2012: The Bests.

This year, I spent a decent chunk of time being inexplicably down. When I look back though on 2012, it was actually better than I thought it was at the time. Maybe because I’m impatient and when my life doesn’t seem to be ‘starting’ or even ‘moving’ the way I was sincerely hoping it would, there is some frustration and discouragement that goes along with that. Or maybe I spent too much time alone reflecting on what’s terrible, rather than living in moments that were precious, amazing, hilarious, outrageous, or perfectly divinely beautiful or intimate.

I can make a list of 50 amazing things that happened this year, but I’ll save you my narcissism a little while focusing in on just my favourite twenty.

20. My first business trip!

Nothing makes you feel as important as your first business trip, especially when it involves international travel. I was more excited about the prospect of going to California in February than I was to actually attend a conference but both were worthwhile exercises in terms of what we refer to around here as “organizational development”. I was very proud of myself for this one.

19. Noel Gallagher

While Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ debut album was an unexpected ringer for one of my favourite records of 2011, it also surprisingly made the cut of my favourite shows of 2012. A small, intimate yet admittedly unenthusiastic crowd gathered at Northlands (which was a strange venue for this particular show) to see Noel Gallagher open for Snow Patrol (who I am less enthused about) and the result was pure magic; there was pretty good sound, a very ‘small’, emotionally resonant vibe to the experience, and people who were into it were REALLY into it. A good mix of Oasis B-sides and the bests from the debut record, this was a magical night.

18. Living alone

Technically, I moved into my one-bedroom apartment in 2011 but just at the tail end; and I hadn’t even had the opportunity to set up my apartment until January or February of the past year. Living alone, and in a hotel no less, has awarded me privacy, my own space, and a refuge from the world. It costs me more money, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

17. My birthday

Turning 26 was a bit of a rude awakening; suddenly, I find myself very deep into adulthood. But the bright side is, I went for a lovely fancy pub dinner at Confederation Lounge; I had my first-ever massage; and to top it all off, I enjoyed an evening with Joshua Radin at the MacDougall United Church. All this happened on the actual day of my birthday. It was relaxing and delicious and wonderful.

16. Drinking Dom Perignon on my Birthday

How often do you get to down $300 bottles of vintage champagne on your birthday and feel like a total ballah? If you’re not rich, hardly ever. So when my dad gave me this lavish gift, I shared it with my friends before we all went out for our collective big birthday party. I ended up throwing it up at the end of the night, and none of us were fancy enough to be able to discern the intense expensive quality of the contents of the bottle, and yet… this was the awesomest.

15. The Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival.

Again, I like to blow my own horn when I’m proud of myself and while I was mostly just dazzled by delicious food and copious amounts of unique, fancy booze, it was my first time driving to and from Calgary and Banff on my own. And I only got lost twice! And it was a lovely, delicious weekend!

14. Bust a Move!

Working out, and taking a photo with THE Richard Simmons, and at the same time, raising money to prevent Breast Cancer and raising awareness for breast health, and working out for 6 hours, was kind of amazing. It was one of those things I’m proud of us, but that also blew my mind in how fun, exciting and energetic an event this was.

13. My day at Disneyland

I was one of those kids who never wanted to go to Disneyland, really, but if I was ever given the opportunity, I would have maybe taken it. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came up, until I was 25 years old and travelling with my boss and my colleagues. In spite of this rather odd pairing of individuals, I can’t deny that Disneyland did exactly what it advertises: it brought out my inner child. I walked in and saw characters, rides, colours, castles, fake New Orleans, the stupid parade, tacky expensive souvenirs, shopping, food, and silly childish things that never wiped the smile from my face. I had more fun on the rollercoaster at California Adventure than almost anything ever. I want to go again!

12. Paul McCartney!

When I was fourteen, I went through this crazy obsession with the Beatles and so for me, this concert was channeling my inner child; which a lot of the older generation at the crowd were doing as well. Which is why I love the Beatles, and why I loved seeing Sir Paul in person: to take a look around at all the people who have been deeply moved or affected by his music. And despite that Paul apparently did two virtually identical shows here in Edmonton, you would have thought he was just as green as he was on the Ed Sullivan show back in 1964. His love of performing, and his commitment to not just sleeping his way through a dull formulaic set were evident. The huge singalong of “Hey Jude” was one of my life highlights, as well as my annual highlights.

11. Learning to play guitar.

I’ve owned a guitar (a crappy one, but still) since 2008 I believe; and only this year, I’ve learned (slowly but surely) how to play. I can now kind of knock off about four songs and am learning some more detailed things like blues licks, some Zeppelin stuff, and scales. I don’t think I was born to be a musician but I like being able to channel my inner rock musician and at the same time, learn new things, get out of the house, and be productive.

10. Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

I was privileged enough to see Neil Young & Crazy Horse through circumstance; I happened to be in Vancouver, as did Neil. It was my second time seeing Neil Young but my first time seeing him perform with Crazy Horse, and it was immense; a good mix of rugged balls-out rock and performance art surrealism.

9. Seeing my mom’s side of the family.

The last time I saw my mom’s side of the family, all of who live in Ontario, I was about 11 or 12 year old. Now, as a 26 year old woman and returning to Ottawa to attend my grandmother’s funeral, I was able to see as an adult, not as a child, family members I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Despite unfortunate circumstances, it was great to reconnect with these people and revisit a city I hadn’t seen since I was a kid.

8. My first reading.

Nothing on earth made me more nervous and terrified than anticipating this reading. Thanks to the support of my coworkers though, in the end I did choose the right piece to present aurally for the consumption of a room full of strangers. The piece was supposed to be funny. And people laughed. A lot. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

7. Being in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon live studio audience.

I love Jimmy Fallon! I saw Jimmy Fallon in person! Nothing else needs to be said here. Incredibly awesome.

6. Seeing the Book of Mormon.

All I’ve ever heard about The Book of Mormon was just how AMAZING it is; “genius”; “the best musical ever”; “a must-see”; “sold out for 8 months”. I went expecting a lot. And I have to say, all my expectations were exceeded. As a long-time fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone in all of their various projects, Book of Mormon is the one that shines the brightest. It is HILARIOUS, heartwarming, smart, offensive, and everything else you’d expect from the creators of South Park.

5. Going to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

St. John’s is one of the greatest cities in the world for the same reasons it’s not one of the greatest cities in the world: it’s small, quaint, out of scope, inaccessible, far away, cold, rainy, foggy, and isolated. I felt more an outsider here than almost anywhere I’ve ever been, and I loved that. The food is unexpectedly VERY gourmet and the bars boast the best live music ever. Really though, it’s the people in St. John’s that are truly the most wonderful part of the experience.

4. Being front row and centre, literally, for Bon Iver.

Despite seeing Bon Iver again a week later at the Sasquatch Festival, my intimate, front-and-centre experience with one of my best friends was the more magical of the two shows; I cried, which was expected, and I also laughed and had ‘fun’, which was unexpected. Bon Iver puts on a fabulous show that is equal parts good-time entertainment and soul-warming heartfelt emotion.

3. The Sasquatch festival.

Unless you’ve ever been to a music festival, it’s hard to describe how it feels; essentially, think of if thousands upon thousands of friendly, random, hilarious stoners married Lord of the Flies. Then add Jack White (who was worth the price of admission alone!), M Ward, Tenacious D, Beirut, Metric, Blitzen Trapper, Head & the Heart, Kurt Vile, Alabama Shakes, Said the Whale, John Reilly (for some reason), Bon Iver, The Shins, Feist, The Civil Wars, Blind Pilot, and Fun., among other acts.  No showering necessary.

2. Seeing Wilco in Vancouver.

Yes, my top two moments of the year both involved Wilco concerts. But a Wilco concert is so much more than just a concert. These two in particular, both west coast shows, were different; they were experiences. It wasn’t just repeatedly experiencing Nels Cline’s mad, mad guitar-shredding virtuosic skills; it wasn’t just Jeff Tweedy changing “California Stars” to “Cana-dee-an Stars”; it wasn’t just the fact that they played one of my favourite songs in the history of the universe, Red Eyed And Blue; it wasn’t just that the crowd amped up a raucous, crazy amount of fun, psyched-up energy that even blew the band’s mine; it was Vancouver – it was the weekend, the unexpected sunshine, the collective fandom, shopping for used books and watching the Oilers get a big unexpected win in a bar filled with Oilers fans; it was hilarious super bowl bets; it was moments that were sprinkled in sugar and fairy dust and dew and surrounded by turtle doves that felt permanently life-changing.

1. Seeing Wilco in San Francisco

While my whole entire first San Francisco experience was nothing short of excellent – excellent bars, excellent shopping, excellent views, excellent food… the only reason I was there (and this sounds crazy to some people) was to see my favourite band for a second time in 2012. Under a cozy velvety blue blanket of stars (California stars, to be exact!) I stood watching one of the greatest shows ever; 2 hours and 45 minutes of Wilco fan heaven as Jeff Tweedy & company marveled their way through a setlist of everything Wilco imaginable. I was among die-hard fans and at the historic, forest-y UC Berkley Campus at the Greek Theatre, singing along and re-living what I affectionately dub the ‘Nels Cline face-melt’… Recovering from a lonely summer, this September night was everything I needed to bring me back to life.

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