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Four Days In L.A. (Part 4)

I wake up in Tasha’s bed after a quick three hour nap that I wish was longer. The fan is blowing on me because it is hot as fuck in the San Fernando Valley, and ever since early May I haven’t been able to go to sleep without the sound of a fan blowing in the background for some reason. We have plans to meet our friend Dave for dinner, which was originally supposed to be lunch, but had to be changed because of the massive amount of sleep that I did not get the night before, coupled with the copious amounts of alcohol I ingested.

We’re supposed to meet him at 7pm, but of course it’s closer to 7:20pm when we finally arrive at Delancey on Sunset. We say hello, and I apologize for Tasha’s tardiness which always seems to surprise me even though the girl has made a career out of being late. At one point a few years back, we were headed to Jersey for one of my friends weddings. Our flight was set to take off at noon, but to make sure we got there on time, I had to lie and tell Tasha that the flight was taking off at 11am. Needless to say, when it was 10:15 and we were driving in the car to the airport, she thought we were going to miss our flight and was genuinely concerned.

“I’m sorry I took so long. Are we going to miss our flight?” She asked

“Nope.” I replied

“How are you being so calm about this?” she asked

“I lied. The flight doesn’t take off for almost two hours.”

“Asshole.” she says with a smile.

Asshole maybe, but I’m an asshole with good intentions.

Tasha and I sit across from Dave and we start to eat and drink and talk about the last few months. There is a history between the three of us that goes back to the Trent & Tilly days from 2012. After we wrote, shot, and edited our first webisode, our director quit on us because he was afraid of being sued cause we were using a Beastie Boys song in our opening credits. It made absolutely no sense to us because once we uploaded it to You Tube, it recognized the song and wouldn’t allow us to use it, so we had to change the music to something non-descript to avoid music licensing infringements. Instead of getting all upset (which we did) the next six episodes were directed by Dave Parker who is more known for his work in the horror genre than the comedy genre. We went on to make some really funny episodes and believe it or not Dave’s sick sense of humor really helped in the process.

I’m not impressed with my glass of Malbec, but the pizza and the penne alla vodka are delicious and as we stuff our faces we reminisce and talk about the last few months and what we’ve been up to. Dave is working on a new project, Tasha is starring in Clown Motel, and I’m slinging drinks 987 miles north of here. If you would have told me that’s what I would have been doing three years ago, I probably wouldn’t have acted surprised, but if you told me I’d still be friends with Dave whom I met on MySpace 12 years earlier, that would have been a shocker. I guess back then the internet was a little more safe and infested with less creepy people than today.  Thing is, regardless of where I met him, Dave is a great guy who has helped me through some real difficult times during those 12 years. He is a true friend and he might actually be slightly more dramatic than me, if that’s even possible.

We pack up our pizza and we head outside to say goodbye. I finally feel a little more normal and Tasha and I head back to Beverly Hills to watch Boyhood and get some real sleep. Occasionally during the movie we hear the sound of ticking across hardwood floors of the apartment. It almost sounds like someone is wearing high heels and running through the house, but in reality it’s just Rocco who is in desperate need of getting his nails cut running back and forth between the living room and the bedroom and sometimes stopping to look out the screen door. I eat another slice of pizza, and head to bed.
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Monday morning starts out with a trip to Starbucks for coffee, which if I can be totally honest I hate about myself. I hate Starbucks, but they have saturated the coffee shop market so much that I’d be an idiot not to buy into the convenience of having one on every corner in every neighborhood in the country. Where else am I going to go for coffee anyway?  Congratulations corporate America, you won.

“Can you drive me into Hollywood this afternoon?” I ask Tasha

“Yeah, for what?” She asks.

“I want a new tattoo.”

“Cool.”

I have gotten four new tattoos in the last 10 months. Up until recently, I hadn’t gotten any new ink since 2006. That’s like 10 years without getting a tattoo and that’s just too long. Why did I take such a sabbatical from the needle?  Well I thought more tattoos would hinder me from getting any acting jobs in L.A., so when I finally decided I was going to leave, I ceremoniously went out and got a bunch more on my arms. In retrospect, I don’t know if more or less tattoos has anything to do with my acting ability but my mother must be soooo proud that I’m getting another one. (blatant sarcasm)

I’m actually really excited about this new one because it represents a mindfuck that Hollywood played on me. There is this constant pressure to stay young as fuck and to try your best not to age at all. I used to lie about my age on dating websites, but that’s just because although I may BE 40, I certainly do not LOOK 40, and what type of women are on dating sites looking for 40 year old men? Not the kind that I would date. I guess for awhile I wasn’t owning up to the truth about myself. Ever since I left L.A. I don’t really give a fuck about how old I am. Truth is I’ve been on this earth for forty years and only now am I ready to really own it, that’s why I got “Copyright 1975” on my wrist. No more lies.
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I walk into True Tattoo on Cahuenga as they were playing an old punk song I like by Propagandhi. I know I picked the right day to do this. Tasha comes in and sits there while the needle buzzes my skin with permanence for what seems like the thirtieth time in my life, even though I only have sixteen, pardon, now seventeen tattoos. Maybe I’ll stop at twenty, or maybe I just won’t stop. It’s my body and this is what I chose to do with it. Oh my God, I sound like the title of an episode of some shitty day time talk show like the View.

The artist finishes up, swabs me with green soap and a paper towel and wraps up my wrist in a bandage. I’m simultaneously happy I got this tattoo and concerned that for the next hour and half when I’m wearing this bandage on my wrist, everyone who sees me is going to think I tried to kill myself. Oh well. People have probably thought worse about me before.

Tasha and I go to St. Felix a few doors down for drinks and a little appetizer. I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast, but I’m also going to meet my friend Rosanne in an hour for drinks and appetizers, and then later tonight I’m going to meet another friend, Abby for drinks and dinner. Pretty much all I’m going to be doing today is boozing and grazing. It’s at this point that I wish there were more than twenty four hours in the day and it’s at this point that I realize my time in L.A. is almost over.

 

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Four Days In L.A. (Part 2)

I got off the plane at LAX around 3pm on Saturday July 23rd.

I stop in at the International terminal, and I immediately think how I am going to be surrounded by anyone other than Americans so I should watch out for European families on vacation, dressed in tacky print shirts, khaki shorts, fanny packs, and middle-aged men wearing sandals that have no right to do so. It’s the only terminal that you can just walk into and get a drink at a bar without having a ticket to board a plane, so I sit at some pizza restaurant and order a skinny bitch, otherwise known as a vodka and diet coke.

I know you’re probably laughing at the fact that I sometimes order that drink, but it tastes good to me, and even if I’m hungover the next day  I surprisingly still enjoy drinking diet coke so that says something about the truth of my addiction to diet soft drinks. Probably not the worst thing in the world. I mean, it’s not like I’m a heroin addict.

I text Tasha that I’m on the Departures level of the International terminal because it’s less busy and easier to pick up people than on Arrivals. Thirty minutes later as I’ve been waiting outside on the top level for her to pull up, and after I specifically text her two more times to make sure she chooses the Departues lane when she gets to the airport, she calls me to tell me she’s on the Arrivals level. Of course she is.

I’ve known Tasha for over 9 years now, and the fact that I made a point to make sure she knew where to go, and she ended up not going where I told her to go doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s just Tasha. There are some people who can connect the dots when driving cars and multi task like a pro and who also have a good sense of direction. Sadly, this is not Tasha, but she makes up for it so many other ways that it doesn’t really bother me. I remember when it used to, when we dated almost 7 years ago and we were the pinnacle example of a hot and cold couple, which probably had everything to do with how dramatic we both were. I’m sure it was no accident that Katy Perry had a song out that year by the same name.

Thing is, Tasha is one of my favorite people and the only ex of mine that I became best friends with after we broke up. It was almost like life wouldn’t let us NOT be friends. After the relationship we worked together, we lost a pet together, we went to all my friends weddings together, and then we created a televison show, sold it, and then lost the deal together. She’s my best friend and we’ve been through some good times, some difficult times, and some shit times, and all of that has led up to this momemt, me returning to L.A. after six months and her pulling up outside the terminal in her pearl white Fiat Abarth.

“Welcome back, bitches!” She screams as I open the door.

I’m excited to see her. She looks great, but Tasha always looks great. She’s fabulous and takes good care of herself and has these big features and this natural beauty that doesn’t even wain when she wakes up from a hangover. I start telling her about my drink at the bar with Anna Faris, and she starts telling me about this indie horror movie she’s up for called Clown Motel.

Not Clown “Hotel” which I imagine would come with a continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi, but Clown “Motel” which is most likely located on a creepy, desert road with a gravel parking lot, two vending machines and an ice bucket. We laugh but of course I tell her I’m proud of her because I know that she’s is way more talented than this town has given her credit for.

We make our way back to her new apartment in Beverly Hills, but it’s not as glamourish as the Walsh residence from 90210. Tasha has just moved into this sublet with her rabbit Rocco after 6 months living at my old Hollywood apartment. We have to do the final walk through tomorrow, but now all I can think about is this little bunny in front of me who got me through some hard times the last year or so when he frequently lived with me in L.A.
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I tell him that my cat Dapple who he lived with for three years has passed away, but I’m pretty sure he already knew somehow. It’s great to see him, but it’s also time for Tasha and I to freshen up and go get ourselves some dinner and many many drinks.

We Lyft to Kabuki on Sunset and Vine which was always our go to place for business meetings, happy hour, (aka jappy hour) and gorging on sushi and wine. I walk in and accidentally kick the glass door with my foot. The host makes a funny comment and I realize I’m back in a town where people just speak their minds.

“If you break my door, we’ll just add it to your bill.” he says.

I laugh because it was funny and we get seated at a table and I immediately request a bottle of wine to start. We order three different types of rolls and a garlic steak, Tasha and I start catching up from the last six months.

I left L.A. because I felt like there was nothing left there for me. I was exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and financially and I was tired of the struggle and the competition and I had been there for thirteen years and even though I aged gracefully, there is this enormous amount of pressure to stay young and defy the laws of physics. As an actor I had a small amount of success in my mid thirties, but by the time I turned forty, I was so over the rat race and the mental traps that I would seldom fall into that it started to take it’s toll on my confidence.

“You’re so much more confident now than when you left. I can see it in you.” Tasha says

She’s right. I used to get panic attacks in L.A. cause I was stressed as fuck, and my dating life was non-existent because seemingly the first and only question that everyone asks you on a first date is “What do you do,” which implies that the answer you give next will decide whether or not this person is interested in you at all. Everyone is a writer/actor/producer in L.A. but somehow if I told the truth that I tended bar at the Palladium and Wiltern it wouldn’t come off as an impressive field of expertise.

We talk about the drama that I had been through up in Seattle and how it started off so fucking great as I landed a lucrative job, was dating a hot girl I work with, was ready to plan out my future, but then I crash landed back to earth when we broke up in June and my cat Dapple died a few days later. That is a lot for someone to go through that quickly and I’m amazed that one of the only casualties of that debacle was the temporary loss of confidence I felt for a couple weeks and the erratic sleep patterns and highs and lows I felt along the way.

I guess a part of me understands myself enough to know all I really want in life on a daily basis is to feel like I do a good job, I’m appreciated, and that people like me. I’ll admit it, part of the reason I moved to L.A. was to follow that dream of having someone somewhere tell me that I’m good at what I do, but trying to live out that dream in L.A. along with the 2 million other hopefuls with stars in their eyes is just like being a small fish in a big pond trying to get a piece of bait.  Somehow though, living in Seattle and working at the bar is like being a big fish in a small pond. There’s less stress, the money is good, I’m doing well, and I work with a great bunch of people that I would like to think appreciate me for who I am. When it comes down to it, I really just want to be happy and stress free although those two ideas are easy to visualize and difficult to manifest.

“Are you happy up there?” Tasha asks me.

I think about this question a lot. Everybody in life just wants to be happy, I mean I said it myself three sentences ago, but I don’t think that happiness is something you feel constantly day in and day out. It’s a fleeting feeling that comes and goes like the seasons. Sometimes I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and start my day, other times I just want to sit on the couch and eat a whole pizza and not leave the house at all. Sometimes I’m depressed or sad, and other times I feel content as if nothing really bothers me. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, and yes I realize that what I’ve been writing sounds like the lyrics to a pop song that has been playing over and over again in my life.

“I am right now.” I said.

And I really am. I’m back in the town that I spent most of my adult life in, I’m sitting at the table drinking wine and eating sushi with my best friend who I haven’t seen in six months, and I’m about to close the door on a chapter of my life that will hopefully help to open up another door to the next chapter, whatever that may be.

“Good.” She says. “It sure seems like it.”

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We order another glass of wine each and I text a few of my friends to see where they’re at. Ironically they are just down the street getting out of the movies at Arclight so we all plan to meet up in a little bit.

For the first time in awhile, I don’t feel stuck, I don’t feel stressed, and I don’t feel like I need to be someone I’m not. It just feels good to back in Hollywood.

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Four Days in L.A. (Part 1)

I got off the plane at LAX around 3pm on a Saturday. The air was dark and smokey, probably because of the wildfires that had been raging in Santa Clarita the night before. I immediately take a picture of the ominous sky and the sun that is barely shining through as I wait outside of the International terminal for Tasha to pick me up.

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I think about how I haven’t been back in L.A. since January.  On Monday it will be exactly six months to the day that I moved up to Seattle. Was it ironic that my trip back happened to fall on the six month anniversary of me leaving southern California?  Probably, but I think everything happens for a reason and here I am back in Hollywood after having gone though a roller coaster of emotions since June. I guess I needed a little grounding and I’ll be the first one to admit I didn’t think that such a toxic place like L.A would have been able to offer me that, but that’s exactly what it did.

It all started a few hours earlier while I was sitting at a bar in Sea-Tac airport having a drink with a stranger from Alaska, and a well known celebrity from California.

I got to the airport with an hour before my flight was scheduled to take off, and being that this was a well needed mini vacation for me, I started drinking early. I went to one of the bars in the terminal and found nowhere for me and my bags to sit, so I ventured further past the parents and kids flying everywhere and into uncharted waters and found a seat at Anthony’s Fish Bar. I ordered a bloody mary and some chowder, and stared at my phone like most people do in airports.

Sitting to my right at the crowded bar was a guy in his early thirties with tattoos and a bald head, and to my left was another guy who I never really spoke to. I settled in drank my drink, and ordered another bloody mary. Right around the time that my second cocktail  was delivered, I hear a woman’s voice ask the bald dude next to me if anyone is sitting at the empty stool next to him. Naturally, I look over and when I see this blonde woman in her early thirties, I immediately recognize her from TV and the movies, but I can’t remember her name to save my life.

What was that movie she was in that I never really watched but I kept seeing trailers for it waaay back in 2005? Oh right. It was called “The House Bunny,” and sitting two stools to my left ordering a pinot grigio was none other than Anna Faris, well known actor and wife of the immensely popular Chris Pratt. I guess this is how the trip is going to start.

A few minutes go by and I can hear the dude next to me and her conversing and even though I’m not in the middle of the conversation, I really want to be, but how on earth do I segway myself into a private conversation between two total strangers at a bar in the airport? Does this guy even know who she is, and if so, is he ever going to let on? Not three minutes go by until she leans over, and asks the bald dude a question.

“Who’s your friend?” Anna asks as she motions to me.

At this point, the truth comes out that neither one of us know each other, but apparently, we are all about to. She introduced herself as “Ahh-Na,” not “Ann-uh” which I already know is the preferred pronunciation of her name because I watched that episode of Entourage when she played herself and crashed into the back of E’s car in the Hollywood Hills wearing nothing but a towel.

Anna is extremely nice and sweet and at this point me, Anna, and our new friend Dustin all clink our glasses and cheers and start having a three way conversation about life, love, and tattoos.

Anna is considering moving to Seattle and not living in L.A. anymore and she asks me why I chose to move up here and without letting on that I know who she is, I’m honest with her and I tell her hey, if you don’t need to be in L.A. or you can fly in when you have work, there is really no need to live there, especially since the air and the view in Seattle is a lot cleaner and healthier for your mind and body and soul.

We talk about Dustin’s job in Alaska on a oil rig and how it’s a difficult position to be in a truck with a guy for 14 hours a day in the middle of nowhere drilling for oil and whatever else riggers do. He’s a really nice dude and he tells a story about how he recently got divorced from his ex wife but they are still best friends and they have a 21 year old son. Anna chats about how she once worked the coldest job ever in Canada in a city called Regina.

“When I got there, I saw a billboard that read “Welcome to Regina. It rhymes with fun.”

Now we’re all laughing because we know Regina actually rhymes with vagina and I’m trying to figure out when the director is going to call cut because what is happening now reminds me of being in a movie where you meet a celebrity at a bar in Sea-Tac airport, but then I realize that this is just my life, drinking alcohol at 12:15pm with two strangers, one of whom happens to be famous.

Dustin takes out a picture of his son and somehow we start talking about tattoos and he shows me and Anna the ink his offspring just got. It’s a new school tattoo of a green alien sitting indian style on the floor wearing Birkenstocks and giving the double middle finger while a big fat joint protrudes from his mouth.

“Yeah, he’s gonna regret that one.” I say

And believe me, I would know because I have a tattoo that I wish I never got.

“Show us!” Anna says.

And this is the point when I caved into the pressure of my new friends at the bar and rolled up my left pant leg and showed them the most regrettable tattoo I have on my body. A cat getting electrocuted

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“Wow, what is it?” Anna asks as she pokes my leg with her finger, trying to figure out exactly what I’m showing her and I’m somewhere in between a little nervous that she just touched me in the worst tattoo ever, and slightly impressed that I currently have a celebrity poking my leg and none of us think this is weird at all.

I go on to tell her that when I was 18, I had a guy who used to do tattoos out of my kitchen back in Jersey and that I must have been pretty young and stupid at the time to get a multi-colored cat having electro shock therapy from sticking a fork in a power outlet.

“But you know what, you should never cover it up because it will always remind you not to make impulsive decisions in life.” Dustin says.

He’s absolutely right, and he makes a good point, and it’s at this time that Anna asks me why I’m going back to L.A. I tell her the truth because that’s what people do when they first meet each other in airpot bars and I explain how the last month in Seattle was kind of rough on me as I lost my cat and my ex within the same week, and before I know it I’m showing Dustin and Anna pictures of both of them. But what am I really doing in L.A.?

I’m going back to take care of an apartment I have had under my name since I moved to Seattle almost six months ago, and I’m going to see friends of mine who I’ve missed these last 180 days and who have been there for me for years. I’m going back to get a sense of where I came from and perhaps get an idea of where I’m headed next and believe me, even though Los Angeles can be a toxic city, I think I’m able now to avoid the toxicity of the Hills and the San Fernando valley even though the the news reports are saying not to be outside for very long because of the smoke from the wildfires.

It’s nearing the time that I have to board my flight, but if I can be totally honest I kind of want to miss it and continue this random conversation I’m having at a bar in Sea-Tac airport with an oil rigger and a comedic actress, but I know that there is something waiting for me 967 miles south of here.

I say goodbye to Dustin and I tell him it was nice to meet him, then Anna extends her hand and as I shake it she reminds me that her name is Anna, as if I still don’t know who she is, but perhaps she likes that level of anonymity, so I never let on that I know.

I grab my bags, wish them both good flights, and I head over to gate 38 and board the plane for Los Angeles, but not before I text three of my friends telling them that I haven’t even landed in Hollywood yet, but I already have a great L.A. story to tell them.

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Leaving Los Angeles

Another one of my friends left Los Angeles recently. One by one my small group of East coast transplants that were living in Hollywood with me since the early 2000’s have come to the decision that the city of Angels just isn’t for them anymore, myself included. I had my own reasons for leaving, but the similarities as to what life path we took after we moved have been astonishing.

It seems like all of my friends have moved away, found good jobs, a level of happiness, and have gotten married, had kids, or got “wifed up” since they left Southern California, and even though it was never my plan to follow suit, it appears that I’m well on my way.

I am an artistic and creative person at heart, but a part of me knew how difficult it is to swim in the shallow waters of Hollywood. You can have all the talent in the world, but in the last 5 years, being rich and famous for nothing, has become the new being rich and famous for something. After a mediocre amount of success that allowed me to pay my bills without having a “in the meantime” job, I had to go back to bartending and it made me feel like a failure, even though I know I’m not. It got tougher on me as I watched every one of the friends I love leave southern California only to meet someone special and start a new life with them, until I chose to do the same thing.

I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my new life in Seattle to be, and even though I’ve only been here a little over three months, it has all fallen into place like some form of poetic justice. Sometimes I wake up in disbelief of how easy it has been and how smoothly things have worked out, but then I remember to stop thinking like a negative fatalist and just accept the fact that perhaps this time the other shoe is never going to drop, because I won’t let it happen.

When I lived in L.A I was stressed out all the time, and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was sad and depressed more times than I was happy, and I got used to having panic attacks because I felt like that was just part of the game. I did it for so long because I really believed in what I wanted to do with my life, but it never dawned on me until recently that even if I DID succeed and I sold that TV show, or I DID land that big role on Criminal Minds, would I have really been happy with coming home to an empty apartment and no one to share my life with except for my cat?

Would I have been able to look into the eyes of my bank account and know that it loved me too?  Would I have gotten into my car and felt alive and free stuck in traffic going eight miles per hour on the 101 at 11:54 pm on a Wednesday night? Fuck no! There is nothing about any of those scenarios that would have made me happy if that turned out to be my life. I think I just needed to admit that to myself, even though I knew it all along.

I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience in L.A., but the reality is that those examples I mentioned were what I was looking forward to. How fucking dismal would that life have been? What does it say about me that I couldn’t wait for the day when I didn’t have to struggle to make ends meet, or how I couldn’t wait for the night when I finally felt validated for all the time and effort I put into my career? I deserve better than to look forward to a life that is defined by how much money I can make.

I know a select group of people who are more talented writers, actors, and producers than half of the people who are actually making a living from it, but it’s kind of morose that talent doesn’t get you very far in Hollywood. I don’t want to feel like I wasted my talent in life, but what if my talent is to do the right thing and be a good person? What if I could be the best at being a great husband to my wife, or being the father that I never had? What if those things mean more to me now than a fleeting chance at fame ever did?

Even at 40, I’m still growing up. As I have watched and continue to watch my friends leave that town to follow their heart, I can’t help but be proud of all of them, including myself. Believe me, I understand it takes a lot of perseverance to stay in Los Angeles and to follow your dreams even after you are repeatedly rejected and told no.  I wish nothing but success for my friends who are still there who I know are going to make it, yet, at the same time, I feel like it takes a shit ton of guts to look around at the palm trees, the pretty people, and the 334 days of sunshine and tell yourself that this just isn’t for me anymore.

For me, it’s pretty simple. I left L.A. because all I’ve ever wanted in life was to be happy. It’s just that for the longest time I thought happiness was one thing, when in reality it has turned out to be something else.  And that something else looks a lot like my life right now.

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California, Don’t Let Me Down.

I had always wanted to move to California ever since I was a 13 year old hanging from the rafters of my basement townhouse in southern New Jersey.  I knew I needed to be out there, but I didn’t know why, or what I was going to do once I got there.

Now, in six short months I will be celebrating my 13 year anniversary living in the Golden State, but if I can be completely honest, I still don’t know what I am doing here.

I know why I moved here, and I know that for a good handful of years I thought I had it all figured out. However, over the past six months my life has re-defined itself and made me re-think what I thought I knew to be truth.

I’ve entertained the idea of moving back to Seattle, where I lived for two years and loved, but I haven’t got a clue as to whether or not that is the right answer.  I’ve thought about starting over in a new place, but I’m almost at the age where starting over somewhere new seems immature, unpredictable, and too costly to my wallet and the people I’ve met in my little support group.

I’ve even thought about moving back home to the East Coast, but to me, that feels like I’m giving up on my dream.  Maybe it’s time to redefine that dream.

I want to stay here in California.  I love it here 98% of the time, and the other 2% I’m only complaining because it’s in my nature to do that when it’s 99 degrees in the middle of October and my A/C has been running since early September.

I’ve asked for guidance from the big spirit in the sky, and I’ve prayed for an answer to come because I just don’t know what to do anymore.

When I started this life out here, I knew it would bring me something I truly loved and believed in, but have I gotten so comfortable in the middle of my early-mid-life crisis that my not knowing what to do might have been covering my eyes from an answer that could have just passed me by?  I don’t think so, but how would I know?  Ignorance is bliss.

Things haven’t worked out the way I thought they would, but it can’t all be for nothing.  The premonitions I got back in ’88, ’92, & ’97 have promised me that there is something out here for me and there is a reason I am still here today.

There is no way I believe that my time here is in it’s twilight, because I won’t allow myself to think that way.  I believe in what I’m doing, and I believe it will all make sense if I just let it all go, and have a little faith.

California, don’t let me down.

Listening to:

 

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The Girl From California

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I met Kathryn in a chat room during the fall of 1994, some 21 years ago. We couldn’t text each other, because that technology didn’t exist. We couldn’t send each other a snapchat, cause that app hadn’t been invented yet. All we had was a 14400 bps dial up modem, a keyboard, a computer screen, 3000 miles in between us, and a little internet service we used called Prodigy.

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I was 18 years old, I just finished graduating from high school, but I didn’t immediately go to college. I decided to stay at home for a year and explore my options. One of those options was sitting in my Mom’s basement at night and going on-line and talking to people from all over the country. When I started talking to Kathryn, I never knew it would take me all the way to Southern California, but it certainly did just that.

After a few weeks of chatting online, we mailed each other pictures of ourselves. One day I opened up a letter with the postmark from La Jolla and I saw for the first time what this girl I had been talking to for weeks actually looked like. I was stunned. She was gorgeous. She was so much not what I thought a southern California girl would look like, which was blonde hair and a surfer vibe.  She looked so much better. She had light eyes, and dark flowing black hair and she had an edge to her that manifested in every other girl I have been drawn to. She was the mold that created the standard of the type of girl I am attracted to. Mysterious, dark, and edgy. When I looked at the pictures of her for the first time, I knew I had to meet her.

Financially, I was well off back then and I was a good embellisher, therefore I could afford to tell my Mom and my friends that I was planning a trip to California to “look at colleges” when in reality, I was flying there to meet her. I hadn’t been to Cali since the summer of 1987 with my family, but I figured I could make my way around with a keen sense of direction, and a little help from strangers. I boarded a plane at Philadelphia International Airport that was headed for San Francisco, and I never looked back.

I spent the first two days in San Fran walking around the city, pretending to be someone famous while eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, and bumming a ride off of a 56 year old man who I sat next to on the plane ride out. I had never been this far away from home by myself, and I was loving every minute of it.

After a few days of hanging out and not checking out a single college in the Bay Area, I flew down to Los Angeles where I stayed in a motel in Burbank where the Americana shopping center now is. I took a cab to USC, and walked around the campus, but I couldn’t get very far because I wasn’t a student there, so I grabbed some pamphlets, and I had the cab driver take me down Hollywood boulevard to see the stars’ hand prints in the cement on the sidewalk that I live half from a block from now.

It was all kind of surreal for me. I was 18, all by myself in the third largest state in the nation and even though I looked at UCLA later that afternoon, I knew I didn’t have the grades to get into ANY of these schools at all. I didn’t really have a game plan as to what I was supposed to do, or what I was going to do once I got to San Diego where Kathryn lived, but when my flight left LAX for the short trip south, I felt this sudden rush of nervousness mixed with complete and total confidence.

I arrived in San Diego, and I had rented a car from a place that allowed 18 year olds to rent cars back then. I don’t know how that worked exactly, but for a few hundred dollars I jumped into a black Chrysler LeBaron convertible, and I found my way to La Jolla where I checked into my hotel room at the Holiday Inn.

I called Kathryn around 4pm and she answered and was really excited to hear from me. I told her I was in La Jolla and she told me that she had school tomorrow, but she couldn’t wait to see me. We devised a plan where I would show up at her high school the next morning (yes, she was in high school at the time) and she would sneak out during 2nd period and we could go anywhere as long as she was back by noon. I was going to meet her later that night at her parents house for dinner, but a secret rendezvous in the middle of the day where we would have some unadulterated time together was exactly what teenage boys and girls dream of doing if the situation ever arises, and that’s exactly what we did.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early, had some breakfast, and drove a few miles to Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, and I waited. About five minutes later, I see her. She’s a tall, attractive brunette wearing a jean jacket and she makes her way down the quad, onto the sidewalk, and into my convertible which was parked on a street right outside her school. It was the first time we had seen each other in person. I was enamoured at her smile, stunned that our plan was working, and overjoyed that we had the next few hours to ourselves. We took off and headed back to La Jolla via the I-5 freeway.

Some asshole cut me off at some point on the ride back to the hotel and I gave him the finger out the window.

What are you doing? Don’t flip people off out here, they’ll shoot you.” Kathryn said to me as I changed lanes.

Apparently, it was true. A few months back someone was shot and killed on the freeway in California for doing exactly what I just did, giving someone the finger for doing something stupid while they were driving. Regardless, I kept my fingers to myself, turned off the freeway, and made our way back to my hotel room, which was the only place we could go to be alone.

We had talked about this a few weeks back. There was the obligatory sex conversation that occurred over the phone and in the private chat room we used to go to…….then back at the hotel room, the obligatory sex happened, for a full three seconds.

I wasn’t very good in bed that day, I realize this but it didn’t seem to matter. Kathryn was in high school, and I had just graduated, and neither one of us had a lot of sex beforehand to compare it to. Looking back now, I think the whole idea of this trip centered around the mystique of the two of us meeting each other in person, and not so much what happened when we met.

We put our clothes back on, talked for a little while, and then I dropped Kathryn back off at school, which DOES seem kind of weird now that I’m in my 30s and writing this. Still, I was going to see her later that night but I had some time to kill before dinner. So I did what anybody visiting Southern California would do in late 1994 when they had a few hours to kill would do. I drove to Mexico.

It was pretty easy getting across the border back then, it was slightly more difficult to get back, but still pretty easy. I remember driving into Tijuana, looking around at how impoverished the city was, and remarking at how every little Mexican person was trying to sell me a knock off Mighty Morphin Power Rangers doll. I wanted no part of it, because I hated the Power Rangers. They were campy, and I wasn’t into campy at that time. I was into flying across the country, lying to my Mom about my intentions, and aiding in the corruption of a sophomore in high school by coercing her to cut class and meet me for “lunch.”

As I made my way back to the United States, I gave a dollar to a little Mexican kid who cleaned my windshield, but in reality totally made it streaky and unable to see out of for the next 45 miles back to La Jolla. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any washer fluid in the car, but luckily, I had a convertible so I stuck my head out the side of the window and drove back to my hotel.

That night around 5pm I headed over to Kathryn’s house for dinner. She lived in a gated community somewhere on a hill in La Jolla. I drove up to the gate, hit a few buttons and made my way into the world of the white, rich and privileged.

I met her parents who were sweet enough to buy us some Chinese food for dinner, and then Kathryn and I went to the movies to see this new film every one was talking about called “Pulp Fiction.” I bought the tickets for me who was of legal age to see the movie and I handed one ticket off to Kathryn, who was NOT of legal age to see the movie. I was definitely racking up the unethical acts with her that day, but it didn’t seem to matter to either of us. I had to have her home by 10pm, which I did abide by. We went upstairs in her room and took a few pictures of me pretending to choke her which I now realize was a very strange thing to do, I know, but then we also took one of us making out while her cat laid on her bed in the background.  I stared into her eyes, and I ran my fingers through her hair, and I hoped and prayed that this wasn’t going to be the only time in my life that I would see her face to face.

KCI was leaving the next morning, headed back to NJ because as much as I loved being in California for a week, it costs a lot of money to stay in a hotel and rent a car. I said goodbye to Kathyrn that night, and we promised each other we would keep in touch and maybe, hopefully, I would find a college out there I wanted to go to. After all, she still had two years of high school, and I still had plenty of time to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

When I got back home, we talked almost every day online and we chatted on the phone twice a week. It was going really well, I mean as well as a 3000 mile long distance relationship could go. We talked about me moving out to California at some point, and we were planning to see each other again in a few months when the summer started and she would be out of school.

About a week or so later I logged on to Prodigy to talk to her, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. People didn’t have e-mails back then, so all I could do was wait and see if she showed up in one of the chat rooms. A couple days after not seeing her online, I tried calling her and left a message. Then I tried calling her again, and left another message. I never got a phone call back. I didn’t know what to think.

I knew something must have happened, but I didn’t know what. Did she get a boyfriend? Did she change her phone number and not tell me? Did she move out of the country for legal reasons? We did break a lot of rules when I went out and saw her, but I don’t think we did anything unconstitutional that could have resulted in her being legally banned from talking to me.  A week later, I got a letter from her in the mail.

I read the letter three times before I totally could comprehend what it said. As it turns out, Kathryn and her Mom went to the doctor for her yearly check up a week before. At the appointment, the doctor asked her if she had been sexually active in the last few months, and Kathryn just couldn’t lie. She told the doctor about the sex we had, and she told the doctor right in front of her mother who was absolutely livid…. at both of us.

Her parents took away her computer, told her to cut off all contact with me, and she was never allowed to talk to me again. In a way, I understood that, being that we undermined their trust and also the fact that she cut school, I took to an R-rated movie, and I was a little bit older than her and they probably saw me as a threat and as a bad influence on their teenage daughter.

I wrote a letter to her parents shortly thereafter and I apologized for what had happened and I begged them to let me talk to her again, but I never got a response back. In fact, I haven’t heard from Kathryn since that letter arrived at my house in the Spring of 1995.

I was depressed for a little bit. I really liked this girl, and not only was she beautiful and cool and witty, but she represented something bigger to me than just a girl from California that I met on the internet. She represented hope. She was a belief that maybe I could get out of NJ once and for all. Being that this was the mid 90s and meeting people off the internet wasn’t a popular or safe thing to do, it felt right and it made me feel like there was something special between us because I’ve always wondered about her and here I am writing a blog about her 21 years later.

There is a part of me that knows I didn’t do anything wrong, even though I knew some of what I did WAS wrong in the eyes of a parent. I really cared for her, and I took a chance and went for it. I wasn’t a scumbag or a kiddie corruptor, I was 18 years old, my heart was on my sleeve, and there I was sitting in the basement of my townhouse spending night after night becoming infatuated with the idea of love and how it brought me all the way from Marlton, NJ to Southern California. There is a part of me that forgives myself for being such a weirdo creep to her parents, and there is a part of me that still thinks about her as I write this from my one bedroom apartment 80 miles from where I picked her up that Wednesday afternoon in November of 1994.

My memory is pretty good, but 21 ago years is a long time to recall without the details becoming too cloudy. I remember she was the first girl I met off the internet, but she wouldn’t be the last. I remember how much fun we had for those few hours we were together, and I remember the weeks and months leading up to us meeting in person when I had so much confidence and never let a doubt creep into my mind about anything. But most of all, I remember that moment when I was able to combine the words she wrote me and the voice I heard on the phone to a picture she sent me that I stared at for hours. The first time I saw this picture, I couldn’t get a word out. I was speechless. Dark hair, light eyes, incredibly beautiful and edgy as fuck.  It’s no wonder that every girl I’ve fallen for since then has looked somewhat if not at least a little like Kathryn did.

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I wonder where she is today. 

myspacestarduster

Love of the Loveless

Ahhh, to be 29 years old again.  This one is from June of 2005.  I think I had just broken up with someone, somewhere and I was drinking my nights away and writing my thoughts down in HTML format.  Thanks to all my new followers and the people who pay attention. New stuff up next week, in the meantime this is “Love of the Loveless.”

(originally posted June 29th, 2005)

http://www.myspace.com/*starduster

This is the life I lead now….crossing fingers and wiping brows. It gets warm in my apartment even though the nighttime air blows in the window crisp and cool. I have no time to waste anymore and I’m feeling like a basket case lately.

The last fortnight I have been supplying my brain with televised scenes and video-taped dreams. I’m not sorry for being such a recluse and keeping to myself lately. This is what I go through a few times a year and I keep myself busy by drinking fermented grape juice and distilled vodka occasionally while I don’t dare answer my phone or venture much outside of my neighborhood.

If it weren’t for my meowing friend at my feet and the reflection I see every day I wouldn’t know that I was alive with feeling. I smiled twice today and I spoke less than four sentences to anyone who would listen. I’m pretty fucking proud of that fact too.

I know that the road is long and uphill, but I don’t want to give up just before I get there. I’ve never been in one place this long in the past five years and I’m starting to lose my spirit. I hear that voice inside my head say “don’t give up, you’re almost there,” …and I like it when I give myself something to live for.

These California girls are all the same. Loveless and longing for a reason to take something for granted. They can be my best friend or they can be my worst enemy, but either way they’re still a mystery that eludes me on a daily basis. Everyone wants to take you out except me. There’s something to be said about that.

Please describe yourself and make sure not to leave out important facts like “sometimes I like to be by myself and not say hello to anyone,” because that makes more sense to me than someone who is in a genuine good mood every day of their life.

Clues are too cool for the kids. I thought I told you that before.

So here I am in disgust and happenstance sitting in a chair I got for free, wishing that no one in the world is anything like me because I’d die if I knew I wasn’t an original bastard anymore.

I’m in love with the loveless.

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This is NOT “Pumpkin Spice” Weather

The last few mornings have started out the same way this week. I wake up on an inflatable mattress in my living room, I look over at the clock and I see that it is barely 9am. Then I roll over on my back and I look up at God and I wonder “at what time in the next few minutes will I start to uncharacteristically sweat today?”

Now I know what you must be thinking. Why Christian, would you be sleeping on a $35 Coleman blow up mattress when you have a perfectly comfortable six hundred dollar Sealy posture pedic queen size bed in your bedroom to sleep on? The answer is simple. There is no air conditioning in my bedroom, and we’re in the middle of a horrendous heat wave in L.A. and there is nothing I can do to change it.

Literally, there is nothing I can do other than set the A/C to 72 during the day, and 76 at night. Now, I know 76 degrees seems pretty comfortable, but when it’s 8:53 in the morning and I’ve made coffee and taken out the trash, and I’ve already started to prematurely drip of perspiration during those short 16 steps to the garbage chute, I’m turning the air conditioner on because it’s only going to get hotter today if it’s almost 80 degrees by 9am.

Time check: 9:13 am, 81 degrees Fahenheit. Yuck.

I figure I’ll head to the grocery store to stock up on some cooling products like watermelon and Gatorade because I know I’m going to need to hydrate and keep myself liqui-fied if I’m going to make it through this awful, awful day.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you who would kill to live in California and perhaps my complaining is falling on deaf ears. I get it. It’s normally really nice here almost every day, but these past few weeks have be excruciatingly difficult to endure. Lets not forget, this part of SoCal is pretty much a desert, followed by 20-25 miles of a tropical oasis called Los Angeles. Then the ocean.

End of Oasis.

So now, my whole schedule has to change just because of the fact that it might reach 100 degrees in “paradise” today.

I can’t walk to the gym because by the time I get there I’m too hot and tired to work out. If I do attempt to push myself during my elliptical training, then I’m faced with the daunting task of walking the mile back home in hotter temperatures than when I started. I don’t sleep very well in this weather, so I’m irritable, tired, and I feel like someone is slowly drying me out from the inside with one of those shammies you use on your car after you wash it. This weather is just sucking all the life-water out of my body.
So I make what I think is a great decision to head to Ralph’s for some liquid contraband, followed by what turns out to be a terrible decision, which is deciding to walk there.

It’s hot. With each step I feel my the muscles in my legs losing irrigation and I wonder if I’ll even make it to the grocery store without shriveling up and dying on the way there. With the sun beating down on my head and my body, I can’t even appreciate the fact that I might be getting a little tan on this walk to the store because I start to realize that the UV rays are so strong today that they may just bypass my epidermis and head straight for my blood stream, boiling it and me over onto Hollywood boulevard.

I see the Ralph’s a couple blocks ahead, and by some grace of God I make it there only to realize this trip is going to cost me an additional ten cents because I didn’t bring my eco-friendly reusable shopping bag. Oh well I think, that dime I found last night on the floor of my apartment will make up for this.

I walk into the store and I am greeted by a waft of cool air to my face, and the sounds of commerce in background soundtracked perfectly by the self checkout lane. I head to the produce section and pick up a personal watermelon which is on sale this week for $2.99 each. I grab one of those, and few bottles of electrolytes, and then I remember that tub of delicious hot salsa I had last week and I think to myself, perhaps I should pick up some dip and chips because maybe the only way to combat the heat outside, is to make my body just as hot inside? Does that even work? I think I’m going to find out.

I head to the self checkout, but before I make it there I see this one item that is just glaring at me from the seasonal aisle. There it is in all it’s mid-to late year glory, making a mockery of everything that has been going on outside in the 100 degrees of hell that I call my life. I can’t even believe that I see those two words on ANY label of ANY product at ANY time in this store. “Pumpkin Spice.”

Pumpkin fucking spice? Are you kidding me? This is NOT pumpkin spice weather outside! I don’t want to see anything relating to the Fall if I could buy an egg, crack it on the blacktop outside in the parking lot, and have breakfast ready for me in 90 seconds. You want me to buy pumpkin spice cupcakes? Give me a fucking break.

I know what happens next. I look around the store and suddenly I see bags of trick or treat candy falling off the shelves, just waiting to melt on the way back to the car. I see bottles of beer with their seasonal orange labels that advertise how they crushed up pumpkin seeds and filtered their hops and barely through them only to make the BEST pumpkin spice beer there is. It’ll all starts hitting me at once.

I’ll get home and I’ll turn on the TV and I’ll start seeing those ads for Halloween Horror nights at Six Flags, and those pop-up costume shops will start appearing in strip malls all over the Southland where old Blockbuster Videos used to be. It’s all so premature but that won’t stop Starbucks from jamming Pumpkin spice lattes down my throat, even though we all know they taste like shit!

It’s pushing 101 outside, yet everywhere I look advertisers are trying to tell me to think that it’s a cool 72 degrees and I should be wearing long-sleeves and getting my non-existent kids ready to go back to school. I’m not buying it. It’s only the beginning of September and there are almost three weeks until the Autumn equinox. It’s still goddamn summer outside and technically inside too, otherwise I wouldn’t need the air conditioning on from 8:45 in the morning to 11:57 at night!

Even though I’m a little bit pissy, slightly uncomfortable, and extremely edgy, I pick up the box of pumpkin spice cupcakes because A. I know they’re probably really good, and B. they are the last box left. I have a decision to make, and I make it in about 18 seconds. I know it doesn’t feel like Fall outside. I know there are no leaves on the ground, nor is there any rain in sight. California has two seasons: Summer, and the other one. That other one could easily mean, rain, snow, sleet, gloom, heat, wind or tranquility, at any time of the year with no rhyme or reason as to WHY. Is this the product of El Nino, or is it the feminine version La Nina? I don’t even fucking know.  What I do know is that I’m about to trick my body into thinking it’s Fall by purchasing my first pumpkin spice product of the year.

Regrettably, I grab the last container of seasonal cupcakes and I head to the self checkout. I purchase a bag for ten cents, and I proceed to buy my share of fruit, Gatorade, and an item that I don’t feel should be on the shelf right now, but I understand marketing and in some ways I’m a slave to it too. They got me.

It may be hot as hell outside, but when I’m eating these cupcakes in my 74 degree living room in a few minutes, I’m just going to take a bite and close my eyes and pretend like it’s cool and crisp outside and I’m back in New Jersey in the 1980s where right around this time every year I was getting ready for school and I would put away my shorts and t-shirts, and replace them with jeans and three quarter sleeve raglands. It’ll be good, I tell myself. It will feel like it’s really Fall, maybe. After all, football starts tonight, and that is one element of Autumn which I wouldn’t mind if it comes any earlier. Go Eagles!

I put my items in my paper bag, put on my sunglasses, and check my phone.

It reads: 99°F,  (feels like 97)

Oh ok. I’ll be fine then because it only “feels like” 97 degrees, and that temperature is so much more cooler than 99. Thank God for sarcasm. It’s the only thing aside from Thursday Night Football and these cupcakes that is going to help me get through this heat wave.

Man, how I miss sleeping in my own bed. Maybe next week.

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Joe & Nicola (Part 2)

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I woke up at 4am on the pull out couch in the motel, freezing and feeling like I slept with a rod up my back the whole night. It was still dark, and I was very uncomfortable, so I jumped in the bed which was slightly more comfortable, but filled with Tasha.

“Get out.” She said.

“I can’t sleep on that stupid couch. Move over.” I said.

Eventually, I dozed off and next thing I knew I woke up and it was 7am, I felt a little more rested, so I got dressed and headed to the Wawa for some coffee. The weather outside was ominous. It was overcast, wet, and I knew that Nicola’s biggest fear was going to come to true. She was going to have to have an indoor wedding. On the positive side, people say it’s lucky for it to rain on your wedding day. I mean, even Alanis Morrisette wrote a song called “Ironic” which states this idea, but there is a part of me that feels like even though it might be “good luck” for it to rain the day you get married, it’s certainly not what anybody hopes for. Regardless, I feel like at this point no amount of rain is going to stop this wedding from being the best day for Parr and Nicola.

To say Tasha and I were hungover would be an understatement. My body had somehow recovered from the pain I was in at the beginning of the trip, but now I was dealing with a whole new demon. I felt sick. Not like a fever, cold, or sneezing sick, like I was just faded and not feeling like I wanted to drink any amount of alcohol at all. It was then that Parr texted me and asked if we wanted to come over the house for breakfast and bloody marys.

“I can’t drink any alcohol now.” Tasha said to me.

“Me neither.” I replied.

Then about 8 seconds went by where we both looked at each other with the notion that we kind of needed to support our friend on the morning of his wedding.

“Let’s just go and have one drink.” I said.

“Ok, I’ll get dressed.” Tasha replied.

We came by Parr’s parents house and met up with him, Shaun, and Ron who were staying there, and Steve who showed up a few minutes after us for breakfast. Mr. & Mrs. Parr have been like parents to me. I’ve stayed at that house many times over the past few years, and I’ve drank with his family even more so. I love them. They are great people and sometimes I wish I was still living in NJ for that reason among others. It just feels like home. We all ate a little bit, thanked Mrs. Parr for making us food and then with the slightest amount of coaxing, we decided the next thing we should do is definitely to go across the street to the now defunct Woody’s Bar and have a few drinks with the Groom.

Here’s the funny thing about alcohol. You may feel like crap for a little bit the morning when you’re hung over, and you may think you want to take it easy and just drink some water and eat some food, but what your body really needs to recover…. is more alcohol. I am so glad I took a zantac to protect my stomach against the wrath of a tomato juice and vodka breakfast because by the time I ordered my third bloody mary, I felt great. We were laughing and having a good time and somehow we started talking about Parr’s groomsmen, the location of all of us at the alter, and the TV show Gilligan’s Island. This is where it just got silly.

At the end of the theme song, to Gilligan’s Island they introduce all the characters in the show. I’m sure you remember the tune…

”With Gilligan…..The Skipper too……The Millionaire, and his wife. The moooovie star….the Professor and Mary Anne! Here on Gilligan’s Isle!”

However, the FIRST season of Gilligan’s Island didn’t mention the Professor OR Mary Anne.  After “The movie star” it just goes “…and the rest!” It’s as if the Professor and Mary Anne are just so insignificant to the show that no one needs to know their names in the opening titles. We tried so hard to fit all of Parr’s groomsmen into the Gilligan’s Island theme song that morning, but it never worked out. We could only say three or four names before adding ”…and the rest” at the end. I know it’s stupid and silly and you probably aren’t laughing if you don’t get the joke…. but I guess you just had to be there and  had three or four bloody marys to appreciate the last paragraph that I wrote.

When we stepped outside of the bar that morning, it was pouring rain. Like a torrential downpour. There was no way to avoid an indoor wedding at this point. Mr. Parr gave me and Tasha some tips on how to get to Cape May using back roads and shortcuts so we thanked him, said goodbye to the boys for now, and went back to the Lollipop to pack up our shit and head to Congress Hall. We left the motel around 1:30pm so we could arrive in Cape May at the Hotel before 3pm to check in and get ready. I had our bags and my tux all packed up in the car, and I followed Mr. Parr’s directions all the way to Cape May. There was just one slight problem.

The backroads of North Wildwood were easy to maneuver through, however once we got into  Wildwood Crest, the roads were suddenly blockaded by a large amount of rainwater that had pooled up in the intersection like a small pond. There was nowhere to go other than right through it, but the issue I was having was being able to drive though it in my medium sized rental car without stalling out, and without another car driving though in the opposite direction and splashing water up on the hood of the car at the same time. We had made it though a few small sized puddles, but there was this big one coming up ahead, and sure enough in the other lane was an SUV who was going 30 mph and didn’t give a shit.

I did the only thing I could do in this situation that I hoped would work….I gunned it straight into the water hazard and kept my foot on the gas the whole time. The car started to sputter, the SUV splashed all over us just like I thought it would, and my fear of us being stranded in the middle of the road in a three foot deep hole of water was almost realized, but luckily it never quite manifested. Somehow, and by some miracle, we made it to the other side of the intersection with nothing but dry asphalt ahead.

A little further down the road we had to cross this rickety old toll bridge and give the guy 35 cents to get to the other side. It wasn’t raining anymore, but the clouds in the sky definitely weren’t looking like they were going to break free and let the sun in anytime soon, and when we arrived at Congress Hall ten minutes later, it was official….the wedding was taking place indoors. I could tell by the look on Nicola’s face that she was disappointed, but at the same time, years from now when we’re all grown up, no one is going to remember that it should have taken place outside. Instead they’ll remember how gorgeous she looked in her gown walking down the aisle, how much fun we all had at the reception, and how her and Parr and her son Giann became a family.

Oh wait, did I not mention that Nicola has a son from a previous relationship yet? Well, she does, and he’s a pretty awesome dude. That day Parr was not only becoming a husband for the first time, he was becoming a step-father too. I’ve known this kid, meaning Parr since he was a teenager, and a part of me never thought he would get married, let alone get married to a woman who had a son. I know all too well that level of responsibility and what it takes from someone to commit themselves to a family situation and I know first hand from my own childhood that sometimes it isn’t easy and unfortunately I also know what it’s like when a father figure comes into your life, and doesn’t want to stick around for the long haul. Yet, as we get older and mature, our wants and our needs change and sometimes we grow up to be better people and better parents than the ones that came before us because we learn what we want, from finding out what we don’t want.

Unlike my step father, Parr wants that level of responsibility and I know he can handle it because he’s one of my best friends and I know he’ll be good at it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like dudes sit around drinking beers telling each other how much they love their girlfriends and how they can’t wait to marry them. That just doesn’t happen in my world. But I could see first hand that day how much he loved Nicola and Giann just from the smile on his face when he saw them walking down the aisle. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Before the ceremony, all the groomsman got dressed and gathered in Parr’s room to have a few drinks together and put the finishing touches on our tuxedos. I guess there is something that runs in Parr’s family that prohibits him and his brother Shaun from understanding how to put cuff links and tie tacks on, because at every wedding I’ve been to with either of them, someone else has to help them dress. So, Adam took care of the Groom, and I took care of the Best Man, and I gotta say I think we did a damn good job in the process.

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After we were all dressed and looking spiffy, the groomsman and bridesmaids filtered into the hallway one by one to make our procession into room filled with guests where we would proceed to take six steps, turn right, take six or seven more steps and then part ways at the alter in the correct order we were supposed to be in. Parr and Nicola followed, and then Giann, the ring bearer strutted his way down the aisle in his pint sized tuxedo and sneakers. It says I’m taking this seriously, but I’m a kid and I wear sneakers so I’m not taking it THAT seriously.

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The ceremony was from 4:30-5pm, but I think we got through it in about 22 minutes thanks to Nicola wanting to have a brief wedding, and Chad being able to speak quickly and efficiently, and everyone being aware of where they were supposed to be, and who they were supposed to be with. He said “I do,” she said “I do,” and everyone applauded and snapped photos as Parr, Nicola and Giann were officially a family. I mean, just look how jazzed Parr is in this picture. He’s even giving a fist pump.

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The guests made their way into the Boiler Room for cocktail hour which was technically a bar downstairs and not a real boiler room like you would automatically think. The wedding party stayed upstairs to take pictures and get drinks from the bar because now that the wedding was over, the REAL party was about to begin. Before all the food and the dancing and the selfie taking was to happen, we needed to snap a few real photos for posterity and I think we nailed it.

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We mingled downstairs for awhile with all of the guests and gorged ourselves on a plethora of appetizers which included all the classic Italian specialties like garlic bread, a pasta bar, and deli meats and cheeses. It was obvious from the lack of potatoes and cabbage that no Irish person had any say in the spread of food that afternoon. I stayed close to the “Marlton” corner of the room where everyone who I’ve ever known from high school who came to the wedding was hanging out together and catching up with each other until it was time for the guests to take their seats upstairs and for the wedding party to be announced leading all the way up to the Bride and Groom. One by one each groomsman made our way into the dining hall onto the dance floor with a bridesmaid in one arm, and a cocktail in the other. I don’t think Parr would have wanted it any other way. At this point in the night, I had the bridesmaid on my arm, I didn’t feel sick, I had no qualms about drinking more alcohol, and just like those stupid Bud Light commercials, I was up for whatever happens next, or so I thought.

We all found our tables which were aptly named for different cities along the Jersey shore. There was L.B.I., Ocean City, Wildwood….and the rest. Then there was the Seaside Heights table where I sat with Tasha, Chad & Mary, Gary & Desiree, P-Nut & Efia, Jenna & Tim, and Woofy. Now, I hadn’t seen Woofy for like 15 years. In fact, no one had seen him in that amount of time. Pretty much after he graduated college in Rhode Island he got a job and met a woman in Massachusetts and married her and spent the last two decades or so in obscurity. He also dated Jenna at one time who was sitting right next to him at the table who he hadn’t spoken to in forever, and Jenna had also dated Chad for many years going back to the mid 1990s. I guess it was not a coincidence that they all ended up at the Seaside Heights table which ironically was the exact name of the beach city where 5 seasons of the reality show “Jersey Shore” took place. I still don’t know if it was a joke by the Bride and Groom or if that’s just the table where Woofy ended up but either way, I found it very amusing.

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The dinner service was underway and Shaun was on the mic saying some kind words to his brother and his new sister-in-law. I had a few things I wanted to say too, and I even wrote them down on a piece of paper and brought it with me that night, but I never got a chance to go up there. I figure whatever I wanted to say then that I didn’t get a chance to say, I have said so far in this blog, but I had a another moment planned that I got a chance to execute and Jenna caught on video.

Goodfellas is our favorite movie. Hands down it is the one film Parr, Shaun, and Gary and I have probably watched 1000 times and have quoted it over and over again to each other. There’s a scene in the movie where Henry and Karen get married and all their friends and family walk up to them, and hand them a wedding gift which in this scene turns out to be multiple envelopes filled with cash. During the film there is a jump cut of all these envelopes filled with Benjamins being handed over to them, and there is one huge, fat, thick envelope the size of a brick that one of the guests places in Henry’s hand. I wanted to re-create that scene for Parr at his wedding, but Tasha and I are hardly rich enough to put THAT many hundred dollar bills in an envelope. However, we COULD afford to take a hundred ONE dollar bills, stuff them into an envelope and walk up to Parr and Nicola and tell them “Here’s a little something to help you get started,” Just like Pauly does in the movie. You can watch that video here.

After most of the eating was done, the deejay started up the night of music and rug cutting with the first dance starring the new couple Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Carr, and son. I snapped this pic with my shitty camera phone, and even though it’s not very crisp or clear I think it says all there needs to say about these three.

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The next two hours were pretty epic. Parr and Nicola had the most amount of guests dancing together at one time at any wedding I had been to. I mean it was like god damn American Bandstand that night. Old people dancing, young people dancing, people who didn’t even know how to dance were dancing. At one point I even slid across the floor on my knees during a Michael Jackson song and looking back now I could have seriously injured myself, but I didn’t care. I danced with Maggie, I danced with Tasha, I danced with Mary, Parr, Shaun and Gary. People were raising the roof, picking up change, and I think at one point Chad started to do the running man. I was having such a good time, when I turned around and there was the bridesmaid I had been paired up with looking at me like she had an agenda.

Wanna get a drink?” She asked.

Now, when you’re a little bit drunk and a pretty blonde girl at a wedding who you just happened to be paired up asks you to get a drink, there is only one response that you should ever give, and this is what I said to her…

“Absolutely I do.”

“Let’s do a shot” She said.

“Ok. Can we get two kamikazes?” I asked the bartender.

Now I know what you’re thinking…. Who the hell orders kamakazes anymore right? Well, I’m not a big shot guy unless of course it’s tequila or sometimes whiskey, and I had been drinking vodka all night so I thought I should stay on the same train.

“Can’t give out shots tonight.” He replied.

What the fuck was that about? No shots? I thought this was a Irish-Italian wedding?

“Let’s go to the other bar,” She said.

So we made our way to the other bar across the dance floor, took two shots and I threw the bartender a few dollars for hooking us up. Next thing I know I’m outside with the bridesmaid having a cigarette and talking. I told her I was from California, and she started telling me about how she’s been dating this guy who she met at work and how he wants to marry her and she thinks it’s a good idea because she has a son at home, but she also doesn’t even like the guy who she is currently dating. She also mentions that she just had surgery and is currently on some sort of medication. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure drinking alcohol and taking pain meds is NOT a good combination. Don’t they have warning labels for stuff like that?

She went on to say her boyfriend is a pit boss at a casino in Atlantic City, where she deals blackjack and that he offered her a new job at a casino in Delaware and he wants her to move down there with him and get married. So, me being an idiot and painfully honest like I am, told her that if she really isn’t into him, then she probably shouldn’t accept the job, and furthermore she probably shouldn’t be dating him if she doesn’t even like him. Look, I’m always going to tell people the truth of what I think, even if it’s not what they want to hear. Otherwise what kind of a person would I be?

“He didn’t come with you to the wedding?” I asked

“No, he’s here.” She replied.

Wait, at THIS wedding?” I asked.

“Yeah.” She said.

Great. All I need now is some big fat six foot nine pissed off burly pit boss from the Taj Mahal beating the shit out of me at my best friend’s wedding for talking to his girlfriend who doesn’t really like him, and probably sees me as the catalyst to the eventual fight they will get into later on that evening.

“Let’s go back inside.” I say.

“I’m not finished my cigarette.” She says.

“Well I am, so I’ll see you later.”

I was right to get out of there. This girl may have been cute and sweet, but she was bad news. There is NOTHING about what she just told me that appealed to me in any way shape or form. I made my way back into the dance hall and spent the rest of the time dancing around with Parr and Mary and Tasha and Maggie and Chad and everybody else who didn’t come to the wedding with pit boss boyfriends that they don’t like.

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Everyone was having a really good time but before we knew it, it was late, the deejay was spinning his last song, and the wedding of Joe and Nicola was coming to an end. We all stood around after the music had stopped, I grabbed my coat and stole the picture frame from our table that said Seaside Heights on it and was almost ready to call it a night when I see Chad who runs into the wedding hall and tells us how he had been downstairs the last half hour in the Boiler Room which was now rocking and rolling with a live band and room full of people.

Here comes the afterparty…..

First thing I did was grab the key to the room from Tasha and I went upstairs to change, wash my face, spray myself with more cologne, and then I headed back downstairs to the Boiler Room. I could hear the music from the stairwell, and right around the time that I walked into the bar, I see Nicola with a concerned look on her face. I grabbed Parr and asked him what was going on, but I think I already knew.

“The bridesmaid’s boyfriend is here. He got into it with her and I guess he’s pissed.” Parr said.

“At me?” I asked.

I didn’t even need to hear the answer to that question. This is so not what I wanted to have happen at their wedding, but what was I going to do? Hide in my hotel room the rest of the night?

“Fuck that, he’s an idiot and he’s not going to do anything with all of us here. Don’t even worry about it.” Parr said.

And I didn’t worry about it one bit. I just got myself a beer, and went out to the dance floor and we all kept the party going to the cool sounds of 70s and 80s music from a live band who were really good and really tight. A few songs later I saw the bridesmaid enter the bar. She looked a little sad and I kind of felt bad for her. No one wants to be depressed  at a wedding so I bought her a drink and brought her onto the dance floor into the crowd of my friends.

“I broke up with him.” She said.

“For real?” I asked.

“Yep.” She said with a smile.

What did that mean? Did she really break up with him? Did I cause this to happen? Was it something I said outside? Was this some sort of play to make him jealous and more pissed off? I mean, I would have said the same thing to anyone who told me they were in a relationship with someone they didn’t like. I don’t even know this guy but now, I kind of felt bad for HIM, wherever he was.

“He’s right there.” She said.

Then I look up, and there he is leaning on the stairwell watching this all happen, but specifically shooting hate rays with his eyes directly at me and the bridesmaid. He was barely 5 foot 5, slightly overweight, and he had this really gross stringy black hair and the creepiest look on his face. If there was anyone at that wedding that fit the profile of someone who would have stayed at the Lollipop motel that night, it would have been him. Instantaneously, I stopped feeling bad for him. This chick was WAAAY out of his league, and to be honest this whole scenario was way out of my comfort zone.

I’ll be right back.” I said.

And with statement, that I made my way to the far back end of the bar where Steve, Adam and Maggie were hanging out, under the air conditioner and far away from the drama on the dance floor. I took a seat next to Maggie at the bar and started talking to them about what just happened. The last hour was just an absolutely insane experience. I mean, who breaks up with their boyfriend at a wedding in Jersey because some groomsman you were paired up with who’s name you probably don’t even remember said that you shouldn’t be in relationship if you didn’t really like the guy? Has NO ONE else ever said that to her? Can I get her to do anything else tonight by just telling her what I think? Like maybe she should quit her job and move to California to be with me, but before she does, I want her to rob a bank and murder all my enemies along the way, and just so you know, that’s a few more people now than it was last year. I know she didn’t do it for me, but man…. it’s just so fucking crazy.

I went on for a little bit joking around and recapping the highlights of the night with the boys, and then Adam decided it would be a good idea to leave me and Maggie alone and head to another part of the bar. Damn, we were getting match-maked on both ends. I talked with her for awhile and we had couple drinks and we took a handful of selfies, a few of which Chad photobombed and yeah, we made out a little bit. I mean come on, it was bound to happen. She was wearing this cute little superman tank top that night and my ex girlfriend and her best guy friend were pushing us together through no fault of our own since the night before.

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She looked good that night and I told her that. I think we had always liked each other but the timing was never right, and to be honest this was the only opportunity we would have. It was almost 2am, and the bartender did last call, so we ordered two more beers, paid the tab, and then Maggie and I started to walk back to her room upstairs, when out of nowhere, the bridesmaid and her friend cuts us off.

“Ready to go upstairs?” The bridesmaid asked.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I mean first of all, this girl had some balls inviting me to go upstairs to her room with her and her friend after what had happened that night, and especially right in front of Maggie. This kind of stuff never happens to me. I looked at the bridesmaid, then looked at Maggie, then turned back to the bridesmaid, and I said with a smile.

“I don’t think so.”

Maggie and I walked past the girls, went up the stairs and into the hotel lobby and up a few more stairs until we found a place to sit down and finish the last beer of the night.  The truth is, we couldn’t go anywhere because I was staying in a room with Tasha, and she was staying in a room with Adam. What were we going to do? Knock on the door of one of the rooms and ask our friends to hang out in the hall for twenty minutes so we could bang each other? That just wouldn’t be right, so we did the only thing we could do for the next forty-five minutes we made out on a white couch on the third floor of the hotel in front of the elevator while we took little breaks to talk and drink our beers.

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That’s where it all went down. Compared to the last wedding I went to where both Tasha and I hooked up with someone else, this seemed to happen a little more naturally, with a little more help from everyone, and of course without me vomiting in my suit.  Eventually, I said goodnight to Maggie and we both went our separate ways into our separate hotel rooms and eventually, fell asleep.

I really had a blast at Parr and Nicola’s wedding, and I got to be honest, it was hard to fit all of what happened into a two part story. I wish there was more to tell, but these are the highlights as I remembered them.  I’ve never been more happy for Parr then on this day.  I was proud of him.  He now has a beautiful Italian wife, and an incredible son to call his own, and I know he’ll be the best husband and Dad he could ever be.  I guess Parr’s all growns up now.

The next morning, it was bright and sunny, which meant of course the ONLY day it rained that weekend was the day Parr and Nicola got married, but maybe that’s good luck. Tasha and I had a plane to catch back to L.A., so we packed up our bags, said our goodbyes and headed back to Philly to drop off the rental car and catch our flight by 4pm.

“That was a great time.”  Tasha said.

“It was.”  I replied.  “Hey, thanks for being a good friend.”

“And not a blocker of cock?”  She asked.

“Yeah, that too.” I said.

As the airplane started to taxi down the runway, I put on a movie and my headphones and thought about the last few days.  I wish we could have stayed longer, and I wish that every wedding had an afterparty, but most importantly, I wish that everyone had a such good friends like the ones I have.  They look out for me like family.

Epilogue:

I guess this is the part of the story where I think back to how it all happened 8 years ago when I met this girl at a wedding and her and I would go on to date for two years, love each other, break up with each other multiple times, share two cats, a rabbit, and three apartments together all while somehow becoming best friends and business partners who created a TV show pilot and attended 7 weddings together over the past 8 years. It may sometimes have been stressful, but I don’t regret anything that has happened since I met her. I might have done things a little differently early on in our relationship, but ultimately we weren’t meant to be together in that way. We both know that now.

Something happened to me while I writing this blog. Over the past twelve weeks I have spent at least three or four days working on every entry, reminiscing about the good times I’ve had at my friends weddings and what it was like to see them all grow up and witness their love first hand and literally be a part of it for one day. It’s been a great feeling because every wedding I’ve attended and have written about has brought me closer to the realization that I never thought I would say in writing let alone out loud, but here it goes.

I’m going to get married someday. I’m going to meet someone that I can love and share my life with, regardless of how much work it might be, regardless of what I thought in the past. Love has always eluded me, or love has disappeared or it doesn’t reciprocate, or it changes form, or sometimes, I just fuck it up because I’m scared. But I’m not scared anymore. I know that there’s someone out there who is the perfect match for me, and I’ll meet her one day, but to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I’ve already met her.

In the year since the last wedding we attended, Tasha and I have remained good friends, but we don’t live together anymore. We’re still working on selling the show and we have a pretty big meeting coming up next week with a pretty big manager who has the power to take our show to the next level. I mean like network next level, not some crappy start up cable bullshit like before. It’s our third meeting with him since October of last year, so maybe this is it.

In the meantime, I wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time over the last few weeks to read this blog. With the exception of the proverbial lawsuit that never happened, people have told me they really enjoyed it, and I wanted to extend my regards to everyone who has commented, texted, shared, or retweeted it. I truly appreciate it, and a special thanks to all my friends who let me use their first and sometimes last names in the process.

In the very first entry of this blog, I wrote:

“as I’ve gotten older I keep getting these save the date cards in the mail and I keep watching my best friends get married and I keep attending these weddings with the same woman that I haven’t dated since 2009.”

So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is one more save the date, one more best friend, and one more wedding we have left to attend……

Gary Des

(to be continued…)

See you in a month.

Next Wedding:  Late July 2015

Follow on Twitter @CMarc333

Joe & Nicola (Part 1)

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It was the weekend of May 16th, 2014 and Tasha and I were in New Jersey to attend the rehearsal and wedding of one of my best friends from high school, Joseph T. Carr, aka Parr, aka “Mouse” which no one ever referred to him by, except for some girl from elementary school who called him that all the way up to his graduation day. First of all, I sincerely hope that the use of Parr’s full name and moniker just now doesn’t constitute a lawsuit from him, because if you’ve been keeping tabs on some of the ridiculous events that transpired since the start of this blog, writing that you don’t like someone and mentioning a silly nickname you had for them in high school is apparently cyber-bullying and grounds for defamation of character. But, since I like Parr and we’re friends, I’m not expecting to be served with papers anytime soon.

Parr had found someone really special a few years back when he met in my opinion the sweetest, coolest, greatest girl he’d ever dated… the one, the only, & most importantly Italian, (and therefore BEST) counterpart to his flagrant Irish personality, Nicola. I kind of knew from the first time I met her that she was going to be the one for him. She’s cool, laid back, beautiful, and she’s not crazy. Truth is, every Italian from Jersey has the capability to be crazy, myself included, but instead of crazy I like to use the word “passionate.” Nicola was passionately in love with Parr, and I was more than passionately happy to be a groomsman at their wedding. As it turns out, it would end up being one of the most memorable and slightly dramatic nights of my life, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

I met Parr way back in the early 1990s. I probably hung out with him the most back in the day and it wasn’t only because he is so god damn good looking, we had a lot in common. Look, I’m not gay, but I got to be honest, if I WERE to cross over to the “pride side,” I’d definitely get it on with Parr. I think most guys would have. He’s fun, charismatic, and for a short amount of time he closely resembled Bille Joe Armstrong from Green Day. I think we started hanging out sometime when my friendships with Chad, Gary, Boner and P-Nut were kind of on the rocks, because I did something really stupid and immature to one of them.

I wasn’t a fuck up per se, I just didn’t understand common courtesy. Moreover, I knew nothing of how to cultivate good lasting male friendships, (thank you very much step father who left me and my mom at my 8th grade graduation) So I started over with a new group of guy friends including Parr, Bezanis, Woofy, and Ian who no one has heard from since the late 1990s. Eventually, I was able to mend my friendships with Chad and P-Nut, but Boner and I never really saw eye to eye after that time. It’s probably for the best anyway. I never could tell what that guy was talking about. He used to tell this story about how the FBI confiscated his computer in the 1980s because he apparently hacked into some government mainframe. I believed him at first, but then I realized how similar Boner’s FBI story was to the premise for the movie War Games. He probably made all that shit up, especially the story he told everyone about how he had dated my sister, that is of course until my sister denied it to Chad and Boner was called out.

Anyway, Chad, P-Nut, and Gary had gotten over it, which led to the melding of two groups of my guy friends that I have known since sophomore year. Like I said in previous blogs, I love these guys, and it was an honor to be part of their wedding(s) Joe (who?) and Nicola were getting married in Cape May NJ that weekend, so Tasha and I boarded a Virgin America flight in L.A. a few days before and flew all the way to Philadelphia International. I was actually a little sick on the flight out there. Sometimes when I go home, I get nervous and anxious and I had recently pulled a muscle in my shoulder which was really hurting me at the time. I couldn’t even hold a coffee cup in my left hand without feeling some level of discomfort. I’ll tell you man, getting old sucks.

Before we drove into Jersey, Tasha and I had spent the last six months shooting, and editing sizzle reels, teasers and the pilot episode of our project that used to be a web series, but had now been developed in to a 22 minute TV sitcom, Trent & Tilly. We had been meeting with a start-up cable network over the last six months who loved our idea, and who signed us to a contract to produce and air it on their channel. We did a table read, a photo shoot, attended some events and gave some interviews and we even brought in a few C-list celebs to be cast in the two supporting roles opposite us. Things appeared to be going good, except here’s the thing about Hollywood. It’s nothing until it’s something, which basically means, that contract we signed doesn’t mean anything until we have that check in our hand. And even though this network was supportive and really believed in us and our idea, because they couldn’t come up with the purchase price of the show within 45 days of signing the contract, the agreement was null and void and the ownership of the show reverted back to us. So being the innovative creators we are, we shot the pilot ourselves using our own money and slapped together a sizzle reel, a one sheet, and our agents were sending it out to networks and it was just a matter of time before it was sold and me and Tasha were millionaires and subsequently considered an “overnight success.” We knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when and how. I mean, why else had we put ourselves through hell, and why else were we exes still living together in a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood, and why else were we able to find a way to use that uncomfortably awkward situation and write it into one of the premises for the show? It can’t all be for nothing.

We landed in Philly, drove over to Jersey, got a hotel room in Mt. Laurel and spent the first couple days hanging with my mom and my sister, finishing off two bottles of wine at the Carrabba’s on route 73 in Marlton while catching up. The wedding was taking place at Congress Hall in Cape May so after a few days on the main land we headed down the shore to meet up with the wedding party at the hotel for the rehearsal on Thursday afternoon. Congress Hall was epic. It’s this huge old historic boarding house from the 1800’s that is located directly on the beach in Cape May. It had a bunch of rooms, a bar, a view of the ocean, and an underground speakeasy where we would eventually congregate after the wedding where some, if not all of the shit would go down. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but bear with me. This is my last blog, and I gotta build the suspense.

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Un like that picture, the forecast was for rain on Friday, which by the look on Nicola’s face, clearly sucked. She wanted an outdoor wedding, and who doesn’t? Currently, it was sunny and bright that afternoon on Thursday in May and the wedding party practiced our procession indoors, just in case the wedding got rained out. Parr and I and the rest of groomsmen had gotten our tuxes from Men’s Warehouse which did NOT fuck up the order unlike Jos. A Bank from such previous events as P-Nut and Efia’s wedding. This time around, Chad was again the aficionado of ceremonies, and me, Gary, Steve, Ron, Adam and P-Nut were the groomsmen. His brother Shaun was the best man, and of course we were all paired with bridesmaids to walk down the aisle with. My bridesmaid was pretty, and some might say that our pairing was the catalyst that lead to the unearthing of some chaotic events the next night, but for now, let’s just imagine us all rehearsing in jeans and tee shirts and everybody getting along and no drama to be experienced, yet.

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Everyone in the wedding party on the Groom’s side had one thing in common. We all worked at the TGI Fridays in Marlton on route 73 at some point in our lives. With the exception of Shaun, everyone was at one time either a busser, a waiter, or a bartender. Gary got me the job in ’96, when Steve was already working there, P-Nut followed suit and was hired a few months after me, then after I got fired in ’98 for reasons that shall not be discussed, Parr got hired as a waiter, Chad worked there for a minute as a bus boy and hated it because if you know Chad then you know that he is NOT the poster boy for manual labor. In the years after I moved to Seattle, Parr continued to work there when Adam and Ron were hired so it was not ironic at all that a lot of the guests at the wedding were at one time part of the Friday’s crew.

Back to the rehearsal, we were all gathered in this small stuffy hallway with the drinks we got from the bar before we started proceeding down the aisle in a very odd format. Steve and Ron went first, building from the outside in, followed by me, then P-Nut, then Adam, then Gary which put Gary closest to the Groom, and by that rationale made Steve furthest from the groom.

Wait a minute, I look like Parr’s worst friend! Steve said.

This is where the groomsman location theory came about. Out of all of us, Steve and Ron should have been closer to the groom being that Parr lived with Ron for years, and hangs out with Steve on a regular basis. Shaun is Parr’s brother and isn’t going anywhere, I was smack dab in the middle, so any adjustments to the first two, or the last two wouldn’t affect me at all, so after Parr mentioned this to the wedding planner we all had to start over.  So, while the other guests were in the bar having many drinks, the groomsmen and the bridesmaids went back to the hallway outside the room, grabbed the cocktails and beers we had set down on the stairs before the FIRST rehearsal, finished them, and then proceeded into the room for the second rehearsal, this time in correct order. After we rehearsed the walking to the alter, which didn’t really exist, and the reciting of the vows which were sweet and to the point, but didn’t really mean anything yet, we were released from the muggy convention room and we all headed to the bar for more drinks.

Tasha was sitting at the bar taking selfies with all the girls who weren’t bridesmaids at the wedding which included Efia, Desiree/Destiny and Maggie. I found Tasha’s old sim card in the drawer today and came up with these gems.  She sure loves her selfies….

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I had met Maggie a few years back in 2011 when I came home for the Eagles game/Irish weekend in Wildwood. I had a little crush on her, but it never really amounted to anything because A, she had a boyfriend at the time and B, she lived 3000 miles away in Jersey.  Of course and not ironically, Maggie also worked at the TGI Friday’s in Marlton for awhile and became really good friends with Parr, Adam and Ron. Maggie had sent me a Facebook message a week before the wedding asking me to save her a dance, but when I saw her commiserating with Tasha at the bar I started to wonder A. What were they talking about and B. is this is going to turn into a classic “cock block” situation.

The upside to having a best friend/business partner who is both smart and hot is that it works wonders when dealing with business stuff in a male dominated environment such as Hollywood. She does all the talking sometimes because she is charming and men like a woman who knows her shit. The downside to having a best friend/business partner who is both smart and hot is that every where I go with her, people assume we are boyfriend/girlfriend, so I never get hit on by any other woman. Tasha is sometimes what I like to consider a cock blocker through no fault of her own. It’s not her fault that chicks don’t talk to me when I’m with her, but it’s also her being “with me” that is the fault of why chicks don’t talk to me when I am. Regardless, I said hello to Maggie and a bunch of other guests that had arrived at the bar, and then I pulled Tasha aside.

“Talking to Maggie huh? How’s that going?” I asked.

She’s sweet.” She replied. “I told her we’re not together.

Really?” I said. “I just thought it would be a classic cock block situation.”

On the contrary I let her know it’s cool, so in a sense I’m cock allowing.” she stated

I don’t think that’s the way you say that.” I replied.

I’m allowing cock into your life.” She said.

That’s worse than the first thing you said!” I stated.

I knew what she was trying to say, I just don’t think there is a definitive term that means “not” cock blocking someone, but I thought it was nice that at least she was putting in some good words. I got to be honest, it’s kind of weird when your ex-girlfriend is trying to play matchmaker at your best friend’s wedding, especially since we had been sharing a hotel room for the past three days and that trend will continue tonight and tomorrow.

The last wedding we went to left me with a strange taste in my mouth, and I mean that both literally because I rolfed that night, but also figuratively because I wasn’t sure what to make of all this. We were in some kind of unchartered territory, but I would like to think our friendship has evolved past the point of jealousy, meaning that I’m cool if she hooks up, and she’s cool if I hook up, but I get the feeling that even though both of us are cool like that, neither one of us would actually want to witness the hook up first hand.

After about an hour of drinking and snacking from the bowl of pretzels and spicy crackers at the bar, the guests were getting ready to head to the Bayview in Wildwood for the rehearsal dinner, even though it wasn’t really going to be a traditional dinner. It was more like a bunch of Parr and Nicola’s friends getting drunk and eating bar food together the night before the wedding. Tasha and I headed back to the car which I had illegally parked somewhere on the backlot of the hotel, but before we made our way to the bar, we had to drive back to North Wildwood, otherwise known as “NoWo” to check into our room for the night at the Lollipop, otherwise known as that outrageous looking rainbow colored motel on the corner of 23rd and Atlantic whose main sign shows two close-up drawings of these random blonde haired creepy little kid faces. You see what I mean?

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I had booked the motel last minute because we needed a place to stay that was close to Cape May, but not actually in Cape May because of the location of the Bayview. The motel was close to Parr’s parents house, and even though it got a bad reputation because it looks likes it’s the perfect place for a pedophile to hang out, I went ahead and took a chance. Steve booked a room there too, but he went straight to the bar first. We got to the motel office and opened the door and went in. In the office were some pamphlets, a few pictures of local sights like the boardwalk and the pier, and a couple house plants. I heard the sound of the TV from this back room connected to the office covered by a curtain, which I would assume is where the hotel manager and their kids slept. On the desk in front of me where the pamphlets and parking passes were laid out was this black and white cat who was staring at me and Tasha.

We’d like to check in please.” I said to the cat.

Naturally, it didn’t answer but a few seconds later a man in his mid thirties appeared from behind the curtain like the great and powerful Oz, and we started the check in process. He told tell us stories of how all these crazy “Jersey Shore” types started coming down in the past few summers.

In fact,” he said “one of them crazy I-talians threw a TV in the pool last year.

“Well I’m Italian, but definitely not crazy, just passionate…. and maybe a little crazy.” I replied.

I think his name was John and he seemed really nice to us and gave us our key which was an actual key, not like one of those cards with the magnetic strip on it that they give you in modern hotels. It’s been awhile since I stayed in a hotel room where you physically get a key to the place. It felt so antiquated. We went up one flight and entered room 202 which was directly above the office. The room was….how can I put this….very quaint and “oceanic.” There was single bed, a couch, a tube television from the late 1990s, some really tacky wallpaper, a microwave, a tiny little bathroom and a bunch of nautical instruments on the wall.

“I call the bed!” Tasha exclaimed.

Fine, I call the pull-out couch.” I said.

I had done a little research on some of the hotels in Wildwood before I left. What I found by reading some of the Yelp reviews of other places was quite concerning. The Lollipop however, had gotten some relatively good reviews, it just looked like a shit hole place that would have gotten terrible reviews. Still, I did the first thing I do when I check into a shady motel, I got my flashlight, and checked for bed bugs.

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I actually had an issue with bed bugs a year before. My bed was slightly infested with them, and it sucked. For two months, I couldn’t sleep at all and it freaked me out right up until the whole apartment had to be exterminated. I won’t go into the details of how Tasha brought home a painting from her ex-boyfriend’s house and how that painting ended up against the wall next to my bed and how after I found out I had bed bugs I looked inside the frame of said painting and sure enough that’s where all the bugs had come from, or maybe I just did go into detail about that.  Regardless, I had to throw my old bed away so Tasha bought me a new one because even though I’m not pointing the finger directly at her, maybe she felt kind of gulity and maybe the whole the thing had “something” to do with that painting she brought home. Just a theory of mine.

After I found the sleeping quarters to be safe, we changed clothes, hopped in the car and headed over to the Bayview in Wildwood Crest. It was almost dark by he time we got there but when we walked in, everyone was gathered around the bar drinking and having some food. Most of Nicola’s friends and family were there, and of course ALL of Parr’s family and friends were there too, mainly because they are Irish and alcoholics, respectively. I went over to and said hi to my friends Halin, Rotzko, and Reynolds, who I refer to by their last names, and then we said hello to my friends Dave, Jenna and Tim who I refer to by their first names. There’s this weird thing about calling someone by their last names that I think only applies to guys. I’ve never heard Tasha refer to Mary and say “I’m getting a drink with Quinlan,” and I’ve never heard Mary refer to Tasha by saying “Do you know where Tacosa is?” I just think it’s a guy related sports thing, because that one time in 2007 when I did refer to Tasha as “Tacosa,” she stated “Hey, I’m not on your baseball team.” Point taken.

The next couple of hours reminded me of being at a mini-high school reunion. I caught up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile, put some music on the jukebox and ate some bar food that I think I remember was pretty good but to be honest, it was the company we kept that made it so much fun. It was nice to see all of these people in one place again, and it only made me look forward to the wedding tomorrow that much more. I ordered another drink and spotted Maggie at the bar. She came up to me and said hi, and then she told me she had talked to Tasha.

“Tasha’s really cool.” She said.

Yeah, she’s great.” I replied. “What did you guys talk about?

“Nothing.” She said.

“Did you talk about me?” I asked.

No.” She said with a smirk. “Just remember to save me that dance tomorrow.”

I didn’t know what kind of reverse bro-mance was going on with them. For all I knew this could be a set up, but in reality I don’t think that was the case. Did Maggie and Tasha have a little girl crush thing going on? Possibly, but at this point it didn’t really matter. I know Tasha has my back, especially in situations like this that we’ve NEVER been in before. It’s just the kind of relationship we have. We want each other to be happy, and we want each other to have fun and I’m sure that if there was some guy there that wanted me to try and sweet talk Tasha into “dancing” with him I would have done the same thing. That’s just what friends do, especially friends who I used to date 7 years ago, but who I don’t anymore, even though at this point we still shared a bedroom and shared many arguments about which one of us keeps leaving dirty dishes piling up in the kitchen sink.

Everyone in that room was a good friend of mine. I shared some great memories with each and every person going all the way back to 1992 when I first met Chad, Gary and P-Nut and we snuck out to the fields behind my house in the Vineyards in the middle of the night and saw what we thought to be the Jersey Devil. Then a few years later when I met Parr, Dave, Rotzko, Reynolds, and Woofy I threw a NYE party in a hotel room somewhere in Vorhees where I got violently sick and ended up puking and clogging the sink, and my boy Gary took care of me.

The friends I’ve known for years have each other’s backs, and they stick up for each other, and yes, it’s required in that same vein of existence they may also get into fights and bust each other’s balls in the process, but that’s just how it goes. We did almost everything together growing up, and I don’t have any regrets about the way things turned out, and I would hope the same goes for them.  As I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been finding out who my real friends are, and that night on the eve of Parr and Nicola’s wedding I was happy to know I was in a room full of them.

Way back in the day we used to listen to this song by the hard core band “H2o” called “5 Year Plan” It wasn’t the greatest song in the world, but the first 8 words of the tune really emphasizes my point.

My friends look out for me like family”

That’s the way it should always be. For me, I didn’t grow up with a father or a brother, or any real extended family so naturally, my best friends became my family. I won’t ever know what it’s like to grow up as a kid in the world today, but I bet it’s not half as entertaining as it was for us back then.

Back at the bar, there was still drinking and chatting going on, but Tasha and I left a little earlier than everyone else that night because we were tired and tipsy and we headed back to the motel to get some sleep before the wedding tomorrow.

So….what did you say to Maggie?” I asked her

“I gave her my blessing” Tasha said with a smile.

It was a sweet and selfless thing to do.  I didn’t know what was going to happen the next night, but I do know that two amazing people were going to get married, and I was going to be able to be a part of it, and all of it’s legendary glory.

“Thanks Tacosa.” I replied.

You’re welcome, but I’m not on your baseball team.”

Part 2: June 24th, 2015

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