10 years gone – celebrating Dad

I was debating making a post about Dad’s anniversary which was earlier this month. Over the years I think I’ve been able to express the hurt and emotional roller coaster his passing caused and now I focus on celebrating being a dad.

This year his anniversary came during the week so the boys and I made a trip to Erie to visit Mom for the weekend. Amazingly it was a weekend where there wasn’t any snow up north which really is a mystery. Don’t worry, they have over a foot of snow on the ground now.

I was psyched for Saturday. I crowd sourced to find out where I could go as a solo parent with 2 boys and we ended up going to two venues that I have never visited.

First stop caters to every 80s/90s mall rat sweet spot, Play Port Arcade! My kids know what video games are but they’ve never really seen an arcade since the business is almost extinct. Growing up in Erie I spent every quarter I could get my hands on at Red Baron arcade in the Millcreek Mall. There was also TILT but you only went there when the Baron was filled.

Play Port is quite possibly the best deal I’ve ever seen for a fun activity, $10 gets you over 100 arcade games, free throw game, air hockey, billiards, foosball and old OLD school bowling game that requires you to roll a ball on free play for 3 hours plus a round of glow golf! This was childhood explosion for me with the Mortal Kombat series, Kangaroo and AfterBurner. Oh yeah, and they have Contra!

After a quick breather I ran out to get pizza for the kids and my mom while I made a pit stop at a drunk food mecca of my college drinking days, the greek dog home known as Coney Island Lunch. The food is inexpensive, you can eat a lot and, well it’s like the White Castle of Erie. Hotdogs are around $1.00 and are served first with onions on the sides of the meat missile and then bathed in a beef sauce which is has a chili consistency with a spicy nip. Again, food you should never eat sober. Now image that covered on fries. Welcome to my neighborhood.

Now it was time for the big surprise, I picked up tickets for the kids and myself to attend a pajama party viewing of Polar Express at the Experience Children’s Museum in Erie.  Growing up I don’t recall there ever being much for kids in town but living in Pittsburgh we have become rabid fans of museums, science and art. Especially the Children’s Museum.

I spoke with a few volunteers who said this was something new they were trying and were thrilled with the turnout. From a parent’s perspective the staff was very welcoming, the museum was filled with bright colors and had interactive displays to make science relating to the area a fun adventure. The city is on Lake Erie so the theme was heavy on water which my kids loved. Following the movie Santa arrived to talk to each child and present them with a small gift of a bell which my kids loved and rang and rang and rang and rang and STILL ring to this day.

Sunday our trip concluded with breakfast at The Breakfast Place which is in the former home of Urbaniak Meats a.k.a. my first job. I was 15 and cutting meats, cleaning saws, cutting chickens and scrubbing dishes. You can see where my early BBQ passion came from now eh? After a hearty meal we drove to the cemetery to see Dad.

Unlike previous trips this one hit me hard and the boys realized it. They both hugged me while my oldest asked me about my favorite memories with their Pop-Pops.  We walked around and visited other relatives of mine and I continued to tell stories. The blessing in disguise while walking around was finally locating the grave of my buddy Marc who passed away 5 years ago. His Grateful Dead stone is a fitting tribute to a man who was always on a long strange trip but found the best in everyone and everything.

We dropped Mom off and made one more stop before leaving, a visit to my childhood best bud Mario. Getting together has been difficult over the years since we both have active families and in fact his daughter was getting ready for her basketball game when we arrived. My boys played with his kids while we kicked back and tried to realize how the hell life happened so fast. One day we were driving around in his dad’s truck blasting Motley Crüe on our way to a Eastway Billiards and now we’re in our 40’s talking about raising kids.

I can’t say the trip brought me any more closure with my Dad’s passing but it did put a smile on my face to see my kids enjoy my hometown.

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