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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

2003 Reflection

For Laurie and I, 2004 began in a Cowboy-themed bar called the “Grumpy Mole” in Nelson, New Zealand. We swilled Speight’s lager and struggled to keep our tired eyes open until the countdown while a burly, Mauri Elvis impersonator sang a Patsy Cline tune in falsetto. “I go out walkin’ after midnight searchin’ for yooouuu..” Breathtaking. We celebrated on the balcony under the Southern Cross, which was pointed out to me by an amiable tattooed antipodal cowboy who looked like the bastard child of Henry Rollins and Gene Autry.

Earlier in the day, my buddy Michael “Torpedo” Topodas and an entourage of helpful Kiwis saved me from an untimely demise while whitewater kayaking—I never should have missed that lesson on rolling back in ’92. Our kiwi friend Al told me that if I tipped, I should simply thrust my hands to the surface and wait for him to paddle to the rescue; quite an unsettling process. Through my first two spills, this procedure worked pretty well, but the third time, my hands stretched out in vain, and since I was unable to spontaneously grow gills, I had to bail. Out of fairness to Al, he was whacking the bottom of my kayak with a paddle, but that sounded an awful lot like my helmet striking the rocks, which naturally attracted my attention a bit more.

Once I dislodged myself, I knew I was going to be all right. The river was teeming with safety-conscious Kiwi paddlers. My only real danger at this point was the possibility of becoming entangled in a web of throw-ropes and drowning like a dolphin in a tuna net. You see, there aren’t any poisonous snakes, large dangerous mammals, or handguns in New Zealand, and with so few threats to life and limb, the Kiwis have raised risk management to unparalleled heights.

After several years of flirting with disaster in the natural world, the skin on my shins is as thin as parchment paper, and even a slight bump can lead to a bruise or a tear, leading many to assume that I suffer from athletically-induced stigmata. Aside from that, I only had a slight cut on my nose and a wounded ego...I ended 2003 reassuring both friends and strangers that "'s not as bad as it looks."

To me this incident captures the essence of 2003 for me: It was a yearlong cautionary tale. Don't bite off more than you can chew. However, as the new year rolls around, I'm hopeful for better days ahead.

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