If you have never met my brother Nick you are missing out on one of the funniest, most entertaining personalities I have ever encountered. Which is why he is categorized as one of the "funny kids" in our family, unlike myself. Of course, I didn't always find him so funny. Growing up I often considered him obnoxious, annoying and hopelessly uncool (because I was of course the coolest of cool . . . or so I though in 7th grade). Some of this annoyance was the natural consequence of his precocious nature - always thinking years ahead of his age and asking questions that were far too adult and answering questions that should have been beyond his understanding - and partly I was disgusted by his fixation on selecting one shirt (no collar, no embellishments of course) to wear over and over and over until my mom threw it away. We joke that it is easy to tell what year it was in photos based on the shirt Nick was wearing. Of course this doesn't always work since he had a couple of shirts that lasted more than a single year.
He was also a bit more devoted to things like keeping the Sabbath as a child than I was as evidenced by one famous Sunday when we were camping in Yellowstone. I believe it was the same Sunday my parents thought we should find camping church that allegedly took place somewhere in the Park. We drove around for what seemed like hours without finding anything so returned to our campground near Fishing Bridge. I vividly remember walking along the lake when my parents suggested we get ice cream instead. I nearly kicked (or perhaps I did) Nick when he raised the point that it was Sunday and we weren't supposed to eat out on Sundays. My parents conceded the point but ultimately bought the rest of us ice cream (which helped me resist killing my brother) while Nick resolutely went without. To this day, he is a man of principles.
Camping in Yellowstone was Nick's first exposure to anything resembling an ocean. We spent a lot of time at Yellowstone Lake which, according to wikipedia, is 136 square miles. What wikipedia does not tell you is that no matter the time of year this lake is freezing cold and can remain frozen through June. The altitude is fairly high and the lake is pretty deep so no real chance of it warming by August or September when we were usually there. But Nick was so drawn to the water that he jumped in and swam and swam and learned to body surf in his swimming trunks as baffled passers-by peered out from under their knit caps bundled in puffy down parkas. Nick has always been fun to take on a beach trip unless you want to rest on your towel for more than 30 seconds. When we went to Mexico he would towel himself off as I chastised him into applying more sunscreen and then asked who was ready to get back in the water. He LOVES it. When we rented a beach house on the Oregon coast for his May graduation he and our other brother jumped into the surf as I walked along the edge of the water wearing a fleece. He is crazy.
1988 World Series. Nick was a die hard L.A. Dodgers fan and I was hopelessly devoted to the Oakland A's having just returned from a year of living not too far north of Oakland in Chico, California. We watched each game with more intensity than I think I have ever watched a World Series since. Sadly for me, my team lost. And I remember tears and a near fist fight breaking out at some point (I believe we were a bit more evenly sized in those days before puberty shot him up to 6'4").
Luckily our choice in sports teams have somewhat evened out and we have spent many, many hours watching, cheering, lamenting and discussing the highs and lows of the Utah Utes and the Utah Jazz. Two of the most memorable football games I ever attended were Ute games with my brother. The first was on this very date four years ago in 2003 when Nick was in law school at the University of Oregon but came down to Salt Lake to see his law school team battle it out with his college. We had a little pre-game barbecue at my apartment in Salt Lake with a small crew of people and then took Traxx (the light-rail) up to the stadium. A photo of his block U (appropriately) red velvet cake is included in the collage. We stood and cheered and danced with our long row of fans as my brother missed his time in the Ute marching band until the Utes beat Oregon. But the best part of that night occurred as we stood in a massive crowd waiting at the train platform for the tardy train to arrive. There was an odd silence as everyone stood around politely waiting in the dark for the train to arrive. We were all far too full of adrenaline to be so still and I am quite certain the entire throng explained our subsequent behavior on intoxication (they were mistaken). I am fuzzy as to how it initially started but at some point my brother was standing in the middle of the tracks trying to flirt with some girls walking across down the tracks several yards. They were embarrassed by his loud attention and tried to squeeze back into the throng. But I yelled out that it was his birthday and they needed to show some love. I have a tendency to lose my voice after exciting sporting events and I remember being quite hoarse as I urged the bored crowd in a pitifully loud and off-key version of happy birthday as we encouraged Nick to dance in the middle of the train track (never fear, there was no sign of a train during this episode). I can only hope his 30th birthday can be as good as that one was. Of course, now he has a wife so I'm sure that is significantly better than begging random girls to smile at him.
Nick and I also have a lot of music loves in common. Although I do not think he would ever admit it, I have introduced him to some things that have really influenced his life - jazz music and law school being a couple. We have attended many concerts together and shared hours and hours of music. One of the most memorable was the late, late night jam session we went to at the famous Blue Night in New York. We have also been to the Jazz Standard to see Steve Bernstein, Small's, before the lines grew too long and the late but great Tonic together where we saw Groove Collective. There was the concert in Salt Lake at the late-Zephyr club where he got tickets somehow but was too young to get in and so I had to go with his friend who had a fake id (I was old enough). He has turned me on to far too many bands to name so although I take some credit for paving the jazz band path in high school, his talent and tastes quickly passed me by.
It should also be noted that my brother is the greatest road trip buddy. He will drive anywhere for any reason and turn it into the greatest road trip ever. After I graduated from law school, he and my sister accompanied me on a trek across country we named "Roadtrip Southern Exposure" after a sketchy bar located on State Street in Murray, Utah. Who else but my brother (and my sister) would find such joy in capturing the mullets we encountered on film, flipping off the much-hated Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, doubling back to get a closer look at the GIANT Texas sized statue of Sam Houston (we are photoed in his spare head that was mysteriously in the woods behind the actual statue) and enduring one ridiculous Wal-Mart experience after another. Oh, and of course his steam-rolling across America campaign.
We also road-tripped down to Phoenix, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl in January 2005 in the rental car we lovingly deemed the bat-mobile. My first real bowl game with our BCS busting Utes. The Waffle Hut breakfast was a definite low and no one disputes New Year's Eve wasn't the best ever but walking away with a victory helped us overcome the disappointments.
On our trip to Mexico Nick helped Michele and me invent one of the greatest nonsensical games of all time: Battle Beds! A game that can only be duplicated in the perfect environment of a hotel with tile floors and beds on wheels. To play you simply lay flat on your stomach with the beds pushed up against opposite walls and then you push your feet away from the wall and send your bed flying against the opposite bed as hard as you can. Everyone is ultimately a winner.
Then there was the summer we lived together in 2004. After three years of solitary living I moved into a house with two of my siblings. It shook me up a bit at first what with the amount of food that kid can consume and the messes that come with living with a boy. But such memorable events as Jamiroquoi Dance Night, lots of Mexican salad, our subsequent joint addiction to The OC and our short little commute to work together overshadows the adjustment phase.
So Nick, cheers to you on your birthday. Thanks for thirty years of being a great "little" brother. I'm looking for to a lot more than thirty more.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICK!!!!