Here’s some stuff that happened this year that I particularly enjoyed, presented in a stream-of-consciousness kinda way because I’m high and these block paragraphs are attractive to me.
Carole Fuckin’ Baskin This year, I converted much of my wardrobe into big cat print to model myself after my hero, Carole Baskin. As someone with a long-time interest in tigers, I knew who Baskin was from Big Cat Rescue’s videos and various news stories. But I’m not like that into tigers. I just think they’re really cool and lions are, too. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery, I would start a sanctuary for big cats. Then, I saw Tiger King and I was like, ha ha ha, fuck that, no thank you very much. But I finally had the Baskin backstory. And I love her. Let’s all be honest with each other: ehhhh…looks kinda suspicious, right? Suddenly, everyone is talking about this evil woman who murdered her husband and is just running some shifty business and trying to ruin the competition. Where was this person? I didn’t see that person in the documentary. I saw a hero. A woman who had a change of heart about the exploitation of animals for profit and decided that a rich white man had to go. A rich white man who picked her up on the side of the road when she was nineteen or some shit? So what if a dude like that gets accidentally covered in sardine oil? How did she become the villain of the piece? We’ve got a choice between a meth-dealing human trafficker who murdered baby tigers, two guys who have definitely involved tigers in sex acts while completely sober and also likely murdered baby tigers, and Carole, a lady who may or may not have murdered a regular old human who abandoned his family to fuck a teenager? Yeah, okay. Whatever. She’s a badass whether or not she killed that dude and she’s definitely been a highlight of my 2020. If I lived near her sanctuary, I would volunteer there for sure. But only things where I don’t have to actually get by tigers because I am very, sensibly, terrified of them.
Did you know I can dance? I didn’t! Definitely, the best part of the year was the part where we weren’t living in the end times. I really liked that part. Especially because there was still live theater to participate in, which is one of the great loves of my life. See how pretentious that sentence was? That proves that I’m a theater person. But earlier this year, in the weirdest, wildest twist of fate imaginable, I ended up in a production of Chicago. When I told my husband, he was like, wait, are you sure? And that’s because I’m a really bad dancer. And I’d just gotten the all-clear to walk without an air cast after breaking my foot in late 2019. Somehow, I ended up in the iconic “Cellblock Tango” as Hunyak. I had to learn Hungarian lines. I had to learn to dance. It was hard. I spent a lot of time on my ass with an ice pack on my foot, doing the arm choreography from the sidelines. I can’t believe I got the chance to do it, but I did, and I really surprised myself.
This meme that hit FB about two minutes after Trump’s covid diagnosis:
Not having to go anywhere. If there was any upside to 2020, any tiny crumb of joy that it can’t snatch away from me, it’s this: I never had to force myself to fulfill plans I had made when I was in a more functioning mood weeks before.
Rachel True’s True Heart Intuitive Tarot. If you’ve ever tuned into my currently hiatus-ed YouTube live broadcasts where I get drunk and read tarot for viewers, you know I’m a big believer in intuitive reading. Rather than looking up every definition in a book, you read about the cards and spend time with them and get a sense of their energy and then you look at them differently every time you do a reading. At least, that’s how I do it. The art on True’s deck is incredibly fresh, but not in the way many decks will just slap a cool picture with zero interpretive imagery on it just because it’s pretty. All the traditional themes of the card meanings are there, presented in new (and often more effective) ways. And the book is amazing. Part memoir, part tarot instruction, True ties each of the Major Arcana cards into anecdotes about her life and acting career, written in a way that feels incredibly personal, as if the reader is having a conversation not only with True, but with the cards themselves. Overall, the deck and the book present themselves as a thoughtful friend who’s kind, but who will also tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it at the time (but you know in your heart they’re right). A++ would let these cards read me again and again.
I got to help a swan cross the street. We were driving down the road (in the old days, when you could eat at restaurants), headed into the city for family breakfast because we all wanted pancakes but we didn’t want the clean up, when on the side of a busy state highway we spotted a swan in distress. Swans are not friendly animals, nor are they safe to be around in most cases. They’re more dangerous than you’d think. But I’m not a smart person, I’m a caring person, and when I see an animal in trouble I have no choice but to abandon all sense. I told Mr.Jen to pull over. He did, but he wasn’t super thrilled about this particular journey into the heart of nature. I got out of the car and crouch-walked toward the hesitant swan, who started coming toward me. It was at this moment that I remembered that swans are dinosaurs and I was like, what the fuck am I doing? I’m going to die like Newman in Jurassic Park. As it got super close, I tried to see if it was hurt, if it had fishing line wrapped around it or something like a bone sticking out, but it just looked like a regular, not-injured swan. I was like, “Hey dude, what do you need?” and this thing made eye contact with me, bobbed his head at the road, and deliberately put one foot on the pavement. It blew my mind. This animal was clearly communicating to me that it wanted to cross the road and it knew that I, a person, could help it do so safely. I don’t think he had room to take off. Or maybe it was smart enough to figure out that roads are a people thing but not smart enough to remember he can fly. Whichever it was, I stepped out in the road, Mr.Jen stopped traffic, and I escorted the swan to the soybean field across the street. Sorry, farmer.
Ashes of Love At some point in mid-May, I had watched pretty much all the English-language stuff on Netflix. And that’s when I found out about C-dramas. Friends. Romans (just in case the Swiss guard checks this blog), countrythem: Chinese fantasy television shows are like nothing you’re ever going to see on English-language TV. First of all, there’s like sixty episodes in a season, I guess. Second, production value and imagination is off the fucking roof. The heroine, Jinmi, is the secret daughter of this flower goddess who cursed/blessed her by making it impossible for her to fall in love. So, she thinks she’s just a random fairy. Or a grape. Sometimes they say she’s a grape? It might be the translation. But she does wear purple a lot. Anyway, there’s a whole thing where she sneaks into heaven in the sleeve of a phoenix she rescued. But the phoenix is Xufeng, a prince of the Heavenly Realm. And he’s one of those brooding, stand-offish heroes, while his foster brother, Runyu, who is…a dragon-water-thing? Look, this show has a lot going on in it, okay. Anyway, Runyu falls in love with Jinmi and Xufeng is in love with her, too, but she’s only interested in getting as much magical power as she possibly can. I’m not done with it yet, but at the moment they’re like, amnesiacs? Or something? Game of Thrones could never.
My friend Scarlett wrote a book for me. My lovely friend, Scarlett Parrish, wrote a book to appeal directly to my crush on Craig Ferguson. Take Me Home is a love-letter to Edinburgh, as I said in my longer review here. This was such a fun experience because I got to watch the story come to life in my Twitter DMs before I read the actual book. Definitely a highlight of 2020.
So many plants and mushrooms! One of the biggest revelations I had in 2020 was hey, I can smoke a lot of the plants that grow in my yard. I’m blessed to live out in the country in the Midwest in North America. There are so many plants just growing around, and once you pay attention, you can find medicine for free. This is like, no shit, real medicine, not “use essential oils.” There is a plant that grows all over my yard that is an honest-to-bog sedative. Like, I researched these little flowers that Native people throughout the Midwest and New England used as a sedative for women in childbirth. I put some in a joint for funsies and I’ve never felt so god damn relaxed. I’ve been buying garlic for years like a dipshit when there is a 20 x 20-ish patch of it just growing behind the landlord’s pole barn. He didn’t know, either! And we always pick the black raspberries (not blackberries!) that grow against the barn, but I didn’t realize I could make tea out of them. Did you know there’s a plant affectionately known as “witch’s Xanax” because a tincture of it can calm you down? Obviously, you have to be careful with this shit (especially with mushrooms, which are also free and just everywhere here but which are also sentient, trust me) and not just fuck around because you will die if you do that, but I have had a lot of downtime due to my increasingly miserable chronic pain condition and I got fascinated with this shit. I can’t wait for spring to get me some wild oats and eat dandelion leaves out of someone else’s yard who doesn’t have a dog.
Spiders. One of the best and most rewarding experiences of 2020 has been my increasing relationship with and understanding of spiders. I used to be afraid of them until I realized that it wasn’t them I was afraid of, but hurting them by accident. I didn’t want them to touch me because they surprise me and I might swipe at them. After I realized this, I suddenly didn’t have a problem with them anymore. And since then, I’ve taken time to really watch what they’re doing and tried to communicate with them. And you know what? So many people are missing out. Jumping spiders are really funny and they have personalities. Wolf Spiders can be aggressive, but they’re mostly curious. That only spiders I’m leery of now are tarantulas, because I can’t get over my fear of hurting one. They’re just way more fragile than the little spiders.
What were your highlights of 2020. There has to be something. Even if it’s just spiders.