Take Care of You
I did yoga today. It was the kind of session where sweat had pooled on my mat. By no means was I able to accomplish every move as intended. In fact, there was a whole section where my brain could not process the instructions or their performance on-screen throughout the two or three rounds in which they were part of the flow. I attempted them, though, ending in a lizard lunge each time and feeling my hip flexors release just a little bit more with each pulse and breath.
At the end of those 45 minutes, I had no problems relaxing into shavasana. My feet fell to their most comfortable position. My shoulder blades wanting to wrap up and under unprompted. There was no furrow in my brow or struggle to slow my heart rate or mind or breath. It all came with ease.
As I got up from the mat, I felt pliable, fluid, and in balance. It reminded me of sessions years ago with my favorite yoga instructor. She’s no longer on this mortal plane, but my muscle memory of her guidance and her desire to make shared yoga practice a thing that all body types can and should enjoy was with me this afternoon. I was inside my body and happy to be there with all its imperfections and benefits. It got me through those intense stretches and positions as it has gotten me through every event of my life, and I was grateful.
I wasn’t sure I would find myself to that kindness and gratitude at the start of the day. Today’s meditation was about self-forgiveness. Timely, as I haven’t been very forgiving of my body this week. I joked with Tiffany that I felt like the pregnant man emoji that may be coming to our devices soon. I have felt in conflict with my middle and the scale and my naked form in the mirror or fully clothed in pictures. Even my return to doing yoga in the mornings has been an exercise in self-critique rather than stretching and breathing.
During those twenty-minute flows in the AM, I’ve been frustrated by my forward folds and my tight hips, and my even tighter hamstrings. My TikTok For You Page has recently been frequented by people cracking their backs in yoga positions and talking about mobility and flexibility, and I’ve been envious. It has felt like this frame of mine hasn’t wanted to twist or bend to my liking at all this week.
And so, when I sat in front of this blank page earlier to write about gratitude for this body and to grant myself kindness, I wasn’t feeling it. Of course, those are the right words and the right thoughts and the perspective to have, but this belly is still here, and the number on the scale isn’t the one I was hoping to see, and wait, let me suck it in.
But then I did good yoga. “Lock in the practice,” instructors sometimes say. Far more often than not, I find that a difficult thing to do. The vibes that leave the mat with me don’t stay for long. As I write this, though, they are still here.
And I am thankful for this body I’m in.
And I forgive myself for not granting it the grace this week that I know it deserves.
It contains all that I am. It works. It takes care of me.
I should return the favor.
HOT WIND BLOWS
Before breakfast this past Tuesday, I sat in a beach chair with a book in hand. I wasn’t reading, though. I was eavesdropping on the young family with two sons under the age of ten and their dog talk to the San Luis Obispo local who was roaming the cliff’s edge looking for people to impress with his canine knowledge and obedience training. He was as boastful as the fog was large, and I watched as one of his doggies snuck away. It took a few quiet steps up into the hotel restaurant’s outdoor area and found a place to curl up under a table. The family finally escaped the conversation, and the overconfident pet owner looked around to see he only had one of his two charges by his side.
By this point, I was making way into Marisol for eggs and such and walked past the stray dog found by some of the wait staff. “His owner is whistling for him on the path, I think,” I said and watched relief cross their faces. One of them hustled down the steps and waved him down, and I went inside for some coffee and bacon and an unexpected delight: a house-made English muffin!
And I was grateful.
Tiffany would join me in short order for some breakfast of her own. Her birthday was the reason I had planned this trip up the coast. It’s a milestone year for her, and the pandemic has delayed the international travel I would’ve otherwise tried to provide for the occasion. But California is open, and we are vaccinated, and a resort at the literal edge of the Pacific meant lots of outdoor space and good weather just a few short hours from home in a place she’d never been.
We listened to cookout classics for the ride up, stopping briefly in Oxnard and for a while longer in Santa Barbara. If you’re going up the coast, how can you not stop at La Super-Rica Taqueria at least once? I had the chilaquiles for the first time, and they were a revelation.
Our map apps have taken to sending us on a scenic detour over San Marcos Road (state route 154) when we go up and down the coast, which puts you through the mountains for nearly nine miles before plopping you back out on the 101. Those twists and turns are a lot to deal with, but it’s beautiful. Also beautiful? A time that feels like your own.
Those few days where I could choose anything from sitting in a beachside park, watch surfers, day drink, nap, workout, or whatever came to mind—including doing nothing—was precisely the reset I’ve been touting to my team. It felt necessary after the hyper-long term stress of the last year and a half. Instead of worrying about getting others sick or coming down with the deadly disease myself or elections or the police, there was an exceptional sushi dinner and drinks at the Madonna Inn. There were cupcakes, mimosas, and flower petals. There was conversation and quiet and an excellent deli found just as we were leaving.
There were 90s tunes for the traffic-free ride home.
There was a return to a mostly empty office Friday, including my first ride on the bus in seventeen months.
There was a weekend with Duke.
There was Summer of Soul and Black Widow and Why Women Kill Season 2.
There was clarity in what routines serve me and which have become meaningless burdens.
And, today, there is gratitude.
I’m now accepting invitations. In just a few days, I will be two weeks beyond my covid vaccination and open for socializing. If you are similarly inoculated, please extend and accept invites for in-person hangouts inside and outside of doors for varying lengths of time. We might stand closer to each other than six feet apart and remove our masks for a bit. Hugs are appreciated but not required.
Are we enjoying a little outdoor dining? How many times will we remark, “it’s so good to see your face!”? I’ve been slowly stepping out into the world these last few days. I sat outside a coffee shop for 15 minutes people watching and, you know what, “It’s so good to see your faces,” even if I’ve never seen them before. Maybe we can do that at Republique or Black Market or splurge at Vespertine. Perhaps we’re lining up for Ditroit or La Autentica Birrieiria or daybird?
How will we get to this meat space meet-up? Will we carpool? Maybe. Will I take the bus? Maybe, yes. Will I take the metro? Maybe, no.
Will it be to see some art together? Like the Amy Sherald exhibit or Yoshimoto Nara at LACMA? CAAM has several exciting shows closing in May, while Craft Contemporary is opening Making Time in the same month.
Want to go to a game? LAFC and the Sparks should be accepting an increasing number of fans this summer.
I don’t think I’m yet ready for a concert, but I’ll go to the movies with ya.
Are there momentous events of the last year that should be acknowledged, celebrated, or mourned? Let’s do that.
Maybe we’re just taking a walk or sitting in a park or hanging out at your house or mine. I didn’t do nearly enough outdoor hangs as I should or could have over the past 13 months. Still, I would like to take our seeming collective increased appreciation for our habitat with me into what comes next.
Take my hand.
Over the last few days, I’ve thought about that last flight home from New York on March 6th of 2020. The one where masks started to appear with more frequency, and people sanitized everything at their seats; the one where my wife didn’t want me to kiss her upon my arrival back in the house. There was family dinner at my sister’s place on that Sunday and discussions of whether recent trips and work events had exposed any of us. I’ve been thinking about my last trip into the office on Monday, March 9th, 2020, and canceling my last in-person session with my trainer. And then March 11th. And March 12th. And March 13th. And my birthday. And then the fugue state of the next eight months.
One year into the pandemic and I am both marking the milestones of the start of “safer-at-home” practices while imagining what appears to be a rapidly approaching “free to roam about the cabin” post-crisis phase of COVID.
It’s an overcast day in Los Angeles, but I feel like I’m going to burst out of this like a solar flare. Over the last 90 days or so, I’ve been working on my fitness. Physically, mentally, and spiritually I’m working at optimal levels, and I’m ready for the world. The fog I was in for much of 2020 has cleared and been pushed back by, as my sister put it yesterday, the holy trinity of meditation, journal writing, and working out.
In my end-of-year survey, I wrote about the days where I felt small. Those days have moved from infrequent to non-existent in recent weeks. I sense my spirit expanding. My desire to do what’s good and right is knocking up against my disinterest in conflict, and “good” is starting to win the wrestling match with “safe.”
Over the course of this past week, Twitter was increasingly filled with notes of anxiety about being back in a more open world. Not me, nerds. There are many things I plan to take with me from this prolonged public health crisis—a more disciplined approach to preventing the spread of illness chief among them—but I’m not stressed about what comes next.
This sun is coming out.
Love You Bad
The pandemic is a trickster god. There have been moments, hours, days during this past year when I was convinced I was alone in this less than epic story of survival. Before COVID, my love well filled with the smiles of strangers, the soft eyes of my friends and family, and the hugs and high fives of all willing partners.
My life force demands laughter.
My currency is kindness.
My vault used to overflow with both.
Love in the time of the pandemic is the accumulation of small favors. A box of cookies from another state might sustain my soul for weeks. A compliment from a grocery store clerk might keep me buoyant for the day. Strangers delighted by my LED face mask on a walk would bring a huge grin to my face that they couldn’t see. A text. A postcard. A surprise socially distanced drive by. A video chat happy hour that doesn’t suck.
But that’s not every day. In those late summer months, the little things that matter most to me felt out of stock. My love well was so dry.
A colleague’s mother got critically ill in late September, and that was the time when I figured out that I could replenish my love supply: by showing others you give a shit.
I give a shit about you.
I’ve been doing the little things, and I hope it shows. If it doesn’t, I understand, though. That pandemic trickster god has been a stubborn asshole who has long overstayed their welcome.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Before I lay my head to sleep tonight, I’ll spend 50 minutes in mostly silent guided yoga, the traditional end to Adriene Mishler’s annual 30 Days practice to start the year. I’ve attempted this program each of the last few years, finishing it once or twice, though never on time.
The pandemic has given me the unfettered opportunity to stay on track. While I’d give much not to be spending nearly all of my time in our condo, without these constraints, I’d undoubtedly had failed once again at keeping pace. There would have been work travel at least once. The rain would’ve disrupted a commute a couple of times. I’d have gotten sick with whatever was going around the office after winter break. An impromptu weekend plan would’ve come together and taken a day. I’d have looked up on the last day of this month and realized I was at least a week behind.
Instead, I will close January 2021 with many others: on the mat navigating my thoughts, my body, and my breath. And, I’m grateful.
Despite the wild three Wednesdays to start this new year—Insurrection, Impeachment, Inauguration—I feel like I’ve finally gotten the hang of living in the age of COVID (note: I knocked wood right after typing this not to tempt fate). My toolkit has included: two and a half weeks off from work to close 2020 and start this annum; Headspace (and occasionally other meditation apps); nearly daily journaling; workouts via my trainer (virtually) and Apple Fitness+, a good long walk or run in the park once or twice a week, going to bed and waking up mostly on a schedule, and the Wake-Up/Wind Down podcast by Niall Breslin.
Wake Up/Wind Down—a twice-daily short audio adventure—provided a 31-day mindfulness program that paired nicely with Yoga with Adriene for my morning routine. The program first asked me to capture and consider my values and explore how I sabotage or limit my ability to live those values. The closing two weeks asked me to examine my relationships and how I operate in them, and, finally, to put to paper how I wanted to live out my values in this coming year.
It was a surprisingly powerful approach to the act of resolution-making/goal-setting that pushed me out of my comfort zone as I faced how I deal with conflict (avoidance) and trip myself up (by severely protecting my heart and managing my emotions). I’ve dipped my toes into the water of leading with my heart and giving space for my feelings at the moment more frequently than usual with unexpected outcomes.
A heated conversation with my mom led to me delivering an apology and a reconciliation that felt good and right. Meanwhile, a joking attempt to let my wife know that a tweet was bruising my feelings is still sitting with me a week later.
I’m a work in progress. And I’m proud of myself for progressing in that work in an open, honest, and committed fashion to start my 46th year on this planet.
Here’s what I value right now:
And my goals for the year look like this:
Personal: Commitment to supporting people and causes that work for justice, equality, and inclusivity in society.
Social: A commitment to being thoughtful, open, joyful, empathetic, and giving in all my relationships, including with myself.
Professional: Commitment to being bold, brave, and demanding of excellence of myself and others while being a humane, sincere, and compassionate leader.
There are specific actions I’m taking to achieve these, but those are for me to know and you to see in my deeds.
Chasin’ The Bird
Dave Chisholm‘s graphic novel about Charlie Parker’s time in Southern California is the first book I’ve read released during the COVID-19 pandemic. It acknowledges that timing in the foreword by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jabbar—the long-time Angeleno—wonders whether much has changed between Jim Crow in Parker’s 1940s America and last year’s Black Lives Matter summer of anguish. My gut reaction is to say, very much yes, even through the book’s lens where Bird must stay at an all-black hotel and permission to book an integrated band is seen as a great gift or concession. But a character in the story—a white one, no less—extols us never to trust LA cops, and 2020’s refrain of “defund the police” rings in my ears, and I question my gut’s optimism.
Despite growing up in a lifelong jazz musician’s home, I am not knowledgeable in the greats. My appreciation for jazz records comes via hip-hop connections: Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Mohammed’s frequent bebop sampling, and Madlib’s Shades of Blue. My dad is a founding member of the Blackbyrds and, yet, I didn’t give much of a listen to Donald Byrd until J Dilla and Erykah Badu gave me an entryway I was willing to take. Even then, my explorations have been solely into the music with very little understanding of the people or those moments in time that made these tunes possible.
Chasin’ the Bird provided a new kind of door for me. The first chorus is told in Dizzy Gillespie’s voice, and he gives form to what it was like being a jazz cat in 1947. The book makes that Los Angeles and that club real for me. He name-checks a few songs, Salt Peanuts and Koko, and visualizes what it might have felt like to hear Bird blow his horn in person for the first time. I immediately went to my preferred music streamer and pulled up a Charlie Parker playlist. My toe began tapping. My eyes closed for a while, and then I opened them again, hoping to have been transported. I wanted to be looking around the darkened smoky room, searching for someone else’s eyes with which to lock. I’d shake my head as if to say, can you believe this? We’d chuckle together. I’d wipe my brow and return my attention to the stage, enraptured.
The story continues from there, taking on the perspectives of several others who encountered Bird during his time in my beloved city. Ultimately, the goal is to unravel the mystery of what happened to the man in Los Angeles, especially during his six-month-long disappearance from the scene. What we don’t get is the man himself in his own words. While Parker casts such a long shadow over the music of his time and what followed, he didn’t make it past his 35th year. He never gave himself the chance to tell his own story.
And while that’s a loss that this story can’t fill, it hits all my other sweet spots. It’s an LA story. It’s noir. It’s moody and sexy and a puzzle. The art sings. There are pages—the outro most intentionally so—that I’d swear I could hear. And the words are just as mesmerizing as the visuals and the jazz.
In Coltrane’s section, the illustrated Bird says to him:
The Universe we live in don’t waste nothin’. Everything has existed eternally. Every piece of energy is recycled. Every piece of motherfucking matter. You know what else is eternal?
My soul stirred.
I highly recommend.
What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?
I wore a mask on days that weren’t Halloween or Halloween-related. I ran in the park in a mask. I wore a mask to the laundry room and to take out the trash. I wore a mask in the grocery store, the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, and the optometrist. I wore a mask to pick up take-out and get haircuts.
The few times I saw my parents and sister, I wore a mask. The few times I saw a friend or two—outside, socially distanced, and ever so briefly—I wore a mask.
Sometimes, alone in the car, I wore a mask.
The few times we had furniture deliveries or maintenance in the house, I opened some windows and wore a mask.
Today, I’ll wear a mask. Tomorrow, I’ll wear a mask.
Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make resolutions last year. I did hope to visit Chicago and Atlanta and Greensboro and Omaha to see family & friends and catch some WNBA games in cities I hadn’t been in in a while.
In early March, those plans were dashed. I did see some of those family & friends on Zooms and face times but not in physical presence and not sharing the same air, which, in this year, could’ve been disastrous.
I saw no basketball live this year but watched more WNBA games this season than I ever have, thanks to the #wubble and nearly every game of every team airing on television or streaming.
I miss our seats in STAPLES, though, and the crazies we are privileged to scream and cheer with nearly 20 times a summer. I hope we can get back to that in some way in 2021.
Did anyone close to you have a child?
Not that I’m aware, but I got this wrong last year. My cousin Tiffani had a new cutie pie in 2019.
Did anyone close to you get married?
There were a few postponements that I can think of but no virtual ceremonies that I remember.
Did anyone close to you die?
It feels weird to say in such a year of loss but no unless we count the collective mourning of Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s deaths by this city and the world.
There was death, to be sure. News of family members of current and former colleagues succumbing to COVID became far too familiar. And family acquaintances or distant relatives also passed. Still, the constant worry was a dreadful call or text about someone contracting the virus, entering the hospital, and never coming back out alive.
I did not have that experience this year, and I am grateful.
What countries did you visit?
This year, it may be more appropriate to ask which counties? I only left Los Angeles County twice this year. Once in January (Broward County) and once in very early March (New York).
What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?
Handshakes, hi-fives, and hugs.
Going inside someone’s residence other than my own.
Shared experiences that allow me to be anonymously or collectively loud.
Lingering in a space. Meandering from place to place.
What date from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
“Rudy Gobert’s status for the game—it was bizarre; he was listed as questionable just 30 minutes before tip-off. Then I saw the Thunder’s head doctor, Donnie Strack, come running off the bench, literally seconds before tip-off—the ref’s already got the ball in his hands. Players are lining up in a circle, getting ready for tip-off. I see Donnie Strack running out, and I knew right then and there: Something’s going down.”
What was your most significant achievement of the year?
I’m alive. I didn’t make anyone sick or kill anyone by being cavalier in my response to the pandemic. Every day, I tried to think about how hard it is for all I encountered and chose to give whatever I could when asked: time, patience, forgiveness, cover, space, cash, quiet, candor.
I may have been my most humane in 2020.
What was your biggest failure?
Excuse my french but fuck a failure in this most abnormal 12 months. Surviving and not harming anyone else was the only requirement in what NPR Music has called The Fugue Year.
Did you suffer illness or injury?
Oddly, this is probably the healthiest I’ve been in many years. I switched doctors, and she got my hypertension under control, put me on some vitamin D, and has me thinking much more deliberately about my choices.
I’m sleeping better.
I did have some soreness in my right knee for a bit that was more than a little bit annoying, but some self-care and wearing an over-the-counter brace for a few days solved that, and it hasn’t returned despite an increase in cardio/aerobic exercises over the last few weeks.
What was the best thing you bought?
I’m in love with the bookcases that got recently delivered and that I framed and hung lots of wall art. I get a little spark of delight every time I see them.
I’ve also become a robe person in the last month or so, snuggling into a flannel one every morning.
But, it’s working appliances that are the best thing I bought, specifically, the dishwasher. Sure, we also replaced our laundry center with the non-drying dryer, but it was the dishwasher that had been the bane of my existence since the dawn of the pandemic.
Our old washer had utterly stopped working a week or two before stay-at-home orders began, and after a few months of constant dishwashing, I had tried in vain to get it fixed under warranty at least three times. Each time, they would replace the same part, and each time it would stop working again after a few days.
So, we bought a very nice replacement. When it arrived, the delivery guy couldn’t install the machine. Our electrical socket in the dishwasher cabinet had to move. A couple of hundred bucks to an electrician, and a few weeks later, it was finally in its place and ready for use.
It’s quiet. It’s attractive. It has a silverware rack.
And, as the daily slog of constant dishwashing was threatening to break me, that it merely works is heaven.
Whose behavior merited celebration?
Every person who has left their home daily at risk of a deadly disease because what they do might keep all of us, collectively, alive deserve all the flowers.
Where did most of your money go?
Into this home in a variety of ways. Into political campaigns and charitable donations. Into digital goods and services.
I put my money into continuing paying people whose services I enjoyed in person before the pandemic to work remotely if possible or stay home if not.
And into savings and investing for the future, whatever may come.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The Biden-Harris victory. That morning of extended joy will be the second day of the year I will most remember.
What song will always remind you of 2021?
I wrote about Lockdown in my year in music.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Perhaps, I am most known for how emotionally balanced I am, but there have been more days of melancholy this year. I remain hopeful and optimistic for a better tomorrow, but happiness has been harder to come by.
I spent more time feeling sad or anxious or frustrated or, worse, nothing. Much of July through maybe mid-October is a blurry haze for me in which I felt the least like me. I’m not sure what broke me from that, but I’ve been better since then.
But there are still more days like today when I woke with my spirit feeling small, quiet, and low on joy.
I suspect I’ll find a smirk or smile or maybe even a full-on song in my heart by day’s end though that’s not guaranteed.
This is new.
ii. Thinner or fatter?
Three months into safer-at-home, I had lost ten pounds.
I’ve gained them all back.
iii. Richer or poorer?
We had a great year financially. I feel sheepish writing that for the world to see but, it’s true. I didn’t lose work. I got a bonus. The stock market—despite volatility—has been lucrative. We were able to make some smart money moves.
I’m grateful that at a time of such a struggle for so many, we are not. The question I’m continuing to ask myself as we head into 2021 is how to be sure I’m not taking my good fortune for granted and “sharing the garden,” as Noname puts it in the Lockdown remix.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Gone outside and explored the natural world.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
How did you spend the holidays?
We ordered in for Thanksgiving from Bar Ama, which was delicious. I made banana pudding and biscuits for my family and traded them for a pie and mac & cheese. The fifteen minutes I spent with them during that exchange was not enough but sustained me on my favorite holiday.
Christmas was low-key but fine. A gift exchange with Tiffany, a family Zoom, and all the NBA I could muster made up the day.
We are doing NYE at home, which is no different than any other recent year. I may even be looking forward to dressing up, getting drunk, and dancing in the living room as we say goodbye to The Plague Year.
What was your favorite TV program?
There was nothing I looked forward to more this year than watching The Mandalorian season 2 and Star Trek Discovery season 3 over the last few months. Both sci-fi series have been fantastic in all the word’s meanings and filled my mind with dreams of brighter, more interesting, more inspiring times.
Other shows worth your time:
The Good Lord Bird
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Better Call Saul
Star Trek: Picard
Power Book II: Ghost
What was the best book you read?
How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Other books I recommend:
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow
Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Superman Smashes The Klan by George Leun Yan and Gurihuri
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
What was your most significant musical discovery of 2020
I wrote in detail about Sault.
What did you want and get?
A Democratic victory in the presidential election and Nithya Raman on LA City Council
What did you want and not get?
I wanted Americans to come together in more significant numbers and show their better angels and sense of community to get us through coronavirus with far less unnecessary death.
What was your favorite film of this year?
I didn’t watch many films this year, but I dug The Old Guard and Soul and didn’t hate Wonder Woman 1984 despite the social media critiques.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 45 a week after the pandemic became official, and I’m pretty sure I spent it entirely on the couch playing mobile games and coloring with the Apple Pencil Tiffany got me as a gift.
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Being free to move about the cabin.
What political issue stirred you the most?
That public health became political.
Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
How would you describe your fashion concept in 2020?
Looking great from the waistline up. Thanks, Stitch Fix.
What kept you sane?
The morning is quiet and dark. I remember to meditate. As the sun comes up, I catch the birds and squirrels starting their day in the thicket of trees that make up their neighborhood. I listen to a mix of music and podcasts as I empty the dishwasher and start the coffee. I make myself a proper breakfast and eat it at the table.
It’s the end of the workday, and I treat it as such. I close work tabs and get up from the desk. I go for a long walk. I see the eyes of strangers. I listen to the sounds of the city. I break a sweat.
I don’t bring my gadgets to bed.
Every day I accomplished at least one of these routines, I was a little saner the next.
Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The women of the WNBA and Naomi Osaka were exceptional people all year.
Who did you miss?
Everyone but perhaps most frequently, I longed for the strangers on the bus. I wanted to be shoulder-to-shoulder with people on their way to and from work or school. I wanted to be just another slightly familiar but nameless face with my fellow LA neighbors and be in the mix.
Oh, what I would give to feel like just another soul in the Southland, again.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.
Managing work time should be a shared responsibility, not a personal one.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
What’s one photo that sums up your year?
2020 in Music
As the lyrics begin in the video for Lockdown, Anderson .Paak stands with several other LA-based musicians whose work I admire. Their fists are raised. The names of far too many black people killed by police violence are used to make up the song title’s letters. Paak is wearing a black jersey with the word “riots” presented in the Los Angeles Sparks logo style.
It’s a night in late May or early June of this year. Protests have taken over this city in outrage over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer thousands of miles away. In this city, people scream out in anguish for the extrajudicial deaths at the hands of those tasked, in theory, to protect and serve us over the years. We’re a little over two months into the pandemic, and it’s too much.
It’s all too much. And so the people rise. Black Lives Matter signs go up in our well-appointed neighborhood, including by store owners with boarded-up windows hoping not to be painted with the same brush as those with the guns and the badge. We’re all complicit, though, aren’t we?
Far too often, we vote blindly or with our pocketbooks in mind. We pay little attention to how the city makes decisions. We’re unaware of how it metes out the spoils of government funding or the processes it employs to do so. In any other time, we’d be more concerned with where we needed to get to next than the death of yet another black person.
Any other year, the city would have a more significant complaint about the inconvenience of civil unrest and anguish than the roots of that pain and the merits of those demands.
It was a lockdown, and yet the people were rising. I wasn’t downtown, but maybe I should’ve been.
Towards the end of the video, Paak embraces his son with tears in his eyes. It reminds me of the generational conversation that went viral around the same time of three black men trying to make sense of this endless repeating terror cycle. The pain and frustration and anger and hopelessness is palpable. It builds in their chests.
Like, Anderson, I cry.
My song of the year.
Sault first came on to my radar last year around this time as I explored Best Of lists. I believe they were included on several KCRW DJ lists for their first two very dance encouraging albums, “5” and “7”.
We don’t know much about Sault except that they are immensely talented British soul artists, though mostly anonymous. Michael Kiwanuka gets credited as a singer on occasion because his voice is recognizable, but most others remain unnamed.
Sault delivered two more albums in 2020, “Untitled (Black is)” and “Untitled (Rise)”. The former was released on Juneteenth with the statement I quoted above released on Twitter as it’s primary promotional effort.
Any time a song from any of their albums shuffles into my ears, I’m compelled to binge their rapidly expanding and impressive discography.
Not only is their music right for this moment in time, but it also seems to be a time traveler. There is a cosmic funk retro sensibility mixed with a constant push through the boundaries like afrofuturistic music explorers.
It’s how I wanted to feel in 2020: present, thoughtful, wise, and focused on the future.
Artists of the year.
Early in the pandemic, Little Dragon released New Me, Same Us. The second single, “Are You Feeling Sad?” was on repeat often during those chaotic weeks in March and April as the world turned upside down.
It played as I moved from working at the dining room table to the makeshift office I made for myself in our underfurnished second bedroom.
It stayed on loop as we started ordering masks and tried to navigate what we could and couldn’t do.
And as days turned into weeks turned into months and I began using an app daily to check in about my covid risks, that song was my check in on my emotional health.
“Are you feeling sad, Jason?”
Every day, a new me. Every day, the same us.
And Little Dragon, as they have for nearly 15 years, light up my brain and heart and spirit with their sounds. Always in new ways but still the same them.
My album of the year.