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

Mojito withdrawal

Mojito

Mojito

I’ve been back from Cancun around 16 hours, and I’m starting to shake and twitch due to the absence of a mojito from my system. This is not good.

This trip was so necessary, though, and it was the perfect type of vacation. We did absolutely nothing except lie by the pool, drink, swim in the pool, drink, drink at the swim-up bar, swim in the ocean, drink, eat and drink. All-inclusive hotels rock!

The food was fantastic at the Riu Palace Las Americas, as well, and I don’t mean that it was good for hotel food — it was just good. In fact, our last meal, at the fusion restaurant, would not have disappointed in the least if it were served at a restaurant in Manhattan.

The Cun pool bar

And between the minibar in the hotel room — tequila, rum, vodka, brandy and ice-cold Dos Equis Lager — and the availability of drinks everywhere, including having mojitos delivered straight to our chairs at poolside, I was basically on a five-day buzz.

There were several activities that would have been appealing if we had a couple of more days in Cancun — excursions, snorkeling, wave runners — but both of us have been so burned out, between my search for work and my girlfriend’s overabundance of it, that the pace of this vacation was perfect.

After wrestling with the decision, we made the last-minute call not to bring our laptops. And although our cell phones actually picked up a roaming signal, they were locked in a safe in our hotel room, in the off position, for the entire trip. We actually spent 15 minutes at an Internet kiosk, mostly to book our car service to take us home from the airport, and that was that.

I’m definitely feeling more like myself. I feel refreshed, and I’m anticipating the start of this baseball season more than I have in years, largely due to the new Yankee Stadium. My attitude about my job hunt is improved, although we’ll see if that newfound optimism can survive another empty week or two. I just feel great all around.

Now, where the hell can I get a mojito around here?

Riu Palace Las Americas

Riu Palace Las Americas

Unemployment Nine: Taking advantage of my freedom

My frustrations with being unemployed have been pretty well chronicled by now. But with the approach of warm weather and baseball season, while my job hunt may still suck, things are taking a turn for the better in terms of fun activities to keep myself busy.

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Naturally, I will stay vigilant on my search for a new job. And as much fun as the stuff I’m about to discuss will be, I’d rather be employed. But it’s time to start taking advantage of the kind of time off I likely won’t have again until after I retire.

Tomorrow, I will attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first time in years. Thanks to a good friend, I’ll be in one of the viewing stands, which I’ve never done.

Next Thursday, my girlfriend and I leave for a long weekend in Cancun, at the Riu Palace Las Americas. I can already taste the tropical drinks at poolside.

Then, after arriving back in the States, hopefully with a tan, it’s time for baseball.

First, the Yankees will hold a workout at the new Yankee Stadium, open to full-season-ticket holders, April 2. Why not? I might as well make my first trip to the new ballpark.

Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium

The following night, I have tickets for the Cubs-Yankees exhibition game.

Then, if I can get a cheap ticket, Saturday afternoon, April 4, I may try to go to the Red Sox-Mets exhibition game at the new ballpark in Queens, Citi Field. I really don’t care where I sit, so I’ll take any ticket. I just want to see another new stadium.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The Yankees open the regular season Monday, April 6 in Baltimore, and I was able to get face-value tickets via Ticketmaster, so I’m going to a road Opening Day for the first time ever. The game time is perfect: 4:05 p.m., which means I can leave at a reasonable hour and give myself plenty of time to enjoy Inner Harbor food (crab cakes!) and microbrews (Wharf Rat Porter) before gametime, and still get home at a reasonable hour.

Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium is Thursday, April 16, and the Yankees and Indians also have a day game scheduled the following day.

Barring lightning striking during this dull job search, I hope to attend all of those. I’d never be able to do all of this stuff if I were employed.

So I guess there is some good to being out of work, after all. But in a perfect world, I’d start a new job Monday, April 20.