This was quite a year. I toggled between righteous anger over the state of the world and quiet, head down ambivalence. I think that’s the right move in this stage of life. Too much conspiratorial indignation ruins a man. Too little ruins him as well. So there I was in 2021, surviving, thriving, toggling.
Several things happened during 2021 that should be noted. I made the best pizza I have ever made this year. It was spring, during wild ramp season, and I made this pizza that you just can’t imagine. Dough that I made with Meadowlark Flour. Local spicy sausage, ramps harvested right before I grilled them over wood-fire with a bit of truffle oil, then baked in my wood-oven. It was a magical pizza, just don’t ask me to recreate it. If given ten tries I’d hit it once, and this was that time. If I did nothing else important during 2021, I still did this. Just look at this marvel:
With that understood, I’m not sure how much more I could add to this year. My son graduated from high school, which was expected. I didn’t even want to say Congratulations. Like, even I graduated from high school. It’s not that hard. But then he went to the University of Wisconsin and his first semester Calculus grade was a 97, which means he knows things that I don’t know. He’s smarter than I am and I can’t explain to you how proud I am. Now I just want him to catch fire, which is a terrible thing to say since Colorado is burning again. I feel bad for those displaced and those intense losses, I really do. But I also look outside and feel terrific, overlooked appreciation for this location where I live. This place doesn’t burn. It doesn’t flood. It doesn’t shake and it doesn’t hurricane. It just is, and I wish we wouldn’t take it for granted. Let’s raise a generation of kids that don’t feel compelled to instinctively run from the Midwest. I’m doing my part, please do yours. It’s better here.
Another thing that happened this year is my daughter doesn’t like me anymore. She used to like me, quite a bit. Look at this photo here and tell me she didn’t like me. But then she told my wife something earlier this year that bothered me. She said that she used to see me as some great icon of modern civilization. I was strong and smart and so capable. But now she sees me and thinks I’m just a doofus. Some sort of regular person with all sorts of regular person flaws. I take offense to this so I tell her to take her vitamins and not spend so much time on the phone with her boyfriend. She lifts her eyes from her phone just long enough to send me a scowl. It’s impossible to “go skiing” at Alpine for an entire day, I tell her. She doesn’t know what I know, which is less than my son but still more than her.
I didn’t make a big deal out of this online, but it’s probably time I tell you this story. It was June, and everything was fine. I was selling some real estate, which is always nice, but more on that later. It was a Saturday and I was hosting my 25 year high school reunion. I graduated (see, everyone is doing it) from Faith Christian High School, and the small group of 12 kids in my class are pretty important to me. I don’t see them all with frequency, but every five years I cobble this goofy compilation of kids together. This was the Saturday of the reunion, and because I am both the Student Council President and a terrific host, the party would be at my house. I was in the middle of dinner prep when I carelessly sliced open one of those stupid mesh bags that they fill with avocados. The knife slipped and lopped off the tip of my left index finger. The pain was intense and the result disfiguring, but guess what? I still had the party and I’m still able to type. If you meet me, promise you won’t stare. I’m a bit self conscious about it. This photo is after they changed my hospital bedding several times.
Some other things happened, too. I sort of started playing golf again. I used to be good at it, but God didn’t want me to get too big of a head so he messed my back up 13 years ago right when I was about to get good. I’ve shot 80 twice in my life, both times in the 4 weeks prior to blowing my back up on a Milwaukee tennis court just after my 30th birthday. In spite of this spinal condition and in spite of the fact that I tore up my rotator cuff on a boat in St. Barths last January, AND without the tip of my left index finger, I played some golf. I even entertained joining a club but then I wondered who on earth has time for that sort of thing. I played golf with my friends Eric and Kalen this October at the Grand Geneva, and the evening was an absolute delight. My friend Eric is fighting for his life right now with unimaginable resolve, and I’ve spent so much of this year praying for him and reconnecting with my oldest friend. If you want to know what this man means to me I’ll need more time to write, but it should be enough to tell you this. When I turned 16 and passed my driver’s test the first thing I did was get into my new (old) truck and drive to Eric’s house. He’s the only person I wanted to go for a drive with on that day, and that’s all there is to say.
Aside from that, I sold some real estate. Like an incredible amount of real estate. I don’t really know what to write about it. On one hand, I can’t keep spiking this worn out football into the same end zone. It feels egregious, even for me, Mr. Egregious. But if I don’t spike it, no one will do it for me. In fact, people are trying to swipe this football from me every second of every day, and once they do, they’re going to spike it like crazy. I was hired this year by the Driehaus Estate. By the owners of Villa Hortensia. By the University of Chicago. I represented both the best properties this market has to offer, and the most discerning buyers. With the dust now settled, I closed more than $144,000,000 in real estate transactions, plus $20M in referral contracts to distant luxury markets. Second place isn’t really visible from here. For context on that sales number, consider I was the top individual agent in the State of Wisconsin for 2020 with a bit more than $74M in closed sales. The number is is silly and even though you wouldn’t guess it, the tally leaves me feeling sheepish. I’m trying to balance the fact that I never really imagined these numbers would be possible, with the fact that I always believed these numbers would be possible. I’ll let you know if I can ever properly dwell in the balance.
For now, I wish you a meaningful 2022. I don’t really wish you a happy new year. What is happy, after all? My dogs are happy when we give them food or take them for a walk, but shouldn’t we wish for more than that? Shouldn’t we wish each other meaningfulness? I think that’s better. Best wishes from my family to yours for all that lies ahead.