Five For FRiday: 2011, Bitch. F’Real.

Tunes and media conquered.  Here, FR round off their look back by highlighting moments, persons, news, losses, gains…whatever or whomever left a personal mark.  2011, bitch.  One hell of a year.

Tyler: SEAL Team Six

I stay up late, but, the night of May 1st, 2011, I turned off the television and crawled early into bed with a book (a fantastic book, Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War) about combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I’d adopted the habit–a valuable one, highly recommended–of leaving my cell phone in a separate room, silenced, so as not to be disturbed by the thought or anticipation of texts or calls.  I read a few dozen pages over an hour or two, snapped off the light and went to sleep.

Around seven or so the following morning, my then-girlfriend was preparing for work; I awoke and rolled over, groggy, as she re-entered our bedroom, grabbing some makeup or her purse or whatnot.  We wished each other good morning, and then she told me something.

“They killed bin Laden.”


“They killed him last night.  They shot him in the eye?”

It took me a minute.  She retired to the bathroom to finish her girl-prep for the day; the information I’d just heard rivered through my brain.  I thought for a moment or two about turning back onto my side, catching a couple more hours’ sleep, but the impact of the news took hold.  I’m not a morning person, it takes me forever to embrace the day, but I burst from bed, tore into our main room, where the TV already was tuned to a cable news channel.  I watched in awe, real wonder, body and mind still shaking loose somnabulence.  We got him.  We got him.  We got him.

Some think it untoward to take pleasure from death.  No matter how tyrannical or evil the departed.  Not me.  For the next seven days, I collected newspapers, exchanged astounded texts and e-mails, and walked on fucking air.  Hey, OBL?  Rot in hell.  Your forever lover, T.

Travis: A Perfect NBA Season Comes to an End

I’ve never been the biggest NBA fan, but the past couple of years living in Los Angeles, where the only team people live and die by is the Lakers, combined with the fact that the Association has its best collection of talented, charismatic superstars since the days when the Showtime Lakers, Bird-McHale-Ainge Celtics and Bad Boy Pistons coincided with the rise of Michael Jordan, turned me into a gray-pubed old man fully entrenched in basketball fandom. The whole season was great, but the playoffs were even greater, as the asshole Heat lost to the likable Mavs, but only after both teams had to go through the star-laden Lakers, Thunder, Celtics and Bulls, as well as the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. Dirk Nowitzki finally gets to shed his “soft Euro” label and enter the pantheon of all-time greats, Jason Kidd won a title, Lebron and Wade lost (I leave Bosh out because he seems like a decent dude) and amazing youngsters Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose took on the kind of defeat that will make them stronger champs in the end. And the lockout came to an end before regular season basketball had much of a chance to be missed, so we get to do this all again, and I’m pretty pumped about it.

Nathan: Reframing the Beatitudes 

It’s rare for me to find myself completely engaged by a sermon. I’ve heard many in my lifetime, but I don’t remember many of them. Most sermons are a topical jumble of humorous anecdotes and Christianese. “Hot air” is what I call them. But I don’t go to church in order to hear good sermons; I go because I believe that God calls believers to be a part of the church body.

For only the second time in my life as a Christian, I heard a sermon that branded itself on my brain. Pastor Philip Stauerseth gave a sermon on the Beatitudes, which happens to be found in my favorite book of the Bible. Many Christians approach such phrases as “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” with a sort of saccharine outlook. You know, like “mourning is a good thing, because you’ll be comforted one day.” Pastor Stauerseth took the opportunity to openly recognize that mourning, suffering, and all the other nasties mentioned in the Beatitudes are not positive things, even if they will be rectified in the cosmic.

Tyler: Russell

During a period of extreme life upheaval, good ol’ Rusty Brown kept me sane and kept me laughing.  Crazy as a loon, just like yours truly, Mr. Katy Perry keeps no thought, no neurosis, no alien impulse hidden from the crowd, and, also, the motherfucker can write.  I tore through Booky Wook 2 (purchased in hardcover, at a major discount, from the first and last Borders in history) in a handful of days, and cycled his YouTube-handy special Scandalous on a loop for more than a few weeks.  He’s a little beyond the ether when it comes to the sex, and I’ll never let myself get so far gone that I can’t drink.  But a boho psuedo-socialist romantic with proclivities of compulsion and uncontrollable self-exposure?  Yeah.  I can get down with that.  Plus, he’s fuckin’ hilarious.

Travis: Getting Laid Off

For much of the year, I worked a lowly office job at an internet company, and, due to the economy, I was laid off, my whole department let go in one fell swoop. Nothing too out of the ordinary about that, right? Shit happens. But the layoffs happened on a Thursday, which happened to be the day off that a fellow contractor and I shared, and when we came in on Friday, they’d forgotten about us. That’s right, we were laid off and they forgot to tell us, that is, until Monday. Then, again, the following Wednesday, by email. It’s a real wonder that companies are failing to find success these days. Being laid off sucked, but the fact that I was laid off and they forgot to tell me, that I was actually Milton from Office Space, and that I was actually laid off three times from one stupid job gave it a sick humor that I just had to laugh at. Now that I’ve landed at a much better job with a much better employer, it’s all worked out, and I can truly make fun of the situation coming from a better place.

Nathan: Leaving Chicago

Olivia and I had been thinking about moving out of Chicago for a while. After much deliberation, we decided to make our future in Asheville, NC. Better weather, closer to her family, and better natural surrounding. I’m still not completely at ease in my new city, but leaving Chicago was liberating. We loaded up a U-Haul, hooked our car up to the back and made it out of the city just as Snowpocalypse came into town.

So far – and we’re almost to the end of December here – we haven’t had even a hint of snow in Asheville. Kinda disappointing.

Tyler: Social media

As my Brand-like ceaseless honesty mushroomed during said period of upheaval, friends in the flesh got a little worried.  Friends on Facebook?  Not so much.  Certain things becoming obvious via status updates and profile changes inspired private messages of support and love from cats I’ve barely known in Actual Life, and witty banter with any number of now-lifelong pals was a genuine salve throughout what could be described mildly as a very, very stressful time.

Plus, Twitter.  Twitter rocks.

Travis: The Penn State Scandal

There are no jokes to be made about the horrifying news out of State College, PA that broke wide to the world this year, but in a year full of big news stories good and bad, this is the bad one I know I’ll remember. FR’s takes here and here.

Nathan: Neko Case, Live at the Orange Peel

I was a little late to the Neko Case party, not discovering her until 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. But as soon as I found her, I became a rabid fan. Though not much of a concertgoer, a $25 ticket to see Case at the Orange Peel, a smallish local venue, seemed worth the risk. Though I would’ve loved her to play Fox Confessor from beginning to end, I was satisfied with the concert anyway.

Tyler: Ann Arbor

I’ve never lived in a town before; I do now, however temporarily.  A big, big city, my lifelong favorite in the world, awaits in my crosshairs.  If I can make it there (and, oh, you better believe that I will), I’ll make it anywhere, but for now, I’m here in this ridiculous burg, stocked with undergrad lushes who make my habits look tame, quirky lib families and thirtysomethings with constant good attitudes to offer (I’ve never been somewhere where so many strangers will offer greetings out of absolute nowhere), and plenty of niched-out local businesses and restaurants and hand-me-down stores, not to mention some killer-ass coffee.  You’ve had four months, A2, and you get nine more.  Here’s to ya.

Travis: Osama Bin Laden Dead

If the Penn State Scandal was the bad news story from the year I’ll remember forever, the death of Osama Bin Laden is the good one. I didn’t celebrate in a college quad by burning a couch, drinkin’ some brews, and shouting “USA!”, but it’s one of those moments I’ll always have a vivid memory of. I was watching the West Coast 60 Minutes broadcast, which had the first interview by Lara Logan following her sexual assault while covering the uprising in Egypt. Upon the conclusion of that interview, I was wondering if I could possibly find the world to be more of a cold dead place—then the broadcast was interrupted for the announcement that America’s AK-47-stroking privileged asshole arch-enemy had been gunned down by SEAL Team Six. I’ve since become a tad more reserved and cynical about the whole thing, but in the moment it felt like a real victory, maybe the only real victory in the so-called War on Terror. And as cynical about the whole thing as I might become, I hope it really did go down exactly as reported, in AMERICA FUCK YEAH fashion, even if it’s hard to be sure when my first memories of “anti-terror” activity are those of the Clinton administration bombing an aspirin factory because some assholes thought him getting a blowjob mattered, and daring to do so right after the movie Wag the Dog was in theaters.

Nathan: Stars in My Crown

I’ve mentioned Stars in My Crown in last week’s 5 for Friday, but it bears repeating. In that column I didn’t really give much away, but here are some mild spoilers just to explain why I’m in love with this movie.

Joel McCrea plays a Civil War veteran who has come to a small Southern town to begin work as a parson. The town itself is pure Americana; the people, too. There are good-hearted citizens and there are rowdy racists. The preacher is kind, but neither is he afraid to speak his mind. The crux of the film can be found along two story lines. The first involves a strain of fever that spreads across the town. The parson contracts the fever, but refuses to quarantine himself in order to do his ministerial duties. The second strain in involves a plot of land owned by an aged black man. The plot is valuable to locals, but the man does not want to sell it. Enter the local KKK chapter. The parson finds himself in the center of both conflicts and the results are explosive.

Normally I like to wait a while before seeing a movie a second time. Not so with Stars in My Crown. I kept it out from the video store for a week, waiting for an opportunity to show it to Olivia, my wife.

Tyler: Amy

I lost my mind when Winehouse died.  Friends, family and my lover struggled to understand.  My behavior crooked sideways.  I go through fugues, a lifetime characteristic, but these clouds would not break.  Back To Black became my only locus of interest; I blared it, cochnea-shivering volumes, through earbuds en route to and retiring from my job.  Alone at home, I looped it on the stereo.  I felt loss, soulful turmoil.  I heard voices, nothing new, but louder.  I could not end my nights without solitude, the artist’s masterwork dying my ears, even if that meant staring to the sky, alone on the apartment’s deck, iPod activated, even in drenches of midnight rain.  Something had changed in me.  Something had to change, moving forward.  Moving forward–I hadn’t been.  I had to now.

She was a gifted artist, capable of brilliance, tortured by a mind and heart unable to grapple an extreme internal empathy that, her weaknesses irrevocable, overrode any ability to function without medication.  Her demons were many and strong, documented and teased for all the world–yes, the entire world–to observe and dissect.  She was fragile.  She broke.

But she was strong, too.  She held the heart of a lion (or, I suppose, a Lioness).  Else we would not have those immaculate tunes, that incredible record, which will stand any test time and memory have to offer, at least to those of us who value art, who cherish the deepest kind, unceasing in its exposure of the body’s feeblest joints, the heart’s densest, fragrant desires.  She left as she lived, besotted and beleaguered, exhausted, in need of slumber.  Her passing came at peace, thank God.  God willing, her dreams were sweet.  One hopes she’s found something outside this world that brings her tranquility, as, amongst this painful and flawed milieu of human life, heartfelt existence, she could not and came not near any semblance of stability.

Well, that’s not true.  There was a place, a person, in whom she’d discovered salvation.  She had a love, like so many of us have, have had, and that blinding affection torpedoed her will.  She could not have him; she could not let him go.

If only she had.  She might’ve been spared.

No matter.  What’s done is done.  Who’s lost is lost.  We’ll always have her music, and the best of it was that good.  And I’ll always, thanks to her, have my life.  Self-professed, profound.  Free, forward-moving, for the very first time.  Sweet dreams, sweet girl.  I love you.  Thanks again.  I owe you more than words can say.

Travis: World Series, Game 6

The only thing this year that expedited developing an ulcer more for me than Breaking Bad was postseason baseball, but my hometown Cardinals winning of course made it all worth it. Though the final game was great, what everyone will (and should) remember is the miraculous series of last-strike comebacks in Game 6, concluding with this: “We will see you . . . tomorrow night!”

Nathan: The Canadian Rockies

In the dead middle of June I took one of the most rewarding and tiring vacations of my life. I drove first to Atlanta and caught up with Ian and Ruthie North. These two had been acquaintances before, but after a day with them I suddenly wished that I lived in Atlanta. The next morning I took a flight across the country to Spokane, WA, where I met up with two of my best friends, Jeremy and Matt. We bummed around Spokane for a couple days, going in to Idaho on a lark, and then set out for the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. On our way we lost our rental car keys in a field in a tiny northern Washington city; slept on the side of a road at a place where two rivers met; drove all through the North Dakota night; crashed at a Quality Inn with a waterslide; and finally arrived in Chicago. Once in the Windy City, I hung out with my good friend Keith for a little while, stayed with fellow FR writer Tyler for a day, and realized in a flash that I didn’t miss Chicago at all. It was dead to me.

The trip was long, fast, completely exhausting, refreshing, bitter, joyful, and ultimately everything a good vacation should be.

3 thoughts on “Five For FRiday: 2011, Bitch. F’Real.

  1. Or, as my beloved friend Carolina Chris put it on Facebook a couple days back before flying home for the holidays, “Fuck you Chicago. Going back down South where people know how to act.”

  2. Honorary mention: 2011 Detroit Tigers. Their run wasn’t nearly as magical as the Cardinals’ 2011 season, but I gotta give some credit to the team that beat the Yankees (with a depleted lineup) and the team that boasted Justin Verlander, AL Cy Young and MVP. If they remain healthy next year and add someone to the starting rotation, they’ll be a force in the AL.

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