year in review 2020

When your year starts off in Hawaii, you know the next twelve months are going to have to be pretty spectacular to beat that. Actually, the year was shaping up to be a good one – daughter Bridget’s bachelorette party in New Orleans in March, and her fairytale wedding in Ithaca in July. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to January to the beach in Hawaii.

The Japanese half of the family met up with the American half smack dab in the middle – or as close as we could get if were to meet on land – in the beach town of Kailua on the island of Oahu. We took side trips to the north of the island, famous for its waves, and Honolulu and Waikiki, but most of the time was family time, eating and playing and the usual family fun. You know.

As vacations go, best ever!

Back on the mainland, life returned to normal, and the month ended on a high note, out to see Dave Jordan at the Ogden Museum. Jordan has been playing for years but was under my radar until local radio station WWOZ put his latest album, Burning Sage, in the rotation. I liked what I heard, so I was keen to see him, and was not disappointed. Here’s Tucumcari Tonight from the new album.

February slid in with a Super Bowl party over at my cousins’, and keeping to the “watching TV” theme, the next week was the Oscars. Normally, I wouldn’t watch them – it’s no fun if you haven’t seen any of the movies, which is me to a T. If it’s not on Netflix, I haven’t seen it. But this year was different. In October last year, my girlfriend Celeste came down for the New Orleans Film Festival, and we went for the whole deal – minus the gala dinners and hob-knobbing – so we ended up seeing a lot of movies, and some of them ended up with Oscar nominations. Reflecting on that now, I wonder what the 2022 Oscar ceremony is going to be like … but, hey, that’s for next year’s letter.

Mardi Gras parade season got down to serious business February 16, culminating on Mardi Gras Day, February 25; and in between those two dates, it’s all parades and partying. I have learned to pace myself, and some days that actually works. This year Dennis came to town, and we sent him home with a lot of killer Mardi Gras schwag. The day after Mardi Gras – Ash Wednesday – was a full day of NOLA MUST DO items, starting with church service at the iconic St Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The place was standing room only, everyone come for the ashes and maybe a bit of repentance. As we stood cheek by jowl, no one – well, at least not me – was thinking about COVID-19. Next on the NOLA MUST DO list was $20.20 lunch at Antoine’s. That’s their thing. Next year it will be $20.21. Who says there isn’t inflation?

The next day, we headed up the mighty Mississip to the Whitney Plantation. Unlike most plantations, which focus on the plantation owners’ houses, the Whitney tells the plantation story through the lives of the slaves. February also saw the French Film Festival come to town, so checkmark all over that! And to close out the month, dinner at my favorite restaurant, Jacques Imo’s, followed by what turned out to be my last live show of the year, Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen at the Maple Leaf. A little Jon Cleary, if you please.

March came in with a bang – first my friend Celeste arrived, fresh from Ecuador – and we settled down to some serious foodie activity, starting with another NOLA MUST DO restaurant, Sweet Soul Food. Their bread pudding is to die for. That, as it turns out, is a typical refrain in NOLA. But I’ll save all my gushing over bread pudding for another time. On the heels of Celeste’s arrival, daughter Bridget arrived with the girls in her wedding party, ready for her bachelorette party, New Orleans style. She couldn’t have chosen a better place to hold it. Better yet, I had no responsibilities other than to show up for the food and drink, and I passed that test with flying colors. I got to meet the in-laws for the first time, too, spending quality time with Joyce and Haskel out on the town.

On March 10th, the last of the bachelorette party flew home, and on March 11th, I went into lockdown. And all around me, the city shut down.

For a while there, my major (only) social event of the week was grocery shopping with the seniors at 7 in the morning. But having nothing else to do besides buying food is just what I’ve needed. It’s meant a lot more uninterrupted time to write my book. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past nine months, sitting at my laptop, writing away. I suspect that’s where I’ll be throughout 2021, and 2022, and 20…

Remember when YouTube first showed up and it was the best thing ever? Well, these days, best thing ever is FaceTime and Zoom, for all the quality time I get to spend with family and friends, not to mention violin recitals and weddings (yes, Bridget and Justin had their Zoom wedding in May!). There is so much to be grateful for this year, but like most people, I am definitely looking forward to what next year has in store.

All my best wishes to y’all for the new year!


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