MY 2016: SOME THOUGHTS ON THE YEAR THAT JUST ENDED

2016! What a strange year! While the world continues to undergo what I hope is just multi-generational growing pains, I had somewhat of a positive year. From my continued work at Apple’s ad agency, a great new relationship, a new car, ongoing personal projects, wild rock shows, mini travel adventures, and playing hockey again, this year has been an important turning point for me.

Seeing as how 2016 was my first full year as a 30-something, it’s no surprise that many of the cool happenings can be attributed to the age-old reflex “oh shit! I better do some of the shit I’ve been meaning to do while I’m still young!”. So that being said, 2016 was a year of reflection, personal change, rekindling of old skills, forging new ones, and keeping steady the ship.

After 3 years of solo freelancing from my office in Little Tokyo DTLA, I finally landed at TBWA\Media Arts Lab in late August 2015. Fast-forward 16 months and the job that started out as a motion design gig has become the day-job that I didn’t know I needed. Not only do I continue to learn a lot, but working on Apple has helped reintroduce a little more balance into my life. The hours can sometimes contradict that last statement, but overall that remains the case. It’s a fun place to work. Not only that but the people I work with are super talented and extremely cool. Our department is really tight, which makes late nights a lot easier. On the job, I continue to sharpen my After Effects, Cinema 4D, and Adobe CC skills while learning more and more about the inner-workings of a large advertising agency. Plus, every morning we are spoiled with a free breakfast and get the option of lunch at our sister agency Chiat/Day next door. We also get to watch badass bands perform on our back patio every once in a while (Sunflower Bean, The Lemon Twigs, etc). MAL (as we call it) has been good to me so far. I get to grow in areas I wish to grow in and I’m able to keep dreaming. Pretty rad. In the future I think I will look back very fondly at my time spent there.

2016 was also the year I met Sam. I don’t think I’ve ever been around someone who’s so easy to be around. She’s amazing and continues to inspire me. She pushes me towards my directing goals and I push her towards her novel writing goals. We also have a lot of fun. It’s really a terrific setup. You’d think we met online or something 😉 This past year we ate lots of incredible food, went on many adventures across the southwest, saw lots of sweaty rock shows, watched/played lots of hockey, and even got into Star Trek: The Next Generation! We just spent a marvelous (and not terribly cold!) week back in Minnesota with my family. I can’t wait for all the adventures to come!

This year marked another first for me. I finally got a big boy car! Though I was sad to see my ’98 Honda Civic go, it had to go. It really had to go. It had long since become both an eyesore and a health hazard. That car had been flooded in a rainstorm in Minnesota, had driven across the USofA, and was the victim of a grand theft auto. So in late February, I welcomed into my car port a black 4-door 2014 VW GTI Driver’s Edition. I named her “Doris” after my late Grandma Snyder. And woo-wee is Doris fun to drive. Last August I took her all the way up the PCH (highway 1) to SF and back to see Radiohead at Outside Lands. She’s been across the Golden Gate Bridge, to the base of Sandstone Peak north of Malibu, and across the desert to Phoenix. I hope to get many more years out of this car. My commute to work is only about 8 miles, I live in Southern California, and I treat Doris like the member of the family that she is. So that just might happen.

So I’m playing ice hockey again. What? Out of all the crazy surprises in 2016, me getting back into hockey and DIGGING IT might be right up there. For those who didn’t know me growing up, I’m from the frozen tundra of Minnesota. Hockey in MN is like skateboarding in California, football in Texas or bagels in NYC. Pretty much everyone has a go. It’s the state sport. MN is the “state of hockey” after all. We’re kind of like Canada without universal healthcare and weird accents. Just kidding, Minnesotans have weird accents. I played hockey from Kindergarten all the way through Senior year, including 3 years of varsity, summer leagues, camps, tryouts, clinics, scouting events. I liked it and was pretty good at it. But it was intense. And not always fun. So by the time my final season ended at Aldrich Arena of Maplewood in 2004, I was pretty beat. Then my decision to pursue a creative career didn’t exactly line up with being a hockey player. Until 2016 that is. All credit goes to my supervisor at work for rekindling this dormant ember. He’d been playing on a men’s league team here in LA for a couple years now after taking about 10 years off himself. He bugged me for months to check them out. I finally did. Then after they lost a couple guys following their winter 2015/2016 season, I suited up for the first time in 12 years. I never thought I’d be playing hockey again. But boy am I glad I am. Not only does it feel good to be playing again and keeping in “hockey shape” (which is no easy thing), it feels even better to have a non-work related hobby for the first time as a professional. Especially as a creative professional, which can be fairly high on the stress and anxiety meter. The dudes are chill and the games are pretty competitive. We play at the Kings practice facility (Toyota Sports Center) in El Segundo. They keep score and play music between whistles. We have 2 refs (although sometimes we wish we’d have none). They even have a great sports bar in the arena where we celebrate or commiserate after every game. Last season we had the second-best record and made it to the championship game! But… we lost. (shrugs) All-in-all, I did pretty well my first season back. I was the leading scorer on the team, led our division in points, got a hat trick, had a tying goal/game winning shootout 2-goal game, and even got into a teeny tiny fight (gloves-on helmet-on). All-in-all it’s just for fun and maybe that’s why I’m so into it. It feels very full-circle for me. Like finishing unfinished business. Also it’s not the intense game I know from growing up. It’s hockey LA-style. Oh and our team name is the Drunken Highlanders.

My music video Paper Heart lived on in 2016. The digital wheatpaste poster creation was a part of the wonderful Hollyshorts Film Festival at the Chinese Theatre in August. It was my 3rd appearance there, and as both times previous, I had a truly great time. They really do it right. Great programming, excellent facilities, super nice people. I met some amazing filmmakers, reunited spontaneously with old collaborators, and forged some great new memories. Until next time Hollyshorts!

Living in LA continues to surprise me, toughen me up, and inspire me in its own way. 2016 marked the first time I’ve been able to live alone. I have a great 2-bedroom apartment near Culver City and love it. Culver is a terrific place to live. The downtown area can’t be beat for easy access, great food, and an Arclight movie theatre. I lucked out with a very quiet street that has plenty of parking, a corner store I can skateboard to, and an excellent neighborhood for jogging. There’s a nice 3-mile loop that I can take at any hour of the day safely (Well except for Halloween night when I got shot at with a paintball gun… but that could happen in any big city with stupid teenagers). There’s lots of good food too. Mexican and Asian food still take the cake here in LA, but my neighborhood also has a killer Cuban restaurant, some great Jewish delis, and plenty of food trucks. The beach is only about 15 minutes by car and I was able to visit that big wet thing more times in 2016 than in any other year since moving here in 2009. I saw a butt-load of live music in 2016 too. The crown jewel being my first ever Radiohead show at Outside Lands in SF. But there were so many others. It’s so easy here. One of the greatest cities on the planet for live music. And not expensive! Here are some of the highlights: M83, King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard (2 nights in a row), Thee Oh Sees (twice!), Ty Segall, Fuzz, Moderat, Yeasayer, Twin Peaks, Beach House (Outside Lands), Grimes (Outside Lands), LCD Soundsystem (Outside Lands). We’ve got a lot more to look forward to in 2017 as well, including Sigur Ros with the LA Phil at Walt Disney concert hall! The only downside to LA is the congestion. But honestly it’s not that bad if you navigate it right and know when to do certain things. So my LA journey marches on. Very grateful to be able to live here, work on cool stuff, have great friends, and have it feel like home.

2016 was a strange year for many. And one that none of us will forget. So many negatives. A year dominated by an oozing, festering media-choked election, mounting international conflicts, humanitarian crises, a major refugee crisis, more and more targeted hacks, drone strikes, terrorist attacks, Brexit, Trump, racism, xenophobia, police brutality, Russia on the rise, FBI vs Apple, and the loss of so many influential people (Seriously WTF). It was a downer year for a lot of us. But not everything was negative. There were some great films this year. Though probably not on too many best of lists, my favorite was the beautifully weird film Swiss Army Man. And some terrific music. Radiohead’s new album was my #1, but Frank Ocean and Bon Iver were not far behind. It was really a great year for hip-hop and female vocalists. Technology continues to improve and access to healthy food continues to increase around the country. It’s still the golden age of television and media has never been cheaper. Comedy is experiencing a little golden age as well. Podcasting too. The economy is doing much better. Travel is cheaper and safer than ever. People are starting to put down their phones more (or at least talking about it!). And Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize. A perfectly positive WTF moment to sum up this WTF year and conclude my little blog post.

In conclusion, I had a good year despite the collectively bummer year that we all shared. I look forward to 2017 with hope and determination. Let us not blame others for what we see is wrong with our world. Let’s attempt to change our world by starting with ourselves. Get healthy and stay healthy. Eat right, drink less, be with friends more. Work hard and keep your head down. Let’s look inwards and make ourselves great. Our country will follow. And remember that there is never an end point aside from the ultimate end point. We must always be working towards growth.

Peace to you all. Happy Holidays and may each and every one of you have a fantastic New Year!

Love, Nick

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