I think just about everybody can agree that 2008 was a steaming turd of a year. The economy crumbled, job security became shaky and retirement savings dwindled. On top of these universal lowlights, it seems like just about everyone I know was dealing with longtime relationships dissolving, family members dying and assorted other shitty life-changing events. Bad times all around.
Even in the worst times, however, good things do happen. Looking back on the past 12 months, I see many roses amongst the weeds:
New Dogs: The first few months of the year were some of the saddest days of my life. Following the death of our 10-year-old boxer, Abby, the house was quiet. Really quiet. Painfully quiet. Things couldn’t stay that way for long. On April 5, Michele and I adopted Zoe, another brindle boxer. She immediately returned joy to our home. We soon found that Zoe needed a friend. Some dogs are well-suited to being solo pets. Zoe isn’t one of them. In August, we adopted a three-year-old fawn boxer named Thunder. We loved everything about him except his name, so we changed it to Otis. Zoe and Otis (collectively known as The Zotis) have provided a substantial injection of energy in our lives.
Concerts: I was thinking about doing a year-end list of favorite concerts from 2008 but had a difficult time ranking them. Top shows included Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady, George Michael, R.E.M., Semisonic and Oasis. All of these shows left me with post-concert buzzes that lasted for days.
Las Vegas: Taking a trip to Las Vegas is a guaranteed way to make the best of any lame year. In 2008, we squeezed in three trips. Our February trip included a quest for meat that led us to Righteous Urban Barbeque at Rio, a return visit to Bally’s Sterling Brunch, and several other great meals. We ate well. Despite losing, we had so much fine that we attempted (unsuccessfully) to extend our trip by a day.
The second trip of the year was sort of half business/half pleasure, although all of it was great fun. Thanks to New Media Expo’s move from Ontario, Calif., to Las Vegas, we simply had to go. Although the event itself was largely lame, we had the chance to finally meet several fellow podcaster friends for the first time. Brian Ibbott’s Coverville 500 concert was a definite highlight. In conjunction with NME, we participated in the first Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza with VegasGang and The Strip. I’ll get to that shortly.
Our November trip was much shorter than most of our Vegas vacations. Spanning just three nights, this one was all about packing in as much video poker and Diamond Lounge time as possible. Within 10 minutes of sitting down at the first video poker machine, I hit a royal flush for $1,000. I played on the casino’s money for the next two days. The night before our flight home, I was almost back to even when I hit another $1,000 royal. I ended up taking an extra $1,200 home. Woohoo! In the evenings, we visited our friends in the Paris Diamond Lounge. As always, they took good care of us, providing us with unlimited free booze and good conversation.
Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza: Despite our social anxieties, Michele and I agreed to record our podcast live on stage in front of an audience at Palms during our August trip. Thanks to an enthusiastic audience and countless pre-show cocktails, our nerves quickly subsided and we had a really fun time. Having a couple hundred people show up to see us, along with the hosts of VegasGang and The Strip, record our shows was mind-blowing. Meeting so many of our listeners (as well as Carrot Top and George Maloof) was pretty damn cool too.
Atlantic City: Over Memorial Day weekend, we returned to Atlantic City for a relaxing four-night vacation. Our previous visit was far too short. Staying a couple additional days gave us the chance to explore the Boardwalk, hang out with our friend Dave and venture over to the legendary White House Subs for unforgettable sandwiches. We drank heavily, gambled a lot and laughed even more. Even though Las Vegas is my heaven, Atlantic City holds a special place in this gambler’s heart as well.
July 4 Road Trip: Some people might cringe at the thought of spending 28+ hours in a vehicle with their spouse over the course of just four days. Not me. Even when our vacations consist of a quick trip to Oklahoma to see the inlaws, I can always count on a good time. In addition to trips to a bunch of crappy casinos in Oklahoma, we worked in a one-night stay at Harrah’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which resulted in a $1,000 royal flush, making the trip profitable as well as fun. Bonus.
Old Friends: Events beginning with an unexpected e-mail from a friend I lost touch with about 17 years ago led to a reunion with seven high school chums. After exchanging a bunch of e-mails and messages on Facebook, we got together for dinner and drinks. Despite my repeated proclamations that “this is fucking weird” seeing everyone again was incredible. I realized how much I missed them and found that I still really like these people. I love having my best friends from so long ago back in my life.