My Father – 1929 to 2016 – When The Ocean Met The Sky – Part 4

“Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in.
In my head, in my heart, in my soul.
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again.
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t think so.
Well that is that and this is this.
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get.
You get away from me.”

I’m a father.

 

I have Lorelei.

 

She is the absolute light of my life. She lives with me. I never lie to her. She’s been with me since she turned 18 because she could no longer survive in the hostile environment of living with her mother. I only lasted 7 years with that woman. But my daughter was a prisoner with her for nearly two decades until she finally escaped at the age of majority.

Dad….

Why would you create more drama around your death? Was your going not enough?

Was your LIFE not enough???

Were we not enough?

 

You and your fucking ring. You give me your fake college ring, your mistress’s high school ring and your dog tags.

I was looking through some of the effects that you left me. I didn’t understand the 1964 Northeast High School ring that was among the stuff you left me.

But upon closer inspection I realized last week while editing this mess, that you never attended Northeast High school.

1964?

I’m looking at that ring in my hand right now. It doesn’t fit on my finger. That’s a girl’s ring.

And then I saw the inscription.

EBR

Why did you leave this to me?

That’s Eileen Barbara Ried’s High School ring.

Who became Eileen Lentz.

The love of your life.

Yea, I know man. I know how all of that works. I get all of it.

That woman that makes you feel better than anyone you know in the world.

I’ve been there.

We never get to keep them, Dad.

They belong to other people.

We only get to stop in and love them for a brief period of time. Because guys like us are unable to do that.

Yea we’re alike in some ways.

 

I’ve accepted that about myself.

 

I met Eileen. Lovely lady. I get it. You and mom were a decision based on tradition. Eileen was your secretary that became the love of your life. Again, I get it. I’ve lived the very same thing dad.

You made me.

I remember you drilling me in the basement over my studies and multiplication tables and telling me I would never amount to anything. How I should never be a victim, but in that moment that’s exactly what you were manufacturing.

I was your victim.

I’m a child.

There’s nothing I can do.

You have absolute power. I can’t even fight back or contact the authorities.

I remember you said you would actually take my woman from me, because I would be such a loser, she would rather be with him than me.

I was 12.

Readers. I have been writing Phicklephilly for two and a half years. Writing has opened my mind and past to so many roads that have been long forgotten.

Think about what my father said to me.

I’m so awesome, I’ll steal your girlfriend because you’re a piece of shit if you don’t become what I want.

I can’t make this up. I know it’s the holidays and I wrote this after his death and I couldn’t bring myself to publish before, but I am going to say everything here.

It will be true and I need to do this.

 

Be a man of your word. Your word is your bond.

 

Dad… Listen to yourself. I’m an artist, a musician, and a writer. I have anxiety and depression. I made it into art and music and a successful sales career.

You broke me as a kid. I’ve been spending my life crawling up from that and being the low self esteemed over archiever, million dollar producer in everything I do.

Fuck you.

You never had an original thought in your head in your life.

I know for a fact you are just a collection of shit you read or things you heard from other people.

You’re data is good, but dude. For fuck’s sake, you could never relinquish your OCD power.

Let’s face it.

The Temple ring?

Really?

I get it.

You dropped out of high school and felt ashamed. You joined the Army. Awesome. But everybody in your whole life thought you graduated from Temple with a four-year degree. You went there to get your GED (That’s getting your high school degree) and you hooked up with my Mom.

Tim gets the 3 diamonds because he worshiped you. That’s what you wanted from your father but never got.

And you never got it from me, because you couldn’t possibly fail as a father to your son, but you did.

You gave me a lot of good, but the negative ran so close to the parallel of the positive it has always been hard to tell.

Think of how shallow you are. You’re so disappointed in your son that you pass your diamonds on to your grandson. Dude, for fuck’s sake. it’s so obvious. Your son is a loser. but you love your grandson who basically worships you and plays greatest hits with you so you’ll leave your dumb jewelry legacy with because you failed as a father to the son you never understood. The sin you were ashamed of. The son you beat like how you broke your wife with your words and deeds.

“After I gave you a licking I would go downstairs and watch TV and eat Breyers ice cream. It tasted like mud.”

Really dad? I’m in physical pain, terrified and crying in my bed reading comic books and you are struggling with your dessert?

 

FUCK YOU.

 

You left me your dog tags and your dog’s, dog tags. I don’t give a shit about any of that.

Why the fuck would I want any of that?

Oh, and that button with the picture of Barbara Sweetman. Why Dad? Yea, I know she was your last affair on mom in the 80’s.

Why do you have to leave this dead bird on my step?

I don’t give a shit.

You’ve proudly told me all about your affairs and frankly, I don’t even know why you ever married.

Probably for the reasons I did.

 

You simply thought its was the right thing to do at the time.

 

Republican thinking…. as you once said to me.

 

 

Don’t worry dad, I’m sure future blogs will be so much sweeter, but this one just came forth it being the holidays and all. (I wrote this piece in 2017 when I was still reflecting on your loss. I don’t feel this way now. I forgive everybody)

I continue to grow, and wonder why you never did anything after age 62 when you retired. You would have been awesome in a deli or a toy train store or a wine store.

Why did you just stop?

 

I want to keep the train rolling until I die.

 

I don’t want to end up parked in a station. (And I certainly won’t leave a dramtic note to my daughter)

 

I’m going to run this train until it goes of the fucking tracks.

 

I’m sure Mom enjoys the quiet away from you.

 

I know this may sound a little angry, but as you all know, nobody lives rent free in my head anymore.

I’m not angry at you. This post is a year old. I’ve forgiven everyone a long time ago. My mind and heart are clear. This piece just burst forth out of nowhere a year ago.

 

I just didn’t have the guts to release it.

 

This is also not a dig on my nephew.

 

He’s a fine boy and I love that kid.

 

And dad… at the end of this, I’ll say this. For where you came from, you are an amazing man.

I get it at my age. You did the best you could with what you knew and the tools you had.

I get it.

All is forgiven. The joy you brought to this family is greater than all of your sins.

 

Life is fleeting and fragile. Enjoy yourself.

 

 

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…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I know no forever.

Everything in you life is finite.

The only thing that feels like forever is the Universe.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you, Dad.

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

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

You were fourteen years old.

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

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

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

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

Think of how devastating those words were to a child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack is the one with the original thoughts.

You still did good.

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

“Hey Pete.”

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

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

“Ha! You’ll be back!”

And that was it.

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

How fucked up is that?

What does that do to a boy’s mind?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Why would you put me through this dad?

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

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

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

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

I love my Uncle Jack.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Just young love doing what it does…

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

 

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

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

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

All of my sisters have turned out well.

What does that tell you?

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

It all worked out.

 

I’ll continue this tomorrow…

 

 

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Men and Their Mommies: How the Mother Son Relationship Can Contribute to Divorce

Here’s another female follower of mine that wanted to contibute to my blog, so I decided to take the rest of the day off and let her have this one.

Enjoy!

The mother son relationship is really complicated. I know this because I have an ex-husband, a dad, a brother and a son.

There is nothing more attractive to a woman than a man who adores his mom, treats her well, treats her with respect and goes out of his way to help her.

There is also nothing more unattractive to a woman than a man who can’t stand up to his mother, who let’s his mom control him, who fears his mother and who puts his mommy first (in front of his girlfriend or wife.)

I think there are many, many men who don’t know what kind of relationship to have with their mom once they get a girlfriend or get married. And a lot of times, the mother son relationship has a huge effect on the marriage, to the point of divorce in some cases.

So much of the mother son relationship stems from childhood, and circumstances that might have happened. For example, maybe the guy’s dad left when he was just a little boy, and he was all his mother had. Or maybe his father died, and the man has always felt sad for his mom and tried to compensate for his dad not being there. Maybe the guy’s dad treated his mom like crap and the guy feels like he needs to pick up the slack.

While all of these scenarios are heartfelt and while I can understand a guy’s need to treat his mother like gold, there are differences between healthy and unhealthy mother son relationships. Here are 3.

1. Obligation Versus Choice:

Unhealthy: The son always feels obligated to see his mom and put her first in front of his plans. In other words, he will drop anything if she calls because he feels some kind of guilt. This causes huge problems with his girlfriend/wife.

Healthy: The son WANTS to see his mother, and if she happens to call and ask to get together when he already has plans — say a date, he tells her he will instead meet her for breakfast the next morning. When he meets her, he might bring her flowers or just give her a huge hug and say, “Mom, I know you already know this, but I really really love you a lot.”

2. Fear Versus Honesty:

Unhealthy: The guy always fears that his mother will be angry with him or not speak to him if he disappoints her and doesn’t do everything she asks. A wife or girlfriend will get frustrated by this and it will surely cause tension in their relationship.

Healthy: The guy doesn’t fear the person who is supposed to love him unconditionally, and who understands that there is no son in history who didn’t disappoint his mother at one time or another during a lifetime. Instead, if he has to say or do something he knows will upset his mother, he sucks it up and is honest about it because he knows his mother will eventually get over it.

3. Annoyance Versus Happiness:

Unhealthy: The guy who fears his mother tends to resent her (but won’t even let himself realize that). That emotion then turns into annoyance with her, which then turns into his guilt for feeling annoyed by his own mother. Because of this annoyance, he will then become annoyed with his wife/girlfriend, completely unaware of it!

Healthy: A guy who has a great relationship with his mother gets joy out of seeing her EVERY time they get together. He cherishes the time, they laugh together, maybe reminisce and have heartfelt talks.

Here’s the thing. I’m a mom, and when my son grows up, meets a woman, brings her home and marries her, I am really going to try to understand that he is madly in love with her, and that he will put her above me a lot of times. And that is how it should be! And any mother who doesn’t see it that way is just plain selfish! Sure, it might be hard, and your feelings might get a little hurt at times, but that NORMAL!

The last thing I will say is something I always tell women. “How your man treats his mother is how he is going to treat you.”

I will never forget being on a date with a guy who (I promise I’m not making this up) was referring to his mom as a “stupid idiot.” I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough when he dropped me off, and I never saw the guy again.

If a guy fears his mom and then resents her, he will do that to the person he marries, even subconsciously.

All men should treat their moms with kindness, respect and gratitude. That’s a given. But he should do that because he WANTS to do that, not because the mom expects it. No mom is perfect, but men should do the best they can to try to have the best relationship they possibly can with their mom, AND to facilitate the best relationship between their mom and their girlfriend or wife.

THAT is how women feel about men and their mommies!

 

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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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Wildwood Daze – Autumn of 1979 – Shadows Fall

“Whatsoever I’ve feared has
Come to life.
Whatsoever I’ve fought off
Became my life.”

I was doing well in Frankford back in Philly. I had a life. I had a band and friends. All ripped from me. Don’t worry, I’ve forgiven all of the fuckers in my life in my forties, but I’m just documenting what happened. You live through it and try to rise above it.

After the summer of 1979, which was awesome, (Just like all of my summers. Thanks dad!) It was my first Fall/Winter away from Philly and living in a resort/retirement town which was Wildwood, New Jersey. That’s completely different from living in a city.

I’m isolated. I have anxiety and depression. The summer is over. I have no friends. I have no life. I have no band. All of the things I loved are gone.

Just like that.

My older sister Janice is facing her own challenges but she’s off at Franklin and Marshall college to go forward in her life. I’m stuck here now. My younger sisters are at Margaret Mace. They’re little kids. They’ll be fine. They’ll make a life and new friends. They’re little. Who cares. They’ll be fine.

But I’m a fucking senior in a High School in a shitty town that is only good for summer fun. I know one guy. A freshman who is a fourteen year old guitar player. I don’t know if this is even going to work. The guy looks older than me and I like him but aren’t we in two different places in our lives?

School was weird. I went from being the mighty burner in 11th grade chatting up chicks when I was in a band, and doing pretty well, to nothing.

I was well aware of my anxiety. I had been by the cold embrace of that demon since I was 6 years old. Knew him well. An insidious beast that controlled my every move. My own personal prison that I was always trying to escape from but to busy vomiting to let go of the bars of my own cell.

Wildwood in the summer is fantastic. That’s the only way I had ever known the town since 1970. Non stop fun. Sun, fun, beach, amusement rides on the boardwalk, summer friends and neighbors, kites, custard, movies, just an amazing life at the circus for two months.

Wildwood after Labor day was a desolate ghost town. My life was over. Janice…college. April and Gabrielle, kid school. Who cares. They haven’t formed any real relationships in life. They’ll be fine.

Me. Senior year in a school I know nothing about. Alone. Anxiety. Depression. Cold. Not the fun shore town I only knew during the summer months. This was desolate place. They would turn off the traffic lights and the place was an empty ghost town. To me this was a nightmarish prison I had been dropped off in because of someone elses little idea to escape Philly.

I think the only one that felt the fury of this burn was my mother. Because she was so connected in our old neighborhood with all of the ladies, I think she felt the isolation as well. But like my mother always did. She suffered in silence. She was so good at that. She had been through so much of my father’s wrath and nonsense, that she had become comfortable with being a prisoner of his OCD and anxiety and narcissism. She simply folded into the lifestyle.

I know I have crazy anxiety, but at that time I didn’t even know that anxiety and depression are best friends. I’m afraid and sad. I’m a victim of my weakness and fear and my depression is just my rage just turned inward because I don’t know what to do with it and I don’t want to get in trouble if I let my rage go.

I had a terrible temper when I was growing up, but because I was so beaten down by my father I just turned it inward because I was too scared to express my feelings.

He always said, ” Don’t be a victim.”

But that’s what he exactly shaped me into with his behavior toward me. I actually felt these word when he was screaming at me and hitting me.

Oh the irony!

One morning I came down to breakfast and I was just sad. I didn’t know anybody but Jim and I was just living in a ghost town going to a school where I didn’t know anybody at 17.

I didn’t even know I was depressed. I just felt disconnected and sad. I think that’s a normal reaction for a kid that once had a life and a band and friends in a city and got dropped off in a fucking ghost town because of somebody else’s idea.

My mom was fine, because she had already been broken years ago by this man.  But I was a teenage boy who was trying to find his way.

I was eating my cereal, and he just lit into me. Out of nowhere. I don’t know what ignited him. He loved to attack at meal time. My mother knew. He started in on me because I seemed unresponsive. I didn’t know I was depressed because what had happened to me, I thought I was just weak  just like always.

My father tore into me and told me to buck up and pull myself together.

I started to cry just like I always did when he was harsh with me. I looked over at my mother and her eyes were wet with tears. Hardened by years of dealing with his bullshit and affairs but she saw one of her own feeling his nonsense and wrath. I had gotten better and become a better person and my mother and I had become so much closer in the last few years.

But dad didn’t want a kink in his little plan. He couldn’t have any part of his plan fucked up. No. Everybody has to be compliant. I was sad and that is unacceptable because that would make him question his intentions of moving everybody to the shore and would work on his mind.

Super OCD and insecurity.

I was crying my eyes out into my cereal and he really let me have it. He didn’t like that I was sad about the whole move to Wildwood. That fucked with his whole plan. That can’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen according to his well thought out plan.

He can’t have a weak link. But my mom knew. She had already accepted him as the solid provider that was going to fuck his secretaries wherever he went because of his own insecurities. She knew it and accepted it and suffered in silence.

I remember many years later I had an opportuniy to fool around with a woman while I was in a relationship. I didn’t do it. He asked me why I didn’t take advantage of the available ass. I told him:

“Because that would be wrong, dad.”

He actually softened and said he was proud of me. I know in that moment he knew that he had raised a boy that wasn’t a fucking cheater like him. He actually looked surprised.

So that Autumn morning before school my father ripped me a new one because I wasnt on board with his bullshit dream of escaping the city and all of the bad loans they made at the Provident National Bank. That and his girlfriends. Eileen Lentz and the others.

He got up from the table and went off to work. I sat sobbing in my Cap’n Crunch with my mother.

“I’m sorry.   He got you.”

“It’s okay, Mom.”

I smiled and took a spoonful.

“It is what it is.”

The silence is deafening. I can’t keep these thoughts out. My father spent his entire life keeping it out. Never fixing. Just banishing them. Covering. Burying.

But I felt it all… and so did my mother.

 

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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.)

 

 

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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