The Best of 2021 Awards: Part IV

by Just Juan
1805 views 11 min read

With 2022 just around the corner, I’m continuing with The Best of 2021. As with the previous 3 posts, Part IV will be 5 more randoms and moments from the year that was.

BEST NEW PURCHASE. For Best New Purchase in 2021, the qualifier is an item I acquired for the first time in 2021. The nominees are:

  • Serta iComfort CF3000 Hybrid Plush Queen Mattress. With the move to Bogotá, a no doubt nominee for Highlight Experience of 2021 being one of the biggest things to happen for me this year, I figured I’d take the opportunity to reset a little bit. In my previous moves abroad, I virtually started brand new. As I noted in this contribution of Dreams of a Diplomat series, it’s a furnished post. In essence, all I really had to bring was my clothes and the stuff that makes up unaccompanied baggage. The Department provided everything else as far as major furniture goes…including bedroom sets. I, however, chose to bring my own mattress…and not only that but a brand new mattress. After some “testing” at the Macy’s Home Store, I settled on the Serta iComfort CF3000. I ended up ordering directly from Serta to cut down on the unreasonable delivery time Macy’s put out there…something like 12-15 weeks. Once we got our HHE shipment in October, I slept on it for the first time and let me tell you: sleep has been fantastic ever since.
  • Netgear Nighthawk AX3600 TriBand WiFi 6 Mesh System. Bogotá is in a seismic zone. In fact, we’ve had 15 earthquakes this month, including 6 in the last 1 ½ weeks. Part of me figures that we may be due for a serious jolt but that’s a story for another day. Most structures are built with concrete here…at least the modern ones. An unintended consequence of that is horrible WiFi signal coverage. As you know, the apartment is huge and that’s great but the concrete walls have been a sore spot because the WiFi signal has been virtually nonexistent the farther away I get from the router. On the recommendation of a friend, I invested in a mesh system. I copped the Netgear Nighthawk out of Best Buy and I’ve not only been able to get a signal in every corner of the apartment, but I’m also getting signals with download speeds of up to 330 Mbps…faster than the 300 Mbps outlined in the plan.
  • Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 8-quart 2-basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology. For our last 2 years in the National Capital Region, we had an air fryer. I copped it from Target in the Summer of 2019. I was really good but it was hell to stay clean and it wasn’t all that effective if I was prepping multiple things in quick succession…such as chicken wings and fries. As I set to start new here in Colombia, I looked around for potential replacements. I came across the Ninja Foodi 2-basket air fryer in Best Buy and I was sold. Since it arrived with the UAB in September, it has been a fantastic addition to the household. In fact, it’s a nominee for Best Change Made to My Residence and Best New Technological Advancement. The ability to cook multiple things simultaneously is a boon. It’s easy to stay clean, easy to use, and the features are bananas.
  • Sony PlayStation 5. Since November 2020, I’ve been on the hunt for a Sony PlayStation 5. Partly because of Sony’s arrogance in making supply extremely limited and partly because of the hoarders who buy huge quantities and sell them at prices well above list price, I failed to acquire one. They have them in abundance in the duty-free store at El Dorado International Airport but at a price of $1135…that U.S. dollars, not to be confused with $1,135,000 Colombian pesos. I wasn’t paying that and I was resigned to going another year without being able to add it. A colleague of mine had purchased one for his kids but they didn’t like it after the 1st play so he packed it back up and offered to sell it to me…along with a lot of accessories and games for the PS5 as well as the PS4. For a cool $1000 on what was probably a value of maybe $1500 in total merchandise, I snatched it up.
  • Samsonite Ascella X Softside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels Black Garment Bag. Ahead of my move to Colombia, my biggest concern in the last few days was protecting my suits during international transit. Past lessons of sending my suits through UAB and HHE resulted in them being ripped or damaged by environmental conditions. And today’s airplanes are few and far between when it comes to having space available to hang such items onboard. After some asking around, I settled on the Samsonite Ascella X. It was heavy-duty, which was the top requirement for me considering the ruthless bag handlers at Hartsfield-Jackson would be charged with getting my bags on the plane. It was able to hold up to 4 suits, which was also important because I have 4 suits. In the end, it also held 5 of my dress shirts and all of my dress shoes without issue. The fact that it had wheels made it even better.

And the Best New Purchase in 2021 is…the Netgear Nighthawk AX3600. 


BEST SPORTS MOMENT. For Best Sports Moment 2021, the qualifier is a specific moment in the world of sports that captivated me. The nominees are:

  • Ohio State defeating Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 2021 Allstate Sugar Bowl. 2021 began with a bang. After a heartbreaking and controversial loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, my Ohio State Buckeyes finally got off the schneid against the upstart Tigers. The result was a 49-28 thumping of them in New Orleans…and the game wasn’t as close as even that final score seemed. It was a beautiful moment…punctuated by the Justin Fields deep strike to Chris Olave, which atoned for their miscommunication that doomed the game a year earlier. It was even better that Dabo Swinney had to eat crow for ranking us #11 in his final poll.
  • Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run to win the 2021 National League Wild Card Game. Every kid who likes baseball grows up playing out that imaginary moment when they hit a home run to win a postseason series…usually the Fall Classic. With 2 out and 1 on in the bottom of the 9th inning of a winner-take-all, loser goes home playoff game, Chris Taylor had that moment. His drive to deep left field won the Wild Card Game and eventually helped propel the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series.
  • The Dodgers eliminating the Giants in Game 5 of the 2021 National League Division Series. Few things in sports are sweeter than beating your archrival with everything on the line. The Dodgers did that in Game 5 of the NLDS, a 2-1 victory in San Francisco. The victory vanquished the hated rivals and sent them on their annual fishing trip in San Francisco Bay. The postgame memes made it even better.
  • Tyson Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder to retain the WBC & The Ring Heavyweight Championship. In October, the much-hyped 3rd fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder happened. Much like he did in the 1st fight—a very controversial draw gifted to Wilder—and the 2nd fight—a 7th round TKO—Fury dominated Wilder. The former champ did have his moments—he knocked Fury down twice—but as the fight progressed, it was clear that Fury was going to win and win impressively. He finished off Wilder with a devastating right hook, sending him sprawling to the canvas as the referee called off the fight.
  • Elaine Thompson-Herah’s summer showcase. If you let the younger demographic from urban America tell it, the Summer of 2021 was supposed to be the Sha’Carri Richardson breakout. She was supposed to establish her legacy on the track…complete with the weave, the fingernails, and the brash attitude. She failed a drug test and got disqualified from the Olympics. Enter the defending Olympic champ in the women’s 100 and 200 metres sprints. Elaine Thompson-Herah had herself quite a summer. She ran a 10.61 in the 100 metres Olympic final, shattering Florence Griffith-Joyner’s mark from the Seoul Olympics. She followed that up by recording the 2nd fastest 200 metres by a woman and then she shocked the world by blowing out the field at the Prefontaine Classic. It all culminated with her winning a Diamond League championship in the 100 metres. It was one of the greatest displays of sprinting I had ever seen.

And the Best Sports Moment in 2021 is…the Dodgers eliminating the Giants. 

NEW FOOD. For Best New Food of 2021, the qualifier is cuisine I tried for the first time in 2021. The nominees are:

  • Arepas rellenas de queso. The English translation of arepa rellenas de queso is cheese-stuffed corn cakes. They are a staple here in Colombia and you can find them just about anywhere…from grocery stores to corner stores to malls to street vendors. They all have their own unique taste. For my money, I would say the closer to the street you buy them, the better they are. Don’t ask me why that is. Anyway, it’s by far my favorite of the comida típica de la zona. I usually have one for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays but I’ve had my empleada doméstica prep them for breakfast the last couple of weeks. The gooeyness of the cheese and the softness of the bread is heavenly.
  • Drunken noodles from Thaiphoon. A few days ago, I revealed Thaiphoon in Pentagon Row as a nominee of one of the Best Restaurant Moments. While I was there mostly for conversation with colleagues, I did eat something: the Drunken Noodle entrée. Consisting of stir-fried wide rice noodles with onions, tomatoes, basil leaves, and my choice of meat (chicken) in a spicy garlic sauce, it was a food selection that left me satisfied. I really liked how the spicy garlic sauce had kick and it was the first time I had rice noodles since my days of eating at a Japanese spot in Pensacola during the USACE days.
  • The Juicy Crab mixture. The Best Restaurant Moment of 2021 provided a nominee for Best New Food. In my debut in the restaurant, I was met with a table of food that included chicken wings, shrimp with no heads, snow crab legs, Dungeness, corn on the cob, boiled potatoes, fried calamari and steamed rice. There was a variety of sauces that came with all of that. Except for the rice, all of it went into a huge bag and was mixed in. The result was a conglomeration of seafood and other stuff. Not only was the food good but that spice level had fierce afterburn, which isn’t a disappointment at all. I destroyed the leftovers the next morning.

And the Best New Food of 2021 is…arepas rellenas de queso. 

NEW TELEVISION SERIES. For Best New Television Series of 2021, the qualifier is a television series I watched for the first time in 2021. It does not mean that the series premiered in 2021. The nominees are:

  • Solos. I came across this series back in May on Amazon Prime. It was an anthology series kind of like Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, which probably would’ve been the winner of the Best New Television Series of 2017 had I written the series. With Solos, I particularly liked the ensemble cast. Each story was about an individual having some kind of experience that turned out to be connected in some form to others. I was actually shocked by the story of Peg, played by the lovely Helen Mirren. I definitely didn’t expect the loop for which she threw me. I would love to see a second season of it but I don’t think the plot would allow it.
  • Power Book III: Raising Kanan. The series premiered shortly after I arrived here in Colombia. As I didn’t have my VPN set up in the temporary apartment, I couldn’t watch it initially. It wasn’t until I decided to check it out at work (I may have taken advantage of the built-in VPNs of the work computers to watch Amazon Prime in my office) did I get to see it. Over a couple of weeks’ worth of lunch breaks, I tuned in and found myself intrigued by the character who grew up to be a ruthless gangster and adversary of James St. Patrick in Power.
  • Lovesick. I kinda have this thing for watching British television series. Think Luther or Accused or Killing Eve or Secret Diary of a Call Girl or The Crown. It’s something about the accents and the rawness of the presentation that intrigues me. With Lovesick, I actually liked the storyline: a group of friends living life amid the chaos of their love lives. I liked Dylan’s honesty, especially in Series 1 as he went about informing his collection of partners about his chlamydia diagnosis. Of course, Antonia Thomas is lovely as Evie Douglas…and might I say she has an even better accent and look in heels than Ashley Madekwe. My favorite character—and one of the reasons why I actually like the show—is Angus Baker. He’s a nerd but he’s extremely naïve to a lot of things though he is sometimes the conscious of the group.

And the Best New Television Series of 2021 is…Lovesick.

Image: A poster for the Solos television series [Source: Mediagoodies]
Image: A banner for the Power Book III: Raising Kanan television series [Source: Starz]
Image: A banner for the Lovesick television series [Source: Netflix]

MOST DISAPPOINTING MOMENT. For Most Disappointing Moment of 2021, the qualifier is a specific moment in which I was sorely disappointed by the final result. The nominees are:

  • James Bond dying at the end of No Time to Die. This is the 3rd nomination in this year’s series for No Time to Die. That says a lot about the power of that film…especially since it was an October release. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The storyline was really good but man…that ending. SPOILER ALERT COMING. When Bond resigned to the fact that his life would be miserable had he lived on account of Safin’s last-ditch ploy, death became imminent. When the bombs dropped and you no longer saw his Smart Blood signal on Q’s plane, I cried. It was disappointing. You always expect your heroes to survive after saving the world. James Bond happens to be one of my heroes…and he was invincible until the penultimate scene of the film.
  • Not being able to see Mama Sanders before departing for Bogotá. I haven’t seen my spiritual mother face-to-face since we shared this emotional moment at my wedding. I had plans of visiting her in Germany in the Summer of 2019 but Ashton got sick and then COVID-19 destroyed all travel plans in 2020. When I was in the South for the 2 weeks between leaving DC and arriving in Bogotá, I planned to make the drive from Birmingham to her summer home in Mississippi but there were some incredible storms rolling through the day I planned to visit. When I called to get a gauge of the road conditions down her way, she said that some of the roads were washed out. I ended up canceling the trip and that was a lost opportunity. The hope is that seeing her will be a nominee for Highlight Experience of 2022.
  • The Dodgers wasting a 106-win season. The Dodgers wasted an all-time season in 2021. We won a franchise-record 106 games and that didn’t include an NL West division title. Though we ended up in the National League Championship Series, we got outplayed—or better yet, outmanaged—by the Atlanta Braves, who went on to win the World Series. The decisions by Dave Roberts over the course of the season cost us a chance to win what was certain to be a 2nd straight World Series championship. And with a long lockout looming and many of the team’s star players leaving for other teams, who knows if we’ll ever have a season with that many wins again. Either way, it makes the 3rd 100-win season ruined by Dave Roberts. I personally think he should be fired but I can’t really justify it with .622 winning percentage as the team’s manager to go along with 6 playoff appearances, 5 division titles, 3 pennants, and a championship since we parted ways with punk ass Don Mattingly.
  • Missing Christmas in the United States. In all of my years abroad, I’ve actually never come home for Christmas. This year was supposed to be different, however. Mercedes and Ashton left to go to the States ahead of me and the plan was for me to drop in a couple of days before Christmas and come back the day after. But that whole “needs of the Department of State” is real and an emergency preparedness drill that was planned late by my counterparts in the Regional Security Office meant I wasn’t going home. After all, the POSHO has to be here for such things. It is the 1st Christmas I’ve missed with my wife and son.
  • Missing out on an undisputed heavyweight boxing championship fight. After Anthony Joshua blew out Andy Ruiz, Jr. to reclaim the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO Heavyweight Championships—collectively known as the unified championship—2 years ago, I got excited about the Fall of 2020. When Tyson Fury dominated Deontay Wilder in the 2nd of their 3 fights, I got really excited about the Fall of 2020. The world was on track to see an undefeated Tyson Fury versus a once-defeated Anthony Joshua duke it out in London for all of the marbles…and we’re talking the WBC, WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO, and The Ring Heavyweight Championships. Basically, the undisputed heavyweight championship would’ve been at stake in perhaps the most profitable fight in the history of boxing. F’n Deontay Wilder ruined it by carelessly exercising the rematch clause with Fury only to get his ass kicked as I noted above. Joshua lost the unified title to the upstart Oleksandr Usyk and now we have a mess of obstacles in between Fury-Joshua to include a dangerous Dillian Whyte, who is now Fury’s mandatory. Deontay Wilder disappointed me and the boxing world with his decision. That mofo should’ve taken the step aside money.

And the Most Disappointing Moment of 2021 is…missing Christmas in the United States.

Only 2 more days left in 2021. 11 more awards to dish out in The Best of 2021 series. Check back for Part V tomorrow.

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