California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 3 – Big Night Out In Atlanta

Things were good. Frank and I were chilling at his Aunt’s house in Atlanta and enjoying our time reconnecting. But I was itching to get back on the road. Frank’s Uncle came to visit and said he wanted to take us out. I’m fresh out of the nest at 19 and Frank is a world traveler at 21, so we’re down for anything. I can’t believe how many Irish people have relatives and friends scattered all over the globe.

The first place we go to is this cool country bar. We’re drinking beers and eating food and all is right with the world. This guy comes out, sits on a stool and plays original songs. I remember him being really good. It was a good warm up to the night ahead.

Then his uncle says he’s taking us somewhere else.

I’ve been to Baltimore and Washington DC, but not really anywhere else. I lived with my parents before this. This is the furthest I’ve ever been away from home in my life. I’m happy I have Frank with me, because he’s my security. I’m just a scared musician with anxiety and depression I barely even know I have. My mom made me three square meal a day my whole life. I have no clue as to what the world is.

Travel is so broadening. The world is such a bigger package than most people ever realize. All you know is your little world. But I know this journey is going to fundamentally change me. It’s something that has to happen. Leaving home was hard enough. I was terrified traveling all of that way by myself. None of my friends are doing anything like this. Just me. I’m different. I’m not but I know at that moment I’m different from all of them. I’ve always walked among them but never really joined them. This trip is proof of that. I have to learn to crawl towards the things that frighten me. Frank has no problem with anything. He’s a solid, bright guy. I’m just a skinny nothing. I don’t want to go to college like my sister Janice. I just want to go out into the world and find out who the hell I am.

Maybe music will carry me forth.

I just needed to get away from the dead-end existence of living in Wildwood. That’s a fun place in the summer, but nowhere to raise your kids if they’re from a major city. The winter is and empty desolate place where most of the people who live there are business owners that make a nice living and they spoil their children. The kids grow up in wealth but are bored out of their minds. I saw more drug abuse and teen pregnancy in that town than when I was back in Philly growing up.

Do I love that I got to spend every summer in the 70’s at the shore? Damn straight. It was amazing! Nobody on my block got to do that. Only us. So it set us apart from our neighbors in Lawndale. We didn’t care. We didn’t know. We were just kids. It’s something we just looked forward to and did every summer.

But Janice going off to college and me having to take my senior year at Wildwood High was just some self-serving selfish shit on the part of my father. But I’ve covered that already.

I’m happy to be on the road and free of the trappings of my parents existence. I’m sure Janice had her own awakening at college and so did little Gabrielle. We all made our way in different ways.

I’m here to be open and brave.

Here we go.

Frank’s uncle takes us to a place called the Pussycat Lounge. I don’t know what that is but it sounds sexy.

We go in and there are naked women dancing onstage.

My brain explodes.

I had never experienced anything like this in my life. I’ve heard about it and seen scenes like this in a movie but never the real thing. Back then I was still wet behind the ears. It was fascinating to see naked women before my eyes. Getting out in the world was an exciting adventure. They didn’t have anything like that anywhere I grew up. In between the girls dancing, there was this comedian that would come out and tell dirty jokes. He was really funny. Normally it takes a lot to make me laugh, but this dude killed.

Frank, his uncle and I had a great night out. I was still reeling from seeing that many naked girls standing right in front of me that night. When you’re young, and you see something like that for the first time it has incredible euphoric power.

I slept well that night and was still excited about what was next in the coming days.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 Chapter 2 – On The Road

After working through the Fall after the Summer season was over, I was itching to get on with the next chapter of my life. I had stayed on at Hunt’s Pier and worked on the maintenance crew. I think they laid us off around the holidays and we all just went on Unemployment. I planned my trip and kept in touch with Frank.

Back in 1981 the best way to plan a trip was to be a member of AAA. (Automobile Association of America) You went into the office and told them where you were planning to go and they would literally map out the entire trip for you. Maps, Tour books, something they called a Trip Tik, (Which was little notebooks that blew up your route on a series of maps.) It was really thorough. Using the tools provided you couldn’t get lost. They gave you info on everything. Gas stations, hotels and motels, facts about each town you were passing through. Just a wonderful service for travelers.

So I tell them what I’m doing and give them a week or so to put it all together. I had used their services before for short trips to Baltimore and Washington D.C. Kind of like, let’s take a few trips and see how we do before we take the epic journey to the new world.

Frank tells me he’s leaving Fort Lauderdale the 1st week of February and heading up to his Aunt’s house in Atlanta. I tell him I’ll come down and meet him there. He says we can hang there for a week and then head out West from there. Sounds like a plan to me. He provides me with her address and I tell him I’ll see him then.

That’s how people communicated long distance back then. Just a couple of phone calls and usually letters. Yes, we wrote letters. I’ll write about that in another post.

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It was a cold grey morning in February, 1982. The VW minibus was all packed, and I was saying goodbye to my parents and sisters. I remember my mother crying, and my dad giving me some extra money. I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and I left home.

It was a tough morning and I was scared shitless. I had never done anything like this before, let alone by myself. I drive South to Cape May. I am catching the first Ferry to Lewes Delaware. It’s the shorter route. I’ve never been on a ferry before so I’m terrified of that too. I decide I’m going to stay in the car the entire trip and listen to my music. It’s freezing outside anyway. I drive in with the rest of the cars. We wait a few minutes and then the ferry moves out into the Delaware River. Everybody gets out of their cars and heads upstairs to the inside upper deck.

I’m alone in this hollow dark place in the middle of a ferry surrounded by a bunch of empty cars. It feels like everyone’s gone and I’m left behind. fear and anxiety clutch me.

I change my mind. I get out of the van and lock it up. I go upstairs. People are in there and it’s warm and people are drinking coffee and eating and chatting. I’m so alone and I’m barely out of Jersey. I decide to go outside to get some fresh air. I’m the only one dumb enough to go out of the main cabin this time of year. But I want to feel it.

I step out onto the deck. The February wind bites my cheeks. The sky is grey like my spirit. I walk to the bow of the boat and look down. The boat is literally crunching through the ice coated water. I can see ice breaking up right in front of me. I’ve never seen anything like this. I mean, I’ve seen Tookany Creek frozen in the winter but that was just a little creek that we used to play near when I was a kid back in the 1970’s in Northeast Philly.

I am terrified. I’m alone. What am I doing?  I’m so scared.

But I must go on.

The ferry lands in Lewes, Delaware and everyone embarks.  I’m in my VW minibus and off I go. I’m driving South and now it’s on. I have to push on through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and I’m just scared. Simply frightened.

I remember my mom had packed me a little lunch for the trip. A little sandwich, chips and a soda. I went through the Chesapeake Tunnel and came out on the other side. I had so much anxiety going through that when I got to the other side I pulled over one the side of the road and threw up. That was my life back then. I couldn’t do anything without getting sick. My whole life was sickness. Think about that. All of the fun adventures you look forward to and are excited to do paralyze me.

You’re hot for your date with a new girl? I’m dying inside. I love her just as much and took the chance to get her but when the time comes I’m dead inside. A sea of nausea and fear. I can never enjoy any of the things you love. it’s all fear and sickness,  all of the things you take for granted and have fun with, I and sitting there on the sidelines dying.

You look forward to getting into the pants of the girl before you. I’m just happy she isn’t revolted by me and when I finally drag myself forward to ask her out I am almost to sick to take her out.

But I love her so much

And I will dry heave myself away to take her on a date. why? No idea. Just something in me. A weakness. a sickness.

I end up in a hotel in South Carolina and I am drained from the drive. I call my parents and cry on the phone to them. They are sweet to me but I know I must do better tomorrow and make it to Atlanta before I perish on this journey.

I fall asleep in my hotel bed. I’m scared and alone. I am breaking the shell of my anxiety and understanding. I have to do this. I know it. I have to do this. I have to go to California, if nothing else.

I’m a loser and have nothing else left in my life to do.  I have to do this now because there is no alternative.

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I wake up in my hotel room in South Carolina. I can’t even tell you what it was like because I am in a daze. I just need to get back on the road and get to Atlanta. I’m close. I’m one state away and I’m still really scared. I have to push forward. I’m going to see my friend. It’ll be great. That’s all I need to do.

I fire up the VW and off I go. I drive for hours and finally hit the outskirts of Atlanta. The directions they gave me back then were so good I actually pulled up on Frank’s aunt’s street by dusk that day.

I was so relieved I got to the house It’s like I was home again. but in a stranger’s home. but frank was there and a nice old lady and they were all very Irish and beautiful. the warmth and welcoming was overwhelming that I had made my trip was magic.

I was so happy to see Frank and his aunt was so welcoming. My fear turned to safety. I knew id be okay. We catch up over dinner and a few beers. I find it hard to believe this is all happening.

I knew our adventure was just beginning and we’d go and do that but for now we would rest for a week and just let the journey happen when we wanted it to. I was still having a lot of anxiety but was happy that I had moved forward with my life and I was with my friend.

I was away from shitty Wildwood a the dead-end that it had become. I was away from Hunt’s Pier and my dad and my family completely. Gone. I loved them but that wasn’t for me any more. I was going to California to be a metal god and that was the end of it.

I tried to keep a diary on the road but life became to interesting for me to even bother.

I settled into my bed and knew there was fortune to be had.

 

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