What I Have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2011

Good evening friends, this is my 14th annual New Year’s reflection and I hope you have a few laughs.

In Walla Walla at the end of a fantastic meal of short ribs, great wine, and hardy conversation, I slipped the winemaker we were having dinner with my business card. I told him that if he thought his daughter and I would be a good match, that he should pass on my contact information to her. And he did. And the winemaker’s daughter and I went out for a glass of wine. While we didn’t fall in love, we did have a great evening together and I dreaded the day when I would see her father again. And when I saw him a few weeks ago, he put his hand on my shoulder, smiled broadly, and I could tell in his eyes that there were no hard feelings. In the winemaker’s deep, raspy voice he said, “Nick, how the hell are you doing?”

Like any year, this past year was filled with many laughs and a few missteps — both figuratively and in my dance class at Century Ballroom. In between the clouds of this past year there a few sun-filled days of relaxation and maybe an evening or two of rain soaked disappointment.

See a few days after I sent this annual reflection out last year, I foolishly sent it to Hillary, a girl I once dated (and who was mentioned last year), and she wrote back to me saying that she wanted to see me. And what I thought was maybe a glimmer of reconnection or reconciliation turned out to be an evening where she told me that she was engaged. Engaged to my friend and former colleague at the University of Washington, who had also received my annual reflection. Awkward. They were getting married in June and they wanted to tell me before I found out in some roundabout way. I was devastated, maybe devastated is too strong but hurt nevertheless. Weeks before their wedding in June, in a moment of self loathing, I looked at their registry online and through all the plates, wine glasses, and bath towels, I glimpsed into how my life could have been.

For me it is easy to remember this past year through food and drink. There was the forgettable burger and Bud Light at the racetrack in Vancouver, B.C. But that burger tasted as if it had been prepared by Jesus himself because the Sounders came from behind and won 3 to 1 at the last game in Empire Field (we also took home the Cascadia Cup). There was the backroom lunch at Salumi where we paired a grilled pork loin roast (among other dishes) with a 1967, 1974, 1982, and 1988 Barolos. And I wouldn’t want to forget the room service I ordered the next day after the PNDRI auction — undercooked sausage and overcooked eggs never tasted better.

And of course there were the meals around celebrations and birthdays. Katie’s fried chicken. Dungeness crab at Monsoon. The 18-course meal at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. The sliders at Meghann and Josh’s wedding. The chicken and Brussels sprouts when Tia came home. The Dick’s cheeseburger(s) at the end of my birthday. The old bottles of Leonetti over at Ben and Kasa’s. I definitely had a strange feeling knowing that perhaps the last of the 1983 Leonetti Reserve anywhere in the world was in my glass.

And I will never forget the chicken salad I made for my second date at Volunteer Park with Emily. After the play ended we stood for hours talking as the summer evening transitioned into twilight and as twilight turned into darkness. She walked me home and I kissed her on the steps of my apartment building.

This past year I got a date because of Twitter (her Tweet and mine). We tweeted back and forth and finally met in person at a wine event. But it turned out we were more compatible when we kept it to 140 characters. Then there was what I thought was a second date with someone else. That was quickly shattered when she arrived holding hands with her boyfriend. Or the best yet happened when I asked someone to be my plus one to an auction. We spent the evening laughing and hanging out and I knew it wasn’t a date. But that didn’t stop me from leaning in to kiss her while waiting for a cab — in a freezing cold apartment vestibule. She backed up, gave me a puzzled look at my advance and said “Really, Nick? … Really?”

You might think that with all of these dating stories over that past few years that I must have dated every eligible woman in Seattle. It turns out that I have. This past year, my friend tried to set her co-worker up with me. My friend then begins to describe me to her co-worker: he works for a diabetes research institute, he’s Asian, he loves the Sounders, and blogs for the Seattle PI. Her co-worker then asks, “Wait… what’s his name again?” We had already gone out — a year ago. But we went out again. And a few more times. But it never really worked out.

I always find it difficult to sum up a year. How do you put into words how it felt when the Sounders won in Portland? How do you capture the moment, on that early July morning, when you stepped onto that crowded bus and rode three hours south? Or explain coherently the rush of self-doubt that happens right before you grab your partner’s hand in West Coast Swing? Or that rush when she compliments you after a good sequence of moves. Sometimes a moment of joy is forever captured. Sometimes your closest friend is helping you recapture a fond moment from the past. Sometimes your favorite moments from the past year are only known to you.

I often think about what my friend Brian wrote in my high school senior yearbook. He said that I reminded him of a quote by Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” This upcoming spring I’m boarding a plane bound for France. To hopefully stay there for a month. I am hoping to see Eiffel Tower, attend a soccer match in Lyon, and taste some German inspired wines in Alasce. I may have, in my weakest moment of 2011, allowed myself to glimpse into a life I could never have. And that was foolish. But I am going to try to stay true to that quote for 2012.

This past year I was a babysitter, a dancer, and an iPhone video editor. There were ambiguous relationships and first dates. There was a fantastic summer lunch at Lake Quinault and great cocktails in Capitol Hill. There were three auctions and a conference. And rowdy moments at Starfire and schlepping wine at Full Pull. But perhaps my favorite moments of 2011 were in Walla Walla — tasting and spitting wine and seeing how grapes go from the soil and the vines, to the barrel to the bottle. I will remember eating too much food at Brasserie Four and getting into trouble with Paul and Becky at the Green Lantern. Driving to wineries and getting lost in the fields. It is amazing to see a place reinvent itself. Over ten years ago Walla Walla was most known for having “The Pen.” Now it is known as wine country that almost rivals Napa. If a place like Walla Walla can transform itself anew — then anything is possible. Alright my friends, I hope to see you again soon and we’ll toast the new year together.

Remember to live life to the fullest, dream, wonder, and explore because, you never know. To everyone, Happy New Year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: