by Peel Dream Magazine

“Finally // beautiful stranger” by Halsey

“IN IN IN” by Zebra Katz

“Is There Something in the Movies” by Samia

“Mansplain” by Thick

“Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same)” by Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela
(also read my full-album review for Rejoice)

“Phenom” by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
(also read my full-album review of Temple)

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple
(also read my full-album review of Fetch the Bolt Cutters)

“Take a Piece” by The Big Moon

“Take What You Can Carry” by Mia Doi Todd

“Tenebrist” by The Ballroom Thieves
(also read my full-album review of Unlovely)

“The Low” by Jonah Mutono

“walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels
(also read my full album review of RTJ4)