We’re still here! It’s time to celebrate another year without a global nuclear war initiated on Twitter.
On the first day of 2017 I woke up in Ecuador, and rode a gondola up the Pichincha volcano to admire the megacity of Quito below. These were the final few days of our South America trip, and an amazing way to start the year. Back home in Chicago the highlight was playing games of Secret Hitler in which Chloe was basically always Hitler. Randi and I also saw the surreal Psychonaut Librarians and thumbed nervously through pocket constitutions. I also took my first work trip to Palo Alto and hung out with Jamie, Paul and Lori.
We saw Hamilton in February! And it was Non-Stop for the rest of the month too, during which I finally got My Shot to introduce Todd to the Doctor (the original, you might say) and – although I should have been Satisfied to watch the first three Indiana Jones movies, because people told me That Would Be Enough – we also saw Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indeed, Toggolyn’s living room really was The Room Where It Happens in February, throwing its doors open for another salon on The Godfather. What Comes Next? Second City with Villy and her mum, a trip to Starved Rock State Park with Randi and her mum, a game night with Robert and Emilie where we finally introduced them to (Wait For It) Carcassonne, a lovely Valentine’s Day at La Scarola and a play about the mathematician Ramanujan, A Disappearing Number, which threatened to Blow Us All Away with its crazy divergent infinite series. (So keen were some people to Say No To This that Katie had to intervene in the ensuing Hurricane.)
In sunny Florida I basked in high school sports and free sun cream (seriously, can’t get enough of that sun cream) but also seriously confused suburbanites by walking on human legs. Later, in Colorado, those same human legs took me hiking in Boulder with Jason and roaming around downtown Denver. When not gallivanting around the country we welcomed Francisco to Chicago for the first time, Grace for a brief return visit, and reunited with the wonderful Billy and Taylor for one glorious night. We also gloated over the first of oh-so-many failed Obamacare repeal attempts (the novelty wore off eventually), met Bassem Youssef at a showing of Tickling Giants and watched Spotlight and Gladiator. I’m not writing Randi’s Big Review of 2017, but if I was, I’d imagine that last one was probably the highlight of the year.
If you want your religious ceremony to endure into the secular age, you could do worse than throwing in a scavenger hunt element. I spent a painfully long time hunting the Afikoman at Passover, and in return I hid a gazillion Easter eggs in the garden for Randi, Jason and Carrie to uncover. Meanwhile, Randi’s dad came to town and cursed the Cubs, strangers at the Adler Planetarium awkwardly ensnared us into their foody board game, Todd followed up on his word by screening The Godfather Part II and we finally went to Kingston Mines. We also saw the satanic Scapegoat, cheered Bill’s arrival into Doctor Who at a big-screen viewing (WE LOVE YOU BILL) and visited Toronto with my parents! (Canada: home of Niagara Falls, ice wine and vegetarian hot dog stands on every corner.) But most significantly of all, Catherine and AJ surprised us with giant meeples. Giant meeples. If you want your religious ceremony to really thrive in the secular age, giant meeples are the way to go.
One running theme of 2017 was just how smoothly Brexit negotiations went. Barely a day went by without European governments falling over themselves to grant special favours to the UK, and to celebrate this spirit of togetherness we ramped up our Eurovision celebrations with two mini semi-final parties and then a special final watching party in Lake Geneva. I went back to Palo Alto (actually staying in Palo Alto this time), enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle, ruined Randi’s birthday by ordering the same main course as her (not really) and kicked off a three-month Improv Shakespeare run with Ellen, Emilie and The Mariner’s Mistake. Randi and I also travelled to my 25th state, New Mexico, taking in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and with an especially great stop to clamber up and down a bunch of ladders at the Bandelier National Monument.
“Come watch a British election!” I said. “It’ll be a boring, predictable and depressing result”, I said, “but at least you’ll see a parliamentary system deliver strong government”. With these bald-faced lies I lured James into joining yet another David Dimbleby marathon in June, a month in which we also got locked out of a car in Michigan, saw The 39th at a film festival, went to war with the ants in our flat and sold Chicago to Rhi with Kingston Mines and Like It, Love It, You’ve Gotta Have It. I also tucked into hearty Polish comfort food with Karol, watched Wonder Woman with Toggolyn and visited Philadelphia with Randi and Mike – a trip which included a wonderful lunch with the Youmans, an underwhelming return to the Liberty Bell and some unexpected blessings. Also, for my 28th birthday, Katie unleashed Dominion on our apartment, and things have never been the same since.
We spent an intensely relaxing 4th July in Yorba Linda with Randi’s family. (Brief relaxation exceptions: whizzing down the pool slide, holding my breath in the Doctor Who finale and that moment when Randi’s dad almost punched a sleazy guy at an Angels game.) I also caught up with beloved Glamily members Jackie and Jeff in LA. Elsewhere in the country – Indiana, to be precise – we spent a day on the dunes, but didn’t bring our handguns, and also took a failed trip to the Whoa Zone. I also brushed up on my ‘thoughtful films’ repertoire with Following and A Most Wanted Man, saw Pilgrims and The School for Lies in the theatre, completed my Improv Shakespeare trilogy (The Licentious Wink) and kayaked down the Chicago River at night.
My extended family is loud. I guess that’s not so unusual. But what I remember most vividly from August, when I flew home for my Grandpa’s final few days – and then his funeral – were the nights around his hospital bed, talking more softly than usual and losing track of time. I recognise that everyone else had been there for weeks already, and were exhausted. I’m just glad I made it. And, of course, London was as brilliant and beautiful as ever. I drank with Josh, breakfasted with Sophie, lunched with Christa and Amy, reunited with Monty for tea in posh Hampstead and slept on the sofa of actual-real-life-homeowners Cat and Matt. I also saw the whole Cooper clan in Norfolk, accidentally introduced Randi to her new love (fish pasanda) and – very excitingly – reunited Team Adipose for the time-strapped Time Run sequel. And if all that wasn’t enough, August in Chicago involved the world’s absolute funniest silly string surprise at Carolyn’s belated birthday party, Memento, a glass blowing workshop, my first American football game and a solar eclipse! (OK, the solar eclipse was completely obscured by clouds. You can’t have everything.)
If I had to list my top three achievements in September they would be, in ascending order: helping to get James assassinated twice during Secret Hitler, redesigning this blog, and finding some fish pasanda for Randi in Chicago. We also celebrated Amanda’s birthday, saw The Audience, went to the Museum of Science and Industry’s ‘After Hours’ event, hung out on McKenna’s rooftop and dined at fancy, colourful Carnivale. Also this month, Cat and Matt received their very own mystery box, I received a custom rap track about dominicself.co.uk and Randi received the ultimate gift of getting to watch Oklahoma! for the very first time.
Cat visited in October! Together we went apple picking, corn mazing, Jack-o’-lantern viewing and ate a lot of diner food. This month I also had some surprisingly fun business presentation training in Palo Alto, saw Blade Runner 2049 with James and did not die of dysentery playing the Oregon Trail. We also saw one of my favourite plays of the year, 1980 (Or Why I’m Voting for John Anderson), met Bernard Edward (dispensing wise parenting advice with a copy of Not Now, Bernard) and saw MisterWives in concert.
I firmly believe that the season of mulled wine should be officially inaugurated on Bonfire Night, and we made this happen on 5th November along with a Cat-inspired mountain of potato, sausages and beans. James left for Berlin in a blaze of karaoke, Katie and Brandon popped by Chicago, Ellen’s Master of Peppers left us (as usual) full-to-bursting with chilli, we briefly lived an alternate grown-up life in Robert and Julie’s house with Willow (it was weird: the wine and nice furniture inspired me to put some soft classical music on) and celebrated Thanksgiving in California with gingerbread turkeys and mulled wine batch #2. And on returning home, mulled wine batch #3 at a screening of Voyeur plus the beginnings of Christmas decorations…
We wrapped up the year in Chicago with a couple of films: The Room plus The Disaster Artist, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and, in preparation for Vienna, The Third Man. And then, after popping off to Palo Alto once last time (three cheers for the Impossible Burger!) we set off for our Christmas holidays: Vienna, Bratislava, London and the Peak District. Indeed, I am finishing off this review from a warm pub in the snowy village of Hope. Highlights of the trip so far have included Oslo (an enlightening play about the Middle East peace process), Carolyn’s Christmas dinner, getting through hosting the Christmas Quiz, a Boxing Day family walk on the Heath and our hike to Mam Tor. And I am looking forward to New Year’s Eve!
Wishing everyone a happy new year and a rewarding 2018!
Beth Dubowe-Lawrence, Ellen Wohlberg, Randi Lawrence, Jennifer Myers, Gillian Self, Jason Zhou, Amanda Schalk, McKenna McConnell, James Butler, Josh Bernick, Catherine Tarsney liked this post.