The End of The Empire?

The 21st Century has been quite a ride for me.

Winters in Rangoon.

Luge lessons.

In the summer we’d make meat helmets…

OK, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to work Austin Powers into anything.

Anyway, Century 21 has looked like this:

2000: The culmination of the new me after a rip-roaring, mortgage-the-future 90s…

2001: Thanks to an untimely breakup, the decimation the new me, but light at the end of this life-changing transitional tunnel began to appear as we moved into…

2002: The rebirth of Conch. If 2001 was That 70s Show, 2002 was the VH-1’s I Love the Eighties.

2003: Top of the heap. King of the Hill. Everything that could go right…did.

2004: Let’s call this a mild recession: A result of rapid growth experiencing a market correction from the good times of ’02 and ’03. ’04 was still respectable, but the lifestyle established was becoming an outdated business model better suited for the previous two years.

2005: The mild recovery…the first five years of the decade all rolled into one.

Circle of life, baby.

And now, 2006.

The 1986 of the 00’s.

Top Gun.

The Phil Simms Giants.

First full season of Moonlighting.

What happens next?

How many more stages of evolution could possibly be left?

What magic, at age 34, is left in the bottle?

To answer that question, here’s something that I learned in that pivotal year of 2002: “Magic” happens in life when new experiences occur within a comfort zone. Yeah, the new experience is fresh, it’s unpredictable, but it’s still not too dangerous within the walls of a world of wellbeing.

Is it difficult to discover such a hybrid?

You bet your ass.

And if this column makes as much sense to this point as Vanilla Sky did after watching it the first time, it only serves as a reflection of my own confusion as to what happens next.

And no, I’m not drunk.

So what made ’02 and ’03 the Adam Vinatieri Super Bowls?

Well, during the Rebirth of Conch (2002) and the Apex of Conch (2003), I met and befriended some of the great people I’ve met since my High School core. In retrospect, I honestly don’t know if I will ever gel and co-exist with any group like these earlythirtysomething folks again.

This universe of powerful personalities that were discovered after finally realizing that college life doesn’t end at 30 were all on the same page as me in terms of social agenda, career, humor, values, morals and overall approach to life. It was kind of like Superman when he turned the rotation of the Earth backwards to save Lois Lane—all fighting a war on the terror of time alongside the unspoken fear of being alone at the next decade milestone.

This group effectively dominated three Jersey shore beach houses, sprinkled with some peripheral characters here and utility players there…kind of like Yankee trading deadline acquisitions like Aaron Boone or Esteban Loaiza, or guests stars on a FOX prime time drama or sitcom. Like baseball or TV, these guest stars may stick around for an episode or two (unless you’re Heather Locklear, who remained a “Special Guest Star” for, like, 41 years on Melrose), but ultimately everyone knew that these guest stars (see: dating partners outside the circle) would be given their walking papers, and the order of the universe of the thirtysomething troop would be restored so the show can continue into next season (Maddie and David morphing into Joanne Loves Chachi on Moonlighting was the beginning of the end for that short-lived classic, thus the same rules apply to real life).

This group of friends and associates were like one big Irish-Italian family…from West Virginia: Spending weekends together, weekday night Happy Hours together, vacations together, more oftentimes than not beds together…and most didn’t even know each other before they were 27. It was an assemblage that was largely constructed almost by necessity by 7-8 subsets that all found each other when their friends got married off or moved away.

Because many of you already believe I’m shallower than Ari Gold at his kid’s Bat Mitzvah (having Vinny Chase cut the ceremonial bread instead of her own Grandfather), I don’t mind sharing that most of thirtysomethings I’m referring to weren’t just quality individuals, but most were quite easy on the eyes as well. Call it the Dream Team of the ones left standing in singledom (the gold medal ’92 Version of Bird, Magic and Jordan…not the bronze Iverson/Lebron/Odum 2004 version).

It is understood that this evaluation sounds pretentious, but thinking back to the memories and seeing all of the old pictures truly reminds me how special they were, personally and physically. What made this group truly amazing is that almost all were somehow single at the same time, making life in Sea Girt a 24/7 true-life Tivo moment because of all the utterly entertaining drama that goes with twenty subplots happening simultaneously.

Now as we enter 2006, most of those thirtysomething have predictably gone from unattached to attached. Some players have found each other internally, while others to actually stayed with guest stars that own a Locklear-like shelf life. But really, it was only a matter of time before the Dream Teamers signed long-term contracts offered by enticing bidders, and it’s almost shocking it took some of them that long to get scooped up.

As the second half of the decade is underway, one of my friends/rivals mentioned that I had lost my karma. It makes me wonder if I’m like an aging Brett Favre.

I look like I can still play, still mobile, still possessing the arm strength. But I don’t even know what the “game” is anymore, and my teammates aren’t the same ones I had in my Super Bowl years, having been signed away by some bizarro version of the USFL.

I was asked recently what happiness means to me (Cameron Diaz asked Tom Cruise the same question in the aforementioned Vanilla Sky). I paused to think of a time when I didn’t have a care in the world, couldn’t stop laughing, and never felt or looked better.


Within about 3/10 of a second, it becomes the easiest question ever asked since “What’s your favorite 90210 character?” (Answer: John Sears – Steve-O’s evil pledge master at the KEG house).

So I think back to this July night in 2004, and I’m in Sea Girt at the Parker House…the place where some believe dreams really do come true. I’m not one to hyperbolize, and my friends and column-haters really think I’m sick to hold a fucking bar in this high of a regard, but the PH is one of those truly special establishments on Earth.

Only operational from mid-May to early September, and only open until 11:45 PM, it’s doesn’t even look like a bar…mainly because it’s a Bed and Breakfast that happens to have two floors and a deck that serve alcohol.

For me, this is home from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I’m one of those people wise enough to spend $350.00 just to own a VIP card (I actually own two). I’m the idiot that goes to opening night two weeks before the season just to start summer sooner than I should (and pay the $75.00 per card renewal fee). I plan on naming one of my sons or dog “Parker”.

Yes, I am sick. But Sam Malone had the same feelings for Cheers, so just let it go.

On a Saturday night, a line outside the PH for admittance can begin at 5:00 PM. Around 9:00 PM the place has a buzz and energy not seen or felt anywhere in the world, and I’ve been everywhere from Minneapolis to Orlando. The girls, mostly Hoboken and Manhattanites, are casually dressed, but more colorful and tastefully than usual. The guys are a cloning experiment gone bad…with stripped shirts and sandals being as prevalent as salt air itself.

And being there with the thirtysomething 30+ crew and not thinking of tomorrow, Monday or Autumn, while feeling an American Pie kinship to all of them, and seeing all of the action of their love lives unfold there on a Saturday night was, believe it or not, absolute bliss.

And it feels particularly good to look back on it now during Hoboken’s 60-degree-on-one-day, real-feel-temperature-of-4-above-the-next wacky winter.

So 2006 will see yet another summer off Exit 98 and another fifteen or so Saturday nights at the Parker House. But after my Super Bowl years, it just will not be the same with the core of the Empire being vanquished thanks to petty love and commitment.

Like Favre, it’s still fun to play and it’s hard to walk away. But perhaps it’s time to find new magic in the form of something or somewhere else new instead of milking a good thing more than 90210 did with the whole Donna Martin plot of almost becoming the female prequel to The 40-Year Old Virgin.

But until a worthy alternative is discovered, I’m not quite sure where else to find what happiness is to me…at least in this context.

2006 is here.

Resolutions will be made, and most will be broken by the time this is published on January 18.

Mine will be to stop looking like I’m entering my second trimester, fix up the apartment, and read 12 books.