19 Years? Really?

Whenever July 29 rolls around, I can’t help but reflect a bit on a life that seems remarkably contradictory to me now. I’ve been in the Midwest for roughly 13 years, and the largest city I’ve lived in during that time (Dickinson, N.D.) had a population of about 17,000. That’s a far cry from where I was living in the summer of 1991, when I took a leap of faith and moved from my hometown, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to New York City.

In fact, it was July 29, 1991, that I started my job in Manhattan as a freelance assistant editor at Monitor Publishing Co. (now Leadership Directories Inc.). For whatever reason, I always look back at that day as one of the more instrumental ones of my life … along with the day I moved to North Dakota, the day I started at the Daily Globe, the day I met my wife (a little more than a month after starting at the Globe), the day I got married and the days both Grace and Zachary were born.

If July 29, 1991, hadn’t come about the way it did, I find it hard to believe that everything that has come afterward would have ensued. One thing leads to another, I’m convinced.

Looking back, I was very fortunate. I had moved to NYC without a job, and solely on an invitation from an old college friend and housemate who had lined up a pretty good gig with a computer company down near the World Trade Center. He’d be making pretty good money, and he’d spot me what I needed for food and rent while I found gainful employment. But, after nearly two months of fruitless searching – and admittedly a fair degree of time-wasting – his patience was running out. I owed him roughly $1,500, and without a job had no way of even beginning to pay him back. Perhaps more critically (at the time), he had cut me off (mostly) from his beer fund, too. I was smart enough to not complain.

I thought for sure I had lined up one job when I – by total chance – wound up with an ex-dormmate co-interviewing for a position at some forgotten publishing house. But I got cocky, asking all kinds of questions about lunch breaks and the company softball team; I remember being subsequently scolded by the woman with the employment agency I’d gone through (who I also recall pathetically flirting with incessantly). A couple of weeks went by after that, and I had no bites. And then came a rainy Thursday afternoon, when my roommate was at work and I was playing random computer games in the middle of the afternoon while sitting around, unshowered and in a tee-shirt and grubby shorts. I got a phone call; would I like to come in for an interview? Sure, I pounced; I could make it that afternoon. That was fine … and amazingly enough, the interview was at a company that was less than a 10-minute walk from my apartment building. (Very few people have the luxury of commutes in NYC that don’t involve a subway or bus).

The only thing I remember about the interview was that I left my umbrella behind. Somewhat amazingly, that didn’t cost me a new professional opportunity. I got a phone call within an hour of being back at my apartment; it was a job offer. I agreed to start the following week. A few hours earlier, I was on the verge of going back to Saratoga Springs with significant debt; now, I had a publishing company job in the Big Apple.

I could write blog after blog about the nearly four years I spent living and working in Manhattan. Doing so, though, would be ultimately pointless, as it would merely suggest an over-40 (say it ain’t so!) male in some kind of mid-life crisis mode. That may have been a great time of my life, but this is, too.

Still, whenever July 29 rolls around, I can’t help but wax a bit nostalgic. The other night, wide awake after a day of too much caffeine consumpton, I got to thinking about Saturday nights at The Pit Stop, a heavy metal-themed bar on Third Avenue where I’d go with my buddies to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb in a definitely hard-edged crowd and, for all intents and purposes, drool over the kind of women you’d see in a Motley Crue video (my apologies to the band’s purists for leaving out the umlauts). I remember wanting to be like my ultra-cool (or so I thought at the time) boss, Scott, who played in a Bowie-esque rock band called Masterdog that I saw numerous times. I recall parties at our apartment, one for which one of our building’s doormen agreed to hand out complimentary Elvis stamps to all our guests, and another when (and I still can’t help but be a tad proud of this) one of the attendees was a single-named South African model who had appeared in a then-recent Playboy (and was, of course, dating the aforementioned cool boss).

On that note … enough. Life is so much different this July 29. I was attending a concert outside of Worthington’s Westminster Presbyterian Church, seeing the Christian kids-pop band Go Fish. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.