“SHIT! We forgot to get Skinny Pete!” I said as we rolled up to the Magic Death Sounds Block Party.

“What do we do?” Sweet T asked, hungover and tired.

“Well, one of us has to go get him obviously,” Kingpin chimed in as he unfolded chairs and stretched out the TD2BD banner.

“Alright, you two stay here, and I’ll go pick him up.” I turned on my heel back towards my Jeep.

As I turned the engine to go get Skinny Pete (quite hungover from the previous night’s excursion to DRINK/DANCE/DESTROY at the Dive Bar), I had a curious thought.

Six months ago, I would have never volunteered myself to drive anywhere in the city. I had hated driving in the city; I had, in fact, been completely overwhelmed with fear at the mere thought of having to drive into Philadelphia at all. Yet here I was, three short months after signing on with team TD2BD, willingly volunteering myself to do what had previously scared the crap out of me.

I had viewed driving in the city as a sort of childish nightmare; people everywhere, stop and go traffic, no parking. It was a standard hate for the things that most people hated.

But then I joined TD2BD. On more than one occasion I willingly drove into the city, and then drove home from it as designated driver for a bunch of rowdy drunks.

I got into my car and, feeling confident now that I had a command of the street system around here (at least enough to not get truly lost), I drove off in search of Skinny Pete. I called him. He was standing on some corner somewhere.

“Hurry! I want to start drinking.”

Thinking back, I had drunkenly told him the night before that I would be more than happy to pick him up on our way to the block party. I tend to over-promise and under-deliver when I’ve had a few.

As the cool breeze and warming sun hit my face through my open car window, I started to compose a list of the things I had not done before joining on with the site. It seemed like it would have been easier to compose a list of things I hadn’t done since joining, but that list would have been immeasurably shorter.

For instance, I had never been let in as V.I.P. at any establishment hosting an event before. Ever.

I had never watched a drag performance before. Hell, I’d never even seen a man or woman in drag before we went to Teri’s for just such an event. Drag Queens were the kind of thing I had come to believe only existed in movies and TV. I was very wrong about that one.

Which brings me to another first: I had never set foot in Teri’s before. I didn’t even know Teri’s existed before heading there after the Dead Flower’s Block Party.

Being at Teri’s is like being in a bar where your closest friend is bartending. Everyone there treats you like they’ve known you forever if they like you at all. I pass through there once every couple weeks, and all the bartenders always say hello and most of them know me by face if not name now. It’s like being Norm from Cheers. I once watched Sweet T dance in a children’s wading pool on the crowded sidewalk out front of Teri’s, and I couldn’t help but think that we had found somewhere that we felt truly accepted.

It was also at Teri’s Bar where I had my very first Tecate as well as my very first Martini.

Suddenly, a detour sign stopped me dead in my tracks. Six months ago, this would have been a nearly unsolvable obstacle for me. I would have looked at this detour sign and said “Welp, guess I’ll just turn around and tell Pete he’s boned for a ride” but not today. This was the era of TD2BD in my life, and I was Roc Borja: urban explorer. I finagled my way past the detour and a few lights later I was back on track.

There was so much I hadn’t done before.

I’d never grabbed the ass of a half-naked burlesque dancer.

I’d never seen a grown man eat worms out on the street.

I’d never seen a man in a wheelchair wearing a koala mask shred on a guitar.

Truth be told, I’d never once been to a Philly block party before the summer of 2013. Now I feel like I’m more like “Block Borja” than Roc Borja.

Thoughts like this make me feel like I had been wasting my life before Sweet T and I had been brought aboard.

I’m ashamed to say that I had never even been to The Barbary before my first Guitar Army. I didn’t even really know what Tiger Beats was outside of the glamorous pictures I saw on the Facebook feeds of all my friends.

Sweet T and I had never been to Brooklyn before going to Tanner Caldwell’s Kat Face Party in May either. We had also never had the joy of receiving an old fashioned NYC parking ticket before then either.

Before, I struggled to find places to get my work published on the internet. Now, I have several articles written with generally positive reviews from my friends and even some strangers. I have an outlet for my writing that did not exist for me previously. I’d never really felt like a writer before, and I owe that to my time with TD2BD.

I pulled out a smoke and lit it with my car’s lighter, displacing my attention for just a second. I nearly drove right past Skinny Pete, who was now jumping around and waving his arms at me as I slammed on my brakes and hit the turn signal.He hopped in the car.

“Space out much?” he laughed and lit a smoke of his own as we recalled the events of the previous night and drove back towards the rest of Team TD2BD and the block party that awaited us.

There is so much more that I have done as a result of being part of the site, and yet there is still so much that I have yet to do. I look forward to it with open arms, and I think kindly on the people and the places that have given life to the summer that we have most recently said goodbye to.

It’s been an insane six months, but I’ve had the best summer of my life, and I owe it all to the strange and friendly faces I’ve met along the way in the city of brotherly love.

It’s been a fuckin’ wild ride Philly, and I have high hopes that next summer will be even better than this one. Stay true to heart, and keep being yourselves. You’re fucking beautiful.

-Roc Borja