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!
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.
My Dad turned 60 today. You wouldn’t guess looking at his lifestyle.
He still rides his motorcycle like a reckless kid. Still cranks the volume. Still climbs ladders, chops trees, and pumps iron. Still yells at the TV as if the players can hear him. Still as hard headed as they get and still as tough as nails. Still my Dad.
Sixty’s a big one, but it’s no match for you. Happy 60 Dad.
Off the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast there’s a place called Estero Island. On that island there’s a seven-story condo called Sea Watch. On the 7th floor of that condo, there’s a unit that’s been in my family since before my time. I was just five months old my first visit. The Smith’s are still making memories there to this day.
My parents hold the keys to it now, and Alexis and I tagged along this year. It was her first time and I hadn’t been back in eleven years. It’s a special place, with a lot of history. It’s a place I’m very thankful for.
Kim and Will got married and it was about as Kim and Will as it could’ve been. Every color of the rainbow, dungeons and dragons lore, all accounted for. They did it their way, and that made it perfect.
So thankful to share their day with them, and for all our days past, and all the ones still ahead.
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.
My older brother would listen to Tom Petty all the time when we were growing up, because he’s got good taste in music. I listened because all younger brothers aspire to be as cool as their big brothers. Sad to see him go, thankful he was here.
Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
One day my friend Drew told me he wanted to move into a new place with his girlfriend Kelsie. They really hadn’t been dating very long at all, and the new place was a pricey two year lease. There was never a thing not to like about Kelsie, but I still owed it to one of my best friends to warn him he might be rushing into something here. He agreed he was rushing in, but rushing into the right thing, so why wait. I remember thinking it to be pretty bold.
Turns out, they just signed a lifetime lease, and tied the knot. They married near Palm Springs on April Fools, because well, it’s Drew and Kelsie we’re talking about here. It was a beautiful Saturday.
Family Portrait. Alexis, her brother Tony, his Fiancé Olivia, and me (Not pictured: Gnarly). Taken in Downtown LA at Clifton’s.
Tony and Olivia moved here to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, just over a year ago. A few weeks ago though, the circumstances of life ended up pulling them back out to New York.
Sad to see them go, but glad for the time we had. I got to know them while they were here as family, not in-laws. Wouldn’t have been possible any other way.
I didn’t really grow up around my cousins, and my brother is five years older than me, which really doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a difference when you’re kids. And now, I’m a good few thousand miles from any blood relatives. What I’m really getting at here, is it was nice to have some family that you just wanna, you know… hang out with.
Not even going to get into how much we miss
our godson Gnarly.
My Uncle Tony, technically my Great Uncle, passed in April. I’d bet anything he’d want to be celebrated, not morned. So I’m gonna try my best here.
No matter what room he was in, his laugh was the loudest thing in it, and he was always laughing. He slept with a few thousand refrigerator magnets under his mattress because he said it helped his back. He was a character to say the least.
When we’d show up to visit, between my brother and I, he’d give one a BB gun, and the other a spear tied to one of our ankles. He’d tell us to go have some fun and catch something. He had a dock out back where the waters eventual led to the Gulf of Mexico. There was always a lot of fishing.
I learned for the first time I could swim without sinking in his pool. The same pool he told my brother and I had the “red dot” technology, so he’d know if we ever peed in it. We were mortified.
He and my dad would take us to watch the greyhounds race at the track. We always had ice cream and Uncle Tony always had a cigar.
He gave me my first magnifying glass and my first pocket knife. Still have the magnifying glass. He gave us a lot of great memories, the kind you never lose.
He died on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Honestly, I can’t imagine a more fitting way for him to go. He was a man full of life, till the very end.
Godspeed Uncle Tony.
My brother and I on Uncle Tony’s dock.
My Dad, manning the grill, next to the pool, under the Florida sun. Following his dream of getting his family the hell out of the Chicago winters.
Here’s to him, and my Mom, for showing me what it means to take a chance and follow a dream, and for always encouraging me to follow my own.
My Aunt Janet. She’s been so involved and supportive in just about everything I’ve done in my life, every step of the way. Seen me fail, succeed, short and tall. She is a person in my life that truly cares for me. Could never thank her enough for all that she’s done. Over the years, she’s taken me to see and do so many things that I otherwise may never have experienced. I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her.
Happy Birthday Aunt Janet.
My Grandfather, James Patrick Smith, when he was only 20 or so. Today he’s 80. But everyday, he’s one of the greatest, most influential people in my life. My family says I take after him, but I know I’ll never compare. He’s made entirely of good qualities. If I become just a fraction of the man he is, I’ll have done pretty ok.
Happy Birthday Gramp. Can’t wait to show you all the things I accomplish by your 90th.
My Aunt Marilyn passed. Known her forever. Only in my grown years I understood how often she was dealt a bad hand. She always made the best of it though. So positive. Smiling. Laughing. Radiant.
I’ll think of you before I dare complain about a thing.
Goodbye Aunt Marilyn.