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  • The sun shines on this funeral, the same as on a birth
    The way it shines on everything that happens here on earth
    It rolls across the western sky and back into the sea
    And spends the day¹s last rays upon this f***ed-up family...
    So long old pal

    The last time I saw Alice she was leaving Santa Fe
    With a bunch of round-eyed Buddhists in a killer Chevrolet
    Said they turned her out of Texas, yeah she burned 'em down back home
    Now she's wild with expectation on the edge of the unknown

    They brought her back on a friday night, same day I was born
    We sent her up the smoke stack, and back into the storm
    She blew up over the San Juan mountains, and spent herself at last
    The threat of heavy weather, that was what she knew the best
    So long old pal

    Oh, it's enough to be on your way,
    It's enough just to cover ground
    It's enough to be moving on...
    Home, better build it behind your eyes
    Carry it in your heart - safe among your own

    It woke me up on a Sunday morning, an hour before the sun
    It had me watching the headlights out on highway 591
    'til I stepped into my trousers, ‘til I pulled my big boots on
    And walked out on the mesa, where I stumbled on this song

    So long old pal....

    James Taylor, excerpts from “Enough to Be On Your Way”, a song he wrote about his brother Alex dying
    She never mentions the word addiction, in certain company
    Yes, she'll tell you she's an orphan, after you meet her family

    From “She Talks to Angels”, Black Crowes, by Christopher Robinson, Mark Robinson, Rich S.

    My friend had just gotten back from his second wedding – this was the one back in the old country. They’d actually gotten married here last year, but this was the one with (and for) all of her family over there. I’d seen some amazing pictures of it on the internet. “Welcome back, man – it must have been great!”

    “I know this doesn’t sound right, but I feel like I have PTSD from the wedding!” He then proceeded to describe one of the craziest, most dysfunctional wedding scenarios I’ve heard (aside from the one I played a leading role in myself – my own!) . He’d picked the right person to talk about it! I was able to reassure him – “you’ve married HER – not her whole crazy family. You love HER. Yes, she’s a part of that, too – that’s what she grew up with. Yes, (hopefully) she will move past all of that, as she realizes her life today, with YOU. She loves YOU (obviously). She will let all that crazy dysfunction go as you two build your life together.” For his sanity and well-being, I certainly hope I am right about that. I didn’t have time to go into all of my experience with this. We were getting ready to leave for Philadelphia, for a family funeral the next day. But, as I said, he’d picked the right guy to share his tale with.
  • As we headed north up the road, up Interstate 95 through Baltimore to Philadelphia, I was reminded of the first time we made this trip together, in an old beat-up Opal Cadet with a floating gear box, nearly 30 years ago. We’d been down to visit our friends in Maryland for the weekend. It was Easter, and we were driving up to meet her parents for the first time. The fact that I did actually go through with meeting them, after all the stories I heard on that drive, might have been the first proof that I really did love her. Were it not for that love, I might otherwise have gone screaming into the night! Suffice it to say, she was really nervous about the meeting, and thought that she owed me fair warning about how her parents could be. I’ll spare you the details – it wasn’t pretty. However, I found them to be fine people, and really hit it off well with her father. Her mother just never shut up, from the time we entered the restaurant, until....well, 29 years later, she still talks herself hoarse. But, I’m still here!

    It was the rest of that extended family...lord, the stories I could tell about that family! On second thought, I’d rather not. I usually go through this process of trying to forget the whole crazy thing even happened, when we get back from one of these family gatherings. I try to focus on the fact that I really got lucky in the deal. I wound up with the one sane one! And, she chose me over them! Not that there was an ultimatum or anything, it’s just that... if she had needed to remain intimately enmeshed with all of them, all of the time, I’m not sure we could have survived. Yes, love is powerful, but...I don’t know. What was it that my friend said – he thought he had PTSD from his wedding? Like I said, he’d picked the right guy to talk to. We’ll have to talk some more.

    We were up for an Uncle’s funeral. He wasn’t really an uncle – actually, her mother’s cousin. They always call cousins uncles and aunts in her family. It’s all so confusing. Especially when cousins marry cousins – I mean, the son and daughter of a pair of cousins who wanted to marry but couldn’t, wind up marrying and living happily ever after - and baby mamas marry the baby’s father’s brother – yeah, it gets pretty mixed up, like that. I’ve already said far more than I wanted to.

    Let’s just leave it with, I got lucky in the deal. Instead of focusing on how incredibly impersonal the service was – complete with, what she described as “the worst homily I’ve ever heard” – (Oh, good, it wasn’t just me who thought that). My other thought, as I saw these four old men running around the altar, serving the priest as the “altar boys”, obviously priests themselves, was one I knew I shouldn’t be thinking, but just couldn’t help myself – I know, it’s awful, but I just thought – “well, yeah, that makes sense – they can’t get boys to be altar boys anymore, because who would trust their kids with these old priests, after everything we’ve heard about them?” But, anyway, we did wind up making the most of our time while in the city of brotherly love.
  • Did I mention how great the food there was? I’ve already described (in my previous story) how wonderful the french toast and scrapple were for breakfast. Kathy got some amazing creamed chip beef on toast. We swung by the first apartment we shared together, on Charles Street, still standing after all these years. Our humble beginnings. After the funeral and interment, she’d pretty much reached her limit of tolerance, and wasn’t up to driving another hour back across the city for the wake. That’s when everything really gets wild and wooly, and we declined that adventure. Instead, we diverted off the road back home to our old haunts in South Philly – got a sandwich at the best place in the world to get such a sandwich, a dumpy looking bar at 20th and Jackson called Nick’s, where, I swear to God, the same damned bartender who was there 20 years ago when I always stopped in for a sandwich after I’d worked the Imported Beer Stand at Veterans Stadium was still there, and I ordered two “with” (provolone cheese with hot peppers and horse radish), and we sat in the car, completely immersed in the joy of eating the best goddamned roast beef sandwich known to man...with.

    We topped it off with a stop at Termini’s bakery for cannolis – and tea biscuits – and pitzelles – and chocolate chip cookies. We had to stock up. We don’t have a Termini’s in Virginia. There used to be a bakery in Union Station in D.C. that had cannoli’s that were close to Termini’s, but they’re gone now. There’s only one Termini’s. Made the whole trip worthwhile.

    As we made our way south, I reflected, once again, on how fortunate I was to wind up with the sane one.
    Pictured: The bagpiper from the funeral, and the fellow cops who did the 21-gun salute. The fellow in the distance was the one who blew “Taps”, after the salute. The “uncle” had been a Philly cop. This was the best part of the whole service.
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