Dear Interstate 95: Please stop being an asshole.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe coming from a guy who often goes to bed prior to his 12-year-old son, but I am not much of a party animal these days. I mean, listen, I enjoy the occasional get-together, and I can even kick it into full-on Life of the Party mode when called for … but I generally don’t yearn for opportunities to plant myself in the midst of a large group of people whose intention is to make merry until well after I’m normally drooling on my pillow, even if that large group of people is comprised entirely of folks I already know — some of whom I might even like — and they are partying within a stone’s throw of my home.

So you can imagine, then, how completely out of character it would be for me to get in my car and drive 500 miles to attend a major rager in North Carolina this weekend that currently boasts a guest list of 333 people, roughly 330 of whom I don’t actually know. And yet, I’m planning to do just that.

Here’s the catch: The party? It’s a celebration in honor of my friend Sam, a tribute to whom I recently posted here after he lost his battle with cancer (and let us all pause for a moment so that we can tell cancer to fuck right off, shall we?). That tribute, it turns out, touched a lot of people who knew and loved Sam, and it meant a great deal to me when many of them made a point of saying so. Most of those people live in Sam’s neck of the woods down south, so that tribute ended up being a way for me to connect and grieve with them despite the distance between us and the fact that we don’t actually know each other. And under normal circumstances, “Friend”-ing those people on Facebook would likely be the closest I’d get to meeting them in person … but matters pertaining to Sam shall forever fall well outside the realm of “normal circumstances.”

A couple of months ago, while attending a benefit for Sam, I, through a serendipitous string of events, ended up connecting with Sam’s best friend, Robert. Quite unsurprisingly, I discovered that, much like Sam himself, Robert is a kind, warm, funny, friendly, class-act dude. He’s the kind of guy with whom I’d like to hang at an ocean-side establishment and raise a glass of something potent in honor of our friend Sam. And since it just so happens that Robert has invited me to a celebration this weekend where we, along with a few hundred other members of Sam’s friends and family, can do exactly that, I’m hopping in my car after work tomorrow and heading south.

Which brings me to the title of this post:

Today, while mapping out my 1,000-mile round-trip journey, I discovered that all of the construction on planet earth is confined to the stretch of Interstate 95 that runs between Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia:


Meanwhile, did you guys know that southern Virginia and North Carolina apparently have outlawed highway construction?


This explains: a.) why I’ve decided to break the trip into two legs on my way down, and b.) why it’s entirely possible that, rather than return home Sunday, I’ll remain in North Carolina and send for my family.


Road-trip Footnote: One of the many things that flooded onto Facebook in the immediate wake of Sam’s passing was a compilation video he made featuring footage and photos from a ski trip he once took with Robert and some other friends. Sam scored that video with a Jane’s Addiction tune that I had not listened to in years, featured on an album I had not listened to in years. I have been listening to that album quite regularly ever since, and I plan to launch tomorrow’s road trip with that tune … because you can’t really find a better way to kick off an epic, one-man road trip than by having Perry Farrell shout “Here we go!” just before his band begins to kick much ass.

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I have many important updates for you … minus “many” and “important.”

First, regarding last month’s mirror-smashing mailbox debacle: The owner of said mailbox never responded to the letter I wrote to him/her … presumably because he/she figured that the less contact he/she had with that letter’s obviously unstable author, the better. And we can’t blame him/her for that, now, can we? No, we can not.

Thankfully, it appears that the mailbox’s owner instead chose to exert the relatively minimal amount of effort needed to knock out the relatively minor dent in his/her relatively sturdy mailbox … that sturdiness being relative, of course, to the sturdiness of my car’s passenger-side mirror … which, as you may recall, exploded upon impact with said mailbox.

In an effort to minimize the financial damage created by the mirror-smashing mailbox debacle, and because my always-do-it-yourself-to-save-a-buck father’s voice still lives in my head, I ordered online the replacement parts needed to return the mirror assembly to its original state of glory … which was a great idea right up until the part where I don’t actually have the tools, experience and technical know-how to replace a 2014 Ford Fusion heated mirror and mirror assembly, and therefore managed during my attempted installation to crack the shit out of the incredibly flimsy replacement mirror, the strength and thickness of which I discovered is roughly on par with that of an underdeveloped eggshell, only thinner and weaker.

And so I have once again proven that, by doing myself that for which I should have just paid a professional in the first place, I can get the more expensive, less rewarding experience of first fucking up the repair myself, and then paying a professional to do it the right way. So, you know … nice going, me!

At any rate, my beautiful car is beautiful once again, and I will be doing my damnedest to avoid getting run off of the road from here on out, so if you could all please help by putting your fucking phones down while you’re driving — especially those of you in the suburban-Philadelphia area — that’d be really swell, m’kay?

Second, regarding my open letter to KISS’s Gene Simmons, whom I hypothesized had either accidentally blocked me from following his Twitter account or is an overly sensitive dick: I’ve not heard from Gene, and I still am blocked from viewing and following his Twitter account, so let’s just assume that he’s an overly sensitive dick. Either that, or he’s completely unaware that I wrote him a letter. (Actually, let’s assume both of those things.)

Third & lastly, regarding my rapidly advancing age: I shall now share with you something I posted on my personal Facebook page yesterday:


Yes, that really happened. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean my dentures before my shuttle to the Senior Center arrives.

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Posted in Life, Music | 4 Responses

Dear Gene Simmons of KISS, a.k.a. My Childhood Hero: I think there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. Either that, or you’re an overly sensitive dick. I’m hoping it’s the former.

Dear Gene,

I’m not sure if you remember me. It’s been a while since I last wrote to you. Thirty-six years, in fact. Here, let me refresh your memory:

KISS letter

Nine years old, Gene! And a boy! (Even at that tender age, I was wise enough to inform you that I was male, because I knew what an incorrigible poon-hound you were, and I didn’t want you to waste your time seeking me out when I turned 18 … or 16, even. Like that Christine chick you banged.)

If that doesn’t jog your memory, maybe this will:

It was Halloween night, 1998, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. You guys were a little over halfway through the set when the lights dimmed and that rumbling bass of yours filled the darkness.

“‘GOD OF THUNDER’!” I screamed like a mental patient. (“God of Thunder” is your signature song, Gene. Yes, I’m well aware that you already know this, but I’m clarifying it here on the off chance that someone other than you might be reading this letter. You never know.)


And then, instead of launching into “God of Thunder,” you played a new song called “Within” … the opening to which, when one is located in the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium, sounds a lot like “God of Thunder” … to me, anyway … but not, apparently, to anyone else seated around me, whose eardrums I had ruptured from screaming at the top of my lungs the wrong song title, over and over again. So that was sort of embarrassing.

But I didn’t care about embarrassing myself, Gene. Not much, anyway. Mostly because I knew I’d never see any of those people again, but partly because you had taught me from an early age to not give a fuck what anyone else thinks. You were like the honey badger before honey badgers were cool.

You might not have heard me above the rest of the Dodger Stadium crowd, though, so perhaps this will ring a bell:

March 11, 2000. Opening night of KISS’s so-called “Farewell Tour” in Phoenix, Arizona. There I was, leaning against the front edge of your side of the stage. What luck! I mean, listen, it was cool seeing Ace, Paul and Peter … but the dude I was most excited about photographing was you! Gene Simmons! Of KISS!


Gene Simmons of KISS
Gene's Tongue

I tried not to read too much into it, Gene, but when you came right over to me and stuck out that famous tongue, I felt like we had a moment. Like we bonded. I felt like we were bros, dude.

So imagine my sorrow when I recently visited your Twitter page to see how my bro was doing … and found this:


Wait a minute, what the fuck does that say??


You blocked me? You, Gene Simmons … my bro … my childhood idol … blocked me from following you and reading your tweets? … thafuck Gene?

I was dismayed. What could I, a faithful KISS fan of almost four decades, possibly have done to offend the God of Thunder so badly that you had gone and done something as petty as to block me on Twitter?

Think, Jon, think. Was it that Gene Simmons Easter egg I made a couple years back?

No, that couldn’t be it. Hmmmmm.

I continued to scour my Twitter history … and then I found it. August of last year. The same week during which comedy legend Robin Williams took his own life and a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. While trying to distract myself from those gloomy headlines, I came across a picture of you and KISS bandmate Paul Stanley holding an outdoor press conference to discuss your indoor-arena football team, L.A. KISS. And then, in a noble attempt to heal with laughter the wounds our weary nation was nursing, I made a joke at your expense:

Really, Gene? After all the shit people have said and written about you, you’ve dishonorably discharged a lifelong member of the KISS Army over a harmless hair joke?

Look, I get it: no one likes to be made fun of. But, in my defense … please look at your hair.

Also, to be fair: I didn’t make you go out in public looking like that. You did so of your own free will, knowing full well that people would be photographing you.

Actually, Gene, I’ve figured out what happened: You, being the good-humored, self-effacing guy I know you are, laughed so heartily at my little hair joke that your vision became blurred from laughter-induced tears … so much so that, when you attempted to “Favorite” my tweet and then “Follow” me on Twitter, you inadvertently hit the “Block” button. Yes, I’m sure it was all just one big misunderstanding.

You, no doubt, are relieved that I’ve brought all of this to your attention, as I’m sure you’ve been wondering, lo these many months, why my tweets haven’t been showing up in your Twitter feed. It’s a shame that you’ve unintentionally denied yourself the pleasure my 140-character musings, and that I’ve been denied access to yours. Thankfully, our mutual nightmare is now over.

I’m glad we’ve sorted this out, and I look forward to you unblocking me soon so that we can get back to being bros.


(I am 45 years old, and a boy.)

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Posted in Life, Music | 9 Responses



I called him “Shep,” like, at least two or three times before finally realizing that I’d mis-remembered (yes, that’s a word now) his last name; it was “Sam Shelby,” not “Sam Shepard.” It was our first day working together, and there I am, calling him “Shep” … repeatedly … because I’m a douche. Of course, when I finally realized (with no small amount of embarrassment) the mistake I’d been making, Sam just laughed it off and took it upon himself to make the moment far less uncomfortable and awkward than I deserved for it to be … because that’s who he was.

After spending the previous two years working out of a friend’s basement, I had landed a gig as the editor of an online city guide in Phoenix, and I spent those first few days waiting for Terry — whom I somehow had tricked into hiring me — to come walking into the office that Sam and I were sharing to say that he’d made a terrible mistake, and would I please pack my shit and leave. Amazingly, that never happened. Instead, Sam and I jammed to the latest albums from Limp Bizkit and Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dude”-ed each other incessantly, and became fast friends in a matter of days … and not because I’m such a likable guy, mind you; as we’ve already established, I’m the kind of self-centered asshole who not only will fuck up your last name, but will then address you in an inappropriately familiar, shortened, nickname version of that incorrect last name. No, Sam and I became fast friends because Sam was the easiest guy in the world to befriend. You couldn’t meet him and NOT want to be his friend.

During the year that followed, Sam, Terry and I had more fun than I would dared to have hoped could be had at my first “real job.” I looked forward to going to work every day because I knew I was going to get to hang with those guys.

Sam was our team’s Marketing Manager, a job that necessitated schmoozing and cutting deals. Anyone who knew Sam is grinning and nodding knowingly right now, because Sam was born to schmooze and cut deals … and not in a phony, used-car-salesman way, but in a genuine, truly endearing way that verged on being a superpower. Whomever was on the other side of the bartering table from Sam surely gave up more than they had planned to before meeting him, and were all too happy to give it in order to do right by this awesome guy they’d just met. It was like the goddamn Jedi Mind Trick.

The objective of Sam’s deals? Well, yes, the primary purpose was to promote our business … but he also took great joy in sharing the spoils of his conquests … which is how Terry, Sam and I ended up working out every morning (OK, maybe not every morning) at an NBA team’s exclusive gym, regularly eating for free at Alice Cooper’s rock-and-roll/sports bar, and attending more than our fair share of professional sporting events and concerts.


Pre-gaming at Alice Cooperstown in Phoenix before hitting Desert Sky Pavilion to see Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1999. (Rumor has it that this is the same location where Sam & I partook in the occasional lunchtime Waborita … or two.)

An overwhelming majority of my favorite memories from that time in my life not only involve Sam; they happened specifically and solely because of Sam. The dude was a turbocharged catalyst who loved life, and loved to make life more fun for everyone around him.

Of course, our friendship with Sam grew to include Sam’s friendship with both my wife and Terry’s wife … because anyone who was married to Sam’s friend, or was related to Sam’s friend, or was a friend of Sam’s friend … became Sam’s friend. It’s a well-documented law of nature.


Eventually, Terry and his wife returned to the West Coast, my wife and I returned to the Boston area, and Sam returned to his beloved North Carolina. And if Sam and Terry were just two cool guys that I enjoyed working with, that would be the end of the story. But they weren’t. They were two lifelong friends I’d not expected to make when I took that job in Phoenix, and the friendship we forged was meaningful enough that, when my wife and I took our first-ever family vacation with our baby son, we met up with Terry, his wife, and their two baby boys in Wilmington, NC, so that we could all hang with Sam.

Let me say that again: two sleep-deprived, stressed-out, married couples sporting a combined total of two babies and a toddler between them used their precious vacation time to travel by plane to the South in the middle of July in order to spend multiple nights in a hotel … because: Sam.

100_3792.JPG – Version 2

Our visit was all the motivation Sam needed to continue investing in contraception.


In the years that followed, Terry and I got busy raising our kids, and Sam got busy saving the earth and befriending everyone else who lived on it … but we always stayed in touch, and Terry and I always threatened to bring both our families down for another visit.


It wasn’t a matter of “if,” just “when.” I wish like hell that “when” came sooner.


It had been a couple of months since Sam and I had been in touch when he messaged me on my birthday back in January.


Seemed like a reasonable question at the time. After all, he was messaging me on my birthday and telling me about a band, so clearly there wasn’t anything heavy going on his world, right?

When he didn’t respond right away, I did a deep-dive on his FB page to see what had been shaking with him. That led me to his newly created blog, MOJOWARRIORS.COM … where I learned that Sam — a non-smoker and otherwise super-healthy dude — had just been diagnosed with inoperable, stage-4 lung cancer.



Sam spent all of this year documenting his battle against cancer … and he did so with 10 times more humor and positivity than any human being could reasonably be expected to muster in the face of such complete and utter bullshit. And all those friends of his? They — we — rallied around him … and he, in turn, unified us all and transformed us into something bigger than the sum of our parts, as only he could.

From Sam’s blog:

Since getting the news, I have had an indescribable amount of love, friendship, warmth, affection, support, and super good mojo come my way. It has brought me to tears. These friends and family members are my team, my posse and what I am now calling my MOJO WARRIORS. You have magical powers based on the definition below! If you are reading this, you are most likely part of this sorcery squad, and I ask you to apply it to my situation, and anyone else you know that may need an injection of oomph or love or a high five or a hug. Make them smile, laugh, feel loved, makes a big impact.

mo-jo: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.

war-rior: a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill

The MOJO WARRIORS were born.

Sam’s MOJO WARRIORS literally spanned the planet … and if the key to healing Sam was based upon a combination of the number of people who gladly would have given our left arms to make him well, and the intensity with which we all wished and hoped and prayed for him to receive a miracle, he’d have outlived all of us and would never have had so much as a friggin’ head cold for the rest of his life.

The MOJO WARRIORS movement culminated in last month’s “Joe’s Bucket Bash,” a huge fundraiser to benefit Sam. When the plans first were announced in July, Terry and I knew it was time to make the trip.



A couple of weeks ago, Terry and I flew down to NC for the Bucket Bash. Shortly after we arrived at the event, we got word that Sam was having his worst day yet, and probably wouldn’t be able to attend. Damn. We were bummed … but our disappointment was dwarfed by our concern for our friend and our hope that he get well. No matter what else happened, Sam knew we had come to support him … and Terry and I got to reconnect on a level that reminded us just why we had become such good friends in the first place. We have Sam to thank for that.

We spent the day celebrating Sam and generally marveling at both the size of the crowd that had turned out to support him, and the high concentration of awesomeness that was so clearly evident in every one of his other friends with whom we spoke.


So, um, yeah … Sam was moderately well-liked

Later that afternoon, Sam texted me and Terry: “If I don’t show up, maybe you guys can come see me later??”

Um, yeah, I’m pretty sure we can work that into our schedule, pal.

Sam sent us the address where he was staying. We slipped out and beat a path to his location.

Despite being exhausted and having tremendous difficulty breathing, Sam sat between Terry and me on a porch overlooking the intracoastal waterway and hung out with us one last time … and I got to hug him and tell him that I loved him. That was a gift for which I could never thank him enough … and as much as I know he wanted to see us, I know he also received us that afternoon because he didn’t want to disappoint us … because that’s just who he was. Right down to his last days, Sam was incapable of thinking only of himself.



My friend Sam died yesterday morning. His brother wrote on Facebook that he “passed away peacefully on the recliner in our living room surrounded by family. His last words are good words to live by — ‘y’all relax.'”

I was not Sam’s closest friend. I didn’t have the pleasure or the honor of knowing him for as long as or as well as did his childhood pals, frat brothers, family members and many other loved ones … and, after leaving Phoenix, I didn’t have the good fortune of living close enough to Sam for us to be a part of each other’s everyday lives … but that never stopped me from loving him like a brother, nor him from holding a place on the extremely short list of guys whom I consider to be my very closest of friends. I had so hoped to have more good times with him.

I speak not in hyperbole when I tell you that Sam Shelby was the sweetest, nicest, friendliest, kindest, funniest, most fun-to-be-around person that I have ever met … and I am only one of the hundreds of people who feel that way. The outpouring of tributes on Facebook in response to his passing is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen happen on the Internet. It’s the biggest fucking digital group hug of all time, and it is a fitting testament to not only how many people Sam touched, but how deeply he touched them.

We’ll relax, Sam. Just gotta do some crying first.

I wish I believed in the things so many people believe in at times like these in order to find comfort and make sense of tragedy. Unfortunately, I have a hard time convincing myself that there’s anything else after this ride stops. I hope I’m wrong, though … and I hope that, if there is something else, it has an Alice Cooperstown … and I hope that, when I get there, Sam is sitting at the bar with a couple of Waboritas in front of him.

I love you, Sam … and I’ll miss you forever.

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Posted in Life | 27 Responses

Mirror mirror, on the wall ground … and the dashboard … and the seats … and the floormats … who’s the biggest pick-up-truck-driving asshole of them all?


Actual letter I placed in someone’s mailbox on my way home from work yesterday:

Hi. My name’s Jon. This morning, as I was driving by your house, a large pick-up truck — presumably driven by some schmuck who at the time was busy using his phone to Google “Why do people keep telling me I’m such an idiot?” — crossed the lane divider and almost struck my car head-on. In order to avoid a collision, I had to swerve out of the way … which resulted in my passenger-side mirror slamming into your mailbox. This completely destroyed the mirror and mirror assembly … and, because my windows were open, also covered the entire inside of my car with shattered glass. So that was pretty awesome.



[No, I didn’t include pictures with the letter. They’re here just for you. You’re welcome.]

Unfortunately, despite my best effort, I was unable to chase down and strangle to death the driver of the truck, so I now find myself stuck with a multi-hundred-dollar car repair and a guilty conscience that won’t let me drive by your mailbox twice a day, five days per week, without letting you know that I’m the boob who hit it. (On the other hand, I’m not dead from a head-on collision, nor in jail for murdering the truck guy, so I’m trying to look on the bright side.)

Anyway … please email me at [email address redacted] so that we can make arrangements to repair and/or replace your damaged mailbox if necessary.



Hopefully they’ll decide that my entertaining letter is payment enough.

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Posted in Life | 15 Responses