New Music Friday: Damn the Word by The Hackles

This was another great week for new music. Both Joseph and Nickel Creek dropped new singles in conjunction with announcements of forthcoming albums. Instead of writing about one of those songs by bands that I have written about before, I decided to go with a song and band that are new to me, although the band itself is not new. I had never heard of The Hackles until this week. It’s actually surprisingly hard to find out much about them at least in the 10 minutes I spent looking. Their website doesn’t offer up much information and they don’t appear to have a Wikipedia page. NPR tells me that the band is composed of Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie from Blind Pilot and Halli Anderson from River Whyless and Horse Feathers. It’s unclear to me if this band is something they do on the side or if they’re all just doing this now. Either way they have several albums under their belt that escaped my notice. I will have to go back and listen to them because their new song “Damn the Word” is right up my alley with its folky goodness. So if you’re like me and this band has passed you by until now, take a listen.

Last Week Delight 1/24/2022

I am not feeling very delightful right now. I’m ready to take my body and hurl it off a cliff. Don’t worry. I’m not threatening to commit suicide here. I want my being to go on, I just want a new vessel to keep it in because my current body is making me pretty miserable. I upped a dosage on a medication back in the fall, which led to some pretty terrible reflux issues. So I’ve now been off that drug for about 10 days, but things are so screwed up that even being off the medication and pivoting to a low acid diet is not helping that much. For now that means pretty much eating practically nothing. Seriously try finding recipes that don’t include onions and/or garlic in any form. It’s particularly impossible for vegetarian meals, so I’ve been eating some fish at home. That means I have to cook my own dinner now because my husband won’t cook meat. Plus a fun, weird side effect of the new medication I’m on to replace the one I dropped is feeling like a have a catch in my side all the time. So that’s super fun. And my foot is still not better, partly because I haven’t been completely resting it like I should. I just scaled way, way back on what I was doing instead of getting off it completely. I just hate being a complete couch potato. Not good for my physical or mental health. I spent way too much time standing on this weekend, so now it seems as bad as ever and we’re starting from square one. So basically the few joys I had in my life like my daily walk and food don’t exist right now either. But I’m still over here trying to keep that hoping machine running. Don’t you like how I start all these delights posts with like 10 minutes of whining first? I’ll try to be better.

  • One of the reasons that I was standing around a lot over the weekend was that we went to the Harbor Point Ice Festival. It wasn’t really what I was expecting, and it was a little lame but it was also nice to get out of the house and go do something. Since it coincided with the Lunar New Year, it was Lunar New Year themed this year. There were ice carvings of all the animals from the Chinese zodiac. While we were there they had dragon dances and we got to see someone do an ice carving demonstration. I’m not sure I’d bother going again in future years, but I’m glad we made the effort to go this year.
  • I got the official word that I’m finally done with my Invisalign treatment. I’m still not done done because I had to make an appointment in a few weeks to get the attachments taken off my teeth and for them to give me my retainers, but it’s nice to know that I’m pretty much there. Though there seemed to be some suggestion that I wear the retainer on my upper teeth all the time. That does not seem realistic. I will happily wear it to bed, but I just want to be able to eat things when I want (if my body ever lets me again) without having to worry about taking something in an out of my mouth and brushing my teeth after.
  • I’ve started off the new year with a couple of really good books. I read a whole bunch of middling books last year. I read very few books that I was really in love with, so I was starting to forget how great it is when you’re reading a book you don’t want to put down. I’m back to a middling book right now that I wouldn’t have kept reading except that it’s for a book club, but hopefully the first couple books portend a better reading year this year. In case you’re wondering what the books are, I have advanced reader’s copies of both so you can’t buy them yet, but they’re Prom Mom by Laura Lippman and Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. Incidentally two books set in Baltimore by two Baltimore based authors. Charm City Rocks in particular, which is as the title suggests a romance book heaving featuring music, might be very much in my wheelhouse and perhaps something other people may not love as much as I did. I adored it though and think it would make a really great tv series. So someone who has that power should adapt it. Also, I have to say that I was a little surprised that I found out through the acknowledgements of Prom Mom that Laura Lippman and David Simon got divorced back in 2021. They’re some of the most well known people in the city and it’s Smalltimore after all, so I’m a little shocked that I hadn’t heard in some other way before now. Like they obviously don’t owe me or anyone else information about their private lives, but if I was going to find out that information somehow I was definitely not expecting it to be through an off-hand mention in the author acknowledgements of one of Laura Lippman’s books.
  • Speaking of Laura Lippman, this morning on Twitter she posted a snippet from the poem “Improvement” by Danusha Laméris. It seemed very apropos for where I’m at right now

“So much goes downhill: our joints

wearing out with every mile,

the delicate folds of the eardrum

exhausted from years of listening.

I’m grateful for small victories.”

  • I love this Reel posted by Brandi Carlile of her daughter Eli reacting to some new cartoon that she is apparently in. Her little voice saying “this is amazing” is the sweetest. (Sorry I don’t know why it’s embedding weird.)
  • And now it’s time for your musical delights. There were many this week. Music never lets me down. Also, this week was a prime example of why I will never stop listening to the radio. How else would I accidentally encounter songs I forgot about. I know a lot of people stream their own music in their cars these days, but I’m still 100% radio all the way. I mean my car is old and has no bluetooth connection, but I’d listen to the radio on my commute anyway.
  • As I mentioned in my most recent new music Friday post there was a ton of excellent new music out this week including new music by boygenius, Peter Gabriel, Arlo Parks, and Daughter.
  • Some days I wind up with a really good music mix on my way to work. Those are the best days. This week I had a stretch of “Take a Picture” by Filter, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, and “Freedom is a Highway” by Jimmie Allen and Brad Paisley.
  • And finally I will leave with another song I heard on the radio this week that I had completely forgotten about. Like I could have named songs until the end of time and never mentioned this one, and yet as soon as it came on I was bopping along to it and singing every word.

New Music Friday: Emily I’m Sorry by boygenius

This week has seen a lot of good singles portending new albums I’m really excited about. There were new songs by Peter Gabriel, Arlo Parks, and Daughter just to name a few. However, the most exciting drop of the week was not one, not two, but three songs off the new boygenius album, The Record, due out on March 31! This is the most exciting news ever. boygenius is a supergroup composed of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker. They put out an EP back in 2016 and that seemed like maybe that was that. But then seemingly out of nowhere they announced the band was back together and putting out an actual full length album. There is a suggestion that they will tour behind it. Right now the only date that is listed is for Coachella, which you could not pay me enough money to go to. So hopefully they tour somewhere near me this time, and if they don’t I’m probably gonna have to travel to see them because I don’t want to miss out again. Of the three songs they released, I’m sharing “Emily I’m Sorry” because I think it showcases the way their three voices interplay with each other in a beautiful way. I can’t wait for the full album. Oh, and I also recommend reading this Rolling Stone cover story about them.

Last Week Delight 1/17/2023

I don’t really have much to report on the delights front this week. I am temporarily sidelined from my daily walks because I screwed up my foot, so I’m trying to be good and rest it for a couple of weeks. I hate not exercising, but better to get it under control now rather than injuring it worse and dragging it out longer. I realize that a lot of my delights come from things I observe on my walks, so without walks I’m a little short.

  • It was nice to have a three day weekend. All weekends should be three day weekends.
  • My favorite podcast, Make Me Smart came back from their winter break last week. It was nice to have some new episodes after they were off for almost a month.
  • January 11 was the two year anniversary of my #FlamingoADay project on Instagram. Back in January of 2021 I needed a little motivation to go out into the cold and dark to take walks, so I decided to start posting a photo a day of the flamingos I found in my neighborhood because there are a lot. I figured I would be able to do it for a couple of months, long enough to get me to spring. Little did I know that I would be able to post photos for just over two years. I posted my last flamingo today. There were several other times I thought I was running out of flamingos to post and more would always show up, especially when a decorating holiday like Halloween or Christmas came around. I even found 3 more new ones literally on the afternoon that I had already posted what I told people was my final post. I finished posting those photos today, and now I am officially out of flamingo photos. It was a fun little project that made me walk around streets in my neighborhood that I probably never would have bothered to walk on. And it seemed to bring joy to people. I’m going to miss it.
  • Gentlemen, take a seat. Ladies, let’s talk bras. For years and years I’ve been getting Facebook ads for Third Love bras. I absolutely do not trust any products I’m being advertised on social media, so I always just sort of ignored them. Plus they are more money than I generally want to spend on bras. Given I wear them more than almost any other clothing that I own, I probably shouldn’t be so chintzy, but why does a tiny piece of cloth cost so much? Anyway, I have rarely found bras that I feel like fit me well. The straps are always falling down, or they are just slightly too small, or slightly too big. Third Love finally got me to give them a try with a sale and selling me on their 1/2 sizes. I thought might as well give it a try. I can return them if they don’t fit. Turns out the 1/2 size was the key to my problem. They fit like everyone says a bra should. They clasp for me on the last hook. The cup covers my whole breast. The little piece of cloth between my breasts actually rests of my chest. The straps don’t fall down. I am not super in love with the fluted look of the straps on the t-shirt bra, which is what I bought. But no one else really sees them but me and my husband, and I can guarantee he does not care and would have no idea what I was talking about. So I should probably start throwing out some of my old ratty bras and upgrading them when I can snag these bras on sale.

And now for your musical delights

  • My husband got me a gift certificate to a local record store for Christmas so I can feed my new vinyl hobby. I’ve been enjoying finding cheap copies of old albums from the 70s and 80s. I popped over there after church last Sunday and managed to add a couple of Lionel Richie albums, a Steve Winwood album, a Loggins and Messina album, and an Expose album to my collection for not very much money. I feel like Expose weirdly got lost in the 80s and rarely shows up even in 80s music mixes despite having a double platinum album that had 4 top 10 hits including one that went to number one. I had the Exposure album on cassette as a child and loved it. I’m happy to have it again on vinyl this time.
  • My husband and I have been watching an old BBC show called the Detectorists. I’ll have more to say about the show whenever I write my next TV Diary post, but today I have the theme song for you because I have very much been enjoying hearing it every episode.

New Music Friday: Radio by Margo Price feat. Sharon Van Etten

Today is the first big release date of 2023 and Margo Price is back with her highly anticipated album Strays. The whole album is great. It was apparently written over the course of six days while on a magic mushroom trip with her husband and musical collaborator Jeremy Ivey. I’ve heard it referred to even by her if I recall correctly as psychedelic country. Basically Margo Price just continues to write her own musical story and make what she wants with no desire or expectation to be part of the mainstream country music world. I had a hard time choosing which song off the album I wanted to share, but I eventually went with “Radio”, which features Sharon Van Etten. It definitely has a Sharon Van Etten flare to it, but I also feel like it somewhat pulls all the musical threads of the whole album together in one song. Have a listen.

Last Week Delight 1/10/2022

It’s time for my/your weekly delights. Let’s get to it.

  • You may recall the salt box art I’ve written about here before. The same woman who is the artist behind that has now expanded her guerilla art in the city with phone booth art. There are still a lot of empty pay phone booths scattered around the city. Some of them have broken phones still in them. Some are just the shell. She has started placing artwork inside of them. My most favorite one so far is this one of Lionel Richie saying Hello.
  • I was talking last week about hashtags or intentions for the year with some friends from church. I was struggling to come up with a short word or phrase that was actually an intention and not something like stuck or hopeless, which is pretty much what I feel going into this year since it’s unlikely anything is really going to change from the state we’re in. Then I saw someone online somewhere share Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Rulin’s from 1943. The whole list is pretty advice, but based on how I’m feeling I connected with number 19, “Keep hoping machine running”. If you don’t already have the hope, do what you can to find it I guess.
  • I was on my way to work the other day and stopped at a stoplight. Someone on the cross street drove by me in a DeLorean. I wonder if they were headed back to the future. I’ll see myself out.
  • I saw a really cool hawk flying around on my normal walking route the other day, which is not something I normally see.
  • I’m trying to take more advantage of the art we have in this city, especially since several of our museums are free. I walked over to the Baltimore Museum of Art on Saturday morning to check out their current paid exhibit, “A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration”. It wasn’t my most favorite exhibit. There were a few cool pieces of art, but there was way too much video art for my taste. I just have never been able to connect with most video art. I did really like the Omar Ba: Political Animals exhibit. Ba is from Senegal, and I believe if I’m remembering correctly that this is his first major U.S. exhibit.
  • And now for your musical delight I have the Choir! Choir! Choir! version of the Tears for Fears song “Shout”.

Last Week Delight 1/3/2023

First delights post of 2023. My first delight should probably be that I remembered to write 2023 instead of 2022. I don’t have high hopes that 2023 is going to be any better for me, but good riddance 2022.

  • My first delight is related to why I don’t have many delights. It was a pretty low key week for me. I was off work, and I didn’t do a whole lot. It was a nice relaxing time.
  • Obviously my trip to New York was a delight, but you already have a full run down of that in my previous post.
  • I got a walk in with a couple of friends on New Year’s Eve before the rain set in.
  • I had no idea what to get my husband for his birthday this year. It’s always hard because it’s so close to Christmas, so I have to come up with multiple gifts back to back, and he’s no help. So this year I gave him either the best gift or the worst gift. He’s the one who does almost all the cooking in our house, so I gave him 12 coupons to redeem for me cooking dinner instead of him. I chose 12 because I figure that’s one per month, though he isn’t required to redeem them that way. He seemed very amused by the gift if nothing else.
  • In the before times we used to have a big New Year’s Eve party every year. It had sort of dwindled a lot in the years even before the pandemic because too many people had kids and couldn’t come out anymore. I’m still mostly avoiding large indoor gatherings where it doesn’t make sense for me to be masked unless people have tested themselves for COVID, so this year instead of a party we just had one other couple over. We had a little dinner party, played some games, and walked over the neighborhood ball drop at midnight. It was a nice chill way to ring in the new year.
  • I love our neighborhood ball drop. It’s on the same block that has all the Christmas lights. My favorite part about it is just seeing all the people pour out of their houses and head over there shortly before midnight. It’s a very eclectic mix of people, and it makes for lots of good people watching. It was also nice this year that it was relatively warm and the rain had stopped before midnight. Way better than the years when it’s freezing cold.
  • I discovered that moths ate the sweater I normally wear on Christmas, so I was on the look out for a new red sweater in the after Christmas sales. It was actually way harder than I was expecting it to be because every time I found something I liked it was out of stock in my size. I never shop at Talbot’s, but I figured they probably have a red sweater. They did indeed have one that I liked and was super on sale, but I decided I didn’t want to pay the $9 in shipping for it. There’s a Talbot’s not that far from my house (I didn’t even have to go to the mall!), and I figured I might as well run over there and see if they had one in stock. They did indeed have exactly one red sweater left in the store, and it was in my size. Score!
  • It is no secret that I have love polar bears. One year for my birthday my husband flew me to Buffalo to spend the day watching their two polar bear cubs at the zoo. My dream trip is to go to Churchill, Manitoba to go on one of the polar bear watching excursions there. The polar bear at the Toledo Zoo recently had twin polar bear cubs. You can watch them online for part of the day, though mostly they’ve only been sleeping when I’ve popped in. Will my first post-COVID plane trip involve a trip to Toledo? Whose to say?

Hey look at that. It turns out I had more delights than I thought since I literally had two things written in the notes app on my phone. And now for your musical delights.

  • I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors. One of this year’s inductees was Amy Grant. Many people probably remember her from her cross-over pop album, Heart to Heart. I of course had that on CD, but my favorite part of her tribute was the medley they did of her most popular straight up Christian hits from the 80s. We had two of those cassettes, and I listened to them a ton as a kid. That medley was a pure joy hit of nostalgia.
  • This video of Fiona Apple covering The Waterboys “The Whole of the Moon” is two years old, but I just ran across it for the first time this week. Brilliant.

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2022

It is once again time to take a look back at the pop culture that I found to be most memorable in the past year. As a reminder, this is not a best of list. It’s things that I enjoyed the most or were most meaningful to me even if they are not necessarily what I would consider the best. Also, it includes the things that I consumed during 2022 even if they didn’t come out this year.

Movie I Saw in a Theater

I finally returned to an actual movie theater to watch a movie for the first time since the pandemic started. My movie going is still way down from the before times, but I have two whole movies to choose from in this category. Although I did enjoy Spoiler Alert, Top Gun: Maverick is the clear winner here. I had been looking forward to this movie since before the pandemic, and it was the first movie that I even considered going to a theater to see. That alone makes it memorable. I also really did love it even though the story itself is pretty lame and the characters are not really developed at all. The nostalgia and the effects made up for all that and made it a super fun movie to watch and one I definitely felt needed to be seen on the big screen.

Movie I Watched at Home

I wasn’t sure what movie I was going to include in this category this year. I watched a number of movies at home, but none of them were really standing out for me. Luckily Glass Onion came along right at the end of the year to slot into this category. I very much enjoyed Knives Out, so was excited to see this sequel. It was also a lot of fun. I think it would have been slightly better to have watched it with an audience in a theater, but I still liked it a lot.

Fiction Book

I read a lot of middling books this year, but I rated two fiction books 5 stars on Goodreads. The first was Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. I loved this book and could not put it down. The whole thing was great, but it also had one of the most jaw dropping moments I can ever recall reading in a book that just added to its greatness for me. The second book was Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. It was one of the last books I read this year. I’ve had a galley copy of it forever and finally decided to read it when I saw this book popping up on all the best of 2022 lists. I’m so glad I did. This was another book I did not want to put down. I loved these characters and the world that was created for them. It’s the book I want to tell everyone to read this year.

Non-Fiction Book

Unlike last year where I shared like 10 super depressing books in this category, I have two non-depressing books to share here this year. Back in February I read Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. This book of essays is what inspired my weekly delights posts, so it was certainly influential in my life. The second book was An Immense World by Ed Yong. He explores the world of animal senses. It’s entirely fascinating.

TV Show

As always I watched a lot of TV in 2022. Two of my favorite shows of the year were returning shows that were both produced by Mindy Kaling, Never Have I Ever and Sex Lives of College Girls. I love both of these shows that are smart, funny, romantic, and not afraid to let their characters get messy and get called out on it. I’m happy I’ll have more of both in 2023. I also loved From Cradle to the Stage, which is a documentary series with Dave Grohl and his mother talking with the mothers of other musical artists about their lives and careers. A must watch for music lovers. The show Maid was also a real stand out for me this year. It’s extremely realistic, which made it one of the most stressful shows I have ever watched.

TV Episode

It took me awhile to come up with something for this category. For awhile I was going to go with the episode of the Umbrella Academy that features the Footloose dance off, but that was more of a favorite moment because I don’t really remember anything else from that episode. I feel like part of the problem is that aside from procedurals, which I don’t watch, television is not very episodic anymore. It’s made to be one long story broken into chunks, which makes each individual episode harder to remember apart from the whole. So it makes sense that the episode I finally settled on was from a reality show, which is also a genre that is still episodic. I eventually remembered season 5, episode 8 of The Great Pottery Throw Down. I don’t know why this particular group of contestants stick in my mind, but they do. Once I watch a competition show the contestants pretty much leave my mind as soon as the season is over. Like every time they bring people back for the holiday episodes of Great British Bake Off I’m like who was this person again? On this particular episode the potters had to make a sculpture that represented themselves. Christine, who was one of my favorite contestants of the season, who had recovered from breast cancer made a sculpture that represented that and it was extremely meaningful and had all the people on the show and me in tears.

Album

Second Nature by Lucius

This album is largely about the divorce of Jess Wolfe from the band’s drummer Dan Molad. It’s the perfect blend of super upbeat songs with depressing lyrics like “Dance Around It” and heartbreaking ballads like “The Man I’ll Never Find”.

Farm to Table by Bartees Strange

This album was released to huge critical acclaim, so I was convinced that it would show up on all the best of lists at the end of the year. Then it didn’t, and I was shocked. It did top WXPN’s best of list, and I saw it one or two other places, but largely it was absent. It’s making mine though. After a couple singles from his first album and this one that didn’t immediately draw me in, I almost missed it, but the song “Mulholland Drive” made me give Bartees Strange and this album a second look, and I’m very glad I did.

Take It Like a Man by Amanda Shires

This album was the opposite of Farm to Table in that I din’t expect to see it on any best of lists and yet it showed up in a number of places. I don’t dispute it. It’s definitely Amanda Shires’ best album so far in my opinion.

PRESENT TENSE by Yumi Zouma

This is a weird album for me in that I sort of forget about it. If I hadn’t bought it on vinyl it probably would have fallen off my radar pretty quickly. I couldn’t even name you a specific song off of it, and yet every time I put it on I’m like this album is amazing and feels like it was made just for me. I don’t know how to reconcile those two things, but it certainly makes the album memorable in some way to me.

Song

It’s a little weird that two of my favorite songs of the year are by Beyonce and Taylor Swift given that I generally don’t care for either of them. But I cannot deny how catchy “Anti-Hero” is. I will probably hate it in another month after it’s been played to death and I get tired of hearing people say “It’s Me. Hi. I’m the Problem. It’s Me.”, but for now I still think it’s a fun meme and kudos to Taylor for coming up with really one of the most memeable lyrics of all time. Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” came out at the perfect time. It felt like the summer anthem we all needed.

I would be remiss to not mention Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill”. I have always loved that song, so I was extremely delighted to see it have such a moment in 2022. It’s rare for a song that old to reenter the zeitgeist to that extent. I still love it just as much as I always did even after hearing it eleventy billion times this year.

I also adored the song “You’re Not Alone” by Allison Russell and Brandi Carlile. I loved the original version of the song, but I like that it got a little more recognition and another trip around the sun in 2022 with this remake adding in Brandi. I was very happy to hear it every time it came on the radio.

I also adore the song “Lonely Nights” by Cecilia Castleman. It’s like the perfect chill vibe song that feels like it was made in a bottle just for me.

Concert

2022 was the year I finally really went back to concerts. Not fully, but enough to feel almost normal. I didn’t hesitate to go to outdoor shows other than a couple times I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize vacations. I was still more reluctant to go to indoor concerts and sat out a lot of those, but I did even venture out to a couple of shows inside. I have so many wonderful concerts from this year, it’s almost like I could name them all. It was just so wonderful to be able to enjoy live music again. Aside from being a wonderful show Allison Russell with Keyshona opening at the Barns at Wolf Trap was the most memorable because it was my first indoor concert. Brandi Carlile with the Indigo Girls and Allison Russell at Merriweather was just pure joy and felt like a mini Lilith Fair. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris at Wolf Trap was just the perfect chill summer outdoor concert. Tears for Fears was wonderful. I got to hear “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which is one of my all time favorite songs live for the first time, and I will never forget their interaction with the 12 year old girl in the front row who will probably never experience the thrill of that concert for the rest of her life. The Killers at Capitol One Arena was my first big indoor concert and the first with literally no COVID precautions in place, so it was a big deal that I stepped out of my comfort zone and went. It was one of those shows that remind you what his so special about live music with the crowd just completely in sync singing and dancing. I had the perfect vantage point to look out over the sea of people in the arena and it was a joy to behold.

Online Concert

I do like that to some degree online concerts have continued with bands often streaming the final show of a tour since they know it won’t eat into their in person ticket sales. I still watched a few of those this year. I loved watching Brandi Carlile at the Gorge with Lucius and Sarah McLachlan. Honestly Sarah McLachlan was my favorite part of that show. It reminded me how much I loved her music once upon a time and made me want to see her in concert again.

Broadway Theatre Production

I finally made it back to Broadway in 2022! I saw four shows total over two different trips. I saw Company, Music Man, Take Me Out, and A Strange Loop. Company was definitely the stand out for me. This revival in which the roles are gender switched was the first show I ever considered flying to London to see, since it opened in the West End first and it was unclear if it would move to Broadway. Thankfully it did and came back after COVID. I thought the staging was great, the gender flipping is really the only way this show works in 2022, and it meant I finally got to see Patti Lupone perform live.

Baltimore Theatre Production

I also saw some theatre in Baltimore this year as well. We did skip most of the shows we had season tickets for at the Hippodrome only seeing Pretty Woman and Hamilton out of the 7 shows in our package. We’ve also gone to a couple shows in the new season, but Tina! and Jagged Little Pill were nothing to speak of. My friend and I have not renewed our season tickets at Center Stage since the pandemic, but I did see a couple of shows there. I finally saw Our Town for the first time ever. My favorite of the shows was Ain’t No Mo’, which interestingly had a production happening in Baltimore at the same time a production of it was opening on Broadway.

Podcast

Make Me Smart

I choose what podcasts go into this category by where they fall in my listening order when new episodes are available. Make Me Smart is still the reigning champ. I wasn’t sure how this year was going to be since Molly Wood, one of the original co-hosts left at the end of the last year. I still miss her energy and the specific rapport she had with Kai Rysdaal the other co-host. However, I really do like Kimberly Adamas as the new co-host. She brings a different sensibility to the show, but I really appreciate the smart questions she asks and how she will often pause to take a step back and remind Kai and herself to put things in context for the listeners who may not be as steeped in the topic they’re discussing as they are as journalists covering it.

Drama Queens

I am also still loving the Drama Queens podcasts, which is the One Tree Hill rewatch podcast hosted by the shows three fmale leads. It’s perfect because it drops on Monday mornings, which is the morning when I don’t have a new episode of Make Me Smart to listen to.

How We Survive

How We Survive is another podcast put out by Marketplace and American Public Media, like Make Me Smart is. It’s hosted by Marketplace reporter Amy Scott. It was a podcast started by Molly Wood before she left Marketplace. I thought it might just die with her when she left, but it continued this year with Amy Scott at the helm. This season was a fascinating look at housing and climate change in Miami. Who knew listening to episodes about insurance could be so interesting (they’re not all about insurance).

The Evolving Faith Podcast

A great podcast for people trying to hold onto their faith when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to.

Podcast Episode

My favorite podcast episode of the year by far was the Switched on Pop episode in which they discuss The Killers. It’s hilarious and I could not stop thinking about it the whole time I was The Killers concert, especially whenever they sang one of the songs discussed in the episode.

Quick Trip to New York

My husband thought he was going to go up to New York for work early in December, so I had been planning on taking advantage of a free hotel room for a night and going up with him and seeing some of the Broadway shows I wanted to see before they close early in the new year. That trip wound up getting nixed, so I was disappointed that I didn’t get to do all the things I had been planning. So after we wound up not going to Boston over Christmas I suggested to my husband that we go up for an overnight trip. We went up on a Wednesday so we could see two shows on Wednesday and then head back first thing the next morning. That helped avoid a lot of traffic and more importantly reduce the insane amount of money we had to pay to park. It’s way more expensive to drive in on a weekday apparently. If we stayed one minute over 24 hours it was going to double our cost. So our goal was to get in and out in under 24 hours.

Although I knew I wanted to see Take Me Out and A Strange Loop, I did not buy tickets ahead of time because there were lots of them available. My plan was to try and get them half price from the TKTS booth, and I figured if I didn’t succeed there would still be plenty of seats open that I could pay full price for. I never wait in the line in Times Square because when we’re staying downtown if we’re there for my husband’s work I used to be able to go to the location at the Seaport, which COVID killed, or up to Lincoln Center where there isn’t usually much of a line. As predicted when we walked by the Times Square location the line was crazy long and would have taken hours to get through. We were going to make our way to Lincoln Center, but I looked at the app and saw that it was closed for some reason. So that was a bummer. We decided it wasn’t worth it to wait in the ridiculously long line and just made our way to the box offices and bought tickets. I don’t know what the discount was for, but the woman at the Take Me Out box office gave us some discount. It was still way more expensive than all the people who did get discounted tickets sitting around us, but I guess time is money and we decided that is not how we wanted to spend our time.

Take Me Out is about a baseball team in which one of the players comes out as gay and stuff that happens after that. There is a lot of nudity in the play with most of it taking place inside the team’s locker room, so you had to put your phone in a locked bag that you kept with you so that you couldn’t take photos. Of course some dumb people didn’t listen and didn’t turn their phones off before putting them in the bag, so there were multiple phones ringing during the show which was annoying. I really liked the play a lot. It was way more humorous than I was expecting and lots of good drama too. It went into previews the week after my friend and I went up to New York back in March, so we missed it then and since it had a limited run like most plays I didn’t think I would get to see it. Then they brought it back for a second run, and I’m really glad I got a chance to see it before it closed again.

I don’t really know how to describe what A Strange Loop is about, so I’m not even going to try. You can look some other summary online if you don’t know and you’re curious. I didn’t like this show as much. I did really like the music, which is one of the reasons I wanted to see it. I had really liked all the songs I had heard from it before going, and that was true during the actual show as well. However, overall I that it was just okay. The story didn’t do a whole lot for me. I’m not sad that I spent the time and money to see it though because I did really want to see it, and I don’t think there is any chance that it is going to tour despite winning the Tony Award for Best Musical because it would for sure offend a lot of people who would just be there because it was part of their season ticket package.

My husband booked us a room at the Millennium Premiere in Times Square. I would not recommend this hotel. We had to move to three different rooms for various reasons and the last one had issues too, but we didn’t realize until late because we were out and I doubt they would have been able to move us again anyway. The first room may have been fine except when we used the key to unlock the door and walked in there were already other people in that room. I’m not entirely surprised, since I don’t understand what the back end of their booking system looks like, but the two people working seemed to be struggling to find people open rooms at check in time and were telling each other room numbers not to use because they were going to use them. So I’m not entirely surprised that they double booked a room. Aside from that error I really don’t have anything bad to say about the staff as they tried to rectify all the issues and immediately brought us to the front of the line every time they saw us show back up in the lobby. After the first room they didn’t have any open rooms with king beds, which is what we booked. So they removed the resort fee from our charges since we only got a queen bed. However, when we went to that room something was clearly very wrong with the AC system as the thermostat was set at 65 and the room was 91 degrees. That was not at all tenable, so we went right back down and they found a third room for us and gave us a box of chocolate as an apology. That one seemed fine, but before bed we were getting chilly and that room had the opposite problem in that when I went to turn the heat up it wouldn’t turn on and there was something on the thermostat that said service. It wasn’t so cold that it was intolerable, but colder than I would have wanted it. Since we were only there for the night and we had already had so much drama I just threw my hoodie on over my pjs and I was mostly fine. They did also have a free to-go breakfast that had a lot of food in it, though we went to get bagels so I didn’t eat it.

We headed out pretty early, but before we left we walked down to Penn Station so I could get a black and white cookie from Zaro’s. When we take the train up I would always get a cookie to eat on the train home. Since COVID happened I have been up once and my husband has been up once separately from each other and both of us drove, so we each grabbed me a black and white cookie from somewhere else. They were both terrible. So to avoid the disappointment of another terrible, no good, very bad, black and white cookie I went to the source where I knew I would get a good one. There’s also a bagel place near Penn Station that I know I can get good bagels at, so it was easy to accomplish my two food goals right near each other.

It was a fun, quick trip and I’m glad we were able to make it happen.