Dear Friends and Family …
In the middle of August, Sam turned 18 and started his senior year of high school. Gina was about to head back to Washington for her sophomore year of college. Carli was moving to Brooklyn, New York, to begin her doctorate …
We are walking up the side of a mountain together, heading to our seats at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo., a little west of Denver. Red Rocks is an awesome place to see a concert, but like many things in life, you have to go through the unpleasant ascent to get to the beautiful vantage point.
Complicating the situation … it’s obviously going to rain out and not just rain, it’s going to storm. But what are you going to do? It’s not raining now. So up the hill we trudge. No one’s too happy about it. When we finally get to the bottom of the venue, well, then we have to climb the stairs to our seats.
Up, up, up.
Finally, we’re at our seats and we’re happy. The young man next to us agrees to take a group picture and we can wait for the show to start. There are two opening acts. Joywave and Cold War Kids. It does not rain a drop during their sets. Intermission. Young the Giant is up next. The sun is down and it slowly begins to rain big drops.
Red Rocks is a magical outdoor theater built into the rocks. We’re up high and have an excellent view of not only the stage, but also the entire horizon. It’s raining, but not pouring. There’s really nothing we can do and nowhere to go. Young the Giant comes out and the 9,000 people in the seats go crazy. Lightening starts to strike way out there on the horizon, touching the corners of the heavens right in front of us. Big crackling lightening bolts that multiply and divide the night sky. Each greeted with loud ooohs and aaahs. It was something to see. Two simultaneous shows.
Eventually, the rain and lightening quit; we concentrated on the band, playing all of their great songs. The band has visited Colorado numerous times starting in the smallest venues, working their way up to the world-famous Red Rocks. They were honored to play the venue. It was a special night for them.
I especially enjoyed standing next to Gina at the concert. Gina introduced me to Young the Giant. Four years ago, we sat at the computer showing each other songs on YouTube. One of the early songs that she showed me was ‘Cough Syrup,’ a song about coping in this sometimes dark world, searching for happiness.
It’s a beautiful song and a special moment to share with Gina, my family and the two dudes standing next to us enjoying one blunt after another.
God Bless Colorado.
To this day as I breathe in and out I can still smell marijuana deep in my nasal passages thanks to those dudes on that one rainy night.
“I started out with nothing and I still got most of it left.” – Gina introduced me to Young the Giant; I showed her Seasick Steve.
Call it. It’s official. I’m a grumpy old man.
A young man came to the house selling doorknob cameras. He said he’d been selling them to all my neighbors. ‘Have you ever heard of a doorknob camera,’ he asks.
‘Oh great. I have a vid’ … he grabs his iPad.
I cut him off. ‘I don’t need to see a video. I’m right in the middle of dinner,’ which wasn’t true, but he hasn’t sold anything to my neighbors, so we’re even.
‘Oh, but it will only take a minute.’
‘I’m not interested.’
He seems perplexed. I guess that this was the earliest he had heard that phrase during his spiel. He’s already under my skin and he knows it.
‘But it will only take a minute,’ he repeats with a little attitude.
And then it just came out of me. With no forethought, I said, ‘Go away.’
My arm swings gesturing in a general direction that he might go.
‘I’m not interested.’
I go back in the house. Sam asks, ‘Did you just tell that guy to go away?’
I did. I felt a little bad about it.
Next time I’m going to say, ‘Get off my land,’ while cocking a rifle.
This morning I went to print a document. The East Workroom printer was selected as the default … as it turns out the North Workroom printer is just outside my office.
I grabbed my sword, stood and stated loudly for all to hear … “My Lords, my Lords …
“When I have a document that I need printed, here sits the only printer I mean to bend my knee to … THE PRINTER IN THE NORTH!!!
“THE PRINTER IN THE NORTH!!!”
I needed new tires. The guy shows me a list of available tires on a computer screen. I’m not sure what to say, so I say the one thing you probably shouldn’t say at a tire store.
“I don’t actually have a favorite tire.”
But we get a set picked out and I leave.
Later I’m picking up the car and the guy says ‘we recommend that the tires get rotated every 5,000 miles.’
I decide to interject a little levity.
‘Do I bring it in here for that or is that something I can do at the house?’
He does not hesitate for a moment, saying ‘No, it would be better to bring it in.”
Hey, they can’t all be gems, folks. But just think about how hard it would be to rotate tires by yourself, seriously. It wouldn’t be easy. That’s absurdist humor.
Some people have their shit together and some people have their shit just strewn all over the place.
– Charlie Snyder
My friend Dave and I connected in 2017. Dave, or Horse, as I called him, sent me a present. But through some computer error the package went to a different person at a different address. I have to go pick it up. So after work I drive over to this house.
I knock on the door and ask for Sally Timberland. There is no one there by that name. I explain that a friend sent me a package, but it went to the wrong address. Then the guy says, “Oh, yeah the package. Yeah, we got a package today.”
He apologizes and explains that he opened it. “But it was addressed to me.”
Now I’m scratching my head.
Turns out his name is Charlie Snyder too.
The package contained a baseball bat signed by Minnesota Twins legend Kent Hrbek.
But that’s not all Dave sent me … he emailed me a note I wrote to the USA Swimming staff in 1992. Dave, my intern at the time, called it “my favorite employee review ever.”
“At the 1992 Chili Cook-off, Dave was given a position of vital importance and responsibility — handling the beer money — and from all accounts, he handled the job with his usual vim and vigor.
“With the Director and Coordinator out of the office much of the time of late … Dave’s been asked to help pick up much of the slack. While Dave still doesn’t know a deadline from a hole in the ground, he has been an invaluable asset to our department.
“If you’ve noticed Dave’s increasing pumpitude, it’s due to his latest training regiment. Dave has foolishly agreed to participate in a triathlon, which includes a mile swim, 24 miles of biking and, to top it off, a 10K jog.
“Academically, Dave’s fellowship for graduate school has been approved, he will be attending – for free – the Columbia College in Chicago, studying business writing. Perhaps he should enroll in ‘How to Meet a Deadline 101.'”
I read this to my kids, laughing, and they responded with …
“So you’ve always been like this?”
“I walk a mile in your shoes. And now I’m a mile away. And I’ve got your shoes.”
– Kings of Leon (saw them this year)
Sam is an actor, singer, producer and man about town. Sam found himself this year. He had one of his musical creations picked up and used in a video by a production company. No cash, but a little credit and a boost of the self-esteem. In the spring, Sam tried out for the high school theatre company’s production of Emma. It was his first audition. He got the lead male part. He had hoped to play Emma, but realized that maybe he needed a little seasoning before tackling a lead female part. They gave that to a girl. Sam sang and danced, had a solo song, a romantic interest, a few good laughs and a kiss. In the fall, he was given a comedic role in the Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night. While prepping for the play, Sam took a few days off to be a camp counselor at High Trails. In our school district, all middle schoolers learn to live off the land in the high mountain country. Sam was a hit with the kids; and the folks at the camp talked to him about working this summer, which would be fun and great. They do expect him to fill out a single sheet application, so all he has to do is fill it out and turn it in. Seems simple enough.
Gina spent a great deal of time in the Pacific Northwest, finishing off her first year of college at Pacific Lutheran University in the spring, and then starting her second year of college at Pacific Lutheran University in the fall. Gina has made a lot of good friends at school, like a lot. When she walks into the student union, it’s like when the Fonz would enter Arnolds. Everyone screams Gina. Well, maybe not everyone, but just about everyone. Gina, like Sam, puts out a positive vibe; people just want to be around her. Gina is considerate and concerned; our little ray of social justice sunshine. Gina goes to a lot of concerts in Colorado and Seattle. She just saw The Killers and John Mulaney, the comedian David Letterman called the future of comedy. Not on the same bill. Gina has tats and tied-dyed shirts. Yellow crocs and yellow vans. And beautiful hair. Oh, she stills sings in choir and DJs her Internet radio show, Currently.
Carli applied to a number of post-grad schools. The biggest and best that only accepts a small number of students. She got a bunch of no’s: North Carolina, Berkeley, etc., etc. It got to the point where Carli had figured out her summer, working a couple of jobs and then it happened. The City University of New York’s Graduate Center offered her a fully-funded scholarship. She got housing in Brooklyn and takes the subway into midtown Manhattan for class. The Graduate Center is kitty-corner to the Empire State Building; she’s right in the middle of everything in the greatest city in the world. I dropped her off. We went and saw the gold lady, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Gustav Klimt, which is featured in a couple of films that we’ve seen. The Guggenheim was spectacular. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Our friends, Rose and Audrius, live within walking distance of Carli’s apartment. They said she couldn’t be in a better situation. She landed in butter. She’s studying for her doctorate in history; she’s going to be a college professor in Modern European History. Next fall in fact. She’s going to be teaching history next fall at Brooklyn College.
ME AND ROSE
Rose tells me that I proposed to her 25 years ago on Valentine’s Day in 1992.
‘Man of La Mancha.’
I said at intermission, “Hey, what are you doing for the next 40 or 50 years?
She said why.
I said, “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind marrying me too much.”
She said yes.
We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Philadelphia, home of Rocky Balboa and Ben Franklin, two of my favorite people. We spent a few days in Philadelphia and then trained to NYC, where we stayed with Rose and Audrius. Philadelphia was a cool city. Funky, diverse, colorful, full of life.
Day One: We were so happy that our friends, Dave and Teri, drove up from Baltimore to have dinner with us. We went Monsu at the end of the Italian Market (as recommended by Maddy Crippen). We got the chef’s menu, just course-after-course of delicious food. It was so awesome to see them, Dave and Teri, and the courses.
Day Two: The Franklin Institute had a special exhibition of Terracotta Warriors, which is basically the greatest archaeological find in the history of mankind, right up there with King Tut. We saw that, then walked across the street to the Barnes Foundation, a very unique art museum. Mr. Barnes collected all of the art and curated each room, deciding which paintings should hang where, salon style. Next we went and got a beer, then ran back to the Institute to watch the very cool OmniMax movie about the Terracotta Warriors. We got dinner at Jim’s South Street for Philly Cheesesteaks, ubered home and then watched The Voice. A perfect day.
Day Three: The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wow. Amazing place. Later we checked out the train station and walked all the way back into town towards the old historic section. Over three miles. It was so nice out. We got to Independence Hall kind of late. But we were lucky catching the final guided tour of Congress Hall. Since it was our anniversary, we went to a fun Italian place close to our hotel, had food and drink.
Day Four: Trained to Penn Station. Philadelphia is a big city. But no city is like New York City. We jump right in and walk to Carli’s school toting our bags on the crowded sidewalks and streets. Later we take the train to Rockefeller Plaza, get dinner with Carli and see “The Book of Mormon” at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. It’s so funny how things change. Rose and I felt so much safer once Carli was with us. She walks us through the massive Times Square crowd. Rose had never seen Times Square, so we had to see it. Crazy crowds.
Day Five: After taking in the sights in DUMBO, near the Manhattan Bridge, we visited Washington Square Park. Manhattan has so many cool parks. We had lunch in Little Italy on Mulberry Street. Many restaurants had barkers out front. One guy said, “Forgetaboutit,” about a dozen times in his pitch. That did not entice us. Carli had to go back to class, so Rose and I took a train all the way up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We only had two hours at this encyclopedic monolith and rushed through everything, including the roof. We ran through an Egyptian exhibition, heading to the door. Back in Brooklyn we were bushed, but enjoyed dinner in a little bar on the way home.
Day Six: We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Found Rose’s relatives in the registry. Walking through the financial district, we visited Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial reflecting pools. That was hard to process. It is such a peaceful, beautiful place with trees surrounding the pools. We headed back to Brooklyn and all three of us napped together on the pullout couch. That night Rose and I took in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre … “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “It’s Too Late,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “One Fine Day,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Day Seven: We walked through Central Park on our way to the American Museum of Natural History. The museum the movie “Night at the Museum” is based on, complete with Teddy Roosevelt on a horse and the giant Eastern Island head. That night Audrius and Rose took us bar hopping. We ended up at Table 87 where we had one of everything. The food was plentiful and delicious and we ate all of it.
So here we are, at the end of another super lengthy holiday letter. Just the good stuff. Believe me, if we listed all of our mistakes, moments of doubt, bouts of anxiety, this letter would be a lot longer.
This year I did my eighth Tour de Cure bike ride. And for every single ride every single year, this guy, Mike Carter, would speak to the riders at the starting line and tell the story of the Red Riders … people who battle diabetes by riding their bikes.
Mike died this year.
He was 54 just like me, had diabetes just like me. I don’t know how he died, but those two details were enough to stop me in my tracks.
Our family finds solace and inspiration in many places, but especially in music. So I will leave you with a song that I love from the Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar.
Oh wait a second, I forgot to mention the dogs. They are doing great, but recently I decided to rename them, after binge-watching the History Channel show, Vikings.
Rocky is now and forever to be known as Ragnar. Kirby is now to be called Knut.
And you have to say Knut as Tim Conway would when playing Mr. Tudball on The Carol Burnett Show.
Happy New Year
Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | Kirby | Rocky
© Snyder Family Holiday Letter 2017