After surviving the despotic reign of Donald Trump and the scourge of covid, I was determined to live my best life in 2022.
In other words: YOLO.
As I doomscrolled through the bad pandemic days of 2020, and witnessed the violent 2021 assault on my city by Trump mobs, I told myself that if I survived this chaos, I would do two things:
- Drink in bars again.
- Ride trains in Europe.
That was my idea of YOLO.
At the start of 2022, DC was still under covid restrictions with mask and vax mandates still in place. I had masks stuffed in pockets and bags, to use when I wanted to go inside Whole Foods or elsewhere. And I had a photo of my vaccine card to show when I wanted to sit down with a cup of coffee.
I could avoid the mandates by crossing the river into Virginia. It was a short bike ride to place where I didn’t need to show my papers.
Restrictions like this carried on in Washington long after the rest of the country had abandoned them. It was the year that downtown was hollowed out.
Despite this, nightlife boomed. While the offices of K Street were empty, the bars and clubs of U Street were packed.
I wasn’t the only one eager to YOLO. People were willing to follow DC’s covid rules just to experience the oldest pleasure of all: having a drink with friends.
When the containment regime fell apart in the spring, with mask and vax mandates overturned by the courts, even DC relaxed the rules, though Mayor Bowser warned her wayward children that she would return them if we were bad (she didn’t).
After almost two years of relative isolation, I started to get back my busy urban life. I could write and drink coffee in coffee shops again. Sit at the bar at McClellan’s Retreat and talk to the bartender. Eat in restaurants. None of this was good for my waistline; that’s the price of the YOLO lifestyle.
My bike social life returned, too. Bike to Work Day came back though who was going to an office anymore? White collar DC was remote or, at best, hybrid. I was happily 100% remote. In May, I commuted to Bike to Work Day stops in Virginia and DC before rolling home to my laptop.
And then came Open Streets 7th St, a big beautiful chunk of the city going car-free on a sunny summer day. This was also the year that the Metropolitan Branch Trail boomed, a bike trail and a beer trail through the heart of DC.
Evidence of Trump continued to be erased from Washington, like a disgraced Pharaoh written out of history. We got the Old Post Office back, his name pried off the front of the building in the middle of the night lest a crowd gather and cheer.
The White House complex was no longer a fortress. The fence around Lafayette Park disappeared. The protest signs that once covered it were put on display at the MLK Library. Uniformed Secret Service officers who beat peaceful protesters in 2020 now posed for photos with tourists. All was forgiven, apparently.
Summer brought a new comedy sensation: The 1776 Restoration Movement. In the spring, the so-called People’s Convoy tried to shut down DC in protest of covid restrictions. They failed, defeated by the Capital Beltway, a 64-mile long ouroboros of never-ending traffic that broke up and scattered the convoy, leaving the truckers angry and soaked in their own urine.
But not everyone wanted to go home. The dregs formed a much smaller group, The 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM).
You’re going to restore 1776, when we were British? It made no sense. Their incoherent anti-government ideas obscured the truth: these were Trumpkins trying to spark another January 6th. They hoped to be the vanguard of another coup attempt.
I wrote about them, because I delighted in mocking the follies of this tiny group of QAnon cultists. And I was not alone, there was a whole community of folks devoted to trolling 1776RM both online and in real-life.
When the group came to DC, to sit in lawnchairs on the National Mall, a Suicide Squad of left and right-wing trolls arrived to harass them, both sides of the insanity live-streaming on their phones and yelling at each other with bullhorns. You could watch it all on YouTube, a choose your own adventure where you got to see the perspective of the trolls and the trolled.
It was the most popular content I wrote all year. Readers loved stories about the ongoing incompetence of the bucket-pooping 1776RM and the entertaining counterprotestors (with names like Anarchy Princess and Defender of Ants) that aggravated them to distraction.
For you web nerds, these blog posts had the best SEO of anything I’ve ever done, regularly appearing in the top five search results for 1776 Restoration Movement. While I made sure to use the term in the page title and in the body, the SEO secret is that you can’t fool Mother Google. Write good, informative content.
Eventually, they left the Mall, after the Park Police threatened to tow away their cars (vehicles are the American weakness).
My work made fun of 1776RM. After they left, I wondered if I contributed to the problem. More conflict led to more YouTube views which meant more donations for their streamers. Without the drama provided by the trolls, they don’t have anything interesting to say.
Also, 1776RM is more violent and stupid than portrayed in my work. Putting down in words what they do and believe gives the group a coherence and logic that they lack. Since getting kicked out of DC, and without conflict from trolls to spur donations, 1776RM has scattered to the backwoods.
During the bad pandemic days of 2020/21, I doomscrolled, compulsively checking my phone for covid news and predictions. In 2022, I became obsessed with following #1776RM on Twitter, as the online world monitored and mocked the follies of the group.
American capitalism exists on an addiction model (we don’t make anything anymore). It captures some through vaping, gambling or opioids. It caught me through social media, a Palantir that confirmed my beliefs and provided me a world of endless information.
I needed a break.
Fortunately, the end of the fiscal year brought me one as my government contracting job ended and I was free to travel to Ireland.
My homeland! The green country that my ancestors left just a couple of generations ago.
There I fulfilled my second YOLO dream: riding a train in Europe. I spent two weeks taking trains around this friendly country and going to pubs in Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork.
And I read, the rails being conducive to reading. A book on my lap as the green countryside rolled by the windows.
I got my focus back, which had been shattered by living in Washington during the madcap Trump and covid eras. Long days alone as I explored museums or walked through towns alive with music helped me be more present in the moment, pulling me back from the online world to the real one.
The Year of YOLO is over.
And with my focus back, I’ve started work on another novel. A story of the post-pandemic era in America. The title is of course: