Editor’s note: My husband Jimmy wrote this post about his favorite things of 2012. Check out his dormant blog about North Carolina here. Check out his other dormant blog (about sports) here. Further note: Jimmy wrote this editor’s note. I’m much too kind to call his blogs “dormant.”
When Megan told me she was writing a blog post about her favorite things of 2012, I got excited.
Then I got a little mad — inveterately ranking pop culture, events, sensations and foods is my thing, dammit! How could I let her beat me to the punch?
Now that I’ve gathered myself (and digested her excellent list), I’m making one of my own, modeled on her best-of-everything-all-in-one-place approach.
1.) The most 2012 thing I engaged with in 2012: “We Are Young,” by fun. “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style” will be the first songs uncovered by future pop historians excavating 2012. But “We Are Young” won’t be far behind. I don’t love this song — it has a perfect chorus and awful everything else — but it’s the indelible 2012 soundtrack for me.
Megan and I spent the last half of May traveling in France and Italy. We spent three days in Cinque Terre, a collection of cliffside villages on Italy’s Ligurian coast. After debarking from the train in Riomaggiore and severing ourselves from some Taiwanese tourists who took a liking to Megan, we started a long climb up a 50ish-degree incline toward the Locanda del Sol, our hill-topping hotel. As we trudged up the street, the massive chorus of “We Are Young” poured out of every open shop we passed. It’s become my Italy song, recalling of the exhilaration and disorientation of being so far from home. It’s a reminder that, on your own continent or a foreign one, this is a world of endless potential.
2.) The vegetable of 2012: Okra. I know what you’re thinking: haven’t we seen enough year-end lists where an inescapable pop song and the meat of the vegetable world occupy the top two spots?
2012 opened with Megan and I locked in a fierce weight-loss competition. Veganism was the backbone of her strategy and, while I still dig on flesh, I adopted some veg-head ways. Nothing has stuck like my newfound love of the mighty okra. Growing up in the South, I’d always assumed okra came naturally in two varieties — fried and pickled. I imagined them dripping brine on the vine or, as ripeness approached, shedding their green skin for a mature, crunchy, golden brown one.
How wrong I was. Fleshy, gooey and mildly peppery, okra can be the heart of a curry, stand alone as an afternoon snack or thicken a soup or chili, giving it that most treasured quality: heartiness.
3.) Life coach of 2012: Louis CK. I don’t believe in life coaches. Anyone who claims to have divined the secrets of a happy existence would know better than to sell them. But if I did subscribe to the value of gurus, Louis CK would be mine.
Louis’ comedy goes beyond drawing laughs. Sometimes he’s more bewildering than amusing. But on his television show and in his standup, Louis unpacks a worldview that simultaneously embraces the wonder and horror of the world, and the awful risk that comes with love. Louis makes me feel OK about my worst thoughts and reinforces my decisions not to act on them.
Here’s Louis, on the ill-gotten blessings of whiteness:
4.) Album of 2012: _______. In a year when several of my favorite artists (Kathleen Edwards, the Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle and Bob Dylan, to name four) put out new albums, I didn’t really connect with any new music. My favorite 2012 album was probably the relentless “Celebration Rock,” by Japandroids, but I doubt it will linger with me like Paul Simon’s “So Beautiful or So What” (2011) or Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” have. Bring on 2013.
Still, this is an unstoppable ass-kicker of a song:
5.) Preferred viewing experience of 2012: Television. Television fully overtook movies as my go-to source of visual pop culture in 2012. Of the stuff I watched in 2012, I’d rate seasons 2-4.5 of “Breaking Bad,” two seasons each of “Luther,” “Homeland” and “Louie,” and the debut season of “Girls” ahead of any movie I saw.
6.) Technology of 2012: Apple TV. Number five on this list is absolutely a result of number six. Last Christmas, we got an Apple TV and ditched cable. After some low-level hackery, Apple’s little black box became our house’s music and entertainment hub. Other than (sorely missed) live sports, we still get everything we would have gotten from Time Warner Cable, at a teenintesy fraction of the cost.
7.) Experience of 2012: Traveling. We were blessed to visit a lot of places this year: Paris, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, New York and Aruba. Thanks to some timely standby flying and the generosity of family, we were able to travel farther and more frequently than I ever thought I would. We’ll most likely come back to earth (and Fuquay-Varina) in 2013, but I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to see so much of the world.
8.) Experience of 2012 (Part Two): Writing. In May, I snuck up to Washington, D.C., to see John Irving read at a synagogue. Irving wrote three of my five favorite novels (“A Prayer for Owen Meany,” “The Cider House Rules” and “The World According to Garp”), and he’s been my idol since high school.
I read those novels around the same time I began to think of myself as a writer. My parents and several teachers in high school saw talent in me and nurtured it, and I went to college in 1998 wholly expecting to build a life around writing. During my college years, though, my confidence crashed and never really returned. As a newspaper reporter, editor and PR man, I wrote tens of thousands of words for work, but I could never overcome the crushing doubt that descended whenever I tried to write for myself. I came to resent the people who’d supported my early writing dreams, blaming them for the burden of failure I carried.
Listening to Irving read from his new novel in May, I felt a mix of satisfaction and sadness — satisfaction at finally seeing him in the flesh and sadness at the gulf between where I was at 31 and where I’d imagined being. I didn’t know then that, thanks largely to Megan’s encouragement and Jill McCorkle’s instruction, I’d finally break my 15-year case of writer’s block in 2012. I don’t flatter myself with the idea that, after finishing two short stories, I have a lifetime of publications ahead. That doesn’t really matter. I’m just glad to finally try.