I knew how beautiful southern Utah's terrain was, having driven it in '05, but had never seen the Wasatch between I-70 and Salt Lake on US-6. I hate to admit it, especially after regularly mocking Utah, but there's something alluring about the Land of Mormon. Salt Lake City's skyline is more powerfully dominated by mountains than any other I've seen; much more imposing due to proximity than even Denver's.
Inspired by the HBO series Big Love (and boredom), I spent a good deal of time playing ad executive; thinking of slogans I could sell to Utah and Mormon fundamentalists like Roman Grant. Picturing the billboards, magazines, and radio ads, I laughed so hard I nearly lost continence. Shalain? Not so much. Meanwhile, Joseph Smith's ghost likely sensed my attitude toward his state's fledgling theocracy and, wearing no magic undies to protect me, I believe he clearly conspired with Brigham Young to prevent weatherly cooperation. We had snow nearly the whole way from Northern New Mexico to Salt Lake City. What should have been 19-hours total was already 21 when we only reached Idaho- still a solid 3-hours from Boise.
I soon found myself once again on I-84 at the infamous Albion exit...for the third time in less than 18-months. The stretch of road between Pocatello and Boise is approaching I-40 in familiarity, second only to the now-tiresome I-25! I pointed out to a politely-interested (or keenly disinterested?) Laina some of my little landmarks from 2008 before we pulled into Boise around 8pm or so Wednesday night, exhausted but glad we had not waited until Wednesday morning to leave, as was our original plan. We were in town early enough to get (re)acquainted AND get a good night's sleep for New Year's Eve. Despite the weather and my initial misgivings as to its wisdom, in retrospect the beginning of this winter adventure really did work out perfectly.
Coming into Lynette & Dave's subdivision naturally invoked a flurry of Warm Fuzzies from September, and it again occurred to me that this was going to be the first time either Shelly, Lynette, Dave, or anyone here had seen me out of travel mode. The last time I had seen Lynette & her family, Chris and I were strapping on our packs and heading down a barren US-20 toward Caldwell. Laina's predicament wasn't lost on me; she had heard much about my drama's characters, but had yet to actually meet any of them. Now, she was about to be baptized by fire: meeting nearly all of my new family at once! I knew they were curious about her too: "How does she put up with you doing this?" was something I was asked 100 times over the summer!
Lynette came out to meet us walking up to the door, and it was as though I had never left. I gave her a big hug, quickly introduced Laina, then strode to the door to give Shelly a hug. Again: like I'd never left. I had to remind myself that it had been six-months since I had seen Shelly, and nearly four since Lynette. SIX MONTHS? Unreal. Ben & Brad were also there as were Dave's kids, Amanda, Mike, and Steph. The same cast as September. I kept telling Amanda & Mike I won't know what to do if I ever visit while they're at home in California. I'd miss 'em.
As I mentioned, I was exhausted from the drive and lack of sleep in the days prior to leaving Santa Fe. I blame my new supplements but whatever the reason, this fatigue led to one of the goofiest and nearly most awkward moments...ever. As I was introducing Laina to everyone, I was working very hard to keep names straight. I know everyone quite well, so normally: not a problem at all. Tonight? A slight problem! For a split-second, I lapsed Dave's name! I'm NOT proud of this, nor do I find it particularly flattering. I mention it only to submit to my sentence inside The Cone of Shame. In my defense, I was so tired that basic recall had begun to fail, and I KNEW it before hand. My radio background spared me the total in-the-moment humiliation in that I know to THINK AHEAD while speaking to be certain of what spews from my mouth. What was seen to unknowing eyes probably resembled Todd being a smartass...but I had to ask myself 3x if I got it right: "DAVE, right?? NOT DOUG? NOT DREW? Fuck! I'm losing my mind!" My shame is everlasting. Once again: Sorry, Dale.
A good night's sleep worked wonders for New Year's Eve. Lynette & Shelly took Laina shopping while Drew(?) & I hung around the house. He had gotten a telescope for Christmas and was learning how it worked, and after he showed me some of their home improvements, he brilliantly articulated something I had been struggling with for a month. It was something to the effect of: the more you're around family that you get along with and care about, and begin to have positive drama-free experiences, the more you want it. It took awhile for that to settle in and I'm not sure if he was speaking from my perspective, his, or Lynette's but it didn't matter; he hit on a significant portion of my drive to get here.
Going back to August/ September there are two things about Dave, among others: he's insightful, and has a way of getting to the point and simplifying things with a minimum of words. The first I respect. The second I admire because it's something I struggle with. I've become quite fond of "that husband of hers," and will be quite certain to challenge Ward & The Hens on their chosen scapegoat. Oh! my silliness! Ward & The Hens! Sounds like a Dukes of Hazzard spinoff. Or, Hugh Beaumont porn. Consider it trademarked; my intellectual property.
From there, Dave cracked open a new can suggesting that when I'm "done with this," Laina and I move to Boise. Shelly intends to move back there from Ohio sometime over the next year, so considering how little I like/much I hate Santa Fe, it's worth considering. In fact, back in October Laina and I discussed moving to Portland in order to be closer to everyone. I cannot stress enough how foreign it feels having, "move CLOSER to family" rattling in my skull!
Stephanie and her boyfriend, Stewart, joined us as did Lynette & Dave's neighbors, Mike, Wendy, and Bailey. The drinks flowed and the food fed as we played a game of Apples to Apples before taking the party across the street for a game of Rock Band on X-Box. Having been deeply scarred by drunken karaoke a decade ago, I abstained. But, my sisters and girlfriend are apparently repressed rock stars. Never shy, Lynette took to the role of what can only be described as a cross between Belinda Carlisle and Sidd Vicious: singing the Go-Go's Our Lips Are Sealed while yelling at her band to, "get it together." Video exists. It's taken great restraint to keep it contained, and is now secured within a bank vault in Manhattan. Laina has applied great pressure to release it to the world, but despite that--I stand firm. Honor me.
This reminds me: I also repelled great temptation induced by Stewie, Steph's boyfriend. He spent the evening trying to coerce me to smoke and break my noble & righteous vow, but verily! I steadfastly refused. Despite slanderous claims that it was I asking for a cigarette, I am proud to say that due to my steel resolve in rebuffing The Stew, I have proudly hit the 8-week mark smoke-free. Also, a new hand-to-hand challenge from Young Ben was accepted, and while details are hazy at best, I'm happy to say that the young apprentice was once again easily vanquished by Ye Strong Arm of Errantry, again despite despicable, vile rumors to the contrary. Honor me! (When exactly did I become Lancelot?)
As the new decade commenced, poor Mr. Snyder, or someone, mentioned politics...while I was drinking. Yeeaaaah. That should trigger Civil Defense Warnings. Eh, Chris? I'm surprised Laina didn't just bust a champagne bottle over my head as a public service, but some of her anecdotes involve Brad and Bailey (Mike's daughter) counting how many times I used the f-word. It appears that Mike, Wendy, and I were probably in agreement on most everything, but that's never stopped me from drunk-arguing before! Right, Chris? Dave hit it on the head the next morning, gleefully telling me that he "saw a side of me he'd never seen" in this drunken, nonsensical, circular political "conversation!" Guilty. But, I think it was a backhanded compliment; he seemed to imply that I usually make sense! I've intentionally tried to avoid the political/ social discussions around these folks in an effort to benefit them from the mistakes of/with others! Right, Chris? But dammit... sometimes that ranting little fucker breaks free. How do you discipline an unruly, chemically dependent pundit-child? I honestly have no idea how long Mike, Wendy, and I stumbled around inside the politics/religion (that too *cringe*) maze. I do recall having a terrific time, and considering Mike accepted my Facebook friend-request, I guess I didn't piss him off too much. That's a blessing... and always a good sign. Not all my acquaintances, or even friends, survive these! Right, Jason?
Over the last couple weeks of '09, and as midnight approached, I often thought back to last January-when Chris and I were pondering what we thought the year would look like. From NYE '09 in Denver to NYE '10 in Boise, 2009 was exactly what it should have been. And more. I don't know what I would have changed, other than the distancing of Pam and not meeting Skip. I do regret the faded relationship with Pam in the grand scope because we are closely connected whether we like it or not. Nothing can change that. And, Mike's enough of a brother!
2009 in a nutshell:
- The Veggie Bus
- Kim and the Cops in Tennessee
- Trent and Megan in Chesapeake Beach, MD
- Chris and I making our way by foot and thumb from DC to Lewes, DE
- The Beach in New Jersey
- The Corbin Cafe
- New York City
- Massachusetts to Michigan with Stacey.
- Meeting and spending most of June with Shelly, not to mention meeting my brother Mike & his daughter Ally, Ben & Brad, Travis, seeing my father for the 2nd time AND reconnecting with all my friends in Michigan after 10-15 years. Maybe the most relentlessly intense 5-weeks of my life.
- The week at the Iowa 80 & King Dirk.
- Learning about and processing Dennis's death. The eternal 5-hour ride.
- Devils Tower
- Leslie & Carthage, SD
- Joel, Don, Grand Forks, Williston ND
- Meeting Lynette, Dave, Mike, Amanda, & Steph in Boise
- Port Townsend
- Meeting Amber
- House-sitting, selling the car, and PROCESSING PORTLAND
- Quitting smoking
- New Year's in Boise
And, this is just the inadequate cliff-notes version. Thanks to Chris, Bobby, Devin & Leif, Brian & Joey, Gus, Lauren, Mandela, Cody, Wendie, Katie, Fast Joe, and everyone else who made 2009 what it was! I wish I could list everyone, and as usual I wish I would have stayed in touch with more people. Maybe next year?