On a Thursday in November, 2017, we drove east. In Santa Ana, to drive east is to drive toward the desert. And so to the desert we went. We were headed to Zion.
I maintain a Google document going each year that keeps track of the best music, movies, books, and TV I've enjoyed that year. Sometimes I even take note of best restaurants and food experiences. As we close the book on 2017 and as I prepare to create a blank 2018 Google document in a few days, here's a look at what made the cut in my favorites of 2017.
Places shape us. They seep into our bones and grab hold of our hearts. As much as we live our lives digitally these days and find connections in the vast placeless spaces of the Internet, the reality is we are embodied beings who are wired to shape and be shaped by specific, physical places. Biola University has been a profound place in my life.
Cinema is often framed as escapism, and indeed it has that quality. We watch movies to visit far away places and times, and to understand the experiences of others. But cinema at its best, and certainly Columbus fits that bill, doesn’t stop at escapism; it helps us return well to reality, with new eyes to see and love the world beyond the screen.
"The coast is beautiful" is something existentially true and intuitively felt among all humans. We are drawn to the places where land meets sea, where water meets rock; two very different things, coming together, producing an aesthetic pleasure and a life-giving good. We are attracted to this because it is a familiar cosmic reality.
For me, rollercoasters represent the appeal of the amusement park in a nutshell: experiences of suspension and escape, where we can flirt with danger and adventure in a controlled environment. To ride a coaster is to confront fear in safety, to flip the script on dread and turn it into something about which we can laugh and scream and throw up our hands.
The other night was a Santa Ana Winds night. Southern Californians know what this means. The hot, dry winds come raging down from the high desert, through the San Bernardino mountain passes. They carry dust and debris and the sage-scented shrapnel of the chaparral. They fuel fires and defrock the palms. They howl with glee as they rattle windows and send trash cans tumbling. They tip over semis and send Jacaranda purple blossoms everywhere.
I started a tradition back in 2010 of keeping an annual running list of the most delicious bites of food I had throughout the year. It's a nerdy foodie habit, I know, but one that helps me remember (rather than consume and quickly forget) the delicious gift of food and the art with which it can be created. As the late Robert Farrar Capon said (in The Supper of the Lamb), "We were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”
The world’s spotlight has been on Kansas City in recent weeks due to the Royals’ thrilling post-season run and dominant victory over the New York Mets to win KC’s first World Series since 1985. But KC is about more than just baseball. There is a lot about this city that makes it a special place, an American gem of a metropolis in the midst of “flyover country.” Here are 99 of the best things about this wonderful city.
A few weeks ago I read Zadie Smith’s essay, “Joy,” in the New York Review of Books. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a beautifully written, decidedly contemporary reflection on joy with a tone I suspect Millennial and Gen-X readers will particularly resonate with.
Because I adore good food and drink, I thought I'd recap 2012 through the lens of culinary highlights. Below are my picks for the best things I ate and the best places in L.A. (all of which I recommend to fellow food-lovers!).
"Engagement" in terms of marriage is just a season; but in the broader sense it is a life's calling. I want to always be fully engaged with the life, love, beauty and experiences I am given.
In my younger days, L.A. was Bayside High, California Dreams, Encino Man, "Valley Girls," Beverly Hills 90210, Disneyland, Hollywood, the Oscars. Or it was a place of constant calamity: the Northridge earthquake, mudslides, fires, various car chases chronicled by the vulture news helicopters L.A. helped normalize. The point is: my understanding of L.A. was (and still is, to some extent) formed by media portrayals, mass-communicated narratives of "reality" packaged chiefly as entertainment. This is how we understand the world.
My year-end listmaking continues today with my recap of the year in food, an area of culture I am particularly fond of. God gave us taste buds and he made food tasty, and enjoying food is just such a blessed thing; something we shouldn’t take for granted. To celebrate the preciousness and artistry of food and the many ways it can be prepared, here is my list of the 15 tastiest things I ate in 2011, followed by a list of the 10 food trends I’m most excited about this year.
Food is such a glorious, God-given focal point of life. Out of gratefulness for having it in such abundance and regularity, why not honor the memory of its high points this year? The following are my favorite 15 instances of Epicurean delight from the last year, in chronological order.