( @ChickfilA, #Mantua )
I was driving home from the gym today and noticed several tents popped over around the Chick-Fil-A that is scheduled to open tomorrow. My wife told me they were doing a free food give-a-way for the first 100 customers, so I (correctly) guessed that was the reason for the crowd. I decided to pop back over with my camera and capture the scene.
There were a few things that caught me off-guard:
1. I can’t believe how many people showed up that were willing to sleep in parking lot overnight.
2. Most of the crowd was not local, not even South Jersey local (which I have mixed feelings about).
I am glad that the Chick-fil-A is opening. It may be fast food, but at least it isn’t McDonalds.
( #Gonzo, #PJWhelihans )
Walking into the bar, I was immediately repulsed by the smell of cheap perfume, over cooked chicken wings, and something else… The building was schizophrenic: part pub, catering hall, concert venue, and whore house. The women surrounding the bar looked defeated, their breasts heaved upwards slightly exposed with ovals cut in the center of their shirts – I was unaware that this establishment had a dress code. My wife and I were modestly overdressed.
My thoughts were broken by the recognition of acquaintances. This was no place for human beings still in possession of their souls. My eyes once again started to scan the patrons of the bar. Groups from all walks of life: Hipsters, slackers, sportsters, families, and the chronic losers all assembled here, which I quickly determined to be the Walmart of bars – accommodating all demographics, but none of them well and certainly without character.
Image Credit: Ralph Steadman
Most people had bewildered looks in their eyes with their mouths stretched open – puzzled, forgetting the feeling of being in a crowd. The others looked overly enthused to be in such a location. A bearded slacker approached me and offered a fist-bump. I immediately understood that the poor bastard was stuck in some kind of time warp (since fist-bumps have not been socially acceptable for several years). I offered my fist in sympathy and promptly applied sanitizer to the back of my hand.
After several minutes, we were seated. I assume we were not deemed attractive enough to be near entrances or windows – instead we were seated directly next to the bathroom and the makeshift stage. I felt the sudden urge to flee. I became more alarmed when I noticed the fist-bumper seated behind me. I decided it was preferable than making eye contract – but I felt his beady eyes burrowing holes in my head. The pressure was getting intense when the waitress arrived and asked our group if we need a drink.
The alcohol took an unacceptable amount of time to arrive and our waitress looked different yet the same. Then I noticed her on the other side of the bar while she was still at my table, and there she was again at the table next to us. Could this girl multiply or did someone slip something in my drink? Walmart mass production at its finest, I didn’t know they were in the business of making people, but it was inevitable. I decided to call her Tripli-kate.
Checking on the fist-bumper, I noticed a figure setting up a drum set. I began to wish I brought some mace. The drummer had a greasy look that was all-too-common for Southern New Jersey cover bands. The rest of the group remained hidden from my view but I could hear them plucking away…preparing for an audio onslaught that the Nazis themselves could not conceive.
At the first struck note, a herd of wild-haired, fake-breasted, buffalo woman stampeded towards the back. Their bovine glares focused at the half-empty stage of has-beens preparing to play their brand of South Jersey Soul Music (Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Van Morrison, and a dash of Black-eye’d peas). Men soon followed the women, quietly coming close to their ample posteriors in order to make contact with their Wrangler sheathed crotches.
The unknown scent that I detected was becoming stronger. I determined it was a mixture of grease, sex, and broken ambition – a potent and dangerous concoction. It was entirely plausible that the rapture of bad food, bad music, and unfulfilled dreams could instigate a flash-orgy. We needed to leave. Immediately.
The music started as we got up. The crowd converged. Through a fetid vaginal cavity made of small gaps, cracks, and armpits—I found freedom. Out the doors, we barricaded ourselves in the car. Hearing the music reach a crescendo, the smell attained its own malodorous peak, infecting my nostrils and lungs even outdoors.
Image Credit: Ralph Steadman
I scrubbed myself raw when I got home to ensure I was not contaminated by any form of contact. I wrapped a blanked over myself and watched TV for several days until the thought of that horrible place left my mind and I was able to venture out into the world again.
( #JackJohnson, #Philadelphia, #Camden )
I can’t say one thing about G Love because I completely missed his performance. My wife and I left our house at 6:00 PM for the 7:00 PM show (we live about 20 minutes from Camden). Everything was smooth until we got about 1/3 of mile to the Camden Entertainment Complex exit (5A); we were stuck there for the next 100 minutes. It took another 20 minutes to get forced into a $25 parking lot.
As you could imagine I was pretty pissed off getting into the concert, but thankfully I didn’t have to wait in line to get into the show.
I have never seen the Camden Entertainment Complex (it’s called the Susquehanna bank center but this place changes names every 18 months, so screw it) so packed. The lawn area was an absolute sea of people (this show was definitely oversold). There was no room to put down blankets. This was one massive standing room only concert. In addition to the crowds, the PA for the lawn area was underpowered. You could hear the music, but not well (you don’t normally read me complaining a concert was too low).
Overall, Johnson sounded really good (like he always does). He put on an earnest yet laid back show. G Love came out to jam on a few songs (I was glad I got to see him play). Jack’s band was very good tonight; especially his multi-instrumentalist (mainly keyboard instruments). I don’t know the guy’s name, but he made slower songs like “Banana Pancakes” pop.
To be honest, we cut out at 11 PM because we were terrified of getting stuck for another two hours in Camden and it was so tight on the lawn that you couldn’t scratch your eye without elbowing somebody in the back. While I am a little annoyed at the concert conditions, Johnson is donating all profits from the tour to charity, so I felt good about my money going to good causes.
I keep saying it, but I really do think I am done with the big concert venue shows and any kind of open seating situation: they are expensive, the sound is usually not great, and there are ALWAYS a small group (or pockets) of people that ruin the show for everyone else.
Here’s hoping Johnson does a winter tour in small venues!
Even though I was raised Roman Catholic, my family was not overly religious. Sure my mom made us go to church on Sunday and yes, I was an alter-boy (please refrain from the sexual molestation jokes – I was a fat kid, the priests weren’t into me). Looking back, I feel like any of my religious activities at the time had more to do with my Italian heritage and South Philadelphia neighborhood than any feelings about faith or God. By the time I was in 6th grade (11ish), I had pretty much written off Christianity, but I kept it to myself until I was in high school.
While I spent most of my “family time” with my Dad’s side, my mom’s sister held a special place in my heart. She was (and is) very independent, odd, and a DEVOUT Catholic. It didn’t seem strange to me at the time, but as I got older, my Aunt became more immersed/dependent on the church. The summer that I turned 12 she told me she had a very special birthday present for me (she usually indulged my obsession with electronics). Since my birthday was at the end of the summer, I was left waiting almost the entire 12 weeks for my gift. At some point I found out it was on a specific date, so I knew we were going to a place. Finally the day arrived and my Mom volunteered to drive the three of us. We were in the car for what seemed like hours and finally we pulled into a very pleasant looking place (farm like in appearance – open fields, barns, etc) and then I spotted the ENORMOUS WOOD CROSS.
My exact words: “Oh Shit”
My mom pulled into the parking area and this place was packed. We were late, but I could see kids everywhere. They all had purple and blue shirts on with crosses on it. I could tell that they were not the Catholic flavor of Christian that I was familiar with which made the situation (in my mind) even worse. I shot a nasty look to my mother and she communicated with her eyes that she had no idea what was going on. Knowing how her sister operates, I believed her. My aunt was already out of the car and pre-introducing me to these creepily polite kids. I walked up and exchanged pleasantries (translation: I was a total jerk to them) and they invited me into a retrofitted barn. I walked behind them looking back to see if my mother and aunt were following (I didn’t want to be abducted into their cult) – as I passed the massive barn door, I saw a stage.
My exact words: “Get me the **** out of here”
I am a music snob now and I was a music snob then. Christian rock did not exist in my mind as a viable musical genre (it still doesn’t). I see my mother and aunt peering into the door (they being the only Italian looking people in the establishment besides myself, everyone else looked like they walked off the set of “Children of the Corn”), I start to walk back to them and my aunt holds up her hand and says “just give it a chance”. “No.” She says: “You might like it since you love music.” I say: “That’s exactly why I won’t.” I could see that I might have cut a little too deep on that last line so I relented and sat down. The Children of the Corn started telling me about the clown that was about to play and I nodded and thought of better times. The guy comes on stage and is rocking 80’s era Richard Marx quaffed hair and even has the pierced ear with long dangling earring. Opening chord rings…
I sit through three songs. The Children of the Corn are swaying and holding hands. The musician is singing about his deep Jesus Love…. I walk out. My aunt looks at me with disappointment, as my Mom has this amused look on her face – no doubt she enjoyed my suffering at the hands of the uber-Christians as cosmic retribution for some other act of defiance. As we walked out of the barn, a tall lanky looking fellow stops us, “Aren’t you enjoying the show?” My aunt starts to engage this man in conversation, trying to explain away my “unexpected” bout of good taste. Soon enough they start passing bible quotations between each other. I look at my mother, who is equally ready to get the hell out of this nightmare (although she would never admit it), and she politely reminds my aunt that we are leaving. My aunt who I now know is exacting her own revenge on me continues to chat away with this fellow until he turns his attention to me.
“Didn’t enjoy the show?” I will admit that during my pre-teen years I could be a rude little snot. I considered my silence at that point an act of extreme restraint. I looked at this tall bastard and said “This is not a show, it is a membership drive.” He just looked at me, I am sure thinking I was destined for a life of sadness. My mother and aunt did and quickly escorted me to the car before I could inflict further damage or embarrassment. The ride home was very silent. In the 12 weeks leading up to this “surprise”, I bragged and taunted my sister as (to my knowledge) she wasn’t included (I assume she didn’t need to go because she didn’t “reject the church”), so now I was stewing because I would have to tell her what went down.
We walk into my grandmother’s (who was watching my sister): “How was it?” she asks as she flipped through a gossip magazine. “Christian Rock Concert.” She looks at me and starts laughing hysterically. She was right to laugh – who gets tricked into going to a Christian Rock Concert? Me. That’s who.
(I don’t think the dude was Michael W. Smith, but he was trying his best to be him)
The first Saturday of April was beautiful and sunny. My wife and I decided to take advantage of the weather and put some more miles on the car. We made a left on the the main road and I noticed a sweet old Buick: I registered it as a pleasant object and then my mind went off to other thoughts.
As I started to get on the highway, I could see the old Buick in my rear-view mirror, it was fish-tailing and trying to get around the person between us. That person quickly yielded and let Buick pass. Now it was behind me and right up my ass. I started cursing at the driver’s recklessness. I was boxed in on the other side, so I couldn’t get over to let him pass. I slowed it down a bit to give him a hint. He just got closer.
By slowing down, the person in the other lane got in front of me and this gave the driver of the Buick a chance to pass.
I looked over to give him a dirty look and I noticed this Buick was being driven by an old man. A really old man. The urge to give this guy the finger dissipated and I started thinking “good for you old man, still busting balls at your age”. The old bastard in his mint muscle car got in front of me and started to pull away. I told my wife to take out her phone, I needed a picture of this man and his car, to remember to keep busting balls. Alas, we captured the car, but not the man.
Normally I would be ranting about asshole drivers in New Jersey, but not today; Yes the guy was most definitely an asshole but at least he wasn’t humbled by his advanced age. Not meek and fearful like his peers, this bastard drove a cool car and and kept his swagger. There is a lesson here for all of us.
To summarize: an old man in an old American Buick blew my Japanese Honda off the road.
NOTE: The names, dates, and places have all been changed to protect the parties involved.
Weddings are supposed to be days of happiness and unity, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. A few years ago my buddy “Clowncar” took the plunge and exchanged vows. The ceremony and reception were great. Clowncar invited our group to attend (sans my future wife as we had only been dating a few months, so invitations and seating were already locked – this is an important because…). Since I was going stag and three of the other guys were single at the time, we agreed to go together. Let’s call the three guys Grapeape, Shame, and Shirts. Like any wedding with an open bar, we got drunk. Then we went to a bar at the hotel and drank some more. During the wedding, Shame was on the prowl looking for some wedding sex which he achieved in a classic story that is not mine to tell publicly. I will share my friend’s wife kept saying “he’s not going to have sex with that girl is he? She’s so nasty!” My reply was “what do you think her family is saying about him.” Because of that sexual conquest, Shame recommended we leave so he could avoid awkward cuddling or conversation post coitus. Off we went. I should note that I had stopped drinking during the wedding because I had to drive.
We ended up going to a semi-popular bar/restaurant in South Jersey that happened to be open late for some god awful reason. This is one of those places that is really a restaurant but decides to call itself into a club after 11:00 PM for the asshole patrons that think they are doing something with their night. We walk in as a fight is being broken up. Bad Omen. Shame’s intent was to get laid again and was in full capture mode. When Shame reaches such levels of self-interest I tend to take a few paces back, way too much for me to handle drunk let alone sober. As I watched my friends get progressively drunker another fight is broken up and the participants are ejected from the building… that makes two. I strike up a conversation with the bouncers, and say something to the effect of “for such a tame bar, there seems to be a lot of fights tonight.” The bouncer agrees saying he doesn’t know what is going on. Unfortunately, it would soon be our turn.
What happens next will first be told from my perspective sitting on the bench in front of the bar next to the bouncer and then I will tell the story from other accounts of what happened:
From my view:
I noticed Shame, Grapeape, and Shirts at the main bar talking to two girls, one attractive and one that wasn’t (of course she was throwing herself at Shame – like a lamb to the slaughter). I continue my conversation with the bouncer when I hear “Fuck you ” I look up and notice Shirts start to get up and look very angry. Shirts is of a non-Caucasian ethnicity (I won’t say what) and this was a very inappropriate thing to say (it was not the N-word). Shirts goes off on this guy, telling him he is going to do terrible things…bla bla bla. The bouncers rush over and the guy and Shirts are getting tossed out. I grab Shirts and try to calm things down, he agrees to go outside to cool off. Grapeape and Shame stay in the bar with the girls.
Second Hand Account:
Shame, Grapeape, and Shirts were talking to the two girls (Shame was trying to lock down both) when a few guys came over and tried to talk to the girls. Shame immediately got pissed at this act and told the two guys to fuck off. Things escalated from there until they called Shirts the racial slur. I should have guessed Shame was at the center of it…
Once I got outside, Shirts was calming down when we noticed several guys were coming to my car from other parts of the parking lot. I quickly (and correctly) guessed that all of fights were connected and all of these assholes were together. There were initially ten guys trying to start something with Shirts outside. You know that part in Thriller when MJ and the girl are surrounded by the zombies and the camera goes around in the circle, and then comes back on MJ and he is a zombie? That’s what happened to us except Shirts didn’t turn into a zombie (or in this case a greasy European looking guy) and nobody was breaking out into spontaneous street dancing. Being the only sober one in the general area, I start talking common sense: everybody is drunk, it’s not going to end well, their group is going to get into way more trouble since we were basically being jumped; they started to back off. Then Grapeape comes out.
He burst out of the bar doors like Hulk Hogan and in my retro-memory he is waving his finger and “Hulking Up”. He immediately gets in this giant greasy kid’s face as more of their friends follow out of the bar. There is now close to twenty guys surrounding the three of us. Angry words are being exchanged and I look over at the bar for the bouncers and I see Shame talking with them. Shame comes over. One of the smaller guys manages to dart behind Grapeape and the big greasy kid pushed him down. The thugs swarms around Grapeape. He never even had a chance. It seems to me that Shame was their original target and he was quickly taken down once Grapeape was neutralized. Shame’s survival instinct is strong as he rolled into a ball and protected his pretty face. Eventually they grew tired of him and moved to join the gangbang on Grapeape.
(Example of what the offenders looked like)
Shirts and I were still on our feet. There were three guys on Shirts and he somehow made them move away from Grapeape and Shame and took them on himself in another portion of the parking lot. There was one guy left and he was gunning for me. I am completely sober and have the benefit of adrenaline clarity. This guy is staggering before he even throws one punch. I keep telling him he doesn’t want to throw that punch but I am thinking I don’t want to throw a punch. Being sober in a fight as one huge disadvantage: logic. I am thinking if I hit this guy and he gets hurt, am I going to get sued? Jail? As I am deep in thought, he punches me. This kid has no heat and his fist literally bounces off my head. I say fuck it, self-defense time. One open palm to the face and he is down and bleeding. I look back at Grapeape and the swarm around him is huge and kicking. I scream at the bouncers to call the cops and probably an ambulance. I then jump on Grapeape and try to absorb some of the kicks to his head. I noticed Shame pretending to be passed out by a car.
The cops arrived quickly leading me to believe someone else called earlier. The twenty assholes actually ran away. RAN AWAY. The cops quickly caught up with them. As the ambulance arrived, their attention was first focused on Shame. Shame was fine and kept asking/proclaiming that “It’s got to be illegal to punch someone in the face, it has to be illegal.” The EMT kept telling him he was right, it was assault, but Shame kept saying it until the EMT told Shame to shut the fuck up. Eventually they focused on Grapeape – he was in bad shape. They cleaned him up, patched up the cuts, and made sure he didn’t have a concussion. As they checked my friend, I looked at the other part of the parking lot where the cops managed to wrangle up most of the thugs. They were allowed to leave on their own accord.
They left. The ambulance left. The cops left. We left.
I dropped off Shirts and Shame. Then I went to Grapeape’s place. I stayed with him to make sure he wasn’t exhibiting any signs of a concussion – he wasn’t. He kept telling me to leave and after an hour or so, I agreed to go (which I regretted then and to this day). I found out he went to the hospital the next day to get stitches and to be treated for a minor concussion – something good came out of that trip, but that’s not my business to say, but I think it worked out for him.
Shame and I went to the police station the following week as Shame was exploring any and all options to capitalize on his beating. Nothing came of it. No surprise.
I wish I could come up with some profound way to end this story. To my knowledge, none of us have been involved in a fight since. Grapeape deplores going out and being around people and likes to stay home with his girl, Shirts and I are married and living our lives, and Shame is… still Shame.