When I was a kid I hated sparkling water. I never understood why anyone would drink it. My dad would drink Perrier all the time and it seemed so stupid. He would tell me that when I grew up, I might acquire a taste for it. I said that was stupid and he was wrong and no one would ever convince me to like it.

I don't remember who initiated the wager, but he bet me $100 that by the time I was 30, I would enjoy Perrier. Well, I'm turning 30, my dad's dead, and I just bought a 4-pack. He was right. He was right about a lot of things. I think some of the things about which he was right are things I'm still not old enough to understand. But I'm turning 30, so I think I'm getting closer.

Coming of Age

For whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a grown-up. When does one cross that threshold? What agic milestone or experiential event stands between boyhood and manhood? When I was a boy, my foundational understanding of adulthood came from Spongebob.

Free Form Jazz

The Mustaches Worked

These ideas were reinforced by my father having a killer mustache and listening to jazz. One of his favorite albums of all time was A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. He would speak of it with such reverence that it took on mythical stature in my mind. It was the height of sophistication, the pinnacle of culture, the distillation of all these strange ideas I had about who I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted so desperately to be as cool as someone who listened to A Love Supreme. I'm realizing now that I wanted to be as cool (and grown up) as my dad.


One of my dad's favorite restaurants (perhaps his very favorite) was a jazz club on the east side of Cleveland called Nighttown. Of course, just like A Love Supreme, this establishment took on quite the air of romance and mystique for me. I don't really remember it descriptively, but I do remember it impressionistically. This is appropriate, given that it takes its name from James Joyce's Ulysses (which happens to be one of my dad's favorite books). Here's my best attempt at a Joycean stream-of-consciousness recollection of Cleveland's Nighttown:

Dim light smokesun through black curtains. Red sound bouncing off the walls stone and wood adorned with posters, musicians and instruments and fonts and colors. Stories deep dripping from the ceiling. Glasses and mugs for love and refilling and long, long, long late nights. This darksmall part of the world in tiny nuance to expand.

It occupies an odd part of my memory - a fantasy of the future from the past. I always wanted to become a regular there. To become a fixture of the underground jazz scene in Cleveland somehow, even though I had no business doing any such thing. One lesson I have not learned in my 30 years of life is how to give up on fantasies like that. I used to think I would grow out of them, but I've grown around them instead. And I think that's a better lesson to learn.

These imaginary identities are a core part of me that, while childlike, are not childish. I still have this unrealistic vision of myself in my mind - a guy who listens to A Love Supreme and understands the writing of James Joyce - but I've accepted that my reverie is just as much a part of me as anything else. And I can keep trying to grow up while holding onto that part of me.


For the last several months, I've been slogging my way through Ulysses in my own ill-fated odyssey to feel closer to my dad. I comprehend absolutely none of it, but that does not stop me from being moved by it. It's filled with beautiful turns of phrase, striking mashwords, all a totally singular style of writing. But also it's kind of stupid. I think most words move us in ways we cannot explain, and it has been refreshing to acknowledge this inexplicability from the very start.

The more I grow, the less I understand. The older I become, the more I accept the absurdity and incomprehensibility of life. I don't know what it means to come of age, but I know I've done it.

Identity & Fatherhood

Something changed this June. The word "dad" has two meanings to me now: once, it was a title reserved only for the manliest, grownupliest, archetypal-fatherliest person I knew; now, it's a title that applies to me somehow. I don't know what I thought was going to happen when my daughter was born. I think I thought I would undergo a physical metamorphosis and become A Dad, but no such thing has happened.

My life changed significantly, but the changes to my identity have been more subtle. I'm not a different person. I'm just some guy. But so is every father. It's not about what I am, it's about what I do. I don't always feel like I am a father, but I have certainly done the fatherly things. I don't really feel like I should be thirty years old, but I have certainly done the thirty years of living.

In English, when someone has been alive for a certain number of years, they may say "I am <age>." The number becomes the identity of the person - something they are. I remember from my high school French class that in French, they instead say "I have <age> years." It's something they have. I like this a lot more.

30 Years

I have been alive for thirty years (give or take). I wonder sometimes if those years have any value. I wonder if they have been broad enough, worldly enough, important enough. There are millions of experiences I have not had and will never have. On the other hand, there are millions of experiences I have had that no one else will ever have. I've been trying to focus on love without comparison. I've been trying to accept the life I do have, with the knowledge that this is what it is. I've been trying to stop waiting and start living - not in the sense of risk-taking or day-seizing, but in the sense of existing and experiencing and being present for everything that happens.

I don't know what growing up is. I'm still doing that. I don't know what being a father is. Still figuring it out. I don't know how to itemize deductions on my taxes. But I have no doubt that I am where I'm supposed to be. I will never be "adulting" - I'll just be an adult. And if I am so blessed as to see my daughter's thirtieth birthday, I hope she feels the same (and I finally figure out how to itemize my deductions).

ADDENDUM: My Birthday

I wrote all of this before my actual birthday, so I didn't know quite how I would feel. I didn't know what was coming. I had no idea the absolute extravaganza that was in store for me.

My wife is the most amazing person I have ever met. She put together a surreal, other-worldly party/show/experience all in my honor that may have actually been the best night of my life. I think my wedding and my daughter's birth are still at the top, but this was top five for sure. She brought together all of my favorite people for an unforgettable night of music, comedy, emotion, joy... living, laughing, and loving. She made me rethink the very idea of what it means to express love.

She made the last day of my twenties the perfect encapsulation of the entire decade, and all the most wonderful parts of it. She made me look forward to the decade to come with such joy and excitement that I could hardly have ever imagined it.

I am truly so blessed to have so many lovely people in my life. The best part is that this feels like it's only the beginning. The remainder of my life will include the most important, most emotional, most beautiful parts of it, I am very sure. All thanks to the quality people in my life (especially my wife and shoutout to my daughter too). Despite the fact that my youth is fading and it's difficult to reckon with that, it's 100% worth it to enter this new phase.

As Semisonic would say:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

So let it end, and let it begin.




Here are some pieces of music that are thematically linked to this content.

Pinegrove - Size of the Moon

Okay I know Pinegrove is cancelled but I still think about these lines all the time, I'm sorry

Do you wanna talk?

Fine, I'll talk it out with my dad

It's always nice what he says

He'll have some good advice from something in a book he read

Loudon Wainwright III - Your Mother And I

This makes me cry every time

And I hope when you grow up

One day you'll see

Your parents are people

That's all we can be

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

A love supreme

A love supreme

Songs from last night

Sufjan Stevens - Chicago

Chance the Rapper - All We Got

Harry Belafonte - Jump in the Line