As time runs out on me, I get a bit sentimental and think about all the friends I had that have beaten me to the great beyond. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was living an unfettered life as a young boy in New York State with no worries beyond what my wonderful world would bring me tomorrow.

There were the many moments when I walked the dike that held back the Allegheny from our backyard and every so often would pick up a stone and toss it in the Allegheny just to break up the unearthly quiet.

During those walks I would go the mile to our little village – Portville – circling around it and continuing on to the old Toll Gate or getting off the dike and walking into town to sit on the steps of the Colonial, which held the post office, city offices, movie theater and the soda jerk where we kids would gather and listen to music on the juke box while sipping on Cherry Cokes, jerked out of the fountain behind the counter by the lady that owned the place.

Those hot summer days were the most peaceful ones you could imagine or could dream to have. Sitting on those steps with the colonial columns on each side of the steps created wonderful memories a young kid like me could ever have asked for.

Some of the kids who rode their bikes to the Colonial, jumping off of them and letting their bikes crash land are no longer with us. Maybe none of them are. I may be the only one left. That is so sad.

As I got older and moved away, I would return every summer and then go to college near the little village for almost two years after graduating from high school out here on the West Coast.

During one of those summers, when I was just 15, I fell in love for the first time. Most of us have those moments when we experience love like that as fresh teens and soon it becomes just a memory of our youth that falls by the wayside once real life enters and puts us on the highway of work to survive in a competitive world.

Young love can be exciting, but also crushing when it ends as it routinely does. Like stones thrown into the Allegheny, that young love sinks and disappears from sight if not memory.

Some of those young loves — not some, many — turn into disastrous marriages that end in divorce. It’s part of life experiences. That didn’t happen to me, but when I heard John Prine’s “The Other Side of Town”, I think of them.

Prime, one of the great songwriters/singers, said this on that recording:


 “Why do you always seem to criticize me

 Seems like everything I do just turns out wrong

Why don’t you come on out and dispraise me

So I could pack my bag and baby I’d be gone.


Remember when you used to call me honey

I’m turn around and call you honey too

You might think it’s a joke, but it ain’t funny

To hurt someone who’s so in love with you


A clown puts his makeup on upside down
So he wears a smile even when he wears a frown
You might think I’m here when you put me down
But actually I’m on the other side of town


My body’s in this room with you just catching hell
While my soul is drinking beer down the road a spell
You might think I’m listening to your grocery list
But I’m leaning on the jukebox and I’m about half … way there

A clown puts his makeup on upside down
So he wears a smile even when he wears a frown
You might think I’m here when you put me down
But actually I’m on the other side of town.

I’m sittin’ on a chair just behind my ear
Playing dominoes and drinking some ice cold beer
When you get done talking I’ll come back downstairs
And assume the body of the person you presume who cares

I’m across the river on the other side of town
In my mind I’m on the other side of town.”



I really like Prine’s describing a clown putting his makeup on upside down so he wears a smile even when he wears a frown. That describes me when I get in these moods and think about all the friends I have had who are no longer here. I think in my sadness, “Man, where did all the time go?”

It is part of life that life goes on even when those we love are gone. There is pain involved, sure, and it will never quite go away entirely, but time waits for nobody and we move on even if the sorrow can overwhelm us at times.

I was thinking of Pete today, and looked up on the Internet when he died and where and who he left behind. I’m not sure of his history because he “jumped ship:” 50 years ago, left his young marriage just as I described above, and became a vagabond, moving from place to place all over the country, and I don’t know why.

His family never knew where he went and what he did, and it took some investigation over years for me to briefly find him in Virginia. Then he was gone again and died 11 years ago.

When I think of Pete as I did today I get sad. I don’t know why he disappeared, what he did or why he didn’t fulfill the promise he showed as a college student? What makes Pete – makes us – do unsuspecting things? What was the purpose of Pete, what is the purpose of any of us?

As I get toward the end I ask of myself what has been my purpose. Was it to walk a lonely walk on a dike on a hot summer day, tossing stones to break the silence? Was it to deviate from a start towards being a lawyer and working in government to become a writer?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to myself. Sometimes, though, I wish I could go back and just sit on the Colonial steps and peacefully enjoy each moment as it ticked by and not worry about anything except which way I was going to walk home – along the road or back on the dike?

Then one day 66 years ago, my worry free life was crushed. It was like an Alice in Wonderful Land book was slammed shut and another book, Alice falls into Nightmare Land, was opened.

My idyllic, peaceful life disappeared in an instant as my mother, just 48, died. That traumatic turn evolved into my “Dark Years.” I went from a young kid of promise to a lost kid full of hopelessness.

Somehow I staggered through, hanging on to friends that were full of laughs and joy to retain some semblance of balance, and then those friends died, ran away (Pete) or moved away.

The years have taken a toll on all those friends I needed back then. There is only one left out of dozens. But that is life, too. You come and you go. And time moves on even if you don’t.

I went to California with three of those friends and they all left me earlier than I would have wanted and they would have wanted, too. One was killed 57 years ago and the other two made it another 30 years.

Me? I’m still here, but I don’t know how or why.

That too is life.

My only request when I die is to be cremated and have part of  my ashes spread on the dike where I spent a lot of time plunking stones into the Allegheny, and part of them spread on my mother’s grave and the rest my wife can keep, as she has requested.

It’s been an up-and-down ride and unlike a lot of others, I wish I could have a mulligan on some things. It is what it is, however. I hope I have done enough right to earn a ticket to heaven.

That’s it for today.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.