2011 annual report: evolution

Some time around the spring of this year I suffered what I guess would be considered burnout. I don’t talk on this blog about where I work or what I do, but basically for the previous 2.5 years I’d been going non-stop, working 75+ hours every week, in the office nearly every weekend, etc. and it began to wear me down. I never hated my job — in fact over the vast majority of that time I loved my job, and still do — but I think all those hours and time pressure just got the better of me. Of course, I couldn’t see that until after it happened, when I was living like I had an empty battery. Everything seemed dull for a few months.

But then, in the summer, it was like someone jump-started me. Some changes at work and some conversations with friends helped give me some perspective, and reminded me that evolutions aren’t always a nice, straight line. It’s usually lots of forward, a little back, and then lots of forward again. So I definitely felt some significant ‘back’ in the early part of the year. Still, it’s not like I got fired or held the hand of a dying relative or underwent gender reassignment surgery or dug my village out from a mudslide or anything, so when I’m talking about ‘significant’ you have to put that in the context of a very safe, comfortable, lucky existence. Just so we’re all clear.

Now then…what actually happened this year? Well, certainly lots of good stuff, despite how it sounded with all my whining up there. We had a great visit from one of my brothers, and he returned with his most excellent wife for an encore. We hosted two dinners for our friends CBGB and MLK, and celebrated GB’s birthday with a surprise birthday party at his sister’s that lasted into the wee hours. We also celebrated from afar when the West Memphis 3 — whose case we’d been following for years — were released from prison. And, most importantly, Nellie and I celebrated Valentine’s Day (which I have renamed Best Friend Day) quietly at home, and our 8th wedding anniversary with a return visit to perennial favourite Canoe.

There were a few bad things too, like Dick Winters dying (since watching Band of Brothers I’ve somehow felt like he was an old friend or something) and the tragic suicide outside our window, as well as kidney stones and the worst cold I’ve ever had (it kept me from flying home to see my family…seriously, there was pus coming out of my eye) but that’s all pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Though kidney stones seemed fairly major when I was writhing in pain on my living room floor waiting for a baby alien to come screaming out.

One of the biggest things for us is always the traveling. This year there were a few great short trips, like New York in the winter, Nova Scotia in the summer, camping and cottaging and even getting an early jump on an eventual Spain trip courtesy of the host at our local wine bar. But most of our vacation time was saved up for our awesome three-week excursion to Australia.

We took part in some recurring Toronto events like Hot Docs and TIFF (after which we no longer fear being in the last box) and a boat cruise around the Toronto islands like the one we did last year, as well as some special events like amazing Pixies and Godspeed You! Black Emperor concerts, and a play about Mark Rothko. We also witnessed a national event which was probably felt most deeply here in Toronto: the death of Jack Layton, which I’ll always remember as more of an uplifting event than a depressing one, thanks to Mr. Layton’s final messages to Canadians and the outpouring of emotion in Toronto’s public spaces.

We tried scads of new restaurants and bars, including La Bettola, Paese, Lady Marmalade, Starfish, Against The Grain, TOCA, Lucien, Capocaccia, Ruby Watchco and the new version of Smokeless Joe on College Street.

One other thing that felt like an evolution this year was how my interests continued to shift from music to wine. I guess that’s not really an evolution so much as a transition — both are forms of art — but just be a doll and help me support my primary thesis, would you? So while my movie consumption — I watched 69 new ones this year — was comparable to last year’s total (71), and I read 10 books (to last year’s 9), I only bought 7 albums. By comparison, last year I bought 19, while in prior years I would routinely buy north of 30. Granted, I still have 14 albums (!) on my ‘must listen to these before the end of 2011’ list, but that’s still a significant downward trend in musical obsession.

So, obviously, the new obsession is wine. And beer too, I suppose. On top of the trip we took to the Margaret River while in Australia, we made three trips to the Niagara wine region. I even felt the need to defend Ontario wine in a post earlier this year. In the last few months we took part in a tasting put on by the Small Winemakers Collection and participated in a food-pairing contest between 13th Street Winery and Mill Street Brewery, naturally dubbed “Street Fight”. The beer connection continued with a sampling get-together put on by my friend Mike and the Session 99 craft beer festival. However, I did have to say goodbye to last year’s endeavour Project FiftyBrew and the original Smokeless Joe in a tear-filled evening.

Me, I’m happy with an evolution from an obsession with music to an obsession with wine. I’m not sure my bank account is pleased about it, but my bank account can suck it. I’ve learned to generally be pleased with any kind of evolution at all.

Happy new year, everybody.

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