Daydreaming About 2021
It's hard not to be optimistic about the new year.
I read a piece about a week ago by political columnist Andrew Sullivan that I keep thinking about (and not because the header image he used, if you look closely enough, is kind of X-rated).
It was about 2021, and what struck me is how it was overflowing with optimism. Sullivan believes that next year will mean much more than a simple turning of the page. He predicts we’ll see one big party from coast to coast and beyond, and he makes a pretty compelling case for why.
It of course relies in large part on the coronavirus vaccine, and how it will, in the coming months, start bringing society back to normal.
“…after a grim year of withdrawal, fear, anxiety, and solitude,” Sullivan writes, “we will become human again.”
As we head into Spring, with more and more people receiving protection from the virus, the infection rate, hospitalizations, and heartbreaking daily death numbers will lower significantly. That coupled with the psychological relief, renewed social freedom, and strong positioning for a big and fast economic recovery should indeed be cause for lots of celebration.
As Sullivan points out, U.S. household savings over the past year have been very high (a product of less consumption, low interest rates, and government aid). With the warming weather, safer environment, and pent-up demand, we should see a lot of that money going to industries that have suffered the most during the pandemic (like travel, dining, and entertainment). People will want to get out, socialize, adventure-seek, and have as much fun as possible. Many other sectors should see huge rebounds as well.
The economic surge as a whole could lead to another “Roaring Twenties,” according to Sullivan. I’m thinking he could well be right. I know I’m ready for it, and I’m guessing most of the people reading this are too.
I’m itching to fly to places I’ve never been, see things I’ve never seen, and do things I’ve never done. I can’t wait to return to concert venues, movie theaters, and restaurants to share loud, enjoyable, celebratory experiences with others. I’m excited for my children to eventually go back to school five days a week, in-person, without masks so that their classmates can see them smile… and vice-versa.
Sullivan goes pretty deep into the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll prospects for 2021, but he also adds some important caveats that shouldn’t be glossed over:
For those with lost family members and friends, the end of a plague can feel like the beginning of mourning, rather than the end of it. So many in this pandemic have lost loved ones — and been barred from their hospital beds as they died, or denied funerals and memorial services which can help them process loss. There’s pent-up grief as well as energy. Health workers will doubtless feel bewildered (and emotionally exhausted) as the emergency ends. And there will be for some a refusal to accept the good news, as Camus described in “The Plague”. You can become psychologically attached to crisis. Some will be social distancing for months after it is unnecessary. But the impulse to leave 2020 behind, if the past is any guide, will gather pace.
As he suggests, it will be understandably harder for some to feel like celebrating. They’ll still be healing. That’s something we should all be sensitive to as the new year unfolds.
Where I think we all can agree is that 2021 will be far brighter than what we’ve been living through over the past ten months. On that note, I genuinely wish all of you a very Happy New Year. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you again for signing up for my newsletter. It has taken off faster and stronger than I ever could have imagined, and the discussions it’s spawned have been a lot of fun.
Speaking of discussions, do you have big plans for coming year? I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.
Coming of Age
As I touched on above, I’m eager for my kids’ social experiences to go back to normal. While they have gotten to spend time with their friends since March, mostly on an individual or very limited basis, the bulk of their interaction has been online (usually in the form of video games, including trash-talk through microphones and headsets).
School-wise, they did attend in-person classes throughout most of the Fall semester (up until Thanksgiving break when the community infection rate got pretty high), but it was far from business as usual. My high-schooler was on a hybrid system where he attended in-person twice a week, online twice a week, and at-home study on Fridays. My middle-schooler did the in-person thing five days a week, but stayed with the same group of students, in the same classroom, all day every day (a measure taken to avoid having to shut down the entire school whenever a student or faculty member became infected). They’ll be returning to those schedules at the end of a phased reopening next month.
It hasn’t been a great situation, and I can’t imagine this experience has been healthy for many young people’s development, both educationally and socially. But unfortunately, it’s the time we live in.
On a positive note, my son has still managed to enjoy some important, almost normal milestones this year. One pandemic-proof activity has been driving. So, he and I did a lot of it — 50+ permit hours over the spring, summer, and fall so that he could get his driver’s license once he turned 16.
As to be expected, there were a few stressful moments for me in the shotgun seat (and assuredly for him as well), but it wasn’t that bad. And especially in those early days of the health crisis, there was something liberating and even adventurous about a father and son going on long road trips to the mountains or little towns in the middle of nowhere.
It made for some good photo ops as well:
Just a couple weeks after my son passed his driver’s test and got his license (a proud moment), he also got his first real job. He now works at a local fast-food franchise, making sub sandwiches and taking drive-thru orders. He’s taking on new responsibilities, learning new things, building new friendships, and earning good money that he’s saving up to buy his first car.
As a parent, it’s been fun and very gratifying to watch. For him, it’s been one coming of age experience that the pandemic hasn’t been able to rob him of. And I’m certainly thankful for it.
One of the most memorable, dynamic concerts I’ve ever been to was just last year at a small, downtown venue in the city that I call home: Greeley, Colorado. It was a night of fantastic psychobilly bands, headlined by The Reverend Horton Heat.
For those unfamiliar with the term, psychobilly is a hard-hitting rock music sub-genre that fuses elements of rockabilly and punk. It’s very much guitar-based, and Reverend Horton Heat’s Jim Heath is considered one of the most skilled and electrifying guitar players in the world.
Despite the band’s rabid following, they’ve never received a ton of radio airplay (in part because their music is almost entirely instrumental, with few vocals). They’re primarily a touring band, and spend an extraordinary amount of time out on the road performing to small but packed venues. And they always give fans more than their money’s worth. Here’s a taste of what they’re about.
I didn’t own any of their music until I saw them live (other than a fantastic compilation cover they recorded of the old Jonny Quest theme song). But after the show, I couldn’t leave without taking some of their unique and infectious sound with me.
At the merch stand, I picked up their 2014 album “Rev” on vinyl, and it’s really a lot of fun. “Victory Lap” is probably my favorite tune on it.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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