My mantra for the end of 2009 has been: "well, it was way better than 2008." And my hope for the new year and the new decade is that the forward progress continues. As I mentioned, the Oh-ohs have been a decade of challenge for Mama: death, divorce, Katrina, cancer, Ike, heartbreak, job loss, and other generic disasters too personal to mention (and in no particular order). Of course, over the course of the decade I also met lots of wonderful people (including Roommate and all y'all); bought a house; found my professional "calling;" survived cancer, Katrina, and Ike; and generally grew up, a lot.
So, all that being said, I thought I would make a year-end list of personal highlights. I'm completely unqualified to pass any sort of comprehensive judgment on any of these topics. This is all about what Mama dug and didn't dig in 2009.
Musical Discovery of 2009: The Low Anthem
Lots of "Best of 2009" music lists have listed The Avett Brothers right at the tippy top. But last night I was listening to Avett Brothers on World Cafe and thought, "they're doing the same thing that the Low Anthem does, but Low Anthem does it better." The Low Anthem's version of hymn-y Americana is more haunting, more wistful, and more melodious. I first discovered The Low Anthem when they opened for Lisa Hannigan, another fabulous discovery, at the first and last show I'll ever see at the 930 Listening Room (not going there again because they're part of the Sojourn church, and those Sojourners don't like the gays.). Check them out.
Best Thing I Put in My Mouth in 2009 (beverage category): Cider Manhattan at Theater Square Marketplace.
What I said here.
Best Thing I Put in My Mouth in 2009 (food category): Octopus Bagna Cauda at Proof
It can't be that hard to make-- it's just octopus and butter and garlicky goodness, but somehow I just can't imagine going to Proof and not ordering it. I know it's kind of cliche to cite a dish at one of our city's most tony restaurants, created by a superstar chef, so on a more plebeian-level, I also adore the Yum Yum roll at Oishi Sushi on Bardstown. It really lives up to its name.
Best new TV Show of 2009: Modern Family
Modern Family gives me renewed faith in the sitcom. The pilot is easily one of the top five funniest shows I've ever seen. And I'm a huge fan of anything including the adorable Julie Bowen. I'm also really digging Flash Forward. It almost filled the Lost-sized hole in my heart for the fall.
Best Movie Money Spent in 2009: (tie) Up & The Fantastic Mr. Fox
No, I don't have kids. And no, I don't know what it says about Hollywood 2009 that my two favorite movies of the year were animated. I saw a lot of movies this year-- it will be a fun year to watch the Oscars-- but nothing stands out the way that these two movies did. I also think The Frog Princess would make my top ten list. Maybe even my top five.
Best Thing I Read in 2009: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
I know it wasn't published in 2009, but I just discovered it. It wasn't a great reading year for me. I'm still getting a handle on my attention span, post-chemo. One of my resolutions for 2009 is to get back on the reading and to get back on the updating of Lou Reads.
Best Theater I Saw in 2009: (tie) Absalom by Zoe Kazan and Lookingglass Alice by David Catlin
It would be impossible to decide between these two. Apples and oranges. Absalom was memorable, thought-provoking, beautifully-acted and -staged classic theater. Lookinglass was psychological spectacle. Both were worth the cost of an Actors Theater subscription by themselves.
And that counts as my Best Local Investment of 2009 (and every year I've lived here): a subscription to Actors Theater.
That being said, the Best Louisville Evening a Very Little Money Can Buy of 2009: a night at a Louisville Bats game. Especially when it's cheapo beer night. You can easily get a ticket, have a few beers and a hot dog, and while away a gorgeous summer night for less than going to see a movie and having popcorn and a coke.
Best Crazy Decision I Made in 2009: Saying "yes" when someone I hadn't seen in 15 years asked me to spend two weeks traveling around Newfoundland and Labrador with him.
That's pretty self-explanatory. Post-cancer, one of my resolutions was to say "yes" more often when presented with wild opportunities. Matt and I had a fantastic time, were fairly easy travel companions, and saw a part of the world that I certainly never would have sought out if left to my own devices. Turns out, when your friend is just a great guy in general, a 15-year gap in your shared history dissolves pretty fast.
Best Thing that Happened to Me in 2009: Making friends
Mama's a hermit at heart. Sometimes it takes threats, guilt, and a crowbar to get me out of the house. And my anti-social-ness has been facilitated these past few years by the (occasional) presence of Roommate-- I have a built-in activity buddy when Roommate is in town. But one of my resolutions in 2008 was to "talk to more strangers," and in January, I went to Michelle Jones's "Let them Tweet Cake" event and the Louisville Geek Dinner, where I met all kinds of fabulous geeky folks and was convinced to join Twitter. Then on Valentine's Day, I accepted a "blind-datish" invitation to a gathering of theater and public radio types at Ramsi's and met even more (with overlap). And now, I am proud to say that I have something that passes as a genuine social life. It's kind of amazing how much happier it has made me.
So, what categories have I missed? What are your "Best of 09's"?