Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

January 3, 2017

The gate agent in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport finally had mercy on me. I had been delayed six hours out of Toronto. And I missed every flight to Seattle that night. The delay was infuriating at the time. A dent in the plane. A missing mechanic. A tow truck stuck in the snow that was supposed to get us unstuck from the tarmac. The agent pleaded for me. He begged. He tossed out flight connections around America like baseball statistics. And I don’t know what favors he cashed in but he got me as far west as Las Vegas with a voucher for a hotel and a taxi.

Despite the fact that I had been up for 24 hours and had slept less than 3 hours the night before, I didn’t care, the Sounders had finally won the cup. This year, of all years, the Sounders did it.

I was more confused than excited when Roman stepped up to take the penalty. Why was our hulking center back taking the penalty? A man known more for keeping the ball out of the net than putting it in. I asked Kapena if this was the one to win it. He nodded. Roman takes a few steps back, kicks the ball with power, and we roar.

As we waited for the train back to the city I was more shocked than emotional. There were no more challenges to face, no more dragons to be slayed, no more pages in the book to be read. Our annual ritual of painful losses had finally ended.

We took possession of our house one day shy of our four-year anniversary of our first date. Our cat Miles, having only lived in one level apartments, quickly learned how to use stairs. Escrow and signing paperwork gave way to painting, housewarmings, BBQs, gardening, and s’mores with the neighbors. Our neighborhood listserv now provides us with new sources of entertainment. In some ways Columbia City reminds me of old Capitol Hill. A neighborhood on the precipice of change and reinvention. A neighborhood slowly marching toward the future.

As we get older, the particulars of each year blend and meld with the past. Did we go to Portland that year? Or was it the year before? When was our trip to the Hood Canal? Specific details lost to the passage of time. But I have a feeling that Alex and I will remember 2016. It still feels out of place saying, “My wife.” So much so that when I went to urgent care a few days ago the intake nurse asked me who took me there, I replied, “My friend-I-mean-uh-wife.” And if you want to see all of the wedding minuate, you can check out of wedding photos: https://tonyasgari.client-gallery.com/#/NickandAlex

Canon in D filled the Great Hall as our friends and family stood in the summer sunlight that poured through the old lead windows. When I turned around on the stage, I saw my life flash before my eyes. Friends. Family. Co-workers. Work wives. So many memories flooded back. Years and years worth memories. And after we kissed for the first time as a married couple, granted by the power of our Rent-a-Reverend, we exited the stage to Star Wars Throne Room. A nod to the playfulness we wanted on our big day.

One of the last wedding presents we received this past year came from my friend Rachel. Rachel was the cool girl. She was a rebel. She had the courage to always say yes to things. Unless it happened before noon. She would dare you to do something. And if you hesitated, she would do it before you had a chance to decide. Any awkwardness she had was overshadowed with grace. And any weakness was countered with confidence.

I remember warm summer nights with Rachel in the park. She would run through the sprinklers in her barefeet. The smell of freshly cut grass hanging in the air. I remember days on Greg’s Father’s boat. When he would throttle it up. I remember the glee she took with a perfectly timed Red Shell in Mario Kart. I remember the time in college I flipped on her hazard lights in her red Honda Prelude. They wouldn’t turn off. I thought she was going to kill me.

Rachel didn’t make it to our wedding. I was so looking forward to seeing her one last time. See Rachel was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. One so rare that only 100 women get it each year. The night of our rehearsal dinner she was in the hospital in Seattle. The next day she was back in Richland and soon after she was in hospice. She died in late August. She had just turned 34.

I met her brother in Bellevue and he gave me her wedding gift. A red picnic cooler or as I now call it, “The Rachel Fleshman Memorial Picnic Cooler.” I think she would have appreciated the dark humor. If there is one lesson I have learned from Rachel’s friendship is that you should live life as you want to. To be present. Life is too short to question the choices you have made. Too short for regret. And we should all let the wet summer grass cover our feet as we walk forward throughout the night.

My last bet in Vegas before heading back to Seattle was at the roulette table in the Luxor. I changed a $20 for chips and put it all on black. She fired the ball into the wheel and we watched the numbers blur as they spinned. The wheel began to slow. And I stood there waiting, optimistically, about what was to come next.

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2014

A forgotten wallet, coupled with our cat running at top speed out of the apartment, made me miss my bus. I was pissed. I’m in the coffee shop 15 minutes later than I normally would be and I am waiting for my coffee. In walks in Garrett McKinney. A friend I went to elementary school with. I still remember his 3rd grade birthday party when we went bowling and rode in his father’s Volkswagen Beetle. I remember the cottonwood tree in front of house. I hadn’t seen Garrett in more than a decade.

It is hard to believe that this is my 17th New Year’s reflection. I remember the reason for writing the first one. I wrote it because that year in high school my life was so very amazing (to my 15-year old self at least) that I wanted to remember it for all of time. Tragically, the first one is the only one that is lost to the bits and bytes of time and (cyber) space.

This past year we went to France, Iceland, and Monaco (though, all in the same trip). We tasted Champagne in Champagne. And Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We slept in a castle. And ate terrible (available) Chinese food (I remember most the wall of six microwaves they used to reheat the food) after visiting the Eiffel Tower. We gambled in the Monte Carlo. And ran to the Mona Lisa. In our apartment in Paris, I learned that the dishwasher and oven could be the same unit.

I will always remember the owner of the Au Lapin Qui Fume (the smoking rabbit) tease me about my French Language skills. He interrupted and quieted the entire restaurant. He told them that I would be ordering in front of them. In French. And I did. And he corrected every word I pronounced wrong.

We dealt with strikes in Iceland and almost missed our train in Paris. There were lagoons, cafes, and photos of me standing on things. There was great food and a Michelin Star. There were hounds and hounds, the occasional cat, and the truly bizarre.

And then there was a tour in Tours. When we boarded our Eurovan there were two other Americans (Andrea and Marcus) with us. We asked them where they were from and they replied, “Seattle.” After the initial shock of being from the same city and discussion of the world being incredibly small, we find out that Alex and Marcus work at the same University. We have had dinner with them a few times since April. No wonder they say it is hard to meet new friends in Seattle; sometimes you have to meet them a half a world away.

With a stroke of happenstance I found myself interviewing at two different places after our trip to France. First, my former colleague at Washington Business Week (my first job out of graduate school), introduced me to her boss who was looking for a new Major Gifts Officer. Lunch turned into a tour and into a discussion of benefits, which later turned into more interviews. Meanwhile, my former colleague at Pacific Science Center introduced me to her former boss. A phone call turned into group interviews, which turned into more group interviews. At the end of interviewing, I had run out of excuses to leaving work mid-day. And in the end of July, I started as a Major Gifts Officer at the University of Washington. It has been amazing. To Megan and Jannine, thank you so much for thinking of me. You have literally changed the course of my life for the better.

One of the reasons I left was that my good friends at the Science Center had left. Kristi (KP), who I considered one of my ‘work wives’ moved back to Minnesota after having her baby. She never came back from her maternity leave. I still remember our last coffee at work together. KP, 9-months pregnant, walking across the ponds to Starbucks on a beautiful, sunny, winter day. Alex and I had one last dinner with them in May before they headed across the country. And Jannine, who I considered a mentor, also left. Our endless conversations about nonprofits and fundraising would now have to take place over the occasional lunch.

There were many memories from this year that I will cherish.   Like visiting an old friend. Or Spending a long weekend at Lake Crescent. And another on Hood Canal. And as amazing as our meal at the Michelin starred restaurant in Paris was, it was probably the meal on Lummi Island at the Willows Inn that will be the most memorable. We popped open a bottle of Champagne (one of the 9.5 bottles we schlepped back in our luggage from France) and a 2007 K Vintners Syrah-Grenache. There was a great dinner at Loulay and a hospital stay after (ask Alex about her ruptured ovarian cyst). And a random, weird looking bug bite (ask her about that too). This past year we watched as the Sounders scored goal after goal, lifted a cup and a shield, and celebrated in complete joy for 15 minutes before our hearts were broken.

Most importantly, I think Alex and I will always remember 2014 as the year we decided to get married. We have a ring. Now I just need to pop the question. And I cannot wait to see how our wedding details will unfold.

I wrote several years ago in this reflection that friendships weave in and out along a timeline and you never know when they will intersect again. Yasmeen, a girl who lived on my floor at Morrison Hall in 2000 contacted me on Facebook. Despite us being Facebook friends and living in the same city, we hadn’t spoken in almost 13 years. We talked about our relationships and she told me about her son. And she reminded me that the first time I met her she was crying in the hallway because her boyfriend broke up with her. And I offered her a cookie. Another intersection.

Working back in the U-District is strange. It is a place where I lived and went to school for 2.5 years. And I have been spending the last 5 months revisiting my favorite places. Recently, I went back to the Mandarin Chef. The place where “Chopstick for One” was born. Where the owner knew me by name. After I ordered she gave me this knowing smile. I hadn’t been back in 8 years. And the next time I came in, she said, “Thank you Nick.”

I see Garrett a lot now in the U-District since running into him. It was probably only a matter of time until our paths intersected again. But such is life. Old friends intersecting our new lives when we least expect it. And new friends being met in a Eurovan a world away. A 7 year old Syrah-Grenache consumed during an evening, at restaurant, and with a woman, that myself 7 years ago would not have been able to comprehend or imagine. Thank you to all who made 2014 another great year. Happy New Year.

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

January 1, 2014

Last year as a result of this annual reflection, Chris, my old college roommate, emailed me and said we should grab lunch. For whatever reason (life, time, distance), I hardly saw him after my sophomore year when I left Morrison Hall and got an apartment of my own. It had been a decade since we had last seen each other.

It is easy to summarize a year in your life when only hitting the highlights. Alex and I moved in together after dating for almost a year. I started a new job at the Pacific Science Center. And somewhere along the way, we decided to go to France in 2014 for a month. That’s the 2013 highlight reel.

And apparently, it is even easier to summarize a decade of your life. So easy in fact that I had explained the highlights of the past 10 years to Chris before our burgers had even arrived. But that is the tragedy and the beauty of everyday life. The majority of life happens between the highlights. Or perhaps said better with that old adage, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

Alex and I had been talking about moving in together for months before she saw the listing on Craigslist. We were excited to get the new apartment, but part of me was sad to leave the Roxborough — even if she was old, tired, and rundown. That place had been my home for more than six years. I had a longer tenure there than any place I lived since I was a 12 years old. Because Alex and I only moved a block away, I walk by the Roxborough constantly. It’s like running into an ex-girlfriend. The good times flash before your eyes, and almost as quickly, you are reminded of the reasons why you left. And every time I walk by, I look up into my old windows and try to spy on the person who now calls my old place home.

Musings about dating have transformed into musings about Miles. Ever since moving into our new place Miles has mysteriously developed a new hatred of the sound of the shower turning on. He now charges into the bathroom with his teeth flared and starts batting and biting until he draws blood. Another adventure happened during the summer when he escaped out onto the deck almost jumped down into Capitol Hill, never to be heard from again. Fortunately, Alex whisked him up before he disappeared for good.

This past year was filled many memorable moments. Traore, Yedlin, Johnson. The bounty of an oyster CSA box. Walla Walla wine tasting. For country (I’m under that flag… somewhere). Dressing up. Cards Against Humanity. Bremerton birthday weekend. Concerts. Mora’s and their chocolate peanut butter ice cream. A Sounders tailgate on a warm Seattle summer afternoon. An amazing anniversary dinner. Silly work events. Sometimes a memorable moment is a kid at your holiday party projectile vomiting all over your refrigerator and kitchen. Let’s just say our kitchen was never cleaner afterward.

On some level, it is understood that when you leave a job, you leave your colleagues behind. But I didn’t truly understand that until Becky was no longer in my day-to-day life. I worked with her and eventually we came to share a tiny office for 4.5 years. Too many lunches, coffees, dating stories and laughs to count. She was my confidant, my friend and I find myself missing her. At my new job, I have two work wives. We have lunches, coffees, and talk about our relationships. If at the end of my tenure here, if I have a relationship with them half as strong as my friendship with Becky was, I will consider myself very fortunate.

I will remember this past year for holidays on Bainbridge. Spaghetti in Allyn. For a wedding I helped plan. For dinners at Hitchcock, Rione XIII, Green Leaf, and Kate’s. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at Full Pull. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at Fuel. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at CenturyLink. A cabin on the coast. Summer walks to get our CSA box. Candy on the 4th of July. A broken desk. The State Fair. Board meetings in Pioneer Square. Wine parties and wine pouring. Bald eagle float trips and early morning breakfasts.

One summer morning Alex and I were heading to Bainbridge and were killing time at the Seattle Ferry Terminal. I was short .25 cents for a newspaper and asked Alex if she had a quarter. She shook her head. Out of nowhere a man comes up to me and hands me a quarter. On Christmas Eve I find myself in the same ferry terminal killing time. This time having the correct amount of change I acquire a Seattle Times. While reading the sports section and with the rest of my paper to my left, a woman comes up to me (without saying a word) and picks up my newspaper (much to my surprise) and starts reading it. She hands to other half to her husband.

In some ways by February of this past year I had felt that I completely reinvented my life. New job, new apartment, new work neighborhood (and with it new stores, coffee shops, and restaurants to try), new colleagues, and moving in with my lady and her cat. And those highlights were some of my favorite moments of this past year. But the majority of my laughs, unique moments, and interesting conversations happened while I was standing in line for a movie, or walking to the store, or driving across town, or over dinner before a play at the Seattle Rep or simply, while killing time in the Ferry Terminal, having my newspaper stolen. May no one projectile vomit in your kitchen and may your 2014 highlight reel be a great one. Happy New Year!

Nick

P.S., the links throughout are not ads but you can click on them!

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

January 1, 2013

Good evening friends, this is my 15th annual New Year’s reflection and I hope you enjoy!

To leave the exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon I found a staircase at the end of the show. I bounded down the square staircase and noticed a woman slightly ahead of me. I slowed down my pace not to have her think I was going to steal her bag. At the turnstile to leave the museum, she asked me something in French. I asked her if she spoke English.

Fatima happened to work in the Tourism Office in Lyon. Hence her mastery of English. We had lunch and she showed me her art studio in a dusty space above a dentist’s office. Paintings and spattered paint covered the floor next to boxes of old files. Fatima and I spoke about relationships. She told me about a man she knew that was in love with her. How he called her everyday. I told her about a girl named Alex. How we had met just a few months ago. How I thought it was different from all of the other girls I met. How we had this unexplainable spark.

Alex emailed me through eHarmony’s messaging service on Superbowl Sunday, twenty minutes before the game started. Five days later we had our first date. One date turned into another. And another. And another. This past year there would be crab cakes and baked salmon. Mornings at Golden Gardens. Brunches and sushi. Coffees at Victrola and the secret Starbucks. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge in a brand new car and picked snow peas in Mount Vernon. There would be concerts and Sounders games. Warm summer walks and a Capitol Hill Block Party. We danced in a winery and got completely lost in Vancouver. And in two weeks we will get the keys to our new apartment together.

It is hard to believe that in the beginning of the year I went out with other people. The divorced wine lover with a second home in Walla Walla, the community college librarian nine years to my senior, and the woman who canceled our date because she had a negative result on her mammogram. Those dates seem like they were a lifetime ago. Now, when we are out at dinner or happy hour I love pointing out people who are on first dates.

Three days into the New Year I had my heart broken. See, I had been interviewing for a new job and I had gone very far in the process. It was narrowed between two candidates. And when I received the phone call from HR, it wasn’t an offer of employment but rather a conversation stating that they would keep my resume on file. Or in relationship speak, let’s just be friends. I went to their website a few months later and looked up the person they hired. She looked very happy.

Like people do in dating I kept on interviewing. I was overqualified for the position at the Catholic high school. My salary range was too high for the museum position. I didn’t make it pass the screening interview for the University position. And it was between me and another for the development manager position for a nonprofit helping people get legal services — I was not chosen. Then at a conference I run into an acquaintance who says the Pacific Science Center is in the process of interviewing candidates for a major gifts position and that I should send in my resume. Three weeks later I let Becky know that our last work trip to Walla Walla was unfortunately would be our last and I left PNDRI after 5 and half years.

I don’t know what more I can say about my trip to France that hasn’t been said already here, here, here, here, and here or through photos here. To be away from home in a foreign land by myself for a month was one of the most spiritual journeys I have ever done. To step on a plane in Seattle and emerge from the subway station in Paris only hours later was amazing. I felt reborn. And to turn 30 in Paris while eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant was most definitely a highlight of 2012.

Exactly one year ago I awoke to my neighbor playing an Irish drinking song on his bagpipes. His annual tradition. The sun shined through my window. I could never have imagined how this year would progress and how different my life would be one year later.

From Bremerton to Paris to Iceland to Brinnon to Germany to San Fransisco to Allyn to Vancouver to Chablis to Portland to Healdsburg. To planning weddings. To attending weddings. To fried chicken parties. To evenings at Full Pull and happy hours at Kate’s. To staying at home for Thanksgiving. To game nights to two-poles. From Joule to Starfire to Leon de Lyon to the Madison Park Conservatory to Vito’s to Benoit to Shiro’s to Parc des Princes to the van ride from Colmar to Obernai along the Alsatian wine trail. 2012 has been one hell of a ride.

Fatima asked me how we could have such personal conversations even though we had met just hours ago. I said, “It’s because we will never see each other again.” I may never see Fatima again but I hope to see you all soon. It is easy for us to get wrapped up in our lives and never make time for those people who shaped us to be the person we are today. It is easy to take all of our tomorrows for granted. But we must live life to the fullest and cherish every day. Life is too short for anything else. And if you see some tourist at the Seattle Art Museum, wandering lonely through the exhibits, stop them and ask them how they like it because you never know what might happen.

To everyone happy New Year!

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My First Lie in Paris OR The Couple Next to Me Were Having an Affair

April 11, 2012

Becky and I stopped in at the University Bookstore after lunch (we were working on a Saturday a few weeks back in the U-District, it doesn’t get better than that, right?), when I saw a 2009 Michelin Guide for Germany for a $1. I got excited. Because if Germany was on discount, there was a good chance that the Paris or France version was too — For those who don’t know, the Michelin guide is the guide for restaurants (if you want to read more, there is a fantastic New Yorker article on the subject. In fact Michelin is so important in the restaurant world that a chef committed suicide on the rumor that his restaurant was going to be downgraded from three stars to two stars).

Sure enough, after a few minutes of pawing through all of the unwanted books, I found the 2009 Paris guide. At home I flipped to the section about the Marais (the neighborhood I stayed in my first leg in Paris) and started googling all of the restaurants.

But I was immediately drawn to one restaurant in the guide. Benoit. It was on the same street as my hotel. It was reasonably priced (compared to a 500€ pre-fixe menu I saw that during my research). The guide called it a timeless classic and a throwback to a Paris long ago. The internets rumored that it is the only brasserie in Paris with a Michelin star. I was sold — I went online and made a reservation for my birthday.

When I arrived at Benoit, I knew I was going to have to lie. And lie in English. And hope that they understood me. See they didn’t take reservations online for ‘un.’ On the reservation form I said it was for two. I lied to the host and said, “My partner is sick,” while putting my two hands together and doing the international sign for sleeping. He translated to the hostess who seated me and I heard something like, “La mademoiselle est malade.” She removed the extra place setting and pulled my table out so I could squeeze into the seat.

I had spent a couple of hours in Seattle translating the menu. There were some items that were obvious — even with my non existent French language skills — Escargots. Filet de Bœuf. Foie Gras.

I was seated next to another table of two. A man sat to my diagonal and a woman to my immediate right. He was British and when speaking to the wait staff he spoke in exaggerated, but not over the top, French. The woman, named Tara, had a huge rock on her finger. She was from California. And for the life of me, I could not figure out their relationship. After I placed my order, I came to the only logical conclusion — that they were having an affair in Paris.

Anyway, when I was seated, I was handed a tome of French wines. And had this been given to me two years ago instead of today, I would have been overwhelmed, confused, and would have no idea on how to interpret the wine list. I narrowed it down to two Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s. And went with the older one — a 2006 Andre Brunel “Les Cailloux.” It was quite simply an amazing wine.

For dinner I ordered the Foie Gras and the Cassoulet. But I ended up with the Pot of Vegetables and the Cassoulet. The Second in Command Host/Order Taker (see below) took my order, walked about three feet, turned back at me and said something in French and I realized that he had immediately forgot my order. I said, “Cassoulet.” That bit in French that I didn’t understand — I would later realize it was him confirming my pot of vegetables. I am guessing that this interplay was only realized by the Brit next to me.

The first course was three little gougères – cheese pastries. These were placed on my Benoit fine china. Yeah, Benoit has their own dishes and the silverware is made with actual silver. All of the silverware and plates were cleared and another set of silverware and plates appeared with the second course — a beef, carrot, and vermicelli soup.

Now, I want to take a minute to describe all of the people serving me that evening:

  • Main Host — Greeted me; Explained to the rest of the team that the ‘mademoiselle was sick.’
  • Second in Command Host/Order Taker — Took pity on my sick partner and offered me a French newspaper (I declined his offer). After a couple of glasses of wine I was in a quite happy place and needed no additional entertainment.
  • Wine Steward — She showed, opened, and poured my wine and assisted in all wine related matters. She also took a little sip of my CDP before she poured it to me. Which she was either impressed with my wine ordering that she took a little for herself, or had a hard day a needed a little nip to get by, or most likely, she was tasting to see if there were flaws.
  • Waitress — She knew English, brought me my dishes, and was very friendly.

Why I deduced the couple next to me was having an affair, it seemed like they were catching up on things — important things. Tara, had just gotten done being in a wedding. A wedding where the hotel did not have their reservations for either the hotel rooms or the banquet rooms — note to self, always confirm the hotel rooms, (regarding my eavesdropping, remember the tables were very close together and I was alone, that is why I remember every detail of their conversation). So the question is, why was she at the wedding and not him? He also told her a story that happened to him recently. How come they don’t know these details already if they are together? They were also very acted very romantic to each and that ruled out the friend zone for me.

Anyway, the next course was the pot of vegetables. And it was perfectly fine that I got vegetables instead. Carrot, celery, potato, artichoke, pear (I know it is not a vegetable, but there was a braised pear in there — and it was good), and some lentils, all in this delicate broth — which I sopped up with some bread.

There are two things I like in a nice restaurant. One, I love a slow and paced meal. Two, I love it when it is dark. Like, really dark. So dark that Boomers/my parent’s generation have to use their cellphone to read the menu. At Benoit, the pacing was perfect, impeccable in fact. But it was as bright as day. Literally, day. Like you could get tanned if you stayed there long enough. And my dinner in Chablis, a few nights later, the exact same way. Must be a European thing. Or maybe in the U.S. we like to gorge ourselves in the shadows and between flickers of candlelight in order to not reveal our greed to others.

Now the Cassoulet at Cafe Campagne in Seattle is a great challenge to finish. And it is one of my favorites anywhere. Throughout the night I had observed these petite silver pots being brought to various tables. I figured that it was the Cassoulet. And it looked manageable. But when my waitress brought out a pot, about the size of my grandmothers 5 quart cast iron pan, I almost fainted. It was huge. The waitress simply smiled and said, “You have to finish it.” She removed the lid. Delicately spooned out a plate’s worth — being sure to fish out pieces of duck, sausage, and pork — and said, “bon appetit.”

Benoit Cassoulet

I ate heroically for as long as I could. I didn’t finish.

Meanwhile, Tara couldn’t finish her Foie Gras. She spoke more about the wedding she went to and all of the bad speeches. She spoke how the father of the bride had unexpectedly passed away a few months prior and one of the sons gave a speech based on what he thought the deceased father might say on the occasion. It was not well received. The Brit, laughed with delight.

I needed water. And tap water is not encouraged at these nicer places in France. They want you to drink (or rather, people prefer to drink) mineral or sparkling water. I ordered a ‘petit’ bottle of sparkling water and a glass of 2009 Château Haut-Bergeron Sauternes (dessert wine from Bordeaux). Along with my dessert wine, I was offered a menagerie of baked/candied treats with my coffee and one final course consisting of a baked lemon cake.

Dessert

The Brit offered Tara a rough plan on how they would handle their speeches. And that is when it hit me. They are engaged. And they are getting married. I almost dropped my coffee cup on the floor as the pieces of their dinner conversation illuminated in new light. On my way out, I asked them if they were getting married. And Tara said yes. The Brit chimed in and said in October. Tara asked me if I was in Paris for a special occasion. I said tonight is my 30th Birthday. The waitress, listening to our conversation was crushed. She would have given anything to have known that piece of information before that moment.

I walked out and Tara and the Brit followed me. They smiled at me and walked arm-in-arm as we parted in different directions. The night was clear. The air was crisp. And the moon was out. The lights of Paris sparkled in a way I had never seen before. I straightened my jacket and I stepped forward into my second act.

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What I have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2010

My coworker Becky recently showed me a poem. It begins with, “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” Throughout my life I have cautioned myself not to fly too close to the sun. Not to get too greedy. But as the poem notes, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” You have to risk crashing back to the earth in order to fly. This past year has been filled moments of exhilarating joy and painful crashes. But I know there were moments when I was flying.

This past year started with fireworks, literally. As rain sprinkled down, I stood blocks away from the Space Needle as fireworks announced the new year. Soon I would find myself in a martini bar, then in a town car, then falling asleep on a designer couch owned by someone who I had never met. Good morning 2010.

Over the summer, I found myself at my 10-year high school reunion. One of those seminal occasions that I was actually excited to take part in. When I arrived at the bar, my homecoming date stood outside like a ghost smoking a cigarette. Thunder crashed through the warm July air and lightning cracked the night sky.

I always that thought that high school reunions were to see how much other people had changed. To see your classmates’ new husbands, wives, children, weight gains, balding heads, and gray hairs. But I was wrong. My high school reunion showed me how much I had changed. How did I go from an awkward, band-dork, loud-mouthed, banquet server, T-Bird driving, suburb living, fluffy headed, soda loving, 18-year-old to a slightly less-awkward, European-board game playing, crude-loud-mouthed, diabetes fundraiser, Honda driving, city living, hair-product applied, coffee and wine loving 28-year old? A classmate wrote in my senior yearbook that I was loud, bossy, and annoying. Perhaps I haven’t changed at all.

This past year much of my blog writing (most of my writing) was done for the Seattle PI Capitol Hill blog.  I started the year with more universal themes – the decline of the neighborhood video and book stores, the evolving coffee shop landscape, and falling in love with your neighborhood barista.  As the year marched on, my writing turned more personal.  I wrote about not being home for the holidays, first dates, and wrote about an evening with an heiress.  For me, writing is both a chore and a renewing experience.  And I hope that in 2011, my posts continue to garner comments like, “This guy just sounds like a pretentious hipster jerk.”  I will give him pretentious and jerk, but I am most definitely not a hipster.

As I write this annual reflection, memories from this past year flash before my mind. Fun times from shirtless hugs with strangers when the Sounders score to glasses of wine in the alley. A seven-course meal prepared by Paul and I and watching the sunrise from Ballard. Early morning World Cup games and Frisbee in Portland. Dive bars and fancy cocktails. Miss Seattle and John Roderick.  A Seattle staycation and an aimless drive north on Highway 99 from Vancouver. Birthday lasagna and joy filled evenings at the warehouse. And everyday I try to find happiness in both the mundane and grand moments.

The doldrums of winter were made a little more tolerable by a girl named Hillary. She was an early morning riser and would wrap a towel around the coffee grinder as to not wake me. She loved baking bread and pie and often called me a dangerous distraction from her studies. And for reasons I still don’t understand today, she didn’t see a future with me. She mailed back my LOST DVDs and my canvas tote bag after we broke up. On a sunny Saturday morning, she dropped me off at my apartment, kissed me, and it was the last time I ever saw her again. I had to defriend her from Facebook.

Many of you have told me over the years, that your favorite part of this annual reflection (my thirteenth) is the dating section, so for your enjoyment, here are a few more dating tales. There was the nurse who had her urban chickens (Princess Laya and Henrietta) eaten by raccoons and before our date, she biked up from Tacoma and checked into a hotel. Even though she was cold, hungry, and rain soaked, it went pretty well. There was the program officer who I had wine with in April and in October would be a speaker at a conference I planned — it was a little awkward when she walked up to me at Registration and said, “Hi Nick,” and I didn’t remember who she was. There was the girl who grew up off the grid in Montana (her parents still don’t have flush toilets) and went to North Korea for a vacation. Oh, and the private school teacher who I kissed on our first date and at the beginning of our second, she received a phone call that her close friend had passed away – she started to cry, apologized, and left the bar.

I tend to become very melancholy in the dead of winter. With these short, cold, rainy days, it is easy to forget the summer BBQs, the spring flowers, the hot uncomfortable nights in my second floor Capitol Hill apartment. I forget about our backpacking trip to the coast, the chicken salad in the park, and sparkling wine outside on the deck. I forget how the leaves rustle when the summer breeze blows. I forget about skee ball at the Zoo Tavern and day trips to Portland. I forget about all the insecurities I felt. I forget how the heavens looked when we sat around the campfire watching shooting stars.

Two final stories from this past year and I will end this reflection – I promise (and I apologize to those who have already heard these ad nauseum).

A few weeks ago I found myself walking to my car whistling Oklahoma, from the musical Oklahoma. When this girl gets out of her Toyota SUV and looks right at me. I smile. She smiles. I walk into Rite Aid and she follows me in. As I’m settling up, I decide that I am going to ask her out. I scrawl, in what must have looked like kidnapper font, on a business card, “Hey, you smiled at me, if you are single give me a call.” I leave my card in her car door and walk away thinking that this was most certainly one of the stupidest things I have ever done.

It turns out when she got to her car she thought my card was an advertisement, so she carelessly tossed it in her car. Later, she went on a date and her date was in her car when he found my card and asked her, “What’s this?” A day or so later, she calls her friend, and tells her to bring her laptop to the bar. She wants to look me up. She finds out that I am not a creeper, and Facebooks me.

She writes, “Took me a minute to find the note you left on my car window (I think above the QFC? I was doing a lot of errands that day)– then I lost it in Portland, but luckily remembered your name so looked you up on here. So anyway– sure! Let’s meet up if you want– why not?”

We have gone on a few dates and they have been good. And whatever happens with business-card-girl, I know that I was flying.

Finally, one day Becky and I were on our way to a luncheon. Driving in my Honda I kept smelling something that could only be described as urine (because as I would later find out, it was). The smell was hauntingly faint and subtle. A whiff you might find in a city alley. At a stop light I leaned over and smelled Becky’s shoulder, much to her protest. It wasn’t her. I took off my dress shirt, it wasn’t that. Then my under shirt. Not that. We continued on to the conference center and the smell followed me. It wasn’t in my car, it was on me! After the lunch, I was desperate to discover the source of the smell. And finally, I smell the leg of pants, where the cat had been sleeping the night before. I almost vomited. After a truly great 2010, sometimes the pinnacle of success (and memorable moment) is simply discovering where the cat pissed on you. I hope that your 2011 is filled with exhilarating joy and not cat pee.

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