And just like that, it’s (nearly) over. 2020 that is. Not that it means anything, time is, after all, a social construction and the perception of time is entirely subjective. 2020 case in point.
Anyways, before we get too philosophical, I thought this would be a good time to think through just how we got here. I started off the year in suburban California, and now I’m back to end the year in suburban California, one last time. I’ve officially finished my first (calendar) year in NYC, if that even counts. It feels strange. I had gotten used to the rhythm of life in New York, and yet I still feel so foreign to the city. I still feel so damn Californian. Not that it’s a bad thing. But I feel stranded in this lonely place where I don’t know the place I currently live in and yet I no longer feel a part of or in touch with the place I once belonged.
Anyways, before we get too sentimental (we’re catching those holiday feelings hard this year), let’s start at the beginning. Of the month, I mean.
fan girl of democracy
Remember the election? Oh yeah, that was this year. That day and that other day, were this month, just a few weeks ago. Hell, the election is still happening. Raise your hand if you didn’t know each state had its own schedule for certifying votes until this year. I sure didn’t, and Election Day is my Super Bowl.
Speaking of Election Day, how did you spend election day? I mean, add it to the list of strange things that have become normalized in 2020, but I was high key offended that we didn’t get election day off (I have never gotten Election Day off in my previous jobs, but that was besides the point). Of course, we ended up getting the day unofficially off. As in, it was a “Zoom free” day and no one was really encouraged to work. Again, add it to the list of 2020 things. We’ve grown accustomed to this grey area, the one that started off with free days to disperse some stress during layoffs and continued with the “listening and learning” days during the BLM protests and on Juneteenth. I mean, we’re getting off topic here, but how surreal is it for companies to be expected to make Juneteenth a holiday, and for major conglomerates to be not only hashtagging #blacklivesmatter, but running entire ad campaigns around it?
I digress. Back to Election Day. The nervous quiet before the storm. Like the opposite of 2016 (dear god that feels like a lifetime ago), back when people showed up to work on Election Day proudly wearing power suits and “I’m with her” pins. Only for things to spiral out of control. This year, it was quiet but you could feel the tension in the air. The fraught anticipation throughout the day, knowing that we wouldn’t know anyways, but still that pit in your stomach kept nagging. I’m not sure if it was better or worse for me to have the day off. All I did that day was stress eat* and binge The Queen’s Gambit**. And obviously to no avail, since my anxiety just continued building up all week. It had felt like a week by the time we reached Tuesday night.
*coffee and pastry in the morning, actually went on a walk to get lunch because I needed air, and then an evening run to the grocery store to just grab chips and oreos for dinner because I felt sick to the stomach and apparently was compelled to make myself feel sicker
**an amazing show (ty Netflix for truly stepping up to the plate this year in our time of need) but probably not the best choice for Election Day on my part
Also, while we’re at it, I suppose this was irrelevant this year anyways, but man it sucks to be on the east coast on Election Night. It’s practically bed time by the time California closes its polls.
But anyways I dreamt of blue and red states and my anxiety woke me up bright and early for another day of stressing on Wednesday, this time, my second screen being the election map (tabs of NYT, CNN, FiveThirtyEight and NPR open at the ready). The stress snacking continued on and I was checked out and mad at every meeting on my calendar.
By Thursday, I think we all realized we were in it for the long run. I fell asleep deep in Election Tiktok (which made me feel 15% better), and when I closed my eyes all I could see was an election map with Georgia flickering blue and red. It was like the ceiling chessboard in The Queen’s Gambit, except for me it was the election map and the future of our country haunting me.
I literally don’t even really remember Friday happening. I think I stress baked.
I literally don’t even really remember Friday happening. I think I stress baked.
And then it was Saturday. That other day. That day of joy.
On Saturday morning, bright and early, I went on a long walk. I wanted to see the autumn colors. I wanted peace before any chaos. Eventually, chaos did settle in. Some time in the late morning, I’m assuming the very moment The New York Times sent out the push notification officially calling the election for Biden, the city erupted in unadulterated joy. There was screaming, honking, shouting in the streets. It was a feeling so foreign after these months, suddenly freeing the city of the pandemic’s grips, suddenly full of life. So many people were out in the streets, not doing anything in particular, just laughing and crying and popping champagne and singing. So many more celebrated inside. That evening, I watched the Biden and Harris speeches and cried. And then dove back into Election Tiktok and cried. And then scrolled through Instagram and cried. Even the cat was concerned and kept an eye on me, the strange human who is shaking but doesn’t quite seem sad.
The election would only drag on from there. Our broken society and wounded country has a long road ahead, and even though, for a moment in New York City, everything seemed ok. It’s only the beginning. But that’s ok. After this year, we’ll take it. Let’s put this pent up energy to work.
As someone who has spent the better part of her childhood and all of her adult years in southern California, autumn is a novel experience. It’s the perfect weather. It’s jacket weather (oh how I dreamed of jacket season, I practically moved here for an excuse to buy and wear jackets). You get to do fall shit. The brisk air makes a warm cup of coffee that much nicer. The holidays are right around the corner. And the world turns into beautiful warm fall colors.
In the city, according to the internet, this happens a little later than upstate and in other parts of the region. So November, apparently, is peak fall colors. And damn did it deliver. Maybe I’m just a wide eyed Angeleno, but it looks pretty damn fall to me.
It’s crazy to think that we once were free to wander as we pleased around a city. To pack into cramped restaurants. To weave our way through a crowded street.
I’ve been thinking a lot about movement lately, and how much it has changed this year. And how it might never be the same again. It feels more prevalent in some parts of the city than others. In Chinatown, it feels a little less strained. I do feel more like I’m wandering the streets than I am dancing around 6 feet apart.
The day after that beautiful Saturday was the day of Welcome to Chinatown’s second food crawl, a fun, socially-distant food activity that supports local businesses while allowing foodies to hop along from one place to the next, redeeming snacks at each stop of the map, and getting to know the neighborhood scene a little more intimately. It was the perfect afternoon activity for what was probably the last sunny and warm weekend of the year. This is how I want to get to know this city. A little bite at a time, not lingering any place for too long, because there is so much more to see. And always looking around along the way.
Nothing to see here, just an ode to what will probably end up being my last outdoor dining (and dine-in in general) experience in 2020. Milu, you did us good.
I miss places. I love places. I miss dear Los Angeles and my favorite LA places so much. And I can’t go visit them, not the way I want to. With even outdoor dining banned, I’m desperate. And so thankfully, I did my research, made a plan, and built together a curated holiday meal with a pick up tour from some of my favorite places.
Anyways, I never imagined I’d have a day in LA dancing around my favorite places but only stopping by each on briefly. At the end of the day, we drove back home via PCH, once a bother, now a treat. Watching the sunset go by over the ocean and taking note of the familiar and new along the road, winding through the canyons by muscle memory as the daylight faded into dusk.
Is it possible to be excited to embark on a new life in New York City (yes, still waiting) while also looking forward to the day I retire back to LA?