The thing about this worst year in the history of years was that one day’s news was the next day’s ancient history. And the progression from must-click to what-the-hell-was-that is even faster when you’re a regional magazine whose website runs everything from things-to-do-around-town tips to meaty longform print feature stories. Still, even when they’ve been overtaken by events, a roundup of the top-performing posts can double as a short history of 2020. Here’s what happened:
You remember the presidential debates, right? Right before the first one, people wondered which political cliches and overwrought expressions would make an appearance. Would Donald Trump accuse Joe Biden of wanting to defund the police? Would Trump mispronounce China? Would Biden say “folks.” So, naturally, we cooked up a drinking game where competitors would have to chug when these and various other things happened. Members of our own staff played, and it went poorly. But it could have been worse: Luckily, there was no for “what if it turns into a two-hour nightmare of constant crazy interruptions from a deranged president who may be currently infected with covid acquired at the event he threw for Amy Coney Barrett three days ago.”
Washington was shutting down. No museums. No playgrounds. No schools. Enter Moe Willems, the man behind “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” and other classics. Willems, an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center, hosted a live stream to teach your homebound kids how to draw the pigeon, Piggie, Gerald, and other beloveds. It made everything better. For an hour.
“Captain Underpants” Writer/Illustrator Dav Pilkey Will Host Virtual Drawing Demonstrations, Readings, and More
What’s better than Piggie & Gerald at the Kennedy Center? Captain Underpants at the Library of Congress! Not to be outdone, the august library turned to create weekly videos on creating characters or acting out scenes from his own books. With pandemic bringing life to a hold, the capital’s cathedrals of high culture were also a great place to find jokes for eight-year-olds.
A time capsule from before Covid! Tiffany Trump, the president’s only daughter with Marla Maples, had generally been thought of as something of an outlier in the first family: Less glamorous than Ivanka, less agro than Don Junior or Eric, not living in the White House like young Barron. But, writer Amanda Whiting learned, that could be changing. On the cusp of graduation from Georgetown Law, the Jan Brady of Trump Tower was suddenly showing interest in joining the family business—and, in the process, getting a lot Trumpier. Would she play a bigger role in a second Trump administration? We’ll never know.
TJ Ducklo had a fairly big job: A senior aide to the Joe Biden presidential campaign. And he had a back story that seemed especially poignant in a campaign that took place against the backdrop of a pandemic: He’d fought Stage Four cancer.
Back in those early days, before the vaccine and before easily accessible testing, people still wanted to know if they’d had it—and to help Dr. Fauci in the process.
On July 4, Donald Trump delivered an Independence Day address to a large, mostly maskless crowd at Mount Rushmore, prompting fans to call for adding the 45th president to the South Dakota mountain. Meanwhile, in DC a couple weeks later, mobile “living statues” that cast the president in less heroic light—abetting police violence, encouraging kids to go back to school, hiding from protesters in a White House bunker—began appearing around town.
New Yorker legal writer and CNN fixture Jeffrey Toobin saw his career upended by what appears to be an unwise decision to multitask between an office zoom meeting and some online activities that apparently required less clothing. Bad news for Toobin. But good news for online wags making jokes about it.
Inn at Little Washington Chef Will Fill His Socially Distanced Dining Room With Midcentury Mannequins
Someday, a cultural historian will write an entire book about the mannequins that began appearing at local restaurants—including the fanciest Washington-area eatery of all—in order to make their socially distanced dining rooms feel less empty. But last summer, the creepy, sad phenomenon still felt new.
Among the victims of the covid lockdown: People in troubled marriages. Plain-old unhappy households became epically unhappy in close quarters. Meanwhile, more ambitiously bad spouses had their own troubles: It turns out planning an assignation during quarantine is really really hard. A divorce lawyer predicted very good business ahead once things re-opened.
Speaking of odd couples: The Conways! White House aide Kellyanne was the woman behind such linguistic innovations as “alternative facts.” Conservative lawyer George was more than a card-carrying “never-Trump” Republican—he was the author of a huge magazine essay calling POTUS crazy and unfit for office. And their teenage daughter was chronicling it all on social media. By year’s end, Kellyanne had stepped back from her White House job, George had stepped back from the Lincoln Project, and POTUS had been rejected by voters.
Back in January, there was no covid. So what was on our minds? Impeachment. Yes, the Senate was voting on whether to remove Donald Trump from office for having used taxpayer-funded foreign aid as a bargaining chip to demand a foreign government smear an American rival. It was a foregone conclusion that the Senate would stand by their fellow Republican. But as the vote neared, The Daily Show had an idea that might prompt a bit of introspection by some of those Senators: They sent a truck around town playing video clips of Trump insulting Senators. He was acquitted anyway.
Long distance relationships: Tough. Long distance relationships with someone who may actually only live a couple blocks away: Tougher. But that was all part of the magic of 2020.
In those early days of the lockdown, the prospect of elite restaurants becoming carry-outs seems kind of charming, a crisis adaption that we’d someday look back on fondly. Now it’s a way of life.
Each winter, Washingtonian ranks the region’s very best restaurants, judging food as well as the dining experience. Do you even remember what dining experience is? Here’s a refresher.
The DC establishment had an amazing whiskey collection. Then pandemic hit.
In a summer of violence and brutality and division, a comparatively quaint incident on a suburban bike trail captured attention: A passing bicyclist ripped down Black Lives Matter signs, accosting the young women posting them. All part of the crazy of 2020. (The man pled guilty this month.)
Just what were the rules?
The president was indifferent to masks, but as protests over racial injustice mounted, the White House donned the architectural equivalent of PPE. The process of the People’s House cutting itself off from the capital city goes back centuries, but this year’s expansion of fencing proved a big step in turning the executive mansion into sometime more fit for an authoritarian potentate.
And then we were back to debating again! This one left us with less of a hangover. America apparently agreed.