2016 was quite a year. A great year.
The most interesting Presidential election year of my lifetime. My first full year as a grandfather. The first time I've ever visited Berlin. The first year during which almost all the books I read were on a Kindle. The first time I've ever walked the Little Big Horn battlefield or been in the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming at the peak of the aspens changing colors.
But, let's get to it:
Favorite movie: Hell or High Water...it's not even close. Let's hope that the Academy will remember the Best Picture Oscar debacle when they gave it to the completely forgettable The King's Speech (at best a Masterpiece Theater episode) rather than the Coen Bros' remake of True Grit (an American movie classic). But, prepare yourself for the equally forgettable La La Land winning best picture.
Favorite non fiction book: The Apache Wars, the hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the captive boy who started the longest war in American History. Nota bene: when I was ten I wanted to run away from home (home was Camp Fuchinobe, Japan) and become a Chiricahua Apache. If you're even in Arizona, visit Cochise Stronghold...a very moving, spiritual experience.
Favorite novel: The Ipcress File...very current to our times even though it was written fifty years ago. A snapshot of swinging London, exceedingly stylish, a bit snide, and the basis for Michael Caine's first starring role (a darn good movie, too).
Best trip: Berlin, in all of its sadness, liveliness, awful new construction, awful post war construction, with ghosts everywhere. Standing in the actual office where the 20th of July plotters found out that Hitler was still alive made history live in a way I've never experienced before. If you go, take Michael Dempsey's excellent WWII tour.
Favorite artistic/rock and roll/historic/blood pumping/popular culture/talking 'bout my generation experience: The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism in London (in NYC now, and coming to Chicago). The guitars on display are worth the price of admission. The overall feeling: as if you're in the British Museum seeing important building blocks of Western Civilization. And, of course, if you get the chance...turn it up loud.
Most extraordinary museum visit: The WWI Centennial exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. Comprehensive, moving, very personal with artifacts (often donated by the actual participants) from the most famous battlefields accompanied by histories of how they were acquired. The Holocaust section of the same museum, though hard on the soul, reminds that we must never forget.
New restaurant: The Ivy Chelsea, London. Beautiful outside and in, great atmosphere and vibe.
Best hamburger (annual award): Edzo's in Evanston. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-jones/edzos-in-evanston_b_780777.html
Dish of the year: my cousin Ted's incredibly tasty cream style corn. Made, as only an aficionado would, with Silver Queen corn (the sine qua non of corn). I have bugged my local Whole Foods to stock Silver Queen but, alas, to them, corn is corn...trust me it isn't. Think Old Style/Pacifico. Table wine/Sancerre.
Best meal (this might be the best meal I've had in my life): Chicken fried steak, butter beans, and cream style corn cooked by Ted Jones in his Louisiana farmhouse kitchen. Sweet tea. And, a second helping of cream style corn.
Coolest motel: the Sea Aire, Cocoa Beach...on the beach, funky, 1950s Florida, steps away from surfboard rentals, a great massage spa, and a peeler bar. Several surf schools on the beach if you've never tried. Warm water, friendly waves, and, if you're really lucky, a space launch from the Cape.
Coolest hotel: The Sydney House, Chelsea, London. Low key, tres chic, close to everything. You can take the Tube from Heathrow.
Best quote (from A Tale of Two Cities): Sidney Carton (a young man facing death) discussing life with Mr. Lorrie (well on in years):
"I should like to ask you:--Does your childhood seem far off? Do the days when you sat at your mother's knee, seem days of very long ago?"
Responding to his softened manner, Mr. Lorry answered:
"Twenty years back, yes; at this time of my life, no. For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning. It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way. My heart is touched now, by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me."
Best feeling of 2016: My granddaughter sitting on my lap reading Where's Spot with me, just as her father did at the same age.