2009: Part one
This year, this 2009, had many corners, many ups and many downs. Following one of the highest of the ups, we had the worst of the downs. We lost our dear friend Danno on Sunday the 16th of August to a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. He was a great, inspirational, and loving man who we all miss and were hugely saddened to see leave us. 2009 will be remembered as the year we lost Danno.
2009 will also be remembered as the year of all the weddings, the year I was granted the elusive Green Card, and the year of the Griswold-esque family road-trip to Montana, which is where the year began.
It actually began, if one is to get specific, in the farm-house of a friend that we were farm sitting for during the week leading up to New Year. I could list all the creatures that we were looking after but we’d be here all year, so I’ll spare you. Let’s just say we were farm sitting, which should cover most of the bases. Anyway, the year began with us having gone to bed before “The Bells” in order to be compos mentis for our departure from Chico at 3 a.m. There were none of the regular celebratory Hogmanay traditions except for a dram or two as a nightcap.
Following a ridiculous two-day road trip (layover in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho) with eight people, three snowboards, a guitar, and umpteen pairs of socks in a Chevy Suburban we arrived in Whitefish, Montana; a pretty little town which, at the time, was made even more picturesque, by the white roofs and piles of snow at the side of the roads, a true winter wonderland. That first night was spent in a Hotel as we awaited the arrival of the remaining members of the family who were flying in (quite sensibly) from Ohio. During the course of the evening I discovered the art of making human doughnuts, which is a form of self-torture involving a hot tub, a swimming pool, and a pile of snow. We also met a new member of the family, known ad infinitum, as the Chigger Lady. The Chigger Lady can appear at any time, although she usually strikes following the consumption of at least one bottle of wine, and proceeds to wreak havoc upon whatever lays between her and her quarry, which, in this instance, was my Brother-in-Law (Lucky me). I won’t go into the details too much to avoid any vengeance being sought upon me, but let’s just say that during the latter part of the evening there was snow being thrown in places where no snow should be.
The remainder of the trip was spent in a cabin on the slopes of the Whitefish Ski Resort. So fancy was this place that we could ski to the lift in the morning and end a run at the front door for lunch. I kept expecting the owners to turn up and kick us unsavory types out, but I was prepared to execute my squatter’s rights. We spent a great few days snowboarding in the finest snow imaginable and playing various games, including liar’s dice, which I’m apparently pretty good at (who’d’ve thunk it?). The trip home was shorter than the way up but was none the more pleasant for it due to the aforementioned socks having seen a lot of foot action over the week with no odor-relieving washing machine.
Not long into the year I was granted permanent resident status following a lengthy and exhausting application process. With the help of an extremely thorough Lawyer, it took us the better part of six months to prepare the extensive application, which included my being prodded, poked, and otherwise personally abused by all manner of people during the medical exams.
Following my being granted permission to live and work in the States, I was almost immediately hired as a Biologist with a local Environmental Consulting firm; Biologist, me? That’s exactly what I thought too! But that’s what you get for going to University for four years I suppose, a job whose title ends with ‘ist’. All my previous jobs have ended in ‘er’, or ‘an’; waiter, barman, penguin ranger, salesman, and laborer, so I was chuffed at having been given an ‘ist’ title. And, when I say almost immediately, I mean within about two weeks. It really is amazing how those things turn out. I had been forcibly unemployed for the best part of two years following my arrival in the US and so it was quite a welcome surprise when this opportunity fell from the sky. Through Lex’s work we heard of the position which I promptly applied for, and following a brief and seemingly successful interview, they hired me. That’s one thing that Danno taught me; that all I had to do to convince someone to hire me was to get to the interview. He had confidence in my ability to impress prospective employers on a face-to-face level, and his advice definitely gave a well-needed boost to my confidence.
So, I spent the majority of the year baby-sitting peregrine falcons, giant garter snakes, and all sorts of other wee beasties (technical term for all things furry or feathered) and plants. I did, through my work, discover my new favourite bird this year. A position previously held by Australia’s cockatoos, especially gang-gangs and the yellow-tailed black varieties. Most of you, if there are enough for me to even presume there’s a most, are thinking, “quit banging on about birds, ya bird nerd”, well, as I have mentioned previously, I am a bird nerd, and a proud one at that, so stick that in your wood pigeon and smoke it. So, my favourite bird now (in this neck of the woods anyway) is the white-tailed kite (previously known as the black-shouldered kite). It is a medium-sized hovering raptor that is so strikingly white (on the parts that are, indeed, white) it’s as if it just dunked itself in a tin of primer. I discovered its beauty while out looking for it as part of a pre-construction survey, which might not seem all that surprising unless you yourself have partaken in the search for anything that either doesn’t want to be seen, is good at hiding, or is so rare that only the occasional glimpse is had, think Nessie, Bunyip, or Sasquatch. There are a few more of these creatures than there are Bunyips (especially here in No Cal. It’s probably something to do with the lack of Billabongs) but they are still fairly sparsely distributed and so I took great delight in both finding a pair and having the privilege of being paid to watch them for a bit.
The year also had an unusual amount of weddings. Firstly, our friends Zack and Joya got married, then our friends and neighbors Kelly and Summer, followed by our friend Quinn and Ellie, the it was the turn of Lex’s sister, followed by us, in our Scottish version. In the first two, we were simply guests and played our part of “ooohing” and “aahhing” at all the right bits of the ceremony followed by helping the flow of the party by enjoying a light libation or two, and polishing off our share of the sausage rolls and sandwiches. At Quinn and Ellie’s wedding, however Lex had a rather larger role to play in that she did the actual marrying bit; the “do you’s” and the “I now pronounce’s”. I played the role of groomsman; performing tasks like picking up kegs of beer and ensuring the groom (and the rest of his entourage) were suitably refreshed before, during, and after the ceremony. We were both involved in my sister-in-law’s wedding, Lex as Maid of Honor and me by performing the processional and recessional (in that exact order) on my beat up guitar.