My Favorite Post of 2012 – Forty

AUTHOR’S NOTE:   This was originally published on June 6, 2012 – the day I turned 40… and it marked the end of a year long project – titled ‘Forty for Forty’ – which saw me writing Forty Posts that said something about my my likes, my loves – MY LIFE. This is hand’s down my favorite post of the year.

You’re still here? Wait – I’m still here?!? World didn’t end?!?!?

One – Two – where is it? Hmmm – Three!!! … Yup, still got my hairs.

Still got my health!!!

Unfortunately for you, I’ve still got my wits about me and my fingers are aching to race across the keyboard. One and done, baby! That’s all I’ve got left. And then I can shut this Blog down for good. Or, at the very least, refrain from making any more bold proclamations. Everything seems more dire when you’ve got a deadline.

Then again, that wasn’t so bad. These forty posts were over before I knew it… even if I did threaten to derail this crazy train once or twice in the last year. It seemed like I bit off more than I could chew when I only had 3 or 4 posts done. Once I hit the halfway mark, that downhill run was a cinch.

So, as you all know, one year ago today I made a little challenge to myself. While Forty is really no big deal – just another day – it’s that big round goose egg that only rolls around once a decade that somehow fills these new ages with such mystique. Early on, it’s empowering. At 10, you’re not a little kid anymore. At 20, no longer a teen. At 30, ready to grow the ‘f up.. At 40… well – who knows? I only know that other stuff because I’ve been there – done that – and have a healthy breadth of separation from it all. That’s more than enough time to take proper stock of where I was way back when and what I did in the days that followed.

As for today, the rest is still unwritten. (Yeah – just try and sue me Bedingfield.)

Anyway, when I threw out that little challenge all I was doing was just trying to continue a little habit I’ve adopted of late – one where every year I set some sort of personal goal in a bid to keep myself from growing too complacent. None of this is aimed at becoming a “better person” – although if some of that happens to rub off then all the better for all of us, right?

No, this is just my way of breaking free from the rut.

I wrote about this before but the whole reason I took to the stage back in 2008 (after 18 years away from it) was to just throw myself off balance enough to see if I could land on my feet. To wake myself up. To do something other than the normal Nine-to-Five; while at the same time holding firm to the same responsibilities I have in life. This was never meant to take time away from family or friends – the office job or house work… far from it. I just felt like when it came to leisure time I always settled into the same space. Once the house was turned down for the evening, I’d park my ass in a chair, channel surf or gun down some Covenant bastards (that’s game speak for those of you blessed without the lingo) – and while all of that is good clean fun, and I still partake to this very day, I felt like there was a void. I NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT – especially since I’ve harbored this feeling that I never really accomplished what I set out to do – creatively – back when the future spread before me and I could do whatever I damn well pleased… so long as I set my mind to it.

And for a long time, that thought used to take root in my head. I was happy in every phase of my life, save one. Every single day, as I shuffled off to a job that I did very well, and was rewarded for, and where I felt respected and befriended by my colleagues – the same office where I had enjoyed many successes – well, at the end of the day, I always knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. So, to fill that void, I used to do little creative things on the side – from designing fun little trivia games played at our annual parties to making goofy little movies starring my growing posse… and each time I released one of these diversions to the wild, I was greeted with the same refrain – “You have too much time on your hands”.

That always rubbed me the wrong way. Same goes for “You missed your calling”. I realize now that people never meant it in a negative light. If anything, it was meant to be complimentary – but in my mind, I didn’t have too much time on my hands. I was MAKING the time! I needed to do that goofy, trivial, frivolous stuff to justify this existence. To engage people – hit ’em in the funny bone or go straight to their heart. That’s just the way I was built and while I ALONE made the decision fresh from college to follow a path that diverged from my original dreams, as the years wound on – I found myself stewing a bit – unsure of who was to blame when all along I knew there was no smoking gun. At least, not one I’d ever find if I skipped staring in the mirror.

Actually, that’s not fair to me. Life simply happened. Choices were made. My road of life ambled and diverged and split and intersected and wound far and away and round and round. Where it stops, I certainly don’t know. All I can say is no matter where I went, I caught some interesting sights along the way.

The one thing I do know – from my lofty perch smack dab in the here and now – is you should live your life as free of regret as possible… assuming you avoid KILLING anyone. YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR PAST! Every single decision you’ve made has brought you to where you are today. Never REGRET one single decision, no matter the consequences. Learn from them but don’t dwell in them.  You may not be able to change your past so living in it will certainly foil your future. That stuff is cliche – I know – but totally true.

It took me a long time to figure that out. And then one day, I simply realized – it’s never too late for anything. OK Maybe athletic ability needs to be tapped early on. But if you want to write or sing or act or paint or fish or woodwork or whatever, you can do it. And these days, the Internet has totally leveled the playing field. And if you think nobody cares about anything you’re creating, stow that emotional baggage. Hell – toss it out and get papa a brand new bag. There’s somebody out there for everybody; so if your passion is talking about watches, start a Blog and you’ll find like minds in moments. If you want to sing, take some lessons. The only choice that ever destroys a path is the one you don’t make.

So, over the last few years, I’ve made little challenges to myself. Little measures to add additional color to a pretty bright life. You read this Blog. You know full well what a great life I led. My marriage to Andi had brought forth two beautiful children, Colin and Aria, who every day remind me that the paths I’ve followed have led to a glorious present and a hopeful future. Every tangent I’ve ever taken has introduced an amazing group of people – great friends, warm family – whom I couldn’t dream of losing a one. Above it all, I live to laugh and I’ve found a good group of people who share in that passion.

Life is good! (I assume I owe someone royalties for that one as well. Well, get in line behind Natasha B.)

So, these little challenges are just my way of keeping me honest AND feeding that craving to create.

One year, I returned to the stage. The next I lost a ton of weight and completed a triathlon. The following, I took on a leading role – biting off reams of dialogue. Then I wrote a play which will be produced this Fall. Around the same time I offered up this little challenge – Forty Posts that say something about how I became the man I am today. Next year, I’m angling to direct a second play I wrote – presuming Gateway would welcome two original works in consecutive years. (Do me a favor on that one. Tell them in the Comments below that you’ll gladly buy tix and bring all your friends. If they know the shows will sell-out, that’s bound to help my case).

After that, my life is a blank slate.

I’ll think of something. But in the meantime, I’ve got a pretty interesting year ahead. Changes await – no doubt. Some I know of and know that no matter what the days ahead may bring, as long as I remain positive, there is no way that life can go anywhere but up. It’s all in taking that first step – and stepping forth with vigor. Without regret.

And always letting people know how you feel about them. I know my sentiments can run a bit sappy sweet on these pages but that’s only because I look at life as so fleeting. Life’s too short to not let people know how much they mean to you. And the days fly so fast. The only way we can really wrangle them is to slow it down for a spell and when the moment is right, pull someone in real close for that warm embrace – even if it’s just the symbolic gesture. A couple kind words or even a ‘Like’ on Facebook sometimes means the world to someone. That’s the way I roll. I just love you all so damn much and I don’t care who knows it!!!

I treasure the history we all covet. Some of you have written volumes in my biography. Others come in right near the end of this last chapter. Every single one of you has made this book possible. And while I often say that when I sit down to write, I know the beginning and ending and the middle just fills in itself – this time out, where is comes to me… and where the rest of my days lead, it’s a blank canvas just aching for ink. Who knows what comes next? Me – I can’t wait to write on and find out.

All I know now is what’s come before.

Let’s start at the very beginning… a very good place to start*. (For those keeping count, we now add Julie Andrews to the list of potential litigants.)

June 6, 1972 – I am born at some point that day. I’d call my Mom to verify but I don’t have all day. 🙂 All I know is, Claudette A. Clarke and Edward L. Humphries were pleased as punch to bring into the world a future movie critic (for 3 out of 4 years in college, at least) who was born the same year that The Godfather released and to this day has NEVER EVER EVER seen that flick. If it’s half-as-good as the 10 minutes I’ve seen of Godfather III, maybe I’ll give it a shot. Some day.

1973 – I am One. That year, we welcomed my sister Jenna into the mix. She and I started life joined at the hip – always playing together, getting along so well. Somewhere in our teen years, as Jenna insists on waking me at 4 am to drive her to her early-morning Dunkin’ Donuts shift in the cold-ass dead-of-winter, I decide she and I now reside on opposite sides of the Mutual Aggravation Society. These days, we pledge allegiance to the Mutual Admiration Society. She is so creative, caring and warm – an awesome wife to her husband Eric and an amazing Mom to her sons Eric and Makenna. Just days ago, she confided in me “You’re one of the best people I know.” prompting my allergies to attack my weak eyes. Turns out the feeling is mutual.

1974 – I am Two. I don’t know anything that happened this year. I believe we lived in Malden, MA and our apartment caught fire. Don’t blame me for not recalling anything more. I was two. I was probably too busy learning how to talk to focus on much more. If you ever want to go back in time and set right what once went wrong, that’s the year to pick. Get me before I started gabbing.

1975 – I am Three. One of my top 5 favorite flicks of all time comes out that Summer. I didn’t see it – of course – but I remember two years later, in Kindergarten – I used to draw the movie poster all the time; focusing my mad art skillz on that iconic shot of the shark rising from the deep and a swimmer above – with those blood red block letters spelling out the title. Thankfully it was the Seventies – an age where tossing metal spears, i.e. Jarts, at each other was considered a totally acceptable backyard activity for kids, so nobody tossed me in the clink. These days – I’d get Forty-to-Life, easy!!!

1976 – I am Four. At this point, I believe we lived in Everett. I remember waking suddenly on Christmas Eve by a tremendous clatter. I woke Jenna and we sprang from our rooms to see what was the matter. In our living room, holding court with my Mom and Dad was Santa himself – drinking a Schlitz. Turns out, one of the neighborhood Dads had dressed as Santa and was visiting all the homes with kids to gift a little early holiday cheer… or he was at the tail-end of an all day pub crawl. Either way, we didn’t bat an eye at that can of suds. It was the Seventies. Everyone smoke and drank anything not nailed down… which might explain our missing mistletoe.

1977 – I am Five. Star Wars came out that Summer and I was Hell-bent on seeing it. We were a family of modest-means (to put it mildly) so we didn’t hit the movies that often. But that Summer, everyone had to see that flick – even those who didn’t like Sci-Fi – like my Dad. So, we hit the Drive-In. Now, it’s Summer time, meaning the flicks don’t start screening until dusk (8-ish) and it’s always a twin-bill. That Summer, we loaded up the Family Truckster – adorned with the finest faux-wood paneling money could buy – and headed to the Revere Beach Drive-In to catch a twin bill of War of the Worlds and Star Wars.

Therein lies the rub. War of the Worlds runs approximately 85 minutes and as mentioned, Drive-In flicks don’t kick off until twilight shadows fall, so by my calculations, Star Wars wasn’t due to boot up and stream through the Truckster 8-Track until well after 9:30 p.m. Still, I was determined to stay awake and see this spectacle and thus I kept my peepers wide as saucers as the alien menace tore Gobbler’s Knob (or whatever that small town Gene Barry was protecting) a new one in WotW. Well, as it turns out, those three fingered bastards did more than irradiate a handful of cows. They also vaporized my will to wake. The final image I saw before nodding off for good was a scrolling scrawl of yellow text rushing off into a dense star field. It’s there in slumber land, that I spied a grand future where wooden child actors and Rastafarian muppets ceased to exist. Ahhh, per chance to dream.

Oh yeah, at the end of that year my sister Noelle was born. Some people go a life time without a sibling. I’ve got two great ones!!!

1978 – I am Six. The big Blizzard of ’78 hit earlier that year and I remember trooping through that snow with Jenna by my side, completely disappearing behind mounds and mounds of glorious white powder. I vividly recall our neighborhood, a series of three-family homes planted all throughout a network of steep hills. During that winter, as most cars were snowbound, the entire neighborhood would take to the hills after dinner and jump aboard sleds and toboggans and just careen through the streets. Everything looks larger when you’re little. In my lifetime there’s only one other hill that could match that makeshift snow park which I’ll touch upon when we get there.

1979 – I am Seven. That year we moved from Everett to the South Shore – Rockland, MA. Having missed Kindergarten in that town, I joined my classmates in First Grade and spent the next Eleven Years treated as an infidel, an interloper and an outsider. Oh – who am I kidding – they let me join in just fine… which is a blessing as I really made my mark within days of moving to my new home. One day, for no good reason, I was completely ticked that the neighborhood kids kept riding up and down the street on their bikes, not letting me play with them. So, I grabbed Jenna’s jump rope and launched it at them as they raced by. It got caught in one kid’s chain – flipping him end-over-end – sending him crashing to the pavement with a face full of road rash. It’s a minor miracle I’m still alive… even more so that the kid would soon become one of my best friends. His name was Kyle and thankfully his Dad came on the scene before he and his Wolf Pack…errr… Cub Pack… could tear me limb-from-limb. Once his Dad heard the whole story, he looked at Kyle and said “That’s what you get for not being friendly.” That street became the greatest neighborhood a boy could grow up on.

1980 – I am Eight. Somewhere between moving in and this year, I made my first best friend on that amazing street. That would be the little girl who lived down the lane, Leigh. She and I explored her woods, played board games all day long on rainy, summer days – hit the library every Tuesday night where I seemingly had one book on constant rotation (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Monsters… But Were Afraid to Ask) and chased it all with some Orange-Ade and a Boston Cream at the donut shop. We grew apart over time – as she began to hang out with Jenna and I meshed with that pint-sized Road Warrior gang I tussled with on Day One but years later, as we were closing the pages on our High School year book, Leigh asked me to escort her in to Graduation. When taking stock of my life, those memories make treasured book-ends.

1981 – I am Nine. Raiders of the Lost Ark – neck and neck with JAWS as my favorite movie of all time – comes out that summer. This is THE MOVIE that changed my life. In the Summer of ’81, when the Internet was barely a blip in Al Gore’s neural processors, my next door neighbor – an older kid named Jay – wandered over and asked my Mom if I could go to the movies with him. There was this awesome new adventure flick that he was dying to see. He had sweet-talked his Mom into dropping him off at the theater and could bring one friend. She would shop at the neighboring Sears while we took in the movie. So, my Mom asked me if I wanted to go – and although I had no idea what the movie was about, I signed on. And talk about a different time. A 12 year-old and an 9-year old were parked at the movie theater for 2 hours, with no parental guidance, and nobody blinked an eye. My kingdom for Department of Social Services.

Fortunately for me, the Feds never swooped in and I walked into Raiders of the Lost Ark stone cold on the cold, hard facts. I knew nothing. Hadn’t seen a trailer. Never read a description. Knew Harrison as Han Solo. That’s it!!!

In this day and age where you can practically stream the reboot of a new movie before the original is even released, it seems unheard of to walk into a major summer blockbuster with not one single story thread to hang onto. But – that’s how I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. A total virgin.

I was never the same again. The moment that Ark was secreted away, my first true love was found.

1982 – I am Ten. This is the year that I really, truly start to realize how special my neighborhood is. Years earlier, somebody must have slipped something in the water. How else to explain all these kids seemingly existing around the same age? Maybe the government spiked it with fertility drugs to raise a nation of adolescent warriors should Mother Russia aim to spank us. “WOLVERINES!!!“… errr… “BULLDOGS!!!”

I know now that I come from one of the greatest neighborhoods a boy could mark as his territory. And it’s one I miss something fierce.

Albion in Rockland, MA was a unique slice of street. Ours was L-shaped – with one entrance springing off of the bustling Market Street and the other funneled from the lengthy Concord (a long stretch of road I would one day rue when my paper route forced me to travel its entire 2-mile span day-after-day).

The two roads met in the middle, and while one jutted off slightly to include a few more houses – from the air, it bore the distinctive mark of our 12th letter in the alphabet.

The neighborhood was also blessed with a bounty of kids – all growing up pretty much in the same ballpark. Our target demo was Age 6 – 12 with the majority falling in the middle of that. In 1982, I was 10 – and I had a whole host of friends who straddled either side of that fence. Some a grade above me. Some just a tad below. All of us sharing common interests. We liked Whiffle Ball. Indiana Jones. Magnum P.I. The Atari 2600. Big League Chew. And Bomb Pops.

At the very apex of our street – where the two halves joined as one – resided my buddies Kyle and Steven. Kyle was a year older while Steven a few years behind me. Didn’t matter. Our “clubhouse” was all inclusive. Besides, with a kickass backyard that provided exactly the amount of real estate we needed to field a full game of Whiffle ball, we needed all ages in attendance. It wasn’t until years later that I looked back upon our stomping grounds – Kyle and Steven’s back porch and the grass that grew from there – that I finally put myself in their parents’ shoes. They must have had serious misgivings at buying that particular property when they saw how many rugrats it attracted. Plus those who came from the streets that ran parallel to ours – which is how we got our buddy Shawn to bring his neighborhood over for every pick-up game.

Then again, they always knew where their kids were.

All the parents did. You don’t get that warm, comfy feeling anymore and it’s that loss that I mourn when I look back at how good we had it.

1983 – I am Eleven. You know what? I don’t remember a damn thing about Eleven. What a useless age!!!

1984 – I am Twelve. The one memory I have from this age – and technically it spans all of the years I lived on that street – is this amazing sledding hill that was situated a street over. All the kids from that neighborhood and ours would hike to that hill and sled for hours upon hours. There was a little stream that ran perpendicular to the hill. If you didn’t angle yourself just right, you could end up in the drink. Many days I came home soaked from head to toe – chilled to the bone – having kept right on sledding even after hitting the water. I can still feel the pins-and-needles when my bright red skin hit the warmth of that hot, rejuvenating bath. Those were the days that reminded you how great it is to be alive!!!

1985 – I am Thirteen. That Summer I started hanging out almost exclusively with someone who didn’t live in my neighborhood. A classmate, Matt, asked me if I wanted to go play some mini-golf one night. I did and it was one of those experiences where you find a brand new friend and realize you have so much in common – talking on and on and on about everything – from video game codes to confiding in who you think is cute in school (at the time I had a fierce crush that I will never reveal here in print for fear of sending an unsuspecting Facebook friend into hiding. Happy Hunting. There’s only 200 or so women on my Wall. ♫Na-na-na-na-na… I’ve got a secret.♫). Anyway – Matt and I were tight for 3 to 4 years and I spent many Summers hanging with him and his awesome parents and younger sibling Adam, who became the little brother I never had.

1986 – I am Fourteen. That Summer, I saw my first R-Rated “scary movie” in a theater – James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’. I remembered being nervous going in, not-knowing what to expect. I assumed someone’s chest would burst every few seconds – ending with my own. I had no idea it was a kick-ass action flick. I returned to that movie 5 times that Summer, dragging everyone I knew and when it hit VHS, I wore that tape out.

1987 – I am Fifteen. That Summer, I had my first real kiss. Her name was Hope. She was from Ohio, the cousin to one of the kids in Matt’s neighborhood – staying with his family for the Summer. I was always over Matt’s house and at that point, where we were all about girls all the time and haphazardly styling and trying way too hard to be funny and witty and charming – and usually failing miserably – somehow I just let my guard down and she saw the real me – the one I ALWAYS kept hidden from the chicas for fear of sending them fleeing for the exits. Turns out that’s what I should have been flashing all along.

The statute of limitations has to be up on this one so I have no problem with a belated ‘Kiss and Tell’. A group of us were in Matt’s room, one afternoon, when we decided to go hang out across the street. Matt had left the room, Hope was in front of me following him and I was dead last. Once Matt cleared the doorway, Hope spun around and just planted herself on me. One glorious minute seemingly stretched for centuries. She left for Ohio the next day. I thought of no one else… and nothing else… the rest of that Summer.

1988 – I am Sixteen. I got my first real job, working for Papa Gino’s where my longtime best buddy Sean and I first walked in as enemies – having waged psychological warfare against each other the year prior after I threw an egg at his best friend. Within a couple weeks of serving in the same fox-hole – we became good friends, later besties and today – brothers. I’ve written volumes about this dude on these pages. Poke around and you’ll find nothing but mad praise but just so you know, this is really where it all began.

1989 – I am Seventeen. I finally get my first real girl friend and subsequently blow it real quick. That would be Tara, the girl who after weeks and weeks of trying to stir up the courage, I finally asked to the Junior Prom – courtesy of my wing man Jay, who moved mountains to get her number – and then wouldn’t leave my house until I called and asked the big question. She was very popular… and very sweet… and not in a billion years did I ever thing she would take a chance on me. I was gawky and awkward (GAWKWARD!!!) and had zero sense of style and so many other self-inflicted knocks. But she was always real nice to me whenever I got to Mr. Donovan’s math class early and she and I were the only people there – so, I crushed on her big time. Finally, I dialed the phone and fired away. And she finally said “Yes” (after making me wait two agonizing days) and then we started to hang out, going on dates to essentially get to know each other a little better. We grew close… fast. Our first date was the movie ‘Say Anything’ – where the quirky Lloyd Dobler crushes on the out-of-his-league Diane Court. Seriously – you couldn’t script this any better. We flamed out sometime that Summer and I pined after her for months; nursing one of those sick-in-the-stomach pits that all young love experiences at one point or another. You never feel so hurt… so deflated… and yet, so alive… then when you’re in that moment and I guess that’s why those memories linger a life time. As they say, you never forget your first love.

1990 – I am Eighteen. Upon graduation from High School, I head off to UMASS Amherst. Plenty of great memories there so I’ll close this with another High School memory. I remember after Graduation, I went out to dinner with a huge assortment of family members before being released to chase down the graduation parties. Shawn M. threw a killer one at his Aunt’s house, I believe – and I remember getting there somewhat later. At the time, I didn’t drink much, but I allowed myself a celebratory beer or two. And I just spent the whole night having awesome, heart-felt, equal parts knee-slapping and tear-jerking conversations with a ton of classmates – some of whom I had never really crossed paths with before. It was a night that sort of predicted the relationships that would forge years later on Facebook. It’s like we finally all got it. We are cut from the same cloth. We come from the same town. We ARE family.

1991 – I am Nineteen. This is the year I got my first real serious girlfriend – a relationship that actually stretches beyond several months. It’s all over before that Sophomore Year ends – once again, just not right for each other – but it’s a relationship featuring some pivotal firsts – so, you know, you never forget. And also, as with so many relationships I have had over the years, it’s when you look back years later that you learn from the mistakes and realize you needed to make them in order to grow.

1992 – I am Twenty. Around this point, I’m fully involved in writing for the UMASS Daily Collegian – the largest daily college newspaper – and it’s there that I think my voice finally starts to come across in print. No longer am I writing what I think people want to hear; instead, I’m writing what I want to say – in my own voice. All of this came from that.

1993 – I am Twenty-One… and that birthday lands on a Sunday. Seriously – why not have it land on a funeral on Easter while we’re at it? Either way, I end up at Jake Ivory’s where before I even have one drink down my gullet – let alone in my hand – I am escorted to the stage, between dueling pianos, to croon Elvis songs – of which I barely know the words. After that, I slink into a corner and drink heavily… and often.

1994 – I am Twenty-Two. I graduate from UMASS Amherst. It’s on the eve of graduation – after I played midnight Whiffle Ball in the quad while tossing back some brews with Joe, Justin, Mark, Buzz and a few others – I headed back to my dorm room around 3 am for some much-needed shut-eye before the early morning ceremony. As I lay in bed, waiting fruitlessly for darkness to fall, I suddenly tell myself – “I think I’d rather work in film.” So, there goes that Journalism degree. Years later, when an admin at work confided in me that I send the most well-written e-mails, I felt slightly better about all those student loans I paid down.

1995 – I am Twenty Three. That Fall I decide to leave the nest and move in with two of my closest friends – Sean and my college-bud Joe. We got an awesome apartment in Mansfield and that winter threw our first real party. You know it’s a success when the cops show up and the only sober person in the place, Joe, comes looking for me – almost passed out under the Christmas Tree – looking to see if I wanted to talk to them about the noise complaints they received because HIS speakers were throbbing and bobbing his bedroom floor, and hence – the neighbor’s ceiling. My billion and one stories gleaned from living with those two guys for three years proves they were a few of the best years of my existence – and two of the best guys a guy could call faux-brothers.

1996 – I am Twenty Four. Andi and I met at work. She asked me out to lunch in the caf – some day. I upgraded to dinner – Friday night. The rest, as they say, is history – and fellas, that’s how it’s done!!!

1997 – I am Twenty Five. Still living with Sean and Joe, we moved to Nashua, NH – where we lived for one full year. One year where I never did anything to change my address or prove to the world that I moved out of state. I didn’t change my license, my plates, my insurance – nothing. Now that I write that, the State of NH is no doubt seeking all those back taxes earned off making a whole lot of nothing. Live free or die, mofos!!!

1998 – I am Twenty Six. I broke free from Sean and Joe and moved in with Andi in an awesome little apartment in Acton, MA. That’s when I really started to feel like I was growing up and those first few thoughts of “Is this the one?” started to creep in to my subconscious.

1999 – I am Twenty Seven. I popped the question as Andi and I were in the middle-of-a-big-lake in the middle-of-a-tiny-canoe. Seemed like such a good idea at the time until I started to row, the wind whipped up, the waves got choppy and suddenly I’m envisioning a team of divers scouring the murky bottom looking for one tiny, shiny bauble. So – I finally stopped rowing – waited for a few seconds of calm – quickly pulled out the ring and refrained from dropping down on one knee. I asked immediately. She responded just as fast. And then I slammed that thing on her finger and told her to hold on tight. We needed dry land to celebrate properly. The important thing is she said “Yes”. Otherwise, she was swimming back. 🙂

2000 – I am Twenty Eight. Andi and I got married on Saturday October 14th. It was one of those last blasts of Indian Summer. 80 degrees. Brilliant blue skies. Blinding yellow sun. Warm and Dry. A beautiful day. As we got into the limo and began to head to the reception and get our drink and dance on – U2’s “Beautiful Day” came on the radio – completely unscripted. A perfect start to an amazing day and a great run.

2001 – I am Twenty Nine. For the first time in my life, I’m fired. Technically – it’s a lay-off and I’m not the only one. And back then, it didn’t sting as much as it would later on. After all, it was the start of the Summer and I was aching for a change – so I figured a little R&R followed by prepping the resume and beating my feet for a week or two would work wonders. By August, I started working at a company that I would be with for the next 9 years.

2002 – I am Thirty. To celebrate, Andi throws a surprise party at Vinny Testas’ in Dedham, with all of our friends invited. She had also planned an impromptu getaway to Niagara Falls. All would have gone according to plan had she not included me on her e-mail reminding everybody to keep the secret. But that’s what I love about life. The unscripted moments. You’ve got to find the humor in them.

2003 – I am Thirty One. One morning I went to the hospital – a carefree kid. The next day, I woke in a chair, with a crook in my neck – a freshly minted father to a kid. Colin Edward had joined the world. I was elated the night he stepped forth. The next morning, working on zero sleep, I walked down to the Day Surgery unit to find my Mom who worked there. My first sleepy, slurred words are – “Will I Ever Watch TV Again?” It’s true what they say – they grow up so fast. The same holds true for us.

2004 – I am Thirty Two. We decided that our family should grow. Colin needs a sister. We’re not fully complete, even as Colin has added such glorious shades to our life. We have more love to give. So, we decided to sell our house in Brockton and find a bigger home with a bigger yard – for kids and dogs to roam. We found our dream home in Dudley, MA – perched right on the Connecticut border – way out in the sticks. I was certain we would be eaten by bears within a week. Eight years later, we’re still here!!! Oh yeah, let it also be said that shortly after we moved in, I watched the Red Sox ALDS to ALCS to World Series Champs – every single game counting every single pitch – until that glorious final call!!! I’ll always remember where I was when I saw it happen.

I was home.

2005 – I am Thirty Three. Aria Leigh is born. She is and always will be… my sweet little Princess. The day before she arrived, Andi told me that she was utterly convinced she was having a boy and she had convinced herself she was completely fine with that. No more kids for us after 2. We’re playing Man-to-Man D – no zones. So – two boys was just fine by her. When the nurse announced we had a girl, neither one of us believed it. We practically didn’t even hear it. Then reality rushed in. Andi started dreaming of little dolls and dresses and dance recitals. I began mentally shopping for shotguns to keep them damn future boys at bay.

2006 – I am Thirty Four. At a Pats game, during the worst tail-gate in history – Sean asked me if he built me a Blog, would I keep it up-to-date? He’ll build the house. I’m responsible for the interior design. A deal is struck and to this day, he remains on as the handyman. I’m like, “Sure, I’ll do it” – not knowing what I’m going to write about. A blank page can be the scariest thing to a writer – let alone a whole empty web site. Six years and close to 600 posts later, I’d say I kept my end of the bargain and he’s built and maintained a beautiful site. Together we made this place a home – and y’all know – you’re always welcome to stop by.

2007 – I am Thirty Five. This is one of those rare years where nothing much happened and I started to feel that nagging feeling that I’m sliding into a rut. Maybe it’s the 5 after that 3. Almost seems worse than 4-0 for some reason.

2008 – I am Thirty Six. I aimed to break free from that out-of-the-ordinary depression and took a minor role in a local production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As a sadistic orderly, I got to fold into something different than the norm. I raged against my machine and at the end of it all, I made some great friends, having hammered away at that curve ball. I never looked back at that slightly darker turn the year prior. Onward and upward.

2009 – I am Thirty Seven. I got laid off once again. This time, it’s so totally and tonally different. The whole time the HR guy was telling me everything I already knew, I had mentally checked out of that conference room and started running through a mental check list of the last time we brought the kids to the doctors or got prescriptions, etc. All I could do was think of them – and sit and wonder – “WHAT THE HELL AM I GONNA’ DO?!?!?!?” It took one full year of unemployment before I successfully answered that question with a new job and much lower pay grade. But in that year, I grabbed hold of the opportunity to bask in one year watching my kids grow. I hung out with them on the playground. I volunteered in their classrooms. I attended mid-day school functions. In one year, I reclaimed my life. ‘The Monkeybar Mafia’ – while NOT the story of my life – is testament to taking hold of your life – something I grabbed hard and never let go of. Without that year, I never would have written it. Without that experience, I never would have grown.

2010 – I am Thirty Eight. I rejoined the work force, going to work for the same company – albeit in a different role. I now have a different outlook on life and while I work just as hard as ever, I feel that I don’t get bogged down in the minutia. I realized how quickly all that white noise can dissipate – that it’s more important to focus on the friends and family around you. I just feel a bit more free, these days. It helps we never lost the house. Not as many people caught up in that economic collapse can say the same thing. We were fortunate and fortunately I had every single one of you to prop me up when I needed a smile.

2011 – I am Thirty Nine. In the span of about 3 weeks, I lost my precious pup Chatham to cancer, my appendix went nuclear and flying squirrels took root in my attic – stealing almost $2K by the time we were done getting rid of them.It’s enough adversity in a short period of time to really knock you flat but I decided to put my energies elsewhere and finally wrote that play I had been talking about. Five days later, the first draft of ‘The Monkeybar Mafia’ was completed. Three months after, we got a slot in the 2012 Gateway Season. In about 7 weeks, auditions open and a few months after that, the curtain rises. One thing always leads to another… the trick is finding the light in the dark.

2012 – I am Forty. Life throws a serious curveball but I realize this opens a new and exciting chapter. I have this quote: “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” ~ Henry James.

So, what’s next?

Comments now closed (10)

  • I had been looking forward to reading this all week! Who knew it would be a literary time-capsule! Of course, I would have made the 1977 post to be the time you threw on a little white tux and brought Uncle Ron and me the rings that solidified a soon to be 35 year marriage…but I have never been able to compete with Star Wars and accepted that along time ago. As you enter the ” blur” years with Colin and Aria, this next decade will be a challenge and a love feast! And I’m hopeful that your space here survives so that I can continue along for the ride!

    • I should have written about that tux. I like Indy way more than Star Wars. Oh well.

  • Love how you described each year! So funny and illustrative of how you became who you are!

  • I can’t believe you’ve never seen The Godfather. Seems to me you should put that on your list (considering you’ve been dubbed “Movie Man”). On a more serious note, the post is great so far … I haven’t finished it just yet!

  • I had laughter through tears. I loved your yearly countdown. Thank you for being so creative, I look so forward to reading your writing.

  • I wonder what the next 40 will bring? Glad I’ll be around to find out! 🙂

  • Yeah, 600 something posts later and I’d say my idea to get you writing worked out pretty well. Happy birthday man!