Wildwood Daze – Kites – Part 2

So I needed another kite. I knew my mom wouldn’t spring for it. So I used what little allowance I had to get another one.

It had to be this:

The Baby Bat! This was a cool kite. Probably the coolest kite Gayla ever made. Black, with flaming eyes, and the lower edges looked like real bat wings. It too was only a dollar.

I loved my new, cool black kite. The eyes were stickers you had to put on yourself, so the spacing had to be perfect upon application. You didn’t want your bat looking cross eyed or weird. It needed to be cool and menacing.

In hindsight, I think the better name for this kite would have been the Manta Ray, because it better resembles a ray than a bat. Just saying…

Our next idea was to buy more twine. Let’s connect two or more spools of twine and make the tether even longer than 200 feet. Let’s go for 400 feet of string. It became less about the simple whimsy of flying a kite as a restful activity, and more about let’s see what these kites can withstand.

But, this is what boys do. Let’s just see how far we can take an idea before something breaks, or we’re injured. As kids we used to engage in activities that endangered our health and welfare on a daily basis.

It was called the 70’s! Nobody wore seat belts in the car, and nobody wore helmets when they rode their bikes. It was like the wild west back then. Look at jaw breakers candies. Perfect choking hazard for any child. But when you’re young all you ever think of is “I”.  I’ll be fine. I’m Indestructible. I’m Immune. I’m Immortal. You never think anything you do will have any consequences, until you start seeing kids wearing casts on their arms and legs for broken bones.

Good times!

So, I tied the string together, and wound the second spool of 200 feet of string to the first one. Now I had 400 feet of tether. My kite will go higher than ever! My kite is going to go so high, a plane or even a helicopter could crash into it. Now that would be a spectacular day of fun for a couple of boys. Nothing like causing a good old-fashioned air disaster to get the blood up.

We head down to the beach with my new Baby Bat kite and a giant spool of string. The wind is up and blowing north. We follow the path through the bushes to the open beach.

Once there, we let it rip. The string is going out like mad and the kite is rising high into the twilight sky. The sea air is invigorating as I watch as my great ebony vessel rises higher and higher. I decide to place both of my index fingers into the ends of the spool and just let that sucker spin. The cylinder of twine is a blur in my hands as the line goes out like mad. It’s as if I have a fish on the line. (That, or a giant bat!)

The bat is going so high, it’s getting smaller and smaller. Soon it’ll be just an inkblot in the sky. I’ll have flown the highest kite ever!

Now, you have to keep tension on the line so that the kite stays up. If that pressure is off the kite could fall. But the wind is carrying my kite higher than I’ve ever seen a kite go. The spool spins on my fingers.

The line… still going out.

Once it reaches the end, it’ll stop, and the kite will soar even higher. 400 feet is just seconds away! My beautiful brand new kite soars like a bird.

But that didn’t happen.

What I failed to realize was that the string on these spools isn’t tied to the spool. It’s simply wrapped around it by a machine when it’s manufactured.

The final feet of the twine go out, and I’m left standing with what would be equal to an empty role of toilet paper in my hand.

The kite is so high it continues to fly. But it’s so far away and we’re on a beach, so I can’t even see the string as it slips away at high speed. I watch as my brand new  Baby Bat flies away on it’s first, and final mission. My friend is laughing hysterically as we watch the kite fly over the channel as it heads out to sea.

It probably crashed somewhere across the channel in Stone Harbor, five miles away.

So, that was the end of that kite.

I owned a few more Baby Bats that summer. I think it was my favorite kite design. Most were destroyed in sky battles or tangled in electrical lines and lost. I remember my mom saying, “You went through a kite a week that summer!”

Ahh, what a grand time we had as children each summer. Living by the sea, in the sunshine, and getting our exercise. Those experiences build strong, healthy minds and bodies. Better than any video game you could imagine.

One night, there was a land breeze from the west and my friend and I were flying the latest kite. It was a red Sky Raider.

Exciting fun for all ages! Boys, girls, and apparently old guys who smoked pipes! (for only one dollar!)

We were sitting up in the lifeguard chair. Which is the coveted spot to sit on the beach at night. You’re probably 7 feet in the air and it definitely feels like a position of power for a couple of kids.

Ogunquit Beach Lifeguard Chair at Sunrise Ogunquit Maine Photograph by Toby McGuire

I got tired of holding  the string of my kite, so I tied it to the chair. The red kite sailed high over the Atlantic Ocean. Normally you don’t stay long on the beach during the day when there’s a land breeze. It brings all of the green  flies from the bay to the beach. They aren’t like the annoying pests you get in your house in the summertime. These suckers are bigger and ‘bite like horses’, as my dad would say. But by nightfall they’re usually gone.

So my buddy and I are just chilling in the lifeguard chair and chatting. We’re watching the red kite as it flies and dips over the sea. But at some point, the wind died down, and the kite vanished below the waves. At that point we didn’t feel like hauling in all of that wet sandy string, so we just broke the string and let it drift away. I remember before it sank it looked like a big red shark’s dorsal fin before it slipped away.

Another dollar and a half well spent. Taken by Neptune.

I wanted to change up my game. I needed a better kite.

I had heard from one of the other kids that there was a bigger and better kite that was made by Gayla. It looked like the Sky Raider, but it was bigger and had a metal controller you held to maneuver your kite.

Kind of looked like this, but much bigger. It had a six foot wing span. It was called…

The Invader!

Rare 1962 vintage Gayla kite The Invader Kites with box | #1821116875

I had to have it. It cost a whopping six dollars!

I scraped together what little allowance money and change I had to get that kite. It was bigger than any kite on the beach, and it had the cool metal controller included. I scampered over to the store and bought it.

I quickly assembled my great bird and was ready for action. The controller is simply a wire frame shaped like an hourglass that you hold horizontally like an airplane controller. (Don’t get too excited. Think, cheap-ass, coat hanger bent into a metal bow tie.)

Flying Fish Kiting Team: Radcliffe Conversion

You actually needed two spools of twine to operate the kite properly. They were both hooked to the controller and the other ends were attached at two different points on the kite’s brindle. This is so you could steer and maneuver your amazing kite.

I was about to become the Lord of the Skies in Wildwood.

I made sure the string was securely tied to each spool before I hand wound them both back onto each cylinder. I affixed the ends of each cord to the appropriate spots on the kite.

I was ready.

We took my vinyl Phoenix to the beach for it’s maiden voyage to the heavens. The wind was blowing from the south which was perfect. This way, if anything happened it wouldn’t crash in the sea. It would land on the beach north of where we were standing.

I slowly let out the string, and my great winged toy was carried upward. It looked enormous. Some people who were still on the beach at dusk, looked on with pride and amazement at the kid with the amazing kite.

I was so proud as I watched it sail higher and higher. Such an enormous pull on the strings. Huge kite. More wind resistance coupled with great aerial strength and elegance. My beautiful winged beast flying high. It’s glorious six foot wing span, like some great albatross, controlled only by my willing hands. I held the controller and watched as my kite flew higher and higher. We were coming to the end of the string.

This was it.

That moment where the line would become taut and the kite would fly even higher on the tension of the lines. I would proudly steer it along the beach as startled onlookers watched the glory of my passing.

The Sky King.

The Invader!

The anticipation was exhilarating as the end of the spools approached. Within seconds, the strings went taut.

The force was so great it yanked the controller from my tiny hands.

I watched in mute protest as the controller flew from my grasp and bounced down the beach.

My friend and I gave chase. Running as fast as we could in an attempt to catch the bouncing metal frame as it bounded down the beach. It had enough weight to keep the kite aloft, but was light enough to escape from us.

We eventually ran out of energy as the kite flew further and further away.

Another kite had made its escape. It would probably crash like the last on the other side of the channel in Stone Harbor.

My kite…

Snatched from my hands like my fleeting childhood.

 

I’ll always look back on my times at the shore with fond memories. Some of my greatest moments happened on that sandy stage.

 

Here’s a great song that serves as a soundtrack to this story.

 

Here’s one gentleman’s obsession:

http://gaylakitememories.blogspot.com/2012/07/introduction.html

 

Why couldn’t this have happened to us?

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Wildwood Daze – Kites – Part 1

Back in the early seventies the world was a different place. Kids played outside. The only time you stayed in was when it rained. That meant playing board games, and dealing with your sisters and brothers.

When we were children we were always coming up with creative things to do. No one had any money, there were no video games, cell phones,  internet, or social media. We could spend a whole day making boats out of whatever we could find, and watching them float down nearby Tookany Creek. We spent so many wonderful hours playing in the woods.

One day, my friend RJ and I found some old trash bags. We tied strings to them and attempted to make kites out of them. We were probably 9 or 10 years old at the time. There was a vacant lot at the end of our street that served as an entrance to the factory, Peerless Steel. We were always hanging out in that lot because it lead to the railroad tracks and beyond that, the woods. We began our foray into the world of flight in that vacant lot.

RJ and I were a couple of creative kids. We were always making things. We had high hopes for our experiments. It was a windy day and that was probably our inspiration. We tied the string to the bags and attempted to make them fly. We thought with a bit of a breeze, our creations would become aloft. But without any knowledge of aerodynamics, our trash bag kites were merely crappy, trash parachutes.

They twisted in the wind and spent more time on the ground than in the air. We continued to modify the design of our bag kites, but to no avail. Once the bags were snagged in the barb wire on the fence that surrounded the factory, we abandoned our experiments.

 

Each summer after 1970, my family stayed at our summer home on 8th street in North Wildwood, New Jersey. Living a block and a half from the beach, there were plenty of places for kids to play. The kid who was my age who lived next door became my summer friend. He and I spent a great deal of time together.

The year was probably 1972.

Over on 10th street, was a grocery/variety store called Botto’s. One day, my sister and I were over there with my mother. They sold all of the things you’d need for your time at the shore. Groceries, snacks, candy, soda, sundries, and beach toys. The usual seashore corner store fare.

But we noticed a box among the other products that held kites! They were made by a company called, Gayla and were rolled up in long cellophane packages. We both picked out the ones we liked and my mom got them for us. Back then, each kite cost a dollar. The twine was probably a quarter or .39 cents. So, not much of an investment for what could be a world of fun.

Janice picked out a blue one, because that was her favorite color. It was called Sting-A-Ree. It resembled a stingray, with cute eyes on it. Here’s a photo I found which will give you an idea what these kites looked like, and also that attractive price point.

I got a white one, called Sky Spy. It had big flaming eyes on it and I dug it’s bright, menacing intensity.

The one in this picture must be a later model, because my kite was the same size as my sister’s with the standard 3 foot wing span. (Also, only one dollar!)

Like it says on my sister’s kite’s packaging, it was literally ready to fly in seconds! Each kite came with a wooden dowel that you placed the ends into the kite horizontally to create the cross spar. You tied one end of the string through a reinforced hole in the brindle. (Which is the triangular guide piece that extends forward from the spine of the kite. Once that was done, all you needed was a good breeze. Kite flying is fun!

Of course, my friend next door immediately got one as well. I don’t remember which design he went with. Possibly a yellow one called, Sky Raider. But I could be wrong. It doesn’t matter.

So we kids would go to the beach in the evenings when all of the tourists were gone, and fly our kites on the beach. I liked that it was still light at night so you could see, but the heat of the day was gone. The cool breeze rolled in from the sea, but the sand was still warm under your bare feet.

My sister Janice never seemed to have any problems getting her kite in the air, and the blue Sting-A-Ree glided through the air with the greatest of ease.

Of course, my friend and I being boys were always having problems. Strings getting tangled, and kites colliding in mid-air. Kites getting hung up in electrical wires, or crashing into the bushes on the dunes.

I think trying to make kites out of trash bags was a creative way to play. Creativity is the highest form of intelligence, and can’t be taught. Funny, how all the stuff you learn in school is just memorizing the memories and words of others who have come before you. History written and spun by the winners.

Kids back then had to find their own fun to keep from getting bored. Making things filled the time, and lit up our young minds. But flying store bought, manufactured kites was easy. As long as the wind was blowing, these kites would take right off, no problem. They looked really cool flying in the air high above our heads. You simply let out the string, and the spool it was wrapped around spun out and the kite rose higher and hire like a bird. You held the string, hoping it wasn’t to windy, because if the string went out too fast it would burn your fingers as it went. (I guess that’s why they had the parental notice for 8 and up on the package.)

But for young boys, once your kite’s in the air, it’s a little boring. So, we of course devised ways to make the experience more interesting.

One of the things we did was, once the kite was fully aloft, we’d pull a special move. Realizing if the line was slack, the kite would fall. Without the tension on the string, the kite would tumble back to earth. That defeats the purpose of flying a kite. But… what we started to do was this. I would place the spool under my arm and hold it tightly in place. Then I would start to pull on the string. I would haul it in arm over arm, and the string would pool at my feet. All the while keeping tension on the line. Once I had about 40 or 50 feet of string in a pile at my feet, I would grab the spool from under my arm and let go of the twine in my hand. This would release the tension on the kite and it would start to fall. Well, not just fall, sort of nose dive toward the ground. The string on the ground would rapidly go out, being pulled by the falling kite in the wind. But there was still no tension. Once the string ran out, and the line tension returned, the kite would once again soar back up into the sky.

Exciting!

It was really about how much wind you had blowing, and how much string you pulled down onto the ground in front of you. It was cool to watch the kite begin to fall from the sky like a plane that had been shot down. The slack line would go out, and once it hit tension again, that sucker would shoot back into the sky before it hit the ground. The key was to let it fall as far as it could and as close to the ground as possible before it took off again. (Even if you had to run in the opposite direction to get the tension back in the line!)

This was super fun and exciting to watch the kite fall aimlessly towards a potential crash, and at the last minute take off again. It was glorious to witness. But more times than not, the kite never recovered, and would crash and be destroyed in the bushes two hundred feet away.

My buddy would always volunteer to go get the fallen vessel. He had the most amazing callouses on the balls of his feet from being barefoot all summer. I mean, this dude was like an Indian with those feet of his. He could step on broken glass and not get cut. I think he did it to show off, but I was happy I didn’t have to trudge through the bushes and dunes on my tender tootsies. (I once watched him put out a cigarette with his bare foot as a teen.)

Fun to watch, but risky. There’s nothing worse than trudging through two blocks worth of heavy bushes loaded with mosquitoes, flies, and whatever else was alive in there to retrieve your fallen kite. You would hold the line, and simply follow the string to your fallen toy. More times than not, the kite was irreparably damaged in the crash. A tangle of string and ripped vinyl. If the wooden dowel snapped, your day of flying kites was terminated. All in the name of your own foolish quest for young boy thrills.

But… when it worked, and your kite flew back up with seconds to spare, it was an amazing thrill. An exciting rush. Cheering, we felt like stunt pilots.

But was that thrilling enough for a couple of 10-year-olds?

You’d think it would be.

But no…

It wasn’t.

We began to have air battles with our kites. It was cool to watch them crash into each other. Most of the time they would get tangled together and crash back to earth. But then we came up with the idea to tape a long carpenter’s nail to the nose of the kite.

So this for boys was like strapping sharp spikes to a rooster’s legs to inflict more damage on his opponent during a cockfight. Think about it. Kites are boring. They look pretty floating through the air, but for 10-year-old boys, that’s boring. Let’s have full on, air battles with metal spikes. Now it’s fun! We have goals. Those nails will do some serious damage!

The order of the day… Destroy your opponent’s kite at all costs.

Due to our destructive nature, my Sky Spy was destroyed after a week, and so was my friend’s kite. But we had fun doing it. We still liked flying kites as something to do at night on the beach.

We headed back to Botto’s to get new kites. All the while, Janice’s kite flew unhindered high above us all.

 

More tomorrow!

 

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What Will ‘New Normal’ Look Like For The Jersey Shore?

As we battle COVID-19 all over the world, we all know there will be a new normal for all of us when the dust settles. What will that look like for the Jersey Shore?

Some of the things that will always, or at least for a long time, be with us after this pandemic include frequent hand washing, no handshakes and social distancing. The first two are the easy part.

When you start to picture what a summer will look like at the Jersey Shore if social distancing becomes a long term thing, which some experts believe it will, it’s definitely a different picture than we’re used to.

All you have to do is apply social distancing to boardwalks, beaches and restaurants and you’ll see the different picture. One thin about the Jersey Shore is that we are a resilient bunch and we’ll figure it out.

We will take our new normal, get creative, and make it work. We have to. Our local businesses and the way of life we love depend on it. We have proven time and time again that we can take whatever gets thrown at us and handle it.

We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. Yes, this may be the biggest challenge we’ve faced in a long time, but one thing social distancing can’t diminish is my belief in the people and the businesses of the Jersey Shore.

We can do this. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay creative. We’ve never needed each other more than we do now.

Reach out and connect with others

During this time of social isolation, people everywhere are struggling with extreme loneliness. Being cut off from human contact and touch that we rely on daily can be detrimental for one’s mental and physical health. One easy way to give back during this time is to simply reach out to someone around you.

Feed those who are hungry

Whether it’s due to loss of wages or the inability to access school lunches, many are struggling to get proper meals right now. If you are able to, consider donating food or money to your local food bank. If you call, most will tell you what they are most in need of at the time. According to No Kid Hungry, around 22 million children in the United States rely on the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at school. Due to school closures, these children are likely not able to access lunch or other meals that they typically rely on. Consider donating to this organization to get meals to school children. It’s also important to remember that this is not a time to hoard supplies. Doing so could make someone else go without or force an elderly or immune compromised person to have to visit numerous stores, putting them at further risk of exposure.

Check in on your neighbors

One of the beautiful things that typically stems from disaster is a renewed sense of community. Take the time to check in on those who live around you, especially the elderly or those who are health-compromised. You can offer to pick up supplies while you’re out, limiting their exposure, and do a safely-distanced drop-off to a porch or doorway.

Support small businesses

As restaurants and small businesses have been shuttered, their owners and employees have been pushed to their financial limits. Show your support by purchasing takeout (remember you can freeze meals), shopping for merchandise online, or buying gift cards to use at a later time. We do not know when businesses like restaurants and bars will be able to fully reopen, so your support during this time will make a huge difference.

Foster or adopt a pet

Many animal rescue organizations are struggling during this time due to staff shortages and a reduction in donations. Since you’re likely working from home, consider fostering an animal in need. Few things are more calming than snuggling with a fluffy, warm creature during a difficult time, so contact your local animal rescue organization to see how you can help. If you’re unable to foster or adopt, consider a donation instead.

Give blood

Along with all events, blood drives across the country have been cancelled and the Red Cross is experiencing a dramatic drop in blood donations. If you’re able to give, Red Cross assures that they will keep you safe during the process through the highest standards of safety and infection control. You can schedule an appointment now to give at a location near you.

Thank essential workers

While we’re doing our part by staying home, many essential workers are on the frontlines, risking exposure to keep us all safe. Consider how you can show your gratitude to healthcare workers, your local fire and police departments, grocery store workers, postal workers, and delivery people. Small gestures like a meal delivery, handwritten note, a word of thanks, or added gratuity are great ways to express your appreciation. Get your family involved by hanging signs on the outside of your home celebrating these modern day heroes.

Make masks

The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings like grocery stores and pharmacies. Their website also includes simple instructions for sewing your own mask. If you don’t know how to sew, they’ve got you covered with tutorials on how to make your own mask with a t-shirt or coffee filter, no sewing required. It’s important to remember not to purchase surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as these are critical supplies that are needed by healthcare workers and first responders.

Pay your Employees

If you are financially able to do so, continue to pay service workers, like nannies, house cleaners, or dog walkers, even if you are not able to utilize their services right now. The people who provide you with these services on a regular basis have likely taken a drastic cut in income during the pandemic, so what better way to say thank you to vulnerable workers than to continue to provide steady pay. If you are a home care worker, nanny, or house cleaner who is experiencing financial hardship during this time, you can apply for the Coronavirus Care Fund (CCF) to receive emergency financial assistance.

Stay home

Returning to the scene after a tornado can be traumatic and anxiety can persist for long periods of time. Seek professional help if you are having trouble coping. Natural disasters can be especially disorienting for children. Encourage young members of your family to freely express their feelings and offer them ongoing comfort.

Experiencing a natural disaster can disrupt each and every area of one’s life and cause devastating levels of loss. Reach out to those around you for support and seek out a local shelter if you need a place to stay, along with other essentials such as food or water. Above all else, focus on keeping yourself and those around you safe during this challenging time.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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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