Saying Goodbye to a Decade.

It finally came, that dreaded time of the year where I’m reminded that I’m another year older and still have a list of “To Do’s” before my thirties. However, this wasn’t just any old birthday, it was my 30th birthday and all I could see were my twenties flashing before me. To make it a special occasion my wife planned a trip to Baltimore this past weekend. We decided to take in as much of the city life as possible and expected nothing but relaxation. What we didn’t expect was a night filled with partying that would make even the hardest of rock-stars cringe. OK, well maybe not to that extreme but eventful nonetheless.

We arrived at the hotel and proceeded to check-in with the receptionist. While pulling up our reservation she wished us a Happy 30th Anniversary. (My wife had noted in our reservation that I was celebrating my 30th birthday). I looked up confused correcting her that it was actually my 30th birthday. Without hesitation or logical thought she exclaimed “Oh so sorry, easy mistake.” What do you mean easy mistake, I thought. I would of had to get married in the womb for it to be my 30 year anniversary!! Did I look older than thirty or was she just reading on a third grade level? I couldn’t tell so I decided to let it go. We proceeded up to our room where there was a bottle of champagne waiting and a giant card that read, “Happy 30th Anniversary, congrats on your milestone!” and signed “From your dedicated hotel staff!” Milestone huh? Somewhere the birthday gods were having a laugh at my expense. Once over that hill, pun intended, we unpacked and made our way to the aquarium. It was fun to walk around watching the simple life of sea creatures and making fun of the parents with screaming kids. Very little amuses us but when we need a “pick-me up” we tend to people watch. We started to get hungry and stopped in at a local restaurant’s happy hour. We piled on the drinks and four dollar appetizers and just enjoyed each others company. When happy hour ended, we moved our party of two to a local dueling piano bar. Being a little intoxicated, we found the right building but entered the wrong bar and crashed a DJ party. My wife went straight up to the DJ’s table and asked where the piano bar was. He gave us directions and my wife, being the character she is, moon-walked out of the bar yelling at the DJ, “Nice beats dude but we got to split!” Yes, this actually happened and yes her moonwalk was perfection. We eventually found our destination and it was not what we expected. What we thought was a lounge type piano bar was more of a piano bar/dance party USA mix. Piano players would take requests from patrons and perform sing-along classics, like Bennie and the Jets, I Love Rock N’ Roll, and of course Piano Man. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans and that’s exactly what we did. Drinks went down smooth, fast friends were made, and we owned the dance floor. It got around that I was celebrating my 30th and I was brought on the stage to shake my “groove thang” (as someone put it) to the Thong Song… and I boy did I shake it… all of it. At one point, I even thought it was a good idea to sing the Spice Girls smash hit “Wannabe” with one of the performers, something I can never take back. Needless to say we were back in our twenties and celebrating like college students. Eventually our night was winding down but before it could end I was brought back on stage to partake in a farewell performance. This is was done in the style of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” with my crew of new friends. I didn’t think my body could shimmy like that but I’m sure Ms.Turner would have been proud! Ending on such a high note we knew it was time to head back to our hotel. We finally made it back to our room and thought it would be a great idea to open a bottle of wine but my wife insisted she need to shower first. She turned on the water but we ended up in the sitting area of our room talking about our night. All the while not realizing the shower was still on. After about twenty minutes my wife made her way to the bathroom to find the entire floor flooded with water. The tub stopper was in the closed position and the water had overflowed! I ran in to see my wife on the floor laughing. In a drunken panic mode I spent the next couple hours sopping up water and having my wife squeeze out the towels while she sat in the tub. I even stumbled to the front desk asking for towels while wearing two different shoes and trying not to slur my words. Looking back I think, at this point, reliving the “younger” days had finally come to an abrupt end.

The morning seemed to come fast and I woke up to rays of sunshine that broke through the small opening in the curtain. For a second, I forgot where I was but then last nights festivities began to race through my mind. I quickly got up and ran to the bathroom, but not before checking on my fellow party animal, to see the status of our small flood. All looked okay, except for the pile of towels bunched in the corner and hanging in inconspicuous areas around the room. After all was said and done I have to say I learned something that night. We are all meant to age and maybe it’s because we need to be open to new opportunities and prepare for another phase of life. I dreaded my thirties but in hindsight I’m glad my twenties, and the Spice Girls, are in the past. I survived a night with a new generation of party people but next time I might not be so lucky.  

Bologna, Cheese, and Mustard… Oh My!

What is it about school cafeterias that send chills down our spine? Could it be the bubbling, oozing, jelly like taco meat or hard crusted dried out noodles in the mac & cheese? Maybe it’s the token “lunch lady”, complete with a hair net and food-stained uniform, who begrudgingly slops a mess of food on your tray. Whatever the reason, we all have experienced the dark pit that is school lunch, including myself. In this situation, I’m what you would call a survivor, a pioneer of sorts, that rebelled against the burnt lasagna and the overcooked cheeseburgers. I saw an opportunity and capitalized on it. I was in fourth grade at the time and as always, since birth, I was addicted to food. Each day I would open my lunch bag and peer at the disappointment before me. A sad picture of bologna, cheese and mustard sandwiched between two soggy pieces of bread. This was unacceptable and I was determined to find other means of nourishment!

My mom had been working nights after my sister was born so I was no longer being blessed with gourmet Italian cuisine. Well, I wasn’t going to let that ruin my always anticipated lunch hour. I had connections and I was ready to call in my favors. At my elementary school I had the option of partaking in recess after lunch or being an aid for teachers and office personnel. No way was this fat boy going to run around a hot playground, so needless to say I chose to help out in the office. This ensured I could network with the staff and principal in hopes to use their power in the future. I guess you could say my business instincts kicked in at a young age. I became acquainted with the head janitor, Mr. Valentine, and I would often see him in the cafeteria cleaning up during lunch hour. On a particular “bad” lunch day I found myself stuck with yet another generic sandwich. As I sat there staring around the room I noticed Mr. Valentine stepped up to my table. He just looked at me straight in the eye and said “What’s wrong kid?”. Mr. Valentine was from the days when you didn’t complain about what you didn’t have and you were thankful for what was given to you. Unfortunately I wasn’t in that frame of mind at the time and neither was my stomach. After explaining my dilemma he grabbed my sandwich and walked into the cafeteria kitchen. After a few minutes he appeared at my table and dropped a fresh, hot, chicken sandwich into my hands. To this day I have no clue where this thing came from. It was of high quality, nothing like the rubbery imitation food the school usual served. Without hesitation he looked at me and said, “Now you just keep bringing me those sandwiches your mom worked so hard to make.” I agreed with a large grin and for the remainder of the year we would trade lunches. I became known as the kid who traded food with the janitor… and yes I’m very proud of that! Mr. Valentine became a great friend and I would often help him out during my recess period until I eventually went off to middle school. However, I never forgot his kindness. This was bigger than my search for a better lunch and became a life long bond over food. It taught me to appreciate people, no matter what their story, because we don’t meet people by accident!

Hop on the Crazy Train!

Ciao, Hello, Hola, Bonjour, and Hallo! Hopefully I covered the biggies but I think you get the idea. Welcome aboard the crazy train or as I like to call it, the “Who Stole My Cannoli?” web page! Since you took the time to stop by I thought I would explain what your getting yourself into. Think of me as the conductor and your the passenger joining me on my journey through this crazy thing called life. I can guarantee it will be nothing of what you expect and there will be plenty of “bumps” along the way. From a boy growing up in an unconventional Italian home to the daily struggles of a simple man and his food, you will be entertained by the people I call family.  So grab a ticket, and a bowl of pasta, and take a ride with me on the one and only crazy train!