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.|
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.|
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.
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!