Wildwood Daze – Shadows Fall

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

1979 – Autumn

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?

The 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 too 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 a 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 else’s 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 words 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 were 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 mealtime. My mother knew. He started in on me because I seemed unresponsive. I didn’t know I was depressed because of 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 opportunity 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 wasn’t 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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2 thoughts on “Wildwood Daze – Shadows Fall”

  1. Wow, I never would have suspected you were going through all of that. Do you think that music was a place of refuge for you? It was for me. I had a stepfather who was an abusive drunk around the same time.

    1. Thank you for your words, Paul. i know I seemed like the gregarious musician back then, but I was a mess. I had a life back in Philly. My school, my friends, and my band. My father ripped me from that because of his own ideals. He made up for his mistakes,and I forgive him, but it really hurt me. I got dropped off in Wildwood in the winter and my life was fucked. Music was my only refuge. Music never hurt me, never betrayed me, and was always there for me. I embraced my music because it was all I had left. I was so black depressed. I lived with depression and anxiety my whole life. I never knew it because I never knew what it was. I just thought I was really sad and scared of things. Music saved my life back then and it was all I had that didn’t ever change. I never knew what you were going through back then, and I’m so sorry for your pain too, Paul. It took me years to work through all of my disorders.

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