As in previous years, and in accordance to a longstanding tradition begun—with two close friends—in the wee early hours of 2002, here are my five favorite moments of 2015. Happy New Year, everyone. Please don’t do anything stupid.
1) Phish, New Year’s Eve run (12/31/14 through 1/3/15), Miami, FL.
On the plane in Atlanta, just before we start taxiing for takeoff to Miami, the captain comes out from the cockpit to set the stage.
“Now, a lotta y’all going to Miami for a lotta different reasons,” he says. He pauses, smiling. “There’s that bowl game [between Mississippi State and Georgia Tech], for instance.” Another pause.
“If you’re a Mississippi State fan, raise your hand.” There is scattered clapping, two or four people. “If you’re a Georgia Tech fan, raise your hand.” A few more claps.
“Now, see, that’s OK,” he says. “But here’s what I really care about. If you’re a Phish fan, raise your hand.” And a third of the plane starts cheering, me included.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” the pilot says. “This is your captain speaking, and Miami is ready for you, Phish fans.”
And that’s basically how I rung in the New Year, with four stellar, long shows full of light, exuberance, whimsy, and 17,000 other oddballs crammed into American Airlines Arena. My karma must have been great in 2014, because not only I managed to land a ticket to all four concerts through Phish’s ticket lottery but because I got floor seats for every night. So, I was about eight rows back from the stage for the whole shebang.
Miami was wonderful, too.
2) Bob Mould’s Workbook.
I’m officially a Bloomsbury author, or I will be soon. I said my piece here, which sums up as this: “I’m writing a book with one of my dearest, oldest friends, about one of my favorite musicians, on one of the albums that bonded our friendship in the first place, for a music-related series that I love and respect dearly.” (You can find out more, from the publisher, here.) The proposal process was long and arduous, and the book-writing will be even more so, but it’s joyful and makes me a little woozy. I didn’t believe it until I got my copy of the fully signed contract in the mail, and only believed it fully when I got the first half of the royalty advance. But it’s happening—Dan Couch and I have already interviewed some of the album’s musicians and producers, and we’ll be handing in the manuscript within six months. Me, in print form: Who’d a thunk it?
3) I ran a half-marathon (10/25/15).
I ran AthHalf, the local autumn half-marathon that’s quickly become an Athens institution. There were about 2100 of us, sweating, cursing ourselves, taking step by step by step, iPods blaring inspiration ranging from punk rock to Zen koans into our ears, at 7:30am, running through downtown, neighborhoods, and campus. Every two miles, there was a band. Every three miles had porta-potties, water stations, quick-energy snacks. Every step of it had cheering onlookers.
But that’s the moment, 25 October 2015, from roughly 7:30am to 10:30am. (I finished around 10:15am, a good 25 minutes faster than I had anticipated.) The more important thing, for me, was the four-month process of training, of forcing myself to get out in the sweltering Georgia summer four days a week, gradually—every Saturday—adding another mile of running to my regimen. I had to learn how to think about my body—how I used it, what I put into it, how to build its strength and endurance. I’m not good at that. But AthHalf got me to be better than I was, with the added boost that running pushes out the negativity and anxiety in my head, at least for that hour that I’m doing it.
4) A rally to end gun violence, hosted by Moms Demand Action, Atlanta, GA (12/12/15).
December 14th was the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre. Not much has changed since then, except for the fact that mass shootings are now so common in this country that they don’t necessarily make front-page news anymore. Sometimes, our sick love affair with guns leaves me so heartbroken and disgusted that I see red, or just stew in my own melancholia. So, when an Atlanta friend tweeted about a commemorative rally at Woodruff Park, my first inclination was to pass on it. But I’m glad I went. About a hundred of us were there, decked out in orange. The speeches were brief, moving, and tearful. We released a balloon, one by one, for each of the 27 Sandy Hook victims, and the trail lit up the cloudless sky with sorrow and wonder. I paused to remember that each revolution starts with a single turn of the wheel. I also remembered that mothers, in this country, tend to produce amazing social change when they become activists, from MADD to the Civil Rights Movement. There’s hope. There always is. I’m glad I reminded myself of that.
5) D’Angelo concert at the Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA (6/14/15).
I said my piece. It was some show.