Home Alone During the Coronavirus Pandemic: It’s Really Not That Bad

27 Apr

Home AloneDespite what that depressing Boston Globe article said this weekend, I didn’t choose to live alone.

Not recently, anyway.

When I first moved to Boston in March 1997, nearly a year after I graduated from college, I found myself a one-bedroom apartment. There was no grand plan or strategy involved; the timing was such that I needed to find a place relatively quickly, and I didn’t want to move in with strangers.

While I’ve moved multiple times since then, I’ve always lived by myself in a one-bedroom apartment. Sure, I thought I’d have moved in with someone else by now — someone I was in a relationship with, that is — but the stars haven’t aligned yet, so here I am.

My point is this: I’ve lived on my own for a while, and I’m used to it — and all the pros and cons that come with this kind of arrangement. I don’t regret living by myself, and most days, I’m perfectly comfortable still doing it. Continue reading

The 2020 Happiness Project

2 Jan

sunflowersNot too long ago, I found what I considered to be a “rock star” parking spot on Boylston Street, just a few feet away from the Copley subway station. It was a Sunday afternoon, and since there’s no charge for parking then, I simply got out of my car and walked away, off to go about my business.

More than an hour later, as I was walking back to my car, I saw a pink something or other on my front window, tucked under the windshield wiper. It looked like a parking ticket. What the hell! Wasn’t parking free today?

Turns out, it wasn’t a parking ticket, but a list of 21 behaviors that would apparently help me find “The Way to Happiness.” I laughed. The source of the information — the L. Ron Hubbard Library — was a bit dubious, but I had to admit, the list had merit: Take care of yourself. Honor and help your parents. Do not steal. Be industrious. Try not to do things to others that you would not like them to do to you. Fulfill your obligations. Do not murder. And so on. You get the idea.

I’m surprised one of the items on the list wasn’t “Show gratitude.” After all, according to Harvard Medical School, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

As you might assume, I was grateful the flyer wasn’t a parking ticket, as I originally thought it was. And I was thankful for the folks who put it on my car, because the realization and the flyer itself both made me smile.

Corny as it may sound, I’ve learned in recent years that the secret to living a happy life is to appreciate things like that, and to document them. To that end, I started my annual “Happiness Project” in 2015 with that very simple premise: At the end of every day, you should write down one thing that made you happy, whether it’s something you did, something you ate, something somebody said, a TV show you watched or movie you saw, a tweet, or something else. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that made you smile. (And yes, the name is a nod to Gretchen Rubin’s “Happiness Project,” which started as an experiment and became a best-selling book, and movement.)

Five years later, I can say it works. Continue reading

In Spite of Everything, There Was a Lot to Celebrate in 2019

31 Dec

December sunsetI’ve gotta be honest: 2019 was a very good year.

Sure, in many ways, it was not. There was the toxic state of U.S. politics polluting our mindsets each and every day. The Mueller Report. Impeachment. The tweets. Ugh. There were many mass shootings and hate crimes. Rampant anti-Semitism. Hurricane Dorian and wildfires in the Amazon and California left destruction in their wake. Friends and family members battled cancer and had other health challenges. The Notre Dame fire was a historic tragedy. Multiple people I know lost their jobs and are still looking for work months later. We said goodbye to folks like Luke Perry, Pete Frates, Cokie Roberts, and Bill Buckner. And, much closer to home, I said goodbye to my aunt Leslie just a couple weeks ago.

Indeed, every day seemed to have its share of challenges.

But in spite of all that, and at the risk of being myopic or selfish or narrow-minded, when I look back on the past 12 months, I actually have a lot to be happy about. For example … Continue reading

No Matter How You Saw Them, These Movies from 2019 Were Worth Remembering

30 Dec

2019 top moviesWhen we look back at the year in movies 2019, chances are good we’re going to see it as a transitional year. Or, if you prefer, an inflection point.

It certainly was a big year, financially: When all is said and done, movie ticket sales in the United States and Canada will total roughly $11.45 billion for the year, according to Comscore. And yet, as significant a number as that is, it’s actually down 4 percent from last year — the largest drop in five years.

Where did that 4 percent go? Streaming, probably.

With Disney taking eight of the top 10 spots in the list of highest-grossing films of 2019 domestically, and 58 features earning the distinction of being “franchise films,” those looking for something different or original often had to look for it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime — or even CNN.

Indeed, when looking at the most memorable films of the year, they weren’t necessarily those with the highest box-office totals, the ones that monopolized theater screens for much of the year. They were films that, often, were just under the radar or could be easily enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, not a movie theater. Continue reading

Let the Memory of the Cats Movie Not Live Again

18 Dec

Cats movie posterFull disclosure: I’m not a fan of Cats the musical. I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows over the years, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s feline songfest is one show I really didn’t like. I even enjoyed Starlight Express more. Yes, I like the roller-skating show more than I like Cats. If you know anything about Starlight Express, you know that’s really saying something.

But even with that in mind, I wasn’t prepared for just how much I didn’t like Cats the movie. We all knew going into it, based on the trailers, that this wasn’t going to be a good movie. But holy hell, is it bad. Jennifer Hudson is pretty much the only redeeming thing about it. Continue reading

I’m Putting These Songs in My 2019 Time Capsule to Preserve Good Memories

12 Dec

2019 music recapI love Spotify. As someone who listens to a lot of music, Spotify Premium is one of the things I’m most thankful for, because it allows me to have a seemingly bottomless collection of tracks and albums at a minimal price, and it exposes me to songs and artists I might not hear otherwise because I don’t listen to a lot of radio.

Every year, Spotify does its “Wrapped” marketing campaign, where it shares with users — in easily shareable form, natch — their most-listened-to artists and tracks. It’s hard to argue with the results, since, apparently, they’re based on Spotify’s own data. And yet, every year, I have a hard time reconciling Spotify’s results with the music I think actually represents my year.

And that’s why, for the past few years, I’ve compiled a running “time capsule” playlist, curating the songs and artists I was listening to at various points in the year, or ones that represent significant or memorable things I experienced. I like recapping my year in music this way instead of waiting and compiling a year-end top-music list, because rather than focusing on a few favorite albums or songs, with this playlist, I have a better representation of what was literally going through my head all year long. Continue reading

Wrapping Up a Decade at the Movies with 20 Favorite Films

10 Dec

Favorite movies of the decadeJust in case you haven’t heard, we’re now at the end of another decade. Which means it’s time to take stock not just of the year that’s closing, but the nine previous years, too, and what the major highlights and trends were.

Any decade recap in my world has to include a top-movies list. It’s a bit of a herculean task, to be sure, given that, by my math, I saw an average of 71 movies every year of this decade. (My single-year high was 85, a total I reached twice.) If all goes according to plan, I’ll close out the 2010s having seen 715 films.

That’s right: Seven hundred and fifteen films. It’s crazy, I know.

So yes, that creates a bit of a challenge when it comes to narrowing down the list to just a few “favorites.” Continue reading