Happy New Year (A Month Late)

Several times during 2020 I started writing posts about 2020 but abandoned them after a while. Each time it seemed like I’d written a bunch of words but really didn’t know what I was trying to say. A few times in the past, I’ve written New Year, or new decade, blogs around the time the year’s digits changed, but not this year. I did make a post on Facebook on New Years Eve, though:

Is anyone else feeling the pressure of having only a few hours left to finish the things we vowed to accomplish in 2020?

That seems particularly relevant a month into 2021 because I’ve spent most of January trying to catch up on various 2020 projects that were left in some sort of unfinished state. It’s almost like 2020 ended up being a thirteen-month year.

2020 was a really strange year. Yeah, I know that’s probably the understatement of this millennium, what with a pandemic, lockdowns, riots, more lockdowns, the most bizarre presidential election cycle, and post-election period, ever, and more lockdowns and … I feel I’m forgetting something… Oh, yeah, the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Wait, that was actually in 2021, but can we just call that part of a thirteen-month 2020? I don’t think we can afford to let 2021 include the same kind of craziness that defined 2020.

The First (Not Quite) Three Months

2020 started normally enough, at least as presidential election years go. My first (almost) three months of 2020 were filled with getting out to play live music, releasing a few new singles, and a few other more or less normal activities.

Somewhere along the way, though, the news of the coronavirus started trickling in. My first bigtime notice of it was when I read an article in USA Today about some deaths in northern Italy, in a town very close to where my daughter had moved in early February. I emailed her to ask her about that. She didn’t seem terribly concerned, but she did indicate there were already some restrictions on public gatherings in her area, and not much later her company began its own work from home regimen, a few weeks before the area had its first mandatory lockdowns.

empty paper products aisle
The paper products aisle in my supermarket on March 14, 2020.

As things started happening closer to home here in Southern California, I remember reading about toilet paper shortages in local stores. My reaction was along the lines of, “how does this relate to a pandemic?!?!” (Of course, I’m not sure it was actually called a pandemic at that point, but we’re talking hindsight here.) I actually had to restock on toilet paper on March 7th. They didn’t have the package size I normally bought, and supplies were low, but I was able to get a larger package than my normal size, so I was set for a while. However, the week after that, the paper products aisle in my supermarket was pretty much totally empty. I’m so glad I didn’t run out a week later, because it would be over a month more before my supermarket had new supplies during my weekly shopping trips!

My last live, in-person public performance of 2020 was on Tuesday, March 16th at the Harp Inn in Costa Mesa, California. There was already some nervousness about going out in public at that point. At least one performer scheduled for that night canceled, and there was a big bottle of hand sanitizer sitting on one of the tables for all to use. Orange County, where I live, went into mandatory lockdowns the next day, St. Patrick’s Day.

My granddaughter’s first birthday was that Saturday, March 21st. The party had been downsized from a huge shindig at a community center to a somewhat smaller gathering at a family home, to an immediate family-only gathering. Even that probably was not strictly within what was allowed by the lockdown rules.

Spring Turns into Summer

It’s kind of funny looking back at my calendar for the first three months of 2020 and the next three months. The first three months have all kinds of events. By contrast, April through June have a whole lot of nothing, aside from a very small number of close family gatherings and a few times babysitting for my granddaughter while my son and daughter-in-law were working.

I was getting extremely distracted by the news of the day, mainly as regards COVID-19. It was not only the general developments, but trying to shoot through all the misinformation to understand what really mattered in terms of protecting ourselves and others. I found it very hard to be productive, especially on any sort of creative front.

At some point in April, I recognized I really needed to do something to get past my creative impasse. Writing new material wasn’t happening, but the trials of the time reminded me of a classic hymn I’d learned perhaps a half decade earlier. “It is Well With My Soul” was written by a man who’d lost most of his family (and a whole lot more) while he was on a ship traveling very near the location where an earlier shipwreck had killed his daughters. That hymn just seemed right for the times, so I decided I’d record that and put it out as a song of comfort. It took me a while to record, but I finished it and put it out there in mid-May.

Somewhere around that time, I’d gotten the idea that maybe this was the time to start on a project I’d long been thinking about, which was putting together an album of music that mixed my original Christian-themed songs with some classic hymns. I decided I’d start by updating my original rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer”. I’d written that version in the early 1980s when I was at college in Potsdam, New York. The song was my first single back in 2006, and it had been my most successful recording, but I found myself cringing listening to it more recently as my recording techniques had come a long way in the roughly fourteen years since I’d recorded it. I started on a remix, and got that out there in late June.

Somewhere on the way to that, however, I got another idea. My 60th birthday was coming up in late July, and I had a song called “Happy Birthday to Me”, which was a depressing song about spending your birthday alone, and that seemed fitting for a pandemic birthday. My thinking was to record it and release it on my birthday, and working up to that was how I spent the last part of June (as well as early July).

Summer and Then Some

I’ve already told the story of the next part of 2020, so I won’t be redundant here. However, to summarize, the initial idea of doing a birthday single morphed into an impulse decision to do a full-length album, which basically took all of the third quarter, and turned into the Moments of Insanity album. It seemed a fitting title for a crazy year. It also pretty much took my full-time attention through the summer into early autumn, with the release coming out in late October.

Oh yeah, there was another thing. In late August, I was having a cough and some tightness in my chest in conjunction with that. Because of the cough and some breathing-related stuff, alongside the constant news of COVID-19, I decided I should get tested. When I made the appointment, my healthcare provider said I should also make a telephone appointment with my primary care physician for the next day, in case it wasn’t the coronavirus (it wasn’t).

A little unexpected excitement and drama.

When I spoke with my doctor the next day, he said he couldn’t diagnose me over the phone, and, given the chest pains and my age, he strongly recommended I should go into urgent care immediately to get checked out. They did an EKG, among other tests, and all of a sudden there was a burst of activity, including their starting me on oxygen. They said the test looked like I might be having a heart attack, and they were calling an ambulance to take me to the hospital. The funny thing is that, by the time this was happening, the issues I’d been having were starting to subside, but what do I know?

So, an ambulance ride, and a bunch of tests in one hospital, then another ambulance ride and more tests in another hospital, later, it turned out I hadn’t had a heart attack at all, only a very long day with a hell of a lot of drama.

Alongside this, I was also writing and recording a new song, “This Circle”, that ended up being the final song to be added to the new album. I finished that song in mid-to-late September, and the album title came after that. Yeah, it had been an insane year, though there would be more of that to come.

Finishing Out the Year

The album went off to distribution sometime in early October. I still had some work to do to finish up the project, but October and early November were also times of virtual conferences including Adobe MAX and the TAXI Road Rally.

I also got back to working on some new creative projects, including what would become my first single of 2021, “Ghosts”, finishing writing, then recording, a song I’d initially started in the early 2000s, “Like You Never Loved Me” (which will be released in less than a week as I write this post), remixing a Johnny Cash tribute song I plan to release on what would have been Cash’s 89th birthday in late February, and later starting to work up and arrangement and record a version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, which I’d hoped to finish in time for Christmas (I didn’t even come close). I also had some other recordings on my list of projects to revisit and finish, along with cover art for the recordings that I would eventually release as singles, but I simply ran out of time as the year wound down.

Let’s not even talk about the craziness after Election Day, or the resurgence, in “bigger and badder” form, of COVID-19 and related lockdowns during the holiday season. The net is just the sort of thing I alluded to above in that New Year’s Eve Facebook post. No one in their right mind would want to extend 2020, but I really did need more time to button up a whole bunch of loose ends.

The good news is January 2021 was a very productive month for me, finishing up three recordings and cover art for four singles, all of which I’d really hoped to finish during 2020. I finally feel like 2020 can be put to bed, or, better yet, buried. Happy 2021!