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Entry date: 7-4-2022 - The Ghost of July 4 - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I used to love July 4th a lot. Fireworks plus hallucinogens is a good time. Obviously, I grew out of that and haven’t considered it for a long time, but looking back, there were some fun times on ol’ July 4 in the teenage years.

I remember going to California with my mom a few times for July 4. On one trip, we were at some friend of hers or her boyfriend in Studio City, I think, and we were right across the street from where some guy who was on Kojak or something like that lived. The only other details I recall from that is being impatient and wanting to go to see the fireworks because we could buy fireworks at the show.

There was another trip that found us in Mission Beach for July 4, too. No recollection other than being on the beach and waiting for the fireworks to happen. I might have been severely sunburned for that one. There are a few stories that have that aspect, at least for me, when it comes to Mission Beach.

In 1985, I remember going to Tommy’s on July 4. For those of you who don’t know, Tommy’s was a teen dance club that was open on Fridays and Saturdays in the mid-1980s. It was on Camelback between 7th and 11th avenues. Now it’s a charter school, I think, or at least it was for a while.

It had two double doors that you would go in to pay your $5 admission fee, and then two more double doors that opened onto the club. It was super dark in there, always, and there was one long bar to your left when you walked in. Across from the bar there was a decent sized dance floor and a wide entry way into the back area of the club where there were bathrooms, another dance floor, some mingling space, and a row of tables in the back.

Anyway, I remember being at Tommy’s that night. I still had a sense of smell in those days, and I was worried about smelling too much like weed since I had been smoking a lot of it that night. I had not yet taken the plunge into more colorful mind-altering chemicals just yet.

I did meet a nice girl that night. I can’t remember her name, but we danced and laughed about how we both had cotton mouth so bad that a kiss we attempted was extremely unpleasant. I got her number, but never ended up calling her. I was still pretty shy in those days and embarrassed about the kiss, even though we laughed about it.

In 1986, Ben and I skated down to Paradise Valley Mall as we were staying out at Bill’s again. You may remember that after we proved we could not be trusted when our moms were out of town, Ben and I stayed with mom’s ex, Bill, a few times as teenagers. We met some friends and watched the fireworks in a state of mind that was new and amazing to me. They never looked so good.

This was the case for the next several years. I remember telling people, probably by 1989, that July 4th was my favorite holiday. ’89 was a memorable one, too. There was a party at my friend Michelle’s house out in Paradise Valley. Not far from where my dad lives now. Whenever I pass her old house on the way to his house, I have to smile a bit.

I had started dating Alexa at this point and in some ways, it really could have been the last night we were ever together. That would have altered the course of my life quite a bit since she played such a big role for the next six years or so.

I had got myself in the mindset to see some fireworks and was laughing and having fun. Tons of friends were at Michelle’s, including my old buddy, Dana, who was about 14 or 15 years old at the time. Dana would later die in a car accident, robbing a lot of us of our spiritual little brother, but that’s another story. On July 4, 1989, Dana and I were having a lot of fun getting high as a Georgia pine in Michelle’s bedroom.

I had sort of lost track of Alexa and was wandering around the party. We’d been dating for about six weeks at the time and were at that sort of “are we or aren’t we serious” stage of things. I liked her a lot, but I was also super high for most of those six weeks, to be honest, and 19 years old. I was not ready to be serious with anyone.

There was a young lady who had been dating an acquaintance of mine that I had my eye on from before meeting Alexa at the party. I had flirted with her a lot when I was single, but she was with this idiot I went to high school with and would always say, “Sorry, I’m with (I’ll call him Dork).”

On July 4th, though, I walked out to the front yard. It was about dusk and fireworks would be happening soon. Kind of like time to open the gifts on Christmas morning for me, and I wondered where Alexa was since she was my ride to the PV country club for the show.

Who should I run into but the young lady I had been chasing for months? Funny, I can’t remember her name or even picture her, but I remember this moment. She’s out there with a couple of friends. Suave dog that I was, I probably said, “hey” or something equally charming. I was all smiles at this point, couldn’t have frowned or tried to look brooding and mysterious if I wanted to, but the strangest thing happened.

She walked up, grabbed my hand, and said, “Come watch the fireworks with us. I broke up with Dork.”

Boy, did I feel dumb. I didn’t know what to do. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have gone with her because the rest of that night was a trainwreck and not because I politely declined and said I was seeing someone.

Alexa was super drunk and acting like she wanted to get together with one of my best friends and I was stuck at a party with her being a clown. By 1991, though, Alexa and I were watching the fireworks in Berkeley together and guess what, I wanted to be with someone else that night, too. The universe was telling me something and I didn’t listen.

Wow. I didn’t intend this blog to go there, but it did. July 4th is a day of internal fireworks, I suppose. Lots to unpack, I suppose. One thing I should say, though, is that while I haven’t painted a great picture of my time with Alexa, she was probably my best friend for a portion of my life, and I will always be grateful for that. Tumultuous as it was for us in the romance world, we had each other’s backs a lot.

Hopefully you and yours have a wonderful fourth of July. Don’t blow yourself up.

See you tomorrow.

PS…I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I have had some wonderful Fourth of July experiences since those days. In 1993 or 1994, Alexa and I went up to Berkeley and saw the Butthole Surfers play at the Greek Theater on campus. That was rad.

We used to have some good parties in Ahwatukee for the Fourth, except for the time I almost punched Drew for being obnoxious. That was a barnburner. I don’t think I’ve been that close to punching a good friend since the 80s.

Rhondi and the kids and I have had some fun 4ths, too. Last year, especially, was fun. We had a nice time here in Rangeley and the kids and I went up to the lake to see a very cool fireworks show. When we left, Liam tried to jump across a ditch and just about killed himself. Teresa and I laughed a lot.

Here is a picture from July 4th last year. I was lamenting that I only had about a week left in Maine when I took this. This is year is a lot nicer. In the lower left corner, you can see KanJam. We played a bit of KanJam that day.

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