2020: the things I wrote & the things I loved during a cursed year

Spending summer afternoons in a hammock at Texas Beach was definitely something I loved this year.

“When people say, ‘We have made it through worse before,’ all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones of those who did not make it,” — Clint Smith

I think it’s genuinely impossible to understand the volume of grief in the world right now. If we could, we’d be driven to catatonia. So when I hear platitudes about togetherness and solidarity, I can’t help but call Smith’s quote to mind.

I can’t help but think of the faultless people who can’t stand in solidarity, who didn’t make it, whose families are still wondering what the hell happened.

As this year comes to a merciful end, I’m trying to, and I realize this might qualify as a platitude, find joy wherever I can dig it up. Ain’t no use doing anything but.

A few years ago I started putting together a list of the things that I’ve watched/listened to/seen that I’ve enjoyed the most (here’s last year’s list). I started doing this because I feel like too much of what’s on the internet is explicitly designed to chap our asses, something that gets more true every year. Looking back on the things I really enjoyed is a fun way to punctuate a year.

This year I’ll save the self-promotion for the end. Here’s what I loved this year:

A group of eccentric thieves pulled off a heist in Argentina so elaborate, it’s now remembered as a work of art. This was the most fun thing I read all year.

Hot Mulligan’s second album is all bangers, all the time, start to finish. They are unpretentious, equal parts silly and dark. I love it.

Wesley Morris is inimitable.

Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series welcomes you into a wild and yet believable word, then tells you three totally different stories within it. This series let me escape to a fantastical world, and I didn’t want each trip to end.

This story popped into my newsfeed out of nowhere and it stuck with me. This essay is a beautiful reflection of an all-timer.

No sport on the planet gets itself into more bizarre controversies than cycling. FIFA loves itself some good old-fashioned, straight-forward crookery. Cycling prefers to make its thuggery way weirder than it needs to be.

Before making Chernobyl, Craig Mazin was known for his work in the Scary Movie and The Hangover movies, which is all the reason anyone should need to go do that thing they want to really do. The mark of a good show or movie is if I find myself thinking about it for a day or two after watching it. I’ve been thinking about Chernobyl for months.

Jon and Alex made a 3.5 hour+ documentary about a team that I don’t care about, in a league I pay little mind to, and it was completely captivating. The Mariners contain multitudes, and all of those multitudes are weird.

This made me cry at breakneck speed.

I still don’t really know what this show is *about* but it makes me knee-slap laugh every week. Queue up an episode of The Headgum Podcast and you’re punching a ticket on a chaotic ride.

This is a great story about the concessions one has to make as a college football fan out there. Naturally, there was a lot more to chew on this year.

Rodrick recounts his year on the road for Rolling Stone and it is outstandingly well-written and human.

I tell new cyclists to not settle on a helmet and to spend a little more on one they really like. Not because they’re any safer, but you’re more likely to wear it if you like it. Once I realized masks were going to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future, I tried to take my own advice and ended up becoming a little obsessed trying to find the best mask available.

Sanctuary’s take the cake and it’s not even close. Nose wire, built in filter, and surprisingly hearty; these tick all the boxes for me and make wearing a mask actually enjoyable.

Here’s some of what I wrote this year (excepting the hundreds of commercial real estate stories I filed for work that I suppose anyone here is not especially interested in now. If you are, check out BizSense this week as we’ve been publishing year-end roundups that’ll get any Richmonder up to speed on what happened the last 12 months).

Six years ago I trudged my way through the American Midwest on a bike, and along the way I had an unforgettable interaction with a young local. This was fun to reflect back on and write.

I can’t remember anything else in life that I did diligently, then gave up for 10 years, only to try again. That’s been my journey with skateboarding, and it’s revived some old feelings of wonder I once had. I tried to articulate them here.

There’s been a lot of (deserved!) coverage of the plight of restaurants this year, but one angle that jumped out to me after talking to some local owners is the other edge to the sword of delivery and takeout: the national apps folks they’re at the mercy of.

Nine months in and I still arrive at the same three words when I think too hard about 2020: for fuck’s sake.




Writer, cyclist, often at the same time.

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Mike Platania

Mike Platania

Writer, cyclist, often at the same time.

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