Sunday night.

A week ago today, I was sitting on my laptop, checking and double-checking and triple-checking Reddit’s math, trying to figure out if their claims about Gamestop were true – and finding over and over and over that they were. This past week changed my life. I shall forevermore celebrate the last week of every January with revelry, champagne, and song. (I bear no responsibility for the sanity of those poor bastards who don’t run escape that karaoke bar.) Confession time: sometime around April 2020 (must’ve been day 40 or 50 of this blog), I made a really dumb bet on an oil ETF, thinking it couldn’t possibly go any lower. Right after that, the oil futures hit a negative price for the first time in history (they literally had to pay people to take it from them), and I lost about 60% of my Roth IRA account. After last week’s YOLO maneuver, my retirement account not only recovered – it has exceeded its previous record high by about 56%. What a bizarre turnaround. (And hey, I never claimed to be wise.)

Like I said earlier, I no longer have any stake in Gamestop (“paper hands,” as redditors call it, as opposed to “diamond hands”) but I’ve got some Blackberry, which is currently down 30% due to Robinhood’s manipulation, so let’s see how that goes. I’m writing so much about the stock market lately because a) it’s a passion of mine, and b) for once, something new and interesting is happening with continuous new updates that disrupt from equally continuous new updates about the pandemic. This is a perfect distraction: enriching both mentally and materially. Heh. You know things are getting interesting when old friends and acquaintances (such as a guy who stayed at the same Costa Rican hostel as I four years ago) are reaching out for quick advice. (One of them even called me on my phone to get some quick input before the market opened on Friday.) I’m mildly insulted that that’s what got them to contact me, but mostly flattered.

The weather was mostly crappy this weekend: below freezing, and not at all sunny today. I stayed inside except for a quick walk to the local Tim Hortons. I’m originally from Siberia, and I can definitely handle cold weather, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, eh. Give me some tropical weather any day of the week, and I’ll be a happy camper.

In the absence of any sort of light at the end of the tunnel (seriously, the best-case scenario is seven more months before I get vaccinated) and with no real-life human contact (pants are a distant memory; just a sweatshirt for webcam calls at work), I’m rehashing and reliving some vivid memories from before the plague. When I lived in Seattle, I’d occasionally take a Friday off and fly to Reno for a three-day anonymous adventure. Sometimes meeting an old friend for a meal. Usually just going to dirt-cheap (by Seattle’s standards) shows, amazing buffets, and hitting every blackjack table in sight. I usually broke even for the trip, but it was the anonymous, joyful, free experience of it all that made it worth it. I still remember the sensation of leaving the climate-controlled airport and experiencing that rush of hot desert air, even at 1am, and walking toward the vivid neon lights of downtown. (And yes, I know, that’s textbook male privilege, being able to walk alone at night through the empty streets of a sketchy city.)

Those three-day weekends were the most time I could take off work during those crazy, hurried years. I tried to make the most of that time in my old city. It was never enough, and it was just a low-key decadent bandaid, but for the time being, it worked. I have so many memories of Reno that I just can’t place: what year, what month, what season they took place. I honestly can’t tell if there were five or 15 of those trips. Almost certainly fewer than 25. Celebrating the end of this week, tonight, I tried to recreate a little bit of that magic. A $30 decadent meal because hey, what else is there to spend money on when you’re doomed to be single in the midst of a pandemic? White rice with mushrooms and salmon filet, cooked to perfection by my beloved instapot, and a cheap bottle of champagne. I’ll never not be fascinated by the dance of those bubbles, flowing ever upward… Gazing into that glass, I could be anywhere, anytime, and maybe if I look at it long enough, I’ll hear the dealer’s impatient question, “Hit or stand?” and turn toward the voice, and find myself once more in some casino, surrounded by random jolly strangers, anonymous and happy once again…

Someday. Someday.

Outside, a stranger’s coughing fit continues.

In lighter news, I keep discovering more content in Stardew Valley, and it’s a remarkably funny game that rewards you for the time you put in it, but I sense that I’ve finally uncovered almost all there is to find. My little farmer dude has a family (a wife and two creepy kids who never sleep), his farming routine consists of petting every animal once a day, and he finally saved up enough money to buy a magical staff to teleport home whenever he wants. I’m gonna have to find another distraction… The book “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab is off to a really good start so far. I had to force myself to finish Philip K. Dick’s “Penultimate Truth” earlier today (after trying to for a solid week) – the concept was interesting, but it was way too political.

Speaking of politics, the US is still screwing around. Biden’s big promise was that if Democrats won both of the senate races in Georgia on January 6th, there’d be $2,000 checks going out later the same month. Well, January will end in two hours, and those checks are still nowhere to be found. What’s worse is that they’re backpedaling: instead of a $2,000 check, it’ll be just a $1,400 check, since a $600 check got sent a month ago. That sort of fine print hadn’t been made explicitly clear, and that’s not a very good look, especially after multiple months with no stimulus at all. (Seriously, how is it that Canada took better care of its own people in 2020?)

In covid news, there was a rather disturbing precedent in Los Angeles. (California is west coast’s Florida.) Approximately 50 protestors blocked the entrance to the Dodger Stadium where mass vaccinations were supposed to take place. They got cleared after about an hour, and all the scheduled vaccinations took place, but none of them got charged, fined, or arrested. At what point is it okay to call them a death cult?.. I strongly suspect that the same crowd had been pro-Trump and heavily involved with Q-Anon. Both of those movements have recently collapsed, so it only makes sense that they’d use their rabid energy on something else – something like this. This particular news story is troubling because it really looks like a trial run. If just 50 people with way too much time on their hands managed to block the biggest vaccination site in Los Angeles for a whole hour and got away with no consequences, other groups nationwide and worldwide could end up doing copycat protests… If directly killing someone is a crime, and if holding an asthmatic person’s inhaler just out of their reach until they die is also a serious crime (I’m sure they’ll find something to prosecute you with), then wouldn’t it also be a serious crime to deliberately block high-risk people’s access to a life-saving vaccine in the midst of a lethal pandemic?..

This will be a wild year.

Congrats on making it through January, y’all.