December 23, 2006


2006: Year in Review

2006 was a remarkable year, a year unlike any other in my life. So I feel like highlighting some of the events that made this year so great. The year began in Charlotte, North Carolina where I was visiting one of my best friends, Mike, for the first time since he moved there. We were celebrating the turning of a new year at a really great neighborhood bar when at the stroke of midnight, the dawning of this year, the song Space Oddity by David Bowie came on the jukebox. I knew then: it was going to be a good year. I went back home having no idea that within a few months I'd be selling my small house and leaving behind the small town I'd grown up in, and my mom and dad, and my brother and his family, and moving to Charlotte.

January 2nd 2006 my friend Mike brought me to a local video store which he said he knew I'd love. He couldn't be more correct...Visart is quite possibly the most amazing video rental store on the planet. If a video rental store could be someone's soul mate, then Visart is mine. For proof of this I will reference an earlier visit today where I discovered they had a Christmas movie section where the employee picks usually are, and some of my personal favorite Christmas movies (although rarely praised as great Christmas movies) were on their shelf, such as: Lethal Weapon, and Batman Returns. And there were other titles like National Lampoon's Christmas vacation Part 2 (which I didn't know existed), and Santa's Sleigh, which judging by the image of Santa wielding a deadly icicle, and the description “You don't want to be on HIS list!” lets me assume it was a horror. I assume Die Hard must have been checked out, because that certainly has to be the greatest Christmas movie of all time. And I also think Star Wars: The Empire Stricks Back (which is certainly the best star wars film, although I admit this is coming from someone who doesn't really love the star wars movies. And why? Dune! That's why; the book, not the movie...the movie by David Lynch isn't bad, it's just not the same) should also be on that list because it starts off on a snowy planet; and I'm sure at some point you've seen a tie-fighter Christmas tree ornament in your lifetime. Since I don't really love or covet star wars, I think it would have been cool if they could have somehow tied in Christmas, because then I could love it as one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time...but I digress...

Shortly after my trip to Charlotte, I flew down to visit my married friends Robert and Carla who at the time lived in Texas, and I got to see what living near a military base was like; we also visited Austin, Fort Worth, and Dallas. It's not like I hadn't noticed how large Texas is on the map of the USA; but Texas just feels bigger than other places when you're riding on those wide open highways. The rodeo in Fort Worth kind of summed up all of my expectations of what Texas would be like--very proud, more proud to be part of Texas than proud to be part of the US; but it was a fun experience even if I did feel the whole time like I was sticking out like a sore thumb. Austin on the other hand is very alternative (their motto is: “keep Austin weird”), and has one of the best bar-scenes around. I ask myself: Does Austin really belong in Texas?? And I think the answer is yes; because I like to think that if the state of Texas were the big white swish of a Yen-Yang sign, then Austin would be it's little black dot. That's not to say that the rest of Texas is evil, it's just Texas.

It was not long after I had returned from Texas that it occurred to me that maybe I really should consider moving to Charlotte; and so I applied to a full time volunteer position for a non-profit organization I had heard about and was offered an interview. The interview was my second visit to Charlotte. It was the night before the interview that my friend Mike asked me to be the best man in his wedding. I was so surprised and honored, I didn't really care how well the interview the next morning would go. Weeks later, I got the news they were offering me the position. When she called, my now supervisor said if I needed time to think it over, that would be perfectly fine. But this felt like the biggest no-brain-er so far in my life-- I immediately accepted the position. And so I was nervous but I knew in my heart it was well past the time for something new, for a little adventure, for a chance to do something good with my life, to see a little more of this amazing planet where we humans make our home. I moved to Charlotte in May. I had one final get together in my house with my college friends the weekend before I had to have all of the stuff that had accumulated removed for the signing of the contract with the attorneys. I was literally running back and forth from the moving van to my house just finishing only 10 minutes before I was scheduled to meet at the attorney's office—I was racing so hard I'm pretty sure my body was going into some kind of shock and I was covered in a nervous cold sweat. What a strange feeling that was, rushing to empty your house, throwing everything I owned into trash bags and cramming them all into my vehicle and a rental truck and finishing only mere moments before the deadline--I would describe that feeling to being something like walking outside and discovering a dragon has landed behind your home and there is flames spurting from it's breath and realizing that if you don't sleigh this dragon right now you'll loose everything since you don't have dragon house burning coverage with your insurance. I do miss my house. It was a really great feeling to know that I had my own tract of earth on this world to call my own. It is a feeling I believe everyone should have the opportunity to have, which ironically made it feel a little easier to give up my house and set off to do the sort of work that I do.

Charlotte has been so easy to feel at home because of the amazing friends that I've made since I arrived here. There are some pretty amazing people here. A lot of my friends are into outdoor games; So I've enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee, and Pick-up Soccer games, and the Softball league I was on (we had some good moments, but only won one game out of the season, by forfeit of the other team).

Back in early August I went on a trip to meet the rest of the bridal party for Mike and Carrie's wedding. We stayed in a house on Tybee Island not far from Savannah Georgia. Tybee Island is a nice little bohemian community; it's quaint, and close enough to Savannah to make a trip into that city relatively easily. The house we were staying in was not so typical; it contained bizarre art that some of us found a little disconcerting, but I enjoyed. (I believe it also contained some sort of mold because the week after our trip to Tybee island I was fairly sick while in Atlanta for some training.) Mike's sisters brought along diet sodas and mentos to practice the now infamous mentos experiment. You can see the video I recorded here. It was great to meet everyone and get a preview of the wedding experience. In the group photo below you can see, from left to right: Penny, Dave, Jess, Jen, Carrie (above), Mike (above), Maureen, Meghan, and me.

I had the opportunity to go to two pretty good concerts this year: First was a Tom Petty concert here in Charlotte. It was my first Petty concert. The lead singer for Phish opened for Petty, and Stevie Nicks made a guest appearance for several songs. I drank a lot of expensive crappy beer, and at the end of the evening as I was going to pee in the woods near where our car was located I slipped and tumbled down a 30 foot slope in total darkness in the trees; that in itself was kind of a surreal experience. The other concert I saw was in Athens, Georgia -- it kind of came about randomly -- I went with my friends Carly, Brian, and Amy. I ended up driving and when we got there we met up with a girl named Anna who lives in Athens. I really liked the city for the short amount of time we spent there. We had dinner at this amazing restaurant called The Grit. I never would have guessed that it was vegetarian; or maybe I just have low expectations of what vegetarian food is like. My Parmesan with chicken-like-substance was fantastic, I would not have known the difference. The band we went to see was called Rogue Wave and their song 'Bird on a Wire' is one of my favorites from this year. There was an opening singer named Jason Collette who was also pretty good. The venue was excellent; it wasn't a large room. There were probably only about 40 people tops at the show, although I'm sure it could hold a lot more; at the end the band came off the stage and played an acoustic encore amongst the crowd. We didn't leave Athens until about 1AM in the morning, so I didn't get home until about 4AM and had to get up a few hours later for work, but it was well worth the experience of seeing Athens and a great concert.

In the weeks leading up to Mike and Carrie's wedding I was a little concerned about my responsibility for throwing a bachelor party. We had about 100 dollars worth of steak, and a good selection of beer. Someone else brought some decent cigars, and a bunch of guys hung out to celebrate Mike's decision to share his life with the girl he loves.

Everything about the wedding ceremony for Mike and Carrie made it the most beautiful wedding I've ever attended, and I haven't been to a lot, but man this one was great. Everything from the vows, to the music, to the readings and the blessing, to the home-made wedding invitations, was all chosen by Mike and Carrie, and is was all the work of their friends and family.

As much as it was an honor to be chosen to be Mike's best man, it was exponentially more terrifying to think about giving the best man's speech. Months leading up to the wedding I began agonizing over what I'd say--I don't enjoy speaking in front of large groups of people, especially when trying to be funny. But Mike is a great friend and I know that no matter how I botched up the speech he'd still love me; but for his and Carrie's families and for everyone else's sake I was very nervous about looking like a Jack ass in front of them; I didn't want to ruin an otherwise perfect day.

I don't remember exactly what I said, I do have a vague idea of the points I was trying to convey. I was so nervous I sneaked into the library right after the wedding ceremony to go over what I was going to say, but each time I tried to re-memorize a phrase all I got was a blank slate. In the end I decided to use my notes as a guide, and moments before it was time to speak I quickly drank a glass of wine and a bottle of beer, on a stomach filled with nothing but anxiety. With my heart already beating at a fast pace, it didn't take long for the alcohol to have an affect. But I was fortunate because the alcohol had exactly the right affect-- it made it much easier to speak in front of the large group of people while wondering why my voice over the speakers sounds like I haven't hit puberty yet, but it didn't significantly impair my cognitive functioning so much that I wasn't able to speak at least somewhat intelligently, and it all seemed to miraculously come together; at least I think so because most people said it was a good speech. I keep trying to convince myself they were being honest. A few days later a friend asked me how it felt that my first joke bombed but all the rest were a success. I thanked him because all I could remember about the speech was the first joke bombing.

The rest of the reception was a lot more relaxed for me, and my memories are a lot more fuzzy thanks to the wine taking its effect, but it was nice to see my old college friends and dance with them and reminisce about our college days. The wedding was a beautiful experience.

After the wedding reception, some of my friends and I loaded up in a 12 passenger van for a side venture to Montreal, Quebec. Montreal is one of the most interesting cities I've ever visited, there was so much beautiful architecture, plus the fact that there was French everywhere made it kind of exciting, like really visiting a foreign country; no offense intended to Canadians, but the rest of Canada seems really American. We ran into some interesting street performers. One man stood motionless with a sign next to him that said, “Free Hugs” At first I didn't have the courage to receive a hug from this man, but Amy did. The following day somehow I found the courage to get a hug.

In November I went for more job training in the mountains, after which I met up with my friend Dave to check out the Asheville Film Festival. I enjoyed the independent films, and Asheville was gorgeous. It may be the most beautiful town in North Carolina.

I've seen some pretty great movies this year. The Prestige, The Fountain, The Science of Sleep, Stranger Than Fiction, Little Miss Sunshine; were all excellent. I enjoyed an opportunity recently to help a group of my friends who were building a set of shelves for a church that provides day care and after school care. I really love my job in Charlotte, each day is filled with new and interesting challenges. I hope I can make a difference here. It has been a really wonderful year, and I am very thankful to God and all of my family and friends for that.

2006 was a great year for a lot of things so look for a 'best of' for 2006 post coming out soon...

And look for a 'best of' movies of 2006 post as well...