Entitled, "Amed Rosario is getting better at just the right time." Dig it.
On a recent Tuesday, I rode the Amtrak into Philadelphia and met up with my soul-brother and fellow life traveler, Dave, for a trolliday. For the uninitiated, trollidays are days set aside for the express purpose of riding trolleys and trains, among other things. And since this is Dave I'm talking about, and since Dave is a man who means business when it comes to his trolleys, and since Dave's and my friendship is marked by soaring conversation that covers all ground, this trolliday promised to be an especially special one indeed. (They all are, really.)
And so it was.
Dave and I met at work nearly 14 years ago and immediately built a strong rapport, but I would argue that the crucible of our deep and lasting friendship — the one that transcended the temporary circumstance of working in the same office building — was a day trip we took together to Philadelphia sometime in late 2005 or early 2006: the first trolliday. Dave's and my shared enthusiasm for trains and passion for public transportation are what initially signaled our camaraderie to each other and inspired the trip to Philly -- which, importantly, is a city with street cars.
We took the Amtrak out of Penn Station and disembarked at Trenton, whereupon we scampered across the platform to the River Line, which we rode down to Camden. I lived in Queens at the time, and it was my first trip from NYC down and across New Jersey to the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I vividly remember being struck by the impossible speed our train seemed to achieve between Newark and Trenton. And I remember the River Line taking us right down the middle of the street -- through an old median — in a quaint little town somewhere in Southern New Jersey. I felt like I was a character in a diorama, or in some sort of living, moving time capsule.
I had never ridden a trolley before Dave took me aboard one of the PCCs that serves Philadelphia. Dave, who is native to the Boston area, had grown up with them; the sound of a PCC trolley clanking and screeching along its tracks is part of the formative soundtrack of his life. I had recently grown fascinated by the history of trolleys in smaller towns like the one I grew up in near Binghamton, New York, but they were an abstraction for me; they were long gone by the time I was born, as was, in fact, passenger rail service of any kind to any part of Western and Central New York's so-called Southern Tier, which stretches along the state's Pennsylvania border. The experience of being on the trolley jogged loose a childhood memory of noticing, rapt, the half-buried remains of a trolley track in the crumbling asphalt at the end of my street.
I mused then, as I have many times since, and many times since with Davey, not incidentally, what our communities might look and feel like today if our once-prodigious intra and inter-urban rail networks hadn't been dismantled (with practically zero input from the communities they served, at that). How might they have informed urban and suburban design? How might they have supported our sense of connection and community? How might they have facilitated our ease of mobility, literally and socially and economically? We'll never know.
Dave and I have covered that ground, righteously, many times in the years that have passed since that first trolliday. We each have an idea, he and I, about what sorts of structures and institutions constitute a fair and rational society — one that puts people at its center as the guiding concept. As jacked up as much of the world is and seems today, I see signs everywhere that there are many who share our sensibility. Dave in particular has a knack for drawing people out and attracting to himself, kismet as his guide, the sorts of people who talk about these very same things -- and, in many cases, do extraordinary things about them. It's as if word has gotten out about trollidays, to which I say, good.
As I said, we took our most recent trolliday recently, and in essence, we are unchanged since our first. Laugh lines are deeper, perhaps, and gray hair is slowly asserting itself upon our heads, but we are unchanged. This is life, viewed through the lens of two laughing soul-brothers. The world we envision is ripe for the picking. There remain plenty of fights to fight; we will fight them, and we will win. And we will eat our fill and enjoy the hell out of ourselves along the way.
Life is better with a friend who can lift and inspire and make you laugh, and with whom you can enjoy and appreciate — whatever it happens to be. Davey is my friend, and my soul-brother. Here's to our next trolliday.
Fool that I am, I used to think I was impervious to regret. The logic I employed to prop up that delusion at least had a patina of credibility: I reasoned that since I was, at any given moment in my life, doing my best (or bestish), looking back with regret would amount to an act of self-flagellation that would be useless at best and harmful at worst.
Conceits like that are representative of the defense mechanisms I use to try to delude myself into thinking I am somehow exempt from the vagaries of being human. Of course I have regrets! Of course I look back and wish I had made different choices or followed through on things I abandoned too quickly -- or even more simply, and taking my own influence out of the equation, I look back at certain things in my life and just wish they'd turned out differently.
Regret is, I think, another word for heartbreak. I'm in a phase of life where I'm pretty locked into my circumstances -- my wife, son, dogs, career, friends and acquaintances in our circles -- in a way I now realize I never was. Before my son was born a couple years ago, my way of life as an adult had been characterized by transition.
There were comparatively minor transitions, like renting a new apartment; and then there were the seismic events, like extracting myself from my career (and, honestly, life) as an actor without an idea of what was to come next; or, after an extended period of vocational and existential uncertainty, picking a graduate program, only to go on to repeat the pattern of extraction I'd played out as an actor; or, you know, getting divorced. Things like that.
As hard and as far-reaching as those transitions were, they were my way of life. There was a lot of good that came from living that way, too. But after a time, I think I grew a bit too comfortable with my barely subconsciously held understanding that if something wasn't working out very well, I could simply pull the ripcord and parachute into something new.
That reality stands in stark contrast to the one I'm in now. Living in a mode of comparative stability so that, among other things, I can help provide a stable foundation for my son to do his own growing and changing and transitioning from one phase of life to the next has proved to be really good for me. There's a big part of me that feels like I've finally grown up, and it's a relief.
It seems clear to me now that my previous refusal to acknowledge regret was a method of self-preservation. The stakes were high: I was in a quasi-permanent headspace of such uncertainty that I couldn't afford to indulge outright regret about the choices I had made or was avoiding or was actively considering. It would have been tantamount to ego death -- too painful for real life. So, it made sense for me at the time; but, eventually, it became high time to outgrow it.
So now that my life is comparatively stable, and now that I have a new set of worries and challenges to deal with as I try to create a nice life and a loving home for my young son, I can afford to look back at certain things and shake my damn head at them. I suspect I'll be thinking similar thoughts about certain things I'm doing and not doing now that, done differently, would put me in a perceived better place than wherever I'll be some years or decades hence. C'est la vie -- I'm doing my best (or bestish).
Regret and heartbreak are inevitable. The question, then, is what do you do with it? Do you just leave it there and mull it over periodically as an indulgence? Do you grow bitter and closed-minded? Or do you try to learn from it and keep the lesson handy in the event you have a chance to apply the lesson anew? I can see the challenge in doing this, but I think the latter question indicates the road I want to travel.
There are few experiences that force me to confront the aspect of my personality that is forever 11 years old and painfully awkward than that of being on Twitter. There are so many people who are good at Being Online — people who are invariably witty, insightful, and interesting — that they have made careers out of it, or have used the platform to significantly boost their visibility, whether just for fun or in such a way as to enrich their livelihoods and create new opportunities for themselves. (The same goes for YouTube, but I'm so far removed from even attempting to create #content there that I'm not even going to bother with talking about it here.)
"Twitter success" is a wildly unfamiliar experience for me. I have discovered over something like five or six years of regular Twitter use that I am, at best, a pretty boring content creator on that platform. I can see what makes for the Good Content; I can see the traits and skills that others with much wider audiences have that I do not. I can see it, but I can't replicate it. Ultimately, it's fine. My real-life life is good: I have a family, I have friends, I have a job I enjoy most of the time.
And yet, frustratingly, my Twitter ham-fistedness touches a nerve. It exploits the weaker part of my ego — the needy part that desperately wants other people to think I'm funny and interesting and cool. It's the part that can never get enough praise. Basically, it's the part that makes adolescence the vortex of self-conscious agony that it often is. It's the part we're expected to outgrow and overcome with age and experience.
That's just it, though: it never goes away. Overcoming the bottomless pit of attention-seeking neediness is an ongoing process — it's that parable about the wolf you feed and the one you don't. And Twitter is tailor made for us feed the one you probably shouldn't.
Lest I go full edgelord with this, it's important to note that Twitter is also, or at least it can be and often is, just silly, inconsequential fun — but also, a place for people with like interests to connect and share their work and ideas.
It just so happens I'm not the best at it.