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

South South South South Jersey

I spent a long weekend in Cape May, N.J., with my girlfriend, my old roommate and her husband. I’d never been that far south in New Jersey: Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway, to be exact. It was a hike, but it was well worth it, and I’d definitely go back.

Carroll Villa

Carroll Villa

We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast called the Carroll Villa. It was a little larger than the traditional B&B, and had a full restaurant and a really fun bar with great martinis tucked away in the back and almost hidden. The food at the restaurant, The Mad Batter, was good, especially the breakfasts, which were outstanding. The location couldn’t have been better: One block from the beach and less than two blocks from the main shopping area.

Since all we did besides lay on the beach was eat, why not write about it? Our first meal was at The Lobster House. If we had any doubts as to how popular the place was, the huge line out the door to be seated for dinner at 4:30 melted those. Great, fresh seafood dinners for all, and very generous portions, made for a great dinner.

We also had dinner at 410 Bank Street, which was fantastic. I took a break from seafood and had the blackened prime rib. It was one of the best pieces of red meat I’ve had in quite some time, and I’ve had many. The restaurant is BYOB, but they sell wines from the local Cape May Winery, and the Cabernet Franc was a perfect fit with the steak.

Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse

And when we weren’t eating or sunning, we were looking for dolphins. We took a 6:30 p.m. dolphin cruise and, even though my photography skills and camera sucked way too much to present any tangible evidence, we saw many and several groups of dolphins. They are truly fascinating creatures.

I also found out that human beings are as dumb as dolphins are fascinating. One of the sights you pass while on the dolphin cruise is a sunken concrete battleship. That’s not a typo: CONCRETE. What genius thought it would be a good idea to build a ship out of concrete?

One thing I did notice about Cape May that I found a little odd: There were tons of families with kids, but there didn’t seem to be a lot for the kids to do. There were a couple of arcades and a couple of miniature golf courses, but that was pretty much it. I personally loved Cape May, but if I were a child (SHUT IT!), I fear that I’d be bored out of my skull.

Anyway, all in all, it was a fantastic weekend, albeit too short. I could easily see spending a week in Cape May, and I’m already looking forward to heading back down to South South South South Jersey.

The Beach at Cape May

The Beach at Cape May