This one hurts

I’ve lost musical idols before … and when each of them died, I was sad. What I was not, however, was deeply surprised. They were guys who played with fire for years, and it eventually consumed them.

But Prince? Fucking Prince? Prince tells the fire what to do. Prince controls the elements. Prince is an element. You can look it up: there’s earth, wind, fire, water and Prince.

I was 14 when “Purple Rain” blew up. Thirty-two years later, it remains one of the greatest albums of all time … and if you came of age in the ’80s and possess even the smallest sliver of good musical taste, you wholeheartedly agree.

Purple Rain

For an awkward, insecure, pubescent, scrawny-little suburban white kid who always felt out of place and whose solace came from immersing himself in music, that album was life-changing. Pop, funk and rock mixed together and delivered by a mysterious, androgynous little black dude who could sing his ass off and absolutely shred the ever-loving hell out of an electric guitar? Yes, please. I’m all in.

And even though I was still a (pathetically) long way from finding out what the whole sex thing was about, I knew from the way Prince played and sang that it had to be all kinds of awesome. I wasn’t exactly sure what Nikki was up to in that hotel lobby, but you can bet your ass I couldn’t wait to find out.

Do you even remember how huge (and prolific) Prince was back then? Here, let me remind you:


* * *

Prince was musical creativity personified, and a genre unto himself … and if scientists had announced that they’d discovered Prince wasn’t actually human, it would have been perfectly believable, because he was an otherworldly entity who seemed to defy the laws of time and aging.

Need proof? OK, here it is:

That is, without a doubt, the single most epic Super Bowl Halftime performance of all time. No lip-sync bullshit, just a straight-up, I-own-this-motherfucker display of unrivaled bad-assery and musical prowess … and he did it TWENTY-THREE YEARS after “Purple Rain.” The man’s biggest album of all time came out in 1984 … and, nearly a quarter-century later, he remained so vital and relevant that not only was he asked to headline the most widely viewed annual event on television, but he kicked the living shit out of it … in the middle of a rain storm … while displaying a level of swagger and self confidence that mere mortals can only dream of.

And, hey, by the way? I would be grossly remiss if I didn’t also point out what an unbelievably gifted guitar player he was. Though the instrument for which he’s known best is his voice, he was a six-string virtuoso of Hendrixian proportions.

Exhibit A:

[Prince’s epic solo starts at about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, but the whole performance is worth watching.]

Prince’s death has rattled me more than that of any musician who has passed before him. His music is woven into the fabric of who I am, and the fact that he no longer exists feels wrong. He’s one of the cultural blocks upon which I built my foundation, and to have that block suddenly disappear has shaken me up … both because of the loss in and of itself, and because his death serves as an unwelcome reminder that the clock is ticking for all of us.

And I know we all die eventually. It’s part of the deal. But Prince? Dead at 57? That’s not the way it’s supposed to go down. Not at all.

Thanks for all the music and creativity you shared with us, Prince. I wish you hadn’t left so early.

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Posted in Inspiration, Music | 9 Responses

And then I went outside to shovel and never came back

All set with this, thanks. #snowpocalypse

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

37 days till Sanibel Island … 37 days till Sanibel Island … 37 days till Sanibel Island … #snowpocalypse

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

Nine hours after I took those photos, the epic blizzard — which, at the time that I snapped those shots, already had been raging for 16 hours — finally stopped.

Twenty-five hours of continuous, uninterrupted, “Holy shit, it’s really coming down out there!” snowfall.

Some people love snow. I am not one of those people (which I’m sure comes as a shock to those of you who already have read such classics as “Fuck you, snow” and “It’s the least wonderful time of the year”). Many who hear of my disdain for snow react with some variation of the following: “But Jon, you’re from Boston, aren’t you? You should be used to this!” And, yes, fucknuts, I am from Boston, and I am used to this … and neither of those things means I filled out a survey while in utero and checked off the box that said, “Hey, when this balloon bursts, I’d really love to pop out someplace where frozen water falls from the sky and the air is many dozens of degrees lower than my body temperature.” Two people from Massachusetts had sex 46 years ago and suddenly I’m supposed to embrace the concept of freezing my ass off and clearing a bazillion cubic tons of ice crystals out of my driveway with a really big spoon? I don’t think so.

Some people like to keep up with snow removal by repeatedly venturing outside in the midst of a raging blizzard so they can shovel incrementally throughout the day. I am not one of those people either. To me, that’s right up there with using the “snooze” button … and I would much rather set the alarm to go off at the time at which I actually need to get out of bed than have it startle me awake multiple times on the same morning. No thanks.

Unfortunately, I also am not one of those people who can sit back and relax while waiting for the storm to end … not when I know that the storm’s end will bring with it a herculean and loathsome task that I just want to attack and put behind me. And so, instead of going outside and shoveling incrementally throughout the day, or sitting back and relaxing while waiting for the storm to end, I basically spent all of Saturday prowling the house from window to window, engaging in a ferocious staring contest with Mother Nature. (I lost.) In the words of my ever-perceptive wife, I was “lit to pop.”

By nightfall, with the storm still in full swing, I had convinced myself that the shoveling would have to wait until morning. And I allowed myself to operate under that delusion until the snow finally let up around 8:30pm … at which point the pent-up, psychotic, “lit-to-pop”-soldier part of my brain yelled “Suit up, bitch! It’s ‘Go’ time!”

Let us travel back to 9 p.m. Saturday night, shall we? And since the front and back doors of the house are snowed shut, let us open the garage door to see what’s what.


And then my soul died.

Why would a human being willingly choose to live in a place where this happens? (Sadly, I cannot answer that question to my own satisfaction … which explains the inner turmoil raging inside me every winter.)


“Yes, I’m sure it looks ‘awesome’ to you, you pajama-wearing freeloader.”


This is the face of a man who, at the moment this photo was taken, would gladly have set flame to a convent full of nuns bottle feeding a litter of fluffy, white, baby harp-seal orphans if doing so would have gained him access to a snowblower.

“What’s the latest you’ll stay out till?” asked my wife.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Midnight?” she suggested.

“Sure, midnight.”

What followed lives in my memory as a swirling blur of “The Howard Stern Show,” Skrillex, Sam Adams, water, sweat, and a total-body workout whose demands far exceeded my current level of fitness.

I shoveled. Like, forever. It would surprise me very little, in fact, to learn that the time I’ve spent writing this blog entry has been nothing more than an exhaustion-induced hallucination, and that I’m still shoveling right now.

By the time I finished clearing all of the two-car parking area (which extends from the garage to just past the rear of that van you see peeking out from beneath a snowdrift), it was 1:30 in the morning. So much for midnight … and so much for stopping.

“He’s not coming in until he finishes the whole thing,” my wife (I later learned) told my distressed mother (who was staying with us) just after midnight. “He’s in ‘Army’ mode now. He’s a like a robot.”

She was right. On Saturday night/Sunday morning, I tapped into that generally unneeded reserve of mental and physical strength whose existence I discovered while suffering through basic training many years ago. The point at which a normal human being feels like they’ve used up everything they’ve got? If you can push past that point, you’ll likely discover that there’s still a lot more left in the tank. Like, 70% more. Sure, accessing it requires slipping into an altered state that causes you (or, at least, causes me) to behave more like Heath Ledger’s Joker than a normal human being (which explains the maniacal cackling my neighbors probably heard in their dreams while I was performing “Snowpocalypse Now” in my driveway) … but once you know it’s there, it’s a valuable asset … and, ever-so-occasionally, I like proving to myself that I can still get there.

I didn’t know what time it was when I finally reached the part of the driveway into which the plows had directed waves of tightly compacted snow (because I had decided at 1:30 that I wasn’t going to look anymore); I just know it felt like I was shoveling rocks and half-dry cement. Whatever the case, it was about that same time that a dude driving a mid-sized snowplow got himself stuck in the end of a nearby driveway. (I later learned that this happened at around 3:30 a.m., at which time my mother told my wife that she’d not heard the sound of my shoveling for about 10 minutes. This led to my wife looking out windows until she finally spotted me at the end of the neighbor’s driveway, wedged between a snowbank and a plow blade … a disturbing sight, I’m sure, but it turns out I wasn’t trapped; I was just helping Plow Guy dislodge his truck. Because what I really needed after six-and-a-half hours of nonstop shoveling was a physical challenge.)

When we finally freed the truck, Plow Guy hopped out and pulled his billfold from his pocket.

“Dude, I don’t need money; I just need you to clear the end of my driveway.”

Given the the fact that there was nowhere within the confines of my driveway for him to push the snow, he did his best to shove some of it to the left and right sides … a boon to be sure, but it still took me about an hour to shovel away the rest of the cement—I mean snow.

With the end of the driveway finally cleared, I hopped in my car and started it up. The dashboard clock read 4:29. Yes, really.

By the time I finished cleaning off my car, my wife’s van, and shoveling away the snow where they’d been parked, it was 5 o’clock in the morning and I could barely keep my eyes open. I showered in a state of semi-consciousness, wolfed down a bowl of cereal and collapsed into bed with plans to sleep until June.

In spite of those plans, I woke around 11 a.m. … but still, I was determined to sit on my ass all damn day. Unfortunately, the snowplows that cleared the street while I slept had again filled in the end of my driveway, so my trusty shovel and I were reunited much sooner than I’d hoped we would be. Thankfully, Round 2 was a much lesser ordeal, and the Scratches Compound soon had a driveway that was envied by all who laid eyes upon it.

Street from driveway
Driveway from street

Sadly, the same could not be said of my front walk. Although I briefly flirted with the idea of shoveling it clean as well, I ultimately decided that front-door access was a luxury we could live without.

Blizzard 2016

“Front Walk” – a Daddy Scratches haiku
My dearest Front Walk
You can fuck right off till spring
I’m done with this shit

By Monday morning, I was back in my office, nursing a sore everything, and envying the kids’ snow day. So imagine my surprise when this happened:


See, you guys? Being a complete psycho isn’t just fun; it’s GOOD PARENTING.

Joker Scratches

Father of the Year
(Why so serious?)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to these Gulf Coast real-estate listings …

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Posted in Life, Winter | Tagged | 22 Responses



Yes, that’s right: it’s time for the annual posting of a heavily filtered headshot followed by a few words acknowledging the ever-decreasing distance between myself and death’s door.

Actually, I kid. I mean, yes, it’s true, we’re all inching closer to our final curtain call, but, at the dawn of my 47th year on planet earth, I’m not really focusing on that … partly because doing so gives me a fucking anxiety attack, but mostly because things are going rather well these days, and I’ve been finding it easier to focus on the good stuff as of late.

I’m happy to report that things at The Day Job I Never Really Wanted have gone quite well over the past year … to the point that I mostly don’t mind going there five days per week. (It’s amazing what three raises, a healthy bonus check and an extra week of paid vacation can do for morale.) Yes, I’d prefer to already be making my living as a writer … but I’ve never been crazy about the starving-artist option, especially while raising two kids in one of the most expensive areas in the country (and while simultaneously possessing a deep appreciation of fine tequila, among other costly luxuries), so I’m OK with pulling down a substantial base salary and benefits while I work out the writing thing on the side.

Meanwhile, speaking of fine tequila: I decided to celebrate my 46th birthday by downing some at Taqueria Feliz, a cool little Mexican joint located in a funky Philadelphia neighborhood known as Manayunk:

The reason these pictures look so good is because the lighting is perfect and also because I am not the person who took them. (They’re from Taqueria Feliz’s website.)

Wonder Woman and I bellied up to the bar and took full advantage of our decision to travel to and from the city via Uber. (Admittedly, one of us took greater advantage of it than the other … but, hey, when it’s your 46th birthday, and you’re not driving, and your mother-in-law has the kids for the night, and it’s your first time at a cool little Mexican joint in Philadelphia whose menu options include this …

Who needs birthday cake when you can have a mezcal flight instead? Not me, that’s who.

… you’re supposed to take full advantage of it, amiright?)

Thankfully, the menu also included some delicious Mexican food, the consumption of which is key when, after downing multiple margaritas and a mezcal flight, one wishes to wake up the next morning feeling fresh as daisies and completely devoid of anything even vaguely resembling a hangover … a feat I easily accomplished. With age comes wisdom, children.

After dinner, we decided to take a little stroll through Manayunk, a neighborhood we’ve always liked but haven’t visited in probably more than a decade. And on a nice, balmy, summer evening, that stroll would have been delightful … but on a mid-January evening when the thermometer reading was the numerical equivalent of “Holy fuck it’s cold,” the novelty of traipsing through Manayunk wore off quickly … and I’m thankful it did, because, in our haste to get out of the cold, we blindly fled into the closest pub …


FYI: This place looks much cooler at night … especially if Wonder Woman and I are seated at the bar.

… and were pleasantly surprised to discover a cozy, inviting and relatively new establishment named Craft that I can’t wait to re-visit in the very near future.

Which brings me to one of my objectives for the year ahead: I want to experience more of what Philadelphia has to offer and see if I can deepen my appreciation for, and sense of connection to, my adopted city. Saturday night was a good start.

As always, my goals also include more writing … even if some of that writing is boring, travel-log-ish stuff about my 46th-birthday celebration. Hope that’s cool with you.

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Posted in Life, My Birthday | 6 Responses

“10 Years a Blogger” (which seemed like a catchy title when I first thought of it, but then I realized that’s because it’s reminiscent of “12 Years a Slave” … which I never saw, but I assume it’s about slavery … and, other than the pay, blogging has nothing in common with slavery … the latter of which is neither a funny topic, nor anything to make light of … and I should probably just stop talking now)

Evan's 10th Birthday Cake

Instead of “Evan,” let’s pretend it says “Daddy Scratches” … because I have no idea who Evan is … and even if I did, this post has nothing to do with him. (Also: Thank you, flickr user backyardbirderwa, for photographing this cake.)

3 … 2 … 1 … Happy New Year!

What’s that? It’s January 7th? Damn. I guess I fucked that one up. But, hey, anyway:

Happy Belated New Year! And also? Happy Birthday to this blog!

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I first launched my blog back on January 1st of 2006. Yes, that’s right: I’ve been blogging for a whole decade … which is either impressive … or sad … or both. Whatever the case, it goes without saying that the Internet is abuzz with the news of this important anniversary.

[cricket sounds]

OK, not so much. But, hey, anyway:

I’m still here! Like a blog cockroach! A blogroach, if you will!

Of course, the biggest blogging development in my life this year was my decision to largely remove from this blog the many pictures of, and stories about, my children that I’d posted during the past decade. Like, almost 500 posts containing roughly a bazillion-and-a-half pictures. Basically, I gutted the place. It was a tough decision, but one that I feel was for the best. For my kids, that is. Not for me. The best decision for me would have been to exploit the hell out of them for my own personal gain, with neither their knowledge nor consent. (I think we can all agree that my choosing not to do so pretty much makes me Father of the Year.)

Nonetheless, I still feel like I have more stories to tell, and I still feel like telling some of them here when I can, so the blog lives on.

The stories I don’t feel like telling here are the ones that for years I’ve been holding back with the intention of instead telling them in book form. With that in mind, I’m pleased to report that 2015 was the year when I finally started working on that memoir I keep threatening to write. (In far less exciting news: I’ve only written about 2,000 words so far. Just need about 88,000 more. But, hey: it’s a start, right?)


(I’m going to assume you said “Right!” So thanks for that.)

Alrighty, then. Let’s all go kick some serious ass in 2016, shall we? Happy New Year.

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Posted in Life, Writing | 6 Responses

Jury unanimously rules in favor of enraged father who used controversial “Star Wars”-spoiler defense in the beating death of his 12-year-old son’s dickhead classmate

That is a news headline you may well be reading in the not-too-distant future, because I am so pissed off and upset right now that I barely know what else to do with myself. And because I have no rational and/or truly satisfying target at which to aim the massive amount of rage, sadness and disappointment boiling within me, I am going to channel it into this post with the hope that doing so might help me to process the situation and move on. (I don’t believe it will, but I’m going to give it a try anyway, because the alternative is to beat my son’s dickhead classmate to death … the reason for which almost certainly would result in my acquittal during the murder trial, but the doing of which would make life very unpleasant for me and my family.)

For a full year now, my children and I have intentionally, and with no small amount of effort and dedication, avoided viewing all of the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailers, commercials, articles, etc. This has been no easy feat. To wit: when attending “Ant-Man” at the IMAX theater this past summer, my son and I knew the theater would be showing a “Star Wars” trailer prior to the movie, so we both brought earbuds, inserted them in our ears the moment we saw the “Lucasfilm” logo during the previews, cranked up some music, and sat there with our eyes closed until we were sure we had missed any and all “Star Wars” footage. (And, yes, I know I’m a lunatic raising a son who one day will lay on a therapist’s couch and talk about what a lunatic his father is, so there’s no need for you to point that out.)

While watching television in recent weeks, we have repeatedly pounced on the remote control while simultaneously turning our heads away from the TV and, during the interval between spotting the “Lucasfilm” logo and successfully engaging the “Mute” button, have drowned out the sound of the commercial by yelling something to the effect of “AH OHHH WHOAH WHOAH WHOAH BLAH BLAH BLAH I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS!” Every. Single. Time.

Ever since Disney announced plans to make “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” my plan had been to pull the children out of school on the film’s opening day in order to guarantee our avoidance of any spoilers … but when tickets went on sale two months in advance, my calendar indicated that my daughter’s class would be holding its annual holiday recital on the day of the movie’s release, during which she would be performing with both the orchestra and the chorus. I knew I couldn’t pull her out of that commitment, so I instead bought tickets to a 10 a.m. showing on the film’s second day in theaters, which was yesterday.

(Adding insult to soon-to-be-revealed injury: On Thursday night, I learned that my daughter’s recital had at some point been rescheduled for tomorrow, but by that time, the opening-day showings of “Star Wars” had long since sold out, so we were forced to stick with Saturday. Had I known of this change far enough in advance, we could have attended the film on opening day … which makes what follows even more difficult for me to swallow.)

For over a year now, my son and I have counted down the months, weeks, days and, ultimately, hours until we would at last be watching a new “Star Wars” film together in a movie theater. Every morning this week, we awoke and greeted each other with proclamations of the number of days left, both of us giddy with excitement.

"Star Wars" excitement

We were a little excited.

When I returned home from work Friday evening, my son tearfully told me that some rotten, soulless, douchetastic little rat-fuck of a boy with whom he attends school had announced to my son with malicious intent less than 24 hours prior to our viewing of “Star Wars” what I shall refer to as “THE MOST MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA” … the details of which my son did not tell me, because he didn’t want to ruin the movie for me. And my heart broke, and its pieces fell into an all-consuming fire of unbridled rage and sadness that now has me wishing it was socially and legally acceptable for a 45-year-old man to inflict some kind of harm upon a sixth grader who quite probably deserves to have something really shitty happen to him. (And, no, I don’t really want to murder or physically harm a sixth-grade boy, but right now, I very much DO wish upon that little prick a degree of mental and emotional anguish commensurate with that which he caused my son.)

Yesterday, we saw “Star Wars,” and when “THE MOST MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA” happened, I was triply traumatized: once because HOLY FUCK I CAN’T BELIEVE “THE MOST MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA” JUST HAPPENED; twice because my 10-year-old daughter—whom, up to that point, had been holding my hand and gleefully telling me every so often that “The Force Awakens” was the greatest movie she had ever seen—was completely traumatized to the point of sobbing over “THE MOST MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA”; and thrice because I immediately knew that “THE MOST MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA” was what my son’s pathetic little fuck of a classmate had told him.

It has been 27 hours since we walked out of the movie theater, and I still feel emotionally raw from the aforementioned triple-pronged attack. For what it’s worth: I absolutely loved the movie … but I regret not taking the kids on Friday, and I am beyond upset that some wretched little fuckhead took away my son’s ability to fully enjoy this very special thing that he had been looking forward to for so long.

And I don’t feel any better about the incident for having written about it, because doing so doesn’t return to my son the latest slice of his joyful childhood innocence stolen from him by a frequently shitty world that I can not completely shield and protect him from (nor does it lessen my sense that I failed him by not taking him to see “Star Wars” on opening day) … but I still needed to vent, because, like I said: I don’t know what else to do with myself … so I did this. Which probably is wiser than murdering a sixth grader. So at least I’ve got that going for me.

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Posted in Life, Parenthood | Tagged | 10 Responses