"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." - Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Chances are, if you are reading this on Thanksgiving Day, you are either eagerly awaiting the ritual gorging on domesticated game bird stuffed with glutinous matter or are suffering from a foodstuff-induced loginess.

Either way, welcome to my first-ever Thanksgiving blog post.  Now, many people will use this day to go over a boring litany of things for which they are most thankful.  Usually, that includes things like family friends, health, blah, blah, blah...

Not me.  Nossir.  I will use my virtual podium to lay out that which I am thankful I don't have.  Won't that be fun?

1. Male Pattern Baldness - It may seem a bit vainglorious, but I am so glad that I still have my hair. It may be getting grayer than Gandalf, but it's still on my head.

2. An Annoying Child - See, I don't like kids.  Never have.  Even when I was a kid, I preferred to hang out with adults. Probably a result of being an only child.  Kids were irksome little snot machines, always touching and breaking stuff.  I always thought I could do a better job of raising one.  And now, I have done it!  I have a perfect little treasure and...wait...I'll be right back.  My kid just poured Chinese hot mustard all over the cat.

3. Catholicism - I was baptized and confirmed a Catholic.  None of which, amazingly, was my decision.  I went to Catholic school. My parents were 'Cafeteria Catholics,' and we rarely attend chucrh except for the Big Three; Easter, Christmas and Palm Sunday.  We half-assed our way through Lent and never participated in any church-related activities.  That was fine with Young Tom, because the only thing I found more boring than Mass was going bra shopping with my Mom.

4.  I don't see dead people - Self-explanatory.

5.  A shrill harpy for a wife - I am extremely lucky that I am married to someone who does not yell, scream or otherwise cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.  (Yes, she is standing right behind me at this moment.)

6. Salmonella - Not yet, anyway.  The day is young.

7. Dermatitis Herpetiformis - A rare, chronic, papulo-vesicular disease characterized by an intensely pruritic eruption consisting of various combinations of symmetrical, erythematous, papular, vesicular, or bullous lesions. Yuck.

8. Sanity - Debatable, yes...but, it's my mind and I can think what I want! So there!

What are YOU not thankful for?

I'd like to know...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

...Dying of the Light, Part Deux.

Previously, on 'Rage Against The...'

Young Mr. Feeney, buoyed by phony Facebook-induced nostalgia, embarkes on an ill-fated journey back to his old hometown to recapture something he feels he may have lost in the ensuing years. 

Unfortunately, he has about the same chance of finding Bigfoot's baby teeth with a Handy Manny™ flashlight and a coke spoon.

And now, the conclusion...

Hotel room? Booked.

Car?  Oil changed and tank all gassed up.

Clothes, toiletries and assorted personal items?  Packed.

Sense of self-worth?  Grossly over-inflated.

Then, it's off I go!  Six hours and one large Dunkin Donuts iced coconut coffee with milk and two Splenda® later and I am in PA.

The lanes where I learned to bowl so poorly.
I decide to drive around my old stomping grounds to see what has changed and, most importantly, what hasn't.  The streets and houses are very much the same.  However, the terrible economy of the past few years has taken it's toll, as it has most everywhere.  The Clemens Supermarket is closed, the Lans-Bowl bowling lanes were destroyed by a fire.  Downtown has seen a lot of changes, most not for the better. I checked into the hotel...nice place.  It's right down the street from Merck Pharmaceuticals where my Dad worked for 44 years.  More déjà vu.  Must be a glitch in the Matrix. After an excellent pizza steak sandwich at Ray's, (Thanks for the recommendation, Chris!) I settle in for the night, still excited about the reunion.

The next morning is bright and crisp...a gorgeous fall day.  I have a plan for the morning; A visit to the Lansdale Historical Society.  Exciting, I know but if you want to relieve the past, you go where the past still lives and breathes.  I spend the morning poring through microfiche records of the local newspaper, the North Penn Reporter, looking for evidence of now non-existent childhood haunts.  More specifically, the movie theaters where I spent many a weekend.  In a small town in the seventies, no one cared if you left an eight-year-old child by themselves at the movies all afternoon.

A sketch of the old Lansdale Theatre that hangs proudly in my home. 
I remember the first 'grown up' movie I got to see by myself, the 1977 disaster movie Rollercoaster, about a terrorist blowing up amusement park attractions. It featured a cool gimmick called Sensurround, which used low frequency sound waves to cause the seats to rumble every time the coasters were on the screen.  It scared the hell out of me.  Not the movie, mind you. Looming above me was a giant glass chandelier that dangled like the Sword of Damocles threatening to crash down on me at any moment. The chandelier* was part of the dangerous charms of the Lansdale Theatre, a decaying old Art Deco movie house, built in 1928.  The danger was apparently all too real for the theatre would have to be torn down in 1979.

After my acid trip down Memory Lane, I drove around some more, reliving good and simpler times I had spent with my folks.  I passed the house where my sister lives with her husband. We haven't spoken since our Dad passed away.  She doesn't know I'm married.  She doesn't know I'm a Dad.  She doesn't know our brother also passed away earlier this year.  I thought about contacting her, but I'm not sure what I would even say anymore. "Hey, it's me.  You remember...your brother Tom.  Yeah, long time I know.  Guess what?  Mike died earlier this year.  Oh, and while you're processing that, listen to this: before he died, he said he didn't want me to ever tell you. What's new with you?"

Yeah, I don't see that going well at all.

Anyway, on to slightly less depressing things.  Like the pseudo-reunion!  Okay, let's set the stage here; I am appropriately manscaped and ready for a fun evening of hellos, how-are-yous, you-look-greats and a few where've-you-beens.  I get to the restaurant/bar promptly at 7:00pm.  It's a lively place called Bones, which makes no sense to me because there isn't one picture of DeForest Kelley to be found in the whole place (and believe me, I looked).  There were already a few people milling about the bar area.  I wasn't sure who they were because they all looked so damn old when I haven't changed one tiny little bit!  This couldn't be right.  I scanned the room like a Terminator looking for Sarah Connor, but instead only found a roiling sea of Male Pattern Baldness, beer bellies, bad perms and Covergirl foundation makeup.

Finally, I spotted a familiar face entering the room.  Mike Rosiak, a jovial fellow I remember from back in the day had arrived.  I am sure he would be the first to admit he is rather hard to miss.  He's a burly dude and stuck out like the Incredible Hulk at an albino midget convention.  He stopped my way for a bone-breaking handshake and then got swarmed by everyone else in the room.  "Okay" I thought. "One down, now let's see who else I remember."  Minutes passed.  Then hours.  Then weeks.  An equinox or two went by.  Not a peep.  I saw my reflection in the mirror behind the bar which confirmed that I had not suddenly turned invisible, so that explanation was out.  Guys were fake-hugging, women were screeching like the brakes of a freight train about to crush a school bus (why can't my metaphors ever be pleasant?) and there I sat, drowning alone in a sea of humanity.

I was pissed, to say the least.  Sure, I may have made matters worse by writing 'Batman' on my name tag, but come on! Speaking of swooping down and saving the day, I was eternally grateful when two of my non-high school friends came to the party specifically to see me.  Chris Badali, whom I have known since first grade and has always been a stand-up guy (even though he's now a blood sucking divorce attorney) and my former La Salle classmate Leo Hesser, who back then was kind of a cross between James Dean and Mick Jones of The Clash.  Too cool for school.  Still is, bless 'im.  So, there we were...a trio of geezers-in-training, reminiscing and talking trash about everyone else in the room. 
L-to-R; Leo Hesser, Tom Feeney, Christian Badali (a.k.a The LensCrafters Trio)

Now, that was more like it.

Oh, there was someone else who recognized me.  Back in my junior year, there was this one girl who sat in the row next to me in French class.  Cute as a button and sweet as a Pixie Stick, she was one of the intense, yet fleeting crushes I had back then.  She looked at me once, then once again.  The light of recognition flashed in her Keane-esque eyes and she approached me.  She didn't remember my name (she probably figured out right away it wasn't Batman), but I remembered hers.  I got a nice hug and she held my face in her hands and smiled.  A minor validation, but it was enough for me.  Then, she introduced me to her 24 -year-old daughter.  Yikes.  A Freaky Friday moment if ever there was one.

My friends and I hung out for a little while longer, then we retired to another, slightly less crowded and noisy bar for a final drink before saying our goodbyes.  All in all, not a terrible evening.  I'm sorry there were a few people I missed seeing, but there's always tomorrow. 

There I go again, proving my legendary pessimism to be a sham worthy of old Professor Marvel himself.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and made my way back home. The home I made with my wife and daughter.  The place where I really belong.

On my way out of town, I heard WMMR play All You Zombies by The Hooters.  "Couldn't have written a better ending myself," I thought.

*That same chandelier is now hanging in a theatre in Oregon. Nice to know it survived and is now frightening new generations of kids!

Monday, November 8, 2010

...Dying of the Light.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned...It's been over a month since my last blog post. 

It's not that I haven't had anything to say.  No, that's not it.  I suppose I could blame it on not having the time to sit down and collect my thoughts.  That would be untrue.  I may chalk it up to simply not having anything I felt was worthy of a lengthy dissertation.

That all changed this past weekend.  Now, before I begin this emotional autopsy on myself, a brief history lesson is in order;

The tiny townhouse where I grew up.
My family moved to the town of Lansdale, PA in 1973.  Lansdale existed in a kind of buffer zone between the Philly suburbs and rural farmland.  Beautiful area and a great place for a kid to grow up.  I was five years old when we moved and about to start first grade. I skipped Kindergarten, because my parents had me in a Montessori pre-school program.  I later found out that Montessori is really a front organization operated by Rosicrucians to indoctrinate potential acolytes.*

Byrne Hall at GMA, where I attended grade school.

I attended Gwynedd-Mercy Academy from grades 1-8.  A private Catholic school, GMA was best remembered (by me) as being a place where young, knobby-kneed boys were cruelly forced to wear grey short pants in twenty degree weather. It was there I learned about such Catholic traditions as Transubstantiation, a.k.a. Ritualistic Cannibalism.  I peaked academically in fourth grade.  After that, my ADD kicked in and it was all downhill from there.

I did manage to get into a really good high school; La Salle College High School.  I believe the recruitment pamphlet described La Salle as a 'Catholic, All-Boys College Preparatory School and Nazi Larvae Death Camp' or something like that.  It was run by the Christian Brothers.  An odd name, I felt because they never seemed to me to act very Christ-like or very brotherly (I chalked it up to all that brandy they drank).  I hated every waking moment.  It was an hour bus ride into Philadelphia from Lansdale and the bus was too big to climb up the steep hill to get to the school.  Be it rain, sleet or snow, we had to trudge up that goddam hill every morning.  Not the best way to start the day.  I was a short, stocky, unathletic nerd who didn't fit in anywhere. By the end of my sophomore year, I was seriously contemplating suicide. No joke.

During the following summer, we received a letter from La Salle suggesting to my parents that I would be better off attending a different school.  I agreed, but the alternative was even more frightening...North Penn.  A public school.  I thought I would be eaten alive.  My impression of public school could be summed up in one word: Prison.  There had to be a good reason why the school was nicknamed 'North Penetentiary.'  NPHS was a massive, Pentagon-like facility with over a thousand students wandering it's many winding corridors.  It took a while for me to get comfortable there, but once it did, I embraced the diversity I found. Imagine it...there were kids of different backgrounds, poor kids, Jewish kids, kids who climb on rocks (oops, went into Armour Hot Dog mode there).  Oh, and most importantly; Girls! Yes, those mysterious, maddening creatures whose only reason for existing was to confound and frustrate me at every turn. 

Senior Prom. Yikes. I look like the 'Bad Humor Man.'
If they gave out class awards for 'Most Likely to Worship a Girl From Afar,' I would've been a shoo-in.  I realized that my well-developed HDS (Humor Defense System) coupled with being a 'nice guy' inevitably led me to permanent 'friend' status among the girls in my social circle.  It didn't help that I was also deathly afraid of what would happen if any girl did show interest.  What the hell would I do then?  I was clueless. 

Senior year was better.  I had carved out my own little niche with some really great friends and made it out of school with my sanity intact.  The week after I graduated in 1985, my parents and I moved to Wildwood, New Jersey.  Some of my adventures there have been chronicled here.

I left Lansdale behind.  For a while.  I returned briefly in 1988, but I will spare you the sordid details of that rollercoaster of despair.  For now.

Since my sojourn to Las Vegas in 1989, I returned to the inviting confines of Montgomery County only once, for a single day, back in 2000.  A familiar blur, it was like looking at a swiftly shifting home movie through the windshield of a car.  No time for reflection or regret.  Maybe it's better than way.

A few weeks ago, the technological miracle/time-waster/Satan's Screwdriver called Facebook afforded me an opportunity to finally go back to my hometown to ride the wave of nostalgia that's been nagging at me since I've reconnected with so many old friends and acquaintances from those days.  An informal event was being planned where members of the graduating NPHS classes from '80-'90 were to gather.  I hemmed and hawed, not actually making the decision to go until the week of the event.

How bad could it be, right?  Right...?

I had no idea.  Looking back, I should have known.  All the signs were there in bright, screaming neon, but I chose to ignore them.  I rushed headlong, looking directly into the abyss.  It didn't even bother to look back.

TOMORROW: Part Two of "You Can't Go Home Again" or "West Point Blank."

*I can not prove this 'fact,' because all pertinent records were erased by a cadre of Illuminati techno-ninjas working under direct orders from the still-living (though disembodied) brain of Pope Innocent XII.