• Joseph F. Berenato

On re-runs, refinement & renewal: the best is yet to come

Ah, January. New Year, new me.


Isn’t that how that goes?


I’ve been the same me—either begrudgingly or adorably, depending on your status in my circle—for the entire length of my consciousness. I don’t typically make resolutions, because, frankly, why would I start off the year lying to myself?


I’m not going to go to the gym, I am going to have another piece of cake and, after spending hours reviewing the catalog of all of the streaming services my wife and daughter have subscriptions to, I will end up re-watching some iteration of “Star Trek,” like I always do.


Instead, I make plans. The destination I always wanted to visit, the letter I wanted to write, the book I wanted to read, the movie I wanted to watch—things to look forward to. As an adult, I get so wrapped up in being a husband, being a father, being a grandfather and being a writer that I forget that sometimes I am allowed to just be me.


I like to not have to set an alarm on Sunday. I enjoy eating almost anything that can be made in one pot (and can be eaten out of said pot). I love browsing through vinyl or re-reading a book. Heck, sometimes, I find amusement just watching people run the stop sign on my corner and wondering if they care that I saw them.


Spoiler alert: they do not.


I like to think that each new year offers the opportunity for a clean slate; and, while I don’t think any of us actually thinks that a flip of a calendar page does little more than mark the passage of time, it helps to have a metaphorical reset button as a way of consigning some things to the past while opening up a door to the possibilities of the future.


It allows us—it allows me—to take inventory of the things I would like to leave behind, if possible, while focusing on the things I would like to continue—or commence—moving forward.


Not resolutions, mind you—like I said, I never stick with them—but goals, perhaps. Things I’d like to do.


I’d like to get better with time management. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrible with it. When I was in high school and college, each year I would buy a really nice planner, use it for maybe two weeks, then start to write notes to myself on the back of my hand. I have not gotten much better—indeed, probably worse—as an adult.


I’d like to drink more water and fewer caffeinated beverages. Not for nothing did the staff at the diner start to call me “Coffee Joe;” I’m reasonably certain that, were I to die tomorrow, my entire blood supply could be donated to NASA and, with the caffeine it contains, be sufficient to power a rocket to put the entire state of Illinois on Pluto.


It’s hard to make plans these days with so much uncertainty, but I’d like to be able to travel again soon. Nothing crazy or exotic, mind you, but my wife and I have always enjoyed getting in the car and driving to a new diner we haven’t visited before.


... where, undoubtedly, I will not drink any water but instead continue to drink inspirational amounts of coffee.


I’d like to cook more. I’ve become increasingly reliant on box meals and on takeout dinners. There was a time when I’d bounce with delight in the kitchen, trying this new dinner or that—and believe me when I tell you, I make a meatloaf that is absolutely out of this world, and my linguini aglio e olio is just as good—if not better—than my mom’s was. (Sorry, mom.)


I’d also like to have more family game nights. Recently, we’ve started playing these games wherein the players are tasked with solving “unsolved” case files. By night’s end, when we do eventually crack the case, our kitchen has photos, newspaper articles and other bits of evidence strewn across the table, tacked to the wall and pinned to a corkboard in our quest for justice. I’d like that to continue, and expand—I’m relentless when it comes to Trivial Pursuit.


(All of this, incidentally, will absolutely be possible if I do, in fact, become better with time management. I’m just putting that out there for future Joe to read, and for the rest of you to be able to hold me accountable.)


So, January. Maybe not New Year, new me, but instead, better me. The same me I’ve been, just a tad more refined.


Hopefully, I have enough coffee to help make that possible.



Joseph F. Berenato began as a mild-mannered reporter for The Hammonton Gazette in 1997, and returned to that position in 2019 after an 18-year sabbatical, during which he farmed, taught, became a grandfather, dug graves and wrote, but never so prolifically as he has since his return. You can email him at jberenato@hammontongazette.com or find him on social media at @JFBerenato and at www.jfberenato.com.