Few months back, Alexis and I vacationed a week in Florida to spend some time with family. We originally meant to be in Ft. Myers, but Hurricane Ian had other plans. From what I understand, nearly the entire first floor of the condo our family has visited for decades, was under water, and a lot of Estero Island was erased. We came pretty close to canceling Florida all together, but we made some adjustments and saw it through, and I’m glad we did.
We started in St. Pete, specifically to take a boat ride out to visit Egmont Key, home to one of the oldest lighthouses on the Florida Gulf Coast. This is where Alexis and her siblings scattered their mother’s ashes earlier in the year. Although her mom spent her last years in Ohio, she missed Florida terribly. On top of that, she had such an affection for lighthouses, that you had to see her ceramic collection to believe it. Can’t think of a better place for her to rest. We spent the afternoon reflecting and exploring the key for a few hours before our boat had to take us back. A cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic City played no less than four times on our 40 minute ride across the water. It became a bit of an anthem for the trip, as well as a running joke to this day. Before leaving St. Pete, we discovered a strange species of seagull that had a striking resemblance to Danny DeVito, which we appropriately gave the scientific name of Danny DeSeagull.
For the rest of our trip, instead of Estero Island, we stayed at a beach house we rented on Anna Maria Island. We planned on having a good amount of friends and family come visit. Nine adults and four kids. There were a lot of us, but we made it a priority to get a place big enough to keep us all comfortably under the same roof. It turned out great. The kids declared they wanted to live there forever, so we must’ve done something right.
We walked the pier, drank pool side, marveled at lightning storms, caught sunsets, fired up the grill, built castles, dug holes, chased the kids, were chased by the kids, and astonishingly avoided getting sunburned. Not pictured is the half mile long trench I dug on the beach by pulling the kids in a wagon with wheels that absolutely refused to turn in sand. I’ll be damned if I let those kids think I’m not invincible though.
With as much fun was we had, it’s hard to believe we were ever considering canceling the trip. There’s a lesson to be learned somewhere in there. We know we’re supposed to spend time with our family, but sometimes you forget just how much fun it can be. Thankful we could make it happen, and thankful for the memory of us all sleeping under the same roof, together as family.
We were already more than halfway across the country for my cousin’s wedding, so we figured we may us well just keep on going. We spent nearly a week in New York to catch up with Alexis’ brother Tony, Olivia and our Godson Gnarly. We stayed in an Airbnb they manage, in the same building they live in, in Green Point. It was a homerun and really let us get the most out of our time together.
In all my visits to New York, this trip was the closest I’ve ever come to grasping what it might actually be like to live there. From getting around, to spending time where I’d probably be hanging out, and of course speculating how far your money can go. Or more accurately how far it doesn’t. There was a lot of walking, lot of exploring. More so than any of my past long weekend or whirlwind work New York trips. I think my clearest takeaway was just how hard living there must be. Financially, physically, mentally. At least relative to my own day to day. Some abstract promise of New York City has always sat firmly in the back of my mind though. Always the thought that maybe someday I’d live there and truly experience it. I still feel it even now, but the door to that life has just about closed I think. I did it backwards. Los Angeles should’ve been the reward for putting in years of surviving in New York City. Luckily, we’ve got airplanes and some New Yorkers that’ll always be glad to see us.
It wasn’t a quick trip, but it felt that way. In other words, we had fun. Exploring the Whitney, strolling Central Park, treking through Green Point, conquering bridges and obviously eating and drinking to excess some of the best a neighborhood had to offer. I also quickly learned my new favorite mode of transportation in New York City is the Ferry. Most important of all though, we saw the ones we’d been missing, which is exactly what we set out to do. Thanks for having us.
Marco and Kelly tied the knot. We laughed, we drank, we photo-boothed, and we most certainly danced. It was a fun night and we were thankful to have been included. Although the majority of my extended family lives in Illinoise, I don’t get out that way too often. It was a great chance to make some fun memories with plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins that I hardly see. From dropping in on my Uncle Vince and Aunt Enza’s restaurant for a quick cannoli, to gathering in full force at my Aunt Marie’s house for Italian beef sandwiches, where Uncle Santo uncorked a few bottles of his homemade wine.
I’m kicking myself for not getting any photos from the day we spent at my Aunt Susie and Uncle Perry’s house with the Smith branch of the family. I blame the lapse of judgement on those martinis Aunt Susie whipped up for us.
All around, a quick but potent long weekend. Congrats Marco and Kelly, and thanks for having us.
The good times, with the good people. A lot of bands on the roster for “This Ain’t No Picnic” in Pasadena, plenty of which my “age to coolness ratio” didn’t qualify me to have even heard of before. Even still, we caught plenty of music. LCD Soundsystem, Idles, Beach House, The Strokes, and I finally got to see Pheobe Bridgers for the first time. She’s been on heavy rotation through my speakers the past few years.
“Someday” by The Strokes
I’ve loved this song since I first heard it, over twenty years ago. Long back enough that younger generations are starting to cover it, and I’m falling in love with it all over again.
“Someday” by Julia Jacklin
We always have a fun time on our annual Boggs Family Adventure, and this year was no exception. From poolside and the mountain tram in Palm Springs, to discovering the hidden inner workings at Disneyland. Steph’s brother works at Disney and was able to walk us to the front of the line for a bunch of rides. That’s about as good a deal as it gets, but even still I’d have to say the highlight was Indiana Jones breaking down while we were on it, and having to get out of our cart and walk through the ride on foot. Most of that walk was in darkness, with all ambient sounds and music shutoff, but with the animatronic Indiana Jones’ still moving. With no other sounds, the grinding of Indie’s internal gears was all you could hear. Really the stuff of nightmares, but I wouldn’t trade it for the normally functioning ride any day.
The Cohen’s invited us to crash their family vacation in Gearhart, a small town on the Oregon Coast. They’ve stayed at this particular beach house a few times over, but it was a first for Alexis and I. It’s absolutely gorgeous out there. I’m no stranger to a beach and lived most of my years within a few miles of one, but it really feels unique out there. Simultaneously lush and harsh.
We spent our days eating, drinking, exploring, playing games, sort of flying a kite, losing sandals, and doing our best to entertain Della while simultaneously falling under the spell of her charm. She’s a little maniac, in the best of ways, that is growing up much too fast for the frequency we get to see her.
Of course, as sure as the sun rises, I spent an unreasonable amount of time in the hot tub. It wouldn’t be vacation otherwise. Possibly a collective 8 hours in one day. I have sources that could verify, but my sunburn was probably evidence enough. Think I also broke a record for the fastest I’ve ever exited of a hot tub. All it took was Jason pretending to throw the live crab he just caught into the water with me. Speaking of, the ordeal he went through to catch that crab could be worthy of multi-part docuseries.
We made sure to explore Cannon Beach nearby, mainly to hunt for obligatory photo opportunities featuring scenes from The Goonies. The clouds hung low and the fog was heavy, but it somehow felt ideal. Walking around the town for an hour or two had the predictable effect of me opening Zillow to wonder if a life here could be possible. Most importantly, Alexis finally got to be a Goonie.
After a couple days on the coast, we packed up and headed to Portland, but not before a pitstop in Astoria. Always liked how Astoria sounded. Astoria. Anyhow, we were there hardly two or three hours, but it was just long enough to be charmed by it. The weather was nice, and I wouldn’t guess that to be true a good part of the year. This meant the streets were lively and the people were in good spirits since they got to wear t-shirts and shorts. We had lunch and a drink at a brewery and spent the rest of our time hunting for more Goonies shots. Mikey and Brand’s house, the Astoria Historical Museum where their dad worked, and the jail where the Fratellis busted out of. They even had the iconic Jeep 4×4 parked outside it, bullet holes and all. You better believe Alexis was fired up.
Eventually, we arrived in Portland. We’ve been there before, but haven’t really seen much of it. This trip wasn’t much different in that sense, we were only there two nights, but we stayed in an area new to Alexis and I, the same goes for what and where we ate. Demystifying the city just a little bit more for us. In that spirit of making it count, when the girls decided to get their nails done one day, and everyone else opted for a nap, seemed like a chance to take in what I could on foot. Ended up being a lot of walking on a hot day, but I had no trouble finding a shaded patio and a cold beer to counter the sun. You absorb so much more when the world isn’t rushing past a car window. Always worth the price of adding a few miles to your shoes. While I do wonder how the people who actually live there feel about that saying “Keep Portland Weird,” I know that I love the spirit of it, and walking around, I felt it.
Another reason we wanted to spend some time in Portland was because our friend Jon lives there now. He moved from Seattle with his girlfriend Margret and they bought a house. We finally got to see it, and it’s lovely. He’s really carved out a nice life there. He showed us around some of his usual stomping grounds too. We dined, we drank, we gamed, and we watched Jon eat the scariest hot-dog any of us have ever seen.
Just a few hours before we were set to leave, we stopped off at a park and met up with some old friends, Erin and Jamie, who I knew from when I was in college and who Drew knew when he was in high school. That’s a strange sentence that honestly kinda touches on the confusion of how we’re all connected. It could probably warrant a scientific study, but that’s for another time. Anyhow, none of us had seen each other in a longtime, and it was nice it happened. They introduced us to their kids, Ruby who was so young and tiny that sleep seemed to be her biggest priority, and Elliot who might’ve held the coveted spot as the coolest kid on the playground that day. Sporting shades, a hat and jean-jacket speckled with cool kid patches all over it. He demanded a high-five from me before we left, which if I’m being honest, made me feel like a million bucks.
It’s with that, that our Oregon adventure came to a close. We got our photos, made our memories, and became honorary members of the Cohen clan. The last of which, I determined by Della being able to individually pick us out and point to us from a lineup when she heard our names. I was tempted to shave my beard to really put her to the test, but I also don’t want to be the uncle that inadvertently traumatizes her. Anyhow, thankful for these trips, thankful for these friends, and after nearly a week, thankful to sleep in our own bed.
Alexis’ mom passed away a few weeks ago. Much sooner than any of us should have to leave. Her name was Elizabeth, but family called her Lisa. It’s been hard to witness the emotional and physically toll Lisa’s passing took and continues to take on Alexis. Mostly it’s had me feeling helpless. Especially leading up to it. Understandably, there are certain weights that just can’t be lifted from the shoulders of the ones we love, no matter what we do or say.
Alexis had a complicated relationship with her mom, but even still, one that was rooted in love, and had countless moments that shone bright all the same. Unfortunately, I can’t say I knew her as well as I would have liked to myself. Over the years though, I did get to know her secondhand through stories Alexis would tell me about her childhood. Her Mom’s obsession with the movie Titanic. Her abundant and quirky sense of humor. How every time she used a strangers driveway to make a 3-point turn and headlights briefly flooded a house she’d say, “Don’t put the coffee pot on, we’re not staying!”
The days we spent sorting through and organizing her belongings after she was gone, grew my sense of knowing her even more. I learned she was a beautiful writer. She wrote a lot of poetry. She was a singer in a few bands as a teenager. She had many struggles. She held on to the smallest things from her children, which spoke volumes for how much she loved them. I also learned she was crazy about lighthouses! Just when we thought we’d collected and packed up all the lighthouses, of all shapes and sizes, without fail a few more would pop up somewhere. Over the course of a few days, we’d always laugh discovering a new lighthouse. A welcomed lighter moment in heavy days.
One of my favorite memories with Lisa was when we all went miniature golfing together. It was Alexis, myself, Her sister Elizabeth, our niece Scarlett, Grandma Nancy, and of course Lisa. Somehow I wound up with the tiny pencil and score card. After each hole, without fail, Lisa would check in to make sure I marked her score at least a stroke or two better than Grandma’s, regardless of what anyone shot. All the while, Grandma Nancy was asking me to do the same for her. Back and forth, and back and forth. Adjusting scores from four holes ago if need be! It was only my second time ever meeting them, so I was eager to please and in turn sweating bullets cooking the books. In the end, I think to keep all parties happy I declared Scarlett the winner, who couldn’t have been more than 5 years old at the time. It was a fun memory, and I think a testament to her fun loving spirit and humor.
It’s been a hard few months and weeks, and I’m left saddened this happened but thankful to have been able to stand tall by my wife’s side when she needed me most. In the end, I’m incredibly inspired by Alexis’ strength under such crushing weight of grief and responsibility. She’s navigating uncharted waters in her life, and doing so with as much grace as anyone one of us could ever hope for when it comes our own time to do so ourselves. Goodbye Lisa, we love you and will miss you.
One scheduled flight at 10pm but cancelled at 3am later, we made it to Sacramento! The Duncans hosted a reunion of sorts at their new home. Was great seeing old friends, as well as meeting some of my brand new ones for the very first time. Lot of highlights, but one I was really excited for, was Drew, Duncan, and myself wearing the exact same shirt by happenstance. It’s always the best.
My Dad flew across the country to grab a beer with me on St. Patrick’s Day. One of the many perks of him being retired now. It was a quicker trip than he’d usually make to California, but we made the most of it. We ate the tacos, hopped the bars, talked the talk, explored the neighborhoods, poured the saké, watched the movies, clinked the glasses, and got a good look at the Pacific. Think I’ve also logged enough hours listening to my father go on about the never ending, infinite complexities of College Basketball March Madness, that at this point I might actually be able to pass as one of the talking heads on ESPN.
One of the brighter burning highlights came to be when just a day or two before my Dad got here, I learned that Flogging Molly was one of his favorite bands. As luck would have it, they were playing St. Patrick’s Day at the Palladium in Hollywood. I knew if we went it’d mean staying out way too late and drinking way too much, but damn it, life needs some living. So I got us some good seats, and after seeing the pit below and feeling the relief on our backs, I might consider it to be one of the greatest purchases I’ve ever made. One of the opening bands was from Ukraine, and given current events, the people were BEYOND fired up. It was a fun show, and most importantly, Dad got to cross off seeing Flogging Molly on St. Patrick’s day.
My Dad and I talk pretty often, but I’m not exactly sure the last time just the two of us spent this much uninterrupted time together. Maybe our cross country drive when I made the move to California 15 years ago. This little adventure has been a reminder that I should strive to make this happen more often. We had a great time, and I’ve got the photos to prove it. My favorite of which is Dad using chopsticks for only his second time ever for his “raymen” noodles.
“They are playing Taps now. I used to think it sounded nice but all those bugle calls sound different when you are on the inside.”
My Aunt Janet recently shared this letter with me, and I’m so thankful she did. My Grandfather wrote it to his future mother in law, while he was at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I’m assuming it was the first place he was sent after being drafted. Seems he wrote this just before he was shipped off to Europe. Never really heard him talk much about this time of his life. Don’t know if that’s because he didn’t care to, or just because I never asked. Sure wish I had though. Think he was Twenty years old when he wrote this. It’s hard to imagine, considering what I was doing at Twenty. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this small window into a big moment of his life, and felt like it should be preserved.
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.
We had some fun out in Joshua Tree with friends on a long weekend in late September. It was exactly what I’ve come to expect when you get this crowd together. Good laughs, good food, good drinks, and good memories. Of course I also spent a life-threatening amount of time in the hot tub. Wouldn’t be a weekend getaway otherwise. It’s a nice thing when your agenda for the day doesn’t equate to much more than watching the setting Sun and the rising Moon.
The house we stayed at and particularly the surrounding scenery, was out of this world. With a little color correction, it could probably serve as a backdrop for an alien planet in some sci-fi film. The landscape always seems so surreal out there, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This felt especially true because of how secluded the house was. Trying to spot any other man made structures on the horizon felt like playing “Where’s Waldo.” A welcomed change from my everyday sights.
We did venture out toward some civilization one night to see Modest Mouse play at Pappy and Harriet’s. I seemed to miss the Modest Mouse train when I was younger and don’t know much else outside their hits. Even still, it was a really fun show and didn’t hurt that it was at a pretty unique venue. The Districts were the opening band. I’d never heard them before but glad we caught them. Been listening to them on and off ever since.
Cheap Regrets by The Districts
After a few days dehydrating ourselves in the desert, we headed back to Los Angeles for one last outing before we all went our separate ways. James Blake at the Hollywood Bowl. If I’m being honest, I had absolutely no idea who this guy was. Thing is though, The Bowl is a truly magical place, and in my experience it doesn’t really matter who’s playing. So long as it’s a nice night out, you’re gonna have a great time, and we did exactly that. Also didn’t hurt that our seats were absurdly close considering the layout and capacity of the Hollywood Bowl. We’ve got a friend who’s a good guy to know, to say the least.
Our friends Jenn and Duncan even flew down from Sacramento for the night to join in. I know, sounds exhausting. Thing is, they have three kids, and I have to imagine a chance to catch up with friends and have some adult conversation for a change, is a juice well worth the squeeze. Glad they made it and even more glad I get to be in the company of friends like these.
Today’s our wedding anniversary. We celebrated by getting out of town and exploring Laguna Beach this past weekend. Four years married now, and Ten years since the first time we kissed. A decade gone by and I’m still crazy for her and driven crazy by her. She’s still my favorite person, and I still get caught up in her beauty just the same as the first time I ever saw her. I can also say with great pride, that I still know how to crack her up on a dance floor, largely with the same set of moves all these years later.
Might not have seemed it at the time, but getting married was the easy part. Staying married, well that’s where it gets tricky. Marriage might just be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hard to know if that’s because I’ve had an easy life, or because marriage is just plain hard work. Maybe it’s both. But in any case, it’s been my experience that the hard things we choose to do willingly, are always the most rewarding in the end.
I tried to pick out just one photo from each year of our story together. It was a challenge to say the least. Been so many bright spots along the way. Plenty of ties for first place. A lot of these photos didn’t even exist on Six Foot Giraffe to begin with, and that just felt like a bit of a crime to me. So here they are, not just safe and sound in my heart and mind anymore, but here too, for when the years start to get too far away from us. Happy Four to us.
Joey, my one and only brother turned 40. It was almost a month ago but I’d regret if I never took a moment to share that here. Seems like I was just writing about him turning 30 not too far back. Doesn’t feel like yesterday but it also doesn’t feel like 10 years gone.
He’s 5 years older than me, and that use to feel like a big difference but I know in a blink of an eye I’ll be seeing 40 myself. The cool thing about having an older sibling is that you’ve known them literally your whole life. He was there the day I was born, and for 18 years following, I saw him just about everyday. 18 years of horsing around, exploring, fighting, lying to our parents, and getting in plenty of trouble. All the things that brothers do.
Hopefully there are still plenty more years ahead of us than behind, but I’m not sure I can say the same about new memories together. We live 2,700 miles apart, and have for 14 years now. To say the least, we don’t see each other everyday anymore. A fact made painfully clear looking for photos of us together. Anything from the past 15 years is far and few between. But maybe with a little effort from both sides, that can change some. There’s still time.
Happy 40 Joey. Can’t be all that bad, after all, you did get to keep your hair. Although speaking from experience, I wouldn’t get too attached to it.
My Grandfather passed away a little over two weeks ago. My Dad’s father and the only Grandfather I’d ever known. His name was James Patrick Smith. He was just shy of 89 Years old. A long life that above all else, defined him as a devoted husband, and a father loved by his five children. He was as hard working as they come. Legend has it, he hadn’t taken a day off work for 40 Years. A child of the Great Depression who cleaned his plate even if what was on it wasn’t always his favorite. Though, it’d be hard to know if he didn’t like something, since he never complained about a thing. He loved long walks, opera, football, and literally anything that concerned chocolate. He had a booming deep voice, and his laugh could fill every room of the house, and he laughed often. He always wore a wrist watch. I think he always understood the weight of time, which led him to always have a camera in hand or video recorder resting on his shoulder at any family gathering, which he and my grandmother always made a priority.
He filled many roles for many people, but to me he was someone I affectionately called Gramp. I had the good fortune of being born while my parents were still young, and my grandparents still only in the first half of their 50s. Still full of life and vigor. I’ll forever be grateful for that. An experience many of my cousins didn’t have. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother and I even kept my grandparents a little younger, for a little longer. We’d spend entire weekends there with them. Together we’d play games, watch movies, indulge in all kinds of sweets, explore our town and soak up anything they told us like sponges. We were just about spoiled rotten. We loved it, and we loved them.
I remember a particular fascination I had with my Grandfather’s hat. So much so that when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell them with unwavering certainty, a door-to-door hat salesman. It was a simple bucket hat he’d wear on his commute from the suburbs to downtown Chicago by train each day for work. When I was there on weekdays, I couldn’t wait for him to walk through the door to get my hands on that hat. As the story goes, I’d sometimes get a little impatient, and just use my imagination and put the dog bowl on my head instead. Regardless of how much dog food was already in it. When he’d finally come charging through the door, he’d always make this boisterously triumphant trumpet sound announcing his arrival. I’d run to meet him and in one swift motion he’d move his hat from his head to mine. Looking back on it, it’s clear I was just like any child wanting to wear the costume of a super hero they idolized. It must have made him feel fantastic.
As I got older, it was clear I didn’t fit the exact mold of some of the things he valued, whether that be having an interest in sports, being an ace student, or being involved with the church. Hell, I don’t even like chocolate that much. But none of that mattered and I know he was proud of me all the same, and know because he’s expressed that. Particularly, he was proud I chose to turn my passion into my career, and pursued my own kind of happiness.
In the end, I believe he was ready to go. His mind was still razor sharp, but his body had long been in decline. But beyond all else, I think he just wanted to be with my Grandmother again. Ever since she passed on, he’d often say with a chuckle something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I’m still doing here!” Particularly whenever I’d call him on his birthday. I can’t think of a more potent explanation of what love is than the sight of my invincible Grandfather crumbling to a thousand pieces as he stood over my Grandmother’s casket. And all this time since, he’s just been stuck at the station, waiting for his train to take him back home to her. Just as he always used to. He was a devout Catholic, and there was no doubt in his mind what he believed to be next for him, and it brings me a great sense of peace, knowing he was at peace himself.
Goodbye Gramp. I love you very much and I’ll never forget you.
Our small but plentiful Thanksgiving with the friends we call family. We ate, drank, walked and laughed. Didn’t need much else. Mike volunteered to cook the turkey, even though he’s been pushing himself to pursue a vegan diet this entire year, which reminded me a bit of this scene.
My Mom turned 60 years old today, but really I should be saying 60 years young! She looks great for her age and believe me, she knows it. She’ll never miss the chance to tell you one of her many stories about her customers at the bank who are left in total disbelief after they learn her age. Just last month when we were in Florida together someone thought I was her husband! Surely I’ll never hear the end of that one.
All kidding aside though, the fact is my Mom is just as beautiful today as I’ve always known her to be. Inside and out. Maybe even more so now that I’m grown and able to understand just how selfless a person she’s always been for us.
Happy sixty Mom, we love you. Don’t worry, it’s just a number, you don’t look a day over 30!