“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” -Charles Dickens
This was the moment it truly hit me, this was the exact place in time that I finally realized I had lost everything. The cemetery silence was broken by the conversations of a group of night time revelers who passed by on the street below, their laughs contrasting the mournful silence of my burned out room illuminated by the bluish moonlight.
My own zombie-like stance and gaped mouth was disrupted by a slight stumble brought on by my heavy intoxication. I started on what I had come here to do: collect what I could under the cover of darkness before the demolition would begin the next morning. I had been drinking at the ‘Friends of 4th Street Fundraiser’ at The Legendary Dobbs only a few minutes before when Zero suggested, also buzzed, that it would be a good idea to grab what I could from my old home since we were only a few blocks away.
There are moments in your life that defy the chronological order of things. No matter how many years old you are there will be times when you are closer to the day you were born, and times when you feel closer to the grave. The icy appreciation for the limited time we have here ran its boney fingers across the nape of my neck every time I picked up a shirt that was water logged or smelled the smoke embedded in my boots. I used to think of campfires in the deep woods of Pennsylvania or bonfires in backyards when I smelled that before, from now on I will think of only this moment.
I threw what I could salvage (not much) into the trunk of Kingpin’s car and went back to Dobb’s. I sat on the wooden railing of the front of the place and smoked a cigarette, staring down at the dirt caked into my palms that the bathroom sink at this bar couldn’t clean out. The malaise didn’t last long as I realized that everyone here was having the time of their lives at an event built up to help me and the other displaced residents. $1 cupcakes were being handed out, prizes from all of the local businesses being raffled out, and bands playing their heart out for us.
The grave suddenly felt like a long way off.
Saturday rolled around and my hangover was still only subsiding from the night at Dobb’s. A party was being hosted in north Philly by the lovely Sara Danielle for me and the firefighter Captain who lost his life in the fire. After some heavy day drinking Zero, Clutch, and myself trekked out with a case of Rolling Rock. By the time we arrived the party was in full swing, while the vibrations of the bands in the basement rocked the house. Booze flowed freely and I couldn’t be happier to see people from the other side of Philadelphia showing their support for those effected by the fire. If you’re not from this city then you may not understand this but anything north of Kensington might as well be on another planet if you live in South Philly, and the same goes for West. Despite this cultural and geographical separation these people reached out and showed us a great time.
The next day I adventured on down to Teri’s Diner on 9th and Washington at 8 p.m. for a complete acoustic blow-out with raffles and an open bar tab for yours truly (a bad idea if you know me at all). It was a whirlwind of people from all over the city, some knew me and others didn’t, but still wanted to show their support for a member of our South Philly community. Mike Hans was in attendance with a case of beer from the Yards brewery to be raffled off, flanked by his silent partner in crime, polymath Adam Burton. Zack Traum of IronWill Tattoo club graced us with not just his well-dressed presence but also gift certificates to be raffled off as well.
The acts played out and the night flew by in a tumultuous mess as I ran from one end of the bar to the other like the official dervish of debauchery. It felt like the whole city was here and the event poured out into the streets as Steve-O from The Holy Mess stood atop a chair and played to a crowd on the sidewalk. We all screamed the lyrics to every song, even if we didn’t know them. At one point I was making up lines about licking car batteries.
The night ended and everyone was shooed home. I helped clean up a bit with the event organizer Mike Cardone (of Kite and Key), two of the musicians Mathew Kellison and John Flemming, and the employees of Teri’s Diner and Bar. After one last round of shots we played ourselves out with a cover of Wagon Wheel by Bob Dylan and I walked to where I was staying that night.
The bottom line:
The entire week had been a complete success in my book. I made enough cash from the kindness of strangers and friends alike to help get myself back on my feet, and more importantly get me back to contributing content here at TD2BD for all you punks, misfits, bastards, and ravers. You all took what should have been an inescapable pit of despair that would become my grave and lowered down the rope that I needed to get myself out of it. The days to come will still be hard, but you all gave me the strength to face it with a smile on my face and a restored faith in my fellow man. For now the grave seems like it’s a far way off for me.
Note: A HUGE thank you to Queen’s Village Neighborhood Association for organizing everyone who wanted to help into one cohesive and powerful group of contributors, Sara Danielle for your own kind-hearted organization from our north Philly partners-in-debauchery, Teri’s Diner for hosting the acoustic benefit (especially your head chef Doreen DeMarco for getting the whole ball rolling), Mike Cardone for organizing the acoustic acts, and also a shout-out to Steve-O of The Holy Mess for showing up and playing despite not being on the band-list (and your girlfriend, local artist and musician Teena Leeds for telling you about the event!).
Seriously there are too many to thank here, but I hope that sums it up nicely. If I didn’t mention you then rest assured that all of those around you know what you’ve done for us, and more importantly I do. Your next one is on me.