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.

 

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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.

 

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

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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.

 

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

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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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My Young Life: April Wants A Dog – 1978 – Part Two

This piece is dedicated to my middle sister April.

We’re all very upset and don’t know what to do. After pleading our case to dad, my father speaks:

“Let me take her to the shore for a couple of weeks.”

“You think it’ll work, dad?”

“I raised you four kids didn’t I?”

We were all relieved. We hated the idea of giving up on the dog and also happy we were all getting  break from this mad beast.

April was still sad and so was my mom. My mother always had a sweet spot in her heart for children and animals. They were the innocents. She trusted that my father could help.

He put the dog in his car that Sunday, with a bag of chow and her bowls and bedding. He had also checked a few books out of the library about training dogs. My father loved books and they built his entire modern mind. April was crying and my mother was sad as well as he loaded the car.

I watched as my father backed out of the driveway and we all waved and prayed for the best.

We didn’t see him for two weeks. Me at sixteen was relieved because it was just a more peaceful household without my dad and the dog.

My mother, sisters and I went about our normal routines.

I spoke with my father on the phone after the first week. I asked him how it was going. He said he took the dog to the beach early each morning before work. He would run her through short training exercises. He told me that when he was in the army he had a shepherd named Babe. He loved that dog.

He said he would take our dog through her paces each morning. He’d even let her run free and chase the birds on the beach. The dog loved being free on the beach by the sea each day. It must have been a little confusing for the dog initially to be transported to this foreign place with this alpha male she barely knew.

“What happens if she doesn’t come when you call her?”

“When I finally get the leash on her, I have a very tight rein on her and take her straight home. Her little nails are hardly touching the ground.”

This seemed harsh to me, but this was an animal, not a child. I always thought my dad was too hard on me, but he did teach me manners, and to be a disciplined, respectful boy. It’s no different with a dog. Discipline, love, affection and consistency.

Sounds like sound parenting to me.

Two weeks pass. It’s Friday night. Dad’s car rolls into the driveway. We’re all apprehensive. He gets out of his car. I remember how cool he looked in his brown suit and tie. He walks around to the back passenger door on the other side of his car and with leash in hand, brings forth our dog.

We don’t know what to expect.

My father stands before us with our black Lab. She is standing by his side. Her thick, rope-like tail is wagging. We hope she’s happy to see us after we banished her to a two-week stint in the hole with dad.

“Sit.”

The dog sits down next to him.

“Stay.”

He unhooks the leash. He walks toward my mother and hugs and kisses her. He hugs each of us.

The dog doesn’t move.

“Come on.”

The dog comes forward and joins the family in a hug. We’re all petting her and she’s so excited to see us. Frankly I’m amazed at the transformation.

My father opens the door to our house and tells her to go in. Mom has food and fresh water waiting for her. She goes into the kitchen and digs in.

“What did you do?”

“Love, consistency, discipline, repetition and reward. Just like we raised our kids.”

He smiles and I hug him. Good to see you, dad. Thank you.”

Everyone is happy and tearing up. It was like he brought home a different dog. The dog was chill and obedient and happy. He totally fixed our dog!

But did he? No. The dog was fine. But like any child it needed to be trained. This is my biggest complaints about todays parents, but you’ve all read my laments about that in this blog. (Rob and Laura – Thanksgiving)

I took her out for a walk and she didn’t pull once. She walked peacefully next to me. I would get to the corner and she would automatically sit down. I could have crossed the street and she wouldn’t move. I would have to say a command and she would stand up and cross with me.

After that two weeks with my dad, the dog was a perfect angel. Protector of the family and loyal friend. We all loved her dearly.

 

A few years later…

We were at the shore house in the summer. I was older and had no curfew. I would come home late, like three in the morning. I’d put my key in the door and go in the house. The dog wouldn’t even stir.

I asked my dad about this.

“She’s great but what kind of guard dog is this?”

“I roll in at all hours and I could be any intruder and she doesn’t even wake up.”

“Son… when you quietly open the gate and come up the driveway. She awakens and hears you. She hears your footfall as you approach the house. No matter what time it is, the moment you open the door she smells your scent and knows it’s you. That’s why she doesn’t get up. You’re family and she knows it.”

I found that all hard to believe but if dogs have more acute senses than we do when it comes to everything, I get it.

One night it was put to the test.

I’m out rockin’ and rollin’ at the clubs in Wildwood as usual. I get home. It’s the middle of the night. Easily well after two in the morning.

Shit. I forgot my key. But I’m seventeen and a lean dude. I put my foot on the back railing and hoist myself up onto the roof of our shower rooms on the back of the house. (My dad built the two outdoor shower rooms so we could all clean up and get the sand off of ourselves when we would return from the beach.)

I climb up on the roof of the showers, and then reach for the railing of the back deck that is just off my bedroom. (I’m doing this drunk mind you… Oh, youth!) I pull myself over to the ledge, and holding onto the railing flip myself over onto the balcony. Genius move!

I know that sliding glass door is usually unlocked because what idiot would ever attempt that move? I grab the handle and begin to slide it open.

I’m about to go in when all I see is this black snout and bared fangs. I hear a low growl that shakes me to my core.

“Hey! It’s me!”

Then I hear the familiar thump of that thick rope-like tail wagging like crazy.

She’s a good guard dog! She heard something different and immediately awakened and went to investigate… and defend the property and it’s occupants. I never forgot that story and have told it to many dog lovers through the years.

 

As the dog got older, like most large dogs they get some grey whiskers and their hips aren’t what they once were. My mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for most of her adult life. But she would take our dog out for a walk daily.

“We have to both go slowly now. We’re like a couple of old girls out for a stroll.”

Our dog was a beloved member of our family for fourteen years. A wonderful member of this family that we’ll never forget.

Oh… I never mentioned what April named the dog.

I did that on purpose.

Her name is the feminine version of the Latin name, Maximus.

April named our dog, MAXINE.

It means, the Greatest, or Bright and Noble.

 

Well done, April.

 

Maxine passed in 1991, and my parents are both gone as well.

But we hold them all in our hearts until the day we join them.

 

Then we’ll all be equal.

 

I think this sums it up.

 

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

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My Young Life: April Wants A Dog – 1978 – Part One

This piece is dedicated to my middle sister April.

My middle sister April always wanted to get a dog. So my parents finally relented and agreed.

She knew exactly the kind of dog she wanted. A black Labrador Retriever. Had to be female.

I remember the day my father, my sister, and I drove up to where we were to get the dog. It was somewhere in rural Pennsylvania.

We get to the house and met a nice older couple who bred dogs. They take us down the basement and there is the parents of what appears to be six crazy puppies running around everywhere. Literally bumping into our legs. They’re all black and the scene is chaotic.

My father wanted a pure bred animal so he found these folks who had papers on the father and mother’s pedigrees.

The gentleman is picking up the puppies one by one and checking the sex of each one. He finally finds the only female. She’s naturally a bit smaller than the males but that fairly common. She’s a cute little nugget head.

My dad does the necessary paperwork and payment and we’re off with a new puppy dog! I don’t even know what we got her home in. Was she in April’s lap, in a little box, or a carrier? I just don’t remember.

I do remember getting her home and we set her on the floor. She ran through the kitchen and then under the dining room table. I follow her and see the first thing she did upon arriving in her new home, was to go to the bathroom on the carpet under the table.

“Mom! The dog is doing its business under the table!”

“Come grab a wet rag and wipe it up.”

“It’s not the kind you can clean up with a rag, Mom!”

“Oh my God!”

The dog had been in residence for less than a minute and managed to shit on the dining room floor.

But that’s normal puppy stuff. It usually isn’t long before they want to go outside to do their business. Dogs are den dwellers. They don’t foul their nests.

The Labrador Retriever, or just Labrador, is a type of retriever-gun dog. The Labrador is one of the most popular breeds of dog in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A favorite disability assistance breed in many countries, Labradors are frequently trained to aid the blind, those who have autism, to act as a therapy dog, or to perform screening and detection work for law enforcement and other official agencies. Additionally, they are prized as sporting and hunting dogs.

A few kennels breeding their ancestors, the St. John’s water dog, were in England. At the same time, a combination of the sheep protection policy in Newfoundland and rabies quarantine in the United Kingdom, led to the gradual demise of the St. John’s water dog in Canada.

In the 1830s, the 10th Earl of Home and his nephews the 5th Duke of Buccleuch and Lord John Scott, had imported progenitors of the breed from Newfoundland to Europe for use as gun dogs. Another early advocate of these Newfoundland dogs, or Labrador Retrievers as they later became known, was the 2nd Earl of Malmesbury who bred them for their expertise in waterfowling.

During the 1880s, the 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, the 6th Duke of Buccleuch and the 12th Earl of Home collaborated to develop and establish the modern Labrador breed. The dogs Buccleuch Avon and Buccleuch Ned, given by Malmesbury to Buccleuch, were mated with bitches carrying blood from those originally imported by the 5th Duke and the 10th Earl of Home. The offspring are considered to be the ancestors of modern Labradors.

The dog was a bit rambunctious. But I had never owned a dog so I didn’t know what they were like to live with. It seemed like many of our neighbors had dogs, mostly German shepherds. (That was a very popular breed back in the 60’s and 70’s.

As she grew, she would sometimes have these snap fits. No biting. That never happened. But she would start running through the house like a rabid dog. We didn’t have wall to wall carpets back then. Just hardwood floors with large area rugs throughout the house. The force and thrust generated by this dog would literally roll up the carpets during her trajectory. My little sisters and I would just leap up onto the furniture in the living room to get out of her way.

My mother would just open the back door leading to the yard and out she’d go. Running like and animal possessed.

The dog chewed up and destroyed a few things in the house. One time I went into my room and saw that the entire back of one of my sneakers had been bitten clean off. It looked like a billiard ball sized shark bite. The shoe was ruined.

Another time I walked into my room and one of my songbooks was ripped apart. I flipped out. That was a book of lyrics and chords of original songs I had written.

“Mom! Look what the dog did!”

“You shouldn’t have left it on the floor.”

“Sigh…”

Things were getting worse. The dog would pull when you tried to walk her. I mean like pulling really hard and gasping. I couldn’t understand why the dog would choke herself like this. But again, I knew nothing about raising a dog. I was just a teen dude that wanted to play guitar and write songs. The dog was just kind of pain in the ass.

Sometimes she would get out and run away. We’d find her up the street and have to chase her around and bring her back.

Remember during this time we were living in Philly and my dad was working at a bank down the shore. He would just swing in on the weekends. We were all cool with that, but we were all getting to a breaking point with this feral animal. It was time for a family meeting.

So when dad returned on the weekend, we all sat down at the dinner table as a family and talked out the situation. We all explained our feelings about the situation. It was like a court case. Everyone had input. Even my baby sister Gabrielle.

There was talk of getting rid of the animal. Most of us were leaning towards that. We really were at our wits end. I can see my sister April’s face even today. A grimace of mute protest. Tears streaming down her face. She must have felt terrible. She was the middle kid. She was the one that was always fighting to get attention. Not Janice the number one first-born and daddy’s favorite. Not the son. Not the baby Gabby. So well-behaved and intelligent. She was just April in the middle. I never felt that way about her. I always thought of April as the one who was tough on the outside but would give you her last dollar and the shirt off her back if you needed it. I always considered her the most beautiful of all of the children in the family. She was always my little pal growing up. We used to play together and fight like any other siblings, but we always made up.

It was breaking her heart. We were all visibly upset. We took this little pup from its parents and brothers and now we were talking about banishing her from our lives.

We pleaded our case and we need to reach some sort of resolution. A decision needed to be made.

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion to this story.

 

 

 

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

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