I'm so darn glad he let me try it again
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach my highest ground
-Stevie Wonder, "Higher Ground"
Here we are, once again at the turnover of another year, and I for one hope to all fuck that the upcoming annus is a vast improvement over what came just before and, in my specific case, what came before over roughly the past five.
As I write this, I am 48.5 years old and I have done a lot of living in that time, a lot of it good and quite memorable, some of it stuff that if given a chance for a do-over I would have definitely steered clear of. A lot of you out there can probably say the same. Some of you who are at the same stage of life as I have undergone or are undergoing what is commonly referred to as a midlife crisis, and while I'm not sure if what I've been going through for quite some time falls into that exact category, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the past decade has seen me reach a number of epiphanies and endure a number of defining hardships.
Twenty-four years ago, after a year and a half pursuing a fruitless local career in freelance design and illustration, I left home from Westport, Connecticut to make my fortune in New York City as a member of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen, full of youthful optimism and wide-eyed hope for a future doing what I loved. I worked alongside several college buddies who have since become more dear to me than my own biological family, meeting and becoming friends with many of the greats in the comics biz while partying harder than I had any right to and still remain alive, and those times were mostly good (if low-paying). I lived the comics geek's dream until Marvel entered the dire "Marvelution" era of the mid-1990's and Chapter 11 proceedings wrought massive staff layoffs, with myself being among those who got the axe on the day before Halloween of 1998. After that I ended up at Marvel's in-town rival, DC Comics, a more corporate entity that was a subsidiary of Time-Warner, and there I stayed until the spring of 2003, eventually "let go" after what was at the time the fastest advancement in the company's editorial staff. That was followed by just shy of two years as an unemployed freelancer, and then came my now-infamous stint anchoring the kitchen at a certain Brooklyn barbecue joint. After two years of some very crazy adventures, I left that gig for a staff job at a Manhattan design studio in the capacity of copy writer/proofreader/quality control, but what looked at first to be a promising job very quickly revealed itself to be me landing a position on a sinking ship that paid shit and provided little for me to do. (I was there for three years before the inevitable layoff, after which the place slowly whittled down its staff and continued with nothing even resembling a direction until in closed altogether.) Since then I have been unemployed-but-freelancing for nearly four years, and it will likely come as no surprise to tell you that I am sick of applying for jobs and getting nowhere while living hand-to-mouth.
Over those years my romantic endeavors have mostly ended up as disasters, thanks to my propensity for finding myself hooked up with a succession of women who could kindly be described as...a bit "off" in the head, some more so than others. (And I am by no means insinuating that I am without flaws, some of which run deep.) Some of those ladies have remained close and trusted friends, others have simply returned to the ether from which they came, and some have been relegated to a roster of creatures to be avoided with the fervency with which one would dodge some of the more terror-inducing beasts of classical mythology or stories penned by H.P. Lovecraft. But whatever the case, I remain a man who adores women and someday hopes to find the right companion with whom to settle into something more permanent than some occasional "sexy time," but at the moment I have been going stag for nearly a year and I've gotta say that it's lonely as hell. And there was a time when I wanted nothing more than a family of my own, preferably with three daughters, but now I'm more than content to enjoy influencing the many nieces and nephews I have via my closest friends since high school and college, so at least there's that.
I bring all of this up because 2013 was without question the most shit-tastic year of my life thus far, and during that time I had to contend with a life-avalanche of ongoing unemployment/poverty, another romantic crash-and-burn (though the lady in question was not a villain and we remain friends), the untimely death of a dear old friend, being there to support a few friends who were in deep emotional crisis, an escalating wave of exorbitant medical issues that I had to contend with without medical insurance, and last, but definitely not least, having a stent put into my heart in order to open up some minor blockage that was found there.
To call all of that a rollercoaster would be something of an understatement, so as this crappy year draws to a close, I have opted to sit this New Year's Eve out and instead stay at home by my lonesome, watching Season 5 of SONS OF ANARCHY while contemplating how I can actively work to make 2014 an improvement over the year that immediately preceded it. I wish I had a squeeze for tonight but that didn't happen this time around, and I admit to being spoiled by having female companionship to help usher in the past three new years, so here's hoping for a return to form from here on in.
Anyway, I'm staring to ramble, so let me just say in closing that may all of us have a better year in 2014 than we did in 2013, and may all our misfortunes and miseries be turned around into joy, prosperity, and lots and lots of "sexy time."