Sayonara, 2001

So my review for 2001 the year is the same as for 2001: A Space Odyssey. It went on too long, it was hard to follow and you could only enjoy it if you were really, really stoned.

— comedian Lewis Black, on The Daily Show

I’m glad it’s over

I spent a lot of 2001 watching things explode spectacularly: not just the World Trade Center and the Middle East, but also the company for which I work, a relationship, my savings, and my temper, which has been sorely tested this year. I have been plagued by scatterbrains who lead their lives the way drunks drive, two-faced back-stabbing management types whose only concern is for their own skin, motherless grifters, ill-mannered louts and fuckwits who’ve decided to take advantage of my general good-naturedness.

C’mon, Joey, I’m sure you’re thinking at this point, tell us what you really feel.

Better days

Part of my disappointment with the way things turned out this year is that during the previous two years, I was having the time of my life. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do and enjoying every moment. In that span of time, I had:

  • Travelled far. I flew to the Philippines twice to see family, Japan once to wish Anne (one of my oldest and dearest friends) a happy birthday, and Europe once, where I spent New Years’ 2000 in a Czech castle (and met someone cute, too). In a six-month span, I was playing accordion for pirate radio on the roof of an RV in the middle of the desert at Burning Man, making a surprise appearance at the Windows on the World (the last time I was at the WTC) for my friend George’s 30th birthday, staggering drunk through the cobbled streets of Prague, learning how to snowboard on the slopes at Whistler and leading an impromptu parade of Slashdot geeks with CmdrTaco and Hemos down Broadway with the accordion. The company sent me to New York to make connections at LinuxWorld Expo, DefCon in Las Vegas to hand out software I’d written with my friend and co-worker Chris, and San Francisco twice to check out the new office. Then there were the visits to see the “um friend” — New York twice (once for ten very fun, very silly days) and DC once, to see the Dalai Lama speak (among other things).
  • Valiantly led brave attempts to rescue cute girls from their loser boyfriends. Sure, all but one flopped, but I had fun. Great, silly, worthy-of-blogging fun. Even the less-than-ideal moments — the times when I should’ve asked someone out and didn’t, the one and only time I ever slugged a guy over a woman, and that one time my date ended up in the fetal position screaming (it wasn’t my fault, I swear) — they were still adventures.
  • Returned to playing music. Prior to 1999, I hadn’t tocuhed a musical instrument for about five years. Suddenly, I dusted off my synthesizers and was playing again. My friends Krista, Rachel, Karl and I formed a quirkly little improvisational band called Lion, and we played at Karl’s mom’s book lauch, a number of club gigs and even did the “soundtrack” for a fringe rock-climbing/dance piece under a bridge.
  • Started playing the accordion. William Gibson may have been referring to technology when he wrote “the street finds its own uses for things”, but it could have easily applied to my accordion. Playing that little squeezebox has led to more adventures, opportunities and drinks than I can mention here. I’ve had job offers (programming jobs, that is), magazine interviews, appearances on CNN, MSNBC and MuchMusic, free alcohol and met new people, all thanks to one of the world’s most-maligned instruments. Keith Richards may have benefited more from his guitar, but I’m pretty grateful for what the accordion’s done for me.
  • Did interesting work. In 1999, I was running a small consulting company with my friend Adam Smith. I spent the first half of that year learning a helluva lot about Windows programming and the second half learning a helluva lot about Python and writing CGI apps while working on a commercial website. I also had the opportunity to teach introductory programming to Adam’s students, where I learned a lot and met some great people, too. In 2000, I started out at the company I work for now, where I got to play a key part in the software’s design, was the only programmer to be part of the dog-and-pony show for the venture capitalists, co-wrote and promoted one of the very few applications the company has released so far, got promoted and transferred to the San Francisco office.
  • Met new friends and got re-acquainted with some old ones. I couldn’t have had all those good times without them. Thanks, guys!


2001 wasn’t as my friend Mike Korditsch would call it, “a complete clinic.” Some of the moments I enjoyed most:

  • Getting to miss a brutal winter by hiding out in San Francisco. I lived in San Francisco from December 28th, 1999 to April 1st, 2001 (my stay in the city by the Bay was supposed to last at least a year, but was cut short when the company decided to close down the San Francisco office). While it was freezing in Toronto, it was an unusually warm and sunny winter where I was. I spent my weekdays in the nicest office space I’ve ever worked in and biked to Golden Gate Park and the Bay on weekends. I lived rent-free since I “babysat” the corporate apartment, a bright sunny townhouse right by Alamo Square Park. I made many new friends during my short stay and even backed up an improv jazz band’s weekly jam sessions in the Mission.
  • My trip to L.A. Shortly after New Year’s 2001, I flew down to L.A. to do my first-ever keynote for the company at DJ Union, a conference for hip-hop DJs and people in the urban music business. I even brought my cheering section (my then-girlfriend, Erica) along for the trip. My presentation went over really well, and Erica and I were invited to an exclusive party at the Key Club on Sunset. We had a great time and the club, and we had a silly time afterwards, trying on all the clothing at the Hustler store.
  • The O’Reilly P2P Conference.The company had just released an alpha version of its software and we were the darlings of the conference. The world’s coolest computer book publisher, Tim O’Reilly, introduced me to the press scrum and invited me to play some songs for the closing keynote. The company threw an amazing party at the office, and many the bright lights of the software world — Clay Shirky, the Mojo Nation crew, David Stutz from Microsoft, Rael “Meerkat” Dornfest, Mark Miller and Marc Steigler (the E programming language), Wes Felter, and Bob Young from Red Hat — all came. I serenaded Tim O’Reilly’s incredibly cute daughter (too bad she’s a little too young for your ‘umble accordionist). I also met tav and the rest of the ESPiansgreat guys!
  • Being welcomed back by my friends in Toronto. The heartbreak of being dumped and being re-relocated would’ve been much worse if it weren’t for the support of my friends. Thanks, guys.
  • The incident at the Matador. One summer night, I went to the Matador, Toronto’s best and most notorious speakeasy. I met someone cute there, and we just talked for hours about all kinds of things, including music, particularly Nirvana. We had been talking about how Kurt Cobain had proposed to Courtney Love; he told her “I’m worth six million dollars. Marry me, bitch.” I took a chance at one point and paraphrased the king of grunge: “I’m cute and I have an accordion. Kiss me, bitch.” She obliged. I walked her to a cab and gave her my card through the window, to which she replied “I’ll call, David.” David?! It turned out that in my bootleg alcohol-fueled stupour, I’d given her the wrong business card. It was my boss’ card from his old company; I just happened to have it in my wallet at the time. Easy come, easy go.
  • DefCon 9. Yes, it wasn’t as exciting as Defcon 8 in 2000, but I still had fun.
  • The Lola Launch Party. I think I’ll let these pictures tell the story.
  • Aidan William deVilla-Choi. On September 10th, my sister gave birth to this cute little fella with the zen-like nature. He’s a charmer, and he gets it from his godfather, who just happens to be me.
  • Babbo! It’s been a trying year for my friend George as well. First, the company lays him off — a couple of months before his wedding. It’s completely unfair — he was our best business development guy, and he played a major role in making it a player in the P2P world. He’s now living in a very expensive place in a down economy when September 11 happens. Job opportunities dry up, and just before his birthday, a work deal falls through. He was going to cancel the dinner reservations he’d made for him, his wife and me at Babbo since it was such an expensive place. I decided that to try and balance the scales a little and sent him an e-mail message: I hear it’s hard to get reservations at Babbo and that the food’s really good. I’ll buy dinner as your birthday present. And none of that cheap stuff, either — it’s the tasting menu with the wine all the way, baby! It was a crazy and impulsive thing to do, but it was also the right thing to do. It was also one of the most delicious and fun dinners I’ve ever had.
  • The new guys at the company. I was one of the few original people who didn’t get laid off during the company’s great implosion in July. Through the fall, the company hired new people, and to my surprise, these new folks settled in nicely and even gelled into a pretty solid team. I do miss the original bunch, but I’m also glad that this new group of programmers are the people they are. See you guys at work on Wednesday.

Next: The resolutions!

Leave a Reply