As we enter the waning days of 2009 and look back at the past year, it is shameful that I have been so negligent in providing journal entries. The lack of updates is not due to a dearth of noteworthy events. In fact, 2009 was one of the most eventful, life-changing years in my not-so-young life. In truth, I fell victim to a potent mix of laziness and incompetence. Instead of providing regular updates on fairly unremarkable happenings, I waited for something noteworthy and then found myself lacking the words to adequately describe the many changes going on around me. In short, I lost my voice and then was not up to the challenge of writing about the few interesting things that occurred this year. After such a prolonged period of inactivity, I doubt that too many faithful readers still check-in to see if any updates have been posted. Still, it seems that I should at least make an attempt at providing a recap of the year for those few who may occasionally wander back. So, what follows is a brief summary of 2009.
The year began in Palermo, Sicily. I joined my parents and brother in touring Sicily for our Christmas vacation. On New Years’ we were firmly ensconced in the well-appointed apartment of a ballet-loving Sicilian who generously included us in his New Years’ festivities. Joining us were an eclectic mix of ballet aficionados – young and old, rich and poor, English-speaking and hand-gesturing Italian. We drank well and ate well, shifting from sipping champagne on the roof with a dramatic view of the Palermo skyline to munching on some delicious Italian cuisine with a rapt audience watching an old video of an apparently classic ballet performance. The year was off to a good start.
For me, 2009 can be clearly divided into two parts: Before Marriage (hereafter to be referred to as “BM”) and After Marriage (“AM”). The first half of the year was spent anticipating a July wedding. While the preparations for the wedding were largely completed by my wonderful fiancée, Megan, and her helpful mother, I was in no way prepared for all of the planning that went into a wedding. Even after making it through the event, I’m amazed at how much work goes into a single day. The preparations begin harmlessly enough with a whole range of options available. It is pleasant to imagine getting married in different places, envisioning different sorts of parties, and thinking of being surrounded by friends and family. Soon enough, decisions need to made and some of those options are eliminated. In our case, we opted to get married in Omaha, where Megan is from and where much of her family is located. This made sense and undoubtedly simplified the planning (at least for me since Megan was working in Omaha up until the wedding while I was 1,500 miles away in California). After a brief search, we settled on the Joselyn Art Museum, which is a beautiful setting and was conveniently located close to the charming Old Town section of Omaha.
During the first few months of 2009, while Megan drove the wedding planning forward, I divided my time between travelling for work, short weekend trips to an assortment of destinations, and enjoying my last few month of bachelorhood. For work, my role helping POM Wonderful expand to Asia meant regular trips to Korea, Japan, and China. While these forays abroad mainly meant shuffling between office buildings and hotels, I did have the opportunity for a few side excursions including an early morning trip to the Tsukiji Fresh Fish market in Tokyo and a disappointing Friday night in Macau. At the fish market, we arrived to see dozens of enormous frozen tuna being slid across the floor, along with hundreds of stalls selling every imaginable type of seafood along with a few that are best not imagined. After watching the end of the morning trading, we found a small shack that served up some delicious sashimi – definitely one of the better ways to start a day. Later, while spending a weekend in Hong Kong, a couple co-workers and I decided to take the high-speed ferry to Macau for a Friday night. We had heard that Macau was like Las Vegas on steroids and we were prepared to be impressed. When we arrived a soft drizzle turned into a driving rain and we hopped in a cab to shuttle us to the Venetian. The 15-minute cab ride allowed us to observe the massive casinos under construction that did in fact look like larger versions of those found in Las Vegas. However, it seemed that most of the construction had stopped and it was hard not to be amazed at how few people were actually in the casinos. At 9:00 PM on a Friday night we went to the busiest bar in the Venetian and for a while we were the only table in the entire bar until a couple wandered in. A couple of other casinos proved to be the same and we eventually admitted defeat and returned to Hong Kong unimpressed.
Aside from business travel, most weekends meant either flying to Nebraska to visit Megan or travelling elsewhere for short escapes from LA. In April, I flew out to Cape Cod to visit my dad, my brother, and my grandmother. It was nice to be back in a place so familiar and to spend a pleasant weekend with family. In June, my brother and my cousin, Eric, flew out to LA and we made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas. During a short weekend, we managed to cover most of the strip and avoided losing too much money or jeopardizing my marriage. Also in June, Megan and I met in Kansas City where we spent the weekend with my cousin Randy, who was preparing to officiate our wedding. We spent the weekend discussing the institution of marriage and answering an assortment of questions meant to assure that we were prepared for the significant commitment we were planning to make. Apparently, we passed the test since Randy would eventually conduct our marriage ceremony.
Unquestionably, the biggest event of my year occurred on July 11th, when Megan and I were married in Omaha, Nebraska. After all of the planning and preparations, it was great to finally have our family and closest friends gathered together to be a part of such a special occasion. I flew out to Nebraska on my birthday and met my parents at the hotel. My brother arrived the following day and throughout the week each day brought the arrival of more family and more friends. Each day was full and the time seemed to fly by. It was so nice to have so many loved ones in a single place, but it was difficult to have enough time to spend with everyone. On Friday, my parents hosted the rehearsal dinner at Rick’s Boatyard Café overlooking the Missouri River. It was a fun night and provided a nice opportunity for our two families to get to know one another. The following day, the wedding was beautiful. My cousin Randy officiated. My brother Brian was my best man while Megan’s sister Chris was her maid of honor. We were married in front a large glass sculpture by Chihuly. Megan looked stunning and we managed to get through the ceremony without any noticeable snafus. Following the ceremony, the reception took place in a magnificent indoor courtyard with a fountain in the middle. The months of planning and hard work were rewarded by a gorgeous evening.
Following the wedding, Megan and I departed for Los Angeles, where we spent a day at our apartment before continuing on to Australia. For the next two weeks, we explored the east coast of Australia, beginning in Sydney then flying to Port Douglas and the Whitsunday Islands. The time was spent relaxing, eating well, enjoying the local attractions, and generally enjoying each other’s company. Some of the highlights included a tour of the Sydney Opera House, holding a kuala, snorkeling in the Whitsunday’s, hiking through the Daintree Rainforest, walking along the beach, seeing crocodiles in the wild, and feeding dingoes and kangaroos. It was a terrific way to begin our life together and our only regret is that the honeymoon didn’t last longer.
Thus began the AM portion of the year. After the honeymoon, Megan moved out to Santa Monica and my day-to-day life experienced a substantial upgrade. Instead of subsisting on a bland diet of pasta and rice, I began coming home to real meals. Instead of surfing the internet during dinner, I have actual conversations. Instead of talking to Megan on the phone every evening, I get to go for a nice walk along the beach with her each night. Even the apartment has undergone a surprising transformation with complete sets of dishes, knives, and silverware replacing the mishmash of random kitchenware that I had become accustomed to. In general, my daily changed from simple and minimal to slightly less simple and much fuller (in a good way). On weekends, the difference was even more pronounced. Rather than spending time sitting in airports, we could explore Southern California together. We could go camping or to a museum or even just out to eat. Just about everything became more enjoyable.
Perhaps the only drawback of married life is that we are faced with the unenviable choice of where to spend holidays. Naturally, we want to spend this time together, but we are also accustomed to spending them with our families. The best possible solution would have been if we were cousins and we shared the same family, but this would seem to carry its own challenges. This year, we opted to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California and spend Christmas with Megan’s family in Nebraska. So, in late November my parents and brother journeyed out to California for roughly a week of vacation. It was a fun week that included a trip to Santa Barbara for wine tasting, a drive north to Fresno to tour the POM Wonderful pomegranate facility, and a traditional Thanksgiving meal at our apartment (fortunately, we could use all of the great wedding gifts we received to finally host a dinner).
Likewise, the week spent with Megan’s family in Nebraska was thoroughly enjoyable. We traded in the never-ending summer of California for the extreme winter of Nebraska. During the five days that I spent in Omaha, the accumulated snowfall must have exceeded 18 inches. While the inclement weather precluded traveling too far from the house, it was wonderful to be able to play in the snow for the first time in years. After years of spending Christmas in the tropics, it was nice to experience a white Christmas and get at least a taste of winter.
So, after a memorable year, the end of 2009 finds Megan and I comfortable and happy in Santa Monica. It is difficult to foretell what the future holds, but we are fortunate to be together and we can only hope that 2010 proves to be as enjoyable as the past year.