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.
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.
With the venue, came the date. September 1st, 2017. Coincidentally, the same day I moved to Los Angeles, ten years earlier. The Friday of Labor Day Weekend. Also meant we had 8 months till the big day. Planning a wedding is a tall order, but if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t know too much about it. I’d say Alexis planned 95% of the whole thing. Might even be too generous giving myself that 5%. She absolutely knocked it out of the park. We made the big decisions together, and a lot of smaller ones too, but for the most part, she sailed the ship. Can’t imagine if our roles were reversed. Would’ve ended in writing apologies instead of thank you cards I think.
Creating has always been my thing, and really that’s where I helped out. I made a website and all sorts of fun illustrations for invites and signage. I also appointed myself as our Senior-Chief-Budgeting-Strategist. Judging by the final tab though, not sure finance is my second calling.
Those 8 months we had went flying. I was working a lot. Freelance by day, more freelance by night. We were spending and I wanted to balance that. Alexis regularly works long days, which made planning that much harder. It was a busy time for sure, but it wasn’t all work though. Cakes and desserts were tasted. A few weekends were stolen to get out of town here and there. We had our bachelor and bachelorette parties. Really though, those 8 months flew.
Seemed like before we knew it, it was the week of. Vows were being written, out of towners were making their way in, and any loose ends were being double knotted. Everything was pretty much locked down and going smoothly. 95% thanks to Alexis. Even had time to hang with my best man, my brother Joey, who doesn’t live anywhere near us. It was the first time he’d been to Los Angeles. I had avoided the Peterson Auto Museum for ten years so that if I went, it’d be with him. He likes cars a lot and he loved it. Everything was going great. But of course, like any good story, the curve balls started coming.
Alexis’ Mom, Elizabeth, took a pretty bad spill at the Orlando airport, but she powered through to get to Los Angeles. It wasn’t till she landed that the damage really set in. Walking or even standing on her own wasn’t looking great. After a trip to the ER, turned out she fractured her kneecap. The doctors got her in a cast, and sent her on her way. In between picking up flowers, renting and packing up cars, we were hunting for a wheel chair, a cane, crutches, hot-cold compresses, anything that could help. This is all about 24 hours before our inaccessible, fully outdoor wedding was about to happen. With all we had going on the day before the wedding, felt pretty awful not being around for her more. She’s a lot tougher than the average bear though, and we had good family helping her through it.
It’d been a crazy morning, but we still had a rehearsal to make. We loaded up cars and headed up to West Lake Village Inn, the resort we’d be calling home for the long weekend. Most of our friends and family followed suit. We checked in, dropped off perishables, and headed straight to our venue for rehearsal. Here’s where the second curve balls starts to come in. The mother of them all.
A Heat wave. Slowly but surely one had been scorching it’s way across Southern California the past few days. Was looking pretty bad. At this point, we’d been obsessively checking the forecast every hour, hoping it’d start to break. It wasn’t. Thought maybe we’d see the venue was more shaded than we remembered once we got to rehearsal. It wasn’t. Let me tell ya, I was sweating bullets just standing in a t-shirt and shorts. On the brink of mental meltdown imagining wearing a suit and doing the same thing the next day. It wasn’t the wedding day just yet though, and we hadn’t lost hope for tomorrow. My Mom assured us she was praying.
We headed back to the resort, got all cleaned up and headed over to rehearsal dinner. Had it right there on the grounds. Worked out perfectly and was a big win in a day full of craziness. My parents we’re kind enough to host the whole night for us. We didn’t expect that from the get-go and it was much appreciated. It was really a nice thing to spend some time with the Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins I don’t normally get to see. The real trick was not drinking too much in a celebratory mood and knowing you’re getting married in less than 24 hours. We made out alright though. Even managed to get to bed at a decent hour. Getting to bed and getting sleep, are two entirely different things though. Turns out there’s a lot on the mind the night before you get married.
Regardless how much sleep you get the night before, there appears to be no problem getting out of bed the day of your wedding. Wasn’t long before Alexis kicked me out of our suite anyways to start getting ready with her girls. I passed the hours hanging with my six groomsmen. Gave me a chance to give them the illustrations I made and framed for them. Each one made of memories and inside jokes from our years together. Puts a smile on my face seeing them in their homes now. Eventually, we all got suited up and shuttled over to the ranch. All the while, my Dad is saving the day, running all over town picking up all sorts of orders we arranged for. Later learned he was pretty under the weather. What a guy. Even at 31 years old, I still see him as a superhero.
The girls were already toasting champagne in their suite by the time we got there. The guys spent a little more time together in our own suite. Shooting pool, pictures, and the breeze.
It wasn’t long before I left them behind to meet my Fiancé for our first look. You gotta understand, Alexis is the type that wakes up looking beautiful. She’s just got it. Always has, always will. My point is, when she does get all done up.. well, just watch out. She looked absolutely stunning. Like a dream. Reinforcing my theory that I’m as lucky as they get. My brother asked me the night before just how in the hell I pulled it off. I sometimes wonder myself but I’m sure as hell not asking any questions.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, we must’ve took enough to fill an encyclopedia. Us, the bridal party, family. We wanted to get most of the photos squared away before the ceremony, so we could have more time to just, you know… have fun.
Oh yeah, remember that heatwave? The curveball to end all curveballs? The one we were holding out hope would break by the wedding? It didn’t. It was 106° that day. That’s no typo. One-hundred-and-six degrees. At an outdoor wedding and reception. SoCal heat is a dry heat, but hell, triple digits take no prisoners. That said, we actually got really, really, REALLY lucky with one thing. Overcast. Some clouds settled in that day and lent us with some shade. With that kind of heat, I welcome any shade of grey in the sky over blue. It was hot, but not nearly as bad as 106° sounds. Guess Mom’s prayers came through. Sort of.
After portraits, we were all sitting in the girl’s suite, cooling off in the AC while our guests started making their way in and getting settled. We invited about 140 people and 81 made it. Our wedding was only about 45 miles North of where we live in Los Angeles, but it was a destination wedding for the majority of our invites. We have no family anywhere remotely near us, just the friends we call family. Of course you wish everyone could be there, but there’s no question it was a long ways for a lot of folks to come and we knew that from the start. In the end our humble size made things just that much more intimate.
When our coordinator told us it was time, the whole gang walked together to our entrance point. A long stairway that overlooked the whole ceremony. Everyone was there. We were waiting at the top, hidden behind some trees. I was in front, and feeling my nerves a bit. But then I heard the band playing our entrance song and I couldn’t help but smile.
Sleepwalk by Johnny and Santo.
The kind of smile you couldn’t hold back even if you tried. I straightened up, looked forward and made my entrance. For whatever reason, I do remember trying to keep a straight face, maybe to look cool, I don’t know. Anyhow, that smile broke loose, and I could feel everyone smile and cheer right back at me when it did. It was awesome. I took my place and watched our bridal party come down the steps one pair after the other. Alexis’ brother Tony, looped back around so he could walk her down the aisle. She looked so beautiful. Never took my eyes off her the moment she came down those stairs.
We joined hands and stared into each other while our Officiant Elizabeth led the ceremony that the three of us built together. I tried to completely quiet my mind. To hear, see, and feel the moment as completely as I could. And that’s when it happened. Looking into her bright brown eyes, I felt… A stinging in mine. Naturally, I blamed it on the Sun. We read our personal vows to each other. First hers, then mine. Be it the sweat, or the vows, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Our Officiant pronounced us Husband and Wife and we sealed it with a kiss. And just like that, we were married. They played our walk off song, and off we walked.
Be My Baby by The Ronettes.
We were showered with petals on our way out and no kidding, right in that moment, the clouds opened up and the Sun got to see what the fuss was all about.
With the help of our coordinator Stephanie, our officiant Elizabeth, our photographer Casey, and I have to assume by the grace of God, we managed to get a group portrait of everyone all together all at once. It was something we really wanted, and we’re so glad to have it.
And with that, it was finally time for a drink. Hallelujah. We had cocktail hour in the open lawn in front of the ranch house. The two-piece band played on, drinks were flowing, and the photo booth was open for business. It was probably the dizziest part of the day. So many hellos, congratulations, smiles, hugs, handshakes, and pictures. It’s a lot, and blurry all at once, but you get your bearings and everything comes back into focus after a bit. Alexis and I made a goal not to get too separated that day, no matter how crazy it got. It’s easy to get pulled one way or the other, in this conversation or that. If you’re not careful, you’ll look up to find you’re missing the other half of you. We did pretty good in the end.
Once we drained the last few minutes of the hour, everyone started finding their seats for reception. We attached names and table numbers to little terrariums with air plants to take home.
Once everyone was settled, we made our entrance for our first dance and were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Alexis Smith for the first time. We danced to Pigeon by Tennis. One of our favorites that goes back a long ways for us.
With dinner getting underway and the sun fading, our photographer snuck us away for a few more portraits while we still had light.
We headed back to reception for maid of honor and best man speeches. Alexis’ sister Elizabeth was first. She asked her not to wing it beforehand, and naturally, she opened stating she’d be winging it. Worked like a charm though. She spoke from the heart and really that’s all it takes.
Next was my brother Joey. Was a little nervous for him. He’s as quiet as they get, so this wasn’t exactly in his wheelhouse. Gave him a chance to get out of it if it was asking too much, but he wasn’t having that. In the end, he rose up and beat something that scared the hell out of him, just to make me smile. That’s why he was my best man. He did amazing.
Lastly, we got a surprise speech from our friends Mike and Christina. These are some of those friends we happen to call family. When the two of them go for something, man, they really go for it. Their speech was no exception. Smiles all around.
Your wedding is almost as big a day for your parents as it is for you and your love. I knew I wanted to have at least one moment with just my Mom. Her and I danced to Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. Thing was, I wasn’t familiar with the live version of the song our DJ played. It opens with Stevie Nicks saying “This one’s for you daddy!” So that was an interesting moment. Really I was just hoping there wasn’t a surprise 5-minute guitar solo somewhere in there.
At this point, wasn’t anything left to do other than have a good time. So we opened up the floor to everyone and got it going. This is when Alexis and I were able to cut loose and have the most fun. We danced, drank, laughed, sang and drank some more for our last few hours. There was a cake cutting somewhere in there, but most importantly, I got to eat all the donuts I wanted. We celebrated the best way we knew how, and I have to say, we’re pretty damn good at it.
Shout by The Isley Brothers.
Desserts were ravaged, the bar was closing down, and there were more than a few barefoot ladies about. It meant our time was coming to an end. Not before we blew out one last song on the dance floor though. It could be none other than “Shout”. Call it cliché, but man, that’s always the one to go out on.
It was a great end to a great day. Thing is, 10pm is a little too early to be calling it for the pack we run with. So we piled into our shuttle and headed to the after party with anyone and everyone feeling up to it. It was still a pretty good crowd. We reserved space at a little bar called the Tipsy Goat to keep it going.
Gave us a chance to slow down a minute and catch-up with friends. To share some candid moments with the ones that mean so much to you, but that you hardly got talk to in the craziness of it all. It was a perfect way to close it out. They tell you it goes by in a blink, and believe me, they ain’t kidding. It’s a full day and a fuller night and If you’re not careful, you just might miss it.
So just like that, we got married. It was really something to look around and see all those smiling faces, and to know they’re all there just for us. Whether they had to travel a few miles or a few thousand of them. A group of people that’ll likely never be in the same place, at the same time, ever again. Just for us. It was the best day of my life, and all I could’ve ever hoped for. I know you’re supposed to say that, but really, it’s the truth. Sure there was a curve ball or two, or maybe three, but who wants a perfect story anyways. That’s just plain boring.
Everyone asks how it feels, if it’s any different now. We’ve been married eight months, and the years I’ve loved her stretch back much further than that. So if I stopped there on the surface, then no, I don’t feel any different. What is different is knowing that this beautiful girl with her own personal hopes and dreams for her life, decided to put all her money on me. Every last dollar. I really don’t mean to spoil the ending here, but believe me, I’m gonna prove her right.
To everyone who shared our day with us, we give our thanks and love. And I must say, even in 106° heat, you’re still a pretty good looking crowd.
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.