If You’re Going (Back) To San Francisco

In the summer of 1993 I was in a pretty bad place emotionally. I was five years removed from graduating high school and was going nowhere fast. (Bonus points if you get the Streets of Fire reference) I was stuck in a dead end job, had dropped out of college and was living at home with no prospects and no real future. 

To make matters worse, I had discovered the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac a few years earlier so my mind was filled with writing and traveling. A copy of On The Road went with me everywhere and I saw myself chronicling my life in words someday just like Kerouac.

I just had absolutely no idea how to make that happen.

After another fight with my mother (which was probably my fault) I was out of patience and out of options. So I called my friend John who had moved to Berkeley, California the previous year and desperately asked if he wanted a roommate.

To my shock, he said sure.

To this day I’m still not exactly sure what brought on the decision to move across the country. I don’t usually make big, life altering changes to my life like that on a whim. I plan and talk about it, but never actually do anything. It’s a personality trait of mine that I always despised and still do.

But a few weeks later John had sent me a plane ticket he had gotten from a friend and there I was. Standing in the San Francisco International Airport with little to no money, a few possessions and absolutely no clue what the future held.

I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time.

I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in a crappy part of town with John and another friend of ours named Grant. I slept on an air mattress on the floor next to the kitchen while Grant slept on a futon in the living area and John got the bedroom. I spent my days writing in a coffee shop I discovered while walking around Berkeley and my nights reading, talking and hanging out.

Unfortunately my friendship with John almost came to an end as a result of us living together and numerous other factors that the two of us have only begun to unravel. But my relationship with Grant, who was only really more an acquaintance at that point, turned into a deep bond that the two of us cherish to this day.

Grant and I would take a day each week and head into San Francisco to explore the city and the people who lived there. We spent an entire day roaming Golden Gate Park, another was spent walking around the Haight-Ashbury District. One afternoon we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, which to this day is still one of the greatest experiences of my life. And we discovered a restaurant with the best chocolate milkshakes we had ever had.

When I eventually ran out of money and realized the living conditions weren’t working, I went home. I took a notebook filled to overflowing with writing and some of the greatest memories of my life and spent three days on a Greyhound bus, heading toward Philadelphia.

I swore that my return East was only temporary however. My plan was to save money and head back to the West Coast as soon as I could. I had found a place where I felt like I belonged and where life made some kind of sense to me. I had to go back.

A little less than two years later though, I met Lisa, the woman who would become my wife. And everything changed.

I knew that my plans to return to California were out the window about three months into the relationship. I was quickly falling in love and Lisa had become the entire focus of my future.

That being said, a part of me never really came home from Berkeley. I consider it one of the benchmarks of my life, a period of time that profoundly changed me as a person. And a small part of me always wanted to return.

I wouldn’t give up a single moment of my life with Lisa for anything, even with her terrible illness and eventually losing her. The deep pain of the last few years that has almost ended me is a small price to pay for the two decades of laughs, love and affection we shared.

Lisa is gone. That part of my life is over and nothing will bring it back. But I’m starting to think it may be time to reunite with a part of myself I almost forgot about. A part of me that realized just how amazing life can be, when there are endless possibilities in front of you and nothing to stop you from becoming anything you want.

I think it might be time to consider a new chapter in an old book I thought I was long finished with.

Anger, Forgiveness and Goodbyes

Allan at Eagles Training Camp, July 2016

I first met Allan Feather during that awkward time we call high school. Of course, when I say “met” it might be a bit of an exaggeration. Although I was aware of Allan and he of me, it wasn’t like we were friends. We knew each other in that way you know pretty much everyone you go to high school with, some more than others.

That said, it’s safe to say that everyone did want to know Allan. He was gregarious, funny and incredibly talented on numerous levels. He was the Ferris Bueller of our high school. The guy everyone wanted to hang out with and get to know. He seemed to be on good terms with everyone regardless of who they were or who they associated with.

Allan was just that kind of guy.

Once we graduated and moved on into the “real world” I never heard from Allan again. This same statement could be applied to 99% of the people I graduated with. For some reason I had decided to move on and with the exception of one or two people, I had no desire to remain in contact with any of them. The reasons why have been lost to time, but until a few years ago I was perfectly happy with the situation as it was.

What happened a few years ago to change things? Facebook.

I was very late to the party when it came to joining Facebook, and when I finally did I was careful to avoid connecting with the folks I went to high school with. Again, I don’t remember why but it seemed like a prudent course of action at the time.

That was until I got a friend request from Allan Feather.

I accepted because I figured why not? Allan was a good guy and it seemed like we had a shared interest in the Philly sports scene. I was just launching a Philadelphia sports blog and figured he might be interested in contributing.

However, thanks to Allan I slowly reconnected with a ton of people from high school and quickly realized I had been acting like a fool. Now, years later I consider some of these former classmates actual, real friends. Something I never thought would happen in a million years.

When my wife Lisa got sick and I needed someplace to go to vent or complain or just needed a shoulder to cry on, these same people I had avoided became the backbone for a group that helped me through some of the worst times of my life. Without them I’m not sure I would have made it.

Without Allan and that initial friend request, I don’t think any of that would have happened.

In addition to Facebook, Allan and I reconnected in the real world. He wrote for my sports blog and did some amazing work covering the Phillies. We went to a couple Phillies games and thanks to our work on the site got free tickets to a Flyers game as well as the chance to attend Eagles Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex.

I’ll never forget that day at Training Camp. Allan drove and we talked nonstop the entire way down to South Philly. We discussed our shared love of the city of Philadelphia, writing, sports and life in general. We watched training camp, got autographs and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience neither of us would ever forget.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday I texted Allan to see if he wanted to go to a Phillies game. I had gotten free tickets again and was looking for someone to go with. He texted back that he had to pass, that he had a lot going on and couldn’t get away. I told him if he needed help to reach out and I would be there in a flash.

Three days later I found out that Allan had stepped in front of a Septa train and killed himself.

Even now, weeks later, I’m still incredibly angry at Allan. That he would do this and leave all the people who cared about him behind to pick up the pieces. Because believe me, all Allan had to say was that he needed help and a small army of friends would have moved Heaven and Earth to get him whatever help he needed.

Obviously Allan was dealing with a lot of demons that no one was aware of. When he decided to do what he did, he probably thought it was for the best, that he was helping those that he loved. Even though that was the furthest thing from the truth.

What really upsets me more than anything is that Allan knew what I had gone through the past year. He was fully aware of the hurdles and difficulties I had to deal with as my wife’s illness progressed. I could have helped him. I could have given advice or just helped him getting the assistance he and his wife needed. All he had to do was ask.

Instead, I’m left asking why.

This Saturday is Allan’s funeral and I can’t bring myself to attend. Other than the fact it’s only been seven months since my wife’s, I just haven’t found it in my heart to forgive Allan for what he’s done. I realize that may be incredibly selfish of me but that’s just the way I feel. I’m still beyond furious at him for what he did.

My hope is that those feelings will slowly recede, and that eventually I’ll just be left with the good memories. Of the two of us at Training Camp on a beautiful July day watching the Eagles prepare for the upcoming season. Of watching the Phillies play while talking about Star Wars. Of grabbing breakfast and talking about comic book movies.

Goodbye Allan. You will be missed.