2019 was a year of change, so much so that my life bears such small semblence now to what it was at this time last year. The most significant was becoming a homeowner, a decision both right and regretful. While I don’t miss having randomly assigned suitemates, in most other respects I preferred living in the “Rockoff Hall of Justice ” (as I named it). It was an unsurpassable location, within walking distance to a dozen decent bars, a train station near to New York, and every other amenity imaginable. A twenty-four hour convenience store within the building gave me much needed access to freshly-made buffalo wings at four in the morning. And living in a dormitory surrounded by students a decade my junior kept me feeling young myself. But when a potential paramour put pause to our amorous activities upon seeing I still lived in a dorm room, I found a realtor the next morning.
I spent well over a month or more vainly searching for a place as perfectly located as Rockoff, albeit which I could own instead of rent, in order to begin building equity. It was after a long day of looking at utterly uninhabitable homes that my realtor finally brought me to the dwelling of my dreams: an old brick schoolhouse whose classrooms had been converted into condos. It had a large master bedroom, a loft with built-in bookshelves, and tall, wide windows peering out to a pleasant, vertumnal view. Immediately I thought of the perfect name for my future flat: “The Thériault Institute for Gifted Youngsters.” The property had been listed for only a few hours, and I was the first prospective buyer to see it. Without hesitation, I told the realtor to offer the owner the full asking value. Just a few hours later, she called me with the news: someone else had just bought the place – with cash.
Defeated, I continued on my search, stupidly settling for a suburban property, partially along the misguided prospect that taking the cowboy out of the college town would take the college town out of the cowboy. I dubbed the new diggs “Stately Thériault Manor” and got to work making the best of a bad situation, painting the place colors of my choosing, giving one wall the interior brick I’d always wanted, and furnishing it finely, especially in contrast to the dorm-issued dressers and desks I’d grown accustomed to. The most significant upgrade was a queen bed with a memory foam mattress, a far cry from the twin and box spring I suffered with for thirty-three years. It took me a full twenty-four hours to break in the bed, but when I did I immediately realized the advantage over a twin for recreational activities and the related post-coital cuddling, both better for the extra roominess.
Within weeks of dropping the better part of my life savings on a down payment, my old Cobalt simply stopped starting and had to be scrapped, forcing another major purchase in short succession. I bought a brand new 2019 Chevy Spark in the burnt orange paint job I’d always wanted. Moreover, I was driving that vehicle to a new job, a lateral promotion and transfer that saw me overseeing operations at an oil terminal on the Raritan River. It was a much better commute, even before the new wheels. Moreover, it was much better hours, steady afternoons, letting me make plans on the weekends, hit up bars after work every night, and sleep in as late as I wanted each morning (my circadian rhythm still being that of an undergrad). Other perks include being at a location with no management present and getting my own desk and computer, making my blue collar a bit more white. And despite the base pay staying the same, additional overtime opportunities raised my take-home enough to almost offset all the additional expenses of a home and car payments.
These weren’t the changes I’d been anticipating at this time last year when I went to write my resolutions for 2019. Then I thought that – much like Solomon in Ecclesiastes – I’d finally fully sated all the hedonistic desires of my prolonged adolescence, and was ready to stop chasing meaningless flings with women whose names I barely knew (and sometimes not even that much) and instead start looking for a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship.
That lasted all of five minutes. Literally. Right after the ball dropped my friends and I rendezvoused with an acquaintance of theirs I’d yet to meet, and it wasn’t an hour into the new year before I was buying her a drink, knowing full well there was no long term potential there. In my defense, I waited a full three weeks before asking her out, a practically geological time scale compared to my usual speed.
Despite throwing in the towel on pursuing a serious, monogamous relationship while most other individuals were still sticking to their diets and gym memberships, part of my resolution would indeed be filled, partially by happenstance, and partially by circumstance. Whereas the mean length of my “relationships” prior to 2019 was approximately two to three dates, many of the women I saw this last year was for significantly longer (one went on for so long that I actually had to break up with her instead of it just fizzling out). I probably spent fourteen or fifteen months in one relationship or another during 2019. As a matter of happenstance, I was simply attracting women who were themselves more interested in a bit of stability in their sex lives. But as a matter of circumstance it certainly helped that I was inviting such women over to a place I owned, without suitemates sharing the apartment or a security guard at the front desk asking for their student I.D.
Which is not to say that my more transient trysts have lessened in frequency. I put so many notches on my new bedpost that my mattress is sitting on a pile of splinters and sawdust. If the lyrics to “Mambo No. 5” were rewritten about my 2019 the song would be longer than “In A Gadda Da Vida.” This is the year that I was picked up by a bachelorette party, only to realize that one of the bridesmaids and I had matched on a dating app years ago, and subsequently going on the date we’d once planned right then and there, leading us to get kicked out of the winery when the public display got too affectionate. This was the year that I asked out Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Power Ranger and my childhood celebrity crush. This was the year I checked off actress, barmaid, and dancer from the bucket list, and another entry as well, although I want to ride the Tricycle again before I buy myself The Belt. And there are many stories more, usually beginning with the words “So I’m at the bar…” but, to quote the Gospel of John, “Were every one of them were written down, I suppose that the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
As a professional pop culture critic, being a writer for Wisecrack and Editor-in-Chief of the Hub City Review, any analysis of my personal life in the past year need tough upon the major happenings across media, particularly comics, cinema, and games.
Were that time permitted me to still review comics weekly there’d be much I’d have praised from both of the Big Two. Marvel finally stopped shunning the X-Men and gave them a centrality they’ve not seen since the end of Morrison’s New X-Men run. But Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X might surpass even that. Hickman was the architect behind the best books ever published by Marvel – his Avengers/New Avengers/Secret Wars run – and if his work on X-Men comes close, it’ll be the defining run on the Children of the Atom upon which innumerable future MCU films will be based. And Jason Aaron finally finished his misotheistic run on Thor, upon which I wrote a recent Wisecrack video.
Over at DC, Bendis continues to kill it on Superman, having him help found the United Planets and recently revealing his secret identity to the world. For all the changes 2019 has brought me, the past year has brought even more to the Man of Tomorrow. Just last week Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock came to a close, serendipitously so soon after HBO’s Watchmen also ended, causing me to compare the two vastly different sequels in my latest essay.
Spoiler alert for my article: Watchmen’s ending was awful, almost as bad as Game of Thrones’. I’ve no idea how His Dark Materials finale was, as it was unwatchable after a few episodes. And yet 2019 overall was not a bad year for television. The Boys, based on the comic by Warren Ellis, had the best debut, and hopefully adapts more of the comic in its second season. Cobra Kai’s sophomore effort was the best series to stream all year, just as its freshman debut was in 2018. But it was a pair of hunters with young wards which defined the last few weeks of 2019, as Geralt the monster hunting Witcher and the Mandalorian caring for Baby Yoda have taken over the zeitgeist.
The Mandalorian couldn’t have come at a better time, as it’s quality makes more palatable Disney dropping the ball with The Rise of Skywalker, as I explain in detail in my review. Thankfully the House of Mouse did better by their Marvel movies this year, against all odds pulling off a perfect conclusion to the Infinity Saga with Endgame and an enjoyable epilogue in Far From Home, both of which I discuss on episodes of the Show Me the Meaning podcast.
And hard as it is to believe from the vantage point of late December, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and Shazam! all came out in 2019 as well, to varying reviews by yours truly. And as if Disney didn’t already have enough playing at the cineplex, they also released Dumbo, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Frozen 2 all in the same calendar year. Toss in (sometimes multiple viewings of) Glass, The LEGO Movie: The Second Part, Alita: Battle Angel, Tolkien, Detective Pikachu (where my confrontation with the family in front of me nearly required police intervention), Brightburn, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Rocketman, Dark Phoenix, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Good Boys, Joker, Zombieland: Double Tap, and Knives Out, and I probably spent more time at the theater than I did at my new condo. For those of you counting, that twenty-five films I saw on opening night this year, about average for me.
Video games, in contrast, had their most dismal year of the decade, no doubt due to immediate prospect of new hardware dropping next holiday season, with every swan song for the current consoles coming next spring and summer. Pokemon Sword & Shield were particularly disappointing, for reasons I enumerate both in my review and as a guest on the GameBoiz Podcast. It was during a previous appearance on the same show (that time talking about Injustice 2), during a segment called “Do They Eat Ass?” that I had the inspiration to start a podcast of my own: The Super Sexy Podcast, where every other week we get together to speculate as to the sex lives of superheroes. It’s locker room talk for nerds, geeks, fanboys, and any and all aficionados of pop culture. We just finished recording our fourteenth episode this morning, and as the “hump” over which most new podcasts struggle is episode seven, we’re going surprisingly strong.
Looking ahead to 2020, if I were to make one resolution, it’d be to check off as many items from my bucket list as I can. Probably the most attainable would be to have a YouTube video I script break one million views. I thought it’d would’ve happened this year with my breakdown of how theories of history helped to define the character arcs of Marvel’s trinity in the MCU, but that currently petered out at just under nine hundred thousand views. It may prove possible to become a panelist at New York Comic Con, either through Wisecrack or the Super Sexy Podcast. My greatest ambition would be to write a novel or non-fiction work worthy of publication, and it’s my intent to chip away at that goal each and every day of the new decade, starting as soon as my hangover abates on January first.
That was but a short summary of the year that was my 2019. Here’s hoping yours went as well, and may 2020 be better for you and I both.