Remember how horrible 2016 was, and how thrilled we were to leave it behind? So many people we loved died—Bowie, Ali, Prince, Shandler, Zsa Zsa, George Michael, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson. Harambe. On and on. So many things we loved died too. The truth, for instance. Civility. Trust in institutions, after a long fight, also shuffled off this mortal coil.
There were no signs 2017 would be any better. In fact, with the election of Donald J Trump to the land’s highest office, many believed democracy had suddenly found itself on life support. But in such desperate need to turn the page, we placed a bit of hope in the changing of the calendar year anyway. We were so ready to move on, to say “Fuck 2016!,” that on January 1, 2017 we woke up to a silly art prank—Hollyweed—and allowed ourselves to believe it somehow meant things were already looking up.
How naive we were.
It can feel impossible in this waking nightmare to feel there is anything to be hopeful about or thankful for. But unlike the end of ‘16, things actually do appear to be ticking upward. The investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election is closing in. There’s a Reckoning underway for men who abuse their power, and it just might stick. Trump’s approval rating has hit an historic low, and he's largely revealed himself to be a walking disaster who can’t get anything done. Because of him, people are tired. But they're also active. And there is evidence the pendulum may finally have begun to swing the other way.
This could again reveal itself to be naiveté. But for the purposes of this post, we’re running with it—welcoming any and all good news, especially during the holidays, which can be especially tough. In that spirit, we once again asked the staff at VICE.com to write a bit about what they’re thankful for in these bad (but getting better!!) times, personal things or people or places they cling to when the world appears to be crumbling. We may not be out of the mire just yet, but the things we’re thankful for help us weather the storm.
For anyone who’s not familiar, New York City’s public transportation is usually a horrorshow. Subways rarely come on time, and when they do, you run the risk of getting stuck underground for hours, having your face peed on by a complete stranger, catching your first glimpse of a dead body, or witnessing the brutality of the animal kingdom in all its glory.
So my third summer in New York I decided to buy a bike and I’ve never been more thankful. Not only is it just a better alternative to the shitshow that is the MTA, a great group activity, and something you can (but shouldn’t) do drunk, but I started to grow more connected to a city that often feels like a concrete tourist wasteland. Riding my bike through Brooklyn’s sprawling neighborhoods, to Rockaway Beach, down to Coney Island, over the bridge into Manhattan, and up and down the West Side Highway, taught me more about the city than a random constellation of subway stops ever could. I got my head above ground and out into the place I now call home, and learned about others who call it home in the process. (Bragging about all the exercise I was getting didn't hurt either.)
The day I finally became happy in New York was the day I gave in and got a bike. That’s all it took. I stopped relying on everyone and everything else—the uncertainty of the train schedules, the wait time for a bus, and the cost and terrible music of an Uber or a cab. If you want to understand a city, and to better feel your place within it, get on a bike (you should also throw on a helmet) and just go—while you still can.
—Lauren Messman, Associate Editor
Quitting Drinking, Superhero Movies, and Guy Fieri
I've spent most of 2017 writing about the Trump administration, and the triumph of evil. To put it mildly, the world is not well, which is inconceivably frightening, and on a personal level, very demoralizing. A saving grace has been not drinking. When I quit last October, I did so because I knew if I kept drinking I would die. Drinking was always an escape for me, a way to not feel like myself and not be accountable to myself and my loved ones; at the same time, it exacerbated my suicidal ideation and depression. I don't think I would've made it through the most chaotic year of myself if I was still drinking alcohol, a substance that has only plunged me deeper and deeper into chaos.
I'm incredibly thankful for my boyfriend, a fellow non-drinker. Together, we spent much of the year looking for other, less harmful ways to escape from this shit world. As it turns out, a good, wholesome way to take our minds off all the horror that is 2017 is watching superhero movies. Suicide Squad, The Dark Knight, Deadpool, Thor: Ragnarok, Batman & Robin, whatever the film's Rotten Tomatoes rating, they offer a form of escapism that makes me happy without hurting myself.
Same goes with Guy Fieri, and the wonderful stars of the Food Network. I am especially thankful for Guy Fieri's unapologetic Guy Fieri-ness—it's genuinely inspiring to me. Despite the insanity of 2017, it was also the year I learned to love the things I love without being embarrassed about it.
— Eve Peyser, Staff Writer, Politics
At some point in the last three decades America decided collectively to get really into coffee to the point where I assume schoolchildren in the coastal elite bubble are educated in cold brewing and Aeropresses and why burr grinders are better. I come here not to denounce coffee snob culture (I have paid $5 for a pourover and did not complain about it) but to raise up tea culture. Sometimes I don't need to mainline all that caffeine that comes in your average cup of "good" coffee. I just want a hot drink to read while I watch a mature, adult television program such as a Ken Burns documentary or HGTV.
Green tea, bitter black tea with some milk, herbal teas that can taste like flowers or orange or mint—it's all good, apart from Lipton's, which thank God is mostly not served outside of the Midwest, diners, and certain institutional settings. (I'm talking about hot tea here; iced tea is also excellent.) Teabags are fine but really you should have a teapot and loose leaves, which will feel charmingly eccentric to Americans. Next time someone comes over offer them some tea, or better yet just tell them you are making tea and they can have some if they want, because that's the kind of person you are: a hospitable drinker of tea who even has those little mesh balls you put the leaves into.
Tea gives you something to do in the kitchen when you want to check out of a family gathering. It warms your hands during cold winter nights. I won't go so far as to say that drinking it makes you a good person but I'm sure that it's harder to be a vicious asshole while drinking a nice cup of hot tea, and isn't that what the holidays are all about?
—Harry Cheadle, Senior Politics Editor
When it feels like things are in a tailspin, and I can't stand reading one more headline or wondering why I'm bothering putting money into a 401(k) when Donald Trump could literally blow up the planet at any moment, there's really only one thing that consistently makes me feel better: yoga. For me, practicing yoga is the difference between near-constant low-grade anxiety about the state of the world and the ability to fucking chill about it. When I'm feeling shitty, I've learned to put those feelings aside for an hour and hit the mat instead. Nine times out of 10, I feel somewhat better afterwards. So yes, I am thankful for my yoga practice. (On a related note, I'm also thankful for weed, for very similar reasons.)
—Kara Weisenstein, Associate Editor
The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros
This year I flew home to Houston, Texas, to visit my parents. The trip was supposed to be quick, just two days. It ended up being nine. Many of them were spent in the dark, without electricity.
My trip was the same weekend another visitor came to town: Hurricane Harvey. Even as He began slowly churning in the Gulf and was projected to come knocking as soon as I touched down, I went ahead with my travel plans undeterred. As a Third Coast native, I'd lived through many a ‘cane, and figured the trip would be just a tad bit wetter than I'd hoped. I was wrong. Though my folks were largely spared, I was beginning to see—through Facebook, texts, calls—that many old friends, neighbors, colleagues, and relatives were not. The scope of destruction was massive, the exact kind you might expect when a year's worth of rainfall is wrenched from the clouds in just a few days. Everyone got touched.
Efforts to recover were similarly massive. All the donated money and funds both federal and local helped people rebuild homes, surely, but spirits around the region were also in massive need of renovation. That came in the form of the Houston Astros. This was, in a word, unlikely. These are the Astros. Just a few short years ago they were the worst team in the sport. (The Dis-Astros they were sometimes called when I was growing up.) And even when they've managed to field good teams they always find a way to fuck things up. So when they found themselves this year in the World Series facing a favored Los Angeles Dodgers, the most expensive squad in baseball, there was nary a reason to believe they wouldn't be swept like they were the one and only other time they'd found themselves playing this late into the season.
But they won. In seven thrilling, totally fucking insane games, they won. Quickly the photo updates of various rebuilding efforts and the lasting evidence of Harvey's destructive rumble were replaced on my Facebook feed with reaction videos of the last World Series out, photos of the various victories along the way, GIFs of improbable plays, and plans to attend the parade. Nothing will ever erase Hurricane Harvey's enormous impact on the city of Houston. But because of it, the Astro's championship season couldn't have come at a better time.
—Brian McManus, Special Projects Editor
My Fringe-Ass Dad
My dad is fringe, in the same way Frank Reynolds is fringe—in fact, he’s a lot like Frank Reynolds, interspersed with a little bit of Homer Simpson, a dash of Harrison Ford, and a whole lot of Larry David. Once, he hit a deer while he was driving through rural Georgia in his sedan, and instead of doing anything about it, he left the chunk of fur that had lodged itself into his crumpled grill in place, neglected to clean the blood from his hood, and started calling his shitty four-door the “Deer Slayer 2000.” He rips cigs. He doesn’t pay parking tickets, as a rule. He’s been wearing the same army-green coat every winter for about a decade, despite the fact that there’s a gaping, tattered hole in the left elbow.
Another good one: Five hours into a bender with my reprobate friends at a grimy Atlanta bar, after too many games of pool (couldn’t really see the balls) and air hockey (somehow wound up with bloody knuckles) on which we bet a pickle-back apiece, everyone in attendance—including, of course, my fringe-ass dad—decided to go to the Clermont Lounge. It’s a seedy, smoky strip club that’s really more of a dive bar than anything, and it is (for lack of virtually any other word in my vocabulary) fringe. But we didn’t have a way to get there. So my dad—who, thankfully, was sober enough to drive—had all eleven of us pile into his tiny, beat up sedan: Two in the front seat, seven in the back, and me and a buddy in the trunk. We all easily could’ve died, and though two people vomited on the way there, we made it, and everything turned out fine—better than fine. It was fucking awesome. We drank, and sang, and ran around like idiots, and danced our asses off. I bought my dad a lap dance.
The point is this: My dad is extremely fringe, and I have never laughed harder, or marveled more, or appreciated to a deeper degree anything than I do his fringe-ass self. This Thanksgiving, I’ll eat turkey, and pet my dogs, and probably play a few games of Trivial Pursuit, all of which will be nice. But what I’m most excited about—what I’m most thankful for—is the chance to get weird with the lawless, depraved (and, by the way, huge-hearted, shockingly brilliant, impossibly selfless) psychopath who raised me. Here’s to you, Dad. Stay fringe.
—Drew Schwartz, Junior Staff Writer
Whitney and Brandy in 'Cinderella'
While cleaning my apartment the other day, I was looking for some Whitney Houston to jam to. I stumbled upon the 1997 Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella soundtrack, which featured Brandy and Whitney Houston. This was the only version of Cinderella we were allowed to watch growing up, and for good reason—the movie sparked my love and appreciation for Whitney Houston and made me dream of being a princess like no other Disney movie had before. The soundtrack took me back to simpler days where every holiday season my mother, sister, and I would watch the scene with Brandy gliding around the dance floor with her prince. We were in awe of the beautiful ballroom filled with cool-colored gowns. From the mixed-race cast to the banging soundtrack, this movie was a huge part of my childhood. I am thankful for this version of Cinderella that was ahead of its time in so many ways.
—Janae Price, Editorial Assistant
Sometimes talking or writing without putting my foot in my mouth is hard work. I’m truly thankful I have a job where I don’t often have to express myself with words. In that vein, here is a collage of other things I’m thankful for.
—Lia Kantrowitz, Senior Illustrator
I'm back at my mother's house right now in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and I'll be here for four days—the longest stay I've had in my home state since I moved to New York five years ago. I don't miss this place until I'm here, but I often find myself defending it, even in Brooklyn. I only grew up once, but you'd be hard-pressed to convince me there's somewhere better to do it. I'm from a land that people go through to get somewhere better—to New York, to Philly, to the airport. It makes you restless, flamboyant, and (sometimes) overtly obnoxious. It's everything I enjoy about life.
There's something in the air, beyond pollution, that will always make me feel at home here. Even just exiting the tunnel on the train from Manhattan, once it emerges on the other side of the Hudson, makes me feel different. The smokestacks. The factories. The toll booths and swamps and power lines. Finally I can say "fuck" every other word, and no one's going to say shit.
In New Jersey, you learn things. You learn how to speak, to tell stories. You learn how to drive 80 miles an hour eight inches from the back of another car. You learn you're not fucking special.
You don't have to make up your mind here. You can elect a man who might as well be the mascot for corruption, and then you can tell that guy to fuck off and pick the dude who's going to legalize pot. You can watch The Jersey Shore with irony and without irony, simultaneously. You can listen to Bon Jovi, and understand why he's brilliant and silly, and you can listen to Bruce Springsteen, and understand why he's brilliant and silly.
Plus, we have better bagels than Long Island. And better emo music. Fuck them.
—Alex Norcia, Copy Editor, VICE.com and VICE Magazine