2007, I miss you already.
I don’t often do full-scale year-in-review pieces, but I have always enjoyed reading them. In particular, my work-friend Pete’s 2007 in review was particularly striking to me. I liked his idea of top ten moments of the year, little snapshots of what will really be remembered about the annum. Other things that come to mind include Dave Barry’s annual absurd skewering of the year on a month-by-month basis, or even summation montages on news television (do they still do these?).
I had my own way of reviewing the year on the BP – a little synopsis page that led to my 5 favorite books read during and movies of the year. Here’s 2005, for example. But you’ll note I haven’t even done 2006’s yet, let alone 2007. Not that I don’t intend to still do those pages for 2006 (and 2007), but that’s sort of part of a larger theme in itself. (If you’re wondering, I still can’t discern which would be the top book I read in ’06 between The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Man Without a Country, and The Year of Magical Thinking. Meanwhile, ’07 pretty clearly seems to belong to Crime and Punishment.)
So I have undertaken a year-in-review process for a year that dawned with much potential, seemed sort of disappointing and drifty overall, and then (upon this review) looked pretty good. I’m still sorting out the impact of just that process, let alone the whole year. But I think a chronological thing might be better than a ranking. I flagged about 18 moments, some of them days long and others seeming fleeting seconds, that will really stay with me. But a year is not a Book List or a Movie List, so we’ll see how this looks…
2007 Year in Review
Before getting into a chronology of the year, it seems there are some overall improvements that come to mind in 2007 (as well as disappointments, but I’ll get to those later). Among these are many basic steps that were taken to improve quality of life – some deliberate and some rather passive. These included (1) reading more, (2) getting into tennis with Emily, (3) staying in much better touch with my parents (not that we haven’t been in close contact for a long time), and (4) following baseball more closely by attending and watching more games (and the M’s having a decent season). The other two big highlights that stand out are (5) the transition of this blog (and maintaining it) after Introspection petered out and (6) managing to hang on at Glide despite a tremendous amount of tribulation there. Implicit in this last one are concepts of my making myself somewhat indispensable (including a mid-year promotion) without having the job overwhelm me or other efforts. And since I like sevens better than sixes (7 for ’07), I’m going to say that the last overall theme of positivity is (7) maintaining Duck and Cover for a full year, while changing its release schedule to better correspond to my life.
In January, the year dawned at the Tank (my decade-plus appellation for Fish’s parents’ house), which seemed like a long-standing tradition at the time, but is (with the passage of time) notable in itself because it was probably my last new year rung in at the Tank. I can’t give you an exact count right off the bat of how many years of my life began there, but it’s a high number. Start counting the other memories and it gets a little overwhelming. While there again in December, we all realized that the Tank was the last remaining of any of our close Nuevo friends’ original houses from when we all went to high school. Everyone’s parents had moved. And now Fish’s will be joining the pack, in all probability. In any case, this new year was marked by games of Mafia, snow, and endless speculation about flight delays. No small part of this highlight is the epic snowstorm, one of the largest in decades in Albuquerque, that blanketed the city I love in my favorite kind of weather for days on end.
On 15 January, I hiked Point Reyes with Gris & Anna on MLK Day, one of those stand-out hikes on a pristine day where all the animals seem to be willing to let humans seamlessly integrate as fellow creatures. We talked much of the future and the past and the day seemed like the perfect complement to a new year. Incredibly chilled, we had a warm Mexican meal in a local restaurant on our way back and much hilarity about milkshakes.
February brought the dawn of a short-lived but intense era of Mep Report videos, starting on 2 February with the release of 1-31-07 Never Forget. This lampoon of the events of 1/31, in which the city of Boston collectively mistook hastily-erected AquaTeen HungerForce advertisements for terrorism, was an idea that almost made me return home while walking to work so I could start on it. Instead, we (Greg, Russ, and I) stayed up all night that night to complete a masterwork of humorous tribute. The video was discussed in the Boston Globe online, was our first successful foray onto the front page of a section of the infamous Digg.com, made several YouTube charts in the first 24 hours, and has (of this writing) been viewed 63,548 times. It was one of those breathtakingly fun experiences that seemed to bubble up out of nowhere. Less than a year later, Russ would start using skills he was demonstrating here to pick-up a great job with Boing-Boing TV.
A borderline highlight is 17 February’s launch of One Million Blogs for Peace. This is borderline because while it was exciting and has done well, it has been yet another example of me starting an online project that is very high on maintenance and sets altogether too-lofty expectations. It was really exciting at the time, and now seems like a key component of a laundry list of why my post-collegiate life has been hard to control.
A no-doubter, despite lasting only a half-hour at most, is my walk home in the rain from a movie seen on the night of 24 February. The sky opened up and dumped on me for a 10-block walk, but I was suited up with hat and jackets in preparation and got to just be in the storm. It was one of a few transcendent moments in nature for the year, one of those moments that one feels perfectly aligned with everything.
On 11 March, we went to Clovis for Emily’s paternal grandmother’s birthday, finding her surprisingly lucid and in good spirits. But another transcendent moment was found when Paul IV (Em’s eldest brother) hauled out digitally salvaged home videos from a trip taken across the country and then on to Italy over 50 years prior. The memories flooded back to her grandmother almost immediately, and she kept pointing out people and places long seemingly forgotten. She was enthralled, and we were all moved. This highlight has gained significance in the passage of time, since it was one of the last really lucid moments we had with her and her condition has since begun to fade. Knowing she had this moment then is great comfort to us.
On 29 March, Emily finally departed PIRG, perhaps my most profoundly joyful day of the entire year. The day itself was ambivalent and strange, in part because of that institution’s incredible ability to continue to disrespect one of its brightest and strongest workers in its history. At the time, there was still a good deal of Stockholm Syndrome being manifest in Em’s perspective, but by now in the full light of time and others’ reassurances, she has come to see how poorly they treated her and how cultish much of their behavior is. We still have friends at PIRG, and most every person I know seems to have worked there for at least a few days, but their methods are medieval. Exhibit A in why the ends don’t justify the means. Putting years of struggle with work behind her was a major step for Emily and for the two of us as a whole.
So it Goes
On 7 April, we attended the wedding of Mesco & Afsheen, to much fanfare and jubilation. It was a great wedding and a really fun trip to Atlanta overall. I got to see the fabled whale sharks on a plane (no longer on the plane), see ‘Lisha before her jaunt to Malawi, and hang out for some quality time with Mesco, Afsheen, and friends of hers from bizarro-Brandeis. And there was much Waffle House. One of those almost unfettered great trips, all told.
Five days later, on 12 April, just hours after the death of beloved author Kurt Vonnegut, Russ, Greg and I had pulled another all-nighter (to be fair, I don’t think Greg made it the whole night) to release So it Goes. (Kurt Vonnegut 1922 – 2007), a tribute which at this point has even passed the previous video in YouTube views (67,445). It makes most people cry and demonstrates that while we’re pretty funny guys, we may have a greater talent for meaning and mourning. Before the phenomenon was over, we made the front page of Boing-Boing.net (a larger accomplishment before they’d even heard of Russ), Lily Vonnegut (Kurt’s daughter) ended up sending us an e-mail, and most YouTube commenters admitted to crying every time they watched it. This is probably the greatest success of the Mep Team of all-time (collectively), to date.
A late May visit to LA was one of the best such SoCal visits of all-time, and really enabled me putting a cap on what is nearly always a dismal April/May season for me. Highlights included a baseball game, reconnecting with the LA friends (Jake, Mesco & Afsheen), and a candidate for Conversation of the Year, in which I caught up Russ on the facets of my story that I had somehow overlooked telling him in the midst of us becoming friends back in college. We didn’t manage to get to the Casino for poker, but I think that was the right call in the end. The fires of Venice Beach reminded us all that life is far more transient and malleable than we would ever normally let ourselves admit.
A New Form of Story-Telling
Even before the emergence of this blog, early June brought a rare and strangely enjoyable opportunity to moderate a game of online Mafia/Werewolf for the APDA Forum community. A Forum crash may have wiped out the record of this game forever, which reminds me somehow of those sand mandalas that Buddhist monks create and then destroy for the purpose of demonstrating the impermanence and stunning beauty of our time on this planet. Not to say that “The Witches of Parliam Village,” which lasted a fortnight and was the longest Forum thread ever to that time, was as beautiful as a mandala, but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of some of the aspects I most deeply miss about debate: intellectual play with many other intellectuals. That’s probably the most fundamental thing I feel I lack on a daily basis post-college.
Emily’s & my trip to Oregon was probably the dominant event of 2007, coming squarely mid-year (July) and throwing my perspective off its axis. I had already been drawing conclusions about the necessity of living more by direction and less by momentum, but this trip was able to throw my perspective into sharp relief against the backdrop of where my consciousness really blossomed. Revisiting (and showing Em) the scenes of all those “formative years” dredged up memories good, bad, and ugly, and brought me to a precipice of self-examination that was necessary to attempt progress. Ultimately, it seems clear that I am still feeling the reverberations of this experience, and still have many changes to be made or clarified. And it wasn’t all heavy weather – much of the trip was just a great deal of fun, as Oregon in the summer usually is.
In August, Lauren Cusick came to visit us and I was surprised at how well we all reconnected (and how quickly). While Lauren and Emily had always been close, she and I have probably never connected so much as we did this trip, making it an unanticipatedly great time and strengthening friendships all around. There are many people who I’ve always been confident that I can reconnect with immediately after extended times apart, and adding a new person to that list was especially good in light of how few friends I’ve made since college.
While September dawned difficult and a long-planned visit from my parents did not go entirely as planned (with Emily having to return home for a funeral), it facilitated the fruition of a plan I’d been developing for months. To wit, I was able to give Emily a blue (in probably her favorite precise shade of blue, no less) 2007 Prius for her birthday with her having absolutely no idea this was coming. I literally bought the car and parked it a few blocks from our house and invited her on a walk of no seeming importance, only to spring the car on her as a birthday surprise. Her reaction took a long time to recover from shock and meld into some sort of happiness. Neither of us are materialists or ever really make big purchases, but with the amount she’s driving for her new job and the improved safety and fuel economy (not to mention car color!), this was sort of a no-brainer. And the fact that months of planning led to a perfectly carried surprise was essential to the joy.
A Magical October
Most of you may think that I overrate the significance of October, but this one was largely demonstrative of why I do. It began with a Weakerthans concert experience that I can do no better than to point you to the original post to describe. It’s not like meeting John K. Samson in itself was a huge deal (though it was awfully cool), but the way this whole night unfolded seemed emblematic of, again, being exactly where I should be.
Less than a week later, Em and I were in Vermont to witness Stina & Dav’s wedding, which proved to carry its own multifarious magic. I may be coming off as a sucker for weddings in this review, but seeing two of my very close friends find, establish, and codify their happiness is one of the best experiences I could imagine. And most all of my friends have jettisoned the traditions they don’t like in favor of establishing a new set of traditions, which is the only way to go if you ask me. As with the prior wedding, there were key friends to reconnect with here (primarily Ariel and Kate), and the memories that eight of us shared in the waning night at the reception hall, restaurant, and fireplace were beyond profound and utterly timeless.
Less than a week after that, I departed for a 40+ hour water-fast, most of it in the woods of Marin. While not a perfect experience, it was part of a continuing series of grounding exercises to remind me of the life I want to be leading and the path I wish to be walking. As a continuing part of the fallout from Oregon, I have been reminded this year that simply being happy, wandering a course without obvious pitfalls, and holding key aspirations is not sufficient to make a decent life. Those three things are all good, to be sure, but a larger component of deliberate movement has to be exerted to bring everything together and make it sing. I’m clearly not all the way there yet, but the quest is joined at this point and I am mostly keeping my focus on what needs to be done. Keeping all this together in the big picture is one of the key challenges for 2008.
When I first made this list of key events in the year, November was the only 2007 month to lack a single highlight moment. Maybe it’s too recent and was too sloggy to really count. My fatigue with my job hit an all-time high and I came tremendously close to giving notice. Day faded into day, leaving me tired and bereft. The only thing I can bring together is a night shortly before Thanksgiving in the San Francisco Chipotle (oddly I seem to have a lot of revelations there) on New Montgomery, between the Palace Hotel and the Academy of Art. It led to this post about my history with Thanksgiving and more context with the larger picture. Of course, this was quickly followed with a brush with materialism and standard America that made me want to move forthwith to Bhutan. So let’s just leave it at Chipotle.
Perseverance and Rejuvenation
December, though recent, already stands out as a month of great highs and lows, but lows which seemed triumphant despite their difficulty. The lows were mostly embodied in having to run the two largest events of our year at work in the midst of a terrible and debilitating illness. There is something telling, perhaps, in that both of my big sicknesses this year were marked by not being able to rest (and thus making them much worse)… the other was debate Nationals at Vassar in April. I simply couldn’t be absent for most all of the days, throwing my voice out twice as I tried to keep things organized and on-point. Fish came to visit as I was reaching a psyhcoemotional low for the whole year and helped salvage me from the worst, even making a big contribution of time and effort the day of our first major holiday event. Getting through those events successfully, hearing from old-timers that it was the best they’d ever been run, was about the biggest thing (on paper, at least) that I “accomplished” in ’07.
Then it was time to launch what I have dubbed the 2007-2008 EmStor Winter World Tour, with quick whirlwind trips to Albuquerque, back to Berkeley, and then to Fresno/Shaver Lake. I saw seemingly infinite numbers of folks, almost all in quick succession of hellos and goodbyes. I got a bit more time than the average with my parents in Nuevo, with Beth in Berkeley, and with the Garin Clan at Fresno/Shaver. Not enough time with snow, really, in any of the events, but these trips combined to provide a restful recuperation period for the year, and a chance to touch base with many people, however briefly, and connect.
I don’t want to dwell on the biggest disappointments of 2007, but it seems like a few are worth noting. Primarily (1) not writing enough, (2) not paring enough from the schedule, and (3) getting sick at Nationals. The middle factor there may be a bit of a red herring, because at least in 2007 I embarked on the concept of paring things instead of just taking on more and adding projects. But I’m still overall disappointed with how much has been left hanging. And most of this is online and thus sort of silly… a bunch of projects that I “feel” I should maintain despite them not being an important or quality use of time. The temptations of so many chapter ones, the “instinct to nurse every idea to health.” That line just skewers me every time, it’s exactly my experience with projects and opportunities. So I have to continue to fight that instinct, to distill time and its expenditures into the refined projects that have the best chance, the most upside. Which is very closely related to the not writing enough, of course. And getting sick at Nationals was just unfortunate timing, because I didn’t get much chance to hang out with people, I felt cruddy when I did, and I still had to do a good deal of work. And I was sneezing and wheezing through key outrounds, which just can’t have been fun to argue toward.
At this point, I don’t really have time or energy to contemplate 2008 beyond what I’ve already done. I find it all but inevitable that the trip to India, now a scant 11 days away, will set the tone for this year in my life. If a mere trip to Oregon can bend 2007 in a new direction, one can only imagine what my first real international travel in more than 12 years (Scotland so doesn’t count) will do. And that trip is so different than any prior experience that I have that there is simply no point in trying to anticipate it or build expectations. It will be completely fresh and unexpected. And the rest will follow.