A quick trip to Philly with a few of the boys. Top Gun, gambling, a beer festival, Thrice, Alkaline Trio, Lumineers, and collectively more Philly cheesestakes than I can count on two hands. I’m run ragged by the end of these trips, but I’ll choose the memories over a good nights rest any day.
It’s no secret our friend Drew has reached the status of Grandmaster in regards to surprises, but he really outdid himself here. I went into this trip thinking Drew and I were going to surprise Tyler. In reality, I didn’t know Duncan would be there, Duncan didn’t know I would be there, neither of us knew Jason would be there, and Tyler had no idea any of us whatsoever would be in Philadelphia. Quite the tangled web he weaves, but one that without fail, makes for a lot of fun.
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.
Our self-professed full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had an idea to get the gang together for a Formula 1 race happening in Austin, Texas. He’s as old now as his dad was when he died, so he wanted to celebrate life, and we wanted to help him do that. Wasn’t long then till our friend Drew took the reins and made this seed of an idea into a full itinerary. The next thing I knew, I was dropping my bag in a hotel room at a city I’d never been before and heading to the rooftop bar to hug some pals who just flew in from about every corner of the country. Some of which I hadn’t seen in a long while. We were only in Austin 4 nights, and this was a few months ago now, but I’m still hesitant to say I’m fully recovered from it. To put it simply, we made it count.
Our first full day was as full it gets. This was the qualifying race day, and it started a little later than the actual race on the following day would. What this meant was, we had some time to fulfill a dream that many of us have harbored our whole lives. Having Texas Barbecue in Texas. We settled on Terry Black’s BBQ by recommendation of Drew who ironically doesn’t eat meat, but luckily happens to be an avid reader of the internet. It was a home run.
When it was time to head over to the track, we had a “party bus” take us there. A better description would’ve been “decommissioned public transit bus, with a few string lights.” It was perfect. Couldn’t ask for much more sipping a drink and watching the view through our windows grow increasingly more wide and rural with every passing mile. When we arrived at the grounds and stepped off our bus, we were still at least a ten minute walk to the gates. But the thing was, you could already hear the surreal harmony of engines in the distance. And it truly was surreal. Like nothing I’d ever heard. I turned wide eyed to Duncan to find him silently nodding with a smile. The feeling you get hearing those cars before you see them, growing louder with each step towards your destination, made me understand why people are into this. It’s powerful and it’s exciting.
Not only have I never been to a Formula 1 race, but I’d never been to any race at all. The track was enormous, with even more space surrounding it. This meant a lot of walking. Even with all that space we were still somehow just about bumping into people the whole time. Our friend Tyler put it well when he looked over at me and said, “This is very… covidy.” Apparently 400,00 people were in attendance that weekend. By the grace of God, we had seats with backs on them when we needed to seek refuge.
Although it was just the qualifying day, the powers at be upped the ante a bit and set Billy Joel to headline the night. I’m not a die-hard Billy Joel fan, but I know the hits and know how to have a good time at a show. His iconic Piano Man however, stands in a league of its own for me. I keep it in the company of some of my very favorite songs ever recorded. I’ve sung it at karaoke more time than I can remember, and hearing it live was really something. But what happened next could only be described as divine intervention, or just surgical precision planning. Just as he sang “It’s Nine o’clock on a Saturday,” I looked at my watch, and it was Nine o’clock and it was on a Saturday and then I lost my goddamn mind. The best example I can think of that captures the full range of emotions I experienced as this realization hit, comes from this masterclass of acting. It was a bucket list item I didn’t know I had.
Our ride back from the track was what could only be described as a post apocalyptic party school-bus. The driver at one point asked if one of us could literally pull on some cables by his feet for him because somewhere along the highway the gas pedal stopped working. Hell of a ride, but we still managed to stop off at a barcade for some games and a few more drinks, eventually getting back to our hotel, all in one piece.
The next day, was the actual race. The stakes were higher, the crowds were denser and people were FIRED UP. Duncan guided us through the in’s and outs of the drama unfolding in realtime, while I asked him in what way was Harry Potter related to Formula 1, since the word “Petronas” is seen everywhere. As uninvested as I was in the sport, I still found myself on my feet and cheering like a maniac for the last few laps. It shaped up to be a pretty dramatic battle between the top two contenders. I knew it’d be a fun experience, but I was surprised at just how fun it all really was. Also didn’t hurt that Duncan’s team won, and really that’s all that mattered to the rest of us.
Race day started and ended a lot earlier than the previous day, so by the time everything wrapped up at the track we still had plenty of daylight to kill. Most of us spent it floating in our hotel’s rooftop pool, with more drinks than any of us probably needed. It wasn’t long then till we headed off to celebrate Drew’s birthday at dinner followed up by a fancy cocktail bar, flaming drinks and all.
On our last full day, I found a little time to explore the city on foot, making the capitol building my loose destination. About a mile or so in, I learned that “Texas Heat” is not just a marketing buzzword for hot sauces. Jeans were a poor choice that day. Luckily, we booked out an air conditioned theater to see Dune, as guys do on a guys trip. We had a food and alcohol limit to hit during the screening which basically equated to everyone eating and drinking way too much, and almost brawling discussing whether or not Dune was or was not a good movie. It was a great time.
For our last night, we went to an Idles show. Most of us didn’t know the band very well, but our friend Drew did, and it only ever takes one of us to care about something for the rest of us to get behind it too. Of course it was a fun time, and the braver among us even pushed their way to the front where things get rough. It’s a miracle we ever saw them again.
Our last morning was spent packing up and saying our goodbyes in the lobby. It’d be fair to say we were all pretty much just fantasizing about our couches and takeout by this point. It was a fun, exhausting, memory filled trip that could’ve only happened when you get this group together. Like I said, we made it count. Most importantly of all though, is that our self-professed, full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had the absolute time of his life, celebrating life.
Bonus: Michael surprised us all with a fun video he cut together on his flight back home, what a guy huh?
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.
Jason and Cat got married, and boy did they knock it out of the park. Their vows were funny and moving. The speeches were heartfelt and well delivered. The food was rich, the drinks kept flowing, and the dancing never stopped. There may’ve been actual flames coming off the soles of my shoes.
It was sincerely a beautiful day, and I’m thankful and lucky to have been part of it. I walked away from their day excited for their new chapter, and reminded and inspired to make good on my own vows.
I also walked away a little hungover the next day! Yes, I broke my no-hangover New Year’s resolution, but my Dad put it well when he said, “If there’s ever a time to be hungover, it’s the day after a friend’s wedding.”
Congratulations Jason and Cat. You deserve it all, and you got it all.
I’ve known Jason maybe nine years now. First met him as just the brother of someone I was becoming fast friends with, but it wasn’t long till I called Jason a friend myself. We’ve done a lot together over the years. From stumbling around Los Angeles blind-drunk, exploring the streets of Barcelona and Madrid, to somehow jumping out of a perfectly good airplane together. I’d say I’m not sure how he got me into that last one, but Confidence is his middle name, and he can be very convincing.
Jason is getting married soon, and to show him just how much we all love him, a few of us hopped on planes and rented some cars for his bachelor party. By “a few of us,” I meant 23 grown men. Most of whom I’d never met. At face value, all the ingredients of this turning into a mess were there. Two things were certain going in though. First, was that Jason was all our common ground. Second, was his brother Drew was organizing the whole thing. In another life, Drew might’ve been a master clockmaker. What I mean is, he’s very good at taking a lot of moving parts, and making them all work together. So about a month ago, we flew in from almost every corner of the country to set out on an adventure together that started in Salt Lake City.
A quick weekend trip to hang with Drew, George, Duncan, and Jon in Seattle. My friend Jesse was in town by happenstance too. We got into all sorts of fun but there was an obvious standout from the trip.
Over the years, our friend Drew has mastered the art of surprise, and frankly, generosity. He’d planned something specific for us all to do together for Saturday, but kept it under wraps. When it was go-time, he announced our ride was out front and we headed out the door to find… a stretch limo waiting for us. A classy move if I’d ever seen one. Still none of us knew where we were going or what we were getting into, but drinks were flowing and we were cruising in a limo. Morale was through the roof and I would’ve been set if that was the extent of our night. It wasn’t.
By now, we’d been driving a while, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Tractors, corn, and cows were the only things flying by our jet black windows. Traffic eventually stacked up and came to a crawl. Wherever we were, we had arrived. Didn’t take us too long to realize, of all places, we were at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Yep, and Bad Company was opening. I’m not sure I could’ve imagined a more ridiculous thing for us to do with our night. Needless to say, we were the only stretch-limo in sight. Just about everyone we passed in the lot squinted and smiled at our impenetrable tinted windows. Pretty sure they thought we were the band.
I was big Skynyrd fan back in high school, around the time I was learning to play guitar, obviously. Turns out I still know all the words. Anyone who was standing within 100 feet of me can attest to that. Don’t think the guys particularly cared much for the them, but that’s not really the point though, is it. Fun was had and memories were made.
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.
Impromptu trip to Hawaii thanks to our MVP status friend Drew. It a was time for slowing down, and connecting in ways you’re just not able to when you’re a gang of ten plus. Thankful for the laughs, the drinks, and the ears. Thankful for friends like these.
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.
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.
First comes love, then comes marriage they say, but there’s usually a bachelor party somewhere in between there. From left to right, Drew, Ryan, Giov, Michael, Jesse, Duncan, Jon Kim, Giancarlo, me, Mike, Levi, Ricky (George and Charlie not pictured here). We were a pretty big group. Fourteen strong, coming from all over the country. We chose to party in Denver, Colorado. Most of us hadn’t been before, and It was pretty close to meeting in the middle geographically. It felt right.
We did a lot over 4 days and 3 nights. Usually it’s your best man who puts these things together. My best man was my brother, but planning really isn’t in his wheelhouse. My friend Drew offered to take up reins and get it all figured. He’s a good guy to know to say the least.
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.
Drew E. Cohen, the leader of the pack, had a bachelor party and it was one for the books. Twelve of us shared a cabin in North Lake Tahoe. There was poker, a hot tub, alcohol, billiards, a personal chef, monster trucks, karaoke, and eight feet of snow. As alcohol often does, it led to some heart felt speeches and even some tears. Though, none of mine of course.
I asked the girl I’ve been crazy about (and driven crazy by) since the day I met her, to marry me. How we got from there to here is a long story. One that I’ll save for another time. But today, I want to tell you about the best day of my life.
Visited Seattle for the first time. Beautiful city and geography. Good eats, good drinks, and good company.
The idea to go was suggested and agreed upon, among friends sitting in a hot tub with full beers in hand, with plenty of empty ones nearby. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the idea would fade away in the sobering light of tomorrow.
People don’t really do what they say, especially if they said it after a few drinks. But as luck would have it, we did what we said.