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 2009 World Series: Bringing the Bronx to Key West

Although I wouldn’t change a thing if I had the whole experience to do over again, not being in Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees win their 27th World Series title, and being 1,200 miles away instead, was a truly bizarre event.

At game one of the 2009 World Series with my fiancée

Let me explain: Anyone who has met me for six seconds or read this blog more than once knows I’m a die-hard Yankees fan. I had partial season tickets in Box 611 in the old Yankee Stadium since 1997, specifically for the purpose of being able to go to postseason games. It takes a very significant event to get me to miss any postseason game, much less the final game of a World Series.

And I was fortunate enough to be in Key West for a very significant event, which, as I already said, I wouldn’t change at all. One of my closest friends got married, and she found an absolutely fantastic guy. Not being there was never a consideration.

Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago, when I missed the Cowboys-Giants game, also for the wedding of another very close friend. I wasn’t the least bit upset with either friend in either case. In the case of the football game, it was just bad scheduling luck. In the case of the World Series, it was just pure stupidity on the part of Major League Baseball. The World Series should not extend into November, and the fact that a potential game seven would have been played Nov. 5 is a sad joke. I never gave the World Series a thought when making the travel plans. November is NOT baseball season.

A stop at the greatest breakfast place on Earth on the way down to Key West

So I ended up watching games three through six all over the place, after attending games one and two at Yankee Stadium.

I watched game three at my fiancée’s father’s house in Boynton Beach with three Phillies fans: my fiancée, her father and her stepmom. I actually like the Phillies, so this wasn’t an issue, with just a little good-natured ribbing going on.

I watched game four at Whiskey Tango, an excellent sports bar in Hollywood, FL, with my fiancée, my best man and his wife, the latter friends since college.

I watched game five at the pool bar of the Southernmost Hotel Collection in Key West, where we were all staying for the wedding. The wedding, incidentally, was a perfect beach wedding on a beautiful day, and I’m ecstatic that I was able to be there.

And I watched the sixth and final game at Jack Flats, also in Key West, with an interesting mix: a healthy number of Yankees fans, a healthy number of Phillies fans and one ass hat wearing a Red Sox shirt.

The main thing I learned from games five and six: Whiskey is evil.

I had a great time, and I couldn’t ask for better company. It still felt surreal watching the Yankees and my fellow fans celebrating in the Bronx and not being there, but it was for a worthy cause and, as I said, I’d do it all over again.

On the beach at Key West, after the wedding