Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye to the best year of my life

I very rarely find myself exiting a year with this conclusion, so it makes me doubly pleased to announce that 2009 was a great year for me and I only hope 2010 proves to be as kind.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this year has been the best of my life.

The funny thing is, when thinking about why I'd venture such a bold statement, I can't point to any one spectacularly important development. I mean, I didn't get engaged or a big new job or win the lottery or anything like that. Instead, it was consistent minor and medium-level awesomeness all year long, especially the first half of the year.

I rang the new year in at a crappy dive bar in Bloomington, IL, where they gave all the patrons complimentary pucker shots to toast with at midnight. Several hours later, after an impromptu college reunion party at my friend's apartment that involved non-shapely men with their shirts off dancing like the drugged chick on Blue Velvet, I went to sleep for the first time of the year.

Since then, there have been highlights like memorable trips to New Orleans in January, Austin in March, and Chicago in April, as well as some tolerable paid gigs in places like Toronto and DC (twice).

Back here in Cleveland, things were even richer. I met and became friends with several wonderful people and solidified new friendships from 2008. Moving here in 2007 literally not knowing a soul, I was worried about what things would be like and whether I'd be able to make new friends. I've been overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised to learn that such a worry was total nonsense. Cleveland has been the best place I've lived so far and the fact that I can say that is due to the dozens of great, kind, talented, and sometimes slightly nuts people I've gotten to know here. Speaking of slightly nuts, I also got a new dog, Hurricane Olivia, who has become fast friends with my beloved Smelly Ellie Mae. Olivia joined Smells and I in our new apartment in Collinwood, where I've felt like the member of a community in a way not previously experienced.

The cultural richness of the city is the other reason I love it so much here. I saw a few dozen rock shows, easily as many independent and foreign films (thanks especially to the film festival in March and the Cinematheque all year long), and was able to indulge my occasional affection for gallery openings, avant garde theater, poetry readings, and academic talks throughout the year.

And that's it, really. That's the secret to the best year of my life. Doing stuff. And in the process, meeting good people.

And, well, there is one other dimension to the best year of my life. That New Orleans trip I referred to previously. During it, I went to the official voodoo museum and spent near two hours listening to the man working there tell my friends and I about the history of voodoo and all the ways it is still practiced in the forgotten parts of Louisiana. It was wonderfully interesting and insightful, and I was so impressed by the calm and confident serenity of this guy (and by the fact he was nuzzling an albino python) that I bought a small gris-gris pouch that the man (who was also a high priest in the religion) had personally blessed it with a ritual designed to bring success and good fortune to the bearer's life. Since then, I've had it in my pocket almost every day this year. And, first thing next week, I'm gonna call that man and ask him to send me another one. Very nicely and politely and appreciatively.

Between the new gris-gris and a positive attitude, I'm gonna do my best to replicate the personal success of 2009 in 2010. So far, the year is already shaping up to a promising start. I'm booked for quick visit to Brooklyn at the end of January, a couple Texas jaunts in March (including one to SXSW), Chicago in April with my best friend, and then another long and lovely summer here on Waterloo. And between all that, there are shows and films and friends to hang out with and, one hopes, yet to be made.

And, of course, this blog. Thank you for reading it in 2009 and please keep doing so in 2010.

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