Less Suck, More Rock

I am walking home from the gym. I am still sweating. My muscles are warm. My vision is clear. I am holding a vente mild in my left hand, and a brown bag with an egg sandwich and orange juice in my right. Counting Crows’ “Time And Time Again” is playing on my iPod. It is raining.

As I reach the southwest corner of Columbus & and 81st, the sun breaks through the clouds. The rain continues falling, illuminated by sunshine. Tiny droplets float just above my head like atoms free of their valence. And I decide right there that this moment, somehow, summarizes the entire year.

I realize that time is man-made, and that for all intents and purposes, it’s superfluous and meaningless. But I appreciate the order of it. I appreciate the opportunity to start with a clean slate. I appreciate the ability to make some meaning from it all. And then to do it again.

2004 ended unceremoniously. I was alone in my apartment; seated in front the television, fast asleep when the New Year arrived. There was no fanfare, no fireworks; no deep, slow, wet kisses for me. Just a warm Bass Ale, and my MTV. Which was fine with me. The just-expired year had been a mess. I had bumbled recklessly and without intention from one half-assed relationship to another. In my wake I left, at best, apathy, at worst, heartbreak. I climbed the spiral staircase to my bed happy to leave the year behind.

I adopted the motto early on that the New Year would be all about “Less Suck, More Rock.” (My friend Kat even made me a t-shirt to that end.) It wasn’t much of a goal, really, being the 2004 sucked pretty badly. But it was something.

Kat checked in periodically throughout the year, sending brief emails with the subject header “S::R?” The ratio ebbed and flowed like anything else. But overall, as the remaining hours of 2005 tick away, I can tell you with confidence that 2005 did, in fact, suck less, and rock more.

2005 certainly had it share of surprises. Who would have guessed that I would release three CDs? Or finally get a record deal? Or spend two weeks on tour in the Midwest? Or play my biggest shows ever? And who would have guessed that I would interview Cameron Crowe? Or Michael Penn? Or hang out at the Sundance Film Festival? Who’d have guessed that I’d stand on a bridge in Miami during a hurricane laughing into the wind?

Not me.

But it was the small, unexpected surprises that made this year what it was. A bronze statue of an angel. A fiery sunset from my deck. A cold beer on the porch in Nantucket. An afternoon of songwriting in my room. Ethan grabbing my hand and leading me down the beach. Or a sun shower where tiny droplets of rain danced just above my head like atoms free of their valence.

In the end, I am tired. By my calculation, I spent over one hundred nights away from home. That’s over 25% of my year. Which explains the exhaustion. But I am recovering.

In the end, I’m happy. I did more than I planned. I saw more than I’d expected. And I was loved more deeply than I could have hoped.

And in the end, I am grateful. Numerous people have made this year suck less, and rock more: Jason, Stephanie, Mitchell, and Mike, Abbi, Chris, Jen and Ethan, mom, dad and Madonna, Josh and Jerry, Mandy, Michael, Goldner, Rach and Heather, Rob and Claudine, Amy, Mark, Wes and Casey, Chris, Guy, Tony and Walker, Kevin, Stephanie, Scott, Derek, Justin and Rob.

And you. Thank you. You made the dark days bright.

I’m taking the rest of the year off. I’m going to go home to Philadelphia. I’m going to be quiet a while. I’m going to watch movies and sleep. I’m going to work on my long-threatened novel. I’m going to run in Valley Forge. And I’m going to spend time with friends long-lost.

I’ll be back next year, when we’ll do all it again.

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