In Mid-August of 2006 I packed up a U-Haul trailer, hooked it up to my blue Chevy Blazer and headed south for Philadelphia. The rearview mirror was full of Portland, Gram, my family, my band and the boats & crew of Casco Bay Lines. It was Saturday. I would be starting graduate school on Tuesday. I have never been one to give myself much down time in between life changing acts.
The apartment I shared with Nailz and Big White (El Grande Blanco to the Spanish-speaking) was on Green Street, in the Fairmount or Art Museum section of Philadelphia. When looking at it a few months earlier, the main draw was the roof deck- all ours and with an amazing view of Center City. The Comcast Center, soon to be the tallest building in the city, was in the middle of being built and Big’s room was less of a bed room and more of a glorified office. We had a spiral staircase and Nailz had a cat named Izzy who would become a big fan of hiding/sleeping under my comforter when I wasn’t home and a big mortal enemy of Big. At one point, Izzy would not only pee in Big’s bag, but also in his laundry. They seemed to have differences that were insurmountable.
The first month, like any first month of nearly anything, had ups and downs. There were ups like exploring a new city and downs like getting lost in a new city. There were ups like starting graduate school and there were downs like starting graduate school. I ran a red light, went the wrong way down a one way street and was unable to find one of my classrooms on the first day of class. On a couple occasions I thought about leaving, but was talked into staying- Big and my sister being the main ones doing the talking. I got a job at a sports clothing store in Center City and enjoyed walking to and from work- ultimately finding that much more enjoyable than the job itself, which was mundane, poor paying and run by a lunatic. After Christmas I walked out. Admittedly a rash move, but my hours were being cut everyday and it had reached a point where the baloney wasn’t worth the price of admission. It was not a complete waste though- I did get a couple nice jackets out of it, learned the difference between rowing and sculling and got into fantasy football.
Those next couple months were uneven and only stabilized by school. I got work at a hard-scaping company out in the suburbs, but that company was also run by a lunatic, albeit a different kind of lunatic, and by spring, I was done with that nonsense. I did however befriend a delightful Pakistani dude who was my crew leader at the company. He was an expert at driving slow and taking the longest route possible to jobs. We spent a lot of time in parking lots, drinking coffee and talking about sports. He understood completely when I just kind of, sort of disappeared from that job. And I disappeared to Mountain Sports International, a place I’d work at for the next four years.
What started out as a part-time gig, because a super full-time gig that took me all over the country, introduced me to some of the most entertaining people I’ve ever met and educated me on the value of both comfortable shoes and dependable zip ties. The job taught me a lot about myself and I discovered that running events was a job I was made for, which is a fun feeling. I finished my Master’s in December of 2007, completing a thesis of eight biographical essays that I still believe is the strongest work I’ve done next to The Emergence of Gus, the play I wrote during my senior year of college. That fall of 2007- taking classes, writing my thesis, being broke and learning how to manage (which I was doing after taking the reins of MSI Philly in early September) was probably and easily one of the hardest periods of my life. But I learned to function with very little sleep and the value of patience. I got a Blackberry, quite a few headaches and punched a hole in my bedroom door. It was an interesting time, but one I survived and one I think ultimately made me a better person.
The next couple years are a blur and I still can’t pinpoint exactly when things happened without consulting both a calendar and the Internet. My sister got married, Gram passed away, I went to California for the first time, I fell in love with an F 350, I went to a lot of Phillies’ games, I saw the Police, and eventually I moved out of the Green Street apartment and into my bachelor pad in Northern Liberties. Upon moving in I told myself that I wouldn’t live with someone again unless we were dating.
And then I met Kim. September 22, 2009. Our first date was at North Third and I was late (because I was at a gay bar setting up for a Red Bull event,) I was sweaty (because it was humid) and I knocked my beer bottle off of the table. The fact that she kissed me at the end of the night in and of itself was nothing short of miracle.
What’s the thing I remember the most? The sparkle emitted from both her eyes and her smile.
A couple days later I went out to L.A. for a Red Bull Soap Box event and in only a few short days I almost lost an eye, saw the Beethoven statue and got swine flu. On top of all of that, I missed Kim and couldn’t wait to see her again. I realized that my jet-setting days were over- the allure was gone. For me, the idea of running around the country and setting up crazy events was a single & a young man’s game. I was no longer a young man- I was thirty, and after meeting Kim, I no longer wanted to be a single man. It was the first event I had gone to for MSI that I wanted to be over before it began. This stuck with me. It was time to go home. It was all about Kim.
It would be all about Kim from that point on.
The Bachelor pad life was interesting. My neighbor downstairs screamed beat poetry from his window and I didn’t have heat for about two weeks around Christmas. I missed the roof deck but as luck would have it, Kim’s building had one and featured a different view of Center City- the view from the south. I started eating salad more, learned about the University of Delaware and saw parts of the Jersey Shore (Point Pleasant & Long Beach Island) that I never knew existed. It was a fun year and by the time summer rolled around I was on the move again, from Northern Liberties to Queen Village. I was moving in with Kim and we were soon talking about marriage. It all made complete sense to me. She was everything I had ever wanted in life and the kind of woman I always envisioned myself being with. In November of 2011, a day after Thanksgiving in the parking lot of the Wharfside restaurant in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ I got the only words out of my mouth I could muster- Hey Kim, I just can’t wait anymore. Will you marry me?
I have always believed life is broken up into stages, or more specifically chapters in a book. Up until that point, the chapters in my life had gone as such:
1. Being Young (until age 10)
2. Big Feet & Awkward (age 10-14)
3. High School & Trying too Hard (age 14-18)
4. The Time When I Was Able to Be Myself for the First Time – also known as the Burns Years (age 18-21)
5. When I realized I Wasn’t a Group Person (age 22)
6. Those Years After College Before I Was in a Band (age 22-24)
7. Those Years When I Was in a Band (age 24-26)
8. Making My Move to Philadelphia & Learning How to Get Lost (age 26)
9. Those Years When I Worked for MSI (age 27-30)
10. Going Steady (age 30-32)
11. Ryno-mite and Kimmy Bombs are Dating (age 32 to present)
We can’t deny the existence of chapters in our life. No one stays the same forever- whether it’s their personality, their surroundings or the situations. Things change and we change. It’s all part of our narrative, the story we are a part of. I realized that there were chapters in life after college when I could see that my life was inevitably broken up into different sections. At first I thought it was as simple as every four years, things were different. But it’s deeper than that. It’s more specific.
Now another chapter is about to end and it’s exciting- even more so when you are cognizant of it happening. This next chapter; I don’t know what will happen and what it will be called. I know that right off the bat it will include leaving Philly, getting married and starting a new job that could dared to be called my dream job. It’s all in good fun man and it’s all happening. When it’s done, we’ll know where we stand and what the final product looks like. It’ll be longer than anything George R.R. Martin could ever write.
So adios Philadelphia. It was fun and the lessons you taught me I’ll carry with me forever. You brought me closer to my sister, you taught me how to drive offensively defensive and you introduced me to my wife. I’d say that you were good for me.
See you soon.