The best part about 2009 (well … besides getting engaged)? It wasn’t 2008!

Everyone else is doing year-end blog posts, so what the hell? And what better way to do so than actually waiting until the last day of the year, sitting in the recliner, on the laptop, sipping an Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like, stout brewed with oysters) from Flying Fish Brewing, with a cat assisting me by resting on the back of the recliner (Hi, Trouble!)?

So, here goes nothing. I didn’t think 2009 was an overly good year or an overly bad year. It was pretty mixed for me, with more good than bad, but not enough good to call it wonderful. This is in direct contrast to 2008, which can pretty much go to hell. I managed to lose my job, my favorite bar and my ballpark in 2008, while 2009 brought some sadness, but nowhere near on the level of 2008.

In Newport, R.I., just before getting engaged

The highlight of 2009, by far, was getting engaged. It was a remarkable day, spent in Newport, R.I., and a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I have yet to experience one second of doubt about this and likely never will.

The precursor to getting engaged was fun, as well: Welcoming my fiancée and her cat, Skittles, to the apartment my two cats, Trouble and 8-Ball, graciously allow me to occupy. Trouble and 8-Ball still hate Skittles, but their skirmishes have become more amusing than alarming. As for the humans, we’re getting along just fine, thank you!

Anyone who knows me and has gotten to this point is saying, “Um, what about the World Series, jackass?” About fucking time! The entire season for the Yankees was a great run, starting way back when I first saw the new Yankee Stadium, before the start of the regular season. Yes, I would move back across the street in a heartbeat, and I miss the old ballpark like a lost family member. But it was great to have the Yankees rise back to the top again, and I really liked the makeup of this team, as opposed to some of the underachieving squads of the mid-2000s.

Skittles

I went to two weddings that I was very happy about, within weeks of each other. Both brides are longtime friends of mine, one much longer than the other, and both finally found perfect matches and soul mates, which was quite heart-warming. It’s funny to think of how much I used to hate weddings, and how quickly my opinion of them reversed when the prospect of actually being a groom inched closer to reality.

My then-girlfriend, now-fiancée and I went on a great trip to Cancun and, even though it was more than nine months ago, I still find myself dealing with insatiable cravings for Mojitos at 11 a.m. on occasion. We also went to Cape May and loved it and, of course, there was Newport, where I finally popped the question (without actually popping the question, as I am constantly reminded of … sigh!).

Now, on to the not-so-good: The obvious lowlight is pretty simple. If anyone had told me that I would go an entire calendar year and not spend one second working on a full-time job, I’d have asked them when I won the lottery or was named in the will of a rich old aunt I had never met. This economy sucks, this recession sucks, and this job market sucks. I’d have completely lost what little mind I have left if it wasn’t for the one part-time job I still have.

Bidie, R.I.P.

One of my favorite pooches went on to doggy heaven. I still miss Bidie. I lived with the little bug-eyed, hot-tempered, 200-decibel-snoring rascal of a Boston Terrier for a year, but I knew her for most of her long, happy life, and there was a strong bond between us. As I said in my tribute post to her: If there’s a dog run in Heaven, I hope all of the other dogs up there are quick, or they might be in for a rude awakening.

For the first time since 2001, I was not part of a beach house on LBI, mostly for financial reasons. It turned out to be a good summer to skip, as it seemed like it rained almost every weekend, but there’s a certain calm and peacefulness about being near water, and I truly missed that all summer.

My Aunt Rose gave me a huge scare, as she suffered a minor heart attack and minor stroke in October. It was very unsettling for a while, as she was having a great deal of trouble expressing things like names, numbers and dates, but she’s improved to the point where she’s very, very close to 100%. I knew things were on the upside when she started nagging again.

So as I said earlier, overall, 2009 was pretty mixed, and it doesn’t draw the same “two middle fingers up” response that 2008 would. There was a lot of good and lot of bad, but the good outweighed the bad. Whatever else happens in 2010 (a job would be nice), our wedding April 25 and the honeymoon in Hawaii directly afterward will be the highlights, and I’m ecstatic about both.

The Flying Fish Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout is now history, and I am currently enjoying a Defiant Christmas Ale as I post this. Happy New Year to all who read this, and I hope 2010 is better for everyone. Cheers!

My fiancée and I on the beach at Key West

The Fugitive

I had a huge scare and a very, very rough week last week. My Aunt Rose, who raised me from the age of 12 on, suffered a minor heart attack and a minor stroke (if you can really use the word “minor” with either of those) and was in the hospital from Monday-Monday. She’s home now and, while not quite 100%, doing remarkably well for someone who’s gone through so much trauma, but as anyone who knows Aunt Rose can confirm, it wouldn’t be Aunt Rose if there wasn’t a funny story involved.

First, the non-funny part of the story: I was getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday dinner last Monday, when my phone rang at about 6:45 p.m. I didn’t answer it, because my cell phone said Blocked Caller ID, but I got a voice mail from Aunt Rose seconds later, so I called her back on her home phone. She was babbling nonsense and repeating the same nonsense over and over, and I realized something was very wrong, so I told her to sit tight while I drove from Hoboken into Manhattan to take her to the emergency room.

The entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel was closed, for some reason, and while I was waiting to get into the Holland Tunnel, a call came in from Aunt Rose’s phone. Her neighbor thankfully called 911, and it was one of the emergency medical technicians asking which hospital she should be brought to. I asked them to take her to Beth Israel Medical Center and met her there. Within one hour of being in the building, I was shocked by the words “heart attack” and “stroke” and extremely worried about how much she’d recover.

She got exponentially better each day, with each test bringing positive results, and late Thursday night, she was moved from the cardiac-care unit, which is equivalent to intensive care, to the cardiac-monitoring unit, which is a lot more relaxed. The only bad thing about her speedy recovery was that she was becoming quite stir-crazy, as she felt fine physically and was getting sharper and sharper mentally.

When I visited her Friday, she mentioned a couple of times that it would be very easy to slip out one of the doors, take the elevator to street level and walk home. I strongly discouraged this, and she promised that she wouldn’t do it.

While getting ready to head into Manhattan Saturday morning, a call came in from Aunt Rose’s cell phone, but the voice on the other end belonged to the nurse, which really frightened me at first. However, when the nurse told me she had no idea where Aunt Rose was, I laughed, shook my head and said, “I know where she is. Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it and get her back there.”

I then proceeded to call Aunt Rose’s home number and, when she answered, I sternly requested that she return to the hospital. She went home because she felt like taking a bath and washing her hair, which could have been done at the hospital. She was just stir-crazy, but it was still dangerous and not smart. My favorite part of the exchange was her saying, “Ah, they don’t even know I’m gone,” to which I responded, “Really? Is that why I just got off the phone with the nurse?”

As I said earlier, anyone who knows Aunt Rose probably wasn’t the least bit surprised at that story. Aunt Rose does what Aunt Rose wants, consequences be damned. If there’s a line, Aunt Rose cuts to the front of it. If there’s a giveaway of one item per person, Aunt Rose comes home with a half-dozen. If the flight attendant makes an announcement that all cell phones and electronic devices need to be turned off, Aunt Rose turns her cell phone on to see if it works. This is Aunt Rose in a nutshell.

Anyway, Aunt Rose has been back home since Monday and continues to improve at a rapid rate. She’s fine physically and totally herself, and all that remains, hopefully, are a couple of follow-up appointments with doctors and possibly a little bit of speech therapy. She still occasionally says one word while meaning the other, but it’s becoming less frequent and she usually realizes when she’s doing it. Considering the potentially disastrous results of the combination of a heart attack and a stroke, she came out of this very well and will hopefully be 100% soon. After all, they haven’t built a hospital that can hold Aunt Rose.

Aunt Rose in a commercial for HSBC (that’s her at the very beginning):