So Long, Summer

If you follow that whole calendar thing, summer is over as of four days ago. Personally, I think that’s a load of hooey, it’s nearly 75 degrees outside and as sunny as any day in July while I sit here and write this. But at least this time, I’ll follow the crowd and accept that autumn is now upon us.

That makes me think back to the last couple of months and remember what an awesome summer I had, probably the best of my life. Those are some bold words, especially given some of my more memorable summers from previous years, but 2014’s will really go down as a special one for me. It seemed like every week I had some exciting event to look forward to, and when I look back at them, I do so with fond memories of each one.

As far as I’m concerned, when you’re a student, summer truly begins the moment you finish that final day of classes. For me, walking off of my college campus for the last time in May meant more than just going on summer vacation—it meant being done with schooling for life. After six long years filled with struggle, mistakes, and hard work, I finally graduated from college and put an end to my 20 years of schooling.

What I did later that day is what I remember more fondly, though. That night I was joined by twelve good friends to go see the world premiere of the new Godzilla movie from Legendary Pictures. It was the first Godzilla film in nearly ten years, and by far the most anticipated in decades as the series returned to a darker tone, along with tons of hype around the world. Earlier this summer I wrote a post here recalling my experiences from seeing that movie, so I won’t dawdle with more of my fanboyish love of Godzilla; I’ll just say that it was the most fun I’ve ever had in a movie theater in my life.

I continued to nerd it up later on in May. On the 31st, the very day that Mario Kart 8 was released for the Nintendo Wii U, thirteen of my friends crammed into my living room for what I called “Mario Kart Night”. We played the game for four hours straight, all the while eating pizza, drinking beer, and shouting threats and other curses at one another as we dropped banana peels on the tracks or blasted each other with red Koopa shells. We also probably woke up my neighbors at 1 in the morning while we laughed hysterically while playing Cards Against Humanity on my back porch—I hope they weren’t mad!

Josiah and I
Josiah and I

June 14th was a very memorable day for me, but much more so for two friends, Josiah and Lauren, as they were married after being together for nearly ten years. This was the first wedding I had ever been to for a close friend/s of mine, and it will probably go down as the most fun and memorable one of my life. Part of what made it so special was that I had the honor of being one of Josiah’s groomsmen. As someone who has considered him and his now-wife Lauren to be two of my closest friends since Freshman year of high school, I felt very proud and privileged to stand by their side to see them be wed. I consider them one of the most inspirational couples that I know.

The reception was a complete riot. My good friend Jordan was able to join us as my date, and being that she’s known Josiah and Lauren just as long as I have, her inclusion made the whole night feel complete. I wouldn’t say I’m a great dancer, but I gave it everything I had, and once it was time to go home for the night, I genuinely wished that it didn’t have to end.

Seriously. The wedding party spent almost a half hour just chatting it up in the parking lot at the reception hall because we didn’t want to go home yet.

The weekend of June 20th brought a two-day celebration for my good buddy Shawn’s birthday. Night one was a little rowdy. The next day was the laidback celebration, but honestly, it turned out to be the more fun of the two days. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, the temperature somewhere in the 80s, and not a single cloud in the sky. We spent nearly every minute of the day in Shawn’s backyard playing with the dogs, swimming in his pool, and grilling BLTs. At some point in the evening we moved onto Cards Against Humanity, and then a fire in his backyard.  I’m pretty sure I stayed at his house until close to 2 in the morning.

July didn’t wait to provide a memorable day. The very first day of the month was marked by the release of my first novel, which was published through Amazon on the Kindle and as a print book. After nearly two years of working on the story, and nearly seventeen years of dreaming, I could finally say that I was an author. Holding that print copy of the book in my hands for the very first time will forever go down as one of the greatest feelings of my life.

Liz and myself
Liz and myself

Then, just two days later on the 3rd, my good friends Alex and Erin were married, which brought together the whole crew of friends that I’ve made while working at Best Buy for yet another celebration. My awesome pal Liz came with me as my date, and there was no better choice seeing as how we rocked out to Motely Crue the whole drive to the reception hall. We and everyone else there continued rocking out after dinner, and in typical fashion, I found a way to fall flat on my bum while dancing. According to everyone, though, I apparently played it off quite well. Easy come, easy go.

Saturday, July 12th wasn’t always fun, but it was definitely a triumph. That was the day I completed second Tough Mudder competition. This time I was joined by my buddies Kenny, Sam, Shawn, John and Chris, the latter of which only signed up for the event days beforehand. We spent almost five hours crossing the ten mile course, running through mud, climbing over walls, trudging through ice water, powering through electric-shock wires, and all sorts of other grueling obstacles.

It was really special for me because on this Tough Mudder, I managed to overcome every last obstacle; on my first, I had to skip a section that involved jumping from fifteen feet in the air into an artificial pond and swim about twenty yards. The problem for me is, I can’t swim. Sure, I can dog paddle from the shallow end to the deep end of a pool no problem, but toss me right into fifteen feet of water and I’m doomed. Luckily, my good and much-larger-than-me buddy Chris did the jump alongside me and kept me afloat just long enough before the lifeguard tossed me a buoy so I could get to shore.

Group shot right after we finished Tough Mudder, and got our free beers
Group shot right after we finished Tough Mudder, and got our free beers

I was also super proud of my friends Kenny and Shawn, who were doing the Tough Mudder for the first time. Both of them crushed it, even when I [accidentally] kicked Kenny square in the spine while we were on the monkey bar challenge because I climbed across them so fast that he couldn’t finish before I caught up to him.

Like every summer, I found a way to enjoy my birthday when it came about on the 22nd of July. In previous years I’ve had eventful days like trips to the zoo or gotten some thirty-five of my friends to come to the bar with me, but this year was a bit more relaxed. I went out the night before my birthday with a bunch of friends, and then the next day had dinner with the whole family—mom, dad, my brother, my sister, my brother in law, the two nieces, and my aunt and uncle.

I went to a bunch of concerts over the summer, but none were even remotely as much fun as the AFI/30 Seconds to Mars/Linkin Park show at Darien Lake on August 21st. Although we arrived late and only got to catch a couple of songs by AFI, the rest of the show more than made up for it. 30 Seconds to Mars was brilliant on stage, and Linkin Park brought more energy than I think I’ve ever seen from another performance. My friends Liz, Sam, Shawn, Jessa and Mike were my gang for that concert, and Mike was the one who described the show best –

“There’s fun, and then there was tonight”

I mean, heck, just the long drives to and from the venue with Liz and Sam were fun enough, filled with jams to Dragonforce, stories about how Tough John Wayne was, and even a couple political arguments!

Jessa, me, Shawn, and Sam at the Adventure Time booth in Fan Expo
Jessa, me, Shawn, and Sam at the Adventure Time booth in Fan Expo

The end of August finally brought me what was probably my most anticipated day all summer—the day I went to Fan Expo Toronto, basically Canada’s version of San Diego Comic Con. My buddy Chris (the one who kept me from drowning in Tough Mudder) and I drove up to Toronto on Friday the 29th to meet Sam, Shawn, Jessa and Shawn’s buddies Scott and Kristin, who had already been up there for a day, and we did our best to see all of the sights of the massive comic convention. I spent most of my day hanging around Artist Alley, where I was like a wide-eyed little kid in Toys ‘r Us as I took a gander at all of the artists’ countless drawings of movie, comic, anime and video game characters that I’ve grown up with. I spent way too much money, but the two commission drawings (a Pokemon, and two characters from a Legend of Zelda game) I had done for me, along with the numerous prints I bought for myself and for various friends as souvenirs, were more than worth it.

Sam, Chris and I finished off the night by going to a Toronto Blue Jays game, where the Jays took on the Yankees. The Yanks happen to be my favorite baseball team, and it was pretty special to finally see the Captain, #2, Derek Jeter play in person, who was in the middle of his “farewell tour” as he played his final season.

Ironically, it was my first time attending an MLB game. Go figure—America’s national pastime, and the first game I go to is in Canada.

The last big thing I look back on from this summer was Saturday, September 6th, when the whole crew got together at Shawn’s house for a party to celebrate Sam and his fiancé Stacey’s impending wedding (which, at the time of this writing, is just in two days!). Some 65 of us got together and closed out the summer on a high note with a bunch of silly backyard games, a host of awesome door prizes, and an all-you-could-eat-and-drink dinner.  The night ended with a bonfire, and, at least for me, the night finally ended at 3 in the morning. Good thing I had the day off from work the next day.

Also, somewhere along the way, me, Liz, and Jess watched the new Godzilla for the first time since it was in theaters. I just couldn’t end the summer without seeing my big buddy one more time.

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