My first few weeks here in Augusta were pretty surreal. With all the snow and ice, and the various processes of getting set up to live somewhere new, it was tough to get my head around the fact that this was my home now.
I remember one of the first times that that realization really sunk in. It was in the parking lot at Applebee’s, of all places, when the thought popped into my mind: “I’ll be spending my birthday here.”
Not the Applebee’s parking lot, mind you, but central Maine. And 10 months later, here we are!
Someone asked me on Friday night whether this – my 29th, for the record – would be my first birthday in the U.S. and away from all of my friends and family back home.
That was a question I’d half-asked myself earlier in the day. I’m not entirely sure why that parking-lot thought process even felt like an issue worth considering, since I’ve actually spent the last two before this year on vacation out here.
In 2012, I had a boozy weekend in San Diego with two friends, one of whom is extremely talented at talking bartenders into providing free booze for people celebrating their birthdays. I partook in a Muff Diver cocktail (don’t shoot the messenger), a bottle of kiwi/strawberry Mad Dog 20/20 fortified wine (13 percent ABV) and jello shots at various locations, and unsurprisingly felt like a pile of hot garbage the next day at Dodger Stadium, where we sat on concrete bleachers in 102-degree heat and tried not to melt into the ground.
Last year was spent in Denver with the same couple, although under much more awkward circumstances since I was unceremoniously evicted before being taken out for a painful birthday lunch. Better believe I drank ’til I couldn’t feel feelings that day, too!
With all that said, the concept of being halfway around the world on my birthday isn’t that difficult. I’m one of those people who doesn’t particularly like to make a fuss about it – more often than not I’ve worked on September 29 and not been fazed (although “fazed” doesn’t include hungover.)
This year, post-Seafood Festival, there were plans to go to Boston this past weekend to catch Derek Jeter’s last game as a Yankee, at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. That didn’t materialize for a bunch of reasons, and while I’d have loved to be down there to see the end of The Captain’s career, I flat out couldn’t afford it.
On top of that, I’m heading down there this coming weekend anyway to catch up with two friends from the west coast and celebrate with them, so a low(er)-key weekend at home was certainly in order.
And that was the right move for so many reasons. I got a ton of housework done Saturday, and even had a home-cooked meal before I went to the bar. I managed to wake up feeling not entirely shitty on Sunday, before going back to Hallowell with Bonnie and having a boozy and utterly excessive brunch consisting of lobster-shrimp-avocado-tomato-cheese eggs Benedict, two cocktails and a beer before 1:00pm.
I also took a sweet nap in my recliner, like the old man that I am, and woke up with the indian summer sun shining through the window on me. After waking up energized, and knowing I’d have to eat but not wanting to procure foods for myself, I walked to Hallowell for the third time in under 24 hours, found a perch at the Liberal Cup bar, and had a bunch more pints to close out Funday Sunday.
Today was back to the regularly scheduled programming – breakfast, gym, lunch, work – with the exception of the tireless Bonnie taking her lunch break from work to drop me off a pile of cupcakes she made for me to take into the office. What could be better than that?
And while all that sounds like I mostly partied alone, that’s far from the truth. I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of familiar faces around Hallowell that I can idly converse with, and pick up wherever we left off last time, and a few of them were even good enough to buy me a beer.
But outside of that, I couldn’t possibly feel bereft of friends, due to the near-constant stream of messages, phone calls and Facebook posts wishing me well from all corners of the globe.
One of the strange, extremely fleeting, feelings I sometimes get – especially when I self-promote the shit out of these blog posts – is wondering how many people really care. That’s not said in a self-deprecating or woe-is-me kind of a way: I know full well that life gets in the way and it takes a lot of effort to keep up with what everyone’s doing, doubly so if they’re in a different timezone halfway around the world.
Obviously though, that feeling is squashed 100 times over when I have to charge my phone four times in 36 hours as my great friends from Australia, the U.S., spots all over Europe and everywhere else drop me a line to wish me well and hope that I’m pickling my liver in some of Maine’s finest ales.
As the old saying goes, you’re only as good as the company you keep. If that’s the case, then I’m one of the best that ever was, because I keep the company of dozens and dozens of great friends. Thanks y’all for celebrating with me, from wherever you are in the world.