Every year, I try, in the last few days of each year, to look back and reflect on the events of the year, to put into perspective all those bright, shining moments that were memorable for me. 2010? Sure, there were hardships. Wrist surgery derailed what was becoming a fine golfing season for me, and ice hockey was pretty much on hiatus for the most part. Friends left, both at work and in geography. Yet, 2010 seemed like nothing BUT memorable moments.
It started with a bang – a golden bang – in February, with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. What an experience! Vancouver was resplendent, in all it’s glory. And despite a few mishaps, despite some in the international community mocking our organizers, our torch, our Canadian attitude, I think everyone can agree that these Olympics were some of the best in recent years. It was a unique atmosphere in Vancouver, one that you had to be immersed in to even begin to understand what I’m trying to describe. Everyone was happy. Everyone was patriotic. Living in a country in which those two concepts can sometimes be mutually exclusive, it was a revelation. There were drunk people – everywhere – and commercialism – everywhere – and yet, none of it had the kind of crassness you’d expect. It was just … happy. I saw ball hockey games break out in the middle of Granville, I saw impromptu singings of the national anthem by hundreds, I saw a nation rise as one to celebrate its heroes – both those who won and those who showed courage in the pursuit. And everywhere, I saw proud, Canadian faces, tickled to show off what was their little slice of happiness to the world.
Of course, how can I recap the Olympics without mentioning hockey gold? It really is difficult to describe to Americans just how much that medal meant to us. When the Canadian team was announced, in the middle of the day on some meaningless day of the week, Canada stood still to see which of it’s fine young men would represent our country on home soil. If you weren’t from Canada, you might not realize just how much pressure was on these men to perform, unless maybe you were from a Latin American or European country with a rich futbol history. Maybe. Because, while soccer is a global sport, Canadians still see hockey as theirs, an important part of our cultural tapestry. I’m sure many Americans watched the gold medal game. And I’m sure many cheered. But almost 80% of all Canadians were tuned in. 80%. How do I adequately describe how much that is to you? Maybe with a graphic?
In case you haven’t seen this before, here is the water usage in Edmonton during the gold medal game. The spikes? Those coincide with the intermissions. And that’s not even the craziest story I’ve heard regarding the gold medal game. My friend, Kevin Wong, told me about a man he treated (Kevin is a doctor – well, pseudo-doctor. He’s training to be a psychiatrist) this year who was showering before the gold medal game. While in the shower, he had a stroke. This man crawled out of the shower, dragged himself into his bedroom where the TV was on and the game was starting, watched the game AND THEN called the ambulance. Unfortunately, the time between his stroke and him receiving medical attention greatly reduced his chances of living, but I think this ridiculous anecdote underscores just how important that game was for us. Don’t compare it to the Superbowl. No one is dying (literally) to see the Superbowl.
For me, I can remember the tension, the spastic anger at our defence for allowing someone to behind them in the slot for the game tying goal, and the elation when Crosby – underwhelming for most of the tournament – whipped his quick, short snapshot through Miller’s legs. Dressed full in Canadian colors and logos, I whooped and ran out of Kevin Ting’s 2nd floor Pasadena apartment and ran, hooting with joy throughout his complex, waving my red, Canadian scarf. I don’t think that memory will be forgotten for a long, long time.
Fast forward to June, and Michael and Sarah’s wedding. The bachelor party in May was ridiculous, a weekend of food and fun in Vegas. The build up to the wedding … well, there was actually not much build up. Michael pretty much took care of most of everything without Christopher or my help. Of course, Michael being Michael, there was plenty to do RIGHT before the wedding that required me to work all day, come home to an apartment that looked like the gremlins had had their way with it, and work doing manual labor making party favors or gift bags for the hours until I went to bed. On the day of, I ran around trying to make sure things were in order, and Michael was a) sober and b) where he was supposed to be. The wedding went off without a hitch (well, minus the bus guy, who was a complete asshole), and both Michael and Sarah looked resplendent in their wedding finest. In the end, it was an amazing time, the first wedding in our family, and I officially could welcome our first sister into the family.
Again, fast forward to October, when I said goodbye to California. It was hard to do so, leaving a place I had lived for almost 9 years. And while I had explored so little of it, I knew I would miss the moderate climes, the plethora of excellent food from all corners of the world, the laid back culture and that uniquely California, uniquely west coast attitude. This meant more than just moving from one place to another. I was leaving behind the Hat, Pomona College, the beaches, my hockey team mates, and year-round golf. I was saying goodbye to the NHL, and leaving Michael and Christopher to take up the torch to cheer for the Canucks when they came into town. I was leaving Kevin in CA, someone with whom I had been in or near the same city for – what – almost 20 years!
But it hasn’t been bad. Sure, I miss those things – especially the people. However, not unlike my year in Japan, this move has a kind of adventurous quality to it. Vegas has surprised me; there’s way more to do here than the strip. Sure, the food options are kind of limited in terms of variety and quality, but it forces you to cook at home to get something really delicious; I haven’t cooked this much since Japan. The cost of living is low, and taxes are too. I also forgot how monotonous it is having the same weather all year long. I’m Canadian; cold weather is in my blood.
Vegas is unique, in that it seems like everyone is from somewhere else. I thought LA was a city of immigrants – you go to the airport and meet people who live in LA, but are from some other city or state or country. Vegas goes beyond that. Vegas is a city built on the very idea of people just passing through. It’s almost strange to think of this city as home, strange to watch as people wander into town and out of town, like nomads roaming the desert.
But it’s also that quality about Vegas that keeps me from missing California too much. People come to Vegas. And unlike LA, it’s usually very easy to find and get to them. The strip is a blessing and curse. Whereas LA had, basically, everything to do, but spread across hundreds of square miles of freeway, Vegas has everything on a 5 mile stretch of road, all condensed and ready for consumption. You know where to go if you want to drive behind someone who doesn’t know where they’re going. But if you want a good meal at a great restaurant, or you want to see a show or a concert, you better sack up and get in line with the rest of the out-of-towners (Ip Man reference, anyone?).
Meanwhile, Zappos has been everything that I expected, and – dare I say – more. It’s exciting to be part of something on the forefront of the business world. Business books come out everyday, affirming the things that are already in practice at Zappos. I work with people with whom I hang out on weekends and have great times with in and out of work. It’s casual and collegial, and everyone works and plays hard. It’s the kind of atmosphere every company I’ve ever interviewed at claimed to have, except Zappos actually has it. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but thus far, no other shoe. I am fortunate to have this opportunity in front of my face every day, to see new and exciting things develop and materialize, and to help drive this constant metamorphosis.
When I look back on 2010, I think I’ll see it as a year of transition. I feel like we are all moving into that next phase of our lives. Whether it is Michael starting a family, Vancouver stepping onto the world stage, or me taking a flying leap off of an LA freeway into the unknown in Nevada, we’re all growing up. But when I look back, I hope it will be fondly; I hope 2010 will be the year when whatever greatness we all aspire to achieve finally started being achieved. And if not, at least we’ve got that gold medal to remember…