One of my best buds Drew E. Cohen, turned 40 in October and over twenty of us from all corners of the country descended upon Indio, California to help the man celebrate.
We swam, dined, karaoked, Halloweened, baby showered, competed in Beer Olympics, and raised our glasses to a guy who’s been asked to be a best man more times than anyone I’ve ever met.
Everyone came together and contributed in their own way to make it not just a memorable weekend the man of the hour, but for us all. Truly, one for the books.
I was glad to have contributed some of my finest artist works to date for the celebration, in the form of a book cover, a cake design of biblical proportions, and Beer Olympics team bandanas. A true career high for me.
Lastly, Kelsie wrangled everyone to contribute a fun memory or well wish for a book she put together for him. Figure I’d share my contribution here, becasue I meant every word, and the truth is worth preserving:
Forty… My god, I’m so, so sorry bud. We go back a long ways now, since 2009 I think. That said, it shouldn’t be too hard for me to pick one of our memories to share here, certainly a lot to choose from. But If I’m being honest, with so many favorites, it’s not easy picking just one.
Should it be the first memory I have of you? The time you became if only for a moment, my one true lord and savior, when you literally freed me from a locked parking garage I’d been trapped in for hours on end in the dead of night. You always knew how to make a first impression.
How about the countless shows we’ve been to, where on more than a few occasions people had to tell us to shut the hell up, because no matter how desperately we wanted to see a band, it seemed to sometimes pale in comparison to how much more fun it was to just shoot the breeze and catch up. And on the topic of shows, I have to mention the time that like a modern day Moses you parted a sea of moshing kids at the Troubadour to pick up my fallen glasses for me.
Maybe it’s traveling our country together, 18 states by my count. In nearly all instances, promising ourselves we’d turn in at the hotel at a decent hour for some rest so we wouldn’t spoil our trip, but sure as the Sun shines, we’d always break that promise. Whether the lethal blow was staying out till some ungodly hour, or was actually making it back to the room as intended, but fatally talking hours on end like two kids on a weekend sleepover. Sometimes a combination of both.
We’ve done our fair share of globe trotting outside our borders too. The first time I ever used my passport was of course, with you in Peru. Something I consider to be one of the greatest experiences of my life, and in hindsight, an adventure we were either too young or too hungover to realize just how dangerous it was at times. Then there was “No Rules” in Spain. Watching snow fall while we floated in warm waters in Japan. Cramming into a flat bed truck in Thailand so the locals could pelt us with water balloons for the New Year. Chasing whale sharks and mantas in the Maldives, and exploring a tiny deserted island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Aimlessly wandering the streets of Hong Kong, and after several hours of day drinking, declaring through an inebriated lens of optimism that we both “could totally see living here.”
Maybe it’s one of the smaller or more ridiculous memories. Watching you simultaneously hail three taxis out of thin air, when the rest of us couldn’t catch one for hours. The copy of Atlas Shrugged that mysteriously arrived on my doorstep. Crushing homemade beer towers in your front lawn like degenerates. You bringing a couch to my “Bring Your Own Chair” party in my empty apartment, and months later, you single handedly carrying that couch out of my apartment after I told you I couldn’t move it by myself. Thinking a shortcut on foot through Skid Row in broad daylight wouldn’t be that scary. Me having the best view in all of Coachella, sitting on your shoulders over 10 feet off the ground. Slayer almost ending my life. Our countless “Piano Man” karaoke duets (If Hell is real, it’s us rewatching those performances for eternity). And of course I can’t forget you helping orchestrate what seemed like all of Dodger Stadium to chant “Let’s go Kyle LET’S GO!”
Maybe my favorite memory of ours is one of the more predictable standouts. Standing up with you on your wedding day and having you stand up with me at mine. Or maybe it’s meeting Della and holding her for the first time.
I think you see the conundrum now. Can’t pick just one. There’s too many memories. I will say after all these years though, what I’m most thankful to you for, is just how far you’re willing to lean in, especially when my nature is to lean out and go it alone. You could’ve stopped inviting me out well before trying for the second, third, fourth, or fifth time that I dodged you. But unlike July 11th at Buca Di Beppo, you didn’t quit, and I’m a lot better off for it.
Yes you’re getting older, but just remember, we may be dying, but we’re not dead yet. Happy 40 my friend.
One second of video, every day, for 30 days. That was my monthly challenge for June. Inspired by my friend Duncan, who’s been capturing one second of video everyday, for over 8 years now. 8 years! Can’t say doing it for only a month was much of a challenge for me, or that I learned much, but I did have fun doing it, and that was the whole idea.
I did have some more exciting days that were harder to pick one second over another, but for the most part I didn’t have too much going on outside my normal routine. Turned out to be a pretty accurate representation of what I’m doing and seeing, day to day. Not wildly exciting right now, but the years do have a way of compounding the importance of things like this.
If I had to say something I learned from it, guess it’d be that you really don’t need to lug a big camera around to capture some good looking video, like I normally would when we travel. Of course I’ll still do exactly that, but it’s nice to know, ya know? Anyways, “Those are rats.”
We traveled to Florida in late October to spend some long overdue time with family. Our first stop was Anna Maria Island to see Alexis’ siblings and nieces. We spent our time exploring the island, chartering a boat, swimming, grilling, building a sand metropolis, carving pumpkins, and getting our Halloween costumes good and sandy. It’s not everyday we get this group together in the same room, so I designed (under Alexis’ supervision) some commemorative shirts for some added fun. By our last day I even got called “Uncle Kyle” a few times, which is always as equally terrifying as it is heartwarming.
After a few days we were off to Estero Island to see my parents at our family timeshare, where one Smith or another has been making memories at for over 35 years. Here we got a few good sunsets in, tore across the Gulf of Mexico on some jet skis, and drank an amount of alcohol that would be cause for concern if we weren’t on vacation. We were also lucky enough to catch up with some aunts, uncles and cousins who we rarely get to see, but who were also vacationing on the island.
Before we headed back to California we had just enough time to clink glasses and crack some jokes with my brother, as well as drop in on some friends in Fort Lauderdale. It was a long trip, that went by all too fast, which is really just a roundabout way of saying, we had a great time.
Finally got around to editing some footage from Fourth of July weekend two years ago. My turnaround time for these has really fallen off a cliff, but better late than never. We hiked, barbecued, boated, bowled and found ourselves entertaining a bar full of strangers at karaoke. With twenty of us on a boat and plenty of drinks in hand, it’s a miracle nobody fell overboard. Happy Fourth everyone.
Kelsie turned 30. Normally a group of us would be descending upon a new city and taking it by storm to celebrate. But then a global pandemic hit.
We’ve always gone all-out to celebrate our 30th birthdays and Kelsie’s the last one to join the club. She deserves a special 30th, pandemic or not. So we put our heads together on how to do that, and this is what we came up with. Judging by reports that she was a sobbing mess when she saw it, I’d say mission accomplished. Happy 30 Kelsie, we love you.
Finally got around to putting an edit together of our Nashville trip from OVER A YEAR AGO. What a time it was to be able to just hop on a plane to meet your friends in a new city for the fun of it. Our friend Jon turned 30, and a group of us descended upon Nashville to celebrate it. It was a quick two-night trip, but we did a lot with a little.
We pushed our way down Broadway, watching the bands play at one honky tonk after the other. We sang at the top of our lungs in a year-round Christmas themed karaoke bar, packed in shoulder to shoulder. Some of us were even brave enough to do it with a microphone. We learned about craft cocktails, and then drank some. We hit the dance floor at a bar disguised as an unassuming single family home. And in a period of two days we ate more Nashville hot chicken than any respectable physician could recommend. It was a lot with a little, but most important of all, we raised our glasses and wished our friend a happy thirty.
In the spring over the span of nearly two weeks, I ventured through Bangkok, Maldives, and Hong Kong with my wife Alexis, and our friends Drew, Kelsie, Tyler, Kara, Andrew, and Kirsten.
Our adventure started in Bangkok and our time there was short. We toured temples, experienced traditions, and after all these years, had Thai food in Thailand. We were lucky enough to witness the Thai New Year too. A celebration where the people flood the streets, literally and figuratively, and drench each other with water from head to toe for three straight days. You’d think dumping a bucket of water on a complete stranger in the street might be a little risky, but there wasn’t a person young or old who wasn’t laughing. We got soaked. Kara has family in Thailand, and they were kind enough to invite us all to their home. We ate new foods, sang karaoke and visited a temple in their community. We had a blast, and in all my travels it stands as one of the more truly authentic experiences I’ve had yet.
Most of our trip was spent in the Maldives on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. Our days were spent both swimming and drinking like fish. We lounged, laughed, and lounged some more. We chartered a boat and jetted across the water searching for whale sharks and mantas. Diving off in a moments notice to catch a glimpse. We were like a poorly trained, clumsy group of Navy Seals. We swam ashore a deserted island and brought our vodka along. We found a turtle who didn’t seem to mind company. And by our last day it was hard to confidently say what day or time it was anymore. To go out with a bang, a looming storm forced us to meet our seaplane a ways away from our island on a floating dock no bigger than a modest area rug.
Our time In Hong Kong was short, but we marveled at the countless skyscrapers in every peak and valley of the lush and rugged land. A skyline that seemed impossible to have been built. We visited shrines and practiced traditions. Easter was celebrated sipping cocktails in the worlds highest bar and we wandered the city streets with little direction, but still found drinks, dumplings, and a tiki bar along the way.
It was a whirlwind two weeks of adventure, and just might’ve been too much if we hadn’t spent most of it floating mindlessly in the bluest waters I’d ever seen.
With my wife Alexis and our good friends Drew and Kelsie, we ventured to the island of Japan for the better part of two weeks around Christmas and New Years. We spent our days taking in both the man-made and natural wonders. From the shrines of Kyoto, to the endless urban sprawl of Tokyo.
We sipped beers traveling 200 miles an hour on rail, watching the country crawl across our window. Amazed and terrified that just a few feet away, trains traveling in the opposite direction blinked by at the same breakneck speed. We took part in traditions. Ate strange foods. Walked through shrines and structures that’ve stood hundreds of years. We watched snow fall to the ground while we floated in a heated pool. We celebrated Christmas in the most bizarre way any of us ever will. It involved animatronic dinosaurs. We wandered and drank and wandered some more. We brought in a new year, in a new place. And we saw Mickey Mouse in a seemingly alternate universe.
It’s a place of a very different culture than my own, and I was only able to experience and capture just a fraction of it, but it’s made for one of the more humbling and memorable experiences I’ve had yet.
A month ago George and I had our show. I’d been holding off sharing the experience until I had the time to cut together an edit from the footage Alexis shot. To just get right to it, the night went as good as it possibly could’ve.
Family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers poured in all night. Some traveled a few blocks to be there, some a few thousand miles. The rest coming from everywhere in between. Everywhere you looked there was laughing, drinking, donuts, and of course the art. It was one of the most fun and memorable nights of my life. George would tell you the same. Couldn’t have asked for a thing more, but even more is what we got.
We were honestly shocked at the amount of enthusiasm we received for everything we’d done. The look on George’s face up top really says it all. He showed 9 pieces and sold 7. I showed 36 and sold 31. We raised several thousand dollars for a charity we decided on together, called P.S. Arts. They’re a nonprofit that works to keep art programs alive and thriving in underserved public schools and communities across California. Growing up, art was obviously always my favorite subject. Can’t imagine having gone through all those years without it. Who knows where or who I’d be, if that fire was never stoked. Guess I’m just trying to say it was an easy cause to stand behind.
In the end, It was all a lot of work, but was all entirely worth it. Sure, the months and weeks leading up had their stresses and snags along the way. Some literally up until the hour before the doors opened. The thing is, you can make short work of just about anything with the kind of friends we’ve got. From day one, they just wanted to know how to help. And each in their own way, they did exactly that. Truly grateful to call these people friends.
Thank you to everyone who shared their support, regardless if you made it out or not. Really, truly, means the world to us.
Happy 40 George, we did it.
Few of us got together on The Oregon Coast for a weekend getaway a few months back. Twelve friends, two dogs, a pool table, a jukebox, a hot tub, and plenty to drink. We trekked the windswept shoreline, hiked the forest trails, and wandered the sleepy town of Lincoln City. It sure is a pretty place.
It was the last time a lot of us saw Hunter. He was a dog that above all else, loved food. Any food. Never had a dog, and never quite knew what you could and couldn’t feed them. I try to stay out of it when the begging starts. But the way he looked into your soul as you were about to take your last bite, of literally anything, defeated me every time. Godspeed Hunter.
Someone set the photo booth to burst mode at our annual Haunted Tiki Party, and I have to say, I’m not mad at it. Happy Halloween.
We’d already come halfway across the country for a family trip, and figured we may as well just keep on going. We knew we’d be heading to New York City to see Alexis’ brother Tony and Olivia, and of course our unofficial godson Gnarly. We wanted to see somewhere new first though. Alexis had never been to Philadelphia. It’d been a long time for me, and our friends Drew and Kelsie said they were in, so that settled it. It was a trip of exploration, late nights, loud music and drained glasses. I was run ragged by the end of it, but it’s always worth it. Tough to beat the company.
You forget just how much family you really have until you get them all in the same room. We did just that for my Grandfather’s 86th birthday. All his grandchildren, some of us scattered across the country, came together for him. Can only hope all those years down the road the story goes the same way when it’s my turn.
My Mom’s side of the family got together for us at my Cousin Michelle and Mario’s house too. It was a great time. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and saw lot’s of faces. Some I hardly recognize anymore.
Going back is always a nostalgic flood. A reminder of where I come from. Things get so busy, you almost start to forget. But we always go back. Thankful for a small place in a big world that will always have us. You know what they say, home is where the Italian beef sandwiches are.
Jenn and Duncan have been inviting us up to Sacramento to float down the American River with them pretty much every year they’ve been up there. We’ve missed a few, but this was the third time for Alexis and I. We love it. It’s brings close friends who live far apart, together again. There were 16 of us this year. 17 counting a baby girl on the way from Jenn and Duncan.
Have this feeling that this time might be one of the last of this scale. Things are changing. Priorities are changing. Life isn’t slowing down. So I brought the camera.
Even though these memories are just a few days old, and their pictures are still perfectly sharp and clear in my mind, can’t help but smile watching the footage. Have to imagine that feeling only amplifies with time. It’s not the most fun being the guy carrying the camera around everywhere, and I’m sure it’s not fun having it pointed in your face the whole time either. Seems important though.
If there’s anything we’ve all learned this time around, it’s when you’re on the river, bring a damn knife. Life jackets couldn’t hurt either. For all the worried mothers out there, we’ll just leave it at that.
Crazy to think it’s been eight months already since I married my best friend. We’ve been holding off on sharing the whole thing until we had all our photos and footage back from our photographer, and till we could organize it all in one big post online. Something we can look back on the rest of our lives. No matter what social platforms rise and fall through the years, or how blurred our memories might get the more we collect, this will always be safe here. For the rest of our days, and the days there after. This took way, way longer than we wanted it to, for a couple reasons, but my God, it’s finally done! The wait has nearly driven my parents to the brink of insanity. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, right?
A wedding is only a day, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes leading up to it. It’s a long windy road made of equal parts, fun, love, and absolute chaos. Guess the best place to kick this off is where we started ourselves. For us, after our engagement, it was venues. We looked at a few, all within an hour of Los Angeles. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. We planned to see a couple more in Palm Springs, but the last one got us. A little place called Quail Ranch. A family owned and worked avocado ranch, hidden on a hilltop in Simi Valley. How Californian of us. We knew this was our one before we even finished walking the grounds. Spoiler alert, there were no quails.
Though we got married in September, we held off on our honeymoon until December. We did lounge about Palm Springs for a few days and nights right after the wedding, but we wouldn’t call that our honeymoon. More of a quick getaway.
We decided on Belize. It was tropical, english speaking, and the travel was nothing too brutal. Especially since we were already coming from New Orleans instead of Los Angeles. Above all else though, it’s a place that just suited our personalities well I think. It was a home run.
Made a little edit of our week there. Unfortunately, we have no pictures or footage from the more adventurous parts of the trip. Fortunately, those parts are usually the most memorable on their own. Guess that’ll happen when you treat a new camera like a newborn baby. It was a great end to a great year with my love by my side.
Alexis’ Big Easy. The gang got together in New Orleans to celebrate her 30th. The years are really starting to move, so thought I’d get us a camera and started recording in a hope to slow things down a little.