2016 doesn’t seem like a year that I, or many people, will look back on very fondly. When you group things together so arbitrarily as having occurred in the same year (as I am wont to do), things get lumped together that shouldn’t, like our impending nuclear war with the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead in the finals to the Cavs. 2016 was confusing, but the great things about it should be remembered.
And what was great about 2016 is idiosyncratic. We each experienced 2016 our own way. What I would like to present to you are some dozen things I experienced for the very first time in 2016, a series of suggestions of things for you to experience in these waning days of American democracy, and, if possible, beyond.
As usual, I try to make these things as resourceful as possible. With a book or album, I believe it is the material itself that is going to convince you to pay attention to it, not what I have to say about it, and so I have tried to make that material accessible to you from wherever you are right now. For books, when possible, I have linked to excerpts and occasionally its full-text. For albums, I’ve linked to each album on Spotify and embedded a video of a song off the album. This year I made the Places section into a perhaps-a-bit-self-indulgent photoessay, which includes descriptions of my experiences, links and photos intended to convince you to go to each place yourself. Uncredited photos taken by yours truly.
16 books for 2016
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma (2016)
Jansma is 2-for-2 at writing near-perfect novels.
The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball (2009)
Gateway book via gateway story. I read every Jesse Ball book this year. This one blew me away in its inventiveness and its humanity. But really, you should read anything he’s written that you can find.
The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing (1946)
I’m no expert on this, but I’d wager that this is up there among the greatest noir novels ever written.
Amerika by Franz Kafka (1927)
Kafka maybe at his most accessible, and his most comical.
Outsider in the White House by Bernie Sanders (2015)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
“This is required reading.” -Toni Morrison
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (1968)
This is required reading.
The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor (1960)
Capital S, capital G Southern Gothic.
The Curfew by Jesse Ball (2011)
The second best Jesse Ball book I read this year.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer (2003)
The best short story collection I read this year. Our Lady of Peace (linked above) was particularly poignant for me.
Bobcat and other stories by Rebecca Lee (2012)
The second best short story collection I read this year.
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982)
Bildungsroman Bukowski. Pretty fantastic stuff.
But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman (2016)
This was already covered in the intro to my updated list of all-time favorite albums. But I will say that it made reading the simulation hypothesis explanation for ‘misremembering’ that Sinbad was in a movie called Shazaam more real to me.
Take It or Leave It by Raymond Federman (1976)
Metafiction, wonderfully crafted.
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (2016)
An alternate history where the South won the Civil War.
Remainder by Tom McCarthy (2007)
Maddening and horrifying. Four stars.
NOTE: This year I challenged myself to read 55 books. I met and, according to Goodreads, exceeded that goal by 1 book (there were a couple of rereads in there as well). I think my list reflects my preoccupation with completing my challenge. I’m not saying that all of these books aren’t worth your time, just that if I hadn’t taken this challenge that this list would look different (i.e. I put off reading several time-consuming books out of worry that they would keep me from reaching my goal). I’ve sworn off challenges for 2017, and think my 17 books for 2017 list will reflect that.
16 albums for 2016
RAM by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
2016 was the year I discovered solo/post-Beatles McCartney. Fantastic stuff. RAM would probably have made this list had I started a little later.
Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels (2016)
Supposed to be released next year, but RTJ put it out a few weeks early and it turned out to be A Christmas F*cking Miracle. As you will see, RTJ’s previous releases got me exploring solo El-P and Killer Mike work this year. However, though it’s only been around three days, this one is decidedly their best work. At the moment, you can download it for free here.
(not on the new album but the gyst of the new album)
Fear Fun by Father John Misty (2012)
Light Upon the Lake by Whitney (2016)
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett (2015)
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by El-P (2007)
Return to the Moon by EL VY (2015)
A Man Alive by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2016)
Human Performance by Parquet Courts (2016)
The Psychedelic Swamp by Dr. Dog (2016)
R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike (2012)
Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest (2016)
“Awaken, My Love!” by Childish Gambino (2016)
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen (2013)
McCartney by Paul McCartney (1970)
The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas by Courtney Barnett (2013)
NOTE: 2016 was also a year of music projects for me. At the beginning of the year, I transferred about 1,000 songs I had backed up but hadn’t really listened to for five years onto my computer, listened to them all, and made two mixes (oldies and moldies) out of them. In August, I decided it was about time to update my list of all-time favorite albums, which took a couple months of my time. On top of that, I finally got a subscription to Spotify and started making mixes over there as well. All to say I spent much of the year dealing with albums I was already extremely familiar with, and another chunk of it using a music discovery tool that focused on individual songs, not full albums.
16 places for 2016 (a sort of photoessay)
This is a photo from Torchy’ses [sic] grand opening back in February, where they gave away free tacos. In case it’s not clear, there is a line wrapped around the building of people waiting in the snow for free tacos. Through the magic of Twitter, Kelly won us two skip the line passes, which allowed us to avoid all of this, be seated immediately at the bar, eat free tacos, and drink free drinks. It was the most like royalty I have ever felt. For that experience, and the thirty or so experiences we’ve had there since, Torchy’s tops this list.
Perhaps the primary motivating force behind our considering a move to Arvada. We’ve gone for the lunch buffet a couple of times, and it is some of the best Indian/Nepalese/Tibetan food I have ever had. They make some of the tastiest beer in the Greater Denver Area as well, including their ridiculous Chai Milk Stout.
Think these pictures speak for themselves, but this next one doesn’t.
At the Botanic Gardens, they have this setup where there is a giant succulent inside of a large ceramic pot that you can spin and, hanging above it, a kaleidoscope. When you spin the pot around and look through the kaleidoscope this, for an instant, is what you see. I put the lens of my camera phone to the eye of the kaleidoscope, and this is the photo it captured.
We went to both of these places for the first (and only) times when my folks visited back in November and because of this are inseparable in my mind. Both were sort of serendipitous experiences. Coperta was like our third choice for dinner that night, and Royal I’d never heard of before we happened by it while exploring the Berkeley neighborhood. Both were candidates for the single best meal I ate this year – Coperta with its orecchiette, Royal with its multiple varieties of poutine and framed pictures of “royalty” on the wall. And both are places I need to revisit.
I’d give the slight edge to Rosenberg’s in terms of quality and atmosphere, but (in the grand scheme of our simulated existence) these two places are basically the same. Points to Hi Rise though for being able to see this mural out their window.
South Table Mesa, Golden, CO
Great for drink-hiking and posing as giants.
I went to three Rockies games during the 2016 season. Don’t think they won any of them. Still, attending a baseball game is infinitely more enjoyable than watching one on TV.
This experience pairs best with a stop at Ian’s Pizza by the Slice across the street from the ballpark before the game.
New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO
Another serendipitous experience. Kelly and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary in Fort Collins during the weekend New Belgium just so happened to be throwing their 25th anniversary party. When we got there, two spots immediately freed up at the bar and we got a flight of beers made specifically for the party. Afterwards we took advantage of a free photobooth and this photo was created.
Best new neighborhood brewery, seen here getting a paint job by two of my favorite local artists, #TheWorstCrew, Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios. High ABV and barrel-aged beers, all delicious.
Checked this place out on our most recent daytrip to Arvada. It had a great vibe and a beer menu that demanded we order a flight (and that did not disappoint). They also have a promising food and cocktail (!) menu that I look forward to exploring in the future. Overall it has the feel of, if it were in my neighborhood, it’d be my go-to place.
We first encountered Beryl’s minutes after Sunday evening trivia had begun. We were competitive, but could never make up those opening questions we missed. We also came during Sunday evening trivia the second time we went to Beryl’s. That time we sat out trivia (or anyway the turning in our answers part of trivia) and opted instead to play foosball and somehow lose the ball down one of the legs of the table.
Jessup Farm Barrel House, Fort Collins, CO
More delicious barrel-aged beers, this time in the middle of an “artisan village“, conceptually brilliant but for some reason in the middle of the suburbanest part of Fort Collins.
Gyros and Greekfast six blocks from my apartment. Plus more photo ops for me to look like a giant.
Been going to Zeps since its OG days as Quiznos Grill. It’s the Quiznos guys giving artisan sandwiches a go in this spot five blocks from my apartment, and, in my opinion, it’s been very successful. Unfortunately, pretty much every time we’ve gone it’s been empty. Hopefully its name change will get them more customers?? Also, I know this may sound silly, but they have a really good soda fountain.
Thanks for reading, and if we still have internet by the end of 2017, I’ll see you then.