Well, the roller coaster ride that was 2002 is finally over, and I can’t say that I’m unhappy to see it go.  I’m sure I’m missing about 13 or 14 earth-shattering events in the below month-by-month description, so please forgive me (for example, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to write about the 7 weddings we went to this year).  Here goes:

January

 The year began with everyone, including myself, still looking over their shoulders at the events of the previous September.  The sound of a jet flying overhead was still enough to make me look up, and I was still very focused on terrorism and what terrorist acts might be inflicted in the coming year.

 Reinforcing my fears was the fact that a journalist named Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered in January.  A controversial video clip of his execution was then made available on the Internet, and I watched it.  The video featured Mr. Pearl talking about his family, and his Jewish heritage, and ended with some grisly pictures that I would prefer not to even think about, never mind describe here.  The video was shocking and sad, because it depicted the needless murder of an innocent man simply for what I’m sure turned out to be a very minimal political impact.  I’m not sure what it says about me that I watched the video, but I’m not very proud of it.

 It sounds silly to say that sports can help people forget the tragedies of the previous September, but the Patriots gave me something else to focus on and something to smile about when they began their playoff run by defeating the Oakland Raiders with an improbable, thrilling, ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ comeback in the Snow Game to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

 The next week, the Patriots continued their improbable run by defeating the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers behind a solid performance by a rusty Drew Bledsoe (who the Megger thinks is totally hot).

 The Steelers then began to whine about the fact that everyone knew THEY were the “real” AFC Champions.  Apparently there were some good drugs on sale in Pittsburgh.

 In NCAA football, the Miami Hurricanes won the national championship, but I refuse to get interested in NCAA football until they abandon the current “Everyone makes a bowl game, let’s all be friends and vote on our national champion” format and go to a playoff format.

 February

 February began with the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.  The Patriots were incredible underdogs, but there was a hopeful atmosphere among those of us who had gathered at my brother Jim’s annual Super Bowl party. 

 Apart from hope, there were other, less appealing components to the atmosphere at Jim’s party, which annually features foods like Jim’s Secret Recipe Chili and Bill’s Oh My Jambalaya.  Plainly stated, the party was not a place for people who are particular about breathing clean air.  Bring your own candle.

 In the Super Bowl, the Patriots shocked the world (or at least the small parts of the world that care about the NFL) by defeating the heavily favored Rams with a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.  For people who hadn’t felt good in a number of months, it was a welcome change of pace, and I will not soon forget driving in South Boston through crowds of deliriously happy people who were dancing and jumping and shouting for joy in the streets.  I also will not forget hoping that they would not damage my car in their drunken jubilation.

 In other sports news, the Winter Olympic Games opened in February, but they turned into a bit of a downer when it was discovered that a French judge fixed the outcome of a figure skating (or ice dancing, or whatever it is) event.  The media feeding frenzy focused on the story so much that I never wanted to hear about it again, even though I couldn’t complain about all the nice pictures of Jamie Sale (the pretty Canadian figure skater who, along with her partner David Pelletier, had been hosed out of the gold medal by the Fixing Frenchie).

 A note to anyone who believes firmly in the integrity of any sport that is judged, for example boxing, figure skating, gymnastics, and NCAA football:  Wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs. Bueller.

 The month also featured the sad stories of a number of children who were kidnapped and were either murdered or remain missing.  Kidnapping is the sort of crime that I can’t begin to comprehend, and it is scary enough that I try not to think about it very much, but it got to be quite unsettling to see kidnap stories appearing on the news with such regularity.  These children are so rarely returned safely to their parents that it is just crushing to watch the stories on the news.  I don’t know if the increase was due to some membership drive for the Sick Bastards Who Need To Be Executed Society, but kidnappings became an unsettlingly frequent news item in 2002.

 It was around the end of February that I began to notice that the City of Boston had not received any significant snowfall.  No folding chairs and traffic cones holding parking spaces for people on the streets of South Boston!  Happy Happy, Joy Joy!

 March

 I was forced to watch the Academy Awards, and saw that Denzel Washington won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Training Day.  I thought he did a good job in that movie, but Russell Crowe deserved the Oscar for his role in A Beautiful Mind.  A small piece of me wondered if Mr. Crowe’s much-publicized pomposity hurt his chances of victory, and I have to admit that I wondered briefly whether or not race played a role in the decision, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it.  Denzel is a great actor.

 Halle Berry freaked out in front of everyone when she accepted her Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball.  I thought she did a good job in what was a dark, but interesting movie (with some serious Berry skin), but she should take lessons from Denzel about how to win an award.  I’m sure that her win was very important for all of the oppressed people in the world, and I’m sure that Ms. Berry is a VERY IMPORTANT PIONEER, but I wish she had toned down the blubbering and wailing a bit.  Does anyone else accidentally say “Hairy Belly” sometimes when trying to say her name?

 Speaking of actors, Dudley Moore died in March.  I don’t recall enjoying any of his movies very much.

 Also in March, an incredibly large amount of ice broke off of Antarctica and scattered a whole mess of icebergs into the sea.  The amount of ice was larger than the State of Rhode Island.  Hmmm…no snow in Boston….Antarctica melting…nothing to worry about, I’m sure.

 March might as well be the month that I talk about the ongoing issue regarding the misdeeds of a number of Catholic priests.  The actions of the priests themselves are reprehensible enough, but the actions of the authorities of the Church, most notably Bernard Law, are simply unbelievable.  It is beyond my capacity to understand why these cardinals and bishops would re-assign priests who they knew to be child molesters.

 The problem, of course, is that this is a no-win situation.  If the victims sue the Church (which they are doing, and which they have every right to do), they will get money that was most likely earmarked for other people who probably need it.  No one wins.  Of course, any money that would have been spent to keep Bernie Law in lobster and good wine should immediately go to the families.

 The fact is that Bernie Law and anyone else who was responsible for sending known pedophiles to new churches should go to prison for a long, long time.  It remains to be seen whether Law’s connections to the liberal establishment will save him, but the responsibility was his, and he should pay the price for having the gall to make mind- boggling decisions that put so many children at risk.  Jail Bernie!  I think it might make a great t-shirt.  Or better yet, Cage the Cardinal.

 April

 The Red Sox opened the 2002 season by jumping into first place.  No one was shocked.  It was April, after all.  We’ll check back on this in October.

 In other news, we found out that our roommate (and my coworker) Matt was going to leave our apartment and move in with his girlfriend (an official BIG STEP).  Roommate Mike and I began the search for a new roommate, and I thought we had one, but my landlord rejected the guy (to be honest, he seemed pretty shady and we didn’t realize it). We ended up convincing a girl named Jen, a friend of a friend, to move in on June 1.  I’ll write more about this in June.

 Also in April, my cousin Paul’s wife Tracey gave birth to their daughter Abigail, the baby who always looks surprised.

 May

 May is always a long month.  My nephew, niece, cousin, godchild, and mother all celebrate birthdays in May, in addition to Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.  On top of all this, the Megger and I celebrated our 3-year dating anniversary in May.  Phew!

 In sad news, my Great Aunt Anne passed away at the age of 93 in May.  This is the woman who was 80 when she fell out of the tree she was pruning and broke her arm.  It wasn’t that she was confused or crazy, but rather that the tree needed pruning.  Aunt Anne worked caring for severely retarded children until she was 85, when she was let go because her state decided that her minimum wage job should become a well paid state job for appointed hacks.  She was the oldest of my grandmother’s siblings, and she outlived all of them.  She was a tough cookie, and her quick wit and kindness will be missed.

 In good news, the Megger’s little cousin Leanna finished her chemotherapy treatments, and came through them very well.  Now we are just waiting and hoping that the cancer (that was in her marrow and the tumor that was wrapped around her little liver) doesn’t come back.  She is one seriously gutsy little kid.

 Lastly, I think it was in May that I started hearing quite a bit about Martha Stewart and her misdeeds of the previous year.  It is my opinion that if Martha traded with inside information, she should do the time and/or pay the fine involved (I’m hoping it’s an actual prison sentence).  Celebrities seem to constantly commit serious crimes and then skate the punishment (hello, Winona), which is annoying at best.  If what I’ve heard about Martha Stewart’s personality is true, she should get a little extra punishment, just for being a jerk.  In my mind she is no different than the other corrupt CEO’s that have been in the news (Kenneth Lay, for example), but my money says that she gets off lightly.

 June

 June is traditionally the month of my family golf tournament, The Waggler’s Open.  The Open is a day when some people who don’t play golf (for example, me) make shots that seriously challenge the patience of some people who do play golf (for example, my roommate Mike).  My team always strives to finish in the middle of the pack, which is quite an accomplishment considering the lack of skill possessed by ¾ of our team.  This year we once again achieved mediocrity, and everyone went home happy.

 My family also plays in an annual charity softball tournament in June every year.  The tournament, organized by my cousin Paul, benefits Why Me, Inc., a Worcester area charity that works to brighten the lives of children with cancer.  We’ve been playing in this tournament for years, but it really struck home this year, because Why Me has been wonderful to little Leanna and her family during her fight with cancer.  If you wish to find out more or make a donation to an organization that truly impacts the lives of these children, check out Why Me’s web site at http://www.whyme.com/home.html.

 June was also the month of the World Cup, when all of the closet soccer fans in the United States come sprinting out of the closet to celebrate their sport (ok, that didn’t sound exactly right).  I kept a minor interest in the proceedings, and was happy to see that the United States shocked the soccer world with a nice performance, but I wasn’t insane enough to get up at 4am to watch the games.  One thing I noticed about the tournament highlights, though, was that every time it looked like Korea, the host nation, was going to lose, the referees bailed them out with questionable calls (were all of the referees French?).

 In apartment news, Jen moved in and my roommate Mike waited at least three weeks before hooking up with her (very strong-willed of him, I thought).  They are currently dating, which makes for a very interesting apartment dynamic, but things are going well.  I should have an amendment made to the lease requiring them to get along and play nice until I move out.

 In heart-wrenching family news, my niece Amanda Rose was a stillborn birth in June.  She was born a perfect, beautiful little girl, but she tragically wasn’t alive.  I felt my entire family quake with the empty sadness that I felt (and still feel) in the pit of my stomach, and I marveled at the strength of my brother and his wife.  There aren’t words that can properly describe how horrible this was, so I won’t attempt to sum it up for you, but trust me that tears are in my eyes as I write this.  I wasn’t going to write about it because I didn’t want to trivialize it or cause pain for my family in any way, but I will never remember this year without thinking about her.  God bless you and keep you, beautiful Amanda Rose.

 July

 Things picked up in July when I finally dropped to a knee and asked the Megger to be my wife.  She said yes (phew) and we’re to be married next May.  Once we were engaged, the preparations began in earnest.  Three days after she said yes, the Megger had purchased a wedding dress and within a week we had booked a hall and the church.  That girl moves FAST.

Ted Williams died in July.  The Thumper will be missed, but his name remained in the headlines for months because his son decided to put his body into cold storage, rather than following the will, which specified that Ted’s body be cremated and spread over the Florida Keys.  There is no question in my mind that money motivated the son’s decision, and it’s a shame that an American hero like Ted Williams couldn’t have gone out with more dignity.  Look for Tedsicles on a home shopping network near you.

 In happier news, my friend Martin and his wife Linda welcomed baby Zariah into their family in July.

 August

 August was a happy month for Leanna, because she got her lines removed from her chest, which allowed her to finally go swimming with her big sister.

 August was also the month when we almost lost Peter, Meg’s dad.  He was quite sick for a few days with what he thought was a bug.  When he couldn’t keep even water down for very long, Terry (Meg’s mom) decided to take him to the hospital.  He went in for emergency surgery, and the surgeon removed over 2 feet of Peter’s intestine, due to a case of Crohns disease that had gone undiagnosed for many years.  His bowels were basically a septic disaster area.

 The doctor prepared us for the worst, telling us that Peter would probably be on a respirator for quite a while and that there was a fair chance that he wouldn’t recover from the surgery.  We all expected the worst.

 When we went in to see him in the recovery room, though, he was alert and already off the respirator.  They asked him what my name was, to see how alert he was, and he immediately replied, “That’s Tim McCaffrey, my future son-in-law.”  My jaw almost hit the floor.  That was the beginning of a recovery that was quick enough to amaze the doctors, and he is back to being the active guy he was before the surgery.  It was a very, very close call for a great guy, and thankfully he pulled through it.

 September

 A big part of September was the recognition of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was sobering to look back on that day, as well as hard to believe that an entire year had passed.  I don’t think that I will ever feel ok again when the calendar reads September 11th.

 The Megger and I finally got to see the Billy Joel-Elton John concert that had been originally scheduled for February, but which had been rescheduled twice due to Billy Joel’s “cold”.  I’m sure the fact that his time in alcohol rehab this year had nothing to do with the cold-like symptoms.  More Nyquil, Mr. Joel? 

 The Sopranos made their long-awaited return to television in September, and it was the biggest letdown of the year.  The bottom line with The Sopranos is that the writers should get away from the soap opera themes that seem to feature Tony’s sister (she needs two in the hat), and they should get back to storylines about the mafia.  The show is a classic example of a group of people who have been reading too many of their own press clippings, and they are trying to treat the show as art instead of entertainment.  Art is fine, if it’s done well, but they haven’t pulled it off.  I should boycott this show until the Russian interior decorator returns.

 I’m told that if I really want to be entertained, that 24 is a great show, but I haven’t gotten around to catching that one yet.

 We took a week’s vacation with some friends in September.  It rained.  In response to the weather, we sat inside drinking Coronas and dreaming of sunshine.  There was no sunshine, but there was an entire car full of empties at the end of the week.

 October

 October showed up and the Red Sox were once again excluded from the playoff proceedings.  Pitchers and catchers in February!

 October was also the month when two snipers basically shut down the Washington D.C. area by shooting random, innocent people as they tried to go about their daily business of getting gas or going into stores.  The bastards shot a child who was standing in front of his school.  Eventually, two men, John Allen Muhammed and John Lee Malvo were arrested while sleeping in a Chevrolet Caprice that had been modified to allow them to lie in the back of the car and fire a sniper rifle through the trunk.

 I’m sure that these men’s lawyers will argue that they were disillusioned by society, or treated unfairly at the carnival, or perhaps even disenfranchised during the Florida elections of 2000.  No matter what the excuse, when the two Johns are found guilty they should be sent to a federal penitentiary, where they can spend their lives tossing salad.

 October also featured a massive hostage situation in Chechnya that was solved with poison gas that resulted in the deaths of 128 hostages.  I wonder who made the decision that killing off that many hostages was an acceptable risk to take?  I mean, poison gas?

 In addition to the 128 hostages, Author Stephen Ambrose and actor Milton Berle (supposedly the “biggest” man in Hollywood) died, and Jam Master Jay from the band Run DMC was murdered in his music studio.

 November

 November is for political junkies.  The Republicans won control of both the House and Senate, which hopefully will mean that I will see less of Tom Daschle on television.  Mitt Romney defeated Shannon “Wanna See My Tattoo?” O’Brien for Governor of our Commonwealth.  My cousin Paul put a big time smack down on the dude who kept lying about Paul’s record.  I think the loss came as a genuine surprise to the guy, but his neighbors must not have been surprised because he lost his own precinct (kind of like Al Gore losing Tennessee).

 November was also the month when the Megger moved home with her parents to save money for our wedding.  Moving day was an adventure, as we packed the entire moving truck full of her stuff.  It was unbelievable; she had about 10 boxes just for Christmas stuff.  We had to move her stuff out of the way to close the door of the moving truck.

 We rented the moving truck from U-Haul, and despite the fact that they advertise the truck for $29.99; the entire thing cost us $101.00.  The only extra we had was blankets, and the trip was about 30 miles with a drop off of the truck at the end location.  Apparently if you want wheels on the truck, or seatbelts, you get hit with the extra $70.

 I then lost the paperwork that the original location gave us, which was an extra $40.25 charge (it was on the seat of the truck, then it was gone).  Apparently U-Haul doesn’t have any kind of central computer system for this paperwork, so they charge you if you return a truck without it.  All told, the truck cost us $141.25, which is a little different than the $29.99 splashed on the side of the trucks.  We will try to never use U-Haul again.

November was also the month when a women’s group began a campaign to convince the Augusta National Golf Club to admit female members.  Hootie Johnson, the president of the club, didn’t react positively to the campaign and basically told the women’s group to stuff it.  He also refused all sponsorship money for the Masters Golf Tournament.  This effectively shut down the campaign’s attempts to increase pressure on the club by convincing the tournament’s sponsors to pull their support unless a woman was admitted.  

I don’t really have a stance on this, but my initial reaction is that there can be female-only gyms, there can be male-only golf clubs.  The entire incident reminds me of a cartoon I saw once where some kids were having trouble attracting girls to their club, so they put up a sign, “NO WOMEN ALLOWED”.

 December

 The Megger turned 30 in December, and to celebrate we took a great trip to New York City to see the Rockettes.  My advice is that if you are going to buy Rockettes tickets, do it far in advance, rather than go to the scalp…I mean ticket brokers on the Internet.  The markup is remarkable.

 Christmas this year featured an incredible snowstorm in Massachusetts.  It was one of the few times I was thankful to be driving The RB, because the 4-wheel drive came in very handy on the ride home through a driving snowstorm.  Of course, by the time we got home, it sounded like there was a swordfight going on in the 4-wheel drive transmission under The RB, but I’m sure everything will be just fine.

 Shortly before the end of 2002, the New England Patriots failed to make the playoffs, which means that I’ll be hearing quite a bit of razzing from my Raider-fan friends.  This will last right up until the Raiders choke in the playoffs.

 On New Year’s Eve, we went to a party hosted by my friend The King.  The party was fun, and relatively uneventful, except that at one point The King managed to accidentally lock himself in his own bedroom for more than an hour.  The doorknob had to be dismantled to free The King. 

 The party also featured my friend BBD’s “Three Day Chili”.  The point is that you will feel the effects of the chili, which for some reason contains potatoes, for three days.  I felt the effects within an hour, and almost missed the midnight celebration while “indisposed” (The King says that my being “indisposed” is the reason why he had to close his bedroom door in the first place, but he’s obviously delirious).

 Midnight struck, and another year was past its expiration date.  My father will tell you that expiration dates are overrated for things like milk (“It’s only a sell-by date, not a use-by date”), but years are a different story, and this one went out right on schedule.  I hope that you all have a happy and safe 2003, and GO RED SOX!