If 2010 was a year of flux, 2011 was a year of...continued flux, I suppose, mixed with a little bit of settling in. I don't really feel like getting too introspective, but suffice it to say that mentally I am in a much better place than I was at this time last year or the year before. Here are some of the things and events that affected/occupied/entertained me.
1. The Nike Training Club App: If you are like me and find weight training essential to looking and feeling good but hate going to the gym to do it because entering the weight room is just such an atrocity, this app is a godsend. It's like a personal trainer - it tells you what to do, how to do it and how long to do it for. But it's free. And it will kick your ass. I completed 3200 minutes of training this year. That's a lot of jump squats, which is to say a lot of pain, which is to say a lot of soreness, which is also to say a lot of muscle. It feels strange to pledge fealty to a dreaded corporation during the year of the 99%, but I have to give Nike credit. This is a phenomenal app and a great service.
2. Breaking Bad: Last summer my brother and I ripped through all four seasons of this grotesque but riveting saga of an ordinary man who tranforms into a depraved scumbag. In the end I found it absolutely chilling and more or less totally implausible, but in the meantime it kept me rapt with attention, and I thought about it a lot. I've been working an essay about the emotional health of men I know that was inspired by this show, and if it ever sees the light of day, I'll have the travails of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to thank for it.
3. Kurt Vile: I first heard this guy in 2009 through a free Subpop sampler on iTunes, which included the song Overnight Religion, which hooked me immediately. This year he released Smoke Ring For My Halo, and it was on repeat in my car, on my laptop, on my ipod and in my head for most of this year. His sound is reverberating, atmospheric and expansive, his lyrics are ambigous but affecting and he has truly incredible hair. I couldn't get enough of him this year. Play his records in your house, loud, and let them echo in your brain like they have in mine. Sublime.
4. Peet's Coffee in Larchmont Village: Iced coffees. A lot of them. (Plus endearing baristas and some of the best people watching in L.A.)
5. The Lonesome Dove: My dear friend Amy has been bugging me about this book for years, and I finally got around to reading it last spring. It is very long and it took me a little while to get hooked, but it is SO GOOD. Horses, whores, carrots (penises), moustaches, whiskey benders, the great American west. Some of the most memorable characters ever created. Highly recommended.
6. The Hairpin: A delightful, diversionary site for smart, cool women. A great mix of fluff, humor, advice, and discussion. The best commenters on the Internet, for my money.
7. Finding my genre (for now): This was the biggest thing that happened to me this year. For years I've been writing blog posts, journal entries and other littlethings I thought of as trifles, while at the same time trying to force myself into writing in more popular formats like short stories, screenplays, novel, etc. I finally decided to work on some memoir stuff this year and took classes with the fabulous Chris Daley at Writing Workshops Los Angeles, and somewhere along the way discovered that I'm an essayist at heart. Despite having read and loved many essays and essay writers over the years, I never realized this was something you could actually study, write and publish. I had my first piece published this year on Salon.com, have another one coming out soon and a whole collection in the works. It feels good to finally have something concrete to aspire to after all this meandering and searching. I still want to write a novel someday, but, uh, baby steps.
All in all, I feel good going into 2012. Interested to see what's in store.
Happy New Year!