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It happened sooner than we all expected, but February marked the birth of my beautiful young niece, Scarlett. Her birth was not without incident or challenge, but I can happily say that she’s doing marvelously now and she’s growing faster than I can even really wrap my head around.
That’s the scary thing about kids to me. I’ve been around for nearly 27 years and it’s all felt like a blink in time. One second I was a kid in Miami and now I’m an adult in Baltimore. Just like that. Scarlett was born premature and she was tiny. She’s still rather small, but she’s nothing at all like she was almost a year ago. There’s a personality there. She can kind of babble and walk with support. This was a girl I saw on a ventilator unable to take in real food.
Crazier still is that Scarlett’s not even my daughter. I find myself freaked out at the prospect of her growing up in this crazy world all on her own and I’m not even responsible for her. Mostly it makes me think about whether or not I could actually handle taking care of an actual human being. Raising it to be a person and hopefully guiding them along the right path. How do you even approach that kind of thing?
When I look at Eric and Danielle I don’t really worry about it. They’ve always acted more mature than their age to me. What’s there to adapt when you’ve acted like you were in your mid-30s since you were 22, you know? There’s a balance that I don’t really understand yet and I suppose it really has to do with how you want to spend your time. Since neglecting your children and your job aren’t really options if you want to not be a deadbeat, then everything else is a question of sacrifice. The balance doesn’t seem impossible. I’ve got plenty of friends, like Sean and Jessica, who still find the time to be social human beings while having children. Even my own parents found the time to see their friends and party with family (much to their children’s boredom).
Family life is obviously a distant worry in my mind considering where I am today, but the prospect of handling it seems more doable and more terrifying the older I get. Seeing friends happily married and friends already divorced or struggling through their newly-made vows doesn’t make it any easier (and I’m sure I’ll get back to this topic for Lee and Yin’s wedding), but when I see cute, tiny little Scarlett smile and laugh…that’s when I start to understand the reason why people undertake this madness.
Photo by Eric Mesa (DJOtaku)
It’s one of those rites of passage in growing up, isn’t it? Your first car purchased entirely on your own with zero parental involvement. Plenty of kids are forced to hit that milestone in their teens, but I was lucky enough to get old Murray (as I called my old, grey ‘99 Toyota Corolla) for free from my folks when I graduated. We had adventures. All kinds of good times, really, but when I got back home from Christmas last year it was time to say goodbye (look, I know I “technically” got my car in 2011, but it was the 30th and that’s close enough!).
My new ride is a sleek, black Mazda3 named LeChuck. He is everything that Murray was not. Power everything, sunroof, a powerful engine…I used to feel bogged down when I ran the a/c in my Corolla. Now my engine has some real pop. I honestly have zero regrets with this car and that’s a rarity for a big ticket purchase, you know?
I guess until I buy a house or get married, that’s kind of the biggest thing I’ve done since I graduated and got a job. It was the last big tie to home and certainly a huge tie to the Daniel I was before 2012. That car was ratty, but reliable. Now I try to be a little flashier, a little more mature. Where I let maintenance milestones just whiz on by in the Corolla I’m on top of my game with the Mazda.
In the first year of ownership I put about 23,000 miles down on the odometer. LeChuck and I went to Ithaca for a beautiful wedding. We went to Pittsburgh to see the beautiful PNC Park. Our travels took us out to Lehigh Valley, PA and Boone, NC. There were countless trips to York, PA to visit Tiffany and a trip up to New York to watch the Big Red after she broke my heart.
Some people don’t like road trips or driving. I’m no gear head, but it’s really my preferred method of travel within a reasonable distance. Being on the road gives me time to think about where I am and where I want to be (not literally) or listen to podcasts and music. I’ve had long, meaningful conversations with friends that I rarely get the chance to have in person. I’ve sat in silence as my passengers slept or did their own things. I’ve had arguments and stewed passive-aggressively. It goes without saying, but none of that is possible without LeChuck. Some look at their cars as a means of conveyance or a tool, but I look at it as a staunch ally that gets me where I need to go. Look, I know that sounds dumb, but I love my car, man. Cut me some slack.
(Picture by Harvey-Harv)
This year did not go as planned.
That’s actually fairly unfair to say considering that eleven of the twelve months went, more or less, the way they were supposed to, but it’s that one big even that’s going to color the way this annual event goes.
So here’s the thing, guys. Normally these posts are all written in the month they occurred, but I was way behind all this year and, well, my planned topics don’t make sense any more. Despite how I might have wanted to write about time I spent with Tiffany as a specific landmark of the year, going back now and writing about it doesn’t make sense. I’m not in that moment.
So the Fukubukuro (福袋, lit: lucky/mystery bag) is going to be a little reworked and it’s gonna take a little longer than twelve days. January’s a long month, guys. Don’t worry.
Beyond the relationship stuff, 2012 was actually not too bad. I moved twice, saw the rise and fall of the Miami Marlins, and got to know Baltimore a little better. Guys, I have a niece now and she’s beautiful and adorable. 2012 didn’t end how I wanted it to, but I think all the transition leading into 2013 will lead to big things for me. I hope you enjoy my musings about 2012 and I hope to see you all again next year.
Happy New Year,
Red Rock Canyon.
I swore that I would never play again after I quit. With good reason, I’d say. The year I played World of Warcraft religiously I hung out less with friends, saw my personal life take a hit, and received some of the worst grades of my undergraduate career.
People who really know me know that obsessing over a video game isn’t exactly odd behavior for me. I play an astounding number of hours of video games each year, but this was past that line. We’re talking canceling social engagements to make a raid or just not leaving my room for anything but meals all weekend. Clearly not healthy behavior.
Then the unspeakable happened: Bioware announced that they would be continuing their Old Republic franchise in an MMO form. My moratorium was in serious jeopardy. I love Bioware games and I was particularly fond of the Old Republic stuff too. The ban would have to be lifted.
Of course I couldn’t just dive in. Rules have to be observed. When it came down to it, the biggest one that I was forcing myself to follow was to never let the game get in the way of my social life. That means no canceling dates or hanging out with friends in favor of playing the game. It sounds obvious, but I didn’t manage it before.
So far I’ve been doing pretty well with TOR. It’s nothing at all like WoW. I did start getting into work and going to bed later, but I’ve yet to cancel any social engagements and I’ve been actively keeping up with my friends and family. I kept myself from overcommitting by joining a chill guild that has a pretty loose raid schedule. So far we’ve made good progress in the game without too much drama at all. Overall, it’s been a much more pleasant experience than playing WoW was.
A lot changes in two years. Back in 2009 I went up to NYC with Min and Duffy to catch the Cornell vs. BU ice hockey game at Madison Square Garden. It was a lot of fun and it was taking place only a year after we graduated.
Funny thing about school is that people cycle out. Every four years, on average, the slate is wiped clean. 2011 was the year Cornell was officially emptied for me. The last friend I knew on campus had graduated in May, which means that my reasons for being at the school, reunions aside, have all but disappeared.
Every year after graduation means another year of drifting apart from the relationships that were so crucial and big in my life during undergrad. I keep close with a few important ones, but you can’t argue with the drift of time. People who graduated and went to the same city I did aren’t there any more. People who did are now functionally too far away to see frequently. For someone who moved around a lot as a kid like I did, this feels like a natural attrition rate, but I still wish my close friends lived closer.
It felt like everyone I knew was at that MSG game in 2009 and like we made a bigger effort to rendezvous. I know that, numerically, the numbers were probably about the same in 2011 (a lot of people from undergrad live in/around NYC, so it’s not really a trip for them), but the game was far less of a foregone conclusion to me this year. I think I’ll probably go again in 2013, but it’ll be one of those things I have to think about, you know? It’ll probably be the same way with class reunions. Five years is next year. I bet that’s the biggest turnout 2008 gets (ten years might be bigger because of our obsession with powers of 10, but I’m hedging my bets on five) because Cornell gets smaller and smaller in our memories the longer we’re away from it.
That’s what I cherished so much about going to the game this year. I got to see my favorite people from undergrad once again. Sure, I also got to see some I didn’t like and it also felt far too short, but these moments will never be this easy as the years keep marching on.
Last year I know I freaked out a bit about stagnating, but I ultimately think I wasn’t ready to mature or be older. I mean, I can’t say that I’m there yet, but I think I may be getting a chance to be halfway there. It won’t be much longer before I’m an uncle. That’s crazy.
Was I expecting to learn that my brother was having a kid back in October? No way. I mean, the invitation was a little weird and out of character, but I wasn’t expecting that kind of bombshell to be dropped on me.
I use bombshell as a descriptor, but we all know that the extent to which this will actively affect my life will not necessarily be huge. I’m not personally responsible for a new life, my brother and sister-in-law are. It’s just….crazy. I mean, I know my brother is three years older than me and we’re both closer to 30 than we are to 20, but still! He’s a guy I remember at age eight!
When you think about it, it’s kind of weird that I think of this as a huge event. I’ve got plenty of cousins with kids. The oldest of them are older than my youngest siblings, so I’ve had a long time to be used to people of my generation having kids, but this is my brother, man.
I also find that my sense of responsibility is much greater than it was when I was in undergrad. I mean, maybe it has to do with being older or maybe it has to do with occasionally caring for my younger siblings, but I have no fears about taking care of young kids. Just six years ago I would have been paralyzed with fear that a kid would choke on something or I’d drop her or something like that. Now it feels like it’s not a big deal at all.
The other thing I’ve learned, mostly from Eric, is how exciting and scary the prospect of parenthood is. I’ve seen his emotions range on the spectrum of ecstatic to terrified and that makes a lot of sense. His life is about to change tremendously and I have a lot of respect for him and Danielle for taking on what amounts one of the most important roles, on an individual level, for people.
There’s a long way to go before the kid is up and walking around and talking, but how mind blowing is it that something that started as two cells merged together is gonna have a personality and a voice and she’s gonna call me “Tio”. Bizarre.
(Photo courtesy DJOtaku)
Growing up in Florida made me privy to, on average, at least one tropical storm or mild hurricane each year. We never lived on the beach, but we lived through some pretty serious hurricanes. Andrew, for example, absolutely destroyed parts of Miami that were a mere 20 miles south of us. We lost power for a week or so after that hurricane. Hurricanes aren’t jokes, but living through some pretty devastating ones has left me with a cavalier attitude toward them.
The eastern seaboard was absolutely flipping out about Hurricane Irene before it made landfall. Look, I get that a few people died and there was a lot of property damage and power was lost, etc., but my mind was blown at how worried people were. I mean, this was a hurricane that was powerful in the south, but there was almost no chance of it reaching the colder northern waters at anything higher than CAT 1, right?
In the end it was just a tropical storm far offshore when Baltimore experienced its fury. This hurricane was forecast to be the apocalyptic end of New York City by the newsmedia and I knew they were being sensationalist, but all the repetition and fear and mania started to convince me that, well, maybe something catastrophic might happen. This is going to lead to a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” type catastrophe in this country. I just know it. As a result of these frequent misjudgments of weather and natural disasters many people I know, including myself, now take everything the news says with a grain of salt. Maybe one day the big one will come ashore up north, but no one is going to care.
As a small aside to the hurricane business above, this was also the month an earthquake hit DC and forced the evacuation of the building I work at. I was in my car driving back to the office when the quake hit and, I’ve gotta say, I was pretty disappointed I didn’t even feel or notice it. Florida’s not really seismically active (on a scale people would feel), so I didn’t get to experience any as a child, and I missed my big chance to feel a non-threatening earthquake out east yet again! Earthquakes sound terrifying, but I just want to experience one, you know?
The devastation Hurricane Irene caused at my brother's house (Photo courtesy DJOtaku)
When your favorite baseball team is in its final year of its current incarnation and ready to change its name, stadium, logo, and identity, you want to pay attention. When they’re the dark horse contender for the wild card in the pre-season, it thrills you to your core. Then June happens.
For a little more background, the Florida Marlins were holding a strong second place in the NL East going into June. That’s about two months into the season, or about a third of the way done, and things were looking good. Then disaster struck.
The first of June was the beginning of an eight game losing streak to start the month. Seven of those losses were by one run. Over the entire month of June, a month containing 28 games, the Marlins only managed to win five.
They dropped from a competitive second place to fifth, last in the division. Their manager retired and they dug up an ancient fossil to lead the team. Nothing. The season was essentially over. They were able to pull up to fourth place for a short spell, but they quickly lapsed back into last place for the last ⅔ of the season.
It killed the season for me. I entered the 2011 baseball season with high hopes, savagely devouring all kinds of baseball information through the off-season to prep for the 162-game marathon and I was maintaining that interest all the way to June. It’s not like I stopped paying attention to baseball, but I wasn’t able to muster the same enthusiasm. I still enjoyed watching the games, but I no longer looked forward to catching them each night.
Maybe that means I’m not a real fan, but it wasn’t easy to swallow the bitter pill of the 2011 season. I didn’t want the Florida Marlins to enter their off-season cocoon on such a down note. This is a team that I love and, although the spirit of the team remains and I’m firmly in the Miami Marlins camp, I know that it’ll never be the same. They have new colors, new uniforms, and new swag, but that came at the cost of being the scrappy underdogs. No one likes the Miami Heat. Will everyone hate the new-look Marlins? I mean, it’s not like we had much of an identity before. It was more of a, “Oh yeah, the Marlins are in the NL East too, huh,” kind of vibe for a long time (aside from the aberrant 1997 and 2003 seasons where we kicked ass). Now things aren’t the same and I didn’t get to love them on their way out.
I think that’s for the best. Despite my nostalgia and love, I’m ready to see that old team reborn into something new. I’m tired of being a fan of the laughing stock of baseball. Considering the population in the area, Miami should have an interesting, successful baseball team. Let’s hope the new year brings legitimacy and success for the Fish.
Hanley Ramirez, our former short stop and soon-to-be 3rd baseman
I’m gonna cheat and combine events from July and May for this entry into the Fukubukuro because I want to talk about my first real run-ins with crime. For those who don’t know, May was the month my house was broken into and burglarized and July was the month my car window was smashed in and GPS was stolen. On their own those are pretty horrible events with financial impact. I had to change locks and replace stolen/damaged property. It also cost me time talking to the police and various administrators to suspend accounts and it caused a lot of frustration due to the incompetence of the Baltimore Police Department.
I mean, let’s be honest here: if someone steals an internet-ready device and uses it on the internet, their location should be forfeit, right? Yet the Baltimore Police Department, in its infinite wisdom, can’t be bothered to subpoena an ISP to find out where the device was used. They are beyond useless, difficult to get a hold of, and unnecessarily condescending considering their atrocious reputation and pathetic inability to solve and/or stop crimes.
Phew, ok, I need to cool down. Talking about how useless the Baltimore Police Department is gets me all riled up. More to the point, the real harm that was done to me when my house and car were broken into is all psychological. It’s all in having your personal space violated and your sense of security dashed. The night of the burglary I was sound asleep upstairs and my roommate was gone. I very nearly slept downstairs on the couch and I also very nearly invited Min over to hang out. Both could have been disastrous.
Losing stuff is just losing stuff. It sucks and it hurts the wallet, but the fact that I can’t sleep some nights when my roommate isn’t there (she wasn’t there during the B&E either) or that every time I walk out to my car I half expect the window to be smashed in is the real crime. It’s probably better for my safety that I’m hyper paranoid about checking locks and alarms before bed, but I shouldn’t have to feel that way.
Youth is all about indestructibility. When I was a kid I never broke a bone and I was never seriously ill. I guess Eric had a bike stolen once, but that didn’t really affect me because it happened in the backyard and everyone knows those things are exposed to whomever. As an adult these walls are crumbling. I’m more aware of the fragility of even a fit human body. I’ve suffered lasting injuries. My safe spaces aren’t necessarily safe. It reads like naïvety, but the truth is I’ve just always been really lucky. The trick now is to live more carefully, but without letting fear prevent me from doing things I want to do.
(Photo Courtesy DJOtaku)
It doesn’t get much worse than running into an ex unprepared. I’m being hyperbolic, of course, but it is easily one of my least favorite things. There’s always that awkward period of smalltalk and catching up to do and you’re always thinking, “Man, I wish I’d picked a better shirt to wear today.” I mean, ultimately it shouldn’t matter, right? Yet whenever I do I usually end up feeling dopey and kicking myself for not being cooler.
There’s no way I’m alone in this. I mean, everyone wants to look and be their coolest in front of people who can no longer have them. It’s pretty much human nature. “Look at the mistake you made. You could have had this.”
So it sucks when you’re at an early-season ballgame with your friends and you run into a girl you briefly dated, especially when she’s wearing that shirt that made you dig her in the first place AND your new girlfriend is absent. My brain just couldn’t wrap itself around not caring, so it bugged me for the rest of the game, heck, the rest of the week.
Then there’s the other kind of unexpected encounter. The kind where everything is planned out and no surprises are on the table, but you end up shocked at the end anyway. A good friend of mine that I was way into for something around three years (anyone who knows me well probably knows who this is) came home for spring break and, like always, we set up a time to hang out and catch up. Pretty routine stuff, except it was all different.
I’ve been in long relationships that took forever to get over and I’ve been in short, brief flings that burned bright and burned out, but the one weird thing about both for me is that they always seem to end the same way. One day she means a lot to me and I can’t stop thinking about her and the next…it’s like it never happened. It’s also the kind of thing that you can’t really judge until you’re around the person. I thought I was over it plenty a time until I saw her and realized I wasn’t.
This time it was different. I saw her and the rose-colored glasses were gone. Some of the little things I thought were cute before ceased to be. I didn’t have that sinking, weird feeling in my stomach. In a way it was sad, but it was also super liberating. I felt better about myself than I had in a long time. All I could think when I went to bed that night was, “I’m free.”
It wasn't on this day at Nats Park, but this is my favorite picture of the walk up to Nats Park.