Christmas 2018 and Beyond – Part 3

The train goes back underground as we enter Camden NJ. That place is a den of scum and villainy that could have been a mini mirror to Philly but has failed in so many horrible ways. I’m actually glad in this moment my internet connection has gone black again as we enter Camden.

I think back on good and bad memories in Camden and will write about them at some point but that time isn’t here.

Camden is an awful place in New Jersey, but at some point I’ll tell you some stories from that once great seaport but for now I’m just passing through.

Happily locked in an extruded aluminum passenger car on PATCO.

 

The train once agin rises from the darkness of Camden’s tunnels and re-enters the sunshine on the this fine sunny day.

I look at all of the scenery and as the train roars east. I see all of the ghettos and shit neighborhoods below the elevated tracks. It hasn’t changed in over 40 years. I’m sitting here in a brand new train in a comfy chair, listening to Howard Stern and Christmas Carols and I’m shooting past absolute poverty below me.

What will Christmas morning be for the children in this neighborhood.

But I’m facing backwards. So I watch it all fall away from my view. By not sitting forward the sadness was never coming up… but going away from me.

See how this is working?

We roll into the Ferry Avenue stop. This is the stop where for years I would pick up and drop off of my daughter with my ex-wife.

I remember I would pick her up there and bring her to Philly when she was younger. But I also remember when I would ride the train with my little one and arrive at Ferry Ave to give her back on Sunday, I knew I wouldn’t see her for two weeks.

I was always sad on that quiet train ride back to Philly.

 

I feel all of that rush back into me but I’m not sad because I know at the end of the line, my daughter and her boyfriend will be picking me up and we’ll all go to Janice’s house for an amazing gathering.

The train rings and surges forward, and I watch as that sad memory fades as well and becomes joy.

Collingswood, Haddonfield, and all of the rest of the stations pass.

I can see my whole history living in New Jersey in my miserable marriage fall away from me. All vanishing down the gleaming rails.

All of it. I’ve lived in several of those towns and it’s good to see them all fall away from me and know that my daughter and I are no longer prisoners to the lie that is a domestic life so many hold dear.

I no longer have any feelings or emotions about any of that nonsense, but it’s nice to see South Jersey simply go away through a window on a train ride.

I could feel the cleanse of that moment and the exuberance of all of the wonderful people I was about to see, and where I was now in my life.

 

I finally arrive in Lindenwold. I don’t know this station. iI don’t care. I get off and head down the escalator and go outside. I’m listening to music and feel really good. The weather is surprisingly mild and I take a seat on a bench outside awaiting the arrival of Lorelei and her boyfriend.

I’m so happy and so filled with holiday bliss and energy I’m not even listening to Christmas music anymore. I’m listening to songs by a Swedish metal band called Angel Dust. I haven’t listened to any of that in 10 years! Maybe longer. I must be drinking deep on my dopamine.

I text my daughter that I have arrived and I think she’s a little stressed as so many young people are. She doesn’t want to keep her dad waiting. I tell her not to worry and to take her time and be safe.

I know this lovely day will unfold as it should.

I sit back on the metal bench and smile.

It’s been a while since  I simply sat in the sun.

I feel it on my face and it is as comforting as my mother’s hand in mine.

I don’t know why, but I was just in such in a beautiful moment of calm sitting on this bench out in the middle of nowhere in a place I’ve never been.

I knew my daughter was coming, but I loved this moment in the morning sunlight by myself.

I felt the sun’s energy on my face. I put out my hand and felt the sun in my hand.

Sun in my hand.

Happiness in my hand.

It’s within me and right here on my face and right here in my hand.

This is my holiday alone moment.

Just waiting but not impatient. Just calm. It’s so nice. It’s never been like this.

Sun in my hand.

No problems. Just Happy Christmas time.

Maybe for the first time ever.

 

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Christmas – 2018 and Beyond – Part 2

I’m happy to see her fade from my view like all of the other beautiful women in my life. Like beautiful Christmas ornaments on the tree of my life. Some are gone. Some fallen and broken, some stolen by guests and strangers.

I had been talking last Sunday about how I had been searching for the Christmas spirit before my sister’s annual holiday party.

All of the Christmas carols, the lights in Rittenhouse, the hustle and bustle of the season. None of it gave me the surge I was expecting.

But if you read that post, (Christmas 2018) you’d know that the holiday season had been in me all along.

What a blissful feeling it is.

My life is so simple and elegant now. I finally get it. You don’t need a bunch of stuff and events to be happy.

Live simply, and simply live.

 

Before the event I stopped at the liquor store. Every year I have a ritual where I present my sister Janice’s husband with a quality bottle of liquor.

I figure, I come into his home, and eat and drink as much as I want and am surrounded with all of my favorite people in the world. So give the guy a good bottle of booze!

I pick it up the night before and settle in at home after work listening to Christmas music and writing. My favorite place to be most evenings.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my whole family tomorrow.

 

The next morning I get up and grab a healthy breakfast. In years past I always had a great deal of anxiety when I had to travel. Just an old ailment. Usually there were several moving parts to traveling to my sister’s party. There would be daughter Lorelei, my then girlfriend Michelle. We had to pull it all together and get to 30th Street Station.

It was always stressful for me. But the end result once we got to my sister’s was always so good.

I had to get all of the tickets at a machine I always struggled with at the station. I would sometimes go out there the day before and buy all of the tickets just to take the edge off.

I always got a large bottle of water and a package of crackers just to put something in my stomach. Just nerves and anxiety and travel.

All of that is long gone.

The plan has changed. NJ Transit is doing track work and not running. (Now what do I do?) I’m not getting any younger, and my lovely daughter Lorelei takes charge and I love it.

I get the text. “Dad. Take the 10:15 train at PATCO and take it to Lindenwold, NJ. You’ll get there a half hour later, and we’ll pick you up in the car and drive you to Janinice’s house.”

I love it.

I’m finally at a point in my life where I don’t have to figure everything out and manage everybody else.

After a nice breakfast, I head to the PATCO station at 16th and Locust. Normally for a solo mission to Absecon NJ on New Jersey Transit it used to run me $40 round trip.

I enter in my coordinates into the ticket purchasing machine at the station and it tells me it will be $6 round trip!

Six bucks! It’s a Christmas miracle!

I grab my ticket and hop on the train.

It’s been a while since I’ve set foot on PATCO. They’ve replaced all of the trains with newer models! Lovely train cars. I step into one of the cars and figure out if I want to sit forward or backward.

I know it may seem odd, but that’s part of the trip.

I go with my instincts and decide to sit at a window seat and actually decide for some unknown reason to sit backwards.

It was a great decision.

I don’t travel much and I don’t know why I chose this. Normally people like to face the way they are going and so do I. That’s just normal existence. Makes sense.

Underground in the subway at 16th and Locust there’s no wifi or cell contact. So I sit in silence waiting to go.

The bell rings and the train lurches forward. I’m just chilling in the darkness thinking about all of the wonderful people I’m going to see this afternoon.

This one day a year.

This one day in time.

A party that someday I will no longer be around to attend. Just like my parents before me.

The train is traveling east and then south. It will leave Philly underground and then rise from the depths of the subway and traverse the Ben Franklin Bridge which crosses the Delaware river into New Jersey.

I always took New Jersey Transit to get to my sister’s house. But like I said,  NJT is having construction done through January, so it’s down. I am taking PATCO for the first time to Lindenwold.

As the train roars up along the side of the Ben Franklin Bridge the view is spectacular. I watch my beloved city stand in the cold winter sun glistening under the blue blue sky on this Sunday before Christmas.

I love her.

I want to die in this city.

I’m happy to see her fade from my view like all of the other beautiful women in my life. Like beautiful Christmas ornaments on the tree of my life. Some are gone. Some fallen and broken, some stolen by guests and strangers.

I know I’ll be back around dusk to see her again. I’ll feel the snap in the air and the flash of her holiday season as her heart beats in every household, restaurant and chest of every Philadelphian in my city.

 

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Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1980 – Hunt’s Pier – Part 1

I almost can’t describe how incredible how it was to work here in 1980.

I was 17. You had to be 18 to work on Hunt’s Pier. Somehow my dad had a contact and got me in there.

I was in a band and no longer a busboy at the Dolphin restaurant. I was on the boardwalk.  This was like being a key player in the circus.

When I think of working in the restaurant I think of working with a nice group of pretty waitresses and Greek cooks and the like. When I took the job at Hunt’s in 1980, it was the perfect job for a and 18-year-old boy.

At this point in this saga, I would rather have the professionals describe what the job was.

I worked at the Golden Nugget Mine Ride.

It was the second most popular ride on the pier. Right behind the Log Flume.

Once I got the job there I got my loser friend Anthony a job there at Jungle Land and my most beloved friend Richard a job there working on the Log Flume.

Working on Hunt’s Pier was different from any job I had ever had before. Pool boy. Crap. Bus boy. Crap. Running the controls of the second most popular amusement ride on the pier every night. Magic.

As a writer I’ve written everything about my life in great detail.

Living in Wildwood in the summer is nearly a surreal experience.

I don’t know if I can write this.

I see it. I see my sister Janice, but I’m struggling to pull it all together.

There’s so much.

I think about writing this piece and I almost don’t know where to go because it’s so rich. But I suppose that’s a good thing.

There’s almost too much to tell.

Hunt’s Pier. This could roll through 2019 and hold up the demise of the Union Jacks and my time to California.

I just don’t want to scrimp on the value of my time there.

My father got me the job there because he knew some of the guys through his banking contacts.

Getting a job there was getting the coolest summer job on Earth back on 1980.

I’ve been punished for some unknown reason and have been banished to this shitty island for the winter and now she has awakened and is prettier than she’s ever been. I don’t have to be a pool boy or a busboy and I get a fun job working on an amusement ride on Hunt’s Pier.

Hunt’s Pier was an amusement pier located along the Wildwood, New Jersey, boardwalk from 1957 through 1985. Over its nearly 30 years in operation, Hunt’s was home to many classic dark rides, roller coasters, and other attractions.

Hunt’s Pier dates back to the early 1900s when it was known as Ocean Pier, the first major pier on the boardwalk. Home to ballroom dancing and musical acts, Ocean Pier was purchased by William Hunt in 1935 and converted to an amusement park with rides, including a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and a dark ride.[1]

On Christmas Day 1943, Ocean Pier burned down. Hunt built a new, all-concrete pier in its place. On May 30, 1957, Memorial Day, the revamped Hunt’s Pier opened. The amusement park began with only four rides, though it boasted 10 rides by the time of its grand opening on June 21, 1957.[2]

In 1985 Hunt’s Pier was sold and re-emerged in 1989 as The New Hunt’s Pier, retaining many of the rides operated by the original Hunt’s Pier and adding a steel roller coaster called Kamikaze. In 1988, Conklin Shows bought the pier and renamed it Conko’s Party Pier.[3] This latest incarnation of the pier was short-lived, and by the end of 1992, many of the rides had been disassembled and the New Hunt’s Pier had gone bankrupt. The Kamikaze was sold and currently operates under the name Blue Hawk at Six Flags Over Georgia.

The Cantonoso family, owners of Steel Pier in Atlantic City, bought the defunct pier in 1995. By 1996, the pier had been renamed Dinosaur Beach and had added dinosaur motifs to the classic Golden Nugget Mine Ride, a decision derided by fans as not being in good taste.[4] In addition to a water coaster and an amphitheatre, Dinosaur Beach included the first spinning wild mouse, which opened in 1997. The only classic rides operating at Dinosaur Beach were the Golden Nugget, Log Flume, and Rapids, with most of the Hunt’s legacy gone. In 1998 Dinosaur Beach closed, and over the next few years most of the rides disappeared.

Present day

The pier is currently owned by Morey’s Piers and is used to house maintenance equipment and the boardwalk tram cars. A grill, beach shop, and Adventure Maze are now on the front of the pier. Morey’s has plans to build a wooden roller coaster which will cross over from the Surfside Pier to the back of Hunt’s Pier.

Legacy

Hunt’s Pier featured many unique rides and attractions, including a classic wooden roller coaster called the Flyer, indoor rides such as Keystone Kops and Whacky Shack, and an outdoor boat ride called Jungleland. For many years, The Golden Nugget had the honor of being the oldest ride on the Wildwood Boardwalk still surviving in its original form and location. The Golden Nugget originally opened in July 1960 on the newly constructed oceanside section of Hunt’s Pier. The Golden Nugget was built three stories high with the top floor designed to imitate a mine car ride through the desert. The classic coaster ride was specially constructed for Hunt’s Pier by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and was engineered by John Allen. It was removed in 2009, and a ceremony commemorating the ride was held in January of that year in anticipation of its removal.[5]

In early 2009, Knoebels’ Amusement Resorts entered into agreement with Morey’s Piers to acquire the trains, tracks, and ancillary mechanical equipment from the Golden Nugget ride. The equipment was moved to Pennsylvania in early 2009 for a planned reproduction of the Golden Nugget at its Elysburg, Pennsylvania, park. Renamed Black Diamond, it officially opened in October 2011. The original stunts and gags included in the ride were not part of the sale and have been retained by Morey’s Piers for usage elsewhere.[6]

The George Boyer Museum in Wildwood currently houses artifacts from Hunt’s Pier, including Keystone Kops characters and Hunt’s Pier flags. Near Historic Cold Springs Village, Hunt’s abandoned storage and maintenance site still holds signs and parts of former rides, including boats for the Log Flume, trains for the Flyer that are currently under restoration, and letters that were part of the Hunt’s Pier Skyline Golf sign that stood opposite from the pier on top of the Ocean Theater.

 

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Wildwood Daze – 1980 – Joette and Lola

16 year old Joette Carty and yours truly in 1980.

God… I never realized how good looking I was back then.

I’m the rhythm guitarist for the the Union Jacks. I’m in relationship with a 14-year-old girl and then I meet Joette.

Anne lives in Newark and I met her at the and of the summer when things were slim.I  was desolate. She was hot, young, and available.

you thought she was 16.

I always had a thing for long-legged Joette. The flautist that liked Niel Diamond and Barry Manilow. You knew that those guys were brilliant but my life was Aerosmith.

It’s the dead of winter. I’m in this band, but trapped in a high school where I know like one guy. And he’s in my band! I see this one girl wo’s in the school band, named Joette. She’s tall, pretty and blonde.

I loved that back then. Now I like more ethnic looking women, but that’s probably because I live in  city. There is so many different kind of beauty here in Philly.

The song says: “If you can’t be with the one you love… Love the one you’re with.”

My little girlfriend, Lola was in Newark, NJ. Joette was here. Live and present.

I liked tall, blonde long-legged women back then. I loved ex ex ex girlfrind Michelle and she had lovely legs when I knew her.

But Lola wan’t around and I’m stuck in this desolate shithole of a town and I start crushing on Joette.

Look at the photo. I was a good-looking guitarist in a local band and she was a musician too. We had different tastes in music but come on… You know it’s going down in Wildwood.

So we hook up.  She seems nice. Her mom seems nuts. Her parents are divorced. My drummer Brian tells me he went to high school with her crazy brother Joe.

Her mom is on a bureau drawer amount of pills, and Brian tells me her brother Joe once took his belt off and beat a teacher in class once before being kicked out of school.

Yea… she’s hot. This’ll be good.

It actually was. Her mom kept her little helpers in check and liked me. Her crazy brother actually liked me too because he said I was the first nice guy that was good to his sister.

That was a nervous moment.

Joette and I were and item through the cold desolate winter that year and i enjoyed my time with her. I still saw Lola when she came down but Joette was my constant local main squeeze.

I just loved her because she had long legs and she was built like a woman. Tall and lovely.

Great flute player.

Totally different from what I did at the time.

 

Spring rolled around and I was pretty wrapped up in Joette. I rmember my mom telling me that Lola was on the phone and wanted to talk to me.

The summer was about to break and that is an exciting time. You as a native are going to crawl out of the horrible darkness of the winter and stand in the sun again on a warm sunny beach. Surrounded by friends and new talent.

Living in Wildwood in the winter is like being lost at sea at night for months. The cold lonely nights. The isolation. The depression. The beauty of the place that feels like a windy prison.

It’s awful. I wouldn’t wish it on any child. resort towns need to be a summer fun spot to be enjoyed but the rest of the year is terrible for its youth.

It’s like any podunk shit town in america.

I’m with Joette now… Lola is on the phone. She says how much she’s looking forward to coming down this summer and us being together and being in a relationship.

“I love you.”

“Uhhh….” ( I can’t do it. I’ve been with Joette all winter thorough the darkness that is this island my sisters and I have been dropped off on.)

“Chaz… do you love me?”

“Ahh…”

So back then at 18 I was pretty much romantically bankrupt. I didn’t know how to compartmentalize like I can now. I was and absolute neophyte when it came to matters of the heart. i was a dumb teen that wanted what he wanted when he wanted it and never thought of the repercussions of my actions.

It’s sad that I couldn’t see that. I simply wanted the thing in front of me now and could no longer think of the little girl who fell in love with me at the end of last summer.

But living in Wildwood and being in a band changes a boy. There’s a certain curse you hold being in that godforsaken town in the winter. If you’ve been following this series, there is something that happens to the youth in this town and you affix to it because you have no other choices.

It’s unhealthy to raise children from the city on an isolated island where nothing is happening.

You did it for yourself dad.  Plus you were already running your program with your hot secretary pool down here sir.

It was a natural progression of you continuing your agenda of inner unhappiness about it affected a few people along the way dude.

It made me cold and calculating in my Romantic life, dad. Passionate like you, but I had the same romantic bankruptcy that you had.

I remember I once asked you… “What if you got a girl pregnant and she had a kid that was yours. What would you do?”

“Well I don’t know that kid and I didn’t raise him so… nothing.”

Okay.

So I’m on the landline in the dining room with my little girlfriend on the phone asking me if I still love her and how much she wants to be with me and I’m ambiguities.

That’s cold.

I remember doing that to Lola.

That was shitty.

I’m not a good person in this moment.

I have my band which is rocking. I have established my place here as someone. I have a hot blonde girlfriend. The summer is approaching. I know what the summer looks like here.

Non stop fun and gorgeous teenage girls I want to spend time with. I will meet them and love them as they arrive in droves. Literally delivered to me after this horrible winter of discontent.

I mis my life and friends in Philly. I have been banished from all that i know, but the fun is returning.

Any minute now.

It’s June. I’m going to graduate high school.

All I want to do is have fun and play guitar in a band.

I want to be Joe Perry.

Lola is crying on the phone. I can’t commit to this summer being her boyfriend.

I felt nothing, selfish juvenile cunt that I was back then.  (look at the photo)

We hung up and I knew it was over. But i didn’t care. i was glad i didn’t have to deal with her anymore.

I just wanted to work at Hunt’s Pier and play in my band and go to clubs and have fun.

I was just a typical asshole guy I suppose. I hurt a young girl’s heart and didn’t feel a thing, too self-absorbed in my own success.

But I will tell you… when you pull shit like this no matter what your age, you leave a hole. You will trip over that hole later in life and have to somehow fill it in and fix that hole.

Because although you put a whole in a person, you left a hole in yourself.

You will have to fix that son.

 

Lola was heartbroken and found solace in my lead guitarist Jim. Classic. I can’t have Chaz, so I’ll be with his best friend. I never gave a shit after that, because I was emotionally bankrupt. I’m sure Jim never enjoyed her at the level i did.

Oh, and Joette. With in a week after dumping Lola and the summer exploding in full swing… I dumped Joette too.

The shark needs to swim. Great White needs to hunt. It’s the summer of 1980 and the island is on fire.

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – Dirty John – Part 2

Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach.

I go home covered in puke and my mom is cool with the rock and roll lifestyle.

“Is Jim okay?” My mom was totally fine with my best friend/lead guitarist blowing chunks all over me.

I’m in a working rock and roll band, and we have had a an incident with our youngest underage member.

“I think he’ll be fine.”

“Let’s get your clothes into the washer.”

I loved that my mom was always on board to dispose of the evidence.

But I just loved that mom was ready TO make it all go away.

 

I hadn’t heard from Jim and prayed he was still alive

It was a real growing step in this new band and I was fearful about what could happen to us going forward.

I knew in that moment I would need to form a new band with Jim and we would have to go to LA but he liked music that wasn’t so so furious so I would miss my friend.

As much as I loved Jim and the band, I knew I needed to go to LA an create something new.

But I’ll hang here because I love you.

 

A day passed and I spend the day worried about my friend.

There were was no email or text social media back then. You either get a call or somebody shows up at your door.

I get a call on my land line from Jim.

It was 7pm.

24 hours after my best friend had lost his shit.

 

“What happened last night?”

“Lets meet up and I’ll tell you the full story.”

We meet up and Jim seems fine. He’s just young, and confused. Nothing like this has ever happened to him, and that has to be jarring.

Your first blackout can be frightening. I’ve been there many times and it never gets any easier. I never let it happen anymore. I totally manage my shit now.

 

I meet up with Jim and we go to the beach.

Living at the shore always brings you to the beach. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you live in a city you go meet up in a park or a bar. If you live at the shore when the shit hits the fan, you head to the beach. There’s just something about the power of the sea and it’s timeless intimidating beauty.

It was night and off-season, and Jim and I were no strangers to wandering through this resort/retirement island community in the off season.

There was a beauty to Wildwood that no one knew that belonged to us. The natives.

As fucked as we were as teenagers in a resort community that didn’t own hotels and boardwalk stuff. We found our way.

Instead of falling into the usual drugs and teen pregnant rich kid boredom we had our band. We were going to break out of what everybody else was in this town. Usually rich kids from prosperous seasonal business owners. We were just regular dudes. Jim and I were tight.

I will be grateful my entire for life for meeting Jim. He is a wonderful man and father and husband. I just really dig him and wish I could see him more. Because we actually share something unseen that is really special and belongs to only us.

I miss him.

Wildwood in the off-season is quiet and dark.

If you live in a place that is away from city lights, you’ll understand what the sky looks like when you look upon it in a rural or remote area.

City light drown out the sky, and I live in Philly and I’ve seen all the skies I need to see, but let me describe what a night sky looks like when you’re away from city lights.

I was on the beach in Wildwood with my father one night. We were fishing.

He said, “Look at the sky, son.”

I of course did as he said.

“What do you see?”

“I see more stars than I’ve ever seen.”

“You can’t see that in Philly.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Then my dad said this…

“It’s like a thousand diamonds scattered on a velvet pillow.”

I loved him so much in that moment.

The beautiful, charming, elegant being he had become through all of his pain and suffering to raise me an my sisters into who we are today.

 

These thoughts fill my mind as I meet my best friend I’m glad isn’t dead like Bon Scott on the beach that evening.

There were umbrella stands on each block of the beach. They were these wooden boxes on legs that were used to store umbrella rentals during the summer, but were empty during the off-season.

Jim and I meet up and head to the beach.

I’m so happy to see him and I’m so happy he survived. I was so scared after the Dirty John incident and I know Jim hates when I tell the story, I was genuinely grateful he was okay. I love Jim and it was the first time I thought we’d have a rock and roll tragedy on my watch. I couldn’t lose him and I was scared the whole time.

We walked together along the shoreline.

People come to the shore and do their thing every summer and enjoy the beach. But what people forget is the mystery of how all life rose from the sea.

As my only friend and I walk along the shoreline, every step we take lights up around our feet.

There are iridescent animals that react to contact and illuminate when struck.

So imagine this people… Every step you take on a night beach, there are lights around your feet with every step you take.

Yea, the beach is so much more magical than you know.

We saw and experienced all of that.

I loved that we were in a band together. Rocking out and living our little dreams, but still be moved by the magic of life itself.

That’s why I always loved Jim. He was and will always be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. A bright and beautiful artist who I had the honor to jam with and most of all have in my life as a friend. I miss him and think of him often.

 

We find an abandoned umbrella stand/hut and climb inside it.

The beach is completely desolate and there is no one around. There are no umbrellas so the boxes are open. Jim and I climb inside of the box and chill.

“What the fuck happened last night?”

I describe in great detail to my new lead guitarist what happened and he is appalled.

I tell him how I turned his head to the side so he wouldn’t end up like Hendrix or Bon Scott.

I think we’ve both learned from this experience. I love Jim so much that he can vomit on me anytime and we can still go forward and rock out!

He is and will always be one of my best friends in this world.

 

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Wildwood Daze – The Union Jacks – Dirty John – Part 1

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

I had been to the restaurant where Brian our drummer worked part-time as a busboy. I don’t remember, but I had been there to meet up with him once for some reason. I do remember Brian telling me the bartender there liked my “friend with the big eyes.” (Me.) I don’t remember that person and quickly dismiss it in my mind.

One night Brain wants to bring us to the restaurant where he works for drinks. We get there and the band sits at the bar. Brian introduces us to the bartender, Frank. Or, as Brian calls him, Frank the Fag. Now I get it. Frank fancies me. It’s a compliment, but I’m straight.

We all order bottles of beer. Frank is being Frank but he’s nice as could be. We’re all just chilling at the bar and it’s nice to all go out and have a drink as a band. It’s like we’re somebody now. People recognize us when we’re out and I like it.

We’re sitting there for about an hour chatting about music, when Frank presents me with not one, but two large tumblers filled with a frothy pink liquid.

“What’s this?”

“It’s called a Dirty John.”

“Thank you, but I never drink hard liquor. I just don’t do it. I’m a beer guy only.”

“I’ll drink it!”

Jim is the youngest and newest member of the band. I think he wants to show that he’s a bad ass that can hang with the older guys.

“That’s really not necessary Jim.”

“No. I want to.”

Jim proceeds to chug the drinks.

We settle up and walk outside. Brian and Mark say they’ll bring the car around. I’m smoking a cig waiting with Jim. Brian doesn’t allow smoking in his car so we wait.

“I gotta take a piss.”

“You could have gone in the bar, Jim. Actually, I gotta go too. Beer goes right through me. There’s some tall hedges behind the restaurant. Let’s go back there.”

We walk back and are standing next to each other as if we’re just a couple of students pissing in the urinals in the Boys bathroom at Wildwood High. I suddenly hear this rustling noise and a thump. I glance to my right and Jim has vanished. I zip up my fly and go to the spot where he was.

There’s Jim, face down in the next yard. While pissing he literally just collapsed forward between the hedges. What the fuck was in that drink? Whatever it was, it hit him like a sledgehammer.

Brian and Mark pull up in his yellow ’77 Ford Mustang II.

“What the fuck’s up with Wolfie?” (Brian sometimes referred to Jim as ‘ Wolfie’ because the way he brushed his hair back, it resembled Lon Chaney’s monster.)

“Guys get over here!”

Brian and Mark scramble from the car and run over. We get Jim to his feet and he is just gone. Slurring and stumbling and we get him to the car. It takes all three of us.

“He went from buzzed to black out in a matter of seconds!”

Brian’s driving. Mark’s riding shotgun, and of course I’m in the back with drunk boy. He’s really out of it. Conscious, but super fucked up. More drunk than I’ve ever seen anyone ever in my life.

Brian’s driving him back to his house. “He better not fuckin’ puke in my car! I swear to god!”

We get to Jim’s house and I’m about to get him out and he pukes all over me. He doesn’t even know I’m there. Now I’m wearing the Dirty John meant for me.

Thankfully his parents weren’t home when we dragged our new guitarist back into his house.

We carry him through the door, in front of at least a half dozen siblings. They all look on in utter horror. I assure them their brother isn’t dead. He’s just sick and we’re taking care of him.

The kids know me from school. I’m the kid that comes and waits for Jim each morning and lets my glasses steam up while watching the Today show waiting for my friend so we can walk to school together.

 

It’s a mess. The little kids are clueless. We are simply a group of guys bringing their older brother home because he’s sick. Everything’s fine. Just like in any household in the 70’s. It didn’t happen.

We bang Jim up the stairs to his bedroom. When I say, bang I mean he was dead weight and me, Brian and Mark did the best to get him to his room.

This is all new ground for all of us. We’re new musicians, but we don’t know anything about but extreme behavior even if it’s accidental.

My best friend is so sick. I am wearing his puke. We try to run his head under the shower to revive him. He cries out like a molested child so we withdrawal.

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

Brian was always so pragmatic.

“Turn him over on his stomach.” (I say) Put his face at the edge of the bed.”

“Why?”

“Umm… Bon Scott….” (See: Tales of Rock – Bon Scott) 

“He’ll be fine.”

” Dude. Hendrix died choking on his own puke.”

“He’ll be fine.”

We leave our lead guitarist in his bed and all go home. It’s bee a fucked up night.

My best friend got poisoned by a drink meant for me. What was Frank’s plan? Get me drunk beyond recognition and take advantage of me? That’s kind of evil.

But the worst part of it is… Was Brian in on it?

 

 

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