Today is the eve of my 56th birthday. Yes, I celebrate this milestone every year on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NYC, which happened when I turned 4 years old. I am not gay, but I am an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, so I’m happy to share this special date. But I digress.
As I ponder my life to this point, as we often do on days like this, I realize that 56 years is a long time. I don’t feel old, and I certainly don’t act old, though my kids would debate that. Today I’m thinking back to the time when I was half this age, 28 years ago.
Flashback to 1993. Where was I then, in this life’s journey?
I graduated from Drexel University in 1989 and started working for UGI, the gas utility in Central PA. I began as an engineer in their Lancaster office but after 3-1/2 years I switched to their marketing group and the Lebanon office. I must have known I wasn’t cut out to be an engineer while I was still at Drexel, as I took business classes during my senior year there. These came in handy as I was pursuing my MBA at Lebanon Valley College in 1993, which I would complete three years later. Looking back, this switch from engineering to marketing was a pretty important inflection point in my career, as I’ve been in energy sales ever since.
I got married to my first wife in 1989, and three years later we moved from a small apartment in downtown Lancaster to our first house in Ephrata PA, about 20 minutes north in northern Lancaster County. This turned out to be a convenient location, as my work took me from Lancaster to Lebanon and then Reading PA, all a reasonable commute from Ephrata. In 1993 I was happily married, but this union of four years would only last another eight before dissolving in 2001. After moving to the Lehigh Valley in 1999, my marriage was on the rocks when I met the love of my life. My first wife and I separated in 2001 and my current wife and I were married two years later. Jess and I remain happily married to this day.
In 1993 I was heavily into the Grunge music scene. Having lived through the MTV music era of the 1980s in high school and college, the new music coming out of Seattle and Chicago in the 1990s was a refreshing change as I entered adulthood. I still remember listening to WFNM college radio in Lancaster with my work friends and “discovering” Nirvana when I first heard their song Lithium. I was blown away! This was music I felt was ours, even though we were a bit older than the typical Grunge demographic. It didn’t matter. We soaked it all in: Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins. Sadly, Kurt Cobain took his own life only a year later, and was later followed by Layne Staley and Chris Cornell. The Grunge music scene was relatively short-lived, but I’m happy to relive those days on the SiriusXM channel devoted to this music, appropriately (for me) titled Lithium.
During my time at UGI, my work friends and I started a tradition on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. We would all take the day off and go golfing in Schuylkill County, then grab a quick lunch and head to the 1:30pm brewery tour at the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville, which would end with enjoying some beers in their Rathskeller lounge. In 1993, I also made a fateful stop in the Yuengling gift shop which would change my life. This was the year they started a new series of collectible train cars, and I bought the Black & Tan boxcar. This was the start of a new hobby for me, one that would completely absorb me as I began collecting O-gauge toy trains, collectible buildings, and other bric-a-brac that became my 8’x8’ train layout. This layout followed me to my new home in the Lehigh Valley, and the hobby remained my main passion until it was replaced with my current obsession, Tiki, starting in 2008.
Though this Memorial Day tradition eventually fell by the wayside, there is one other event that my old work friends and I still celebrate: playing cards. We started doing this around 1993, when we all still worked at UGI. We were the so-called Lancaster Mafia, because we all began our careers in the Lancaster office at around the same time. Bob, Brian, Joe, Tom and me. We’ve been playing cards together ever since, even though all but Bob have moved on from UGI and moved out of Lancaster. We take turns hosting, and since we all live within an hour of each other, it works well for us. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our get-togethers, but we are now scheduled to reconvene on July 5th at Bob’s house for our first cards night in over a year. Good times!
Wow, looking back to the halfway point of my life was a lot of fun! I didn’t think I would have this much to write about, but I’m happy to remember all of this stuff. Here’s hoping I’m still around to document this point in my life in 2049. Aloha.