My Father – 1929 to 2016 – Diamonds and Rust – Part 1

Well I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again.
But that’s not unusual.
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall.

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Note: I wrote this a year ago when I was still feeling salty about a lot of things. I’m fine. I’ve forgiven everyone and life is better than it’s ever been here in Philly. There may be moments in this tome that seem angry or bitter. I am not either of these things. I’m just telling a story about a man who struggled with himself and my relationship with him.

I have done dozens of edits on this peice and even thought about cancelling the series the night before it was published. But I have to go with my gut and just tell the story.

One day I’ll be gone too. But this will blog will live on the internet forever.

And I know no forever.

Everything in you life is finite.

The only thing that feels like forever is the Universe.

“The universe is everything that ever was, is, or ever will be with no limit to time and space.”

The rest of everything and what we are is simply dust in the wind.

 

The holidays are rapidly approaching Dad and you’ve been gone for a couple of years. I was looking at some family photos recently, and I saw one in particular. It was your wedding photo with mom. A couple starting their life together full of promise and hope.

I was listening to the rock opera, Tommy by the Who. A brilliant rock opera you turned me on to in the basement of our original home in Northeast Philly.  I listen to all kinds of different music all of the time, but something happened during this combination of words and music.

I looked hard at the photo and the first thing that struck me was what a beautiful bride my mother was. The next thing was how much my sister Janice’s son looks like you. Thankfully he has more hair and a sweeter disposition, but the eyes and smile are there.

Janice has always been more like you than the rest of us. I love her very much and she’s definitely not you but most like you of any of the kids in this family. I’m definitely A Barr from mom’s side of the family. (Barr is my Mom’s maiden name.) Her brothers were charming, musical guys that kept their hair, youth and liked to drink and hang out with the ladies. My daughter Lorelei agrees that we are both Barrs.

April, our middle sister is probably a combo of my grandmother on mom’s side and your Aunt Margaret. Fiery, with a take no prisoners personality. The most beautiful of all of the children. Baby sister Gabrielle is firmly ensconced in Mom’s family as well. I hear my mother in her words and mannerisms. Gab is the closest relic we have left of our mother.

Dad, you and I had a challenging relationship. But it mirrored yours with mom in a way. We were both sort of at your mercy most of the time. Mom and I were family and you were the king that ruled over us. A fickle king that didn’t really know who he wanted to be. But always stepped up and did what he had to provide for us, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

You’re mother although a sweet woman married safe. Grandpop worked hard and knew how to make money and provide for his family. But he didn’t like being a father. He had no idea. You told me you looked upon like him like he was Superman. But he was just a man who worked hard, and liked to hang with is buddies at the bar. You wanted more, but got nothing in return. He’d tussle your hair and call you Pete. What the fuck is that? Your name is Horace.

(English and French form of HORATIUS, and the name by which the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus is commonly known those languages. In the modern era it has been used as a given name since the Renaissance, in honour of the poet.)

That’s a very old name, and it was his name and he made you Horace jr. because you were their first-born. Like my sister Janice, you unfortunately are the children that have to go through life with a sickle, where the rest of the siblings follow giggling and laughing. But you both have always carried a burden.

You were first, adored your father but struggled. Your younger brother Jackie was smarter, cuter and could do no wrong. I loved your brother very much. He has always felt like the dad I should have had. I would have flourished better in that family. Just leave me alone and let me do my art and music.

But you always had the cross to bear. I’m sorry that happened to you, Dad. That’s no life for a kid.

I love you, Dad.

I will love you until the black wings of death scatter my days and we will both be equal.

Your parents split up and got divorced when people didn’t do that. You were in Wildwood with your mother and little brother Jack, and my Grandmother sent you on a mission.

You were fourteen years old.

Your mother sent you to Philadelphia on the train to tell your dad that you all wouldn’t be returning to Philadelphia at the end of the summer. A cowardice act but understandable at the time.

On a side note. The building she sent you to where your dad worked was at 5th and Chestnut. The Hotel Monaco stands there now and they couldn’t alter the building in any way because of its historical value. I have partied my ass of at the rooftop bar now called Stratus in the Dusk and Vapor rooms!

When I was at my lowest at age 14 I remember your mother saying, “He’s going to be great. Someday, he’ll make you so proud. ” Grammie knew. Grammie saw the inner fragility and strength in me. I loved her. Everyone had turned their backs on me in 1976 but Grammie was the only one that vocally held out hope for me. At the time I didn’t even know what was going to happen to me.

I remember years later my own mother said “I didn’t love you back then.” (Puberty)

Think of how devastating those words were to a child.

I forgive you mother. I was a fuck up and brought nothing to the table. I understand why you said that, and it’s okay.

Dad you took the train to Philly and went to the building at 5th and chestnut. That’s were your dad worked for an insurance company. He was great at his job, because he knew that all clients were equal regardless of their race. I remember when you told me that, and even though grandpop was a shit dad he did teach you some great core values.

He said to you to never say anything bad about black people, because they had the same needs and wants that we wanted and should be treated with respect. He may have liked to party at the bar with his crew, but I like this guy despite his shortcomings as a father. He taught you some important lessons, so that’s something.

My grandfather’s values still stand proud with me today through you.

Not you. Him. Shitty Dad, but honorable Grandfather values.

Dad… You’re just a collection of things you’ve been told. It’s okay. I understand.

Jack is the one with the original thoughts.

You still did good.

You go there, nervous and scared. You’re a kid. You go up to is office.

“Hey Pete.”

“Hey dad. Listen, we’re going to stay at the shore. Me and mom and Jack aren’t coming back to Philly.”

I can’t imagine the fear you must have been feeling in that cold, lonely moment.

“Ha! You’ll be back!”

And that was it.

My frightened father had to tell the man he worshiped and had failed him that he and his wife were separated.

How fucked up is that?

What does that do to a boy’s mind?

His brother Jackie is the cute one. He’s the star. Jack is as smart as a whip. My uncle Jack was the first graduating class of Margaret Mace in Wildwood NJ and he was Valedictorian. He never cracked a book. Jack was brilliant, funny and charming and built for business.

Very successful, married twice, plenty of kids, not around much, busy with work, but an amazing guy. All of his kids for the most part are wonderful and I’m happy to have them in my life to this day.

I can’t wait to see my cousins at my sister Janice’s annual holiday party this year. I love looking into the eyes of my cousin and seeing Jack’s eyes.

His light still flickering in his first daughter’s eyes.

 

The winter was rough for my grandmom, dad and Jack. I’ve heard tales of them waking up in their beds and condensation coming from their mouths it was so cold.  These are old seashore houses with no heat. My father forced to go to shitty resort town schools. (Wildwood High School) Funny how this would repeat itself with me many years later. (Sins of the father)

Why would you put me through this dad?

When he was a kid, my dad would go to get his toothbrush in the morning and it would be frozen in the cup in the bathroom.

All they had for heat was a little wood burning stove in the corner of the common space.

One day a neighbor called on my grandmom and said that someone had been dismantling and stealing his fence at night. His wooden fence was literally disappearing.

It was later learned that my uncle Jack would go out at night and take pieces of the neighbor’s fence and burn it in their stove to stay warm.

I love my Uncle Jack.

My father dropped out of high school and fell in with the wrong crowd. At one point they got their hands on a gun and were going to mug some guy to get money. He was rudderless in his teen yearsand losing his shit.

I felt this same darkness living in Wildwood in the winter of 1980, so I get it. No crime, but what a nightmare to live in a thriving resort town in the winter. There is NOTHING to do. It’s a ghost town.

It was awful. I felt cursed to be dropped there.

I lost all of my Philly friends, my band and everybody I knew. It was all about my dad escaping Philly and making sure that Janice went to Franklin and Marshall. After that his wife and kids would have to start over in a fucking ghost town.

 

My father ran away from home at age 17 and joined the army in 1946.

He said that it’s what made him into a man and brought order to his life. So basically it saved his life.

He had a great time in the army and learned much. Traveled the south and met many wonderful people. He fell in love with a beautiful girl named Naomi, but she eventually threw him over for another man.

Just young love doing what it does…

He comes back to Philly and goes to Temple University to get his GED. He meets a cute secretary who works there and starts dating her, and the rest is history. She became my mother.

 

Were they a good match? I’m going to go ahead and say no. But they made it work with what they had and knew and isn’t that what every fool does? I certainly have!

My mother always said, “Marriage is a dice roll. You just have to hope it comes up that you win most of the time.”

For the most part, I have a really normal family. That stability and core values, love and discipline worked and made some good people.

All of my sisters have turned out well.

What does that tell you?

It tells you that DAD was a good dad. If the girls turn out well he was a good dad. They are all wonderful women and I’m proud to be related to them.

It all worked out.

 

I’ll continue this tomorrow…

 

 

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

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Duncan – Touchdown – Part 1

“Whenever his plane lands he always texts me the signal: “Touchdown.” I know he’s landed in Philly and the fun is about to begin. But in that moment I didn’t realize how his phrase would ring true this fateful weekend.”

Duncan had planned on coming into town to visit me. It had been a while since we’d hung out. But this was a very special weekend. He was turning 50 and the Philadelphia Eagles were playing in the Super Bowl.

Whenever his plane lands he always texts me the signal: “Touchdown.” I know he’s landed in Philly and the fun is about to begin. But in that moment I didn’t realize how his phrase would ring true this fateful weekend.

My schedule has changed since he last was up here in Philly. I work every day and only get every other Saturday off. I don’t mind because I love to work and stay busy. We’ve got two businesses to run and this blog’s not going to write itself.

While I was walking into work today, I realized that even though we don’t see each other very often, Duncan is my very best friend. We’ve known each other for 20 years.

He later rolls into the salon on Friday afternoon. It’s great to see him. He walks up to me and practically jumps into my arms.

I give him the tour of the gym and salon. It’s been over a year since he’s seen it. The last time he was here the space was an empty husk of a fallen restaurant. Now it’s a busy tanning salon with a personal training fitness center up front. We’ve come a long way since then. He’s impressed.

We takes a seat in the waiting area and we chit-chat. This time together gives us a chance to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. It’s been slow at the salon so we can talk. Duncan also likes all of the young attractive women that come in to tan. It’s like an endless pageant of beauty.

I get a couple of cheese steaks and sodas delivered and we happily munch them, while bringing each other up to date. We discuss current events, business, work, the women in our lives, and most of all Super Bowl LII.

When I finish we decide to go to Duncan’s favorite bar at the Ritz Carlton. He stayed there last year and we loved it. I got him a more modern and less expensive room at the Hotel Palomar at 17th and Sansom. But there’s no bar that looks like what’s at the Ritz Carlton. It’s a vast space with high ceilings surrounded by pillars. It’s like you’re having a drink at a beautiful white marble bar in ancient Rome. (But with all the modern amenities) If you ever get to Philly, check it out.

We park it at the bar and Duncan goes for his favorite: Rum, Bailey’s and Cream. It’s like a White Russian but more like a milkshake for adults. I like my drinks with a touch of evil so I go for the Manhattan, Bulliet Rye, Sweet Vermouth and brandied cherries. A lethal and elegant classic cocktail.

We get into it. We’ve been friends for 20 years. We know basically everything about each other. But there’s always new material. Stuff you know, but we go for the deeper dive. We both have issues with our parents. Who doesn’t our age? Especially boys.

We agree that the only way we could have moved forward in our lives was to forgive them and embrace all of the great things they did. Not dwell on the horrific things they did to us growing up.

We used to just listen to heavy metal and go to concerts and eat and party in the old days.

We relive those days of simple joy. Building our time together around concerts, meals, drinks, drugs and fun. But now we’re both men in middle age that have held our friendship through truth and our common interests. But mostly growing up in the same era and loving all of the same things.

The pain we suffered growing up has always been there, but tonight in middle age we let loose and agree to forgive. My gentle friend’s childhood was way worse than mine. Our parents were so good to us and they did the best they could, but why the violence against us?

Nothing good came from any of that. It was all just an emotional and physical release for them to escape from their own pain and frustration. None of our sisters knew this, but the sons did. The humiliation. The beatings. It was awful.

How could you do that to a child. By today’s standards, it is a 911 call.

I know my best friend’s life was worse than mine. There is always someone who’s had it worse than you.

I Love Duncan and treasure him as my distant best friend. We are always connected even though there are miles between us.

Our cylinders run an engine of friendship that transcends time and space. Business, values, marriage, relationships, philosophy, politics. comedy, film, Star Wars, comics, music. Everything. I just adore him.

20 years. You can’t build that without your ups and downs but there’s love there. It’s something we both have wanted our entire lives. I met my very best friend 20 years ago through the banking industry.

You never know when you’re going to meet a best friend. Sometimes you don’t even know who they are when you have them. But you open your eyes one day in this fleeting life and there they are 20 years later and you are just as you were when you first started.

You love all of the same stuff. There’s a little bit of new stuff, but the vein runs through it and it is pure. That’s your guy. He gets you. He knows your secrets and all of your fuck ups and weaknesses and he hangs in there anyway.

You can tell him anything and he won’t ever judge you. That’s a friend. He has all of his shit, and you have yours. You have both taught each other to forgive those that have hurt you. They only were doing the best they could with what they had.

They’re lives were so much harder than ours. Their parents came from a harder place and were even more ignorant than we are. But we’re the next generation and we love them. They did so many great things and that outweighs most of the awful mistakes that they made with us.

 

I’m plowing Manhattan’s and Duncan is destroying his White Russians like he’s John Bonham. Then for the first time in our 20 year relationship we finally dig into the darkness.

The agonizing pain of our childhoods and how ignorant our parents were. I describe what happened to me and with Duncan I feel safe in telling him what my childhood was like.

Then he describes incidents from his childhood and I am horrified and tears come to my eyes because I can’t imagine that happening to my friend.

It’s way worse than any of my punishments and almost seem like a call to child services would have been in order back then.

But as awful as it all is as we laugh and throw our cocktails back we discuss forgiveness and understanding. We both realize where our parents were in their lives back then. Where they came from and how far they came with all of us kids.

It was a different time back then and they didn’t know any better. They really did a lot of great things. Fantastic things for us kids, but there were moments where they made missteps that marked us forever.

They could never have foreseen the long-term effect on how what they gave us would propel us into greatness, but in that same moment, provide a weight, a nearly disabling weight that could destroy us in the same moment.

Some of their children would prevail and soar high and clean. Others would crawl from the wreckage of their upbringing broken and fragile, but would still find their way.

Maybe these birds cast from the nest would find their way and eventually fly back to the nest and rescue their own parents from their on demise.

Simply as an act of kindness.

Because they had become good people.

They were able to take the best of what they learned from their parents, and forgive the worst. Learn from it and be the best people they could be.

That’s my Duncan.

It’s late and we’re elated but wiped out. The bill comes and it’s $200. My God.

Duncan pays it.

I feel a twinge of regret but he insists. The weekend is only getting started and I’m stupid happy to see him.

I love Duncan. Our history is so rich, we could write a phicklphilly book just about our stories. (I probably will)

Our friendship has aged beautifully. Middle age hasn’t been kind to any of us, but we’re still tight as super glue. Our friendship has transcended time and space. We still love and hate all of the same stuff together. Now we’re in our fifties and I would love nothing more than to sit beside my dear friend watching whatever new Star Wars incarnation Disney can create and be happy.

We just want to share a moment, a drink, and a laugh.

We’ll do more than that this weekend, but for now… I’m just happy to have him in my life after all of this time.

 

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

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1969 Volkswagen Minibus – 1969 to 1984 – Part 1

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.

“She’s fine.”

“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:

(Van rocking)

“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.

“Dad”

“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.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday at 8am & 12pm EST.

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Wildwood Daze – Autumn of 1979 – Shadows Fall

“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.

 

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My Young Life: Bitter? Table for One.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved music. I was always there standing in front of the record player playing air guitar before anyone even coined the phrase “air guitar.”

I thought about writing this piece for a long time, but was too busy with all the dating content. But now it’s 2018 and things have changed in my life, so like I said at the beginning of the year I’m going to add more content about other parts of my life and childhood.

I’m going to take a different approach to this piece. I’m going to write it in terms of how I think about the story in my mind. The way I see it is as an interview. Someone who is interviewing my parents about their decisions. We’ll call him Bob.

This is something new for me but here goes:

1970

Bob: “Thanks for meeting with me today. I see your son over there really loves music. Look at him jamming out on his imaginary guitar and tapping his foot as he listens to that song on the record player.”

Parents: “Yea, he loves rock and roll music.”

Bob: “You should get him a guitar and give him lessons.”

Parents: “Nah, we’re going to buy a huge upright piano and pay for lessons for his sister Janice for a few years.”

Bob: Is she musically inclined as well?

Parents: “She doesn’t appear to be.”

Bob: “Why not for him?”

Parents: “He isn’t disciplined enough to take guitar lessons.”

Bob: “Okay. Anything for him?”

Parents: “Probably karate lessons.”

 

Let’s jump to 1979

Bob: “How’s it going?”

Parents: “Good.”

Bob: “How’s Janice’s piano playing going?”

Parents: “We sold the house with the piano in it. She never plays it. But there is a piano at our shore house.”

Bob: “Does she play that?”

Parents: “No. Actually some weird girl she hangs out with plays it more than she does when she comes over.”

Bob: “What about your Son?”

Parents: “He joined a band in Philly as their lead singer. Then he got his hands on a cheap electric guitar and taught himself how to play by listening to his records, and reading music books. He’s even started writing his own songs and the band plays them.”

Bob: “Impressive.”

Parents: “But we’re moving the family to the shore so that’s the end of his band.”

Bob: “That’s sad.”

Parents: “Not really. He met some guys and he joined their band as a guitarist. They play around in Wildwood and they play some of his original compositions.”

Bob: “He did all of that on his own?”

Parents: “Well, we bought him a Marshall amplifier.”

Bob: “So can you admit that there have been some missteps in the parenting department?”

Parents: “No.”

I’ll be writing some more about my musical journey on phicklephilly. I guess the lesson here is, you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m pretty sure Janice only took all of those lessons to please my father. But I remember I was sitting on the floor playing my guitar to “I Want You” note for note by the Beatles.  He came in and said I had surpassed him because he could only listen to music, but I could make music. That was one of the best compliments that he ever paid me.

Another time I was jamming out in my bedroom and it was loud distortion metal guitar playing. I went out on the deck to smoke a cigarette and one of our neighbors who was just a renter gave me an earful, about how I was disturbing the peace and how he was going to get a petition to have us thrown out of the neighborhood. When my father found out he went over to the guy and tore him a new asshole. That guy died a year or so later.

So that was pretty cool.

Bitter? No. I’m just telling my version of a series of events in my life. I forgave everybody for everything over a decade ago. Why drink the poison hoping they all die? You only end up consuming yourself with hatred. It’s a waste of your precious time. Don’t let anybody live rent free in your head. Besides, my parents goodness outweighed anything negative they ever did.

 

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Miscellaneous Stories: Rob and Laura – Thanksgiving – Food and Beverage Dilemma

I’ve been friends with Rob and Laura for a few years now. They’re a really cool couple and I love hanging out with them. They’re a smart good-looking pair that both have good jobs.

I’ve had lunch with Rob a couple of times in the last year but I haven’t seen the new house they bought recently.

So I was thrilled when they invited me over for Thanksgiving this year. They said it would be a small intimate affair.

The reason I entitled this post as “Food and Beverage Dilemma” was because that’s what initially was going to be the theme of this post. It certainly begins with that, but takes on a completely different turn later in the post. But I decided to leave the title the same because that’s all I want to remember of this Thanksgiving.

If you’ve been following phicklephilly, you’ll know how I feel about Thanksgiving these days. (See: Thanksgiving Tradition ) I’ve had tons of great thanksgivings in my life. My family was always big on Christmas, not thanksgiving. I get it. I’m very grateful for everything I have in my life, but I don’t need to stuff my head with tons of food that takes hours to prepare to feel that.

But when Rob and Laura invited me to their new home I really felt special. I was actually getting excited for Thanksgiving to arrive.

My buddy Church gave me a motherlode of liquor last year so I decided to re-gift a bottle of whiskey to Rob. (See: Church – 2014 to Present – The Motherload) It was a bottle of Westland American single malt whiskey. 90 proof and apparently very good. I also was going to bake some of my own chocolate cookies for the event. I figured bring them a nice bottle of something and some of my cookies for dessert.

A few nights before Thanksgiving, I was looking at the bottle and decided to look it up online to learn more about it before giving it away. This way I could talk about it at the table.

I find it online and it’s going for between $80 – $100 a bottle!

Wait a second. That’s really expensive. Am I prepared to part with a $100 whiskey? I need to rethink this. Shouldn’t I keep this bottle because it’s so valuable and just get them something else? Funny what money does to your mind.

Well I’ve got a few days. I’ll think about it.

I go into the salon and run my predicament by Achilles.

“Are you gonna drink it?”

“No. It’s too nice for me. I like my boxed wine and vodka that comes in a plastic bottle.”

“How much did you pay for the whiskey?”

“Nothing. It was given to me a year ago.”

“Well, if you’re not going to drink it, and you got it for free, why don’t you just give it to them and maybe they’ll realize that it’s expensive and reciprocate someday. But if not, you had a nice Thanksgiving with your friends.”

“You’re right. And I’m going to bake cookies.”

“Fuck that. Just buy a few gourmet cookies, put them in a paper bag and be done with it.”

“Yea. You’re right. That’s what I’m going to do.”

But the night before Thanksgiving I was still torn. I walked out of the salon after I closed and headed to the liquor store a block away. I got half way down the street and turned back.

Screw it. Achilles is right. I’m going to pick up some cookies at my local grocery store and pack up the bottle of Westland Whiskey for Rob and Laura.

Each one of those cellophane bags has two cookies in side so I’ve spent a total of eight bucks on Thanksgiving this year. Good to go!

The next day I did the long trek to Fairmont. It probably took over 40 minutes to get there. It was so nice to see Rob and Laura.

But they have a two year old son that was just up from his nap. I know Rob has been telling me about how challenging it’s been being a parent. They both have big jobs, the kid’s in day care all day, and when they get home they’re so exhausted from work they don’t want to deal with him.

I’m a parent and like my parents before me children are like intelligent puppies when they’re little. Those dogs need to be disciplined. A trained dog is a happier and more calm dog. And boys are tough. But once I’m there for awhile I realize very quickly this isn’t happening.

He’s a winey, wild, child. That must have worked and he knows when he does it they will yield to him. He’s like a little drunken tyrant midget. I even played with him on the floor for awhile with his animals and trucks and it was tough but I feel like no one’s doing that with him. He certainly lacks order in his life. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’ve never raised my voice or my hand to my daughter Lorelei. But I was consistent in my words and deeds and brought order and calm into her life. She knew exactly where the fences were and still are.

But it’s just not happening here and it’s stunting this child’s social development.

I love Rob and Laura, but they need to get on the stick about raising this boy. It’s not his fault. He’s just an untrained puppy who sadly has got his parents by the short and curies and they need to take back the power and straighten this boy out. Just like my friend Marigold and her crazy kids. No one is disciplining these little monsters!

The child’s behavior ruined my Thanksgiving this year. I don’t have the will to go over there again if he’s there or even awake. Lunch or happy hour but adults only!

So in closing, my food and beverage dilemma wasn’t the problem at all. It took on a whole new form.

 

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Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1979 – Moving the Family to North Wildwood

My father was fed up with living in Philadelphia and wanted to get out of the city and out of the Provident National Bank in center city. My family was focused on getting my sister Janice into Franklin Marshall because she was a good student.

I remember it was Janice that drove my mother and other two sisters to the shore that summer. With Janice out of high school and in college, Dad decided to move the whole family to the shore house. I liked living in Philly. I was in a band called Renegade then. (See: Renegade – My First Band) All my friends were there. I liked that I was going to be a senior at Frankford High next semester.

But all of that was ending for me. I would vanish from Frankford and end up taking my Senior year at Wildwood High School. I knew no one. Wildwood is a resort/retirement community. The place rocks hard from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but then it becomes a ghost town. At the time I knew what anxiety was. I had it since I was a small child. But I would really get to know what severe depression was very soon.

They didn’t give a shit about my life because I was always a poor student in school and was a nobody. So After 11th grade we moved to Wildwood NJ for good. I had to leave my band Renegade behind and all of my friends, and move to the shore.

My father had no coping skills so ripping his son from his peronal and social life meant nothing to him. Everybody had to be hunky dory and happy with his move. His dad died, (My grandfather) and left him enough cash to build up on the shore house and it was beautiful. (Biggest house on the block)

But after the summer at the shore, Janice went off to college. My dad was all teary eyed losing his love and I was left to take my senior year not knowing anyone in a town that was dead during the winter. It’s a resort town. There is NOTHING going on there in the winter. They turn the traffic lights off and roll up the fucking sidewalks. This is a perfect dark depressing environment to be dropped off in. Yea, that will work out great. But as long as Dad is out of Philly and has his family all set up down there, he’s all set.

I remember falling into a depression after the summer and my father ripping me a new one because I wasn’t on board with where I had been sent. God forbid anybody would put a chink into daddy’s plan. He always hailed himself as a planner. It was just his mad OCD and anxiety that made him so insecure that he had to control everything because he was never the favorite beloved son like his brother Jack. He was forced to man up his whole life. He worshiped his father like he was Superman and his dad never gave two shits about him. Brother Jackie was the smart one and Dad was just the elder that had to handle all of the shit his mother was to cowardice to do. He was the one that had to go to his father and tell him that they weren’t coming back from the shore because they were getting divorced. I have this guy completely mapped out. My sister Janice loves and worships him, but I know the real deal.

Fuck. I didn’t think I was going to go there.

(Update: This opinion of my dad as a diety has changed for Janice.)

 

 

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