So long, Mardel house

For eight years, this place took care of us.

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It’s 4:53 in the morning, I’m in the driveway , and it’s finally hitting me like a ton of bricks: I’m no longer going to live at 7130 Mardel Avenue. The feels are invading my chest like a Roman Army. 

The South City home has been ours since July 9, 2009; our first legit house after a series of apartments and a duplex on Oleatha. You find out a lot about yourself when you think about all the places you’ve been. It’s like flipping a book of old pictures fast enough until they blend into one clear picture. 

Eight years ago, my wife and I were working a couple of odd jobs, as a warehouse grunt and a nanny. We paid the bills, hardly saved any money, and then everything changed on September 14, 2011. 

Vincent Daniel Buffa was born, and we brought him home to the Mardel house like a care package that we had no idea how to handle. At least I didn’t. We had his first birthday party at this house. Bill DeWitt III showed up. We smeared the kid with a cake. Good times happened. 

In 2012, my wife and I lost our jobs, and both of us lived on unemployment for months. It wasn’t easy, but we got through it. Sometimes, you simply have to lower your head, lie to yourself about it being okay, and barrel through until you see the clear. 2012 was dark and shitty, but thankfully calendars flip. 

We watched a World Series game from our backyard in 2013, and left our home for an Arkansas apartment in 2014, but returned in 2016 to our Mardel home. 

*These are cliff note highlights of our time there, but since I’m writing this on zero hours of sleep, there’s comfort in at least a third of this making sense. 

Now, we are leaving again. Our home must be pretty confused. Almost a year to the day after Vinny and I returned to St. Louis, we are saying goodbye like 360 days were a blip on the radar. Life has a tricky way of reminding you it is holding all 52 cards at the poker table. 

Things change so fucking fast, because at one point this year, this house was going to be it for us. Make some upgrades, fix a few things, and settle in. That’s it. I don’t get a boner over house projects or design plans. That is my wife’s department. I help when needed and wait for it to be done. A smile awakens afterwards when everything is clean. 

Our house went on the market in May with the hopes of selling within a month. That was my goal at least. Any longer and you aren’t getting anywhere. After a weekend where there were six showings, an offer was made and we accepted. Suddenly, the countdown had begun. 

But it was still our home. I cleaned it. I mowed the lawn and took care of it. It wasn’t gone yet. Nothing was official in my book. 

This morning, it’s gone. In less than five hours, a boatload of memories will conclude with the official closing at the realtors office. 

Last night, after my dad and I moved the television out, I had to take a moment. I turned on all the lights and just looked around at a house that was witness to so many occasions. I snapped a few photos. There were no tears. That only happens when Platoon or The Untouchables comes on. 

I went in each room and stored a memory. 

The living room: thinking about that time right after we came home with Vinny. Freaked out yet ready. 

The kitchen: all the cooking, but the rapid conversations at the table. So many drinks consumed there. Our own round table. 

The master bedroom: the place where I found out both my grandmothers died. Years apart but the same room. Weird. 

The office: Vinny’s initial bedroom. The sight of diaper changing school. Heartbreak when his first projectile vomit incident turned into what would require surgery. The sweet and the bitter. 

The second bedroom: where I wrote my first article for KSDK News, about Patrik Berglund. 

The basement: Rachel running and gunning during every tornado warning. All the laundry. The boxing bag sessions. 

The backyard is where we had fires and friends mixed with wiffle ball and conversation. The best of times. 

A house isn’t a living breathing thing in the general train of thought, but it’s got a pulse all its own. The roof needs care, the furnace needs cleaning, and the outside needs a brush. When I looked at the Mardel house this morning, I saw an old friend. Over eight years, it did a fine job of protecting. 

Now that job holder changes addresses. On July 21, we move into Buffa Estate 2.0. I’m excited, if weary of the next two weeks, but I’m also sad to see the old house go. I wasn’t done with it yet. 

Whether we like it or not,  the places we live stick with us. 

So long, Mardel house. Thanks for looking out. 

The things we take for granted in life are the most fragile

Please, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Traffic. Weather. Getting the kids to school on time. Did that guy signal before he drove into my lane? Groceries. Bills. Getting good seats at the theater. A good parking spot at the mall. Making sure the restaurant got your order right. Does the place we are going to have beer? What’s google say? Fuck all that bullshit.

If Siri told you something bad was going to happen to something you take for granted today, what the fuck would you do about it? Would you finish that tweet or text first?

I’m going to get on a soapbox here, and I don’t care what you say about it. A good friend of mine-Paul Walker-had a post about a tragedy that stirred something inside of me, and now I must write. That’s what writers do. You quiet the noise in your head by typing it out. So here I go..

The things we take for granted in life are in fact the most fragile things on this earth.  Continue reading “The things we take for granted in life are the most fragile”

Happily Married 12 years later: A true story

I married my sweetheart in 2005, and today we are still in love.

The first thing that comes to mind is the sweat. I was sweating profusely through my forehead, and it wouldn’t stop. Normally, someone would attach fear and nerves to this, but that wasn’t really the case. I was just ready to get this thing going. Rachel and I had been engaged since a Dave Matthews Band concert nearly two and a half years before this night. Getting married requires a healthy amount of cash if you want to do it right, so time had to be mortgaged over a certain period of time.

Finally, the wait was over. February 18th, 2005 was our day for two reasons: there was no Cardinals game that day and I was marrying the love of my life.

I know, it’s not so cool these days to say that your spouse is the love of your life. It’s as if being nice to one another is hard enough these days that an honest love isn’t allowed. When you are married to someone, saying “I love you” can become an arbitrary practice that most men write off as too sappy or vulnerable to admit and women wonder if they really mean it. The thing for me is clear-I really do love my wife. I need her every day, or else I’m screwed. I’m lost with her in this mad world. If you find a good wife, you are that much closer to a good life. I’m a hopeless romantic, a lover of old school ideals, and one of them is the belief that marriage can still produce a happily ever after. Now, back to the sweats.  Continue reading “Happily Married 12 years later: A true story”

Don’t forget about your grandparents

A call or visit goes a long way, so make it happen.

December 11th is a shitty day for me and for an easy reason; Five years ago, my grandmother Meme took a fall down a flight of steps. 13 days later, she was gone, and my family took a shot to the kidneys of its foundation.

Henrietta “Meme” Bulus was as loving of a person as you could get. She wanted to know everything about you inside five minutes, even if she had only met you a minute ago. She wasn’t writing a book, but simply keeping tabs on you for good reason. She would grab your forearm, pull you in close, and focus 105 percent of her attention on you. It was if Barbara Walters was taking place right in front of you right at this very minute.

It reminds of a timeless message. A piece of advice if you will. Don’t forget about your grandparents. Life moves quick, and rarely slows down to allow you to check and update your planner. Phone calls are simple easy ways to stay in touch, but paying them a visit is an entirely different world of devotion. You show up, and it’s like Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts walked into the room in the form of their grandchild. 15-30 minutes. Perhaps an hour.  Continue reading “Don’t forget about your grandparents”

Fallen cop should make us be better

Blake Snyder may be gone, but he can teach us a valuable lesson.

I didn’t know Blake Snyder. I feel like I got to know him today too late. He was a 33 year old cop with a wife and two year old kid. Cute, right? Blake was shot and killed this morning when he responded to a disturbance call in Affton. An 18 year old shot him point blank as Blake got out of his squad car, voicing the young man to show him his hands.

This is just terrible. Blake served St. Louis County police for four years and had a two year old son that won’t have a fucking clue why dad isn’t coming home tonight. In case you forgot or don’t have kids, two years old is when a kid starts to recognize, download, and capture every thought and reaction. They start to get it. I can’t imagine the pain and torment swirling through the Snyder home right now.

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Death has zero fucks to give about your personal situation. It lands down and takes, and leaves before you can file a complaint. It’s a real son of a bitch. Right now, his wife is having to plan a memorial, funeral, and other things that she didn’t plan on this week.

Blake got up this morning thinking it was just going to be another day at the office. Strap on the badge, put on the gun, and protect and serve a little. He won’t go home tonight.

We live in such a violent, cruel, and unforgiving world with enough cynicism and hate to fill a galaxy. When are we going to come to grips with ourselves and the ability to end life? It’s a disease that is spreading. It has nothing to do with white and black and everything to do with right and wrong. White and black lives matter. All life matters. 

Do me a favor and try to be less cynical tomorrow when you wake up. If you have to be cynical, do it in the afternoon and evening briefly. Cut that shit away. Hug your kids. Shake a friend’s hand. Kiss your loved ones. Smile more than frown. Do something happy. Go to bed with a sentimental vibe. Look around. Appreciate the time. Some don’t get enough of it. Some barely get any at all.

It’s okay to be sentimental, folks. It basically means you are allowing yourself to be optimistic. We need more of that and less of the killing thing.

The difference between a smile and a sad face is a mere decision to make it that way.

Blake Snyder wasn’t a perfect man. There’s a fair probability that he could be a real asshole on occasion and maybe even perform some practical jokes. He was also a good man who, according to his chief of police, liked helping people and that is why he became a cop in his late 20’s and not his early 20’s.

There’s no doubt that I look at this painful tragedy and think of my own situation. I am a 34 year old man, one year older than Blake. I will be 35 in February. I have a wife and a five year old son. Over a decade ago, I applied to be a St. Louis County police officer. I aced the written tests. Passed the physical and the video analysis. I never heard back from them. I didn’t become a cop and instead entered the warehouse industry and eventually, writing and radio. I will be home with my family tonight.

Blake will not and that really screws me up. I sit back and imagine what his son is thinking. I imagine what Vin would think if I wasn’t coming home. During our 20 months in Arkansas, Vin and I became closer than ever. We did everything together. We were two peas in a pod. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Best friends. Allies.

I can’t leave without Vin asking where I am going. I can’t return home and touch my front door without  a massive hug from Vinny. He needs his dad. I need him. Separating that cord is a scary thought. I can’t stop thinking about that today. The “What if” game….is a mindfuck.

Let’s all try to be better tomorrow. Less violent. More forgiving. Smile more. Frown less. Be more sentimental than cynical. The world has cynicism for days.

Rest in peace, Blake. I didn’t know you but I’ll try to be better from here on out.

590 The Fan: From warehouse to radio

It’s okay to do what you want to do until it’s time to do what you need to do. What if those two things merged, though?

Working in a warehouse isn’t for everybody, but I did it for seven years. Five different warehouses over those years but the one constant that connected them all. No air conditioning. Yes. The odor I projected after a 10-12 hour day of lifting, shipping, and receiving rivaled the pandas at the neighborhood Zoo. Sweaty days with a large fan blowing hot air around the dock area is not a way to live if you have a passion to do something else. You do it though to provide for a home and hope something better exists.

I’m not a fool. I don’t have a college degree. I took three swings at MU and Forest Park Community College and struck out everywhere but leaving others and myself in debt. After working in the movie theater and a warehouse briefly out in Hazelwood, I worked for Whelan Security and wore an outfit that would make Paul Blart blush.

In 2007, I joined the team at Senoret Chemical and worked there until 2012. Afterwards, it was unemployment. It’s not easy from making 15.50 an hour with quarterly bonuses and benefits to accepting 9-10 dollars an hour. I don’t care what kind of person you are. It’s bad. I had cups of coffee with Bommarito Wines, Conway Freight, and more time with Ronnoco Coffee before moving to Arkansas and becoming a stay at home parent/writer.  Continue reading “590 The Fan: From warehouse to radio”

Fathers Day: Don’t take it for granted

Fathers Day is a reminder, painful for some, that being able to call your parents shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Call your parents. Please don’t forget. Whether you are close or not, it’s important to call. It’s a rarity that a talk with your parents goes smoothly. One side is thinking about one thing and the other side is more than likely deflecting topics to get off the phone. It’s awkward sometimes but damn it, please talk to your parents. Keep in touch with your family because sooner or later they will be gone and you may not get a warning.

When it comes to life, there is no script or plan. Things happen and only part of the time is there a reason or theme attached. I’m a lucky guy. I grew up with two All Star parents who kept a roof over my head, worked hard to provide for my brother and I, and didn’t give up. As I sit here 34 years old and counting, I am very close with my parents, especially my dad. We are best friends and so much alike it is scary yet cool at the same time.

I am not entirely sure what I will do when my dad goes. I am not sure how I will act or care to be perceived for weeks or months. I may just want to shut down. I may want to hit something. I may want to cry. It is a day that I can’t even think too long about because someone up top may notice and push it in motion to challenge me to react. Life doesn’t warn you about a loss coming. It just takes something away and waits to see how tough you are as a result. I need my dad around and every son or daughter should at least make an effort to speak to their dad. Continue reading “Fathers Day: Don’t take it for granted”