I never think of birthdays as meaningless. New Years Day is a meaningless day. The day you were born is not. It signifies your landing on the earth. The beginning of the end. Every February 3rd, I ask myself what the fuck am I doing with my life. Where am I at? Where am I going? Do I like where I am? The right questions at the right time. Fuck New Year Resolutions. Go with the Birthday Interrogation. I turned 33 years old today. 33 years ago I landed at Barnes Hospital on Kingshighway in St. Louis in the middle of the biggest snow storm to attack The Lou in the past 50 years. As I like to call it, I landed in spring training and quietly ignited the Cardinals to a World Series title. Daniel Lawrence Buffa didn’t take an at bat but I will settle for a quiet producer credit. So let’s get back to those questions and why they matter.
I try to think back at least a year. I was unemployed and looking for work. In a matter of two weeks, I would get a well paid yet doomed night job at Conway Freight. Working overnight in the worst neighborhood. This was pre-Ferguson but riots and murder weren’t a new thing on Hall Street in North St. Louis. I lasted a little over a month there before going to Ronnoco. While it wasn’t a well oiled operation, my 2nd stint with the coffee shop was memorable for the friends I made and the people I connected with. In the most unlikely of places you can find a few gems. Those people know who they are. The others will just be left thinking. If you gather a couple good allies per year, you aren’t an asshole.
The monstrous elephant in the room is the fact that a move out of St. Louis wasn’t even on the fucking table yet. I look back at a time before the move even became discussion between my wife and I, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad or scratching for words. When you make a hasty decision that means well, it’s hard to circle around on it and come up with a credible explanation later on. You just roll with it.
Full Disclosure: I moved to Arkansas because my wife had an outstanding chance to advance in her career. I can say it was to better our situation or start fresh, but that’s complete bullshit. I did it to help the financial situation of our family. The minute I landed in St. Louis, I panicked with homesick aggression and haven’t settled since. As my wise friend Jeff Abney said, homesickness never goes away. You have to stay busy. I try. I write like a hound, play with my kid, keep the house clean and stable for a wife that works 60 hours a week and try to make the best of my situation. Everything feels more robotic out here because I am not in my city. Everything is different. Foreign. Walmart, McDonalds and Starbucks are around the corner but good Italian food is obsolete and a solid mom and pop coffee shop with good java is also scarce. I can walk down the street from my shiny apartment complex and see a deserted patch of land that could house a meth lab and a pack of wolves. Next to it is another nice apartment complex. It’s a rebuilding area. I am in the middle of a rebuilding area and that area is surrounded by woods. This is just a different fucking situation. A squeeze ball doesn’t help.
Am I happy where I am at in my supposed profession? I am writing as good as I ever have and starting to get paid for it. Cardinals Farm and KSDK will pay me a small wage but one I don’t take lightly. There isn’t a better feeling in the world than seeing people react to your work and a profit coming your way. It’s payoff for a lot of hard work.
Stay at home dad duty is a weary task. Ask any stay at home parent how they like it and make sure you ask them twice. The first answer will be a lie. Straight up bullshit. It’s not easy work. It’s unpaid, grueling and will age you. Every day I have no idea if Vin will be civil, care to use the toilet or eat well. I feel like a boxer who is fighting another man much faster and younger than myself. I am losing on points to Vin and simply trying to resist getting knocked out. It’s an everyday uphill battle. Sure, I want to find daycare for him. That time will come. Everything isn’t as easy as it sounds coming out of your mouth as advice to my ears.
Where am I going? Forward my friends. That’s all I can say. Where is any 33 year old married father going? All I can do is take one day at a time. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep on keeping on, as my good friend Matty Rauch told me. Whenever I am asked where I am going, I tell the person I am looking for a cup of coffee. That is the next thing for me. I can’t plan too far ahead. Planners suck, cell phone calendars are forgetful and my Siri on my IPhone is a bitch. All I have is tomorrow.
I want to eat better. Sure, I am in good shape. Getting in better shape is always possible. I want to stop eating chips and other processed garbage. Your body hates that shit, Try eating a handful of cheez it’s and then bend over suddenly. Yeah, that is your colon giving you the fucking finger. Eat a fruit. Eat a vegetable without ranch dressing dip. Eat rice with black beans in it. Hold the sauce. I want to eliminate fast food. When my wife calls at 930pm to get food, I need to say NO. It’s so hard but the right choice is no. No late night eating. No soda at all. Water. If you reach for a bag of chips, drop and do 15 pushups. That will stop you from making bad choices. Coffee is fine as long as you hydrate every two cups. Coffee is dirty water. Water with dark grounds. Hold the cream and sugar. I want to do all of this. Tomorrow.
Exercise more. You know those runs outside where you do it and the end is glorious. You finish and you are sweating, breathing and suddenly that feeling of immortality erupts right before your knees want to collapse. Fitness is so good. All I have to do is leave the apartment and do it. I work out but I don’t work out enough. Who does? If you are workout addict and reading this, you aren’t working out so you are slacking.
Side note-My son is watching The Dark Knight as he sleeps these days. Last year, it was Chuggington. Progress my friends. Hold the bad dreams comment. The kid will have those either way. Ever heard of the scary kool aide man tale?
Am I worried about the world I live in going forward? Yes, but this past year didn’t change anything. Remember the words of the Joker. In the end, these civilized people, they will eat each other. Anarchy will always be present in our society. The will to waive a violent stroke through the world and see if the thud reverberates. There are lots of evil, nervous and dangerous people out there. I still fear for my kid when he eventually goes to school. I fear for his kids. This world will not become a civilized place because a few good people stand up. We must convince the wrongful parties to look at the bright side and stop the violence before it swallows us whole. Everyone has the ability to kill. Choice is the dividing factor. You choose to be good or you choose to be bad.
After feuding with him for years, I have started to believe in the idea of a GOD. Don’t ask me how it came about but I am reading his stories, using his name and well, leaning towards him a little. I want to believe in something else out there. If it can explain a few things, I can believe in it. That’s a change.
I gave up energy drinks this year. Sugar free or not, they are bad news. Read the ingredients and ten minutes later spell at least half the words and give me their meaning.
In the past year, I have interviewed more actors than I have in the previous 31. My small engine of a film/TV critic career is slowly forming. I have interviewed Frank Grillo twice and several Banshee cast members. Things are going well there.
I guess what I can say is folks, be thankful for what you have. A life. So many are taken far too soon and before they get another birthday. Several people I knew didn’t get a chance to wake up on their 33rd birthday. Before you complain about what you don’t have to the thing you desire most, put your hand to your chest and feel the heart beating. That my friends is a beautiful damn thing. You are alive. Your life can changed at any moment. That control is in your hands. It’s so easy to blame others for what has happened to you but try pointing a finger at yourself this time. If you want to change, it can happen. It won’t be easy but it can happen. Before you do, look at what you have. Everything in your life never looks as good as it does when it is gone.
I am 33 years old and I am alive and well.
In the words of Happy from Sons of Anarchy, I accept that.