My return to New Jersey consisted of one thing. Battling emotions. It was a necessary evil in order to fully take advantage of my time with the people I love and to appreciate why I am sitting in this seat looking out at the Tarmac. From the second I landed, until this very moment that I am waiting to take off, it’s been and emotional roller coaster of sheer bliss and pain. Equally needed in order to bring things to where they needed to be at this very second.
I arrived in Washington DC Monday night at 9:05pm on the dot. I was watching the clock every second of the 5 hour and 45 minute flight in anticipation of arriving. I knocked old men, ladies, and children out of my way on my mad dash to my sister out side the arrival gates, who was waiting to whisk me away to my former home. Not literally. Never do that, to any of the above, that’s rude and they all come before you gentlemen. As soon as I got my first waft of east coast air my nose curled and the humidity sent a bead of sweat straight down my chest to my abdomen. It smelled like shit and it was unbearably humid. It was a beautiful feeling of discomfort that I had missed oh so much. Upon reaching the outside world my sister was awaiting me with company in tow. Not a friend of hers I’d prefer to see, but at least she had company for the long ride. We embraced each other instantly and my journey began.
Upon entering the car I instantly felt the love of family returning to my heart. It was glorious. We discussed, everything about what’s changed in NJ and the differences amongst both California and the great state I grew up in. There was some chiming in from the back seat, adding some not so insightful opinions on an unfamiliar topic to them, but she gets an “A” for the effort. It was late, we were halfway and needed gas so we went to the greatest place in New Jersey, Wawa. I was elated to be submersed into the greatest convenience store on earth, and to be surrounded by the cloud that was created from the aroma of the delectable java that brews 24/7. Even though it was 11:30 p.m. I needed this in my life, I needed Wawa coffee running through my veins once again, and so it was. I had a highway of caffeine flowing 10,000 Mph running through me and I began to speak at my old rate of, way too many words per second. As I was overloading on the 24 Oz. Mocha express, we came closer to home and landmarks I recognized were popping up everywhere. Everything seemed older and smaller than I originally remembered. It was a peculiar experience. We reached the street I was staying on, where my sister lives and I insisted of stopping and staying in for the night, we continue the reminiscing by driving by the bar I spent most of my time with my good friends called Kaminski’s. This was the best follow your heart moment I had since I left. Here’s why.
Undoubtedly you avid followers know of the name Ryan Watson. He is my best friend, the greatest, most insane, charismatic, human, I’ve ever some across in my life. I love him dearly and you’re about to read why. We drove to Kaminski’s, and to my surprise, I saw familiar cars. It was all my old workmates that I consider my family. I drove by to see them in the same place I left them, but no Ryan. We spun back around and started to head out when I saw two things that changed the whole experience and began a great trip. Ryan Watson’s car, and Ryan Watson. I started to shake and had to get out of the car to embrace my brother. I scaled a wall, ran up to him and bear hugged the fuck out of him. His response (because him and everyone else had no Idea I was coming) was him saying, ” who the fuck?! ” with a look of wanting to spin kick some weirdo in the face, he then realized it was me. ”Shut the fuck up! What the fuck!?” came out three times followed by the swelling of tears in his eyes. We were reunited at once. I held back tears and just hugged my brother. I could hear him trying to hold back his emotion as he uncontrollably exclaimed, ” You have no idea what I’ve been going through without you here, and I needed this right now”. Gay? Fuck no. This is beautiful. That is what loving a brother is. My surprise was a success. I decided to stay and catch up with the crowd there, and to start it off on Mexican Monday. We all did a shot of Jose Gold and caught up. It was how it was supposed to be. It was back to old times.
After a very short nights rest I woke up with wide eyes and it felt like I had been dreaming for the past six months and just woke up from the dream that is the OC. Here I was in my sister’s house getting ready to go to my favorite shore town, also known as the OC of NJ, Ocean City. The trip down felt like a flash after the hours of travel I had put in the previous day and again the liquid from the gods, the unicorn blood that is Wawa coffee, nourished me. I was wired and on my way to the best Pizza place in town, Mack and Mancos. Turns out the name changed because of a family fall out but I don’t care, to me it’s still Mack and Mancos. It was sliced heaven. I haven’t had Pizza that good in six months. I was a glutinous fool with no shame of the display of obesity I had preformed. It was glorious. After Mack’s we walked the boardwalk, and I ran into one of my ex-girlfriends, friend, on the boardwalk. After a smart Quip about the Ex from said, “friend”, I was over the conversation. Such is life. We left the boardwalk and proceeded to my Favorite surf shop, Heritage. I walked in to many familiar faces and questions of, “where the fuck I’ve been?” which was fulfilling to tell them all that the talk, and dreaming of moving somewhere to surf, finally came true. They were stunned and needed too many questions answered, so I escaped into the boardroom. Upon entering I saw one board that caught my eye. It was a 9 foot something, old school, long board, with new school flair. This thing was sex. I walked over to check this thing out and to my surprise, it was my other best friends, custom ordered Bing Levitator. He had ordered this board months ago and had been waiting for it to arrive, only to leave for tour and to never see it. I flew across the country and still beat him to seeing it first. So I did what any good friend would do and sent him pictures teasing him as to what was waiting for him upon his return. He was stoked. We left the shop, after a nostalgic last gaze and headed to the opposite end of the island to the one surf spot I used to frequent, 59th street. We walked up, the surf was poop, and the beach was packed on a windy day. Standing on the jetty looking over the broken down, decaying pier, I look to my right and saw a familiar looking couple with a Twin fin And Fun board propped up next to them, hanging out, exactly where I left them last. It was my friends Mike and Janelle. I ran up, and the excitement, and shock that we were in this place together washed over us. It was beautiful. We left Ocean City with only one thing being un-done, seeing my friend Rob who was in town. I called like and annoying girlfriend but there was no answer until later, and it was too late. Get it together with your phone Rob! No seriously never change. I miss you.
The time finally came where I was to be reunited with my family of friends I used to work with. I got home from the shore, showered, sharpened up, and headed over to my old restaurant, to surprise the remaining friends I hadn’t seen yet. I drove over to be greeted at the side door by a good friend of mine named, Bill, and my old manager and mentor, Mike. We exchanged conversation about my journey and life and only minimal conversation about work, which was great. They lead me through the kitchen and out the side doors of the kitchen where I snuck up on everyone. They lost their minds in disbelief and the mission was a success. We sat we laughed, we ate, we drank, we all were in love all over again. It was beautiful. The night was coming to an end and we were about to venture out to our favorite beer bar The Pour House. I went to drain the copious amount of Yuengling I had consumed and decided it was time to confront something I had been putting off all night. An Ex.
I probably shouldn’t put this up, on a public website, for everyone to read, but I promised honesty and to be open so here we go. We met in a banquet room, as we used to do long ago when everything first started. Her voice, the environment and the racing of my heart were all familiar. We exchanged feelings of missing each other and discussed seeing each other again while I was home for the short time. Before we could decide, I had to find out one thing. So I said fuck it, and I kissed her. It was intense. It was familiar. But as I was pulled in closer for more, I digressed. It was exactly what I needed to know. I was over her. I had my closure and though it may have been the wrong thing to do for some reasons, for my own, it is exactly what I needed to do, to know how I felt and to be able to let go. I will always love you as a person, if you are reading this, and I hope you know I’ll always be here for you. Don’t settle on your happiness, you deserve more. For the record, that was hard to write and share with all of you. The weight of that relationship was lifted off my shoulders. I was freed of my chains, and I continued on with the people who love me and always will, to The Pour House.
We arrived at The Pour House and were surrounded by new and old friends. Drinks flowed, and everyone had so many things to ask my advice on. It was humbling, as everyone wanted my perspective on his or her personal lives, and problems. I hope I helped with the little knowledge I have. The only person missing was one of my best girlfriends Chelsea. She kept saying she’d be there soon and I started to wonder what the fuck was going on. As I verbalized this, I heard her voice walking down the block as we sat on the outside patio. I looked up, not only to see my beautiful friend, but she had gone a step above my surprise, in the form of whom she brought with her.
It was wonderful to see Chelsea, as always, but she knew exactly the only person capable of making me any happier with their presence. She was with a girl who I hold dearly in my heart, Gabby. I was floored. Thank you Chelsea. Gabby and I spent the remaining time by each other’s side catching up and letting the time slip away, without notice. It was incredible to just be there with her. She’s the type of person who knows, how you feel, or what you think, without you even having to say a word. The moment we were in each other’s presence was when I truly felt, that I was home. We closed the bar said our goodbyes and made it home safe.
After a few nights of fun and pleasure, it was time to get to the difficult part. I was to see all of my family I left behind and about to go to the funeral of an Aunt of mine. I woke up to my sister shaking me awake with not much time to throw on a suit and tie and to perfect my signature hairstyle. I managed to pull it off in less than 20 minutes, which is a new record. I looked like something out of Reservoir Dogs. My sister expressed to me how hard this was and my response to her was to stay strong for our father, for it was his youngest sister he had lost. We arrived at the Funeral Parlor where my entire family was inside. I saw my sister pause in disbelief and I hugged her. We continued inside. I will not discuss the Funeral out of respect for my family.
After everything was said and done we continued on to the place I had resided before moving to California. My Fathers house in Maple Shade. Though I do have good memories from this house I do not consider it home. I went through a lot of personal struggles within those walls, and it was not my favorite part of my 27 years on this earth. It was where I battled myself mentally and spent my time feeling the most alone I ever had in my entire life. I walked in and it hit like a wave of bottled emotion. I was overcome with tears I held back the entire time. I was glad I left, and instantly understood again what I was doing on my journey. I went out back where my family was only to be greeted by my son. Bruce. Bruce is my 100-pound hairy beast of a dog. A beautifully goofy Golden Retriever who could not contain his excitement. He was by my side the entire time. I miss him. Fuck. Anyway, everyone was drinking heavily as usual, and I was not participating, as usual. There were some serious emotions flying around and I had to walk away. I made my way to the front porch of this old house in New Jersey Suburbia and began to reflect on everything. Then I lost my composure and began to cry uncontrollably. I was homesick, I was sad to have lost my Aunt, I was upset that I was in the environment I always wanted to leave, I was upset I had to leave Bruce again, I missed my friends and family, and the worst part about it, I felt alone again. In that moment, on those steps, I dealt with a lot of emotions that I had been putting off, and knew, right then, I was not meant to come back to this place, and to feel this way ever again. I got myself together, finished my time with my family, said goodbye to them and my son, and left it all, on those front steps.
Upon returning to my sisters I knew I wanted to go somewhere I could feel at ease again. I wanted to be with my friends. I called my quirky and amazing friend Melissa and instantly, had a pool party to crash, and plans for the evening, where everyone would come to hang and be merry. I arrived at my friend Randall’s new apartment that I had never seen before and it was awesome. It was really great to see my friend doing so well for herself. I got there and we started to discuss plans. Inevitably I was asked about how my Dads went and about the Funeral at which point I stuttered a little and my eyes glassed over. Melissa knew exactly what to say at that very moment. “Let’s go in the Hot Tub!” and so we did. We relaxed, joked, talked inappropriately in front of children, and discussed life. It was nice. As we were touching on some heavy things, up strolls our good friend Chelsea followed by Ryan Watson. The good times were starting to get better. We headed upstairs to get changed and order food. We did, went and picked it up, and came back, at which point everyone was cleaned up and ready to start the night. I came prepared to this party, for it was probably the last night would get to see them for a while. I came armed with an original Four Loko. I have a secret stash I only bring out for special occasions and this was worthy. I started to consume this Jolly Rancher death sauce, when Melissa decided she’d join in on the Blackout madness. Her and me traded on and off splitting the entire thing while catching up. It was much needed for her and I. we both had been through a lot this past year and see eye to eye on many things. We returned to the party, where many games were played, jokes were made and time flew by. Before I knew it, it was 4:00 a.m. and time to go home. I had something incredibly important planned for my last day in town, and was not about to ruin it, so I said my goodbyes, and was dropped off at my sisters house once again, to pass out for a few hours. It was a night I’ll never forget.
At 8:00 my eyes creeped open and my brain started to fire. One thing came out of my mouth. Fucking Four Loko. I had a few hours to clean myself up and get prepared for the day. On my last day I was returning to Philadelphia, with Gabby. It was the day I had been waiting for. After washing off the Blue Raspberry sweats, and PBR headache, She finally made her way over and we headed to the train station. As we arrived we began to search for parking and she claimed to be a horrible driver and even worse at parking. For the record neither are true, she’s just very careful. We parked, jumped on the train and we were off. The train ride was reminiscent of trips into the city and the sensations were electrifying. The conversation flowed effortlessly, even though the topic, most of the time should have been difficult to discuss. We arrived at the 15th street station and made our way to the streets and the feeling of home was multiplied to the point where I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face even if someone were being murdered in front of me. It was a divine feeling. We walked the blocks of the city searching for her best friends work place, so that I could meet her, and Gabby could be reunited with her hetero life mate. Along the way we passed a French restaurant called Parc. I have a good friend who works there and I was ogling from the outside looking for her, when low and behold, she was right there. It was perfect. I had a bus boy grab her attention and for a brief moment while she stood there with a water pitcher, we caught up. We parted ways and Gabby and me had made our way through Rittenhouse square. She had never been through this part of Philly and was taken back by its beauty. I was also taken back by the beauty of that simple moment.
We finally managed to wander our way to Gabby’s best friends work place. A young lady in scrubs who to me seemed to be a drifting soul greeted us. She had a unique vibe about her. Almost reminiscent to pictures of my parents at a younger age, very hippy esqe. Not hipster esqe. We all sat down together, had a light lunch and discussed many things that people who first meet, typically wouldn’t. Again out of respect for Meg and Gabby I will leave that as vague as possible. It felt like the three of us had been hanging out our whole lives. She mentioned a cousin of hers who did art for the surf industries in San Clemente. It was Drew Brophy. He is someone I’ve followed my entire surfing life and was blown away. It was another one of those “small world” moments. Finally she had to return to work. I heard the story about how Gabby and herself solidified their friendship over a Chocolate and Mango water ice Dispute, and a letter written at a young age. It was and adorable story that only Miss. Plumley could have. We said our goodbyes and parted ways, it was a genuine pleasure meeting her. If you’re reading this Meg, never feel selfish for taking care of yourself, and never settle, you deserve the world, you deserve California. If you ever need anything reach out, any friend to Gabby, is a friend to me.
The journey in Philadelphia continued, and the conversation picked up right where we left off. We made our way to Barnes and Knobles in Rittenhouse Square and she was instantly on a mission to find a book based on Autism called The Golden Hat. It’s an inspirational story about a boy with Autism who defeated his own odds and wrote a poem titled, The Golden Hate. As we searched for the book, we had a hard time finding “Man”, to help us find it, so “Woman”, tracked it down instead. Gab picked up the book and her passion for what she does for a living, and the subject of matter, Radiated. I’m still taken back by how much she cares about others. She is an inspiration and I think more people should feel the way we do about others, and the world. We departed the bookstore and this time our ramblings had us so distracted, that our feet had carried us across the city, to city hall. We walked through and I was beginning to have a moment. I marveled at city hall in a way I had never done before. I explained to her how I am seeing everything from a different light now and how I was appreciating it more than ever. We walked through and I knew exactly where I wanted to go next, Love Park. We posted up in a shaded spot along the fountains edge, upon the smooth, cool marble, and sat and talked. We laughed about the humans that we were surrounded by, and traded stories and things neither of us had shared before with anyone, I was home again. The weather was perfect, the mist from the fountain was refreshing and things were easy for once. As I began to open my mouth to say the most important words of the day, a Flava Flav, look alike, strolls up and starts blasting hip-hop. We both laughed at the timing and parted ways from a moment in time, which will forever be in my heart. We started backtracking to the train station and aimlessly wandered. I had something I had to discuss with her and it was eating me alive. Every time I tried to talk, another “Flava Flav” moment occurred. It was, A Bus, A Motorcycle, A Power Washer, A Horn, anything and everything was preventing me. Finally I just realized, maybe it’s meant to go unsaid. We reached the train station after laughing about the uncontrollable forces that prevented me to speak and returned to NJ. I left the car with a very quick, “see you later” and ran away. I left so abruptly because I’m bad at goodbyes. We met less than a year ago, and have become closer than I am with people I’ve known my whole life. It’s incredibly profound that she is in my life, and she will be forever. Therefore, saying goodbye is irrelevant.
Time was counting down and I had to pack my bags. I cried the entire time. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I already missed everyone there and I wasn’t even gone again. My homesickness flooded me and the emotion was so raw and deep that I couldn’t stop it from happening. I ache and yearn for their presence everyday of my life in California and to sacrifice that to pursue this dream is necessary currently. It’s not an easy decision, but one I had to make.
My sister picked me up after her Pilates class and we went to Maggiano’s for a final goodbye to friends. I walked in, was greeted with hugs and tears and had one last conversation to have before I left. I had to talk to my friend Chelsea. We spoke in private, and I lost my composure. I spilled everything I felt and what was going on in my mind. She comforted me and gave me the words that I needed to be able to get in the car.
Arriving at the airport I couldn’t control my emotion, I was leaving everything behind again. I though it would be easier a second time and I’d be ecstatic to return to California. My heart had other plans. I slept on the floor in the airport longer than I had in NJ all together. After my nap on a cold marble floor, all alone, I cleaned myself up, and went to the gate. I was approaching the line and looked back to see if I could see home, if what was behind me was the space I was supposed to be filling. I looked to see if I should not get on the plane. In that moment I hesitated and I started to walk towards the exit doors and away from the terminal. Then my phone rang. Something called me back to California. It was my sign that this was all meant to happen, that my journey on the west coast was not complete; it was the sign that got me on the plane. And so I sit here, 15,000 feet in the air, wondering where this journey is taking me next.