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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I must go on.

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

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

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

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

But I love her so much

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Wildwood Daze – I Need a Moment

Readers…. I need a moment to conclude the story of my time in Wildwood, NJ. It was an incredible time and left such an indelible mark on me. I just need a moment to tell the story of me from Wildwood correctly.

It’s been a busy year with many changes. All good! But I want to lay out the final chapters of this story properly.

My time at the shore in 1980 were so amazing I need to step back and take time to write them.

I have spent so much time getting content ready for 2019, that I’m struggling to get this last story out.

I appreciate your patience and will do my very best over the next couple of weeks to pull this tale together.

Summer 1980 was so amazing I don’t even know if I can capture it properly. but I’ll try.

Please enjoy my usual content until I can move through this little block.

I assure you I have a story to tell and it is rich. But there is so much here I’m just trying to gather all of these feelings together.

Thank you for your patience.

 

Once I break through this block, I’ll write the rest of the Union Jacks series and then we’re off to California!

UPDATE: Writer’s block broken. I wrote one final piece last night. If there are any more stories to be told about the Union Jacks and Wildwood in general, I’ll feature them in the future. Maybe like a flashback to the Wildwood Daze. Like a nostalgia piece.

I need to move forward with my writing trajectory for 2019 and I don’t want anything impeding the creative proccess.

 

Thank you.

 

 

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My Father – 1929 to 2016 – Diamonds and Rust – Part 2

Still proud to have known you for the short time that I did.
Proud to have been a step up on your way.
Proud to be a part of your illustrious career…
and I know you did it all,
in spite of me.
In spite of me.

I have my father’s words. His laughter. His lessons. His charm for sure. He taught me so much. But that’s what my father was. He realized he had nothing. No natural ability that his brother Jack had and he made a decision. He was going to read. He was going to learn all that he could about the world.

He once told me. “Son, I just got to a point where I realized I didn’t know much. I don’t know much about anything. So I started to read.”

He also said that the best things in his life were my mom, us kids and his books.

I really believe that, because I was once sitting on the floor playing the lead from “I Want You’ from the Beatles, Abbey Road on my guitar and he walked in and said, “That’s really good, son. I can only listen to music… you can make music.”

Greatest compliment ever.

That’s the same thing as him saying to my mother, “I love you Helen Barr with all of my heart because I can never truly love you, or be you, and I would love nothing more that to be like you.”

My dad was a simple guy that grew up in the depression and struggled with himself and life itself. He was bullied as a kid as was I but I never understood why he would knock  me around with his words and his hands.

Maybe life’s burdens were an incredible weight that he couldn’t bear, and that it relieved him to hit me to make the pain and frustrations stop in himself.

I can’t imagine anyone ever doing that to a child but our parents are from a different era than where we are now as a parents.

I’m okay with that. I love my Dad, and he didn’t know any better. I accept him and forgive him for all of his failures as he has forgiven my failures which are many.

I know I have disappointed him, in so many ways. But I appreciate his forgiveness. But sadly as he lies cold in a grave in Cold Springs. NJ, the very thing he wanted me to become he snuffed out with his on actions a long time ago.

I’ve spent the last 40 years of my life crawling from the wreckage of his behavior to finally stand in the sun and not feel like a worthless loser. I remember feeling at 12 years old him reflecting his on fear and failure upon me.

I never understood why he did this until I really got to know who he was.

Why would a kid that suffered so much as a kid and was bullied and had to be the stand up guy in the family and the unloved do this to his son?

He couldn’t help it. I really think that when he screamed at me, and beat me he was simply beating himself.

I get it.

You hate your life, You’re not living the life you want and you’re now married to a lovely woman who kind of isn’t the hot babies your accustomed to and she is actually a puritan lady. You made the republican decision to capture some kind of credibility and get some sort of family thing going on because yours is shit. Her brothers are cool awesome dudes.

I get it. I did something similar when I got married.

You did so much better than I did in that area, you brought Janice, April, and Gabrielle into the world. Well done, Sir.

But I think, once you did it you saw that maybe that’s not what you wanted…

Back to the beatings….

I have never raised my voice or my hand to my daughter Lorelei because It’s wrong and unnecessary. But instead of repeating the sins of the father I have learned from my upbringing all of the great things they taught us. There are many! But I have discarded the violent wasteful acts of the previous generation.

Thanks mom and dad. It didn’t hurt so much, and I know you did the best you could from your medieval beginnings but you made better people!

We’re all okay and miss you both very much. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of you both.

I feel the words flow through my fingers as I write this. I just had to sit down and get it out.

 

“For a long time I thought you’d be coming back to me… Those kind of thoughts can be so cruel…”

 

I’ll finish this tomorrow…

 

 

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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.

 

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