2013 Year In Review

Another year draws to a close today, so it’s appropriate to take a moment to reflect back on the mysteries and adventures of 2013.
In fact, I think it’s a requirement to post something about your year today in order to keep your Facebook account active, based on what I’ve seen.

Much like the Star Trek films, the even-numbered years seemed to turn out better for me for a long time: I got married in 2008, graduated high school in 2000, and so on. But recently, I’ve been on a string of goodness no matter whether the year has been odd, even, a prime number, part of a Fibonacci sequence, or my ATM PIN (hint: it’s never been that). In thinking about this post, it didn’t take long for me to list a bunch of highlights from 2013. I guess if there’s a theme, it’s that I made a concerted effort to “expand my horizons” and try new things, and for the most part I think I succeeded. Restarting this blog has helped me focus my creative energies, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

An easy highlight from a physical fitness perspective was running my first marathon, as well as around 960 other miles, to come in at just under 1,000 for the year. Elsewhere in the world of sports, I deepened my interest in baseball and cemented my place in Nationals fandom. I don’t know that I’ll attend quite so many games this coming year, but it’s nice to have a decent team to follow in DC.

From a travel perspective, in 2013 Gina and I went to Cincinnati, Austin, New England, and Canada together. While I might not call them our best trips ever, we made some good memories with each one. In fact, I still have some trip notes to report for Austin, and it quickly became one of my favorite cities. I look forward to returning there someday.

Music is always a passion of mine. This year, I discovered several new bands, began rediscovering long-lost favorites in my CD collection and loading them into iTunes, and was fortunate enough to attend several concerts. One of those was Paul McCartney, which scratched one off of my bucket list. I also time travelled to the past in digitizing some old cassette tapes from high school as well as some vinyl I’d had lying around. My only disappointment on the musical front was not practicing guitar more and dedicating more time to playing, but at least that’s easily fixed and a nice thing to anticipate for 2014.

In 2013, I embarked on a quest to read more, which has worked out beautifully. I started my sequential reading of presidential biographies and threw in some historical accounts of the Wrights and the Transcontinental Railroad to boot. I began delving into some classics that I never picked up in school, and I also caught myself up on the Song Of Ice And Fire series, which accounted for the bulk of my fiction reading. Overall, I know I’m never going to be on the cutting edge of everything that’s ever been released, but it’s nice to know that I’ll always have the chance to read, and a book is a great companion on a quiet weekend morning. And who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll be writing even more original material on something more than this blog…

On a personal and professional note, 2013 saw me earn a promotion at my job, which I feel blessed to have gotten. Though it was a turbulent year to be a federal employee, I can at least say that I do still have a job that provides for my family, which is another huge blessing. With Heidi’s puppy antics behind us, she’s a (still very energetic) and loved member of our family that helps Gina and I get through the long workweeks. I was glad to have shared several special moments with my family, including a bonus visit back home to West Virginia for my niece’s graduation, as well as another round of birthdays for our parents, siblings, and grandparents. Time with them is always a blessing. This coming year, I hope to strengthen those connections with friends and family even more.

And there you have it. Not a bad year, 2013. As I sit here today, however, I can feel a sense of promise for the coming year that I can’t recall having felt recently. I won’t post any formal resolutions, since those almost never work out, but I am excited to think of the possibilities.

In short, I have no idea what’s in store for 2014, but I am ready to meet it! Happy New Year to each and every one of you. May you face no challenge that you can’t overcome and no joy that you can’t appreciate to its fullest.

Paul McCartney Concert Review

Friday night, Gina and I traveled to Nationals Park for a concert that’s been on my bucket list for a while: Paul McCartney. McCartney is one of those increasingly rare rock legends who can still fill stadiums in his 70’s. To sum it up, he rocked out with enthusiasm belying his age and made you believe in it. He could put anything from his career in his setlist and chances are it would be a crowd-pleaser resulting in a stadium-wide singalong. I mean, let’s be honest: when you have the majority of the Beatles catalog to fall back on, not to mention his Wings and solo eras, he would really have a hard time not creating a powerhouse setlist. And when you’re Sir Paul and clearly still get enjoyment from playing to a crowd, you can play for as long as you want.

So it was that we were treated to a 38-song setlist that clocked in at about two hours and forty minutes, all despite the rain delaying the concert’s start by about an hour. There was no opening band; rather, the house audio played a wide variety of Beatles covers from all manner of artists that can claim Lennon/McCartney tunes as one of their major influences. And when he did ultimately take the stage, McCartney used the full time to serenade us practically non-stop, interspersing a few anecdotes here and there about playing the first rock concert ever in Communist Russia and playing ukelele at George Harrison’s house. You know, the typical rock legend’s lifestyle.

There were a couple of poignant moments when Paul payed tribute to John Lennon, Harrison, and his late wife Linda. The man has lost a great deal in his lifetime, and being one of the last few living ambassadors of this treasure trove of music has got to be bittersweet at times. But he graciously accepts that standard and seems to give his audiences his all.

An outsider could step back and say that some of his music is corny, especially some gems from the 80’s and some of the Wings material. But just like the Beatles, a lot of those tracks were products of the times – McCartney can be a musical chameleon, adapting to the prevalent musical styles and production techniques of the time and embracing them while filling them with his own signature. (As further proof, check out anything by The Fireman, McCartney’s foray into electronica which was not represented at the concert.) And once you hear any of his songs live, in the moment, with thousands of others singing along, everything else melts away and you become a believer. Take “Live and Let Die.” I was never a huge fan of that song, but how could I deny its power when the performance was punctuated by plumes of flame and confetti on stage with fireworks exploding in the background, a presentation as over-the-top as the song was meant to be?

The majority of the evening was naturally devoted to those songs that everyone loves and has heard dozens if not hundreds of times. On stage, for a night, they were new again. Who knew just how heavy and raw “Back in The U.S.S.R” or “Helter Skelter” could be when pounded out from dozens of enormous speakers blanketing the whole outfield? Practically everyone who owns an acoustic guitar has tried their hand at “Blackbird” or “Yesterday,” and we got to hear the songwriter himself play them in solo acoustic performances. And the thrill of hearing “Paperback Writer” being played on the guitar McCartney used to record the song was incredible. From the “Hey Jude” singalongs to first-time-played-in-Washington “Lovely Rita” and “Eight Days A Week,” and everything in between, it was a great night to be alive.

When the night finally wound to a close with the timeless “Golden Slumbers > Carry That Weight > The End” medley from Abbey Road, our voices exhausted, we knew that the man on stage had given it his all one more time, and we were happy to have returned the favor.