On Summer, Childhood, and a Little Street, in a Little Town Known to Many as J-Town

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Today, I watched with joy as my minions ended the 2018-2019 school year, were “promoted” to Fifth and Second Grade respectively and collected a little end of year hardware. Mind you, said hardware was, in each case a certificate, specifically an award. Cara received the Art Award for her homeroom (a Marsh winning an Art Award? It’s UNHEARD of, sarcasm fully intended) and #NatNatBoo received the Effort Award for hers. To say that I was proud of them, and remain proud of them at this late hour is the understatement of the year on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, in my subjective reality. To have gone through what they went through this year and still achieve what they achieved? I remember what it was like for me when I was Cara’s age. The year my mother and father separated? I was a wreck. The one after that, as well, and the one after that. I think, after that things started to get better but I honestly don’t remember. Jeez, guys and gals, that was over 30 years ago. I can barely remember what happened to me last week!

I’ve spoken at length this eight months or so, after I went public with that was going on in my life about their resiliency, and how amazed I was at their capacity to adjust, and overcome. We’ve had our moments since I relocated to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania but for the most part? It’s been status quo. Business as usual. Pick your poison or in this case, your favorite cliche and roll with it. It applies. They’ve made adjusting to this new life easier than it could have been… Hell, SHOULD have been and for that? I love them. Sh*t, I love them anyway but if it’s possible to love them a wee bit more than I already did, I do. That said, I’m not popping by Random Musings tonight to extol the awesomeness of my progeny (though admittedly? They are pretty awesome and I could write about them all night). I’m actually here for another reason and that one? It’s loosely related to them finishing school for the year. It’s not about what’s passed, but what’s ahead. Specifically? Summer. It’s officially summertime again! Insert Happy Dance HERE.

The idea of Summer conjures many a memory for many a denizen of my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Swimming pools. Pick-up baseball games ala “The Sandlot.” Shore trips. Trips to the mountains. Lying out in your backyard getting a tan or, in my case, a really nasty sunburn. Barbecues. Patriotic celebrations. Fireworks. Catching lightning bugs. Sh*t friends, family and oft times casual readers, I could go on and on for paragraphs. Summer means something different to everyone but to me? It has and always has had a singular meaning. A memory that I’ve been unable to shake since I was a young’in. I find myself pondering it every year at this time and surprisingly enough? I’ve rarely written about it in the e-pages of this blog or my previous one, Random Musings Version 1.0. That memory? I touched upon it when I wrote about the Mayor of Maple Street a few years ago but that piece was a eulogy and this? This is not. Though it does involve a certain street, in a certain town that has been popularized in modern television and Hollywood to the extent that writing about it NOW doesn’t feel like it has the same, universal heft as it did 10 years ago. Yet I still feel the need to write about it ’cause once upon a time, someone told me I had to. They told me that our story? It was mine to tell. And for some reason, I feel like it still is. Whether anyone will read it now that we have The Goldbergs and Bradley Cooper is a mystery, but somehow… someway? I still feel like it’s my baby. My tale to tell. So I guess I’m going to tell it and we’ll see what happens.

I am, of course, referring to that little street, in that once-little town that is still called “Maple Street” and the town? It’s J-Town, otherwise known as Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. What follows in the pages of this blog is the story of us. The kids turned adults I grew up with. The things we did. Our experiences and guess what? I’m not going to put a price tag on it. I’m simply going to embrace the idea… the concept of writing for joy and not profit because I did the published author thing. Hell, I’m still doing it. Telling you this tale is not about money. It never was back then and it isn’t now. We were lucky if we had fifty cents in our pocket to go buy Tastycake Fudge Bars at Lena’s Deli (to say nothing of Cheese Fries; to wit, Lena’s Cheese Fries were and still are the best f*cking thing to ever pass my lips in my almost 44 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence). No. This is simply my way of saying “thank you” to the friends I grew up with, the families that accepted me into their homes and a place… THE place that I never really left. Welcome to my own, personal Summer Project. Not chronological or structured. Just the stories I want to tell.

Tonight? I’m going to write about how the denizens of Maple Street spent their summer nights. And I’m going to start at the beginning, in the same place where my minions started their respective summers earlier today. I’m going to start with the walk home from school after commencement. After Mass at the now defunct Immaculate Conception BVM School and still functioning Church. After all the awards had been given out. After all the buses had picked up their allotment of children and sent them home, screaming and cheering out their open windows. There we were: Marshes and Rings. McCreaveys and Breslins. Lyons and Cooneys. Harmers, Hungerfords and Scharnikows. The whole lot of us, walking south down West Avenue, past McGolderick’s Funeral Home and the ancient, tree-lined properties that lined the street. Maple Street was, and still is one past Cedar Street in that direction.

As neighborhoods go, it wasn’t particularly well-off compared to some of the other areas of J-Town that have been popularized in pop culture. Very blue collar. A hodgepodge of twins and single family homes. If I close my eyes I can still see us ripping our ties off, untucking our shirts (both girls and boys), unbuttoning our top buttons (mainly the guys, but maybe one or two of the girls that wanted to catch the eye of someone other than me but always ended up catching mine, whether they knew it or not). And plotting as we walked. Synchronizing our mental and physical watches. Home to eat lunch. Get changed. Chill for a few. Watch a little television. The Transformers (now known as Generation One), GI Joe, Scooby Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, Jem and the Holograms et al. Eat dinner–generally something grilled–before reconvening at our predetermined time, usually at the Rings since they had the biggest yard at roughly the middle point of the street.

I remember that the sun was always dropping in the sky, bathing the world in “an eerie, golden red iridescence.” Sound familiar? It should. In ENDWORLD, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and eventually, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD I wrote/write about it, along with time. Specifically a lack of it. In case you were wondering where those ideas came from they came from my childhood. Specifically those timeless, late, summer nights spent playing Spring or Doors or Ghosts in the Graveyard or Freedom or WHATEVER you call the games we played as children and the ones our children play now. Depending on where you are and whose playing the names change, but the concepts remain the same. Two teams. Sometimes three or four depending on how many kids were in town and out, how many came over from Cedar or Hillside Avenue and occasionally, “The Alley,” how many stumbled out after dinner into the teeny, tiny world we inhabited that was a child’s version of Utopia in microcosm and our parents’ version of Heaven. I was always one of the last ones picked. Me, the goofy little pear-shaped, non-athlete that loved reading and fancied himself an artist and later, a writer. But I didn’t mind. Because I generally ended up on Billy Ring’s team.

I’ve written in the past about Billy. He’ll feature prominently in this chronicle. Billy was the most popular kid at IC and, in truth? Arguably the most popular kid in J-Town and DEFINITELY on Maple Street. Tall. Lanky. Athletic. The polar opposite of me and I’m not ashamed to write about how much I looked up to him as a child. No matter what I endured as a kid–and there were moments; let me tell you–Billy always had my back, even when he was smacking it and causing a bruise. Was he my best friend? Maybe. BFs didn’t really exist back then. But he was as close to one as I had early on. There would be others, later, and I’ll write about them, as well, but it all started with him.

Thereafter, the games started, and progressed long after the sun had dropped behind my house and the streetlights had turned on. If I close my eyes I can still hear it: Crickets chirping. Cars driving past on West Avenue. The occasional rumble of thunder as a storm passed by or hit us, briefly drenching us before moving east toward the city. Children yelling, laughing and occasionally crying. Parents talking politics as they sat upon their covered porches, smoking cigarettes, drinking iced tea and the occasional “adult beverage” and watching us run as the first lightning bugs of the season started blinking in the darkness. Scolding us on occasion if we did something “mean” but never chastising us or ordering us to retire inside. Because kids, they reasoned, needed to be kids, black eyes, scabbed knees and all. The concerns that we face now as adults and they faced then never made an appearance. Those arguments and moments of despair occured behind closed doors. They, the adults, our parents… They kept us in the dark ’cause all they wanted us to worry about was being children. They knew, as we do now that our respective worlds would eventually grow to encompass the wider one. But those warm, summer nights? They were OUR time. Free. Happy. A peaceful cacophony of immature wonder.

Eventually? Big Bill’s aforementioned whistle from “The Mayor of Maple Street” would shatter the darkness and bring the night to a close. We never questioned it. We heeded it like we heeded the vengeful, Old Testament God in Religion class, said our goodbyes and headed home, exhausted, but smiling. Sleep came quickly after we washed up. And all of us Marshes and Rings. McCreaveys and Breslins, Lyons and Cooneys, Harmers, Hungerfords and Scharnikows rested and dreamt the peaceful dreams of youth, only to wake up the next morning and realize that the moment was not a fleeting one. We had days, weeks and months of the same to look forward to.

THAT was Summer on Maple Street in J-Town, folks. Maybe your experiences were similar. Maybe not. I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for me. Us. The same ones that tasked me to write it all down one day. To those of you reading this that remember, I’m sorry it took me so long. I needed to be ready. And now? I think I am. Because?

Simple. Because today I watched my minions finish their Fourth, and First years at another school. Not IC but Saint Anastasia’s. Not in J-Town but in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. And as I hugged them outside and celebrated their awards before returning to work, I saw the joy, emblazoned across their young faces at the prospect of the warm, summer nights ahead. Their memories will likely be a bit different than mine. The world on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence has changed much since I was their age. But their smiles? They are the same as mine. And if I close my eyes for a moment, I can still see and hear those carefree days of my own youth. Contentment follows. After months of turmoil I can finally say that yes. I am happy. And I am ready.

Thank you for reading. And Happy Summer. Winky emoticon. Simley face.

F.

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On Belief and Surviving the Tough Times

All my long, sometimes INSANELY long 43 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence I’ve believed in something. The something in question has changed at points throughout depending on where I was mentally and, to be honest? What I was smoking, and if you DON’T KNOW what I mean by that then… well heck, you don’t know me. And that’s okay because I don’t expect everyone reading this to know me or my history, despite my inclination to constantly write about it in the electronic pages of this blog that I’ve been maintaining for 100+ entries now (no sarcasm whatsoever intended).

The bottom line? I’ve ALWAYS believed in something. And my current state of belief is a synthesis of… basically everything I’ve ever believed in since I was a child, starting with my earliest days, attending the now defunct Immaculate Conception, BVM Catholic School in good ol’ J-Town, PA (booyakasha, fellow Jenkintownians. RESPECT). Were I to classify my belief system now I would say that it’s a healthy share of Roman Catholicism, mixed with a little Agnoticism and Buddahism, “What Dreams May Come,” The Force and my own, personal hot take on spirituality which, if you read the Endworld books, you know and have seen; I call it “The All” and it’s… well, just that! Everything, every reality, everywhere. Basically? My spiritual belief system is a Mutt. Kind of like my ancestry. Primarily Irish, English and Scottish allowing me to–piss poor punchline alert–always be at war with myself. Roll snare drum.

I can hear you groaning over here in my corner of this, our shared subjective reality and that’s… OKAY. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

When times got tough–and I’ve my share of tough times over the years–I rarely lost hope. On occasion yes: I’ll admit that I did. There were moments, one in particular that involved a third floor balcony, an almost finished bottle of tequila and yet another, lost relationship that I got very, very down on myself. My own, personal version of rock bottom. But even then–as I drunkenly stared what I thought was a quick departure from this world in the eye and would have likely ended up being nothing more than a couple of broken legs–I was buoyed by… SOMETHING. The feeling of something… someONE watching over me, and assuring me like a “coldly rational” voice in my head (sound familiar, Endworld readers?) that I should not quit. That this life… this world and universe had a deeper purpose for me… a destiny. So I finished my bottle of tequila, went back inside and crashed on the floor of the little, two bedroom apartment I was sharing at the time with four other people. And FUN FACT friends, family and oft times casual readers: There is a scene in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD that is highly reflective of this moment. You’ll know it when you see it.

Quick parenthetical aside: If you’re reading CHILDREN, I hope you’re enjoying it. And if you’re starting late/just now reading ENDWORLD – A Novel to get caught up, I hope the same. You know who you are. Yes, you. I’m looking at YOU. And smiling. Thank you.

The point, guys and gals is this: Belief helps. Believing in something can sustain you through the tough times. Whether your chosen belief is one in God, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddah or yourself/science… Whatever, don’t lose sight of it. Don’t think that what you believe in has abandoned you because he, she or it hasn’t. And if you believe in nothing? That’s cool too. I honestly have a lot of respect for people that trust in no providence but their own, their only belief in that of science and the law of it dictating everything from the tiniest, sub-cellular interaction to me, typing these words out on my phone, in my mobile WordPress app. I’ve even dabbled in it a bit myself–my oft mentioned in these blog entries, many moons ago “recovering Roman Catholic” phase–but for me? As much as I dig science there’s simply too much order in the universe on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence for me to chalk it up to a synthesis of numbers and equations. It’s the artist in me. Art recognizes art and when I look around me, I see things that must have been painted, sketched or molded by someone, ones or someTHING. Even the most universally derided areas maintain a sliver of beauty. A bean sprout, struggling up through the cracks in the sidewalk in the inner city. Or a tree, long deprived of life standing sentinel over a deserted beach in Cape May, NJ with the words “Voodoo” and “Tree” carved into either side of it’s split trunk. Yes, that was another Endworld reference. My apologies to the uninitiated.

Why am I writing this tonight? I honestly don’t know. It just felt like something I had to write. This last year plus has been a bit difficult (sarcasm, directed at the “bit” part fully intended this time) and there have been times when I have felt a tinge of abandonment. Not by my friends and family. Never them. They have been and remain blessed constants in my life that I am forever grateful for. Old friends, new friends, old friends renewed and new friends I never saw coming. But despite the inclination to lose faith and stop believing I never did. Because I know, deep down inside that everything that we go through in life, good or bad is moving us forward in a direction. Toward our purpose. Why we’re here. Call it destiny if you want. I prefer to call it “The Why.”

This week? I got to be a part of something monumental at the job I get paid consistently for, not the one I do in my free time. 10,000 hours invoiced. 10,025 to be exact, a whopping 166 of which was mine. “10K Hours” has been a constant mantra at my new place of business since I got there. It had never happened previous to this week and for the first time since I entered the world of staffing almost six years ago, I felt like a part of something… Transcendent. Monumental. When I started there I believed in what we could accomplish and we did. Belief. Not just belief in becoming a famous author which, at times, borders on imagination but belief in achieving a practical goal.

Belief drives us, folks. Whether in self or a higher power it is necessary and if I have any message to convey tonight it is this: Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. Don’t lose faith no matter how difficult things get because there is always a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. You may not get there right away. Sh*t, I’m not there yet. But stay focused because eventually, the tough times will end and the good times will roll like you always wanted them too. I hope. I believe. And I promise.

And that? That’s it. A couple of quick shoutouts. To the Jenkintownians. Always. To God, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah, Richard Matheson, George Lucas and everyone or thing that has contributed over time to my personal, Mutt-like system of belief, a spirituality that is always at war with itself but maintains some kind of whacked out sense to me and the characters that inhabit Endworld. To the good times AND the bad because both contribute to make us who we are. To the people who have read or are reading The Endworld Series right now (you know who you are). To the rest of my team at work for fulfilling the “10K Hours” mantra and to everyone, everywhere that has had their respective moment, standing upon a third floor balcony 10 sheets to the wind that remembered that it’s okay to despair, but you… None of us are ever alone. That believed in a better tomorrow and stumbled inside, intent to pass the f*ck out on the floor and wake up the next day, hung over as Hell and continue. Continue what? Just continue. I can neither confirm nor deny if that statement, or a version of it appears in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD but when you get there? You’ll know it.

Goodnight, all. Have a terrific weekend. Winky emoticon? Smiley face.

F.

A Quick, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD Launch Day Postmortem

A little something from the Endworld website for all my Random Musings readers. Feel free to follow me over there, as well! Maybe one day I’ll take both websites and combine them into one, big, super-duper website. But for now? Here’s the link.

http://theendworldseries.com/2019/04/27/a-quick-children-of-endworld-launch-day-postmortem/

In Which I Blog About the Impending Launch of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and Say THANK YOU

Good Evening fellow denizens of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve been posting over on the Endworld site all week and I figured that Random Musings deserved a little love. So? Here I am. This isn’t going to be a long post, and honestly? It’s likely not going to be as frantic as many of the others I’ve written. The fact is that I’m too tired to consider life, the universe and everything tonight. I’ll save that for when I’m NOT in the middle of a book launch. Yep. You read that right. The long awaited sequel to ENDWORLD – A Novel is HERE. Shocking, huh?

Well? Technically it won’t be here until Saturday morning, the 27th but you CAN pre-order the ebook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks et al RIGHT NOW. I’d be remiss in my duties as a shameless, self-promoting, now TWO TIME Indie Novelist if I didn’t write something over here, as well as on the Endworld site so… Yep. Here you go!

CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD is now available for pre-order on the following ebook platforms:

CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD will eventually be available in print on Amazon, as well (6X9, trade edition paperback, 452 pages) for $15.99 EACH. I should have the proof of it in my hands tomorrow and as soon as I look at it, and verify that it looks good I’ll go live with it. I’m hoping for Saturday so keep your fingers crossed. I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it’s available!

Additionally, if anyone that’s new to the world of the Madchronicler and his alter ego, Frank Marsh (oh sh*t! That’s me!) wants to start reading The Endworld Series, now is the time to do it! Book One, ENDWORLD – A Novel IS available in print, on Amazon (6X9, trade edition paperback, 426 pages) for $15.99 EACH. You can link it HERE. Or, if you prefer an ebook, you can get it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $0.99 EACH right now! You support is, as always, and remains more appreciated than you know!

Speaking of support and appreciation, I’ve popped over here tonight to say THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone that has pre-ordered, liked, shared, commented, Retweeted et al since I announced the first pre-orders this past Monday night. My heart is sufficiently warmed by the response I’ve seen from both old readers that have been patiently waiting for CHILDREN for six years, and new ones that are discovering The Endworld Series for the first time. The thing is, self-publishing? It’s a bit of a chore. And I’m not a huge fan of self-promotion, despite how it looks at times like this. Honestly? All I want is to tell a story. The same one that’s been plaguing my mind for a couple of decades. And the fact that so many of you, reading this right now want to hear it? That’s amazing. And I am beyond fortunate. In truth? I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. To create art AND be able to entertain? That’s the dream, man. It’s always been my dream. And I’m getting to live it right now. So booyakasha to all of you. A thousand times over. MAD respect. Please excuse me while I go mist up in the corner.

That said? I guess I’m done for the moment. Not done writing. Oh no. Far from it. I have many words left to write, and a lot more story… Stories to tell. Tales from Endworld, other Skews, maybe even from the farthest ends of the known universe. Who knows? God willing I’ll have the time to write everything. It always killed me that Chaucer never got to finish THE CANTERBURY TALES on his terms. My will alone should be enough to keep me alive and kicking, long enough to write everything I need to. ‘Cause writing isn’t a choice, all. It’s an imperative. We all have one or more and this one is mine.

So… ONE MORE DAY. One more day until CHILDREN is out there. For better OR worse. I won’t know for a bit. But I gave it my all, I did it for YOU, and I am proud of the finished product. If you read it, please review it! And if you like it, tell your friends about it! And one last time before it launches? THANK YOU.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.