Rosalie’s Rodents – 1974

When I was in sixth grade, this kid Tommy Goodwin (Who was actually bad) brought in these cute baby mice into school for show and tell. They were adorable. I remember at the time I was in love with this girl named Rosalie. I remember what love felt like back then too. It was sitting next to her in school. It was holding hands with her when they were showing a film in class about something. (Because the lights were out) It was passing notes with little sentiments like, “Do you like me?” with Yes and a No box next to the words. I did kiss her once near the end of the school year in the vestibule by the front door. My heart swooned!

Anyway, Rosalie tells me she wants me to get her some mice and stuff. Of course me being a big shot and trying to be cool around her tell I can do it. She brings in $10 the next day. Where an 11-year-old girl got a ten spot back in 1974 I’ll never know. I never had any money.  Let alone a whole ten dollars!

So me and my friend Michael go to the pet store on Rising Sun avenue (In Northeast Philly) and go scope out some mice.  We ask the guy running the store where are the mice, and he says he doesn’t have any. But he does have some hamsters. We go look at the hamsters and they look even cuter than the mice! I buy about four or five of them and some hamster food.

I don’t even remember how we got them home. I can’t tell my parents about this because of a myriad of reasons. I shouldn’t be taking money from other kids. Other kids shouldn’t be giving me said money to buy them pets. No parents are involved in the transaction. Does this girl’s parents know they are getting a family of hamsters tomorrow?

There is a big wooden board about five feet wide and eight feet tall against the wall in my garage. I had a plastic aquarium out there behind that board. I once had tadpoles in it and watched as they metomorphisized into frogs. It was really a brilliant thing to witness first hand. The legs pop out first. Then one arm (Apparently the arm forms on whatever side is closer to the lungs as they develop) then the other arm, and it’s cool because you can hold them. They just look like skinnier tadpoles with arms and legs and a shorter tail. You can hold them and they can’t hop away and they’re breathing air. Kids like to hold stuff rather than just look at stuff.

They eventually became complete frogs and literally hopped away! It was great. We enjoyed the first part of their journey with them!

So I put the hamsters in the container and give them a bunch of food and cover the top. (Don’t worry they can breathe)

The next day I go into school and tell my beloved that I have acquired sort of what she wanted. I tell her they didn’t have any mice but I got her something even better. Cute hamsters. She tells me her mom won’t let her have hamsters or mice and to just keep them. I try to give her the change from the ten and she doesn’t want that either. She apologizes if there is any trouble but she just can’t take them.

I think my family would be cool with me keeping them in the garage and taking care of them, but this was a shady transaction where I took money from another child and bought hamsters. I’m sure they would see it that way, and I should have known better and would have gotten in trouble. I was in trouble enough back then. So I decided to thicken the plot by keeping the hamsters a secret.

But here’s the problem. My family was going down the shore for the summer. Who would feed my hamsters?

I hit up my friend Michael and he says he’ll stop over and check on them every couple of days. I thank him profusely.

So we go to the shore for the summer. A couple of weeks go by. Back then my dad still worked at the bank in Philly. He would just come down on the weekends to hang with the family. It was a good time. We were all happy and we’d build big sand castles in the morning. (My dad was hands down the best sand castle empire builder in North Wildwood) All of the kids would work on it and then we would watch as high tide would come up and destroy it!

It was awesome!

One weekend he comes down. We’re sitting at dinner and he says to my mom, “I think we may have a rodent problem in our garage.”

My fork grinds to a halt on the way to my mouth.

“Yea, they’re cute little guys though.”

My sisters are saying it’s gross, etc. Then the conversation moves onto another topic.

So I call Michael from a payphone around the corner, just to cover my tracks. Don’t want any pesky phone records to foil my plan to keep my ill-gotten hamsters a secret.

“My dad said he saw one of the hamsters in the garage!”

“Really?”

“Are you still going over to check on them and feeding them?”

“Yea, but…”

“But what?”

“Sometimes I can’t get in the garage and sometimes I forget.”

I’m thinking it’s the latter.

“Well maybe you could go in there and just take the whole aquarium and hide it somewhere else.”

“Like where?”

“I don’t know. Think of something.”

 

So the next weekend, my dad comes down. We’re sitting down to dinner.

“Did you see any more of the mice in the garage, Dad? I say meekly.

“Yea, quite a few.”

“Oh…”

“But I put some traps down and got ’em all.”

CHILDHOOD… TRAUMATIZED.

I hope you all enjoyed this funny little story. I remember my sisters and parents went insane laughing years later when I told them the untold true story of Rosalie’s Rodents!

 

 

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The Phoenix – Part 3

Tell My Mother, tell My Father, I’ve done the best I can.

I stood at the grave of my parents with my sisters and my daughter.

Yes. I have something to say.

I read the Eulogy I had written.

I knew my sister Janice thought I wouldn’t deliver based on my track record.

 

Hello all. Thank you for coming.

To quote an artist I love: “Your bodies may be gone but we’re going to carry you in. In our minds, and in our hearts, and our souls. And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll all meet again.”

Over the last few weeks our hearts and minds have been filled with visions of you both.

Although your vessels are gone, you are both so much alive in us all. In our thoughts, our words and our deeds. You’ve achieved immortality in your children… and their children.

And we all have the wonderful children to prove it.

Just like all of the home movies we still have. We can watch them anytime we want. I watched some the other night. You were both so alive that I could almost touch you both.

But only almost. And I won’t be able to anymore.

I want you both to know that every time we did anything, we saw you both in front of us. Your appreciation and love accompanied us every step down the road, and our lives were always shaped by your teachings and values.

Others greater than I will eulogize you both, but none of them will ever have the sweet pleasure that my sisters and I have had to feel the gentle touch of your hands in ours.

To merit your words and warm embrace that was reserved… only for us.

To see your smiles and hear your laughter, told us so much.

But those are no longer. Only in our memories.

There is so much to say about this wonderful family that has come to Earth through both of you. We will share our stories as long as we all can draw breath.

I once asked you both, “What was the key to a happy life?”

Mother you said, “Do everything in moderation. Moderation is the key to a happy life.”

I turned to my father and said, “Dad?”

He replied, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

Well, we always went big, and our family is rich in history… and most of all… love.

Anyway, rather than go into every wonderful Christmas we ever had, or the summers at the shore, or how my mother was the greatest person I ever met, or how my Dad taught me how to ride a bicycle, or drive a car, or taught me how to read, or taught me how to catch a fish, or how to talk to girls, or art, or music or everything that is essential to living in this world and being a better person, and moving us all forward as a family.

You’ve both done all of that and so much more.

More than any words can ever describe.

Thank you.

 

I’m not done yet…

My sisters and I are left with no alternative.

Janice. April. Gabrielle.

And my only daughter… Lorelei.

We will say goodbye to you, Mother and Father. And we will ask that you rest in peace.

I know you will think about us all down here and miss us.

We will always love you both so very much, and we will never, ever forget you.

You both are all of us.

And we are you.

 

I will leave you all with this:

“Life is fleeting and fragile. Enjoy yourself.”

Thank you.

 

That’s it. That’s the eulogy I wrote for my parents.

I read that at their burial.

I always felt like I failed them both my entire life. But I always loved them.

 

 

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The Phoenix – Part 1

When I started writing this blog it was a bunch of crazy dates and series about past relationships. But I knew it would grow and evolve. Now that the dust has settled in my life I can get to the business of writing about what I really want to express. My life. (Don’t worry there will always be crazy dating stories!)

Last year my sisters and I buried our parents.

My mother had died the year before at 86. She was a wonderful woman who was a good wife and mother. She lived with RA (Rhematoid arthritis) for 40 years but never complained and put up with my father for 60 plus years.

She was in assisted living for the last year of her life. She was happy there and said she was never going home. She was with her peers and I know she was comfortable there in her final days.

She always said she wanted to go in her sleep. I think everybody wants that. Just go to bed one night and then just disappear peacefully and quietly. No fear. No pain. Just gone.

The day breaks tomorrow and the world does what it does and you’re just not in it anymore.

Your memory lives on with your loved ones for a while but after a generation, unless you’re famous you’re simply gone. It’s as if you never existed.

She went to bed one night in her pajamas, snuggled down in her bed and just went to Heaven. Just what she wanted. She deserved that.

My mother was a good woman who was really good at taking care of children and a house and animals that she almost seemed born to it. I don’t know if she ever wanted anything more, but my mother never even learned to drive. She didn’t need to and liked to be in her home, doing her thing and drinking her tea.

When she passed she was cremated and her remains were put in a lovely wooden box with a pretty bird carved into the top. My mother always loved birds.

Maybe she always felt like a caged bird. I don’t know.

My father kept the box on the dining room table after she died. I think that’s morbid, but maybe he just wanted some semblance of her there in the big old house with him.

Because now he was alone there. No one to listen to his stories, fears and ailments that didn’t exist or whatever.

My mother was the greatest listened I’ve ever met. The absolute apex of a good listener. I know this because my middle sister April can really talk a lot. So can my Dad. She was always sweet and genuinely interested in what you had to say. She kept her opinions to herself.

There was a surge of attention around my father when my mother died. My father loved attention. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very charming man and is absolutely great with people. He knows how to get it done in a unique and elegant way. Where do you think I learned all of my moves? I took the best of him, and have done my best to discard the worst.

Before my mother died I had conversations with my dad about how he was worried he would run out of money because the facility she was living in cost so much every month. He actually said, “I’m going to end up in the Veteran’s Home because I’ll be broke.” Healthcare in this country is a financial nightmare, but why would he think that?

Why would he say that?

Fear. But it seemed contrary to his character. I think she was living too long. “She’s very frail” he would say to me all the time. It’s like he needed her to go. I get that. I have a really firm grasp of what life is and what death is too.

I’ve been alarmingly close to them both and although one is priceless and precious, death can swoop in on its black wings and snatch the innocent away for no reason.

So dude… live for today.

Have you met your first-born daughter that you love and loves you more than you can even grasp?

My sister Janice.

You’re never going to end up in the Veteran’s Home, man. Not under Janice’s watch. You should rest easy and smile that you have the strongest person in the family looking out for you and Mom’s best interest.

Free of charge.

But my mom passed and it was sad, but she was ready to go. I’m grateful to all three of my sisters for being present through all of that because I was not. I was just living my life here in Philly doing my thing and popping into the occasional holiday party with one of my young girlfriends.

They did it all, especially Janice.

So once the surge of attention, mourning, adulation, cards, letters, love, and people faded as they always do. My dad decided to fold up his tent and go home.

Initially the loss of mom was sad but she was a really old lady, and we all loved her but we were all prepared for her to leave. You have to prepare yourself for that. Forgive me, but I don’t understand why I see people suffering so long after losing their parents. They lived their lives. You had them for so long but everybody has to leave. No one gets out of here alive.  You have to be ready for that.

The dead have a responsibility to the living and vice versa.

But there is a sense of relief that Mom is now at peace and not suffering with the pain of RA and old age. She was ready to go and she went in her chosen way.

I’d see Dad and he was happy and his usual jovial self. I’d talk with him on the phone and we’d be trading stories and it was amazing. He was finally telling me all of the wild stories from his past that I was never old enough to hear. It was great! I was even managing his Netflix because we both love film and that’s something we’ve alway been really close about.

 

But once the light completely went out on my mom and he was alone in that big house he started to want to get out of here himself. I still don’t full understand it but I think my sister Janice may because she was so much closer to the day-to-day grind of watching him plan his going from this world.

Something changed. He just gave up and got tired of playing onstage anymore. He just wanted to quit the band and work on his solo career in heaven.

It was like he was slowly trying to commit suicide. That’s not allowed in this country but I think if it were and he wanted to really go. I know my father well enough that if he wanted me to I would have been okay with him blowing his last breath in my face.

Because he put my sister Jan through hell that last year. No one will ever know how intense that was but I’ve heard from my sisters. It was as if he was this crazy tiger that kept all his powers, weaknesses, greatness and demons locked up in a den somewhere and then the old cat was left inside that den to suddenly deal with them. All of the things in himself that he had never been fixed came to the surface and cooked him alive.

I’ve lived with anxiety and depression my entire life. I turned it into art and sometimes turned to alcohol just to turn off the pain for a few hours. I like it, but I never let that shit own me. I have a strong sense of identity.

I know my father intimately. I understand his psyche. I forgave my parents for everything in my forties. You have to do that to move forward in your life.

 

Let go of the bars of your cell. Let them fall to the ground and take a step. Embrace who you are and how hard they tried to raise the four of you with not a lot of money. How they had challenges with each other in their marriage and how they should have gotten a divorce but didn’t to hold it together for you and your sisters.

How they became husband and wife and then parents to little new minds and did the very best they could with all they knew.

Much of it was so wrong but for the most of it was pretty darn right. My family is super normal and so are their children.

Even though I have felt much more of the scorn of both of my parents, I’ve managed to rise up from my own weaknesses and be a decent and wise father to my daughter, Lorelei.

I’m blessed with a lovely child that I barely deserve. She too has a strong identity and risen up from the flames of her upbringing with her mother to shine beautifully like the morning sun.

Tune in tomorrow.

I’m you about the day that my parents were really gone.

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Liam and Noel Gallagher

Given that their creative partnership is based on barely contained homicidal rage, getting both Gallagher brothers on the stage at the same time has proven to be a bit like refereeing a slap fight between two chimpanzees–only with less crap throwing (probably) and more shrieking of the UK’s favorite C-word (definitely).

Liam and Noel Gallagher are the immensely talented brothers responsible for Oasis, the most successful band that everyone wants to punch in the face. Brash and outspoken, they’re known for spouting off about Blur, AIDS and how they hope everyone in Blur gets AIDS–comments which have predictably not gone over well with Blur, AIDS sufferers or anybody else.

Rock stars saying stupid things isn’t that remarkable. What really makes the Gallagher boys so difficult to deal with is the ridiculous amount of fistfights they manage to get into between themselves. A typical example: Following a canceled show in Barcelona, during a friendly conversation Liam raised his doubts about the fidelity of Noel’s wife and legitimacy of his daughter. (We will assume that Liam did so as delicately as he knew how.) This ended unsurprisingly when Noel headbutted his brother and then punched him in the face.

Our favorite story, though, is the one where Liam decided to bring a bunch of people he’d met at the pub back to the recording studio where Noel was working, which understandably irritated Noel somewhat. Noel’s role as the reasonable person in this story ends when he reacts to this interruption by attacking Liam with a cricket bat, breaking his foot.

Given that their creative partnership is based on barely contained homicidal rage, getting both Gallagher brothers on the stage at the same time has proven to be a bit like refereeing a slap fight between two chimpanzees–only with less crap throwing (probably) and more shrieking of the UK’s favorite C-word (definitely).

A Typical Day If You Were Oasis’ Personal Assistant:

You: Liam, don’t. Don’t throw that poop. Don’t throw that poop, Liam. Listen to me, Liam. Do not throw that poop at Noel. He’s your brother and you love him.

Noel: You fookin love me, man. Don’t you throw that poop at me.

Liam: Fook! -he throws the poop at you instead-

You: AGHR! Ahh! What the hell have you been eating? Is this… is this a battery?

Anyway…. This is Wonderwall.

 

 

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Lorelei – 1996 to Present – Fathers Day

My parents never wanted to be the type of parents whose children always felt obligated to do something for them just because the world recognizes a certain day that we have to honor our parents with obligatory cards and gifts.

I remember my father and mother never celebrated their birthdays. They may have before they had the kids, and they may have celebrated their birthdays and such between each other but never with us kids.

Here’s the reason why. My parents never wanted to be the type of parents whose children always felt obligated to do something for them just because the world recognizes a certain day that we have to honor our parents with obligatory cards and gifts.

I feel the same way. Birthday presents and parties are for kids. Our parents always observed our birthdays and holidays on a large-scale basis. Our Christmases were glorious.

My daughter knows I don’t care about Father’s Day. She’s a great person who has grown up strong and confident and good. Everyday is Father’s Day being Lorelei’s Pop. I’m proud to call her my daughter.

I get up on Sunday morning and she’s already gone off to work the brunch shift at the vegan restaurant where she works. I go into the bathroom, and there on the window sill is an envelope. On it is written the word, “Dad.”

She didn’t have to do it, and she knows it, but she wanted to, It was a lovely card, with all the right things printed on it. But what really meant the most to me, is the words she wrote to me inside the card. I am tearing up as I write this.

Respect and love are earned. You can’t force or guilt someone into caring for you. You can only earn that through your words and your deeds.

When raising Lorelei I saw myself as an Archer. I am firm… but flexible. I hold the bow with a firm hand, but I am flexible as I draw back the string. Lorelei is my arrow. If I am steady, firm, and flexible I can cast my arrow into tomorrow on a straight and true course.

She will fly into tomorrow, and that is a place I can never visit.

Lorelei will be just fine.

I’m sort of quoting something I learned while reading “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran.

 

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Learn it.

Live it.

Become it.

I love you, Lorelei.

Thank you for being in my life.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Tradition

The lady at the counter says, “I hope you’re not eating that for Thanksgiving!” I coolly replied, “Oh, no. My daughter loves these things. I always keep them in for her.” (a bold-faced lie)

My family has always celebrated Thanksgiving, but Christmas was always our big holiday. I’m always welcome at my older sister Janice’s house every year. She has a big house and we refer to her place as Holiday Headquarters. There was one year many years ago when I was invited to go to my other sister Gabrielle’s house all the way down in North Wildwood, New Jersey. Back then I was newly divorced, and I just didn’t feel like making the drive all the way down there. My daughter was little then and with her Mom and that side of the family for Thanksgiving. I was just happy that my ex-wife was out of the house and out of my life for that matter. I was looking forward to a day of listening to music, watching movies and eating and drinking. I like to be alone. I’m a very social animal, and I get my energy from those around me, but I just wanted a day of sweet nothing and solitude.

I lived in Woodbury, NJ back then. I drove over to the local convenient store and picked up a box of frozen Ellio’s Pizza. It’s a cheap and tasty treat I have loved since I was a lad. The lady at the counter says, “I hope you’re not eating that for Thanksgiving!” I coolly replied, “Oh, no. My daughter loves these things. I always keep them in for her.” (a bold-faced lie)

That night I happily sat on my sofa watching some cool movies, drinking Ketel One vodka and tonics, and eating my delicious Ellio’s Pizza. I had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. I was grateful to have a family that cared about me and most of all that little Lorelei was in the world.

So I joked around with my sisters about that day, and of course they felt bad for me. They didn’t want me eating frozen pizza and drinking liquor by myself on Thanksgiving, but that’s what I really wanted to do that day. So it’s sort of become a family joke every year for Thanksgiving. It came up again this year, when I declined my sister’s invitation. It’s not that I didn’t want to see her, but I’ve seen her a lot lately, and my parents have passed, so what’s the point? Once the main anchors of a family die, usually the children retreat to their own little families. She understood and we’ll all get together at her annual holiday party in December at Holiday Headquarters.

I went to the Midtown Diner and had a huge breakfast at the counter. Scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast. It’s too much food, but I crushed it all and it was delicious. I went back to my house and did some writing. Lorelei escaped the clutches of having to spend Thanksgiving with her mother. She went to her boyfriend’s mother’s house. She’s a hard-core vegan and made some really creative dishes. I’m glad she’s happy and I’m sure they were glad to have her there for the holiday.

I finished a chapter, and wanted to get something to eat around 4:30. I left the house and walked down to South street. Everything was closed, but I didn’t feel like going into Walgreens where I’d have to get something to heat up or bake in the oven. Then I looked to the left and remembered there was a new 7-Eleven a block away.

I stopped in and was surprised at all of the people in there buying stuff. Maybe I could start a little Thanksgiving club with them. They could come over with a load of 7-Eleven food and I’d supply the booze. I picked up some things and headed back to the house.

The city was deserted. Dark and eerily quiet because everybody was off doing their family things. I got home, went to my desk and fired up an old episode of Columbo on Netflix. I poured myself a vodka and club soda. I don’t drink Ketel One anymore at home. Too expensive. I only have it out now in a martini, straight up with a twist. My current brand is Platinum X7 by Sazerac. A 1.75 bottle is $20. My favorite thing to mix it with is Polar club soda with lemon that I buy by the liter at Walgreens. I tore open the small bag of Lay’s potato chips. Then opened the box that contained the quarter pound 7-Eleven hot dog, and spread mustard along its length.

Changed it up this year! Wanted to send a pic to all of my sisters but decided against it.

A man who can sit in a room alone and be satisfied is a man that has found inner peace.” – My Dad

 

 

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Antonia – 2012 – Possibly a Mob Front?

“The square shaped balding man burst through the kitchen door with two glasses of water for us, and in a very loud and deep voice, he explained that it was his birthday, and we would eat what he felt like making us.”

Well, this one time I took my friend Antonia to dinner at (what seemed to be) a front for some type of illicit activity.

She had just moved to a new area, and we wanted to check out the local shops and restaurants. While we were wandering, we stumbled into a tiny Italian place. Back home, the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants always have the best food, so we were excited to give it a shot. Big curtains were covering the entry windows, so we had no idea what was inside until we trudged through the door.

Inside, we were met with emptiness and silence. We both immediately thought the place was closed, and I spun around and searched for the store hours posted somewhere on the door. While I was looking, we heard a heavy THUD as a young woman barked “I’ll be right with you!”

She appeared, greeted us confusingly, and asked us ‘what she could do for us’. Which, looking back, is probably a red flag. But we were naive and hungry, so we said we were there for dinner. She looked puzzled but motioned us to follow her to a booth right by the entrance.

She then disappeared into the back, and we heard a muffled conversation between our hostess and a man. The consensus was basically they were not prepared for us or didn’t know how to proceed. I asked my date if she wanted to split, but she insisted we stay for the story.

The square shaped balding man burst through the kitchen door with two glasses of water for us, and in a very loud and deep voice, he explained that it was his birthday, and we would eat what he felt like making us. We whole-heartedly agreed.

We waited around thirty minutes, and he again returned with three large bowls of spaghetti and meat sauce. He placed two bowls in front of us, and one next to me for himself. He sat with us and ate. We had light and awkward conversation with him during, and he kept asking us jokingly if we were cops or with the health board. He was incredibly nervous about us, so my date kept cracking corny puns or awful jokes because he would forcibly laugh at anything designed with humor. We talked about our lives, the cities we’ve lived in, our pets (he had a teacup Chihuahua named Princess) and his wife.

He decided we were good people and didn’t charge us for the meal. We wished him a happy birthday, he hugged us, and we went on our way. Easily the best spaghetti I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant, unfortunately, no longer exists.

 

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