California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Trash Talkin’ Tina

Tina and I had been together for a few weeks, and had planned a weekend camping trip to the mountains. We packed and headed off. By noon on the first day, we were up in the mountains, miles away from anyone, anything, and decent cell phone service.

We had been having a nice time, and then it was time for lunch. At a site, we opened our packs and pulled out food, including a couple of cans of vegetables.

“You have the can opener?” Tina asked me.

I had said that I’d bring it, and I thought that I had. However, upon searching through my packs, I found that I didn’t.

“I’m getting hungry, here,” Tina said, becoming agitated. I was also hungry, and I searched high and low for the can opener that simply wasn’t there.

“I can’t find it,” I admitted, “But I can probably use my knife to pry the lids open.”

“You forgot a can opener?” she asked.

“Yes, but I can use my–”

“Holy fuck. You forgot a can opener? Are you fucking retarded? I’m starving!”

I repeated, “I think I can do it with my knife.” She picked up her pack, shouldered it, and stormed away. “Where are you going?” I called after her. She yelled back, “To find a man who has a can opener!”

I yelled back, “I can open them with my knife!” She kept going, and I wasn’t about to chase her. Less than five minutes later, I had two cans open, thanks to my knife. I ate my lunch and decided to wait for her to return.

One hour turned into two, and two turned into three. It was mid-afternoon, and I was worried. I called for her over and over, but there was no response. The only thing I could think of was that she had circled back to the van.

I returned to it and found her sitting, leaning against it. When she saw me, she sprang up at once. I said, “I had the cans opened in minutes. Want some?”

She replied, “Why did it take you so long to come looking for me?”

I said, “Why should I have had to look for you in the first place? You stomped off on your own. Now, do you want something to eat?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You said you were starving before.”

She said, “I want to go home.”

It wasn’t a big deal. I could always return to hike on my own or with another friend. My main goal was to slide this whiny psycho out of my life as quickly as possible.

I shrugged, said, “Okay,” and opened the van. I put my bag inside and reached for hers.

“No,” she said, “I’m not riding with you. You’ve treated me like shit all day. I’m walking.”

She turned and started on her long journey. “It’s a 20-mile walk to anywhere,” I called after her, “Let me drive you.”

She said, “I’d rather die out here,” and kept going.

I wasn’t about to play games. I had given her plenty of chances to be nice. I jumped into my van and drove away.

Three hours later, I was almost back home when I received a text from her: “Some fucking strangers had to drive me to the closest gas station. You come and pick me up right the fuck now.”

I wonder how she ever made it home.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Work it Grandma!

One of our guitar players lives just a couple of blocks from a micro-sized bar and I must emphasize micro. This was fall of 1982. Our band was only a few months old and this was our first time there.

They literally move a pool table for the band and that’s about how much room you have to set up. But it’s a fun little place with a loyal local crowd that loves to party and packs it in.

About half-way through our gig a crowd of older women come in obviously already enjoying themselves. I’d guess early 50’s to some blue hairs. Turned out they were celebrating one of the ladies 80th birthday.

Despite our hard rock repertoire they were loving us and dancing to every song.
At the end of a song the birthday girl politely asked me if she could say something over the mic. I was like “sure it’s your birthday have fun.” Now mind you this lady is 80 years old tonight and looks like a typical great-grandma. Well she grabs the mic and screams at the top of her lungs: “I AM FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED UP!” Our jaws hit the floor. That was the last thing we were expecting from her mouth. But everyone was cheering and laughing and after we got over the shock we were laughing too. Man I wish we had that on camera.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 13 – Los Angeles – Pacific Sands Motel

We get to L.A. and I’m starting to feel like this is how California should look like. All the tall skinny palm trees, beaches, surfers, and beautiful people.

We pull into the Pacific Sands Motel at 1515 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. We decide to rent a room for a week and look for jobs and an apartment. Because it was the off season, (March) the rental for the week was really cheap. But it felt like summer to us. Everyday in southern California it’s sunny and 70. That’s why the film industry originally came out here. The weather is consistently nice and that gives them more days to shoot.

So day one we head out to explore. I’m walking by the Santa Monica Bay Club and I see Lee Majors shooting a scene for his series The Fall Guy. I’m instantly blown away because I loved him in The Six Million Dollar Man back in the 70’s when I was a kid. I knew he and his lovely wife Farrah Fawcett had split up and I absolutely worshipped her since seeing her on Charlie’s Angels. Should I drive up to Bel Air and see if I can find her? (No you shouldn’t. That would be stalking!)

We stop in a few places and apply for jobs. Within two days, I got a job as a busboy in a restaurant called Café Casino and Frank got a job as a cashier in bar/restaurant called Merlin McFly’s. So we were set! We didn’t start our new jobs until next week so we started looking in the local newspaper for an apartment and also do a little exploring.

There was a place close by called, Tom’s Number 5. I’m assuming there were a few others  around town since they were numbered. Every time I ordered from that place they always ended up putting chili on whatever I ordered. I’m from a super White suburban neighborhood in Philly. I’ve never eaten chili and don’t know anyone who has. But the L.A. obvious has a huge Latino community so there’s Mexican food all over town. Anyway, I didn’t like exotic foods back then. I was used to a very bland diet. So chili was alien to me and would probably give me stomach disorders. So every time I ordered I’d say hold the chili. I’d get the food back to the house, and boom slathered in chili. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken all blasted with chili. Just culture shock for a Caucasian kid from the burbs.

The motel was right near the beach. It’s different than beaches on the east coast. East coast beaches are really flat and so is the land mass leading up to it. We had to walk out, and there is like a huge embankment covered in grass with a bunch of beautiful palm trees everywhere. You have to walk down these wooden steps to get down to the beach in Santa Monica.

Venice is more flat. That’s a fun area. All along the beach there are shops bars and stores. Kind of like the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ. There’s all kinds of street musicians and performers down there on any given day. It’s a cool hip place to hang out.

Now to find an apartment!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 12 – San Diego, Ca – The Zoo

The next morning we get up and head to the Zoo. It’s a beautiful day and perfect for what we’re about to do. Parts of San Diego really are beautiful.

The zoo is amazing. I’m from Philly where we have the oldest zoo in the country, but this place is expansive and gorgeous. They have a great collections of reptiles and primates and I’m loving that. They even have moving sidewalks! Whaat?? It’s 1982! Have we been transported to the future?

We even see Shari Lewis they’re performing with Lambchop! (Google her youngsters!)

The San Diego Zoo is a zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, housing over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies.[1] Its parent organization, San Diego Zoo Global, is one of the largest[better source needed] zoological membership associations in the world, with more than 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships, representing more than a half million people.[6] The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats.[7] It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda.[8] In 2013, the zoo added a new Koalafornia Adventure exhibit, providing an updated Australian animal experience. Another new exhibit, called Africa Rocks, opened in 2017.

It is privately moderated by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 100 acres (40 ha) of Balboa Park leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and a member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). San Diego Zoo Global also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

We’re walking around the zoo, and it’s the best zoo I’ve ever been to. A great time was being had by both of us but I think we’re already thinking the same thing.

“Frank, I gotta ask you something.:

“What’s up?”

“We’ve been here for a couple of days and this just doesn’t feel like the way I pictured it. It’s nice, and the zoo was fun, but I’m just not feeling it. I think I needed to land someplace mellow on the west coast just to feel it. I heard it was mellow and I was scared. I think we belong somewhere else out here. ”

“What do you want to do, mate?”

“Let’s get the fuck out of here tomorrow and go to L.A.”

“Alright then. Yea. This town seems kip.”

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 11 – San Diego, CA – Ocean Beach

I woke up early. The sun was up but it was early. Frank was still asleep in the back of the van. I felt the chill of the morning as I slowly drove out of the desert and back up to highway 10.

Final day on the road.

Frank soon awakened and was up front with me. Once on the road we stopped and had breakfast at a roadside diner. Their all the same wherever you go in America. Nice little warm spots that always have quick service, friendly waitresses and fresh food. I like consistency in my life. It helps me cope with my anxiety.

We finish and hit the road again. It’s a long drive across Southern California. Highway 8 is close to the Mexican border. There’s not much out there. Drove through a few Indian Reservations. Highway 8 heads a bit north and continues right into San Diego. We should hit it by dusk.

I think about the trip leading us out here into the unknown. I’m 3000 miles from home. There’s no going back now. I’m happy to be on this adventure with Frank and we both still have plenty of money, so we’re in good shape financially. I brought $1000 in Traveler’s Checks and left $1000 home in my bank account in case of emergency. (Travelers Checks! Google it. It’s what we used instead of carrying cash when we traveled back in the days when there was no such thing as debit cards.)

No cell phones. No internet. Just letters, postcards, a landline phones to communicate with out loved ones. And folded paper maps to guide us on our journey. Primitive by today’s standards but that’s how we rolled back then.

As we get into San Diego’s city limits it starts to feel like California. Palm trees, taco spots large Latina population. This doesn’t look like any city I’ve ever been to.

San Diego (/ˌsæn diˈeɪɡoʊ/, Spanish for “Saint Didacus”; Spanish: [san ˈdjeɣo]) is a major city in California, United States. It is in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico.

With an estimated population of 1,406,630 as of July 1, 2016,[9] San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest in California. It is part of the San Diego–Tijuana conurbation, the second-largest transborder agglomeration between the US and a bordering country after Detroit–Windsor, with a population of 4,922,723 people.[12] The city is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the United States Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center.

San Diego has been called “the birthplace of California”.[13] Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, it was the first site visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Upon landing in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed the area for Spain, forming the basis for the settlement of Alta California 200 years later. The Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded in 1769, formed the first European settlement in what is now California. In 1821, San Diego became part of the newly independent Mexico, which reformed as the First Mexican Republic two years later. In 1850, California became part of the United States following the Mexican–American War and the admission of California to the union.

The city is the seat of San Diego County and is the economic center of the region as well as the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area. San Diego’s main economic engines are military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. The presence of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), with the affiliated UCSD Medical Center, has helped make the area a center of research in biotechnology.

We head down to Ocean Beach and get a motel room. We plan on staying for awhile and seeing the sights and figuring out the job situation.

But we’re going to the San Diego Zoo this week because I heard it was awesome!

We finally made it! What a trip!

 

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 10 – Yuma, Arizona – Rodeo Week

We drove most of the day across Arizona and stopped in Old Tucson. We went there because Frank wanted to walk around an old western town. It had been used in several films in the past and they do daily shows there for the tourists. It was a fun couple of hours, but we wanted to get back on the road after lunch.

Around Casa Grande we exit onto highway 8 west. That’ll eventually take us to San Diego, CA.

We end up in Yuma, Arizona. It’s right on the border of the state of California. We’re nearly there!

Yuma (CocopahYuum) is a city in and the county seat[5] of Yuma CountyArizonaUnited States. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state, and the population of the city was 93,064 at the 2010 census, up from the 2000 census population of 77,515.[3]

Yuma is the principal city of the Yuma, Arizona Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Yuma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2014 estimated population of the Yuma MSA is 203,247.[6] More than 85,000 retirees make Yuma their winter residence.[7]

The area’s first settlers for thousands of years were Native American cultures and historic tribes. Their descendants now occupy the Cocopah and Quechan reservations.

In 1540, Spanish colonial expeditions under Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz visited the area and immediately recognized the natural crossing of the Colorado River as an ideal spot for a city. The Colorado River narrows to slightly under 1,000 feet wide in one area. Military expeditions that crossed the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossinginclude Juan Bautista de Anza (1774), the Mormon Battalion (1848) and the California Column (1862).

During and after the California Gold Rush to the late 1870s, the Yuma Crossing was known for its ferry crossings for the Southern Emigrant Trail. This was considered the gateway to California, as it was one of the few natural spots where travelers could cross the otherwise very wide Colorado River.

It’s late afternoon, and we start stopping into motels looking for a place to stay for the night. But every place we go to is booked. After about five fails we finally ask why there are no vacancies in this town. We get our answer from one of the motel clerks.

“Because it’s Rodeo Week in Yuma! It’s one of our biggest events of the whole year!”

“Any suggestions?”

Well, I see you have a van parked in our lot.  You won’t find a room for the night in this town. What we’re suggesting to people is this. Get back on highway 10. Cross over into California. The first exit you’l see is called ‘Sidewinder Exit.’ Take that exit. It puts you out in the desert. There should be a bunch of people out there camping.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We thank her and get back on the road.

We get to that point and I see the exit. The sun is an orange disc the color of a penny in the western sky. I take Sidewinder and it puts us square in the middle of the desert. There are hundreds of vans, campers and RV’s parked everywhere. Couples and families are all out there camping, cooking and drinking and laughing. Children run about playing on the hills around us.

We find a spot, park the van and decide to do a bit of exploring.

I remember us climbing around on this little mountain. The sun is going down. It amazing how fast the Earth turns. You only really notice it at sunset. Because the sun can vanish on the horizon in a matter of minutes.

I tell Frank I’m going back to the bus but he wants to try to get to the top. I tell him I’ll wait for him back at the van drinking a beer.

I get there and relax in the vehicle sipping my beer and smoking a cig.

But about a half an hour goes by and now it’s getting dark. In the desert at night there is no light.  Maybe a few lights you can see back on the highway, but we’re a ways from the main road.

I get out of the van and start calling out to Frank.

Nothing.

Now I’m getting panicky. What if he’s lost? What if he fell and he’s hurt? What if his leg is caught in something and he’s trapped somewhere. What if he’s attacked by a mountain lion or a pack of coyotes? My anxiety is kicking into high gear and my mind is racing.

Then I get an idea. I grab the flashlight from behind my seat. I go back outside and start calling his name again and flashing the light on and off as a signal. I’m calling, whistling and flashing. Praying he’s okay.

Within a few minutes Frank emerges from the pitch blackness and appears in the flashlight beam. I’m so relieved I just grab him and hug him tightly.

“Man you had me so scared!”

“Ya, me too mate! Good thinking with the lamp!”

“Beer?”

“Fuck sake, please!”

We hung out for a bit drinking and laughing about our day, then slept in the van for the night. I thought it was cool that we spent our last night on the road sleeping in the mini bus under the stars in the California desert.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 9 – El Paso & Las Cruces

We pulled into El Paso, Texas at dusk. It’s right on the Mexican border. The Rio Grande river is right there. The part of town we were in looked and felt like we weren’t in America anymore. It looked like Mexico. The food was Mexican, and all of the songs on the jukebox were in Spanish.

El Paso (/ɛl ˈpæs/ el PASS-oh; from Spanish, “the pass”) is a city in and the seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States. It is situated in the far western corner of the U.S. state of Texas.

El Paso stands on the Rio Grande river across the Mexico–United States border from Ciudad Juárez, the largest city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The two cities, along with Las Cruces in the neighboring U.S. state of New Mexico, form a combined international metropolitan area sometimes referred to as the Paso del Norte or El Paso–Juárez–Las Cruces. The region of over 2.7 million people constitutes the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.[6][7]

The city is the headquarters of Western Refining, a Fortune 500 company, and three publicly traded companies,[8] as well as home to the Medical Center of the Americas,[9] the only medical research and care provider complex in West Texas and southern New Mexico,[10] and the University of Texas at El Paso, the city’s primary university. The city hosts the annual Sun Bowl college football post-season game, the second oldest bowl game in the country.[11]

El Paso has a strong federal and military presence. William Beaumont Army Medical CenterBiggs Army Airfield, and Fort Bliss call the city home. Fort Bliss is one of the largest military complexes of the United States Army and the largest training area in the United States.[12] Also headquartered in El Paso are the DEA domestic field division 7El Paso Intelligence CenterJoint Task Force NorthU.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector, and U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group (SOG).

In 2010, El Paso received an All-America City Award. El Paso has been ranked the safest large city in the U.S. for four consecutive years[13] and has ranked in the top three since 1997.[14] As of July 1, 2016, the population estimate for the city from the U.S. Census was 683,080.[3] Its U.S. metropolitan area covers all of El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and has a population of 841,971.[3] The El Paso metropolitan area forms part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces CSA, with a population of 1,056,178.[3]

It was alien and cool for both of us but we always appreciated cities that looked different than the rest of America.

We had a beer in this border town but pushed on to Las Cruces New Mexico which was so close just on the eastern edge of New Mexico. We stay there without incident.

As I write this memoir I think about what Frank and I did on the trip. When we were in Georgia his Uncle took us to the greatest strip joint on Earth and I saw things I;d never seen before.

Funny thing is, looking back on this journey, Frank and I saw some vice in New Orleans but nothing major. You would think that two boys, 19 and 21 would have terrorized the countryside as we made our way across the country. We did nothing of the kind.

We drove the van all day on the way to our destination and loved the sites we saw along the way. But never did we stop and find the vice and dark fun in any of the towns we visited. We simply crashed, drank beer and watched TV in the hotel rooms we stayed in. We could have strayed and gotten into it with the locals, but maybe with him being an immigrant and me and my anxiety we just wanted to get where we were going.

It was an unspoken goal. Frank wanted to go on an adventure with someone he trusted and eventually his friends would follow. We’d have a band in LA and see what happened. He ultimately wanted to become a barrister in London. I wanted to be a rock star meta god and that was it. So here we were.

We’ll see what happens. He’s a helluva bass player so we’ll make it happen somehow. I’ve been uprooted from my life by my father’s design but I am out from under him.

Who takes their son out of high school before senior year? Oh I don’t know… a selfish self-centered cunt? (Frank’s words not mine, but mine with out a voice.) Once Janice was in Franklin and Marshall my dad was like fuck the rest of the kids in this family I’m moving them to the shore. I’ve exhausted all of my mistresses and some of them are pregnant. We here at the Provident National Bank are buried in bad loans and I need to go. I’ve painted myself into a corner and the love of my life Eileen is gone.

I will cling to Helen and the kids and dump my father’s inheritance into a gigantic over improved shore house a block from the beach in Wildwood NJ.

I think these thoughts as the 1969 Volkswagen mini bus carries my buddy and I from Belfast Northern Ireland across the desert on highway 10 into New Mexico.

I am away from my father. I love him but why? He has taught me everything I know. He taught me how to read, ride a bike, science, life, sex, people, women, everything. Why am I struggling?  Because he was so HARD on me.

Why did he have to say those things to me? Those words. Why was he so insecure? Why did he hit me? I can’t leave you dad or hit you back. I can’t fight a bully because you’re the best at that.

You were bullied as a boy. Why would you bully, hurt and scare me? What’s wrong with you?

You’re so nice. You’re a good father to my sisters but mom has a different story.  She’s your ultimate victim. Why dad? She’s been a victim her whole life. You describe her as this Japanese servant, That is some disrespectful shit Horace.

She suffered at the end of your tongue night after night. I heard you hurting with your words while she was raising your 4 kids while your tongue pleasures your mistress Eileen.

Fuck you.

A man’s word is everything. If you don’t have your word you’re nothing. You fucking liar.

My sweet sisters don’t know you. You told me everything you are when you were old. You told me the truth because you lied about so many things.

You’ve never had an original thought in your life. You love your wife because that poor woman put up with your crazy shit, you love your books because that’s where you stole all of the information you had in your head to get what you want, and you love your kids.

I believe that. You did love us dad. I know you did. As fucked up as you were. I know you loved us all so much. But I’m finally out from under your rule for good.

The 69 VW minibus rolls forward on highway 10. further than she’s ever been from the beaches of North Wildwood.

This family vehicle that was acquired in 1970 could never have imagined she would be making runs back and forth to Frankford high in Philly, and then becoming my vessel in Wildwood for fun and frivolity, But now here she is in New Mexico carrying the misfit son of the family to California to be a musician.

Frank hands me a Harp and I swig that sweet cold baby back. We’re going to California to be rock stars.

Las Cruces was nice and quiet and we’re nearly finished with our journey across America.

Las Cruces, also known as “The City of the Crosses”, is the seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 97,618,[2] and in 2015 the estimated population was 101,643,[4] making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Doña Ana County and southern New Mexico.[5] The Las Cruces metropolitan area had an estimated population of 213,676 in 2014.[6] It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Doña Ana County and is part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces combined statistical area.

Las Cruces is the economic and geographic center of the Mesilla Valley, the agricultural region on the floodplain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatchto the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico’s only land-grant university. The city’s major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. The Organ Mountains, 10 miles (16 km) to the east, are dominant in the city’s landscape, along with the Doña Ana MountainsRobledo Mountains, and Picacho Peak. Las Cruces lies 225 miles (362 km) south of Albuquerque, 48 miles (77 km) northwest of El Paso, Texas and 46 miles (74 km) north of the Mexican border at Santa Teresa.

Spaceport America, which lies 55 miles (89 km) to the north and with corporate offices in Las Cruces, has seen the completion of several successful manned, suborbital flights. The city is also the headquarters for Virgin Galactic, the world’s first company to offer sub-orbital spaceflights.[7]

Next stop… Arizona!

 

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