As I've reflected on 2006, my inclination has been to focus only on the aspects of my life that didn't meet my expectations and call it a bad year. Now that I've pored over my Flickr photos to compile an end-of-the-year retrospective, though, I've had to remind myself that by most peoples' standards, I'm actually a damn lucky guy. I have an exciting life, and 2006 was, even by my standards, a year of many adventures and much personal growth. Here, for the sake of posterity, is a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting) chronicle:
In January, I got to attend the National Association of Music Manufacturers show on Apple's dime, which was a fun departure from the technology-oriented conferences and trade shows I usually attend. How many tech-industry events, after all, feature countless guitars shaped like things other than guitars, megalomaniacal drum kits, giant analogue synths covered in patch cables, Bootsy Collins and Buckethead sightings, and more metalheads than you can shake a stick at?
I had a great time, met a lot of great people, and got to see a lot of Internet-only friends for the first time at South by Southwest Interactive in March. I scored a press photo pass, and therefore was able to do some of my best shooting ever at South by Southwest Music (I even got to watch a Flaming Lips performance from the stage–truly a high point for any serious music fan). Austin continues to restore my soul on a yearly basis, and I will always think of it fondly as my home away from home.
In June, I threw the biggest party of my life for Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference. This year I had corporate sponsorship, so I was able to rent out a top notch venue (111 Minna) and provide entertainment in the form of a VJ set by Chris Moulios (creator of a highly-regarded music application called ACID, and now an Apple Pro Apps engineer) and a live musical performance by San Francisco's Broker/Dealer. Food (and a little taste of non-touristy San Francisco for the out-of-towners) was provided by the Tamale Lady. For a time, the party was even one of the top events listed on Upcoming.org (above Burning Man!) and I would estimate that somewhere around 250 people attended.
In July, I decided I needed some time to be alone, so over 4th of July weekend I took a solo road trip
to the Southern California desert. It ended up being one of the best experiences I've ever had. I stayed at the beautiful Hollywood getaway Two Bunch Palms
in Desert Hot Springs
(I've since seen it mentioned in both the film The Player
and the TV show Six Feet Under
), where I spent the wee hours of every evening soaking in a lush hot springs pool, staring contemplatively at the stars through a ring of palms trees. During the day I roamed around Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, free to explore to my heart's content and take as much time as I wanted photographing flooded out trailer parks and beaches made of fish bones. I remember one night when I drove through the desert, windows open, listening to El Perro Del Mar's "God Knows
," as one of the last times I was truly, completely happy.
While I was in Southern California, I also took advantage of my friend Michael McCracken's sofa and spent the 4th of July with him and his friends in Pacific Beach. It turns out Mission Bay is a great place to watch fireworks.
Immediately after getting home from my road trip, I (with the help of my friend Kristin) threw my yearly barbecue on my rooftop in the Upper Haight. This year the movie Capote inspired me to dub the event "The Black & White BBQ" (in homage to Capote's famous Black & White Ball), and to my surprise, people took the name seriously enough to show up in some pretty impressive monochrome outfits! I'm also quite proud of the food we provided: instead of serving conventional hamburgers, we made tiny sliders and provided a variety of sauces and toppings so people could sample a number of different tastes (aioli, wasabi mayo, curry ketchup, jalapeno ketchup, etc.). It was truly a triumph of high concept barbecuing.
In September, my friend Sarah Hatter organized a road trip to Bodie, CA, a well preserved Ghost Town in the Eastern Sierras that is instantly recognizable as the location for many of Anton Corbijn's Joshua Tree-era U2 photos. She assembled a motley crew of friends (me, Mai Le, Nick Douglas, and George Oates–a group I came to refer to as "The Fellowship of the Bodie") and made reservations for us to stay at the rustic Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport, CA. We took lots of photos, drank cheap beer in cowboy bars, and bonded while sitting around the campfire telling stories.
Also in September, my close friend Courtney and I celebrated our common birthday (the 27th) with an epic week of shared festivities that included a gift exchange at our favorite hangout Bourbon & Branch
, a very well-attended picnic
on Rodeo Beach in Marin County, and, best of all, a wonderfully memorable 9 course meal
at Manresa, a Michelin three star restaurant in the small South Bay town of Los Gatos.
The holidays began this year with what has become a hallowed tradition of mine: the feuerzangenbowle
. In early December I invited some of my closest friends over for dinner and a gift exchange, followed by a pot of spiced wine, over which a sugar cone was placed, doused with rum, and, with great drama (we played New Order's "Elegia" for mood music), set aflame. The idea is that as the sugar cone burns, chunks of it carmelize and drop into the wine, sweetening it. I enjoy this yearly ritual because it's such a mellow, warm, and undeniably unique
way to spend time with my friends and get everyone in the holiday spirit (something I find to be a little more challenging in snowless San Francisco).
Christmas was a bit strange for me this year. Because of the blizzard in Denver, I wasn't actually able to make it home in time for Christmas Eve, and instead ended up unexpectedly spending my first ever Christmas in San Francisco. The blizzard ended up being a blessing in disguise, however, because I got to spend the evening cooking a fantastic meal out of the Bouchon Cookbook (brined roasted chicken, haricots vert, beet and mache salad with walnut vinaigrette), drinking delicious dessert wine, and playing Uno and Boggle with my good friends Mai Le and Chris Wetherell. As much as I missed my family, it felt like a special thing to spend a holiday with friends.
This brings me to good place to end the post, because, despite all the disappointments and setbacks it visited upon me, I now believe 2006 should go down in the record books as a good year because of the wonderful friendships it brought me. For the first time since I moved to California, I know that I'm developing real friendships–friendships based not on forced camaraderie and hedonism, but rather on shared values and sensibilities, common interests, and a genuine rapport. To all of the dear friends I became closer to in 2006: thank you, and I hope I can be as good to you in 2007 as you have been to me 2006.
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