Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A decade that was special …

Just to kick things off, I am firmly in the camp that we still have one more year to go before the 20s decade really begins. There was never a year zero, right? But given how I am in the minority here, I suspect it’s only reasonable to expect a review of all that occurred in the 2010s that got us to where we are today. On paper ten years looks a long time but in reality, it went very quickly for Margo and me and looking back now at all that occurred, it was perhaps the most hectic period of our adult lives.

The decade though does belong to Pyalla. It has had its ups and downs the same as any business endeavor experience. Of late though, we have settled into a rhythm and are enjoying working for a number of clients and we really are having fun doing so. And yes, we have reached a point where we are becoming a little more selective as it’s proved to be a whole lot more fun when you work with folks who openly see you as being part of their team.

I guess that is the secret really for our longevity – yes, being in business for ten years does qualify as being a long time – has been our focus and it’s never wavered from being centered on HPE, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) and the NonStop platform. The NonStop community continues to go from strength to strength and with all that HPE does in the marketplace these days, the NonStop vendor community has become the biggest partnership with HPE of any system or platform! More recently, our working relationship with MCS has risen to new heights. Stay tuned as there is more to follow. 

There has been a lot more than business to occupy the time spent in this latest decade. We have been extremely fortunate to be able to couple our love for vendor meetings and events with our love of travel, the arts and yes, music. At a time when everyone just “googles that” unknown or unclear event or action there is still no substitute for meeting face-to-face. An emoji really doesn’t convey true body language. Nor does an email express sentiment in a manner that you can parlor into actions! So yes, for Margo and me, when we look back at what has been special this past decade, there are five distinct areas or categories that provided extra material for our highlight reel. 
First up, the house: As you already know we downsized our home even as we decided to stay in Colorado and to remain close to the front ranges. It’s cold in winter, but then again, we do get to witness four distinct seasons.  The downsize was massive and we are still wearing the repercussions from some of the decisions we made during the downsizing. Moving from 13,000 square feet (10,000 finished) anchoring a 1.2 acre lot is a far cry from 5,000 square feet (4,000 finished) on a tiny lot. We are contemplating getting a much smaller cat! Way less than a quarter acre of property I would guess, as I truly don’t know how small the lot is – then again, yard maintenance is now a blessing compared with what we once enjoyed in Niwot. Yes, we moved from Boulder county and the village of Niwot to Laramie county and to the township of Windsor.

So how do we feel? Well, when it comes to wearing the repercussions it’s taking some getting used to when our master suite is about a quarter the size of our former master while our kitchen is about one tenth the size. But then again, our bills for house expenses are way, way down from what we had grown used to paying. And talk about the bills? Taxes, insurance, gardening, trash collection and yes, housecleaning are a fraction of what we paid for almost two decades and as they say in business, it’s all about free cash flow and that has had a marked impact on our lifestyle. Moving house is usually traumatic but we made the best of it and it did go smoothly and for that, Margo takes all the credit as it was Margo that managed to a spreadsheet and everything happened when it was needed.

Secondly, the music: We went to Los Angeles’ “The Greek Theater” to hear a performance by the 2Cellos. Rated second only to the Hollywood Bowl, it proved to be quite an experience as we hadn’t even heard of it before we attended the open air performance. Have you ever watched the videos of the 2Cellos on YouTube and seen the manner by which they go about blending old with the new – music, that is? When you think about it, who else could have come up with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony morphing into Led Zeppelin’s Whole lotta love?  And who else can open with Vivaldi’s Spring from Four Seasons and morph to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck – perhaps their best known performance of all.

Of course, their performance at The Greek came towards the end of the decade but it blew away the other performances we had attended during the decade. Well, almost all, as we have to acknowledge that attending the hundredth anniversary of Nat King Cole performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC certainly was an experience. But then again, so were a couple of performances of Mamma Mia in various towns, New York at the top of the list, and then we’ve seen the Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas. Part of our travels meant we wound up in Las Vegas more than once and we really like their O and Elvis performances even as we hope to catch a couple more in the coming decade.

Music and art have always played an important role in our lives together. We continue to collect paintings and one reason we chose the house we did as our new home were the many walls that enclosed the major rooms. Plenty of room to hang the pictures we have acquired over the years. Another important consideration was the opportunity to create a more open plan combination theater room, bar and wine cellar along with high top tables just for conversation. And it has worked out well for us so that now, we have an area where you can listen to the music, look at the art and enjoy a glass of wine!

Thirdly, the cars: They dominated many of the decisions we made in the past decade. Of course, we spent a goodly part of the decade on track, driving cars ourselves at track events around the western states of America. However, two events truly stood out for Margo and me included our track day driving a race-day prepped Lotus Exige S260 on the Nürburgring Nordschleife – the north loop, or as Jackie Stewart renamed it, “The Green Hell.” But there was also couple of laps that I took sitting behind Mario Andretti as he took me for a spin around the track at Sonoma (formerly, Infineon and before that, Sear’s Point) in a two-seat Honda Indy Car. 

However, no discussion of cars could possibly stop with just a reference to a track and a personality. We started out the decade buying Godzilla – a Nissan GT-R – that after a couple of years we updated to a newer model. Nothing, simply nothing, prepares you for driving Godzilla and it never ceased to put a smile on our face. And yes, it was Margo who had the opportunity to drive the east coast’s famous Tail of the Dragon, US 129, a highway that lies between North Carolina and Tennessee and is only 11 miles long. Whereas the Nürburgring has 150 turns over 12 plus miles, the Tail of the Dragon has 318.

The GT-R may have been the highlight but we do need to give a special call out to the Maserati GT-S we had for half the decade as well as the much newer BMW i8s we have enjoyed. It was almost as if we were watching massive changes taking place in the automobile industry as we went from V8s to Turbo V6s and ultimately hybrid mixes of very small displacement combustion engines and powerful electric motors. This decade has passed and we have no V10s or V8s in the garage any longer and that is saying something for a couple like Margo and me.

You may also recall having read that at the end of the decade we dumped the RV, dumped too our beloved red Corvette that we used for track driving, sold off the trailer and ended up with the BMW i8 roadster as we traded the lot on just one car. It is not easy to sell an RV, so we feel pretty relieved we were able to complete what turned out to be pretty complex transaction! While it’s not really a highlight that we want to advertise all the same for us, being let off the hook is good news!

Fourth highlight of the year: Travel dominated much of our activities away from the house and it wasn’t just about crisscrossing the countryside in one car or the other. Then again, our travels did take us to numerous historic sites and there was rarely a time when we didn't pull over to take a look at something or other. Of course, visiting places popularized by Mark Twain was a must!

We traveled to Europe a few times; sometimes on business and at other times, very personal. We managed to squeeze into our busy business schedule a river cruise, our first Mediterranean Cruise to the Balkans visiting Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. We even sailed out of New York on a cruise that took us to nowhere (but with one short stop in Bermuda) and we enjoyed our time on a dinner cruise on Sydney Harbor as the fireworks celebrated New Year’s eve, 2019. Having Internet access on a cruise ship, no matter the size or the cruise line, pulling out our laptops meant we could continue business without any noticeable interruptions to our daily routines back on land. 

If we were to rank the cruise lines then yes, Seabourn ocean cruises top the list even as we did enjoy Viking river cruises. On the other hand, we remain a fan of the Windstar line. Of interest, the Seabourn vessel we sailed on has become part of the Windstar line. When it comes to our go-to cruise line for big ships it continues to be Princess. There is something iconic about seeing a modern cruise ship moored close by to Sydney's famous Harbor Bridge. ON this occasion, it was the Majestic Princess and the largest vessel in the Princess fleet. 

Call it a long history with the company – family ties as early in my IT career I worked for P&O line subsidiary, Overseas Containers Line (OCL) – but then again, we can see ourselves enjoying our tenth cruise on Princess shortly. We have done a cruise on Royal Caribbean as well as on Norwegian but they kind of fall short in some respects, but then again, there is still time to enjoy an Atlantic crossing on a Cunard vessel.

Fifth highlight is something very special: No story on this past decade’s highlights would be complete without a reference to Margo’s Mother passing away and Margo’ daughter getting married a short time later – Anna and Erich combining their honeymoon with a trip to Poland to lay Grandma’s ashes in the family’s grave. Then Margo became a grandparent for the first time. Daughter Anna first provided a daughter, Ella, before adding twin boys, Aiden and Even just a couple of years later. Certainly, Christmas Eve has become a family time and being around small children again brings back memories from way, way back in our lives. Having such a fresh family connection isn’t without its challenges but then again, long after memories from all of the above have faded, there will always be family.

My mother too passed away and that too was a milestone we knew would occur but all the same, it really is now just Margo and me. My daughter Lisa took a step toward independence late in the decade – as she studies for her Master’s degree; she now lives by herself. Almost, there are two cats that share her new place with her. 

My brother Greg and his wife Robyn became grandparents as well with the arrival of Chase. With three girls in his family, I have to believe Chase will not be the last grandchild and having spent the summer of 2018 – 2019 with him and the family, Margo and I are left to believe that this is only just the beginning. The second daughter, Stephanie, married at the end of the decade – who knows what the next few years will bring? We will always treasure the hospitality Greg and Robyn extended to us during our time in Sydney but I suspect it will be a long time before next we plan an extended stay in Australia. 

The past decade was indeed special for Margo and me. There was the business to be nurtured as there were sights to be seen, music to be heard and cars to be driven. There were many new dining experiences with untried foods to be tasted. Thoughts as to the best restaurant ever? There were plenty to choose from, but it really is a tie between a restaurant we like atop Eze, France and the Cottage Point Inn, Sydney, that accepts arrivals by seaplane. Although too, the reworked Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House now under the management of executive chef Peter Gilmore was a real surprise and worthy of a special mention.
Well, let us not forget friendships! We were blessed to enjoy friendship and company of quite a few great folks – we were quite blessed over the years with truly good friends! I will leave the friendship tales for later as we will be adding a couple of friendship-related adventures in 2020. To the Kennys of Simi Valley, the Millers of Windsor, the Monchs of Sydney, the Rosens of DC and the Jones of Atlanta – a big thank you for letting us be part of your lives as well.

And through it all we both added years to our lives – all of them remarkably good for us both. Now we have a new decade to look forward and even as it has been the subject of many discussions we know the business will continue, families will continue to grow, cars will come and go. Perhaps there will be one more move as our downsizing continues or perhaps, we change continents once more. Whatever transpires it really has been all about the journey and if the past decade is any guide, then look forward to even more perfect days ahead!

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