It’s a cheesy title. Trust me I know. But I can picture nothing more fitting than this, especially recently. The complete gamut of emotions I’ve been thrown through during this “vacation” has left me more exhausted and more eager to my future than anything I’ve every experienced. I know I know, if you’ve read any of my previous journal entries you are laughing at such a statement. But it’s true. I swear. See I had 15 vacation days I was super eager to use this year. But Sandy made sure I used a bunch early in January, and my mom having stage 2 cancer is making sure I use the rest. Which I am fine with. My “vacations” often entail me going to my Jersey shore home that I have known since 1981, and working in the shop. Not because I have to, mind you. Trust me. I’ve mastered the art of “letting go” and trust in the decision-making skills of a 16 year-old. No. Truth is I kind of enjoy it. It’s a hell of a lot easier than design work. And the results are immediate. To see a kid light up when you hand her/him a (insert bike/ice cream/surfboard here). It really doesn’t get much better than that.
But this year. This year it’s different. The storm that rolled in and out like a steamroller last year, left it’s footprint hard and fast in the air here. That’s truly the best way I can explain it. It’s like a presence, or a an invisible bruise. I tried not to venture into Holgate too much, as I didn’t want a reminder of what I saw only 6 months ago. But I didn’t need too. No amount of Stronger Than the Storm radio ads or hashtags could hide what I can feel. There’s just no people here. No energy. It’s actually fucking scary. I know I’m a small town kid that grew up in urban hustle and bustle, and I’ve spent a winter or two down here, and let me tell you, this is a ghost of a town right now. It feels like a Hollywood set, walking about. That if I just turned about the corner I would see the duct tape holding everything together. All the smiles and hi’s by the locals seem to be covering a fear and worry. A lot of businesses couldn’t handle coming back (mostly cause insurance screwed them in one form or another, don’t listen to the news, it’s wrong). The really strong businesses should be fine, they will take a hit but nothing compared to those who barely got it together.
I put my mom’s place in that category. Here’s a woman who put everyone ahead of herself during and well after Sandy, and just started on her renovations two months ago. The entire store, lost to damage. Electrical. Flooring. Subflooring. Plumbing. HVAC, oh and all the equipment and inventory. A reboot was needed. I ran the last one, in 2005. That was a little easier. I had about 6 months and I lived nearby. This time there was no time, no money, and no guarantee anyone would be coming back. Add on that my little sister now has to be shipped an hour away for schooling, and some pesky stage 2 cancer. Krakoooow. There’s lightning outside. When it rains it pours right? An optimal time for a flash storm. As I sit here writing this, pellets hit the roof as a reminder for me. This is what is was like, I did this for days on end and youu missed it. – Sandy. Bitch. Krakooooow.
So I came home for the 4th of July as usual. Instead of treading immediately to the beach, I tore open 14 brand new bicycles and began assembling. I cleared out the workshop, still full of sand, tossed parts, and tons of tools and stock now rendered completely useless. 14 more bikes were on the dockett the next day. Broken ice cream freezer. Broken Coke machines. New POS systems. New handicap ramps. It was chaos elegantly hidden under duct tape. Duct tape that my family did the best they could with in the time aloted. It’s brilliant, don’t get me wrong. I can’t believe it all came together. Well, that’s not true. I’m pretty sure mom could force World Peace to happen if she was so inclined. But thats what good moms do. They persevere through tremendous adversity, all while changing a diaper, scolding a teenager that burned down the garage while smoking and putting out their significant others clothes for the next day cause they can’t dress themselves. Moms balance the world. But I could se behind her eyes, she was done. Paper thin skin. A single mear negative and the water of Hoover Dam would come tumbling down. It was like walking on thin ice, in metal cleats, holding cement blocks and being forced to do a duet tap dance with Danny K. The cancer was taking it’s toll. Krakooow.
I’ve always had problems getting mom out of the store. It’s really not a complicated business. Yes. It has it’s moments. Like..reordering things..and I dunno, accounting for the correct amount of money in the register. You know, details. But its bikes and ice cream…40 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. But she worries. All of the employees are south of 18 years of age, so she worries. All the equipment could fail at the drop of a hat, so she worries. All the tourists are from NY or Philly and have their, quirks, so she worries. I was hoping when we adopted Alyssa that that would all change. But I think it’s gotten worse. I hope she takes her to the beach like she used to take me. And Mini golfing. And fishing. I hope Alyssa gets to see that side of her, not the worrying side. So I came on vacation to take away that worry, if only for 11 days, because that’s the only thing I know. She can focus on changing her lifestyle, getting her surgery, and being the amazing mom that I know she is. I can take care of the bikes and ice cream cause I’ve been doing that since I was 13. It’s simple to me. In fact it’s the only thing that’s a true constant in my life. It’s my therapy. Krakooom.
And it’s after that last strike, that things fall apart for me. On the day of the surgery, I fielded one too many calls asking question that I sort of knew the answers too, but didn’t want to talk about. I could do nothing but wait till I found a quiet spot, then scream until my throat hurt. I did all the stuff my mom normally does, open the store, sit there all day, order things, feed kid, walk dogs, wash things, clean house, field more calls, cook dinner, close store. Repeat. I am exhausted. And, now I feel like I am doing nothing with my life. I was asked, “Do I miss Cincinnati?” to which, I really have no response. Truthfully, I don’t know what I feel. I missed my hometown in Jersey. It feels good to be back and trying to help the community get back on it’s feet. I had the pleasure of hanging with the few friends who have had the most impact in my life, and oddly enough I have known them the shortest amount of time. Perhaps, that’s related. I don’t miss Philly. That much I know. Some people there yes, but overall, meh. Cincy though. I don’t know. I want to belong there. Something is telling me that that’s where I am supposed to be right now, but its hard to do when my family has been hit so hard this year. SO what to do?
I trudge on. In a mere 5 minutes I will hit post on this spewing of emotional meck, and go pack my bag to head back to Ohio tomorrow. Forever worried that someone, will do something to cut that paper thin skin my mom has right now, in turn ending up with a FOR SALE sign in the window. Why is that bad? I don’t know. I can’t tell you. The same feeling keeping me in Ohio right now is telling me that’s bad. Ok? Nope. I’ll return to Ohio and try to figure out why I am there. Why I don’t have a house yet, or my own business, or why I can’t fix my job, or why I am just flat out…flat. Regardless. The storm has subsided, and I can see the damage it’s left behind. And if you can see it, you can fix it.