Hard as it to believe, another year has clipped on by. Now, humanity is looking at the end of a decade with 2009 coming up like a freight train hurtling down the tracks in a driving midnight rain on its way to an unknown destination.
The last week of any year can serve as a moment to reflect on what has happened and re-count the best and worst milestones of the previous 12 months. The media does it and I'm sure they'll recap all the key events that most of us know about or care about.
However, life happens much closer to the street than those type of reports. With that in mind, below is my own personal rear view mirror-gazing "best events of 2008." Some of these items fit into bigger issues, news and the ways of the world, and some are just personal. But either way, they were the key points of the year just gone by to me. Maybe you'll agree with some of these or see common ground with events in your own life this past year.
Marc's 2008 Year In Review:
Another year of wedded bliss. Seriously, Diane and I have a great marriage, but you know, you have to say that keeping a relationship going well over the years requires work. Making it to our eleventh year as a married couple (14 together total) in 2008 is definitely a big deal. To celebrate, we spent a weekend together in New York City - eating, drinking, site seeing and shopping our hearts out for two fun-filled days in early October.
Our trip to China. What can I say? This was a major highlight of 2008 for Diane and me. We traveled all the way to China, saw the major sites one thinks of (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Buried Terracotta Army, Shanghai, etc.) But, it was better than that for us because we got off the beaten tourist track to hike and bike areas visitors don't normally go. And, we did it with a very small group of people and formed new friendships from that experience too. A full re-cap of our adventures with links to photos is available here.
Barrack Obama elected President of the United States of America. This was huge for me, and I believe the nation. After eight years of...being kind here...very, very poor leadership and judgement from George W. Bush and the Republican Party, America was in an equally sad and predictable hole and change had to come. Fortunately for us, the change came in the form of Obama and his appeal to our better natures and higher aspirations for our families, our communities and our country. The alternatives of more of the same in for form of a McCain presidency or turning the clocks back to the 1990s with the Clinton crowd (who, to be fair had a pretty dang good track record) were both pretty unappealing - at least to me. Instead, we got something new. At last, a 21st century leader with progressive ideas and agenda.
I have lots of posts on this blog about Obama and the election, so check those out if you want. I think when it's all said and done, the presidential election will prove to be the most important event for more people on this planet than any other single happening. I believe - and lets hope - it is all for the best.
I met Mick Jones from The Clash. The show is reviewed in my article here. But, the reason it makes my 2008 best-of list is that Mick is a guy whose career and exploits I've followed and admired for some time, and he started my favorite band of all time, The Clash. So, meeting him - even just to say hello, thank him for the show and good memories and urge him to continue recording - was a big highlight of my year.
Weathering the recession - so far. I still have a job. So does Diane. That cannot be said for a disturbingly increasing number of Americans as wave after punishing wave of economic realities blast through the sugary false foundations of "capitalism" as envisioned and championed by big business, the rich and their lackeys in DC. Despite this, I'm cautiously optimistic about 2009. Fingers crossed.
Re-connecting with old friends. 2008 proved to be great year for re-connecting with some very important people from my youth. These friendships were re-kindled through two primary means - my 20 year high school reunion and Facebook. Reunions are traditionally places to re-meet people you spent 3-4 years with back when you were teenagers and re-live some of the glory days...and maybe if you're lucky...you become friends again with a couple of those people. For me, I re-connected with (upon reflection) my best friend from high school through the reunion. So, chalk up the reunion as worth it for me this time.
The other way I found long lost friends was Facebook. Now, I'm not big into online social networking as I think anyone who looks in on those networks can see that a lot of people apparently have a LOT of time on their hands to update the world on their every movement, thought and picture of themselves - a major display of narcissism is evident all over the place. However, I did join Facebook on a whim as I was trying to find out more about online networking for my job. But I have to say, I'm glad I did as I've re-connected with some lost friends from high school, college and previous jobs. The technology works for me as I'm able to see what these people are up to, interact with them and keep some level of friendship going. And, in a couple of cases, actually meet up and re-ignite friendships.
Mortality reinforced. 2008 proved to be a year of loss that sent a clear message that our mortality is all too real and fleeting. On Diane's side of the family one of her cousins, Glen, and her grandmother, Louise, both died. Glen's death was much more unexpected at 53 years of age, however, both people played a significant role in the life of the family and their loss leaves a hole.
We all think we're going to live to be 90-something and die peacefully in our sleep after a long, rich life...but each year deaths like these keep proving this notion wrong. You think you know, but you don't know. Diane and I will miss the departed, but also take it as a lesson to live life as best and as full as you can now. Enjoy the people you know, explore, don't live in fear, learn, love and have as good at time as possible when you can.
Our trip to Banff, Canada. I put this trip on the list for 2008 for several reasons. First, the astounding natural beauty (pictures I took can be seen here) of the area served as a strong reminder of how wonderful and fragile our plan is. Second, that same beauty provided the backdrop and playground for us to hike, sight see and enjoy the "great outdoors" as we so much love to do. And third, we went there over the U.S. Fourth of July holiday weekend. This in and of itself provided some context for reflection which can be read in my post here.
Discovering Matt's In The Market and Senor Moose Cafe restaurants. If variety is the spice of life, then finding great new restaurants helps build the diversity and power of that "spice." Or at least that's one way of saying that discovery a new place to eat (at least new to us) is one our favorite things. In 2008, there were several such discoveries, but the top two were Matt's In The Market in downtown Seattle and The Senor Moose Cafe in Ballard.
Matt's is a classy but hip space overlooking the Pike Place Market with a menu that is equal parts innovative and delectable. Whether it's sea scallops, duck, lamb, salmon or one of the many other selections on offer, Matt's serves up a very memorable palate of flavors you'll be talking about long afterwards. The other "new" discovery worth writing about is Senor Moose. Billed as "Mexican Mexican Food," I can't disagree that the chef's approach is much more true to what you'd get in a restaurant frequented by locals in Mexico than the upscale and revisionist Mexican on offer in other places in Ballard and nationally. The Moose is a small, friendly and homey place with a friendly manager/bartender, amble seating at the counter and a huge menu offering exquisite flavors and spices that will have you coming back. No reservations, and sometimes you have to wait...but have one of their delicious margaritas while doing so to take the edge off and begin to ponder the menu for what you'll order when your time comes. Check this place out.
My new iMac. I hesitated to put this one on the list as it may come off as a bit materialistic..."I got a new iMac." But, I decided to include it because it has been a springboard for me doing a lot of new things this year that I really, really enjoy. In particular, using the great tools and features of the Mac and related software for the Mac, I've started this blog, scanned and cataloged my old film negatives into high resolution digital files and created my Flickr Photostream...which in turn has resulted in getting a couple of my pictures published. Each year, I try to do new things. You know, broaden my horizons or do something I've wanted to for a long time. The iMac has been key to this in 2008, so at the risk of sounding like a shill for Apple...getting their computer is in fact a highlight of my year.
So there you have it. Ten highlights of my hear. Sure, there were other thrills and wonderful happenings along the way, but in the end I feel that a year in which you're on balance, happy, healthy, employed, trying new things, meeting new people, and rewarded for your curiosity can be counted as a good one.
By those measures, I'd rate 2008 - stresses and all - as a pretty dang good year.