California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 9 – El Paso & Las Cruces

We pulled into El Paso, Texas at dusk. It’s right on the Mexican border. The Rio Grande river is right there. The part of town we were in looked and felt like we weren’t in America anymore. It looked like Mexico. The food was Mexican, and all of the songs on the jukebox were in Spanish.

El Paso (/ɛl ˈpæs/ el PASS-oh; from Spanish, “the pass”) is a city in and the seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States. It is situated in the far western corner of the U.S. state of Texas.

El Paso stands on the Rio Grande river across the Mexico–United States border from Ciudad Juárez, the largest city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The two cities, along with Las Cruces in the neighboring U.S. state of New Mexico, form a combined international metropolitan area sometimes referred to as the Paso del Norte or El Paso–Juárez–Las Cruces. The region of over 2.7 million people constitutes the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.[6][7]

The city is the headquarters of Western Refining, a Fortune 500 company, and three publicly traded companies,[8] as well as home to the Medical Center of the Americas,[9] the only medical research and care provider complex in West Texas and southern New Mexico,[10] and the University of Texas at El Paso, the city’s primary university. The city hosts the annual Sun Bowl college football post-season game, the second oldest bowl game in the country.[11]

El Paso has a strong federal and military presence. William Beaumont Army Medical CenterBiggs Army Airfield, and Fort Bliss call the city home. Fort Bliss is one of the largest military complexes of the United States Army and the largest training area in the United States.[12] Also headquartered in El Paso are the DEA domestic field division 7El Paso Intelligence CenterJoint Task Force NorthU.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector, and U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations Group (SOG).

In 2010, El Paso received an All-America City Award. El Paso has been ranked the safest large city in the U.S. for four consecutive years[13] and has ranked in the top three since 1997.[14] As of July 1, 2016, the population estimate for the city from the U.S. Census was 683,080.[3] Its U.S. metropolitan area covers all of El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and has a population of 841,971.[3] The El Paso metropolitan area forms part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces CSA, with a population of 1,056,178.[3]

It was alien and cool for both of us but we always appreciated cities that looked different than the rest of America.

We had a beer in this border town but pushed on to Las Cruces New Mexico which was so close just on the eastern edge of New Mexico. We stay there without incident.

As I write this memoir I think about what Frank and I did on the trip. When we were in Georgia his Uncle took us to the greatest strip joint on Earth and I saw things I;d never seen before.

Funny thing is, looking back on this journey, Frank and I saw some vice in New Orleans but nothing major. You would think that two boys, 19 and 21 would have terrorized the countryside as we made our way across the country. We did nothing of the kind.

We drove the van all day on the way to our destination and loved the sites we saw along the way. But never did we stop and find the vice and dark fun in any of the towns we visited. We simply crashed, drank beer and watched TV in the hotel rooms we stayed in. We could have strayed and gotten into it with the locals, but maybe with him being an immigrant and me and my anxiety we just wanted to get where we were going.

It was an unspoken goal. Frank wanted to go on an adventure with someone he trusted and eventually his friends would follow. We’d have a band in LA and see what happened. He ultimately wanted to become a barrister in London. I wanted to be a rock star meta god and that was it. So here we were.

We’ll see what happens. He’s a helluva bass player so we’ll make it happen somehow. I’ve been uprooted from my life by my father’s design but I am out from under him.

Who takes their son out of high school before senior year? Oh I don’t know… a selfish self-centered cunt? (Frank’s words not mine, but mine with out a voice.) Once Janice was in Franklin and Marshall my dad was like fuck the rest of the kids in this family I’m moving them to the shore. I’ve exhausted all of my mistresses and some of them are pregnant. We here at the Provident National Bank are buried in bad loans and I need to go. I’ve painted myself into a corner and the love of my life Eileen is gone.

I will cling to Helen and the kids and dump my father’s inheritance into a gigantic over improved shore house a block from the beach in Wildwood NJ.

I think these thoughts as the 1969 Volkswagen mini bus carries my buddy and I from Belfast Northern Ireland across the desert on highway 10 into New Mexico.

I am away from my father. I love him but why? He has taught me everything I know. He taught me how to read, ride a bike, science, life, sex, people, women, everything. Why am I struggling?  Because he was so HARD on me.

Why did he have to say those things to me? Those words. Why was he so insecure? Why did he hit me? I can’t leave you dad or hit you back. I can’t fight a bully because you’re the best at that.

You were bullied as a boy. Why would you bully, hurt and scare me? What’s wrong with you?

You’re so nice. You’re a good father to my sisters but mom has a different story.  She’s your ultimate victim. Why dad? She’s been a victim her whole life. You describe her as this Japanese servant, That is some disrespectful shit Horace.

She suffered at the end of your tongue night after night. I heard you hurting with your words while she was raising your 4 kids while your tongue pleasures your mistress Eileen.

Fuck you.

A man’s word is everything. If you don’t have your word you’re nothing. You fucking liar.

My sweet sisters don’t know you. You told me everything you are when you were old. You told me the truth because you lied about so many things.

You’ve never had an original thought in your life. You love your wife because that poor woman put up with your crazy shit, you love your books because that’s where you stole all of the information you had in your head to get what you want, and you love your kids.

I believe that. You did love us dad. I know you did. As fucked up as you were. I know you loved us all so much. But I’m finally out from under your rule for good.

The 69 VW minibus rolls forward on highway 10. further than she’s ever been from the beaches of North Wildwood.

This family vehicle that was acquired in 1970 could never have imagined she would be making runs back and forth to Frankford high in Philly, and then becoming my vessel in Wildwood for fun and frivolity, But now here she is in New Mexico carrying the misfit son of the family to California to be a musician.

Frank hands me a Harp and I swig that sweet cold baby back. We’re going to California to be rock stars.

Las Cruces was nice and quiet and we’re nearly finished with our journey across America.

Las Cruces, also known as “The City of the Crosses”, is the seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 97,618,[2] and in 2015 the estimated population was 101,643,[4] making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Doña Ana County and southern New Mexico.[5] The Las Cruces metropolitan area had an estimated population of 213,676 in 2014.[6] It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Doña Ana County and is part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces combined statistical area.

Las Cruces is the economic and geographic center of the Mesilla Valley, the agricultural region on the floodplain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatchto the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico’s only land-grant university. The city’s major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. The Organ Mountains, 10 miles (16 km) to the east, are dominant in the city’s landscape, along with the Doña Ana MountainsRobledo Mountains, and Picacho Peak. Las Cruces lies 225 miles (362 km) south of Albuquerque, 48 miles (77 km) northwest of El Paso, Texas and 46 miles (74 km) north of the Mexican border at Santa Teresa.

Spaceport America, which lies 55 miles (89 km) to the north and with corporate offices in Las Cruces, has seen the completion of several successful manned, suborbital flights. The city is also the headquarters for Virgin Galactic, the world’s first company to offer sub-orbital spaceflights.[7]

Next stop… Arizona!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 8 – Ozona, Texas

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!” the old cowboy croaked. Frank’s heart sank…

A lot of this country looks the same. Especially the east coast. It’s all woods wherever you go. But once we left Sealy and kept on highway 10 the landscape starts to dramatically change. Texas becomes miles and miles of rolling chapparelle country. That’s when you know you’re far from home. Most of our days were spent on the road driving six to eight hours a day. I remember when we first hit the high desert. It was the first day the sun had come out. Frank pulled a couple of bottles of Harp out of the cooler and we sipped them in celebration that we were well on our way to California.

There’s not a lot to tell about this part of the trip. We just took turns driving the van and kept going towards our destination. There were great sights to see along the way and I was happy to be on an adventure with my buddy. No parents. No curfew. Just us and the open road. I’ll never forget this wonderful trip with Frank as long as I live.

The desert gets cold at night. There’s nothing to hold the heat in because it’s so barren. I remember one morning Frank got out of the van to take a piss. I’ll never forget when he said: “For fuck’s sake, Chaz, I’ve never been so cold in all my life!”

From years of my dad taking the van on the beach to go surf fishing. The salt air and water coming off the wheels had rusted out a small part of the floor boards on the passenger side. If you lifted the rubber mat you could see the right front wheel spinning and the road under you through a four-inch hole. “Fuck sake! The wind is coming up through hole and freezing my leg!”

I just laughed and handed him a little box of cereal and a banana to shut him up.

 

We pull into Ozona late that night. It felt like a one horse town.

Ozona is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) that serves as the county seat of Crockett County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,225 at the time of the 2010 census.  Ozona is the only Census Bureau recognized community in Crockett County, which is named for Colonel Davy Crockett, a hero of the Alamo.
Ozona is called the “Biggest Little Town in the World”. Located on Interstate 10 some 200 miles (320 km) west of San Antonio, rural Ozona is also 82 miles (132 km) southwest of San Angelo. Crockett County is one of the nation’s leading producers of wool and mohair and is situated in the Edwards Plateau region at the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. Hunters come to Ozona in search of white-tailed deer, javelina, and game birds.

The county was organized in 1891 under a giant oak tree, which still stands and shades the historical marker describing the event. The Davy Crockett Monument is a large statue in the City Park on the town square. Across from the monument is the Crockett County Museum.

Ozona was known as “Powell Well”, after land surveyor E.M. Powell, when it was founded in 1891. In 1897, it was renamed “Ozona” for the high quantity of its open air, or “ozone”. A flood in 1954 killed 16 people and destroyed about half of the homes in the town.

A “Heritage Appreciation Monument” honors pioneer families who came to settle the land. The three-story Crockett County Museum at 404 11th Street features a blacksmith shop, ranching artifacts, and a wool/mohair room. A scenic drive from Ozona to Lancaster Hill, west on Texas State Highway 290, provides a panoramic view of the Pecos River Valley.

We crash in this little motel owned by a nice old couple. She’s chubby and jolly and he’s a skinny grizzled old cowboy.

“Hey man. Can you tell us where we can buy some beer around here?”

“Ozona’s been dry since 1891!”

Frank’s heart sank. But I suddenly remembered something.

“Go back to the room Frank. I have a solution.”

I went out and opened up the back hatch of the VW bus.

I remove a box and head up to the room and set it on the table.

“What’s all this?”

“Open it.”

Frank reaches in the box and produces a bottle of Beringer Merlot.

“There’s like six bottles in here! How did you…?”

“At the last-minute my dad put that in the van before I left Jersey.”

“We’ll drink to your dad tonight!”

“Sounds like a plan. I miss him.”

“I miss my ma and dad as well.”

I could see we’re both getting a little misty.

“How are we going to open these?”

I reach in the box and feel around then produce a corkscrew.

“Your dad is the best!”

“That he is my friend. That he is.”

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 5 – The French Quarter – Part 1

We are driving along highway 10 headed West. Frank suggests we take a little detour into New Orleans. I’m down. It’s Mardi Gras so we kind of have to go there. Should be interesting. We check our guidebooks and settle on staying at the YMCA. That wouldn’t be too gay right?  It’s situated in the heart of the French Quarter. I remember the room costing us $14 for the night!

The room was like a jail cell. Just a door leading into one room with two single beds pushed against opposite walls. There was a bureau and one window with bars on it. The walls were just cinder blocks painted light green. Best part was the parking lot was gated and they locked it at night so the van with all of our stuff was safe.

We drop our bags and head out into the over cast afternoon. A lot of cities and towns look alike in America. The French Quarter looks like you’re somewhere else. All the beautiful French architecture is incredible. But lying beneath and around all of that is Sodom and Gomorah with a two drink minimum.

We stop in the first bar we see and grab a couple of beers in plastic cups and head out to explore the madness.

After waving at the parade and skillfully dodging (sometimes) beads flying past my head we entered the most epic street of all, Bourbon Street. From there, an oddly religious themed Mardi Gras began.

I saw the Pope! Ok not the real Pope, but a guy on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street sporting the Pope hat and robe. He tossed beads to the crowd and blessed all the sinners below in jested fun.

As we continued to go down the street we ran into the infamous Jesus group. There is always one at every “sinful” event. They were continually shouting that we were sinners and preaching their faith to all the drunks in the street. Everyone proceeded to take pictures as if they were a tourist attraction. What I would like to know is do they ever get one person to come over and say, “Ya know, you’re totally right! I’m going to leave Mardi Gras right now to go home and repent.” Now I have nothing against any religion or how people choose to practice and share their faith…but I’m not entirely sure in the middle of Bourbon Street halfway through Mardi Gras day is the most effective way to go about i

Afterwards we entered a bar with a small half circle stage in the front where about five girls were booty shaking like no tomorrow on the stage. I don’t think I could get that much of me to wiggle if I tried. Then lo and behold a large woman dressed as a tri-boobed nun took the center of the stage and started busting her own moves to the music. Then she proceeds to put her leg up on rail, thrust her pelvis towards the crowd, whipped out a cigar and started to smoke it. The scene unfolding in front of me was like Sister Act gone wrong and it doesn’t end there.

As we’re laughing at the hilarity of the situation, three topless yet painted chest girls walked on stage. One of the girls looked like she just had a baby with the belly drooping down low. That didn’t stop her. She was a brave one. Then in the middle of all the dancing came the ultimate shocker of the night. The nun went up to post pregger lady and they started full on making out right in the middle of the booty shaking.

My mouth just dropped as I was trying to process what was going on. It was hilarious and shocking and definitely a memorable highlight of the trip.

Mardi Gras is full of shocking sights and stories but it’s an experience I would definitely have again. There are a lot of brave people sporting the goods, (if you know what I mean) but you can have just as much fun observing as you can participating. Provided you do not have virgin eyes or ears and wish to keep them that way, Mardi Gras New Orleans is definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed.

The next day…

We watched the Lundi Gras parades from Canal Street. We got there kind of early to get a decent spot, and so we waited for at least an hour for the floats to arrive. Two guys selling merchandise set up behind us, selling shirts that said, “I’ll suck your titty for a dollar.” The entire time we were there, they were yelling this at people passing by. “Suck yo titty for a dollar! I’ll suck that titty for a dollar!” Entrepreneurial spirit at its best.

Some lady in her 40’s or 50’s was set up a little way down from us on the neutral ground before Endymion. She and her friends started taking shots of whisky from this contraption: a wooden plank with slots in it for shot glasses. Before too long, she was karaoking and dancing enthusiastically while her teenagers tried to pretend they didn’t know her. It went on for hours. Great people watching.

We chanced a walk down Bourbon during the day time, before it got too crowded. Frank went in to use the restroom, leaving me under a balcony that had a direct view of many girls flashing for beads. There was this old guy set up there, and every time a girl looked ready to flash, he’d run forward and take pictures of it with his camera. We saw him get about a dozen shots in 10 minutes. I wonder what he does with the photos.

Two things that give me a grudging respect for city employees:

1) watching a completely destroyed, trash-filled Canal St near Carrollton made near pristine in under an hour by the street cleaning crew. Good job, y’all. That’s some serious business.

2) Shortly after overhearing a couple of girls arguing in the bathroom line and a threat about “gettin yo ass beat in a Popeye’s!” A fight broke out at the Wendy’s next door on St. Charles. (We think maybe it was the same girls who’d wandered over there to find friends.) Swarms of teenagers started running over there exclaiming about a fight, and within a minute, a bunch of cops in neon yellow vests and about half a dozen mounted officers were there. There were shootings near Lee Circle at a recent Mardi Gras, if I recall correctly, so it was encouraging to see the police were taking crowd safety seriously.

So far I’m loving this odyssey on the road to California!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 4 – On The Road Again

The week in Atlanta went by fast and before we knew it, we were off again. We got on highway 10 and headed west. Our first stop was in Mississippi. Apparently Frank had another Uncle that lived there. I told him if he had enough relatives scattered across the country we could probably make it to California for free.

We stayed at his Uncle’s place in Mobile, Alabama overnight. I was never clear if this Uncle was the ex husband to Frank’s Aunt we just stayed with for a week. He was really nice and took us out to a nice southern place for some delicious cuisine. I was eating and enjoying things I’d never seen or done before. The world is such a bigger package that the little borough you live in.

We stayed the night and in the morning we were off again and headed West.

Next stop… New Orleans!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 3 – Big Night Out In Atlanta

Things were good. Frank and I were chilling at his Aunt’s house in Atlanta and enjoying our time reconnecting. But I was itching to get back on the road. Frank’s Uncle came to visit and said he wanted to take us out. I’m fresh out of the nest at 19 and Frank is a world traveler at 21, so we’re down for anything. I can’t believe how many Irish people have relatives and friends scattered all over the globe.

The first place we go to is this cool country bar. We’re drinking beers and eating food and all is right with the world. This guy comes out, sits on a stool and plays original songs. I remember him being really good. It was a good warm up to the night ahead.

Then his uncle says he’s taking us somewhere else.

I’ve been to Baltimore and Washington DC, but not really anywhere else. I lived with my parents before this. This is the furthest I’ve ever been away from home in my life. I’m happy I have Frank with me, because he’s my security. I’m just a scared musician with anxiety and depression I barely even know I have. My mom made me three square meal a day my whole life. I have no clue as to what the world is.

Travel is so broadening. The world is such a bigger package than most people ever realize. All you know is your little world. But I know this journey is going to fundamentally change me. It’s something that has to happen. Leaving home was hard enough. I was terrified traveling all of that way by myself. None of my friends are doing anything like this. Just me. I’m different. I’m not but I know at that moment I’m different from all of them. I’ve always walked among them but never really joined them. This trip is proof of that. I have to learn to crawl towards the things that frighten me. Frank has no problem with anything. He’s a solid, bright guy. I’m just a skinny nothing. I don’t want to go to college like my sister Janice. I just want to go out into the world and find out who the hell I am.

Maybe music will carry me forth.

I just needed to get away from the dead-end existence of living in Wildwood. That’s a fun place in the summer, but nowhere to raise your kids if they’re from a major city. The winter is and empty desolate place where most of the people who live there are business owners that make a nice living and they spoil their children. The kids grow up in wealth but are bored out of their minds. I saw more drug abuse and teen pregnancy in that town than when I was back in Philly growing up.

Do I love that I got to spend every summer in the 70’s at the shore? Damn straight. It was amazing! Nobody on my block got to do that. Only us. So it set us apart from our neighbors in Lawndale. We didn’t care. We didn’t know. We were just kids. It’s something we just looked forward to and did every summer.

But Janice going off to college and me having to take my senior year at Wildwood High was just some self-serving selfish shit on the part of my father. But I’ve covered that already.

I’m happy to be on the road and free of the trappings of my parents existence. I’m sure Janice had her own awakening at college and so did little Gabrielle. We all made our way in different ways.

I’m here to be open and brave.

Here we go.

Frank’s uncle takes us to a place called the Pussycat Lounge. I don’t know what that is but it sounds sexy.

We go in and there are naked women dancing onstage.

My brain explodes.

I had never experienced anything like this in my life. I’ve heard about it and seen scenes like this in a movie but never the real thing. Back then I was still wet behind the ears. It was fascinating to see naked women before my eyes. Getting out in the world was an exciting adventure. They didn’t have anything like that anywhere I grew up. In between the girls dancing, there was this comedian that would come out and tell dirty jokes. He was really funny. Normally it takes a lot to make me laugh, but this dude killed.

Frank, his uncle and I had a great night out. I was still reeling from seeing that many naked girls standing right in front of me that night. When you’re young, and you see something like that for the first time it has incredible euphoric power.

I slept well that night and was still excited about what was next in the coming days.

 

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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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California Dreamin’ -1982 to 1984 – Chapter 1 – The Idea

Back in 1982, I left New Jersey in my ’69 Volkswagen mini bus for Los Angeles. I’ll tell the whole story of that journey at some point, but I wanted to intro a new series that tells some of my interesting dating and social interactions while out in California. I was only 19 years old when I left, so these stories come from a younger man’s life. We got up to some wild shit back then.

These stories contain a bit more sexually explosive content so beware fair readers.

We were young, in a band and living in L.A. What could happen?

It was a long time ago but some of these tales are worth telling.

I’ll kick it off with this one.

 

I was sitting in a little tavern with my friend Bill in North Wildwood back in the summer of ’81. It’s a nice little beer and shot neighborhood bar. Woody’s is located at 19th and New Jersey Ave. It took me a moment to remember the name and location. It was a good lunch spot and also cool to hang out at night if you wanted to stay away from the club scene.

I met Bill working on Hunt’s Pier. It’s an old amusement pier on the boardwalk. I worked on The Golden Nugget Mine Ride, which was an old roller coaster enclosed in what looked like a big old western type mine. People road in little mine cars through the ride and stuff popped out of the darkness to shock and surprise them. It’s been torn down for many years but I have so many wonderful memories to write about regarding this period of my life. I can still smell the grease of the chain that carried the mine cars to the roof of the building.

Bill worked one of the games at the front of the pier. I don’t remember how we met, but we became good friends because at the time he was the funniest guy I had ever met. We hung out outside work and Bill was just so funny to be around. Usually I’m supplying the laughs but he just had a quick wit and I loved that about him. Bill wanted to go to California and become “the next Robert DeNiro” at the end of the summer season.

I tell him I want to go to California and become a metal god. (guy that plays hard rock and metal in a band) I suggest we save our earnings and go out together. He agrees.

I was a young naïve teenager back then and fell hard for people I met. We talked all about how great it would be when we got to L.A. and became stars. We did this most of the summer.

At some point I remember my dad chatting with Bill about our plan. I had him over to meet my Dad because I was so taken with my funny amazing new friend. My Pop has a lot of experience with people.

My Dad later told me that it sounded like Bill, was a bit of a feather merchant. Someone who could attach himself to me to get a free ride out to L.A. He also said that the stories Bill had told him about things he did and said back home in South Philly, and my Dad felt those stories didn’t wash. He also felt that Bill wasn’t really saving any money for this trip that I had already saved a thousand dollars for.

Well I think somehow Bill caught wind of what my dad was feeling. (Just looking out for my best interest) and got pissed off.  I remember him saying how he really hated my father and the trip was off.

I was crushed. I loved Bill and it was like he was breaking up with me. But as I write this now, I know my Dad was right about him. Bill’s pride was hurt, he was kind of a blowhard, and he hadn’t saved any money all summer. This was his immature boy’s way out.

But all was not lost. There was another guy I worked with on the ride. Frank. He was from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was studying law and taking a year or two off to travel and have fun before he entered law school in London. We worked together every night on the ride and became good friends.

I remember telling Frank what had happened with Bill, and he said he’d go to California with me. He was going down to Florida with some of his mates in October and they were just going to work there for a bit. Irish people can get jobs like crazy. Great people! He said that he’d be coming up to stay with his Aunt and cousin in Atlanta after the holidays. So we started to plan for that. I was happy to be going with Frank, because I liked him and knew he was trustworthy and reliable.

I never really saw or spoke to Bill ever again. Not that I hated him or anything. We just lost touch after the incident and I guess he went back to South Philly.

But I was excited that the trip to Cali was still on!

 

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