Archive for August, 2018

Radio Days

I’m on my way to the supermarket, which is about a five minute drive from my parents’ house. In actuality there is very little to discern me from my teenage self. I am running an errand for my mom, I have a list, I am in her car. It’s the kind of hot humid day that I have long associated with eastern Pennsylvanian Augusts and I am listening to the radio.

One of the facts of life when staying with my parents is that I will be pressed into indentured servitude. My mom cooks, cleans, and does laundry, not to mention a zillion other little generosities for her kids, and all she asks is that we run errands for her on an almost unending loop of momentary need and whimsy.

Today is the grocery store and I am quite happy about it. A lot of people have romantic notions of grocery shopping in Europe, we all imagine walking around small shops with a cloth bag buying fresh bread from a baker, ripe tomatoes from a corner fruit stand, and freshly slaughtered meat from a butcher. And there is something to that. However, there is nothing better than an American supermarket. I could spend a week’s salary in the cracker aisle alone. The selection of hams in the deli, the ice cream cakes seducing my eyes in the bakery, and an entire freezer dedicated to french fries is something I look forward to each year.

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Internal Navigation System Busted

I’m on my way back from the shore when I make a mistake. I turn from 95 North, the road that will bring me easily home with my eyes closed, onto an exit, which brings me into the city of Philadelphia. The city I was smoothly bypassing I’m now driving directly into.

When you make a driving mistake, you react. How badly you have screwed up depends on the severity of the reaction. If you make a simple wrong turn in your town, you might do a good-natured forehead slap. Something that takes a few minutes to correct might warrant a “shit” or a “fuuuuck.” What I have done now, leaving the road that was conveniently bringing me home, as in it could have had a sign on it that said Damien’s Way Home, and turning into the city of Philadelphia, a city I am not familiar driving in, a city whose bowl of cooked spaghetti throng of highways would have made Patton turn around and go home and accept German occupation, a city where one wrong decision brings you to New Jersey, makes my gut to fall out and with it a series of seething remarks that question my abilities and intelligence.

Not only have I gone out of my way to up my level of stress and aggravation, but part of the upset is due to a bruise growing on my tender male ego. Men are supposed to be good at directions based on an internal navigation system. We’re supposed to know things about cars and know what all the things in our truck is for. We’re supposed to be able to open the hood and understand what we’re looking at.

But I don’t. I suppose my internal navigational system was left out of the congenital male gift basket I was supposed to get at birth. I also know nothing about electronics, could give less than a shit about expensive cars (like. Zero), and though I like putting things together here and there, I could go the rest of my life without touching a drill and die a happy man. These things I have come to accept about myself, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t frustration when one of these evident shortcomings is thrust in my face and causes me aggravation. Whether you are a man or a woman you can probably commiserate in some way.

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The Ghosts of Pittsburgh Bars

Pictured: The Green Front Inn. Not Pictured: The Ghost of the Cook.

It’s a Saturday on East Carson Street on the Southside of Pittsburgh. It’s hot and I am wearing a captain’s hat, a gift from my friend L. He was one on too. We are in a convertible that I couldn’t afford if I had a decade to save up for it and an extra kidney to sell on the black market. It’s then that we pass a place I know too well. The Green Front Inn.

“Oh my God,” I say. “I haven’t been there in more than a decade.”

“Well we’re going in now.” He pulls in front and parks, where the shiny red convertible is a sore thumb.

Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. This was typically the only reference people would give when going out. “Where you going tonight?” “Southside” or “Shadyside” or “The Strip” was all that was said. This is also because a night out in Pittsburgh rarely included only one bar, but rather a mini-bar crawl often occurred, so a neighborhood was used as a blanket location.

The Green Front Inn was a job taken out of necessity. I was working an unpaid internship at a local magazine and I needed a paid job, if only because I had grown accustomed to eating food and sleeping indoors. And so four nights a week I stood behind the bar in this dive and wondered where everything had gone wrong. I’d loved bartending up to that point, but probably because I worked in a campus bar before that. It was filled with young, good looking people who wanted to have fun and often did so right there on the bar. The place before was positive and much of my time there was spent laughing and surrounded by people I really liked.

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Stages of Summer

It’s about midway through the summer, late July. I am about to fly back to the U.S. and I find that I am a little bit sad. There is no reasonable explanation for this, other than to say that there are stages to the summer and, like stages, they have notable beginnings and endings.

I am one of those awfully addicted to the looking forward to stage more than the stage itself. So I love the pre-Christmas season more than Christmas Day, which is obviously the goal of the whole season (for some), but which also signals the completion of that season.

It’s the same with my summer. The first stage of my summer is late May to early June, when teaching has finished, but we’re still performing admin tasks and doing retake tests. Though these tasks can be irksome at times, there’s a definite slowdown feel to my work life. No class, just office work. One of the best parts of this stage is that the rest of the summer is still ahead of me.

The next stage of summer, the one I’m currently in, is the first part of my holiday. This usually involves a trip, but this year has involved staying in Prague. I have been enjoying beer gardens and summer storms and little trips with friends. But mostly I’ve been working. I’ve recently signed on as a freelancer for a website and I also have a novel to finish and research to do.

This month has involved getting up at 6:30 each morning and writing or editing. Then I have a break, and then an afternoon session of work. It’s been a taste of what life would be like as a fulltime writer, I suppose, but it hasn’t been so relaxing. I have enjoyed the long hazy days of midsummer and the purple and pink evening skies. Sometimes in the morning before I work or in the evening before I put on a movie, I force myself to look out the window and enjoy whatever’s there.

There’s some sadness now as I know this stage is coming to an end. I’m off to the U.S. today to embark upon the third stage of my summer. Home. I am looking around at a sleeping cat, my packed bags, and wonder where the first two stages have gone. I am excited and sad at the same time. This morning I am writing a blog that will appear in a week and a half and I am already bummed about the fact that when this is published I will be almost halfway through my third stage of summer.

With all that said, I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. I’ll watch baseball with my dad and drink Miller High Life at a bar while arguing with my brother at an impossible volume. I’ll visit friends in Pittsburgh, eat four cheesesteaks, go to the Jersey Shore, eat crabs, and let my parents spoil me. I’ll be in New York City for a few days and have Gay Day 2018 with my sister. I suppose the third stage has its own stages and that, all in all, things are great.

So, I hope you are enjoying the stages of your summer as well. Go have a High Life.

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