August 11, 2017

Cheer Up: Inspiration from Indy

I sat next to Indy, lacing up my skates for a late-night beer league game when I saw the tattoo on his hand. CHEER UP it said. Unique, yet common in its sentiment.

Our team knows him as Ian. Ray’s brother. We only called him Indy when we wanted to fck with him, as most hockey chirpers know how to do so well. I was never a chirper myself, so I’ve never really called him that. To me, he was always the same soft-handed puck dangler I’d known from the squad.

But seeing that ink and hearing what it meant gave me a different perspective of who he was outside of hockey. It inspired me, even though he’s nearly 10 years younger than me. I was impressed, to say the least. So I did as I always do: I had to write about it.

“That’s cool man, I like that,” I say, pointing at it.

“Thanks dude,” he responds. “There’s actually a story behind it.”

“Oh, true. Is it personal? Can I hear?”

“Well,” he pauses to tape his shin pads, “when I dropped out of college, I didn’t tell my parents at first. I took a bus home from West Virginia, dreading their reaction the whole time. It was a long ride so I had a lot of time to think. So many things went through my head. I mean, shit dude. My mind was a whirlpool. Of course, I was worried about dropping out and what that meant for me financially. On top of what my parents would think of me, ya know?”

I nod my head, take another beer from the cooler, and start taping my stick.

“All I could think about was whether this was the right move or not. Leaving school to pursue music. Seemed like a risk, you know?”

“Did you doubt yourself?”

“No, not at all.” He crushes his beer. “I was sad. And scared. I’d never thought about taking something I loved and pursuing it seriously. Seemed impossible.” He stops to throw his jersey over his head. “Anyway, the song ‘Cheer Up’ by Skizzy Mars came on and there I was. On the bus, 180 mood shift. The light clicked on and I just knew.”

“That’s cool man. I dig that. A sign from the universe.”

“Definitely, definitely. So the day I signed my deal with Sony, I got this inked.”

I fist-bump him, inspired by the story. “That’s awesome dude!”

“Yeah man - a little reminder, you know?”

“Absolutely! That’s how all my ink started,” I say, pointing to some of my own tattoos. “Little things to remind me who I am and where I came from.”

“Yours are dope, dude. Way cooler than mine.”

“Thanks man. But don’t knock yourself. Yours has depth. Mine just got bigger and bigger as time went on. I’ve got plans for my whole arm, my ribs, and my legs too. But not as meaningful like that.”

“They’re addicting,” he blurts.

“Oh, without a doubt!”

Ian goes on to tell me he just bought a house in L.A. How he’s leaving that Saturday. How we have to come visit him out on the west coast. His eyes light up when he talks about the vision. The goals and dreams. The same way parents’ sound when they talk about their kids.

I finish taping my stick and slug what’s left of my Stella Artois. The inspiration spreads to my bones - from either the beer, the hockey, or the little tattoo on his hand. I could just feel it. It soaked into my heart, my crevices of soul. Something pushing on the inside of my ribs as if to remind me to follow dreams instead of dollars. 

“You better come back to play the Pony,” I say, strapping on my helmet.

He glares at me, as if offended that I’d even think he wouldn’t. “Dude, of course. Know your roots! Your tickets will be at willcall.” He laughs.

“Hey, let’s get a win tonight, aye? Send you off in style.”

“Done,” he says. “3 goal limit, just pass it to me.”

Ian is a cool dude and I wish him all the success he can handle in this world. If he can inspire fans the way he inspired me, I know he’ll be seeing big places real soon.

August 3, 2017

On Turning 30

So I turned 30 this past July. The big 3-0. Dirty thirty. 

At first, it felt the same as all the other birthdays. But now that I’ve had some time to think about it... it’s not. I can feel the gravity pulling at my bones. 

The other night I came home from a men’s league hockey game and my hips felt like fire. They clicked and popped and exploded while I hobbled around the next day. I took some inflammation supplements and my wife made fun of me.

Plus, my feet smell funkier than usual. Could just be a summer side-effect, but I don't know.

I guess that’s it though. The game changer. No more scandalous shenanigans. No more ridiculousness. All my favorite things are now ‘retro’ or ‘classic.’ Bedtime is now 10pm sharp. 

Yep, it’s onto the first official adult decade. (That feels like something a millennial would say. Am I one of those? I don’t know. The labels have changed so many times.)

I can’t help but ask myself if all this hype was for something that feels so inconsequential.  I mean... is this it? 

For 3 decades, I’ve heard so much talk about what it means to be 30. There’s been movies, books, bands, and anecdotes, all recommended or thrown at me in attempts to give me a heads-up. And now, here I am, scribbling to myself, on 7th Ave beach in Belmar’s late afternoon sun, watching the crowds pack it in, trying to decide where we should go to celebrate for dinner, unable to make up my mind about what I want to eat, drink, consume, or think about turning old enough to be considered vintage. 

I should've paid closer attention. Tack another 7 onto the list. 2017 hit me like a set of dice.

Along with getting married, I wrote a book about trying to maintain mindfulness throughout this phase, and I believe I’m headed in the right direction. But there’s still something there. Something digging at my third eye from behind my ribcage.

Why does it feel so unimportant? Am I broken? Do I not have the proper software to evoke that particular emotion? Should I be jotting down kids names instead of slingin' blog posts? Am I supposed to be taking selfies with the sunset like the rest of these mindless zombies? 

I’m happy, for sure. Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I don't regret any of this. But the Southeast breeze feels just as pleasant as it always has.

So what’s different? The silver in my beard? The aches I get after working out? The existential dread of never accomplishing my dreams? Or just the reminder that I’ve revolved around the sun 30 times?

I’m still just some stardust in orbit. And now I have another label.