Category: Summer

Lightning Bugs

It was early in the evening of June 9th, 2022. I’m going to have to mark it in my journal so I don’t forget. I’d just spent the day working in the yard and doing everything possible to make it look presentable for another week. The truth is, no matter how much you mow, how much you edge, or how many weeds and dandelions you pull from the earth, you’ll inevitably have three to five days respite before the process will need to be repeated. Nature waits for no man.

As twilight was settling in, I slowly pushed my green John Deere lawn mower back into its usual place in the garage. Residual grass clippings, which had been pasted to the chassis of the machine for most of the afternoon, now began falling onto the concrete floor in small bushy clumps. By that point I was too lazy and in no mood to even think about sweeping them up. I was much too tired and they would have to wait until morning. Despite the thought of having to clean up the excess grass and being completely drained from today’s labor, the smell of sweat and gasoline that permeated my senses gave me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

I went inside, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and walked out on to the patio to admire my handiwork. As the first drams of alcohol hit the back of my throat, I could already feel the weight of the day leaving my shoulders. Tomorrow there would be sore muscles and excessive sunburn, but for now it was time sit at the patio table and enjoy the warm summer breeze that had picked up as the day was drawing to a close.

That’s when I saw them for the first time this year – June 9th, 2022.

 Lightning bugs.

I believe the correct term for them is Photuris lucicrescens. Some others might use the word “fireflies” in their vernacular, but here in the Northeast portion of the country, we refer to them as lightning bugs. A bug that even the person with a severe case of insectophobia will usually find attractive. Sure, the butterfly is beautiful and the ladybug is often considered a symbol of good luck, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing compares to the majesty of the lightning bug, and I’ll be happy to tell you why.

You see, there are certain things in life that remind you of the different seasons of the year. We all know that when crisp leaves begin to fall from the branches of trees, autumn is here. The first snowflake that appears in the cold, milky sky means winter is on its way, and when flowers begin to spring up from their deep sleep, we know that spring has indeed sprung. But when we see the first lightning bug of the year, it’s magical. Like welcoming home an old friend. One who’s been gone for months and has now suddenly come back with word that summer is finally here.

Long before I became experienced in the art of the lawn mow, my early summer evenings as a child were spent catching these illuminated creatures. Nothing could compare to spending an entire day swimming with friends from the neighborhood and then seeing how many of these flying creatures we could catch as dusk settled in. 

If I close my eyes now, I can still picture it. Me, running barefoot through the dark back yards of my neighborhood, wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top. My youthful skin glistening with chlorine-riddled sweat, the smell of crisp honeysuckle in the air, and without a single care in the world except for the task at hand. Summer had just begun and the arrival of the first yellow bus calling children back to school was a long way away. It was pure freedom. 

There was always a feeling of wonder after you’d caught one of God’s miracles of childhood. Then, as you slowly open your cupped hand, you watch its blinking body escape your palm and climb to the highest point of your extended index finger, where it would spread its wings and fly off into the night.

Sometimes my friends and I would poke holes into the lid of an empty mayonnaise jar and fill it long blades of freshly cut grass to contain our electric treasures. Then we’d all take turns marching through the yard with our makeshift lantern. When the lightning bugs became lethargic from being trapped inside of our glass house, we’d release them back into the sky to rejoin their winged friends. 

The most fun of all though was during what I liked to call the “magic hour.” This was usually around 9 p.m. and right before my parents would call me in for the evening. You’d notice the frenzied firestorm of lights in the yard as the lighting bugs danced in unison to nature’s song, but soon one bug would seem to burn bigger and brighter than the rest. It was the granddaddy of all lightning bugs making an appearance. 

Granddaddy was the coolest bug of all and, as you might imagine, was almost impossible to catch. Every time he’d land on a bush and you’d get close enough to grab him, he’d take off and hover just out of reach above your head. It was as if he knew the measurement of his assailant. I’m sure he was thinking, “Ok, this kid is four feet eight inches tall, so let’s hover six feet five inches off the ground.”  But if you were lucky enough to capture a granddaddy when he let down his guard, you were always the winner of the evening’s festivities. It was childhood summer at its finest.

I’d just finished my beer when the real firestorm of lights began. It was just as I remember from childhood but something I hadn’t so much as thought about for at least forty summers. 

Then it happened.

There, out of the corner of my eye, I saw granddaddy flying slightly above my head. I stood up and used my now adult-sized hand to make a grab for him. Still smart as ever, he calculated the precise distance of my five feet eight-inch frame and rose just high enough to be out of my reach.

I sat back down in my chair and smiled. The adult duties of lawn mowing vanished and I continued to think about those carefree summer nights of childhood. Then I wondered how there could possibly be any interest in watching television or playing video games during this magical time of year.

Especially when there’s so much entertainment right in our own backyards.

Katie Daryl Discusses The New Summer Season of AXS-TV’s “The Top Ten Revealed”

Photo: James Michael Photography / AXS TV

The Summer of 2018 just got a whole lot hotter. That’s because AXS-TV’s popular music countdown series, “The Top Ten Revealed” is returning this July and kicks things off by featuring “Songs About Sex” on Sunday, July 1st at 9 p.m. ET. It will be followed by “Epic Songs Of `73” on Sunday, July 8th at 9 p.m. ET.

Executive producer and host Katie Daryl returns for the new season and is joined by a panel of musical icons and industry experts counting down some of music’s greatest songs as decided by viewers.

In the premiere episode, “Songs About Sex,” artists like Dee Snider, Lita Ford and Steven Adler join award-winning songwriter Allee Willis and KROQ DJ Nicole Alvarez to discuss hits from chart-toppers such as Def Leppard, Donna Summer, Madonna and Meat Loaf, among many others.

The following week, the show takes an in-depth look at “Epic Songs Of ’73” and is loaded with standout Southern, psychedelic and shock rock from the likes of Alice Cooper, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Notable guests on this episode include Eddie Money, Jack Russell (Jack Russell’s Great White), Clem Burke (Blondie) and renowned music expert, Matt Pinfield.

Upcoming summer episodes feature themes that include “One Hit Wonders,” “Sports Jams,” “Songs About Drinking,” “Rock Star Collaborations,” “Epic Songs of ‘78” and “High Note Hitters”.

‘The Top Ten Revealed” is a program that’s sure to fuel intense debate among music aficionados, but it’s also one that will bring back good memories and keep your toes tapping long after the music fades.

I recently spoke with Katie Daryl about the new summer episodes of “The Top Ten Revealed” and more in this exclusive new interview.

How has reaction been to “The Top Ten Revealed” since its inception?

Katie Daryl: The response has been fantastic. Sometimes when you do a list you have to worry that people will think you got it wrong, but that isn’t the case here. Everyone has been very supportive. And even if they didn’t agree with the list they couldn’t be angry because at the end of the day, they’re ten songs that are pretty rad to listen to.

What do you think makes the show so special?

KD: What I find epic is that we’re hitting on topics that take people down memory lane. Not only are we celebrating classic rock music, the genre and the bands, but we’re also taking people on a musical journey that brings them back to a place that instills emotion that a lot of us don’t have on a day to day basis.

Click here for a preview of the new season of “The Top Ten Revealed”.

What can fans expect from the new summer episodes of “The Top Ten Revealed”?

KD: All of the new episodes really speak to classic rock fans. Trust me, if you like rock and roll and classic rock, or if you’ve ever enjoyed a single song from AC/DC, you’re going to love every single one of these lists.

What’s the criteria for determining which themes are involved and which songs make the list?

KD: First and foremost, it starts with Mark Cuban at AXS-TV. He’ll ask me about the lists and the questions we plan to ask for each new round. I’ll put those in from of him and he’ll sign on or offer suggestions. Once we get the generalized list, I’ll go out and do research and come up with a top fifteen or twenty. It’s like cramming for a final in college. It’s not only reading articles, lists, comments and fan responses, but it’s also watching videos and footage that speak to these topics. Once that’s complete, we’ll put the questions out on social media. It then goes through old-fashioned tallying to see which songs rank and everything falls into place from there.

Do the guest artists and industry experts have any idea of the song rankings beforehand?

KD: They know some of the songs from the list but not necessarily all ten or their ranking. I’ll usually give them a few of the songs ahead of time so they’ll be prepared for what we’re going to talk about. I love to include artists like Lita Ford to provide color commentary and Matt Pinfield, who’s an encyclopedia of music.

Was there something you learned during filming about the songs or artists?

KD: Learning is actually one of my favorite things about the show. We incorporate not just reaction and comments, but we also like to make sure we take you back to that old school, water cooler conversation about rock and roll. Through the process, I’ve learned so much. One of my favorite facts came from the song “How Long” by the band, Ace. Everyone thinks it’s a cheating song and that some guy’s heart has been broken. It has, but not by a woman. It’s actually about a cheating band member! One of the guys in the band was moonlighting on the side with another band and everyone found out about it. They were all like, “How long, dude? How long?” [laughs].

Photo: Stewart Volland / AXS TV

 What can you tell me about your  background in entertainment?

 KD: I’ve always loved music and started out  as a radio DJ. I then did a year at MTV before  going back to radio in Dallas. That’s  where I  stumbled upon the world of Mark  Cuban,  who was launching a new TV network, HD  Net, and another local show. I tried out to be  his co-host and was hired to host a  basketball show with him. In talking on set,  Mark was telling me about this new music  network he had coming out and  asked me if  I had any ideas. It was a dream come true.  So, I spent the first six years of my career  interviewing rock stars like Ted  Nugent,  Tommy Lee and Maroon 5. I eventually  transitioned within the network and Mark Cuban’s companies.

What excites you the most about the new season of “The Top Ten Revealed”?

KD: I love all of the new guests we have. The first round had some fantastic names, and we still have Steven Adler, Lita Ford and Matt Pinfield. But our cast has now doubled in size and includes even more artists that have a great insight into these songs: Dee Snider, Jeff Pilson (Foreigner), Clem Burke (Blondie), Rikki Rockett (Poison) and Eddie Money. In fact, one of Eddie’s songs actually made our list of hits from 1978. To have Eddie Money talking about Eddie Money? I just geek out on that sort of thing! [laughs].

The new season of “The Top Ten Revealed” premieres Sunday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET / 6 PT on AXS-TV.

Remembering High School- 30 Years Later

“How can it be thirty years?” I said as I was cleaning out the basement.

Looking into the gray, Stocker Brothers dairy milk crate, its frame still sturdy even after decades of sitting in dark silence, is actually what made me pose the question.

I had just spent the better part of the morning organizing the crawl space of my two-story colonial, a home I’ve been making mortgage payments on for as long as I can remember. During my tenure at this location, the basement had become a breeding ground for large, cardboard boxes of clothes, holiday items and various knick knacks, as well as six large boxes of comic books I’d collected as a kid along with my feeble attempts at Bob Ross paintings. The latter two categories being things I can’t seem to let go of — even after all of this time.


The thing inside the milk crate behind the wall of canvases is where I found it. There, along with the curious smell of old books and dust was a folded, paper program; kind of like something you’d get handed to you from an usher at a Sunday church service or a Broadway show as you entered the theater. It had obtained a dull, off-white color over the years but its red lettered appearance was still clearly visible:

Easton Area High School’s 131st Commencement: June 11, 1987 6:00 o’clock.

It can’t be, can it? Thirty years already? I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was roaming the halls of high school? Dreaming about being the next Bon Jovi? Longing for Friday night visits to the mall so that I could get the new Def Leppard album, read the latest Gross Jokes book in Waldenbooks, drink gallons of Orange Julius and then try to impress the girls by beating the high score on Pac Man and Galaga?

I slowly ran my fingers through the pages of the slightly weathered program and saw all of the people who stood by me that day. “Did they know where they would wind up?” I thought. “Would they remember and realize it’s been thirty years?”

Me, June 11, 1987

I remember that commencement. I remember wearing my class ring on my right ring finger and sitting in my cap and gown on an uncomfortable metal chair waiting for my name to be called, peeved once again at the alphabetical order of things and the fact that my last name started with a “W”. I still remember congratulating and hugging every classmate I met, whether I knew them on a “friend” basis or not. I can still feel the leafy stem of the flower against my bare hand after I accepted my diploma, and the sense of urgency I had for the final notes of the Alma Mater to ring so that I could toss my tasseled, red cap high into the air. It was the end game. The “so long”. The final, “see-ya-later” salute to thirteen years of education.

Who am I kidding? When I look back now it didn’t really seem like goodbye. Instead, walking out of Kirby Field House that night was just like any other night. It would soon be the start of summer, camping at the lake, amusement park visits and graduation/backyard parties. Heck, I even had one at my house where me and my buddy (and fellow graduate), Nathan Brown, played our guitars and drums as entertainment. Before long, September would roll around again and we’d all be right back together again in class, right? Just like it had always been for thirteen years in a row.


Several friends went off to college to follow their dream. Others enlisted in the military, started families or immediately entered the work force. As for me, my own dream of becoming a rock star officially began June 11, 1987.

But that’s a story for another time.

As I continued to page through the program, I tried to see how many classmates I could remember and was thankful to discover I could still put faces to the names of most. Then I thought of Nathan, who’s own name I didn’t see listed in the graduating class and yet had attended graduation and received his diploma along with the rest of us. Had it have been another time, I probably would have called him up to ask him why he wasn’t mentioned in the list of graduates, but he died in 2014.

A lot can happen in thirty years.

Young As I Want To Be

A re-post from last Summer. Sort of fits my mood today…

I can now say that I’ve officially heard it and crossed over. Yesterday I metamorphosed into that dreaded three-letter word: OLD.

I have to admit I’ve never thought of myself as that word. THAT word is reserved for people much more advanced in age then I am. People who grew up listening to Peter, Paul and Mary. Ones whose parents used to give them enemas at the slightest fever or notion that the child’s bowel habits weren’t normal. Not for someone as cool, and young, as me.

I still do most of the same stuff I did as a child. I play guitar, love to read the box while eating bowls of Count Chocula and Cap’n Crunch, watch Ultraman and Godzilla movies, mow the grass and take out the garbage. Heck, I’m still fourteen years old if you really want to know. All that’s missing is some more hair on my head and the loss of the forty pounds or so I’ve gained. Ok, so I have to do my own laundry now, go to work every day, make my bed without being told and fix things around the house when they break but that shouldn’t put me in the elderly category should it?

And I confess, when I look in the mirror there’s now some gray in the beard but that’s been there for years and no one has ever said a word about it. Plus I’ve done a pretty good job at covering it up. Just for Men is working just fine thank you very much.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, the cross over to becoming so-called “old”. I was at my daughter’s softball league end of year celebration yesterday. The girls all enjoyed a final round of ten-year old camaraderie, along with a side of pizza and then walked with their parents over to the local ice cream stand for a sugar rush farewell.

I’ve been good with watching what I eat so I declined the ice cream and just sat down at one of the tables while the other girls and their parents stood in line. For some reason, eating a lot of that stuff now makes me gain weight and I can’t figure out why. It never used to do that. Regardless, I did enjoy watching the girls giggling with each other and discussing the season while vanilla ice cream ran down their arms. Early summer fun at it’s finest.

At one point, I noticed a familiar woman standing in line with her daughter as well. Someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a girl I went to school with so I went over to say hello.

It was fun catching up with her in the short time we were there. We laughed discussing what all of our classmates were doing now and the lives they were leading. “Wasn’t it just yesterday we were all in science class together?” I thought. “Yes, it must have been”. But then I did the unthinkable. I asked her if she could believe that next year was going to be our 25th class reunion and in retrospect, I think that’s what was the precursor to what happened next.

After sitting back down with my daughter at the table she quickly made a public service announcement. “All team members sit at this table!” she proclaimed. At which point, a gaggle of girls started sitting down at the table with us. It sure felt great to be enjoying a moment with my baby girl and her teammates. Apparently though, one of the girls thought something was out-of-place at the table.

The little whipper snapper pointed to another table where parents were sitting, looked at me and snidley said: “This table is for the girls, THAT table over there is for the OLD people”.  I quickly tried to think of something to say, a witty comeback perhaps. Sadly, all I could muster was “Hey, I’m not old YOU’RE old!!” But all that did was cause the rest of the girls to jump to her defense. You’ve got to love the way teammates stick up for each other.

Eventually, and after much resistance, I slowly got up and walked over to the other men and women who were more close to my height ( I refuse to say “age”).  And do not for a minute think that me leaving the table is an admission that I am actually “old” because I’m not. The fact is, I could have battled those girls all night. I just didn’t want to make them look bad in front of their parents. No, in my mind, I’m still as young as I want to be. No matter what any ten-year old thinks.

On the drive home, and while she was looking out the window, I got even with my daughter for the comment about team members sitting at the table. I stuck my index finger in my mouth, moistened it and then reached over and gave her the wet willy. “DAD!! KNOCK IT OFF!”, she screamed as I laughed out loud.

There I go again, being childish.

Dungeons and Dragons

A lot of people have come up to me and asked me how I used to spend my summers growing up. Well, actually no one really has but I feel like telling you about it anyway.

While most youthful teenagers of the 1980’s were spending warm sun filled days going to camp, listening to some guy named Michael Jackson or going to Dip-N-Dances at the Palmer Community Pool I was hard at work with my friends creating characters on sheets of paper, rolling dice and saving the world from utter annihilation playing Dungeons & Dragons.

For those of you who’ve never donned the helmet of a Paladin or put on a Cloak of Invisibility let me explain. Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D) is a role-playing game where players enter realms where monsters and magic are real. Without boring you with too much detail and taking away the heart of this blog post think of it this way: You get to pretend to be a character from Lord of The Rings.

My friends and I used to play D&D for hours. Starting usually around mid-afternoon and going deep into the night gorging ourselves on greasy pizza and Coke. We were so into it.

My brother and all of his friends all thought I was a dork for playing but that didn’t bother me. They didn’t understand that I didn’t need my Atari 2600, M-TV or Madonna. All I needed were my “boys”, some stale pepperoni pizza and my 20-sided dice.

I still remember the frustration we would feel when nature called and we had to take a leak during an important encounter.  No one wanted to leave the table and I think if there were Depends lying around, we might actually have considered using them on more than one occasion.

But the one thing I always remember the most from those gaming sessions wasn’t the food or the battles we had against Goblins, Trolls and Giants. Although those things were very important, the thing that always sticks out for me were the conflicts we used to have with each other.

For without fail, in almost EVERY game session two or more players would start arguing with each other over the course of play and sometimes almost coming to blows. We should have called it D&D Fight Club. And woe to any one when the argument included the Dungeon Master.

The Dungeon Master (DM), is the one chosen to control the world the players adventure into and was a job each of us alternated doing. The DM’s world is based upon a module, a book that has the entire adventure outlined including every creature encountered.

It’s the DM’s job to keep the game flowing based on what the module dictates and controls everything from describing the surroundings to random monster encounters. Essentially, the DM is God. And this appointment to deity status usually posed a problem if the DM held a grudge against fellow players.

Maybe his Mom didn’t give him his allowance that week. Or maybe it was because he had his Underoos on too tight that day.  In any event, whatever it was that caused someone to pi$$ on his cornflakes that particular day, it wasn’t going to be good.

The start of the arguments always began the same way: accusations of cheating on dice rolls. A quick hand to cover the results before the DM could verify was always seen as the primary cause. “You didn’t roll that!”….”Yes I did”….”You LIAR”….(do you see where I’m going with this?).

Most of our DM’s could keep it together. Kind of a hard thing to do considering it was always the players against YOU. The players all had characters and were on the same team. The DM pretty much role-played every thing else in the world from the monsters to the townsfolk.

It was easy to see how battles could ensue. A DM who came into the game session with a chip on his shoulder and having already made accusations of cheating would inevitably lose his cool when his Frost Giant got walloped by a bunch of rogues on the first roll of the dice. Something that was very hard to do.

You could see his blood pressure rise as the players each gave each other high fives. It was kind of like a slap in the face. For most  it was just a game but our DMs always seemed to take it personally and use his God-like ability to make things difficult for everyone. What would start out as a quest for treasure and glory quickly turned into the DM’s desire to wipe out the players as quickly as possible.

So before too long that single  Frost Giant was somehow able to  “magically” summon a half-dozen of his brothers and sisters to join the fray before dying. Ones that I highly doubt were part of the module. That’s when the gloves came off and the dice rolls became more intense.

In the end, the players were victorious most of the time. Tears were shed and on more than one occasion friendships were lost as disgruntled warriors gathered up their Coca-Cola stained sheets of paper and stormed out.

But youth was a wonderful thing and even Dungeons and Dragons couldn’t ruin friendships for long. Usually by the next day all was forgiven and not another word was spoken. Not to siblings or parents. Because when you role-played with us there was only one thing you needed to know: The first rule of D&D Fight Club was, you do not talk about D&D Fight Club.

As seasons change so did my affection for D&D. And it wasn’t long before girls and guitars took the place of giants and dice and D&D became a thing of the past.

Today the game is still as popular as ever. You can even play online with people from across the street or around the world. For a die hard D&Der like I was, you’d think I’d be all over that right?  But truth be told, I haven’t so much as rolled the dice in almost 25 years and have no plans to.

I treasure my friendships too much.

Forty Something

I was sitting outside alone on my patio enjoying another beautiful Saturday morning in late July drinking my coffee. My wife, daughter and two crazy dogs still soundly sleeping on the second floor. It wouldn’t be long now before they were all up and the day would “officially” begin.

The freshly cut grass was still damp from the last night’s thunderstorms but its smell still reminded me of summer. I heard the familiar call of the locusts making their presence known. The sound of which announcing that August was but a few days away.

Before too long, the season of leaves changing colors and colder temperatures will be upon me again but that only made me appreciate this day even more.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and inhaled life. All the while thinking, “I’m forty something years old and it’s great to be alive.” I tend to think that from time to time. More often now that I’m older. There’s a sort of oneness I have with God, Nature, whatever you want to call it, when I have this quiet time.

I’ve been doing a lot of social network stuff lately. Whether it’s posting funny status updates on Facebook, announcing my affinity for television shows and sports on Twitter or reading critical comments on my music articles (c’mon dude – you’re nit picking a typo – sheesh!).

I’ve also been doing a lot of catching up with old high school classmates. Something I really enjoy doing. In fact, I’ll be attending another semi-reunion in a few weeks at Musikfest where I’ll reunite with some people I haven’t seen in years. Who knows, we might even do some walking through the park and reminiscing.

Just the other day I friended a girl–well, now “woman”, who was in my homeroom for most of my time in school.  I haven’t seen her since graduation but the two of us had coincidentally shared the exact same birthday. I remember always making mention of that “bond” with her every year as our big day approached.

Now, almost 25 of those birthdays have passed and I had not even thought about that birthday bond until I saw her picture. I love being reminded of things like that.

When ever I reconnect with someone from the past it’s surreal. I know we are all now forty-somethings and have all experienced adult life. We’ve gone to college, gotten married, had children, bought a home. Everything expected of us as members of society. The thing is, when I see these wonderful people none of that matters to me. I still see us as we “were” not as we “are” (having a career, paying bills, taking vacations).

I realize that we all have lives now and some of our children are even at the age we were when I last saw them but I like to remember the innocence we had. Not some forty-something with a bunch of adult responsibility, but a time when the future and possibility was wide open.

Well, my coffee cup is empty and the dogs are at the door wanting to join me on the patio. Looks like the day is ready to officially begin.

OCMD 2011

It’s been years since I’ve been down to Ocean City, Maryland for vacation but on the drive down I quickly remembered how thankful I was that they opened that new stretch of Route 1 that runs adjacent to Route 13 past Philadelphia. It literally saves you an hour in drive time through Delaware by not having to stop at all those pesky traffic lights every damn block.

This time around for vacation my wife and I allowed our daughter Jillian to take a friend along which was another thing to be thankful for. She’s at that age now where she needs to be moving or doing something constantly and only another human being of her age, sex and stature will keep her parents from going insane.

We made exceptional time for a Sunday. In fact, I think we hit Route 50 (the main hub into Ocean City) in a little over three hours and coming from Easton that’s quite an achievement. However; my driving, and parenting skills would be put to the test just three miles from our resort. Traffic came to a crawl as we approached and at some points even a complete stop for several minutes.  As the heat of the early July summer pounded the car the air conditioning did little to bring down the rising temperature of my rage as I was forced to listen to Jillian and her friend make up all kinds of scenarios on how they could get to the resort faster if I would only just let them out and walk.  After sixty minutes of bumper to bumper traffic and listening to how they could jog, ride a scooter or hitchhike there quicker, we finally arrived at our destination.

Spending the Fourth of July holiday in Ocean City, or any vacation destination for that matter, can definitely wear you down. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like a vacation. Aside from the traffic and lack of parking there’s the hustle and bustle of the crowd and the long lines at nearly everything you want to do or see but we made the best of it.

I have to say that the fireworks display on the Fourth of July in Ocean City rival those in Philadelphia and other big cities. They definitely did it right. There’s nothing quite like celebrating America under a brilliant display of color coming off the boardwalk while simultaneously keeping vanilla soft serve from running down your arm. A hot summer challenge I think every one should take at some point in their lives.

The next day was “Beach Day” and was spent with Jillian and her friend braving the waves of the Eastern shore as we watched the wild ponies mingle with guests. It’s certainly one of the strangest sites you’ll ever see. Big, brown horses that just roam wild along the beaches of Assateague Island.

The way they majestically stand on the beach always reminds me of the covers of those Harlequin romance novels my Mom used to read. All that was missing was Fabio and some beautiful blond female in need of rescuing. I was more than happy to just sit there and read my own novel near them, provided of course, that they had the courtesy to not relieve themselves in my vicinity.

Perhaps the best day of the entire trip was the following one: “Boardwalk Day”. This is the day most parents dread because it depletes the bank account quicker then a stock market plunge. Jillian was quite adamant about playing those so-called games of skill. You know the ones, where you spend a million dollars to win a paper airplane.

As I gazed high above the booth at the humongous stuffed creatures you would “win” if you could only sink just one over-sized basketball into a tiny basket I wondered how many people have actually accomplished this feat. My guess was zero and it dawned on me that the way children mindlessly spend money playing these near impossible to win games on boardwalk piers and carnivals only preps them for the years they will mindlessly spend money in casino slot machines during their adult lives.

Turns out though, Jillian was actually quite good at a few of the games. Not enough to sink a basket or popping a balloon with a dull dart (games we thankfully avoided) but enough to win a few stuffed animals that will no doubt collect dust back at home with no recollection of where she got them from.

After spending her college tuition the day finally came to close and we walked passed the dreaded water gun game. This is the game where you shoot a continuous (monotonous) stream of water at a target and see whose LED light status board gets to the top the quickest.

As we approached the booth I noticed a little girl, who could be no more than 4, getting ready to play the game with her Mom and Dad standing by. No one else was around as Dad helped prop her up onto a seat and tried to show her how to operate the water pistol.

It was at that moment, over the smell of funnel cake and french fries, that I heard the catcalls from the vendor: “One more person to win any prize…I need one more person to win ANY prize”.

Well that was all that Jillian needed to hear. As she quickly sat down and assumed the shooting position I noticed Dad suddenly taking a reluctant interest in the game himself. I noted that his motive was now to help ensure victory for his little girl. He ponied up additional funds and took his place next to his daughter.

Ready. Set. GO!

The streams of water hit their intended targets and I watched the LED lights go up neck and neck between my daughter and Dad. Obviously, there would be no challenge coming from his little girl. This was a “two-man” contest. I could feel my heart race watching my little girl take on a challenger at least three times her age. It was a battle of David and Goliath proportions. Ok, maybe not that extreme but it was exciting none-the-less.

The alarm sounded ending the game and the flashing light above Jillian’s head indicated she had vanquished her foe.  As Jillian chose a big stuffed purple dog as her prize I noticed that Dad, now a bit dejected, was packing up his little girl and with Mom in tow began the slow walk of shame. Jillian noticed too. She looked at me and with a quick smile turned and walked towards the little girl.

I watched her ask the little girls’ Mom and Dad if she could give her the prize she had just won. “Hailey, look what this little girl wants to give you”, her Mom said. Hailey took the purple dog from Jillian and gave it the biggest hug I’ve ever seen. Had Hailey “won” the water pistol game, her prize would not be anywhere near as huge as the one she had just been given. As the family walked away I knew that Jillian had just made that little girl’s day just from that one little act of kindness.

It was then that I recalled a memory of my own from our last trip to Ocean City. Ironically enough, just a few blocks down the boardwalk from where we were standing the exact same situation happened with a then four year old Jillian.

As I tried to win a prize for her with our last bit of money we were both bested by another water gun expert. The winner then offered up her prize to Jillian, a stuffed Elmo doll that she still has to this day.

Strangely enough, with all the time we spent that year at the beach, walking the boardwalk and seeing the wild ponies, that stuffed Elmo was the most memorable thing about our trip to Ocean City. So I’m pretty sure that what Jillian did today for Hailey will also be a memory that family will treasure for years to come.

Ten More Things I Think: South Side Edition

Here are ten things (actually places) I think you should know about. Places that I think show you why it was so cool to grow up on South Side Easton.

These are in order of my favorites but please feel free to comment below and add your own or indicate any of your own favorites that I may have missed. (I know one of them being the pretzel factory that for the life of me I regrettably do not remember having patronized).

Sadly, if you were one of the unfortunate souls who didn’t grow up on South Side, please tell me about your favorite places growing up.

10. Lackenor Heights. I know I probably spelled it wrong but that shouldn’t diminish how cool this park was. Huge swing sets, lots of basketball courts and a large field I’d spend many days at playing softball or tackle football.

09. Laundromat. Long before we could afford a thing called a dryer my Mom and Grandmother used to drag the kids here. This was the place to go to dry the wash if inclement weather prohibited the use of hanging it on the clothes line in the yard.

I loved putting dimes in the machine and twisting the knobs or playing video games while the clothes dried. Also a good time to head over to Food Lane and peruse the toy aisle knowing full well that whatever toy I wanted Mom would never buy.

08. St Mary’s Carnival. Held religiously (of course) every summer. The fair consisted of the usual spinning wheel games and bingo. To me, the games of skill paled in comparison to the way the little old ladies made fried dough. The ultimate comfort food for a pre pubescent boy on a hot summer night.

07. Porter Elementary School. I spent the first five years of my schooling here. Still recall the big 1876 numbers that adorned one of the eaves indicating the year it first opened it’s doors. The school was closed in 1979 and torn down shortly there after.  

06. Food Lane. Can’t say enough about this place. This was where my first bowl of Count Chocula came from and will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from actual food there was a toy aisle as well that I always made a bee line to on every visit.

05. Huck’s: Located right across the street from the Delaware Terrace, a housing development for low income families. Huck not only made a decent cheese steak but he was rumored to have Mob connections. He had a big black German Shepard dog that used to sit outside and watch patrons come and go. I loved his home made fries. Of course, I now wish he would have used a proper fry scoop instead of a make shift one he made out of a liquid bleach bottle.

04. Pino’s Pizza. Located in the same shopping center right next to Food Lane, this is actually the only food establishment still open to this day. So many wonderful memories of slices and companionship here. I don’t care if it is under new ownership. The name remains and the pizza is still killer.

03. Brother Bright’s Soul Food Store. Located two blocks from my house, this was the place to go in the early 80’s as I was bussed to Palmer and the Easton Middle Schools. Brother Bright and his wife were two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

02. Lucy’s Store. A staple of Easton. THE place to visit before and after Porter school days. I used to love going there and getting penny candy.  Mr. Lucy always knew to fill my little brown paper bag with more red fish and purple raspberries than Tootsie rolls. My man knew how to hook a brother up.

Although I’m sure he served his candy to many a generation in his time, I’d give anything to have had the chance to have him fill a bag for my daughter too before he passed.

01. Barney’s Lunch. The sign as you approached said it all. It read “We Serve The Best Steak Sandwiches in Town” and was dead on. Barney’s was the ultimate destination. At night, the red neon light was lit up and you knew if you were a hungry traveler the welcome mat was always opened.

Where else could you get the ultimate cheese steak, a bottle of Pepsi and the chance to rap with Barney himself? Or, if he was busy filling orders, you could always sit at a table or play Space Invaders or Vanguard.

And when Barney was blaring Foreigner Four on the jukebox, man you knew you were in the right place. Nothing compared to tearing into a Barney’s cheese steak while jamming to “Waiting for A Girl Like You” with your buddies.

It was the 80’s and it was wonderful.