2020 Holiday News from Michael and Anne

Benzi reeling

We don’t think anybody isn’t reeling from all the angst and insanity 2020 has brought us. That being said, we did have some good things happen.

The year started out really well. Anne was looking forward to seeing her short story in the Malice Domestic Anthology Mystery Most Theatrical, as well as attending Left Coast Crime in San Diego in March, and maybe going to the Malice Domestic conference in May. She even had a paid talk at the Pasadena Public Library scheduled in March.

Before Left Coast Crime got cancelled.

The Sewing Group was growing closer and more fun. Repair Cafe had another stellar event. Things were humming along.

Oh, well. We all know what happened. Left Coast Crime got canceled at the end of the first day. Sewing group wasn’t going to happen. The paid gig? Canceled. The anthology delayed and delayed.

The good thing about all the cancelations was that it forced everyone to get more creative about connecting with people. As a result, Anne ended up in two terrific author groups, Blackbird Writers and an Author Pod that has really helped with her sales.

Death of the Chinese Field Hands was released in September, and short story “Perfectly Awry” finally arrived when Mystery Most Theatrical was released in October. Anne has also done several Zoom talks with the Historical Novel Society, Southern California Chapter, and on her own. In addition, she’s been able to participate twice in the Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles monthly event House Arrest, presenting authors doing readings from their own works.

In the meantime, Anne has been plugging away at The Series That Ate My Brain, with the latest segment currently being serialized on her blog.

From Mike’s perspective, only two things occurred as close to normal in the historical catalog that will be 2020: the annual grape harvest took place(*) and the baseball season managed to give Dodger fans something we’ve been waiting for from a time when there were only 3 Star Wars movies(**).

Actually, Mike and his archive volunteers had been given the VIP tour of Dodger Stadium in mid January with team historian Mark Langill as our guide. There were renovations taking place that, among other things, removed the AYCE (all you can eat) seats from the center field bleachers. Several players were at work in the outfield – all hoping for a spot on the Spring training roster which never got going. There were photo ops in the dugout, the exhibit spaces of artifacts and Mike brought a copy of a design of the stadium for Mark’s collection with notes in Walter O’Malley’s hand for ideas never introduced into the look of the stadium. The volunteers were gifted All Star Game 2020 caps – when Dodger Stadium would have hosted the classic in July – and everyone had a good time. Such halcyon days of the early hope of the 2020 baseball season that ended up with cutouts watching from the stands. (***)

Michael’s stand cut out at home

But not everything went wrong in 2020. One of the interesting things I’ve experienced is a kind of whiplash effect where one day I’m able to be grateful for everything I have and can look forward to when this whole story is in the rear view mirror and the next day is full of dread and a sense of everlasting gloominess. Mike’s observations for the year 2020 span both types of days which should be easy to spot.

Another event before closure was recognition from the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners. The office had been providing historical background for fallen officers who had been overlooked from as far back as the 1890s and were considered to have given the ultimate sacrifice as public servants. A commendation was presented to both Mike and his division manager in absentia since the pandemic had already triggered cautionary safety procedures. The office was mentioned by name at the annual fallen officers service at the Police Academy that same month.

After March 19th, all archival business basically ended. Working from home 4 days a week and going into the office 1 day forced us to change all of our procedures. No public access meant no research and very limited document processing. The sheer volume of changes affected Mike the most since he almost never works from home. But a side benefit was the insight into what retirement may actually look like for him and Anne. If Mike retired now, he would be dead in two months (****). It brought home the message that is often heard when someone starts thinking about retiring: have a plan starting the day after you leave. Food for thought.

One thing unaffected by anything was the online Masters program at San Jose State University(SJSU). Their program continued through Spring and Fall 2020 and is prepping for 2021 without missing a beat. While online study isn’t for everyone, circumstances are giving everyone a chance to see it close up and personal and decide for themselves. Just like Zoom meetings, some things will become permanent parts of our futures.

Even as the year 2020 is winding down, it still finds a way to suck the joy of life one day at a time. We have just learned of a friend’s untimely passing. Here’s hoping that 2021 will begin with a vaccine and end with everyone being with everyone else whether it’s around the block, city, nation, or planet. Stay Safe and I do hope that we’ll have happier stories to tell next year.

* wildfires were burning near one vineyard again this year.

** there were no new SW movies from 1983 to 1998

*** see photos for Dodger Stadium visit and my stand-in.

**** Anne may let me live an extra month if she is really on a writing tear. (Note from Anne – he’s still alive, which gives the lie to the statement)

Medusa getting ready to turn the dog to stone
Xanax in her trademark pose
TobyWan says hi