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This was originally going to be two separate stories, but they overlap (as you’ll see), so I decided to combine them. This story is also set in the distant past, before PCs and the internet … back when a record was something that sat on a turntable …
– “So, Joe … c-can you help me out?”
That was how it all started.
Marty was a short, paunchy nerd with a speech impediment – a stutter that came and went. He was understandably shy in social in social situations.
In Grade 9, on Initiation Day, I stepped in between Marty and two bullies who wanted to use his head to clean a toilet. I wish I could tell you that I kicked their asses – but I was the one who got my clock cleaned. Oh, I got in a couple of shots, but Marty did the most damage when he bit one of them hard enough to draw blood.
It would be nice, too, to report that the student body respected our courage, and that initiations were strictly forbidden from them on.
Yeah, right. We were suspended for 3 days, and got a reputation for being a couple of psychos. We probably weren’t going to fit in with the popular kids anyway, but that incident certainly accelerated the process.
Marty was a nerd, and I … I was never there. From the age of 13, I’d had a part-time job (and sometimes two). Right after school, I went off to work. All day Saturday, too.
It was my stepmother’s idea, really. I think that she just wanted me out of the house. Then, a few years later, she got the brilliant idea that I should pay rent, because I had money. My Dad was too whipped to object.
– “It’ll be a valuable lesson for him.” she said.
– “It’ll be a good experience for you, Joseph.” said Dad.
The fuck it was. Stacking shelves at the grocery store, pumping gas, or carrying roof tiles up a ladder all summer doesn’t teach you much, except how hard it can be to earn an honest dollar – or how much of your school’s social life you miss when you’re always at work.
That meant no sports, no clubs, no extracurriculars of any kind. Marty and I were both socially invisible. But there was always that bond between us.
In some cultures, if you save a man’s life, then you become responsible for him. I have to admit that I felt something like that towards him. And Marty … well, let’s just say that he went out of his way to pay me back.
In my senior year, I had to consider my options. I wasn’t sure that I could afford college. Dad finally spoke to his younger brother about me. Ray was a grease monkey at a downtown garage. He was a damn good mechanic, though, and when he put in a good word for me, his boss took me on part-time.
– “Don’t fuck this up, Joeseph.” said Uncle Ray. “You do, an’ you make us both look bad.”
– “I won’t.” I promised.
I cleaned up the garage, learned how to change tires, and do oil changes. I was also Joe Fetchit if anyone needed a tool, or a coffee, or a donut … and I went home dirty every night. But it paid better than most of the jobs I’d had – and I was actually learning something. Most of the guys were pretty decent to me, too.
So maybe that was how Marty and I connected – talking about cars. We started to hang out a bit. He regularly came over to pick me up, if we got up to anything. I never asked – God’s honest truth – Martin suggested it, every single time.
– “I’ll swing by and pick you up.” He must’ve said it a hundred times.
I was 18, but looked older, so I was the designated beer-buyer (Fake ID wasn’t readily available, back in the day). It was a mutually beneficial partnership, but I think I benefited more. What I’m trying to say is that I owed Marty quite a few favors, for all the times he’d driven me all over hell’s half-acre. He’d even lent me his car to go for my driver’s exam.
That was why, when Marty asked for my help, I didn’t hesitate.
– “So, Joe… c-can you help me out?”
– “Sure. What do you need?”
– “Will you … d-double date with me, Joe?”
– “WHAT?” I couldn’t have been more shocked. As far as I knew, Marty had never even come close to having a girlfriend.
– “I met her at church.” he said. Then the words came out – all in a rush. “She’s really cute. But shy. More shy than me. I think I like her, but if I ask her out alone she’ll probably say no.”
I was afraid that he was going to hyper-ventilate. “Slow down, Marty! Breathe …”
– “She lives near you. Close enough for you to walk. But I can swing by and pick you up. I already told her that my best friend lived nearby, and that we might ‘drop in’ on Sunday.”
– “Good for you, Marty. That’s great. Keep breathing. What do you need me to do?”
– “Well, she’s got sisters. Her parents will let go out, but only if her sisters go, too.”
– “Like chaperones.”
– “Something like that.”
– “So you need me to run interference? Keep the sisters busy? I can do that. Give me the bad news, then.”
– “What bad news?
– “Tell me the truth. How ugly are they? And don’t tell me they have nice personalities – that’s a dead giveaway.”
– “They’re not ugly.” It sounded like he was telling the truth, but I could have sworn that he was hiding something.
– “Come clean. Details.”
– “The older sister is 19. Her name is Samantha. I swear, she’s cute. And there’s also the younger sister – Tanya – she’s only 16.”
– “Three sisters? And you want me to keep two of them busy.”
– “C-Can you help me out, Joe?
– “Sure, Marty. What are friends for?” After all, I thought – how bad could it be?
– “Thanks, man.” he said. “This means a l-lot to me.”
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Hello Everyone! Please welcome my latest guest blogger, the lovely Racquel! Her posts will be appearing on phicklephilly every Saturday at 3pm in 2019!
Please read, follow, comment and welcome my newest guest writer!
I started a writing course last week, in fact, it is a Blog Writing course, it was entertaining and fun and I also learned a lot. It was great to be back in the classroom as a student. It was a bit challenging though because my chosen main subject topic didn’t always go well with […]
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach.
I go home covered in puke and my mom is cool with the rock and roll lifestyle.
“Is Jim okay?” My mom was totally fine with my best friend/lead guitarist blowing chunks all over me.
I’m in a working rock and roll band, and we have had a an incident with our youngest underage member.
“I think he’ll be fine.”
“Let’s get your clothes into the washer.”
I loved that my mom was always on board to dispose of the evidence.
But I just loved that mom was ready TO make it all go away.
I hadn’t heard from Jim and prayed he was still alive
It was a real growing step in this new band and I was fearful about what could happen to us going forward.
I knew in that moment I would need to form a new band with Jim and we would have to go to LA but he liked music that wasn’t so so furious so I would miss my friend.
As much as I loved Jim and the band, I knew I needed to go to LA an create something new.
But I’ll hang here because I love you.
A day passed and I spend the day worried about my friend.
There were was no email or text social media back then. You either get a call or somebody shows up at your door.
I get a call on my land line from Jim.
It was 7pm.
24 hours after my best friend had lost his shit.
“What happened last night?”
“Lets meet up and I’ll tell you the full story.”
We meet up and Jim seems fine. He’s just young, and confused. Nothing like this has ever happened to him, and that has to be jarring.
Your first blackout can be frightening. I’ve been there many times and it never gets any easier. I never let it happen anymore. I totally manage my shit now.
I meet up with Jim and we go to the beach.
Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach. There’s just something about the power of the sea and it’s timeless intimidating beauty.
It was night and off-season, and Jim and I were no strangers to wandering through this resort/retirement island community in the off season.
There was a beauty to Wildwood that no one knew that belonged to us. The natives.
As fucked as we were as teenagers in a resort community that didn’t own hotels and boardwalk stuff. We found our way.
Instead of falling into the usual drugs and teen pregnant rich kid boredom we had our band. We were going to break out of what everybody else was in this town. Usually rich kids from prosperous seasonal business owners. We were just regular dudes. Jim and I were tight.
I will be grateful my entire for life for meeting Jim. He is a wonderful man and father and husband. I just really dig him and wish I could see him more. Because we actually share something unseen that is really special and belongs to only us.
I miss him.
Wildwood in the off-season is quiet and dark.
If you live in a place that is away from city lights, you’ll understand what the sky looks like when you look upon it in a rural or remote area.
City light drown out the sky, and I live in Philly and I’ve seen all the skies I need to see, but let me describe what a night sky looks like when you’re away from city lights.
I was on the beach in Wildwood with my father one night. We were fishing.
He said, “Look at the sky, son.”
I of course did as he said.
“What do you see?”
“I see more stars than I’ve ever seen.”
“You can’t see that in Philly.”
Then my dad said this…
“It’s like a thousand diamonds scattered on a velvet pillow.”
I loved him so much in that moment.
The beautiful, charming, elegant being he had become through all of his pain and suffering to raise me an my sisters into who we are today.
These thoughts fill my mind as I meet my best friend I’m glad isn’t dead like Bon Scott on the beach that evening.
There were umbrella stands on each block of the beach. They were these wooden boxes on legs that were used to store umbrella rentals during the summer, but were empty during the off-season.
Jim and I meet up and head to the beach.
I’m so happy to see him and I’m so happy he survived. I was so scared after the Dirty John incident and I know Jim hates when I tell the story, I was genuinely grateful he was okay. I love Jim and it was the first time I thought we’d have a rock and roll tragedy on my watch. I couldn’t lose him and I was scared the whole time.
We walked together along the shoreline.
People come to the shore and do their thing every summer and enjoy the beach. But what people forget is the mystery of how all life rose from the sea.
As my only friend and I walk along the shoreline, every step we take lights up around our feet.
There are iridescent animals that react to contact and illuminate when struck.
So imagine this people… Every step you take on a night beach, there are lights around your feet with every step you take.
Yea, the beach is so much more magical than you know.
We saw and experienced all of that.
I loved that we were in a band together. Rocking out and living our little dreams, but still be moved by the magic of life itself.
That’s why I always loved Jim. He was and will always be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. A bright and beautiful artist who I had the honor to jam with and most of all have in my life as a friend. I miss him and think of him often.
We find an abandoned umbrella stand/hut and climb inside it.
The beach is completely desolate and there is no one around. There are no umbrellas so the boxes are open. Jim and I climb inside of the box and chill.
“What the fuck happened last night?”
I describe in great detail to my new lead guitarist what happened and he is appalled.
I tell him how I turned his head to the side so he wouldn’t end up like Hendrix or Bon Scott.
I think we’ve both learned from this experience. I love Jim so much that he can vomit on me anytime and we can still go forward and rock out!
He is and will always be one of my best friends in this world.
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How could you know if your broken relationship with your partner is worth saving? Is there a sure sign of things being beyond repair? We will look at some of the symptoms of broken relationships that can be revived, and some advice on how to save your relationship.
You and your partner have had your ups and downs, but lately it seems like you’re in a deep one. Not every crisis has to mean the end of a partnership though. All of the time that you’ve put into this pairing is an investment that you want to see a return on. Don’t walk out yet if your broken relationship is still worth saving.
1. YOU STILL TRUST YOUR PARTNER
There cannot be intimacy without trust and there cannot be a good trusting connection without open communication. Open communication is not about nagging or criticism; it is about expressing your feelings so you can both get what you need, and hopefully, what you want from the relationship. If sex has declined, it’s not the end of your relationship. You can still have intimacy without intercourse through touching, and that might build enough trust to lead to being able to have more sex.
2. YOU’VE SURVIVED CHALLENGES WITH RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER
Coming through the fire has made you stronger, not weaker, and your love for each other can still be enough to save the relationship. Read below about the power of touch and positive communication to heal your relationship. You’ve been through some hardships, but you’ve made it through the rough parts by each others’ side.
How your partner handles stress is a great determination of their character and it reveals a lot about them to you. If you survived a challenge and can look at your partner with respect for their courage, composure, and ability to find humor, you are a lucky person because your broken relationship is still worth saving.
3. YOU STILL BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF LOVE TO HEAL
Love is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, and we don’t use it as much as we should. Give hugs, kisses, gentle shoulder rubs, and caresses to your partner as often as you think about wanting to do it. Physical contact helps stimulate the release of oxytocin and that makes couples bond more strongly.
Oxytocin is called ‘The Cuddle Hormone’ for a reason. It helps mother and child bonding, as well as romantic couple bonding. Oxytocin may also help with healing, literal wounds in the body, and with emotional ones also, so hug it out. Researchers looked at couples and their levels of oxytocin while they talked. They found that positive communication patterns where couples could be upbeat with each other had the highest blood levels of oxytocin. The study also found that higher oxytocin levels had the power to heal. You can literally heal your broken heart with oxytocin.
4. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ALSO PLAYED A ROLE IN WHATEVER BROKE THE RELATIONSHIP
Maybe you did nothing wrong, but you didn’t believe yourself worthy of love, so you couldn’t truly receive the love that your partner was giving you. Relationshiprules.com has a great way of putting this; ‘open yourself to embrace the fact that the other person is truly and actually madly in love with you and is ready to cross any physical or emotional barrier for you. This moment of clarity is the reality of every strong relationship.’
How can you fix whatever is broken if you won’t acknowledge that it needs to be fixed? There are two people in every relationship and both contribute to the health and security of the partnership. Neither one of you is blameless but neither one of you is completely to blame either. If you say nothing else, say these four sentences to your partner often; ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘Please forgive me.’ ‘Thank you.’ ‘I love you.’
5. IMAGINE YOURSELF SEPARATED
Are you happy or sad thinking about breaking up with your partner? If you are happy, you will be smiling as you think about it. If you’re not smiling, it’s a sign that your broken relationship is still worth saving. A breakup can lead to a major depressive disorder or depression, which is a terrible consequence for your mental and physical health.
Researchers looked at when depression was most likely to develop for teenagers. They found that ‘The severing of a romantic relationship in the past year may set the stage, or at least one stage, for developing MDD (major depressive disorder).’ Depression can kill and it is nothing to brush off. Extreme sadness is common for people going through romantic relationship difficulties. If you feel depressed, seek help sooner rather than later.
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hen my mother got angry or was displeased, she would act as though I wasn’t there. It was like I’d become invisible like a ghost or a pane of glass. When I was small—say six or seven—I would melt under the heat of her glare, crying and begging for her to say something but she wouldn’t. Of course, I tiptoed around her all during my childhood, afraid. You know, it was like being locked in an attic as a punishment but it was more confusing and subtle. I didn’t understand it as abusive until I was in my forties.
This woman is not alone; children who grow up around verbal and emotional abuse usually normalize it, believing wrongly that what goes on at their house goes on everywhere. Not altogether surprisingly, there’s a lot of cultural confusion about what exactly constitutes abusive behavior. While most people are quick to condemn physical abuse—the kind that leaves visible bruises or breaks bones—many don’t understand where the inability to manage emotions like losing your temper stops and abusive behavior begins. Is it intention that separates one from the other—the effort to control or manipulate another person—or is the victimizing effect that pushes it over the line? The short answer is both.
Contrary to the public muddle, research is very clear on what emotional and verbal abuse does to the child’s developing brain, literally changing its structure. These children grow up to be adults who mistrust their perceptions and have difficulty managing their emotions; they develop an insecure style of attachment which can make them detach from their feelings (avoidance style) or make them highly vulnerable and rejection sensitive (anxious style). Because they tend to normalize verbal abuse, they may end up in adult relationships with those who are abusive.
When most of us think about verbal abuse, we imagine screaming and yelling but the truth is that some of the most pernicious abuse is wordless and quiet; just re-read the story which begins this post and note that it’s the mother’s silence that is the weapon of choice.
Wordless abuse: What it is and how it damages
Here’s what Leah,38, wrote me about her first marriage:
I would become a pathetic creature, begging him to tell me he still loved me after a fight and he wouldn’t answer. I would beg some more, crying, and he would sit there on the couch, his face like stone. Then I would apologize even though he’d started the fight and I’d done nothing wrong. That’s how scared of his leaving I was. I didn’t recognize his behavior as abusive and controlling until I went into therapy at 35. I lived with this for 12 years and never once thought that this was not okay.
Leah’s story isn’t unusual in that she normalized her husband’s behavior for years. This kind of quiet abuse is relatively easy to rationalize or deny: “He didn’t feel like talking,” “She was actually trying to regroup,” “It’s not like he deliberately tried to hurt me” or “Maybe I am too sensitive just like she says.” As I explain in my book Daughter Detox: Recovering From an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, children internalize not just the messages conveyed by the articulated kind of verbal abuse but also form their expectations and understanding of how people behave in relationships from the quiet kind.
Among the kinds of quiet abuse are stonewalling, ignoring, displaying contempt, and withholding. They all share the goal of marginalizing the person, making the person feel terrible about him or herself, and facilitating control.
Stonewalling or Demand/Withdraw
Widely recognized as one of the most toxic patterns of relationship, this behavior has been studied often enough that it is has its own acronym: DM/W. Stonewalling effectively ends the possibility of dialogue, and is meant disempower the person who initiated the conversation. When a parent does this to a child, he or she effectively communicates that the child’s thoughts and feelings are absolutely of no value or concern; since the child needs a parent’s love and support, he or she will absorb that lesson as a supposed truth about the self. When an adult intimate partner does it, it’s a power play pure and simple, but effectively sends the following message: What you want, what you think, what you feel don’t matter in this relationship.
The silent treatment or ignoring
Pretending that you neither see nor hear someone is especially poignant for children, especially if served up as a punishment. A young child may feel as though she’s been banished or abandoned; an older one may feel the pain of rejection but may also experience deep anger, as Ella explained:
My father would systematically stop talking to me whenever I disappointed him which was often. The infraction could be something like not getting a good grade on a test, missing a goal in field hockey, or just about anything. He was always saying things like ‘You need toughening up. You’re too sensitive and only the tough survive in this world.’ My mother went along with it too. By the time I was a teenager, I was angry with them but, of course, I also thought I was somehow to blame for disappointing him. I was an only child and had nothing to compare it to. Long story short, I fell apart when I went to college and luckily, a great therapist saved me.
Intimate partners also use the silent treatment to marginalize and demean, as well as to make his or her partner fearful or off-balance. It’s a way of making someone feel vulnerable, banishing them to an emotional Siberia, and is intended to make them more malleable and less resistant to control.
Contempt and derision
Laughing at someone, deriding him or her with facial gestures of disgust or eye-rolling, can also be tools of abuse, meant to marginalize and demean, and don’t require words. These gestures, alas, can easily be deflected or denied by the abuser who’s likely to say that you’re too sensitive or that you can’t take a joke or that you’re reading in.
Make no mistake: this is abusive behavior. You don’t need words to tell someone they’re stupid or worthless.
This is perhaps the most subtle form of abuse, especially when it involves a child: Deliberately withholding the words of support, love, and caring that a child needs in order to thrive. Of course, a child doesn’t know what he or she is missing, but recognizes the loneliness that fills the empty space in his or her heart. But it’s only slightly easier to see when you’re an adult in an intimate relationship because having your emotional needs denied only serves to make you even more needy and, sometimes, more dependent on that partner. It’s counterintuitive, but true. Withholding is the ultimate tool of people who crave power and control.
Abuse is abuse. If someone is using words or silence to make you feel powerless and worthless, that person is behaving abusively. Keep it simple.
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I think it was Christmas 1978 and Janice got a blue VW Rabbit for Christmas. Great gift. But she was the first born and the first child going off to college. She had been accepted to Franklin & Marshall. She was always a good student. So I guess Dad wanted her to have solid transportation to and from school, or to at least get around while she was away at college.
Blue was her favorite color and it was a cute little car. But all this meant was that the minibus was going to me next. Dad had discussed it with me. The age to drive in PA was 16 but in NJ it was 17. But the drinking age in PA is 21 and it was 18 in NJ. Go figure. So in 1980 I was legal for everything.
My dad would take me out for a few hours in the morning on the weekends and teach me how to drive. I really learned how to drive a van. Because Wildwood, NJ is an island, tidal flooding must always be taken into consideration. So many of the roads crown in the middle so that water will run along the sides and not the middle.
So here I am with a very patient teacher (Dad) teaching me how to do K turns on a crown in a VW minibus without stalling the vehicle. It’s a 4 speed stick. Oh, and the van has a big blind spot on the back right side. It was very challenging for a new driver. I stalled her out plenty of times until I learned how to balance the clutch and the gas. It’s all just a balanced dance with the feet. When you learn in a vehicle like that that is big, awkward, sluggish manual steering and stick, you really learn how to manage any car after that.
It took a few lessons and I studied the book you get from the DMV when they issue you your permit. I aced the test, and passed the driving test thanks to Dad.
But that was the 2nd time I took the driving test.
The first time I was nearly through it and the guy that was in the van with me when I took the test yanked on the emergency brake and broke it. The van was 12 years old by then, it just gave way because he pulled on it really hard. So he failed me not for my performance but because of the vehicle.
My dad was pissed. I remember him being angry at the guy. It’s always okay to do stuff to your own kids, but see what happens when somebody else does something to them. I remember we were walking back to the barracks and a piece of the paperwork blew out of my dad’s hand and we were both chasing it in the wind.
Well I guess we chased that slip of paper into a restricted area, and when we looked up there were two formidable soldiers with automatic weapons pointed at us. We explained that we were chasing a document and had gotten it. We walked back to the barracks and re-scheduled another test for me. My dad was still salty about the test guy, but we had a good laugh about having armed soldiers pointing their guns at us.
So now the old horse was mine. My dad said he wanted the van to be nice when he passed it to me so he took me to a stereo store and he had a cassette player installed in it. two speakers up front under the dash and three in the back. I didn’t even have a cassette player at home. I was still buying vinyl records and had some 8 tracks.
I remember I had heard a song on the radio called “Girls Got Rhythm.” I wanted that to be the first cassette I ever bought. So I drove out to the Rio Grande Mall and picked up AC/DC’s Highway To Hell album. I cranked that shit up all the way back to the house.
Sometimes after dinner I would just get in and drive around for a while. I just loved listening to my music and driving around. If my sister April needed she and her girlfriends to be transported or picked up, I had the capabilities and the space to carry a load of them.
Having the minibus all summer back in 1981 was glorious. We could cruise around in it, carry my band gear, it was awesome.
There was an old drive in movie theater out in Rio Grande. One of my coolest memories of the van was, we’d drive out there and see double features. It was fantastic fun for a bunch of young guys. I remember the road leading in was all broken seashells. It was a dilapidated dump of a place but we loved it. We’d find a good spot and park the van at dusk. We’d have our tickets and all get out of the van and head towards the broken down fence. We’d slip through the opening and hit the liquor store on the other side on Rt. 47. I’d usually get an 8 pack of Miller ponies.
We’d slip back in and then go buy a bunch of snacks. Once it got dark the movie would start. It was always a double feature, which as awesome. I’d recognize other guy’s I knew there sometimes. I’d walk by this one dude’s car I knew and if the windows were all steamed up, I did not approach. He had a girl in there.
But for the most part it was a fun night with the guys. You would pull up along side one of the metal poles and hooked to it was a speaker. It had a clip on the back so you could hang it on your window to provide the audio. (A few years later you could just tune your car stereo to a certain station and hear the movie that way.)
Sometimes I’d pull up sideways between two of the audio station poles, and just open up the van. Some of the guys brought beach chairs and we’d all just sit outside and watch the movie. I’d leave the audio boxes on the poles and just crank them up so we could all hear.
I think it’s a shopping center now.
Now it was time to make some new memories with the Magic Bus!
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Back in 1969 my family was growing with my sister April arriving in 1966 and now another baby was on the way. It looked like our family was growing out of our little black Volkswagen beetle. So my dad went out and bought a white VW minibus.
We loved it! We went everywhere in that thing. Everybody picked their favorite seat.
Dad always drove. Mom rode shotgun because she never learned to drive. We all traveled without seat belts back then. I don’t even think the car had them. Crazy by today’s standards. I sat on a little square stool behind my parents and between them so I could be near them and see all of the oncoming action through the windshield.
Janice sat in a seat facing backwards behind my dad the driver. Behind her seat between she and dad was a an elliptical storage hole that held maps and what not.
there was a retractable table that was usually up and April sat back there in the back left corner. I think baby Grace was held in my mothers arms most of the trip. There were no baby seats back then. If we had gotten into a crash the only survivors would have been Janice and April because they stood a remote chance. Me, Mom, Dad, and baby Grace would have all been splattered through the windshield and probably killed.
The Sixties for families back then was like the wild west. But we had no fear. Just laughter and fun trips to the shore and even camping in our cool new family van.
I remember my dad driving down the highway at 70 miles and hour and I would stand up in the back on the floor and act like I was surfing. How crazy is this by today’s standards?
Under Janice’s seat was a portable toilet if we ever needed one for long trips or camping or for whatever else my dad was using the van for. Me sitting on the stool, or as he called it the jump seat, to my right was a cabinet that had a little foldable counter with a sink where you could pump fresh water from! Science Fiction! Under that was a fridge where you could store drinks and whatever else you wanted to keep cold.
This was the perfect family vehicle. And we utilized it to its absolute fullest. Thank you Dad. Perfect choice.
Sure there were the times we’d all be singing 29 bottles of beer on the wall and my baby sister Grace would spew her breakfast into an old cookie can my mom brought for just that reason. Motion sickness. April was usually back there with her to man the can.
“I told you not to give her the godddamn orange juice!” My father would exclaim every time somebody barfed.
“It’s the citric acid!”
I knew full well about puking. I was the king of anxiety, depression, fear and motion sickness. I was just happy it wasn’t me, but I knew it was just the motion. Poor baby Grace.
I remember now driving my own little girl Lorelei to her grandmothers one day and there was some flooding and we were in the car for a long time one morning and she puked all over me when we got there and I had to go to my bank job in Philly and I didn’t even care because I was so familiar with being young and being sick in cars as a kid. I wiped up and was just happy my little girl was okay, but sad I had to leave her. But I knew she was safe in the able hands of her grandmother.
But we had so much fun in that van. As a kid I never realized how a vehicle coud become a fixture in and almost a family member in the family. I’m sure my sisters don’t feel this but if they’re reading this now they will.
The 69 VW was our family chariot. Men get the vehicle thing. Men love cars and think hey can impress girls with great cars. Huge mistake. Girls don’t give a shit about what you drive. That shit stays outside in the car park. You need to be the man to her. If she cares about what you drive she’s a shallow fool. That’s a depreciating asset.
Look at who the man is, who his female friends are, and how he lives his life. Cars don’t mean shit. Just toys that men get off on.
Our VW minibus took us everywhere and comfortably. Air cooled rear engine, plenty of amenities and you could even make the seat in the back pull our into a bed. The German’s that designed this lovely transport thought of everything.
I remember my father told me a story about how he had lunch with a colleague in the van one day. They had picked up some sandwiches and just decided to go stop and have a lunch in a park somewhere. ( I’m sure he was banging her) But today they were just having lunch and a bee had gotten into the van and was buzzing around. There were other cars parked near them and all the other people heard was this:
“Oh my god! get that away from me!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it, dear!”
“Ahhh It’s huge! No stop! Get it away from me!”
“Wait! you’re fine!”
“Nooo! get it away!”
This story was actually told to me by my dad and I got the meaning even at a young age but I knew what he was eluding too and thought it was cool and funny, his bumblebee/penis reference.
I can almost see the faces of the other people parked in their cars eating their lunches and hearing this crazy commotion.
This VW bus was a durable friend. He had installed an 8 track player in the glove compartment. Which I thought was absolutely amazing, because there was no radio in the car. I was astounded how he had this big metal player jammed into the glove box. It was like an added magic aspect to the van.
All we had was vinyl back then but 8 tracks got invented and and somehow music was in the minibus. we had Tommy: The Who, In A Gadda Vida by Iron Butterfly, and best of all a yellow 8 track from the soundtrack from the film; Easy Rider.
I remember my Dad driving the van and me in the passenger seat. No seatbelt, bouncing on the seat and hearing the motorcycles rev after the song The Pusher, and it would go into Born to be Wild and I would just lose my shit.
That music inspired me to become a musician and my love of hard rock music. Born to be Wild is to this day is my go to karaoke song!
There was always music in my house growing up. My Uncle Jack was a music Producer an my dad loved music and my mom came from a family of musicians.
I remember hearing Born to Be Wild for the first time and just knowing I loved furious music that was hardeer and angrier than the lovely Beatles and the psychedelic drone of Iron Butterfly. That was the moment I knew that was the music I need to love and make.
There was a certain fury to that song that I couldn’t get enough of and and it happened with my dad while driving down the road in our 69 camper van.
Euphoria. That music was me.
I remember he took me to the shore in the winter just to probably get me away from my mom because I was such a fuck up.
We were going to hang out at the shore house and go fishing and father son stuff. I didn’t want to do it but when you’re a kid you’re basically a hostage to your parents.
We hung out and fished and his friend Steve was down with his daughter Stacy. Steve was a crazy guy who owned a restaurant with his hot wife and wanted to hang with my dad.
I remember being in the minibus with my dad on the beach. We had a permit to fish. It was cold as hell. I was casting a huge rod and reel trying to catch bluefish. They are fighters of the sea who will straighten our your hooks and chew to shit your steel leaders.
We would use a teaser which is a tiny lure up on the line and then a plug which is the real lure. But what it looks like to a big real fish is a little fish chasing a little fish and sometimes the real fish would hit them both and you’d pull up a bluefish on the plug and a striped bass on the teaser. Insane. That shit really happened.
I was out fishing and catching blues and I was damn cold. We went back to the VW van and it was a warm moment from the cold wind of the vacant North Wildwood beach.
My dad sipped a shot of Remy Martin cognac because he was classy like that but I wouldn’t taste that brandy until years later. He asked me to dig out our permit for fishing.
I’m around 12 or 13 in this moment.
I’m sitting there, wet and shivering and dig through the glove the glove compartment. The 8 track player is already showing signs of salty corrosion.
I come across and envelope and open it and instead of finding our permit, I find naked pictures of his secretary that I know who is his co-worker and friend of our family. She is smiling sweetly with a kerchief on her head an is naked in a bathtub. She’s beautiful.
“Put that way.”
He knows I know from stuff he’s told me. In that moment I kind of wonder why he told me. Why was he always so open with me about his infidelities with mom?
Maybe he always wanted to be honest with me about everything because his father was such a wise bullshiter. His dad was an absent parent that didn’t give a fuck about my dad that loved him so much for no good reason. He just wanted to tell me what was what. I carried that responsibility with me. I couldn’t mention my secret to my sister Janice. She adored my dad. She can’t know he’s a womanizing adulterer.
He went crazy in the 60’s and 70’s and even the 80’s. I met them all. It’s cool. I know my mom knew and he never rubbed her nose in it in proper English fashion.
She was done with him anyway. It had been over in the 70’s and they being Depression babies just didn’t want their kids to be a statistic.
We lived in Philly and we grew up as my parents grew apart but grew together in their agreement to keep the corporation of our family solid.
They did that.
I’m grateful for that to both of them for making that sacrifice for me and my sisters.
The VW Minibus went to Janice in 1978 when my dad got a company car at his new job as a regional manager at a bank in Jersey.
So my parents were basically separated but still together.
He would work at his bank job at the shore and come home on the weekends and give us all greatest hits.
Janice had the minibus. That meant rides to school and runs to Roger Wilco’s in Jersey for 6 packs of Heineken for us. Drinking age back then was 18 in NJ.
The game was changing but my dad’s game was staying the same.
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“Whatsoever I’ve feared has
Come to life.
Whatsoever I’ve fought off
Became my life.”
I was doing well in Frankford back in Philly. I had a life. I had a band and friends. All ripped from me. Don’t worry, I’ve forgiven all of the fuckers in my life in my forties, but I’m just documenting what happened. You live through it and try to rise above it.
After the summer of 1979, which was awesome, (Just like all of my summers. Thanks dad!) It was my first Fall/Winter away from Philly and living in a resort/retirement town which was Wildwood, New Jersey. That’s completely different from living in a city.
I’m isolated. I have anxiety and depression. The summer is over. I have no friends. I have no life. I have no band. All of the things I loved are gone.
Just like that.
My older sister Janice is facing her own challenges but she’s off at Franklin and Marshall college to go forward in her life. I’m stuck here now. My younger sisters are at Margaret Mace. They’re little kids. They’ll be fine. They’ll make a life and new friends. They’re little. Who cares. They’ll be fine.
But I’m a fucking senior in a High School in a shitty town that is only good for summer fun. I know one guy. A freshman who is a fourteen year old guitar player. I don’t know if this is even going to work. The guy looks older than me and I like him but aren’t we in two different places in our lives?
School was weird. I went from being the mighty burner in 11th grade chatting up chicks when I was in a band, and doing pretty well, to nothing.
I was well aware of my anxiety. I had been by the cold embrace of that demon since I was 6 years old. Knew him well. An insidious beast that controlled my every move. My own personal prison that I was always trying to escape from but to busy vomiting to let go of the bars of my own cell.
Wildwood in the summer is fantastic. That’s the only way I had ever known the town since 1970. Non stop fun. Sun, fun, beach, amusement rides on the boardwalk, summer friends and neighbors, kites, custard, movies, just an amazing life at the circus for two months.
Wildwood after Labor day was a desolate ghost town. My life was over. Janice…college. April and Gabrielle, kid school. Who cares. They haven’t formed any real relationships in life. They’ll be fine.
Me. Senior year in a school I know nothing about. Alone. Anxiety. Depression. Cold. Not the fun shore town I only knew during the summer months. This was desolate place. They would turn off the traffic lights and the place was an empty ghost town. To me this was a nightmarish prison I had been dropped off in because of someone elses little idea to escape Philly.
I think the only one that felt the fury of this burn was my mother. Because she was so connected in our old neighborhood with all of the ladies, I think she felt the isolation as well. But like my mother always did. She suffered in silence. She was so good at that. She had been through so much of my father’s wrath and nonsense, that she had become comfortable with being a prisoner of his OCD and anxiety and narcissism. She simply folded into the lifestyle.
I know I have crazy anxiety, but at that time I didn’t even know that anxiety and depression are best friends. I’m afraid and sad. I’m a victim of my weakness and fear and my depression is just my rage just turned inward because I don’t know what to do with it and I don’t want to get in trouble if I let my rage go.
I had a terrible temper when I was growing up, but because I was so beaten down by my father I just turned it inward because I was too scared to express my feelings.
He always said, ” Don’t be a victim.”
But that’s what he exactly shaped me into with his behavior toward me. I actually felt these word when he was screaming at me and hitting me.
Oh the irony!
One morning I came down to breakfast and I was just sad. I didn’t know anybody but Jim and I was just living in a ghost town going to a school where I didn’t know anybody at 17.
I didn’t even know I was depressed. I just felt disconnected and sad. I think that’s a normal reaction for a kid that once had a life and a band and friends in a city and got dropped off in a fucking ghost town because of somebody else’s idea.
My mom was fine, because she had already been broken years ago by this man. But I was a teenage boy who was trying to find his way.
I was eating my cereal, and he just lit into me. Out of nowhere. I don’t know what ignited him. He loved to attack at meal time. My mother knew. He started in on me because I seemed unresponsive. I didn’t know I was depressed because what had happened to me, I thought I was just weak just like always.
My father tore into me and told me to buck up and pull myself together.
I started to cry just like I always did when he was harsh with me. I looked over at my mother and her eyes were wet with tears. Hardened by years of dealing with his bullshit and affairs but she saw one of her own feeling his nonsense and wrath. I had gotten better and become a better person and my mother and I had become so much closer in the last few years.
But dad didn’t want a kink in his little plan. He couldn’t have any part of his plan fucked up. No. Everybody has to be compliant. I was sad and that is unacceptable because that would make him question his intentions of moving everybody to the shore and would work on his mind.
Super OCD and insecurity.
I was crying my eyes out into my cereal and he really let me have it. He didn’t like that I was sad about the whole move to Wildwood. That fucked with his whole plan. That can’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen according to his well thought out plan.
He can’t have a weak link. But my mom knew. She had already accepted him as the solid provider that was going to fuck his secretaries wherever he went because of his own insecurities. She knew it and accepted it and suffered in silence.
I remember many years later I had an opportuniy to fool around with a woman while I was in a relationship. I didn’t do it. He asked me why I didn’t take advantage of the available ass. I told him:
“Because that would be wrong, dad.”
He actually softened and said he was proud of me. I know in that moment he knew that he had raised a boy that wasn’t a fucking cheater like him. He actually looked surprised.
So that Autumn morning before school my father ripped me a new one because I wasnt on board with his bullshit dream of escaping the city and all of the bad loans they made at the Provident National Bank. That and his girlfriends. Eileen Lentz and the others.
He got up from the table and went off to work. I sat sobbing in my Cap’n Crunch with my mother.
“I’m sorry. He got you.”
“It’s okay, Mom.”
I smiled and took a spoonful.
“It is what it is.”
The silence is deafening. I can’t keep these thoughts out. My father spent his entire life keeping it out. Never fixing. Just banishing them. Covering. Burying.
But I felt it all… and so did my mother.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am & 12pm EST.