Friday, February 10, 2012

December 25, 2011 The 2011 Christmas Letter

I guess this can no longer be called our Christmas Letter. I know it is usually late but never this late. It would be easy for me to say it wasn’t a good year. For example Tiguak, the polar bear Chrissy hand raised, died unexpectedly. So it would be true that we had a bad year but that’s not why it is late. Maybe it’s late because I spend so much time watching the hair on my head disappear only to reappear in places that hair isn’t supposed to grow. Maybe it’s late because I’ve become the grouchy old man I always joked I would become. At first, I couldn’t find much to laugh at. Hell my parents visited this year and I could not find anything to write about that either. Eventually I ended up with a newsletter with a new format. So welcome to our 2011 Year in Review from A-Z. As usual we hope you had a Merry Christmas and here’s hoping 2012 is a great year for everyone.
  Aunt Ann is actually Chrissy’s Great Aunt. She is one of my favorite people because she speaks her mind and doesn’t act her age. She also makes me laugh. Here are a few of her memorable quotes. One night she offered to pay her part of the CafĂ© Borgia bill with a $50. When I didn’t have change for her $50 bill, she replied “Sorry I only carry fifties.” Another time at Taco Real when I refused to pour her a second margarita she scolded me by saying “I’m 85 years old; you can’t tell me how much I can drink!” I refilled her glass before she started hitting me.  When Ann found out I was doing the eulogy at Don’s funeral she said, “You’d better say something nice. This is the last time you’re gonna see him.” When I asked won’t I see him in heaven eventually, she replied “like I said, this is the last time you’ll see him.” Making it very clear to me which one of us she thought was going to heaven.
   Banff National Park is where Chrissy and I shared a magical moment in our rental car. No we didn’t relive the activities that occurred in my car when we were dating. The car was moving this time. Actually I’m pretty sure the car was also moving a few times when we were dating too. But I am getting off the point. As we drove along the Bow Valley Parkway, a beautiful black wolf slowly crossed the road right in front of us. We were stunned to finally see a wolf that close in the wild. By the time we got the camera he was disappearing over a ridge.
   College visits brought my cousin Katt and her daughters Rose and Michelle to Chicago in June. Michelle who wants to be a stage manager was checking the programs at several colleges in the area. I really enjoyed having them at the house for a week. Their youthful energy, the joy of having your whole life in front of you and that anything is possible attitude was contagious. I look forward to seeing all the incredible things they accomplish in their lives but the house sure seemed empty after they left.
   DJing with my friend Jim has been a blast this year. We are getting paid to talk to drunken hotties and watch them dance. It makes me think that God does smile down on me once in a while. But then he laughs at me. Here’s why. At a wedding in June the guy setting up a photo booth asked me to sit for a picture so he could set the lights. I told Jim to sit with me so I could send the pictures to my mom. The minor problem was my head is huge compared to Jimmy’s. It’s like Barry Bonds on steroids huge, a giant oversized melon. The major problem was throughout the night the monitor outside the photo booth scrolled through the pictures of all the couples at the wedding which meant that we were the gay DJ couple. Thanks God.
   Eulogy.  Chrissy’s parents, Don & Marsha celebrated their 50th Anniversary in July. We had a party for them at                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Gino’s Steak House. Don was his usual self, enjoying being surrounded by friends and family with a big smile on his face. In September Don was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He passed away in his home on October 24th.  I was told I was doing the eulogy. I needed help to get through it. I don’t remember exactly what I said but I managed to rankle the uptight pastor and please most of the family and friends that attended. I added the eulogy as I meant to say it to the end of this newsletter.
   Fluffy was the sweetest dog we’ve ever had. Most people said she was a sweetheart as soon as they saw her. She had bad fur, a snaggle tooth and a poor excuse of a tail but she was a beautiful dog on the inside. Fluff loved to go hiking. Whenever I said, “You wanna go for a ride?” She would cock her head and lift her ears, when I asked again she would do her happy feet dance and find Glacier or Oslo to let them know. She died at home on May 16th.  Now when I take Oslo & Roxy hiking…I still miss my favorite hiking partner.
   Glacier National Park – We had quite a few memorable moments in five days of hiking in Glacier. My favorite happened on the Highline Trail which opens into a bowl with a cliff trail about 500 feet above a very scenic valley. It started with a chirping sound from a single golden eagle. All of a sudden there were three eagles soaring on the wind currents just about eye level to us.  They were putting on quite a show. It was hypnotic watching them ride the wind higher and higher without ever flapping their wings. Then dive bombing straight down for no other reason than they appeared to be having fun. Standing on the edge of a three foot wide trail with a 300 foot drop I just kept looking up...circling my head as they flew by...pretending I was up there with them...what an incredible feeling...those 15 minutes will stay with me the rest of my life
   Hockey is an escape from the daily grind for me. It is a chance to hang out with friends, play a game and have a few beers. My hockey team finished tied for first place and then won the championship game in double overtime. The funny thing about it was the actual size replica Stanley Cup that Walter had made out of duct work sheet metal. Even at our ages, it was fun to hoist the Cup over our heads. It’s great to feel like a kid every so often.
   Iceberg Lake – We hiked out to Iceberg Lake in Glacier NP as a storm blew over the mountains. We saw bighorn sheep and moose along the way. But the real reason we hiked 10 miles in the rain was to spread the ashes of our dogs Glacier and Fluffy at the unbelievably scenic glacial lake. There were still icebergs floating across the icy blue water surrounded by 3000 foot vertical walls. This was the perfect final resting spot for these two longtime friends.
   Jasper National Park – We hadn’t seen many animals on our trip so far. So when Chrissy spotted moose in Medicine Lake, we hiked a mile downhill through a forty degree down pour to get closer for photos. Because a moose bluff charged me in the Grand Tetons, I hid behind giant rocks about 50 yards from two moose grazing in the shallow lake. I tried to take pictures but the rain was relentless. We headed back to the car, frozen and drenched. The last section was a steep muddy incline that had me taking one step up, sliding three steps backwards. Finally back in the car, I agreed it was worth all the trouble to see some animals. Less than five minutes down the road, a herd of 15 Rocky Mountain sheep were blocking the road. For 20 minutes we had animals surrounding our car and we took some great pictures. Now the hike to see the moose seemed a bit unnecessary.   
   Kootenay National Park – I love heading out into the wilderness but there is always a little underlying fear in me. I feel safer working in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods because I am familiar with them. The wilderness has that scary sense of the unknown. So what happens at our first stop in the Canadian Rockies? As we step out of our car at Sinclair Canyon in Kootenay NP, there is a half-eaten mountain goat leg in the parking lot. Now I head into the wilderness through the heavy fog with that image in my head. It’s going to be a fun, if slightly scary day.
   Lollapalooza – I saw some great performances this year. Bright Eyes impassioned set, My Morning Jacket absolutely amazed me, Flogging Molly were just as great on the huge main stage as they are in the small clubs and the Foo Fighters playing through a stormy downpour. But what I will remember most from Lolla this year was the mud. On Sunday three different storms ripped through Grant Park. The mud was ankle deep by midafternoon. Instead of being pissed off, the kids just embraced the situation and enjoyed it. That made this old man do the same. Now I’ll admit I wasn’t about to do sliding belly flops in the mud puddles mixed with goose shit but I did roll up my pants and dance in it. Trying to beat the heat is my biggest problem at Lolla. Let’s face it; no one wants to see my fat ass shirtless while enjoying their favorite band. So I came up with a solution while checking out the thousands of hotties wearing the light weight sun dresses. Why not? They look so comfortable. They provide plenty of cool air across the shoulders and definitely provide fresh air from the bottom. Damn, I only wish it was socially acceptable for men to wear one. But if it is 95 degrees next summer. Look for me at Lollapalooza in one.
   Mountain Biking – The good news…no mountain biking trips ended with surgery this year. But one trip ended with me covered in horse shit and another ended with me getting sexually assaulted by a deer according to my brother in law. Kimmie & I went riding early during our very rainy spring. After riding the single track trails at Sweet Woods and Brownell, we decided to try the horse trail through Jurgesen Woods. Big mistake! The trail was very muddy and rutted by horse hoof prints, riding was nearly impossible but when I did the mud / horseshit mix was thrown up & over my back. My knees down were covered in the same mix from walking my bike. I had to hose myself off before going into the house. On a solo ride at Brownell, I managed to knock myself out when riding over a downed tree. I realized too late that I didn’t have enough speed so I put my right foot down. Big mistake! There was a ravine on that side and I fell down it. The last thing I remember was hitting the ground head first. Here’s my version of what happened. I awoke when I heard a twig snap and a deer was standing about 20’ from me. My brother in law, Keny’s version is the same except I woke up to find a deer was humping me. After Chrissy decided she liked Keny’s version better, I asked her how long would I have to be missing before she decided to come looking for me. She quickly replied, “Three days!”
   National Parks – We took a trip to six national parks this year. Glacier in the States. Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho in Canada. Christy & I love spending time in any National Park and recommend that everyone take advantage of these beautiful areas whenever possible. If you would like to see my pictures from this trip, check out my blog for late September into early October. 
   Oslo – Our 5 year old, 125 lb, male dog continues to provide us with goofy antics that always make us laugh. This year he has begun howling at the sirens in the neighborhood. He mimics the sound after each blast with a long lone wolf howl. He also has a new favorite spot, the narrow settee in the second floor front window. He spends all day lying on the pillows surveying the neighborhood from his new lookout spot. But my favorite moment with him happened in Lake Michigan. There were 5 foot waves and a park ranger was walking the beach to keep people out of the water. In I go with Oslo jumping the waves and Roxie stays more cautiously behind us. I tell the ranger I'm just letting them drink. All of a sudden one of the bigger waves catches Oslo and carries him right past me toward the shore...I see him dog paddling and start to laugh...then I realize I better let go of his leash or I'm gonna pull him backwards into the surf. When he finally lands in shallow water...he looks completely freaked out and turns to look at me with a goofy WTF just happened expression on his face. I'm laughing so hard I just fall into the water and hug him. I was so proud and happy for dog just bodysurfed a of my favorite things to do in life.
   Protest – We took part in an Occupy Wall Street protest at 6th Ave & Canal St in December because I believe there are injustices that need to be addressed in this country. I also believe that questioning your government is a patriotic thing to do. It is the founding principle of this country. So I will continue to fight the willful ignorance that is ruining our country.
   The Quote of the Year comes from my soon to be former friend, Adam Balcazar. While talking to me on one of our frequent phone calls he said “you are an atom bomb of negativity.” Now I should have been pissed but upon thoughtful inward reflection I had to agree with him. Then I congratulated him on such a great description of me. It is probably too late to change my bitter old man ways, which reminds me of another great quote “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. So I guess I’ll just keep pissing on the carpet.
   My Top Five Records of 2011 - #1 Nothing Is Wrong by Dawes. #2 Circuital by My Morning Jacket #3 England Keep My Bones by Frank Turner. #4 Whole Love by Wilco #5 Peoples Key by Bright Eyes
   Sex Museum – While Christmas shopping in NYC on Fifth Avenue, we (probably just me) decided to stop at the Oral Fixation Bar at the Museum of Sex. After finishing off an Aphrodisiac Martini, Chrissy announced that she was no closer to having sex with me than before the drink. So I asked, “How much alcohol would it take?” She said more than this bar has in stock. The bartender shook his head, said “sorry brother” and walked away laughing.
   Trees for You & Me – The charity fundraiser that Chrissy helped start has become one of Polar Bears International’s main programs. If you would like to donate to help polar bears by planting trees in the Polar Bear Forest in Wisconsin, Check out the website at You can choose your local AAZK or support Brookfield Zoo’s chapter for Chrissy.
   Unwind – The whole point of our trip to the Rockies was to escape. Relax. Unwind. One day in Glacier NP we drove 30 miles along a sometimes paved, mostly dirt road to the off the grid town of Polebridge where we grabbed lunch at the Mercantile. Several miles down a dirt road that made the previous road seem smooth; we ended up at Bowman Lake. We passed 5 bear warning signs on the hike to the lake but it was a beautiful fall day so we settled on the shoreline and enjoyed amazing huckleberry bear claws and a local Flathead Lake Monster black raspberry soda.
Relaxing out here is a different kind of relaxing. The scenery, the fresh air, the incredible fall colors and the unseasonably warm temperatures all contributed to being so relaxed that it was possible to fall asleep even though there are bear warnings everywhere you look. Now that kind of relaxation was well worth ruining the suspension on our rental car.
   Vandalism – Yes we were victims of a heinous crime this year. We have a bumper sticker on our Equinox that reads “My Great Pyrenees is Smarter than your Honor Student”. A misguided deviant drew a very artistic steaming pile of dog shit behind the picture of a Pyr. I still laugh every time I look at it.
   Waterton NP – The first stop on our Canadian Rockies trip. I have repeatedly told Chrissy that I needed this vacation more than any I’ve taken due to the crazy amount of hours I’ve been working this year. After a beautiful day of hiking at Red Rocks Canyon, Blakiston Falls and Crandell Lake, I received a message from God. Don’t laugh, this message came in the form of a t-shirt that read “Waterton – Good for the Soul”. I had to buy the shirt, how often does God send you a message.
   Xmas in NYC – I need to visit New York City like a junkie needs heroin. The energy of that city rejuvenates me. I love the feeling I get from being in NYC. This trip included shopping at pop up holiday fairs at Bryant Park, Brooklyn Flea, Columbus Circle, Union Square Park, Chelsea Market and Craft at the Canal in Gowanus. We also took part in a Vintage Subway Train Swing Dance Party, joined an Occupy Wall Street demonstration at 6th & Canal St. and visited the 9-11 Memorial at the Trade Center site. But the real reason I love this city occurred on Court Street in the Italian section of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. In the span of 15 minutes and three city blocks, I stopped at four family owned bakeries…bought pignolis at Monteleone Bakery, old fashioned round Italian bread at Caputo’s Bakery, Italian cookies at Court Pastry and fancy pastries at Sweet Melissa Patisserie.
   Yoho NP – My personal challenge. The Iceline Trail. Four miles to the summit. 2300’ elevation gain. The first part is hiking through a forest straight up the mountain. At first I had to rest at each switchback, then halfway up each switchback. Whenever I stopped I had steam rising off of me from sweat and I was doubled over trying to force as much oxygen into my body as humanly possible. I was damn proud I made it above the tree line. But as I huffed and puffed my way up, I'm not too proud to admit lots of people passed me with relative ease. As I headed toward the summit my brain eventually listened to my body and decided to turn around. First I ate my lunch with a beautiful view of Yoho Valley. I was feeling proud of myself but that quickly disappeared. First I drove pass a couple much older than me who were riding their bicycles up the incredibly steep Yoho Valley Road. Then back at the hotel while I am getting undressed to take a shower, Chrissy starts laughing uncontrollably. She manages to blurt out “you got lint in your butt crack!” So much for hiking up a mountain, this day will forever be remembered as butt lint day.
   Zookeeper Christy – Chrissy wouldn’t even write this part of the newsletter. So here’s what I know about her year. She is still taking classes for her master’s degree in zoology. She still does speaking engagements for PBI about climate change and polar bears. She still hates living with me. She still works at Brookfield Zoo. She still hates tour buses full of Japanese people. This hatred started in Rome years ago and continued through our Canadian Rockies trip this year. But this year she got even. Here’s how. Chrissy still farts a lot. I fart a lot but she is worse. And on our hiking trips its worse, probably due to eating trail mix and granola bars all day. So when the extremely rude busload of Japanese tourists descended onto the deck overlooking Peyto Lake in Banff NP, Chrissy pushed her way into the middle of the camera toting mob. Then she detonated her nuclear bomb farts. I swear there were Japanese people running in every direction, it looked like Tokyo being attacked by Godzilla.

Since there was no mention of me anywhere in this extremely long and quite frankly boring newsletter, let me wish everyone a very happy new year. Love & Peace, Roxie, the other Great Pyrenees in the house.

No comments:

Post a Comment