"It's 11:08 am Sunday morning, 10 days deep into the new year/decade and I'm eating a fried egg sandwich and drinking fresh squeezed orange juice in my room. My most prevalent thought at the moment is how my body will react to the mayonnaise in my sandwich that expired back in August. I even read the expiration date before I applied it to my toast: AUG0509. Still, what's a fried egg sandwich without a nice slathering of mayo, am I right?
Good riddance, I say. Good riddance to the year that brought us the second installment of the Twilight series. Good riddance to the year that gave us "I'mma let you finish..." Good riddance to the King of Pop, a boy who lived a life so grand we'd be lucky to see the things he saw in a dozen lifetimes.
There were plenty more terrible things that happened during 2009. The Clippers performance under coach/GM/overall tyrant MIke Dunleavy may have caused me the most grief all year. President Obama's first year in office has been disappointing at best. Comic Con was such a cluster fuck last year it was almost unbearable.
Sorry that I'm being such a Negative Nancy but it's usually my first reaction to think of how Murphy's Law will apply to any given situation. The past year wasn't actually that bad. I guess I can start in April. Yes, April. Forget January, Black History Month and March. April was when I turned 25. A milestone. Mid-twenties. Being Chinese usually means that by 25 I should be gainfully employed saving up for the family I'm expect to start soon after I wed my long time girlfriend who can cook up a mean pork hock. Instead I spent April drinking beers in bars, drinking beers in hot tubs and drinking beers in various living rooms. Not too shabby.
May was epic. Drinking beer in hot tubs in April lead directly to eating magical fungus in Joshua Tree a month later. When the moon dipped below the desert horizon that night a great gash opened up in the California sky and the stars of the Milky Way danced for me until the Sun pushed them away. It was so beautiful, so serene that 10 days later I found myself in the Avenue of Giants sleeping amongst some of the tallest Old Growth Redwood Trees that California had to offer. Again, I was under the spell of magical fungus. From there the adventure continued to Napa where I found myself under the influence of magical grapes. The product of those magical grapes made me hoot and holler and share laughs with cougars of the most sophisticated variety. On the way down from Norcal we stopped at Harris Ranch. I ate Rocky Mountain oysters. When I asked the waitress how many came in an order she said, "The Rocky Mountain oysters? They come in pairs." She was a lovely young lady. At the end of the month my sister graduated from college and I was very proud of her. Indeed, May was a good month.
The summer months were spent poolside during the day (I don't tan well apparently), and drinking at night. Occasionally a photo assignment would come in. My most memorable Vegas trip happened this past summer as gambling was kept to the minimum, food was kept to a maximum, and I was able to catch a 51's game and visit the Pinball Hall of Fame. Seriously, if you love pinball you need to go to the Pinball Hall of Fame the next time you're in Vegas. Seriously.
In August I was able to help a family friend out with a business venture in Shenzhen, China. The city borders Hong Kong and the two cities couldn't be more different. Shenzhen is the counterfeit capitol of China, which leads me to believe that that makes it the counterfeit capitol of the world. Everyone's wearing Louis Vuitton jeans paired with Chanel shoes. Counterfeit high fashion is casual wear in Shenzhen which is stark contrast to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is like any other major capitalist city in the world. Shopping, eating, more shopping, more eating. The women there wore make up. The men there wore tailored suits. Cars outnumber motorbikes and scooters. When I did see a motorbike or scooter in Hong Kong there was usually only one person on it. If it wasn't for the food in Hong Kong, I'd be tempted to write that it was boring.
The money I made from my time in China was blown in two short weeks on a trip to the Northeast. Not even a week had passed after arriving home when I found myself on a plane headed to Dulles International Airport visiting my friend Nic, whom I've known since we were 7-years-old. He was enrolled in the UCDC program and had a roommate who was convinced that at some point he'd be president. This roommate spent the first hour and a half of his days grooming himself and putting on fresh pressed suits. Every day. He was 21 at the time. Good luck, kid. Nic and I ate at 5 Guys, Chef Spike's Good Stuff Eatery, Pot Belly and drank at a bar that had over 600 bottled beers to choose from. From there it was the Chinatown bus to Philadelphia. I was visiting a friend going to law school in Camden, New Jersey. Go ahead, Google "Camden, NJ". A primary goal was to attend a Ring of Honor pro wrestling event at The ECW Arena in Philly but, alas, the timing didn't work out. One day. 2009 was not the year for me to witness a ROH event live.
Another $15 Chinatown bus trip and I was in New York City. There I stayed with one of my favorite people, Debbie, who lives in Greenpoint, a Polish heavy neighborhood in Brooklyn. During the day I met up with old friends who were carving out a living in The Big Apple. At night I was drinking at the bar Debbie was tending or going to another bar where she knew the bartenders. The drinks were free and plentiful and as a guy who has grown accustomed to wrapping up a night of drinking around 1am, the 3:45am last calls made me wonder how guys like Lemmy Kilmister have been able to do this night in, night out for the last 40 years.
October ended up being busier than anticipated. Basically after my trip to the east coast I came home and was broke, unemployed and bored. So I was willing to take any assignments or trips thrown my way. First, the fine folks at IceCreamMan.com asked me to go with them to the Treasure Island Music Festival where night two was headlined by The Flaming Lips. While there I got an e-mail saying that they also needed a photographer for Cypress Hill's Smoke Out in San Berdoo the next weekend. So after being immersed in confetti, balloons and lights and staring at dancing yetis it was off to hang around a bunch of stoners in BroTown, USA. It wasn't bad at all. I got to see the reformation of Sublime. Saw Cheech and Chong do their thing. Saw Method Man and Redman live and uncut. Secretly the biggest reason I took the assignment was because I knew Slipknot would be there. Not that I'm a fan, but I knew a band like that would make for amazing photos and they didn't disappoint. Probably the raddest photos I took all year were of Slipknot. So what's there to do after a weekend at Smoke Out? Going to Phish Fest for Halloween of course. Coachella needs to take a lesson from the people who organized Phish Fest. It was the nicest, cleanest festival I've ever been to. Free showers and sinks. They cleaned the port-a-potties four times a day. Really, the worst thing about Phish Fest was the fact that the only band that played was Phish. I don't get their appeal but they know how to throw a party for 40,000 people who'd really rather be listening to The Dead.
The waning months of the year were filled with quality friend time. There's probably a handful of proverbs and regional saying about how you can be broke but if you got friends then you'll be rich and happy. Well... all those sayings that poor people tack onto the end of their e-mails are true. 2009 was the year I smiled bigger smiles, gave longer hugs, laughed a bit more, said what I meant and meant what I said. How will 2010 turn out? I don't know. We'll see how well the Clippers do after 82 games. FIRE DUN-LEA-VY (clap clap clapclapclap)!!!"
Stephen Loh is a photographer for a few different people, websites I think. Possibly other things that print photos from time to time. He enjoys Minor League Baseball, the Clippers, Kurt Vonnegut, and Futurama. He also enjoys dumb stuff like Wrestling and UFC.
You can follow his twitter @thesloh. If you'd like to see some of his work, check out IceCreamMan.com
If you missed any of the previous entries in this collection, here are the links.
• Erin has the ingredients for happiness in 2010
• Kelly Vargas wants you to know that you've kept her in a welcome prison
• Joe Zavella's the man who loves you
• Viet Nguyen used to be too young to live
• Jake Kilroy's take on "growing up" in 2009
• Keith Hernandez talks about travel and family in 2009
• James Park drops some truth bombs about 2009
• I talk about lessons learned, '09 style