Tag Archives: birthday

Life begins at thirty

I’m thirty now, and everything’s different. Like before I was thirty, like yesterday, I would never have said anything like, “Life begins at thirty.” But now I am thirty, and I’ve changed, I’m a different person now. So now I totally say stuff like that. I’ll say it right now: Life begins at thirty.

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And so I feel like I’m a newborn again, albeit in a thirty-year-old man’s body, but it’s like I’m seeing the world through a completely new set of eyes, a thirty-year-old set of eyes, a new thirty-year-old set of eyes,and I can’t believe all of this stuff that I’m noticing that I’ve never noticed before.

I remember I was working at this restaurant a few years ago, and I don’t know how the conversation got started, but I wound up talking with one of my managers, about life, about what we want to achieve and how we want to not be working in restaurants anymore. And he said it to me, exactly what I said before, he looked at me and said, “Rob, life begins at thirty.”

And I said, “Oh, OK, cool,” and I smiled and nodded my head. But I was thinking in my head, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Did he really just say that to me? That life begins at thirty? And I thought he was so stupid, and that I was so superior, I was looking down at this guy, come on, thirty, what does that even mean?

But now I’m thinking back on that very conversation, and I get it. Like I totally get it. Life begins at thirty. Do you get it? If you do, you’re definitely thirty or older. And if you don’t get it, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not thirty yet. And if you’re under thirty and you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I’m not thirty yet, but I see where you’re coming from,” you’re lying to yourself, because you don’t see where anybody or anything’s coming from.

Because if you’re not thirty, technically your life has yet to begin. Yes, you’re walking around and you’re taking in oxygen and surfing the Internet and eating breakfast and, so, to look at it from a distance, you might think, or I might think, this person is alive. But you’re not alive. Not yet. Not until you get to be thirty. Until then, you’re just taking up space, thinking thoughts that aren’t even real thoughts.

Like remember what I was talking about earlier? About how I didn’t get it until today? Well, now I get it. Before, I didn’t even think there was anything to get. In fact, I’m going through all of my previous experiences, all of my memories and feelings and, it’s like I’m watching a rerun of a really old TV show, something I haven’t seen in forever, like I can’t remember the main character’s name or anything.

And it doesn’t matter. Because it’s so true, that life does not begin until you’re thirty years old. Now I finally feel like I’ve got it figured out. I woke up this morning, I opened my eyes and the first thing I said was, “Ohhh, OK, I get it, I’m thirty, I’m alive now, it all makes sense.”

And my wife turned over from her side of the bed and said, “What is it Rob? What makes sense?” And I looked at her, she’s still twenty-nine, she won’t be thirty for another twenty days or so, and it’s like I barely recognize her anymore. “Nothing, go back to sleep honey,” she’ll be there soon enough, she’ll be thirty, she’ll get it, I won’t even have to say anything, I can just picture it now: I’ll get up earlier than she will on her thirtieth birthday, I’ll wait for that same expression on her face, upon awakening, she’ll look at me, I’ll look at her, there won’t be any need for any further communication, and we’ll just slowly nod our heads in agreement, saying without saying, I get it, we both get it, this is thirty, this is how life begins.

Happy birthday to my best friend, Gelo

I want to dedicate this post to my best friend, Gelo. Happy birthday, buddy. I hope this is the best birthday you’ve ever had in your life. I hope that it’s the best birthday that anybody’s ever had. If you could somehow combine all of the greatest birthdays ever experienced by any human being who’s ever lived, I’d give anything for your birthday this year to make that hypothetical super birthday seem like a day stuck in the waiting room at the dentist, a visit where you have to get all of your wisdom teeth removed, and unfortunately you’ve got an allergy to Novocain and laughing gas, and so the oral surgeon is just like, “Well, sorry, but they’ve got to come out one way or another.”


Gelo is my best friend. And that’s not a term I throw around lightly. He’s the bartender at the restaurant where I wait tables. I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate, sometimes, but I’m not even kidding you, not only is Gelo the best bartender in the restaurant, I’m pretty sure  the best bartender in New York City. This guy makes picture perfect cocktails sometimes when he’s not even paying attention. There’s a little printer that sits at the end of the bar, it spits out drink orders as the waiters and waitresses punch them into the computer. It can’t even keep up with Gelo. It’s like, before it even has a chance to finish printing the ticket, bam, the cocktail is already made, perfectly garnished, just exactly the right amount of ice.

For real, I’ve actually had customers get up and walk out of the restaurant when they found out that Gelo wasn’t working that particular night. One time this guy ordered a Manhattan, and after he took the first sip, he made this really pained face. Once he finished choking it down, he looked up at me in disgust, “Where’s Gelo? Who made this? Was it Sal?” And yeah, it was Sal. I pointed over to the bar and Sal made a friendly waving gesture. And please, don’t get me wrong, Sal’s a great bartender. It’s just that, Gelo’s the best bartender. He’s so far ahead of his colleagues in both proficiency and speed that even the second best bartender looks like he’s never learned to make a gin and tonic by comparison.

But he’s not just the world’s greatest mixologist, he’s also the best friend I’ve ever had. I was actually a little surprised when I found out that his birthday was today, because I’d always just kind of assumed that we were secretly long lost twins separated at birth. It’s the only way to really describe the bond that we share. Like, when I say best friends, yes, I mean it, he’s my best friend. But the English language doesn’t do justice in providing words even remotely capable of describing our connection. Maybe we’re not actual twins, but we’re definitely soul twins. Like we have twin souls. Soul twins can have different birthdays, I’m pretty sure. Sometimes I wonder if we’re not sharing one soul … you know what? It doesn’t even matter.

What matters is, Gelo, I’m seriously so lucky to have you as a best friend. The other night at work, it was really busy, I mean, the rest of us were busy, Gelo’s never busy, because he’s so good at his job. In fact, if you look at him sometimes, you might think, why is that guy the only one not running around like a crazy person? It’s because he’s already made all of the drinks. He does an entire team’s worth of work in like ten minutes. Anyway, he calls me over, I’m in the weeds, I’m having a tough time, and he hands me a cup, “Hey man, enjoy.”

It was a milkshake. I don’t even know how he had time to make me a milkshake, because yes, we have ice cream, but there’s no blender. Did he blend it by hand? Or did he sneak in a really tiny immersion blender? And it was the best milkshake I’ve ever had in my life. One sip, and time seemed to slow down around me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel trapped under a list of twenty-five things I needed to do at the same time. I just quickly organized my tasks and executed them without getting stressed out. Gelo, thanks man, that milkshake was so fucking delicious. If only I could be drinking it right now, but it’s OK, because knowing that I’ll get to carry around that memory, that first sip of the tastiest vanilla milkshake anybody’s ever had, it’s like, I’m content, happy in the knowledge that our friendship is the best best friendship anybody’s ever had. I hope you get everything you ever wanted for your birthday this year. And then I hope you look at the giftwrap, it’ll say, “To Gelo, You’re my best goddamn friend in the world. From, Rob.”

Birthday parties and Power Rangers piñatas

When I was a little kid, all I ever really wanted was a big birthday party with a piñata. I pictured all of my friends taking a shot at it first, blindly swinging away, but nobody really doing any significant damage. Then it would be my turn, the birthday boy going last. I’d walk right up and take a huge swing, perfectly placed, dead on in its accuracy, and the whole thing would just explode, candy showering down everywhere, everybody cheering, chanting my name, dancing around in the downpour of individually wrapped sweets.

Obviously that’s kind of a difficult fantasy to exactly make happen in real life. There are so many variables out of my control, like all of the other kids. I wasn’t the smallest kid in my class, but I definitely wasn’t the biggest either. And in terms of skill? Of being able to accurately swing a stick, blindfolded, and crack it open on the first try? Yeah, I could think of like five other kids who would’ve had a better chance at that than me.

But my whole plan, to actually set it up, I just had to do the best I could and leave the rest up to chance. Or I could have acted like a spoiled little birthday brat and told everybody to miss it on purpose, watching them carefully as they all went first, having a mini breakdown temper tantrum if any of the kids started swinging too close, you know, starting a little screaming fit, just being totally obnoxious, and then when it’s my turn, I could have had them lower the piñata to my exact specifications, make myself a custom blindfold that only looks like a blindfold, like you’d think I’d be blinded, but I’d actually be able to see everything. And then even if I missed, or if I hit it but it didn’t break apart immediately, I’d start whacking it again and again, until that candy shower that I was talking about before … yeah, I wouldn’t want to do that. That wouldn’t have felt right. It wouldn’t have been that organic moment of pure joy that I was dreaming about. Plus my mom would have definitely yelled at me for acting like such a baby.

My birthday was coming up and my mom let me have a party in the backyard. Maybe I’d have like a birthday party guardian angel watching over the whole fiesta, making sure that my friends couldn’t swing, or that they could swing but they’d miss totally, or they wouldn’t miss totally, but their whacks wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t even make the piñata move at all, it would be like hitting a tree, or a piece of steel. Maybe that would happen.

I was really into the Power Rangers at the time, and I really wanted a piñata of Tommy, the green Power Ranger. Tommy wasn’t one of the original five. In fact, he wasn’t even really a Power Ranger at all. Not at first. Well, he was a Power Ranger, but he was evil. Get it? Like Tommy the person wasn’t evil, but Rita Repulsa used him as a vessel for the evil inherent in the evil Power Ranger medallion that then turned him into the evil green Ranger. It’s complicated, and very evil; I think you’d have to watch the show.


What I was getting at was that I really wanted a green Ranger piñata, but he wasn’t an original Ranger – even though he wound up overcoming the evil and joining the Power Rangers as the sixth Ranger – so the piñata store didn’t have a green one on hand. Just the classics, red, yellow, blue, black, pink. I picked out the blue one, thinking that I could just customize it, make it green myself. Even though, I thought, it would probably be easier to turn the yellow one green than the blue one, but the yellow one was Trini, a girl, and if my plan didn’t work out, I didn’t want to be stuck at my party with a girl Power Ranger piñata, everybody would have made fun of me.

It came out OK. It didn’t exactly look green. It looked green, kind of, but you could still totally see the blue underneath. I made the special gold green Ranger shield, so, you know, maybe the parents didn’t get what was going on, but all of my friends, they got it, they were like, “Wow! Rob! That’s so cool! Where did you get a green Ranger piñata?”


So far, so good. Everybody lined up. Mark went first, definitely the biggest of my classmates. I figured, universe, or God, I guess I still believed in God when I was a little kid, I was like God, just let Mark miss, and I’ll be golden. My mom tied the blindfold really tight. He stepped up. Whack!

Direct hit. Mark knocked it right in the homemade chest plate. It was like all of the green came off first, so it was this blue-green, mostly blue explosion, and Mark was just standing there, getting showered in candy by himself. And he didn’t even realized it at first, but as soon as he did, he untucked his shirt and held it out underneath the candy shower, just collecting so much candy, the lion’s share, all of the good stuff. Then when it stopped he ran off to some corner, he hadn’t even taken off the blindfold yet, and he sat down and started in on his loot. Everybody else kind of just ran to the grass to see what was left. Then some of the parents started clapping, then everybody had cake, and then everybody went home.