A few weeks ago, I got an email from a gentleman I didn’t know. His name is Tom Kranz, and he’s an author and has his own podcast called Type. Tune. Tint. He asked me if I would be a guest on his show, and of course I agreed!
We talked about my latest book, LAWNDALE and how we’re from the same part of the city and some of our collective history. It was a great experience and I’m really grateful that Tom reached out to me.
I decided that I should share it with you all and hope you enjoy listening to this short piece as much as I did making it with Tom. It’s entitled: Creativity Born in a Philadelphia Row home.
I just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who bought my book. It was a stressful time leading up to the release but it all turned out well and made for a great 60th birthday!
I was surprised how many copies sold and hope everybody got their orders promptly. I’ve been down this road six times before and it’s never an easy process.
If anyone out there is thinking of writing and publishing some sort of book I’d be happy to help in any way I can. It’s tough to do it independently because there’s no roadmap to guide you through the journey. But if anybody needs help I can assist you.
I’ve also loved all of the outpourings of love from the community. It really means a lot to me. I don’t write these books to make money and get rich and famous. I do it because I have to create. Whether it’s a picture, a story, or a song, I have to make things. It brings me a lot of joy knowing I put something there that wasn’t there before. It’s nice to be able to create for people so they can feel something. I’m not a great writer or a musician. I have zero formal training. I just like to make things and take it from there.
I know some really great writers and musicians. Many of them have great technical training to do what they do. But I’ve found it’s not really about that. We’ve all seen movies that looked great visually, but the story sucked or the characters or dialogue were weak. The greatest movies ever made have been about the STORY and the PEOPLE in those stories. Tales that make us feel something, or take us back to happier, simpler times in our lives.
Think about your favorite song. You don’t love and rock out to that song because it’s technically proficient or well produced. The greatest songs make you feel something. That’s what I strive for in my art.
If you got my book and liked it, I’d love it if you’d write a short review on Amazon to let people know what you thought about the work.
Also… I would love it if you could take a photo of yourself with the book. It can be anything. You holding it. Reading it. Your kid holding it. Your dog chewing on it. Anything fun. Be creative! I’d love to put those photos on social media to show that people have the book and are enjoying it. You can post your pic on your own page and tag me or post it to my page. (Or send it to me in messenger)
How about this… I’ll put all of the names of the folks who took photos and put them in a hat. I’ll pick one out at random and whoever I pull out wins a FREE signed copy of my book!
Here’s another idea…
My sister Jane and I have been chatting about maybe putting something together where we could all meet up in the near future. We’re all getting older and it would be great to see all the familiar faces from our youth again. She thought maybe some sort of a book signing and that would be fine, but I’d be happy just to see you all again, and meet some new people I didn’t know from the old neighborhood.
I’d like to hear from you all with some suggestions as to some good spots that would be convenient for us to all meet up. Maybe two different events? I have no idea. But I’m sure we could come up with some viable options and dates that would work for everybody. Let me know! We can chat on messenger or you can email me at: email@example.com.
Thank you again for making my birthday amazing. I wasn’t expecting the book to do as well as it has. Hope to hear from you all soon!
Tell your friends!
There will be a book about my summers in Wildwood in the 1970s!
Coming… Memorial Day – 2023!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all Follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week on Tuesday.
For those of you who don’t want to listen to my long-winded speech… You can get it here!
Just in time for my birthday, my new book is finally on sale! It’s hard to believe, but I’m 60 years old today! I think my brain still thinks I’m 18, but I’m definitely getting older.
When I worked as a Branch Manager at the 10th and Snyder Branch of First Union in South Philly in the 90s, I had a customer who I became friends with who lived right across the street. That customer was Jean Bruno, daughter of the late Angelo Bruno. Jean was a lovely woman who became a friend of mine. (I’ll save those stories for future blog posts) She used to say to me that she never wanted presents for her birthday. She would give presents to other people on her birthday to let herself know that she was still around to give and help other people. I never forgot those words and wished I could be like that.
So, today for my birthday, I’m presenting the Lawndale book to you all to enjoy on my birthday! It’s my gift to you all!
Anyway… on to the business at hand!
It’s been a long time coming, but the Lawndale book is finally available on Amazon!
Let me start with another quick story. The book was supposed to come out on the first day of summer, just like all of my previous books. I was born in the summer and I’ve always felt like June 21st was always important. School was out or ending and it was the first day of summer. That meant going down the seashore and having a great time in Wildwood, NJ. So there’s the tie-in for me wanting to release my books when I do.
But the Lawndale book was stalled. I wasn’t finished editing it and writing some of the stories that I wanted to include. I was busy cranking out freelance writing assignments and it looked like the Lawndale book may be delayed. This would be the first time a book I ever wrote was late.
I hate being late. I used to get grounded by my father for being late. He would say, “It’s not that you were late getting home… It’s that we agreed on 10 o’clock and you broke your word. Your word means nothing if you don’t keep it.”
That is some heavy stuff right there. But I’ve always been punctual for the rest of my life and see the importance of being on time. Especially now that everyone’s connected by the internet and phones and navigation and time. There’s almost no reason to be late. Except if the person simply can’t manage their clock or the calendar.
So it bothered me that I might be late on this book.
But then it struck me. Why does it have to be the first day of summer? It doesn’t matter, and most of my readers may not even be expecting it. I decided I need to ease up and just release it sometime this summer.
But then it hits me. A realistic deadline for this book is August 9th. My 60th birthday. Who knows if I’ll even make 70, so let’s get this sucker out for the 60th!
So that’s how that happened. It makes sense and next year’s Wildwood book needs to drop Memorial Day weekend. Because that’s when the summer really kicks off in this country.
So I do all the things I’m supposed to do to make this book happen. Last week I decide to send my sister Jane a postcard that says, “Greetings from Philly” and is a picure of our skyline. Who sends postcards anymore?
Just like I wrote letters to people in the 70s.
I’m gonna send my sister a postcard and write a note to her about how the book Lawndale is now LIVE on Amazon.
But when I sent that postcard it wasn’t yet. It was still in post production and review at Amazon. At that point it may not be available for another 72 hours and if there’s a problem or two… it may not publish on August 9th.
But I thought back to an old friend of mine. Chris Yurkow, the president of the school and champion quarterback at Frankford High School in 1979. I was standing in the school store with him after lunch one day. He would work there after lunch a few days a week. I told him how amazing it was that he had led Frankford High’s football team to victory and became city champs. I complimented him on the jacket that he was wearing that signified that accomplishment. Heres what he said to me….
“I actually ordered the jackets that said we were city champs before we even played the game.”
“Why, Chris. What if you lost?”
“I knew we couldn’t lose.”
Right. Don’t worry about failure or delays. Believe in the work and it’ll come out. I created this book and there won’t be anything that can stop this from coming out on August 9th.
So I mailed her the postcard and told her it was live. (I knew it may take a few days to get to her so that bought me some time) I just crossed my fingers and dropped the card in the mailbox.
But low and behold I heard from her Saturday and she told me that she got the postcard and was surprised.
But here’s the weird part. She texted me the day before and told be she looked on Amazon under my name and saw that Lawndale was live. I didn’t even know it was live yet! I was busy working and hadn’t checked any of the updates from Amazon. So my sister Jane is the one who told me my book went live… BEFORE she had ever gotten the postcard from me telling her the book went live. When I sent the card to her it was still in post production!
A wonderful psychic moment between me and my closest blood relative on the planet.
Anyway… Let’s move on.
I’m sure there are more stories to tell about the old neighborhood, but I’ve done the best I can to remember and collect as many as I could for this book. I was surprised how much everybody loved some of the stories I told on my blog Phicklephilly last year.
Due to the pandemic, what began as a lack of content became something wonderful. I never thought I’d be able to remember enough stories to fill a whole book! But here we are and it’s yours to own on Amazon.
I want to thank everybody from the old neighborhood for all of their comments and likes when a few stories were published last year on some of the great Facebook Groups about Philly! I’m really grateful to the administrators of those groups for allowing me to share my stories on their platforms.
I appreciate all the support, and your words really kept me going to keep writing and generating new fun stories about our collective past for this book.
Even though the stories are from my perspective and many of these events happened to me, I think we can all see ourselves in some of these situations.
When I write on my blog, I use the whole language and tell my stories, warts and all. Normally, when I publish a book I want it to represent what I saw and what I felt during any of these situations. But I decided for this book, I needed to clean it up a bit. I didn’t want to sound as though I had a bad childhood or anything. I decided to tread lightly on some of the more personal memories.
Several people I spoke with about this said they’d prefer to read a book that contains all the gory details. But as I edited the final draft for this work I just didn’t feel that it was that kind of a book. Our minds normally cleanse all the bad aspects of our lives and retain the good ones. Who wants to read a book about endless suffering? Nobody!
Putting together a book like this is new to me. My first book, Phicklephilly was just a collection of stories from my blog. It was just an attempt to collect a bunch of loose stories from a medium I knew little about. But I felt that as much as I needed to write the blog it all seemed fleeting and disposable. I would write a story and tomorrow it’s replaced by a new one or the next chapter.
I wanted to have it somehow preserved forever. My thoughts, words and experiences captured. Because I knew my own life was fleeting and I was getting older. The blog could go away, but a book was forever, right?
Nothing is forever. But I thought if I could publish then at least my words and memories would be left behind for someone to read it and maybe know and understand me.
I kept writing the blog with all of its dating and relationship advice, and stories from my own adventures. But it always felt like something was missing. If I could just get to a point where enough people would read and follow my blog maybe I could write about the things I wanted to write about. I felt like the recording artist that has to record and play the songs the management and the record company want him to play because that’s what the fans want.
But at some point if he gets enough people to listen to him maybe he can make the records he wants to make. Write the songs he wants to play if for no one else but himself just to get some peace of mind.
I hit that point during the pandemic, with over 350,000 page views and 2,400 subscribers all vieing for my voice.
It was time to make Phicklephilly what I had always wanted it to be. A weekly forum where I could just create stories about anything I wanted. To write for myself and anyone else who cared to listen. Not clickbait to get more page views, subscribers, or advertising revenue for the site.
I decided this summer to not renew my premium plan on the blog. I was paying $300 a year to have 24-hour customer service, advertising on the site, Google Adsense, and all of the other bells and whistles that come with the premium plan.
What I realized last summer when there was an outpouring of love from Philly and Wildwood about stories I wrote from my memories. I realized what I do has nothing to do with how good the plan I have at WordPress or Google.
It was about the content. It was about the words I was writing that was bringing people from my generation a little joy and solace. Moments of nostaglia from our collective past. Stories we could all relate to from the same place and time in the world.
A place long ago where we all came from. That response from you all meant more than subscribers, page views, or ad revenue. I decided to let my premium plan lapse and just let the site go back to its orginal version as a free site.
I realized the best part of Phicklphilly was the stories that actually touched people. And for that, I’m grateful to you all. Thanks for the clarity 40 years after all of the things in the Lawndale book happened. You helped me identify my purpose and my need to create and to leave something of value behind in this world.
Building a book is a chore. First of all, you have to write the darn thing. But that can be a beautiful transformative experience, so that’s the fun part. It’s hard to do or everybody would do it. But there are so many aspects when planning a new book. This is my 7th trip into the publishing world, and it gets easier and the rush of making something that never existed is exquisite.
Do I do a Dedication? Who do I dedicate the Lawndale book to? Who is the most significant person I met in Lawndale? Who should my book about my childhood be dedicated to? Is there any one person who touched my life in such a profound way in Lawndale that I should dedicate the whole book to them?
Then I had to write the Introduction. Non-fiction books require that. You have to get the reader into the world you’re creating with your book. I had to set the stage for all the stories. So if a person that had no idea about the 60s or 70s, or Northeast Philly, might get what this book was about. So that became another important aspect of the book. I also wanted to have a moment to speak with everybody from the old neighborhood in the introduction. Just to say… “hey, remember this guys? This all happened when we were kids. We were there! We lived through all of this!”
The Acknowledgements had to happen. I wanted to thank everyone that reached out, liked, commented, and followed my work, and heard my voice during the pandemic. I reached inward and pulled out some stories and people listened and responded. I realized I’d touched a nerve. I was shocked and overjoyed when I got so many texts, messages, and phone calls from people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in over 40 years. I hope I haven’t missed anyone!
I cobbled this book together between work, writing freelance articles, and everything else that life tosses my way. But I was determined to get it created and out to the people who wanted to read it. To maybe recapture a few of those lost moments from childhood when life was so much simpler but seemed so much harder.
The funny thing is… the best part of all of this is the time leading up to the release of the book. The anticipation. Remember the song by Carly Simon they used to play over the Heinz ketchup commercial?
Anticipation is the best part. I’ve done all of the work. The book is done. It’s in post-production at Amazon. Everybody’s waiting for it and so am I. It’s those moments and days before the book comes out that are the best. Knowing everyone is out there waiting for it. I’m just waiting for the US Library of Commerce to assign me an ISBN number for my book. Will it publish on time? Will something go wrong? A million things could go wrong.
But I quell my anxiety with the warm thoughts of what the book is about and how much everybody’s been waiting for it.
I made this. I’m about to put something there that wasn’t there before. Ever since I was a kid I liked making things. I like to create. That’s my favorite thing to do. But that moment before you show your work to somebody is the best. That rush of excitement that something you made is coming. It’s perfect because it hasn’t happened yet, but you know it’s on the way, like Christmas morning.
I made this and it touched a lot of people. It’s simple stories from my average childhood in a little suburb of Philadelphia. But it meant a lot to all of us that lived it.
Sure, growing up is a challenge for any kid, but we all had pretty nice childhoods back then. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew and what they could provide for us.
We played outside, hung out back the railroad tracks, built forts, explored nature, played games in the street, and knew everybody in the neighborhood. It was a wonderful time to be a kid!
I wanted this book to be something anybody could read and not be offended or sad. Just a nice collection of stories from my childhood and adolecence that everybody could relate to on some level.
I’m pleased with the finished product and I hope you are too. Because all we really possess are our memories… and our childhoods were pretty sweet growing up in Lawndale.
I was still living at my parent’s house then. I had started dating a girl I had met who worked as a teller at the bank where I worked. Her name was Lori, and I was smitten. Not the mad passionate love I had briefly with my affair with Betty, but simply a local girl I found nice. I’ll tell her interesting story at some point.
Here she is:
One night the phone rang at the house and it was Betty. She told me she had just seen the band Y & T. She remembered that I had told her my band had opened for them at the Troubadour in Hollywood years ago. She said she missed me and that she and her husband were moving back to the area. She also reminded me that I once told her that even if I were dating someone else, if she ever came back I would dump them immediately and pick up with her.
This song always reminds me of Betty cause she always kept her lipstick fresh and sometimes wore a leather skirt.
But 3 years had passed, and my life had changed. I wasn’t working in a video store anymore. I had cut my hair, put on a suit and tie, and joined the ranks of society. I was a banker now, and I was seeing someone I was committed to. I was older now, and the chapter of my life with Betty was closed. It was a moment in time that we couldn’t go back to. It needed to be left alone.
It was really nice hearing from her but I was done. She was married, and I had grown as a person. When I had gotten involved with her I was wrong. It didn’t make what her husband did right, but more infidelity wouldn’t ever solve the problems in their marriage. Apparently, they had gone to counseling and had worked things out. But from the sound of her call, it sounded like she was still in love with me. But that wouldn’t solve anything. It would tear open any wounds in her marriage that had hopefully begun to heal. I’d broken enough hearts already. I didn’t need any more to add to my list.
May’s Landing, NJ – 1988
I was at the Hamilton Mall with my girlfriend Lori. We had been together for over a year now. We enjoyed going to the mall on the weekends and walking around. We were both young and making money and it was nice to shop for music, movies, and video games. (The original Nintendo system with Mario and Duck Hunt!)
Lori loved to go into the bookstore and look at the classics. All of the bestsellers were obviously in the front of the store, but you had to go all the way to the back to find the classics. She liked to look through them and usually bought something in paperback. She especially loved the work of Edgar Allen Poe.
I was standing in the front of the shop and looking at a rack of calendars, and also some of the newer works of fiction. But something caught my eye out the front window of the on the other side of the mall.
What I saw was Betty Ann chatting with another woman. Her little daughter Kelly was with her and was now probably 9 or 10 years old. I started having anxiety at the sight of her, but then that went into overdrive when I saw that she was holding a stroller. In that stroller was what appeared to be a 3-year-old baby. I couldn’t really see if it was a boy or a girl, but I started to do the math in my head.
Could that baby be my child? She had said she had gone off birth control, and that having a child from me would be a nice present from our brief union. I was freaking out thinking about that possibility and immediately glanced around the store. All the way in the back was Lori browsing the classics.
I was having a bad panic attack and I took one last look to burn the image into my mind and headed to the back of the store. I made some excuse to Lori that I was having some stomach disorders and wanted to get out of the mall.
I never saw Betty again, and I don’t know if that child was mine, but it has always left me wondering.
I found this pic on Facebook recently. Betty Ann is now 70 years old and still looks great. I’m assuming that’s her husband and it’s nice to see that they’ve managed to stay together after over 35 years.
Here’s a trilogy of songs I wrote in the 80s and recorded in the studio in the 90s. The 2nd song is entitled, Betty Ann. It’s obvious the song was written for my sweet girlfriend from 1984.
If you write a song about somebody, they’ve made a major impact on your life.
(You can hit the play button up in the left corner of the image below to play the songs. At the 4:30 mark, the song Betty Ann begins.) Enjoy!
Tear Me Up
Can’t Let Her Go
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tale from my past as much as I’ve enjoyed reminiscing and writing it.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.
Sarah Louise DeVos was born February 12, 1976, in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, to William and Sandra DeVos. She leaves behind her parents, sister (Sharon), brother (Mark), two nephews (Isaiah and Rashon), two great-nieces (Ariana and Makenna), as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, and the many friend’s children who also considered her their Auntie Sarah. She also leaves behind an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances from around the globe who loved and adored her for the beautiful, creative, compassionate, stylish, and loving person she was.
Sarah was raised in both Cape May and Carlisle, PA. After graduating from Carlisle High School in 1994, she moved to Philadelphia. She self-funded her education at Moore College of Art and Design, obtained a degree in graphic design, and made lifelong friends. During college, Sarah worked as a valet for the Rittenhouse Hotel, which was an ideal position for someone who loved stylish cars. She also worked at Shampoo during college, one of the most well-known nightclubs in Philly during the 90s, which allowed her to enjoy many things she loved – fashion, music, and people.
Sarah took her degree and talents to every agency she worked for, most recently Free People in Philadelphia. She also took on many freelance gigs throughout her career, during which she created some award-winning chalkboard illustrations for friends’ weddings, and special events, and logos for businesses. She also displayed her artwork in Old City on First Fridays.
In addition to being a talented artist, Sarah loved music and fashion. She could easily dance all night in three-inch heels and often sent her friends CD mixes of some of her favorite songs. When other people saw clutter at a discount clothing store, Sarah saw an opportunity. She could create the most unique and stylish outfits from any discount clothing store.
Sarah also loved meeting people, hearing their stories, and talking with them about their adventures. She used those skills throughout her life, including visits to Paris, Italy, Prague, London, Mexico, and throughout the US with friends.
Sarah loved taking walks and looking at architecture. If you ever spent time with her in her beloved Philly, she would share all this passion with you. She was observant and would point out all the details in the ornately decorated buildings as you walked past. And she usually had a story about all of them because she had no qualms about walking up to someone outside of these buildings and asking to tour them. Most of the time, people obliged her whims, happy to share their places with her appreciative eyes.
She never owned a car during her time in Philadelphia but mastered the public transit system like she’d been riding it her whole life. Also, you would see her gracefully navigating through the heavy Philadelphia traffic on rollerblades or a bike like it was an Olympic sport.
From her childhood friends to those she made at Moore College of Art and Design, to the strangers she turned into friendships, and all of the furry creatures she loved, everyone she met would be forever changed by her presence. She will be missed dearly by all that knew her.
Service will be held at Daybreak Church, 321 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA, on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at 11:00am. Visitation will be held for an hour prior to, at 10:00am. There will be space available at the church if people would like to stay afterward and share further remembrances.
If you know anyone struggling, down, or feeling sad… give them a call. Or better yet, go see them. Check on them. See if they’re okay. If you are feeling like you can no longer cope in this life, help is available 24 hours a day.
I remember Betty telling me, at the beginning of our relationship, she was moving to Chicago in three months for her husband’s job. So I knew no matter what happened between us, it would be short-lived. It was an affair she wanted to have with a younger man to get revenge on her husband. But what she didn’t realize at the time with whom she had chosen to have that affair.
We were sitting on a bench on the boardwalk one afternoon. It was a warm sunny day, and the tourists milled about us. Eating, drinking, playing games, and going on amusements.
We were just having a moment of gentle repose when she turned to me.
“You know, Chaz… when I started this with you it was just to get back at my husband.”
“I know, Bets. It’s okay. I’ve had no illusion as to what this relationship is.”
“But… I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. I’m fine with it. I’ve just been happy to be with you, even though our time has been short.”
“But… I never thought that I’d fall in love with you.”
I smiled and kissed her. “I love you too, Betty. I loved you the first time I saw you come in the store.”
I knew what I was getting myself into. At 22 I was just driven by my desire to love and be loved. Nothing more. I’d always been that way. Almost desperate to be recognized by a beautiful woman. To feel real value and worth. It was a young man’s folly, but back then it was real. It was what I was.
The movers had begun to pack up her house and prepared to truck it off to Chicago. One evening we were lying on a sheet on the floor of her bedroom. We had just completed another one of our fiery sessions. The house was basically empty, sans us on the floor and a fan that blew across the room to cool us.
I laid back and stared at the ceiling with her beside me. I turned to her and kissed her lips. I knew this relationship’s expiration date and had prepared myself for its demise.
“I’m really going to miss you, Chaz.”
“I’m going to miss you too, Bets.”
“You know… I went off birth control a while back.”
“Yea. I stopped taking it over a month and a half ago.”
“I love you, Chaz. I thought if I got pregnant it would be a nice present you could give me, so I would always have a part of you with me forever.”
Anxiety goes into overdrive.
“I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s my decision.”
Not much was said after that while my mind swirled with a million possibilities. All of them ended with me getting shot by her husband.
To be honest, it had been such a crazy whirlwind romance I couldn’t even process what was happening at the time. I was just traveling through time in space caught in the vortex that was mad love and desire for Betty.
One night, about a week before she was supposed to move I was sitting at the kitchen table at my parent’s house having a snack. I was the only one at home at the time. The phone rang and I answered it.
It was Betty’s husband.
It was an awkward conversation and at first, I denied who I was. But he knew he had the correct number and that it was me. I don’t know how he got my number or name, but he must have gone through his wife’s things. He had stated on the call that Betty had run off to Texas to spend some time with her friend Leddy and that I should call her.
I was surprised at how cool he was, but somehow the jig was up. This was bad. This wasn’t supposed to ever happen, but what did I think could happen with what I was engaged in. He gave me Leddy’s number and I quickly scrawled it down on a piece of paper by the phone. Then he hung up.
I called the number and the person who answered the phone wasn’t Betty but sounded giggly and maybe high. She put Betty on the phone and we talked. She expressed again that she was in love with me, and that she no longer wanted to be with her husband, so she took off to her friend’s house to get her head straightened out. I assured her that as hard as it was for both of us, she should try to work things out with her husband.
Frankly, as much as I adored the drug of being with a girl like Betty, it had all begun to wear on me. The sneaking around, the idea of her infidelity, and the fact that she had a 5-year-old daughter.
I had prepared myself for this affair to only exist for a finite amount of time and felt resolute with its outcome. It frightened me that her husband had called my parent’s house and I’d had enough. Worlds colliding is never a good thing. I didn’t want this sort of mess in my life anymore. The possibility of Betty ever staying with me and making life with me in Wildwood seemed unimaginable to me. It didn’t make sense. Betty had been a secretary that hooked up with a high-powered married executive. He left his wife for Betty, his then-mistress. That almost never happens. People cheat because they’re not getting something from their spouse. It has nothing to do with sex, it’s more about that person’s character and bigger things wrong in their current relationship.
Betty was 32, but when I look back on it now, she was very immature as a woman. She liked being with charming, fun me because she longed to be young and 20 again. That was never going to happen. She was a house cat now. No job, no real skills, a mother, and a kept trophy on the arm of a rich guy. She had her daughter with him securing her financial stability. But Betty and me at age 22 would never have worked. Was she going to go from living in a nice house and driving a BMW 5, to living in some cheap apartment with a guy who worked at a video store? She just was caught up in a world of lust and fun and needed to get her head straight.
I get it. Once women hit around 28, the clock starts ticking. They need to settle down, find a husband, and have a kid. That’s happening a million times around the world right now. Even as you read this story it’s happening everywhere.
We kept in touch leading up to her going, but she did end up moving to Chicago with her husband and daughter. I was relieved, but for some reason, I wasn’t sad. I guess because Betty loved me and I her, but she was never mine. She belonged to another man. Her heart was all for Chaz, but the rest of her life was with him. I think after some time and counseling, she realized that and relented to his will. But it was for the best.
She wrote to me a few times and we chatted on the phone, but they were to stay out in Chicago for at least the next 3 years. So I knew time would heal all wounds.
She did call me one night and we were chatting and she asked that I mail her the polaroid pic of her topless back to her. She stated she just didn’t want a photo of her like that out in the world. I was fine mailing it back to her. It never meant anything to me anyway. Why would I look at some crappy picture of the woman I was seeing in the real world. Looking at a naked pic of Betty just seemed tawdry compared to what we once shared. Something sweet and elegant.
Here’s some of the stuff she sent me in the mail in the following months after she left.
Is that binding? (lol)
You’d think that the story would be over at this point. But there’s one last thing I have to tell you.
Tune in next Tuesday for the bone-jarring conclusion to this sordid tale.
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Even though at 22 I was glad I still had my summer of 1980 and California powers with women, Betty was a lovely compliment to my history. I loved all of our deliciously devilish encounters. She was gorgeous, had a slamming body, and most of all experience. Being a woman of 32 she was different than the girls I’d dated up till then. They kind of didn’t know what to do with or to a man to bring him to a boil. It all came from me. My desire and uncontrollable urges. But Betty was a woman, not a young girl. She knew how to touch and please a man. She had things she could do to enhance and sometimes even slow down the encounter to make it longer and more enjoyable. I realized why her husband had cheated on his first wife to get with Betty. She was a little dynamo in the bedroom. My time in California had changed me from a kid selling cookies in a town full of werewolves, into Lon Chaney himself.
But I loved my new girlfriend and being the gentleman I had come to be, I wanted to take her on some fun dates. I think I loved romance and courtship even better than sex. Sex is an act that celebrates how we feel about each other in a physical union. But romance and courtship take more time and are far more elegant. I know I’m right. Have you ever watched one of those nature shows about the courtship of some birds? The male does a fantastic dance, a show, collects stuff, and makes a shrine to his potential mate. When the female finally gives in and chooses him, it’s over in like a second. I’m like… dude, you did all of that just to get laid? Yes, yes I did, says the bird. Because it’s called romance, son.
I told her about all of my wonderful fun times at the drive-in movie theater in Rio Grande and she wanted to go. She said she’d never been to a drive-in movie and it sounded fun.
So the following weekend we hopped in her BMW and went to the drive-in. We stopped at the liquor store on RT 47 before we went in and I picked up some beer. Always Miller ponies because they were small and stayed colder longer. (You also consumed them a bit faster because they were so small) We found a good spot and parked. I set up the speaker on the driver’s side window and we were good to go. I ran to the snack bar and got us a big bag of popcorn and we were all set.
I’ve always loved movies and I especially loved drive-in movies. You’re in the privacy of your own car, you can talk, drink, smoke, and do whatever else you want in the privacy of your vehicle.
The movies playing that night were Footloose and Indian Jones and the Templeof Doom. a perfect 80s double feature with my best girl.
We were munching our popcorn, sipping cold beer on that warm summer evening and all was right in my world. I liked this part of our relationship. Betty liked to smoke pot so she sparked up a joint. I didn’t smoke back then, because I didn’t like the sudden confusing feeling THC gave me, so I declined. I noticed when Betty was high she’d get a little snippy with me but in an endearing way. She offered some hits to me but I said I was fine with just beer. “You’re always saying no to me, Chaz.” she’d say. I knew that wasn’t true. I was a young buck at my peak of physical prowess but I was sitting next to a woman in her sexual prime.
We enjoyed the movies and acted like a couple of teenagers. Betty said I made her feel like a young girl again. She said she loved the way she felt when she was with me. She missed being a single girl and going out on fun dates. I knew she’d love this. I could see from my actions this was going from more of an illicit adulterous hook-up to a real romance.
It was a lovely night and after the movie, we decided to drive around a bit. We drove out to Cape May and I wanted to show her the concrete ship. It was a famous tourist spot not only known for its cape may diamonds, but a sweet make-out spot.
I remember the road that led out to that place is incredibly straight. I once asked my dad about that, and he told me that a trolley used to run out that way. We were a mile or two away and I asked Betty if she could pull over. We sat in the car and talked for a little bit and then things became a bit more amorous, but then I suddenly pulled away. “Can I drive the rest of the way?”
“Ummm… oh, why not, Chaz.”
We switched seats and I got behind the wheel. I knew the road was deserted at night and straight as an arrow. So when we got to the beginning, I floored it and the BMW responded just like Betty did to my touch.
Betty was giggling and not angry at all. I knew she’d yield to my wishes. It felt great to drive a car with such performance. I’d never had a chance to drive such a car. We reached the coastline in a minute or two and I hit the brakes and parked.
We parked and climbed into the back seat. As she fell into my arms laughing, I realized that I had broken not one, but two of her original rules that evening. I’m sure it never crossed her mind, but it did mine.
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I was going to the bathroom one day and I felt a burning sensation. I always had two terrible fears about sex. Getting someone pregnant and acquiring a venereal disease. I had been having a lot of incredible mind-bending sex with Betty and now I was worried. I knew she was on birth control so getting her pregnant was a non-issue. But now I was suddenly feeling this discomfort whenever I urinated and I started having real anxiety.
The whole idea of me having an affair with a woman ten years my senior who was incredibly hot was unbelievable enough. But now I was starting to think maybe I wasn’t the only one she could be fooling around with. Could it be possible? Had I fallen victim to a wanton seductress who was out devouring young men? Of course, being only 22 at the time I instantly panicked.
What to do? My dad had lots of experience with all sorts of scary grown-up stuff so I went and talked to him. He knew all about what was happening between me and Betty so I figured I should ask him about what I was experiencing.
I guess looking back on it now, I can say what I want about my father but when it came to big stuff… serious stuff, he was always there for me. It’s a shame most kids can’t go to their parents with their troubles for fear of repercussions or shame associated with their actions. But I remember my father always saying, anything you’re doing… or even thinking about doing… I’ve probably already done it. Another goal I would eventually achieve and exceed.
So, I went and spoke to him about what I was experiencing. I knew enough about science, biology, and anatomy and clearly, something was wrong. Betty was the only girl I’d been with in a while so I figured anything wrong with my plumbing had to have come from her.
“Okay, son, let’s not jump to conclusions here. You may just be experiencing what many of us call a ‘ hot bod’. But I doubt if it’s syphilis or gonorrhea. She’s a married woman. She’s chosen you, and she’s probably not screwing anyone else.”
“But what about her husband? He cheated on his first wife with her, and now he’s cheating again. That’s why she’s getting revenge on him with me. What if he’s screwing a bunch of women, and he caught something, gave it to her, and she gave it to me.”
“You make a great point there son, but don’t panic. I’m going to call Dr. Galzunis, and you’re going to go see him and get yourself checked out. But whatever this is, we’ll take care of it, okay?”
“Thanks, dad. I will. I hope you’re right.”
I go to Dr. Galzunis’s office to get checked out. I’m embarrassed because he’s the family doctor and I know his hot daughter Chrissy. But, he was good friends with my father, and I’m sure he knew the situation before I got there.
I was sitting in the waiting room and having high anxiety when it was my turn to go in to see him. I had been praying I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew in the office. Wildwood is a small town so you never know who could see you doing whatever.
I get in there and of course, Dr. Galzunis is the consummate professional and has a great bedside manner. But there was no pageantry here, we got right down to business. He checked me for any swelling on different parts of my body then it was time for the main event.
I was asked to drop my pants and lean over the examination table. He handed me a microscope slide. He told me to hold it at the end of my member. I’m thinking… what the hell is this? He snaps on a glove and lubes up his middle finger. He tells me he’s going to check my prostate. A small amount of semen will discharge out of me and onto the slide. I’m filled with anxiety as he invades me. He’s trying to be gentle and quick about the whole matter and I start hyperventilating. It’s odd, because I had really bad anxiety that normally resulted in nausea, but there was no time for that here. I just started hyperventilating. That had never happened to me before. I looked down and there was the sample he was seeking. I told him it came out and he withdrew.
I started to calm down as I cleaned up and pulled up my drawers. Man, that was awkward and uncomfortable. He told me that I probably had a urinary infection and that it was quite common. It just appears in men faster because all of our equipment is on the outside of our bodies and women’s stuff was all inside. I was praying he was right because I had read articles about what VD can do to the body if left untreated.
He said he’d run some tests and give me a call in a day or so. He gave me a prescription for some CIPRO and told me NO SEX for a couple of days until we knew what we were dealing with.
I left the office and called Betty and told her all about the whole scary ordeal. At first, she was a little miffed about me thinking I got an STD from her, but once I gave her my theory about her husband catting around, she understood. She said she’d go and get herself checked out.
It turns out it was simply a urinary infection, and she had indeed passed it to me during one of our marathon sessions. Once you get a UTI apparently you’re susceptible to getting one again. I think I’ve had maybe one or two more in my entire life and it’s no big deal. But once it starts you know something’s up. All the cranberry juice in the world won’t clear it up, but CIPRO will. You start taking that stuff and you feel better by day two. Medicine works.
So, Betty and I had a good laugh about it, and we kept all of our frisky encounters to a minimum for a week. She even gave me a polaroid of her topless that her husband had taken to hold me over.
But after that, we were back in the groove again, so to speak.
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It was great dating, Betty. She was the perfect girlfriend. Smoking hot and not around all the time. We were walking on the boardwalk in Wildwood one night. I just loved strolling with her. Holding her hand. Occasionally glancing over at my gorgeous girlfriend or stealing a sweet kiss.
Betty saw this game of chance that had these beautiful plush stuffed animals all around it that you could win. (Or in the case of most games of chance on the boardwalk, NOT win)
“Oh my god. Look at that big white lion, I bet my little Kelly would love that!”
“Yea, those prizes rock because that game is nearly impossible to win. Look at all those people tossing their dimes onto that board. Now watch how the attendant is literally sweeping piles of dimes off the board. They’re raking in thousands of dollars a night. I’ve won lots of stuff on this boardwalk over the years but that game is nearly impossible. They’re selling hope and crushing disappointment all at the same booth!”
“You’re funny, Chaz. Ready to go back to the motel?”
“That’s a game where we both win, Betty. Let’s go.”
I told my friend Pitchy about her. I’d been friends with him since we were 9 years old. He lived around the corner from me down the shore in the Summer. He has always had an incredibly dry wit. I was explaining to him my current romantic situation. Pitch was never a ladies’ man and liked that I always had something interesting going on. In 1984 he was already married and had a baby on the way.
On the boardwalk, there were many games of chance. Most cost a quarter and you bet on a number on a spinning wheel and if your number came up, you won a prize. I was a pretty lucky guy and won many a T-shirt or record album on the boardwalk. I remember winning Iron Maiden, Killers on a wheel one night out front of Morey’s Pier. I just liked the cover. Turned out to be a magnificent metal record that I loved but most of my friends thought was too fast.
But my buddy Pitchy had an incredible skill. A skill that wasn’t really based on chance. I don’t know when he discovered this ability and I’ve never seen it replicated by anyone else in all of my years on that boardwalk. There was a game called The Dime Pitch. This game had been around for decades. Customers would hand the attendant a dollar or two and would be given the appropriate amount of dimes. Which was cool, because it gave you 10 chances to win for only a buck. The way the game works is this. This huge wooden board is in the middle of the floor of the game booth. People toss their dimes onto the board and try to get their dimes on one of the red dots on the board.
But here’s the thing. There are hundreds of them and a lot of spaces in between. You have to throw your dime and get it to land in the very center of the red dot. Not just on the red dot but there has to be red showing all the way around your dime. You’re throwing dimes at this board from 4 to six feet away. They made a fortune on this game because it looks easy, but is nearly impossible. But here’s the thing, with great risk comes great reward. If by some rare chance you got a dime on the red circle and there was red showing all the way around it, the prizes were massive. Not some small trinket from the lower shelf of junk. I’m talking huge plush stuffed animal that any kid would adore. If you were a guy and won a stuffed animal like that and gave it to your kid, or girlfriend, you would be looked upon as a local legend for the night.
Pitchy was so good at this game, they had to ban him from the game. Not entirely, but they had to limit his time at the board because those giant plush animals were expensive. I kid you not. They would restrict him from the game to maybe once a week. They all knew him up there and understood his power.
They feared him.
He and I were up on the boardwalk one night and we were chatting about his special gift. It had gotten to a point where it was no longer a game of chance for Pitchy. It was a revenue generator. He would go to the first dime pitch game and after about 15 minutes he’d win a giant stuffed animal. He knew which ones were the most popular with the tourists. He’d hand it off to me and I’d start walking up the boardwalk with the great beast under my arm.
Within minutes people would be saying things and complimenting me on my prize. I’d always target guys with women with them. I’d respond with the same statement to everyone. “Wanna buy it?”
“Forty bucks and it’s yours.”
“Seems a little high.”
“You’ll spend twice that trying to win a prize like that for her this vacation.”
In the meantime, Pitchy was already at a different dime pitch game and playing. By the time I sold the stuffed animal he’d be approaching me with another one. We’d sell it too and then he’d give me a cut for doing the sales end of the deal. Then we’d go spend the money on beer and pizza.
This was an ongoing grift we worked all summer. I spoke to him about doing me a favor in regard to his special power. I’m sure you can guess what it was by now.
The next time I went over to Betty’s house to hang out with her. I got out of the car and had a little something under my arm for her to leave in her daughter Kelly’s room.
“Chaz! Oh my god! How did you? Where did you?”
“Don’t worry about it, Betty. I got a guy.”
On a final note to this chapter. One night I was over at Betty’s house and the babysitter had brought her daughter Kelly home. She immediately made a beeline to her room to go see her big white lion. I had to hide in a closet across the hall until the coast was clear!
Crazy times, man.
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I was sitting on the porch at my friend Pitchy’s house and telling him all about my exploits with Betty. He was amazed by the tales of my recent prowess. Pitchy was my best summer friend at the seashore since 1971 when I first met him as a kid. He lived right around the corner from me at 7th and Ocean Ave. We had a rich history together hanging out all of those summers in the 70s. He was a close friend and we’d had some great times together. He had a lovely dry wit that was uncanny. He was also a person I could always trust. One of his gifts was that he had always been the master of the dime toss game on the boardwalk.
But he was never that good at talking to girls. I noticed a lot of young men struggled with that back then. (And even today!) I never understood that but I guess we’re always good at things we like, and I loved the company of pretty women so I was okay.
I would tell him… “If you think you’re going to be tongue-tied on a date with a girl… take her to the movies. That’s two hours right there where she’ll be entertained and fed. You don’t have to say or do anything at all. Just hold her hand during the picture. If the film is fun and exciting, she’ll associate those feelings with you and you’ll be fine.”
Pitchy was working as a summer cop in North Wildwood by 1984 and really enjoyed police work. He had always wanted to be a cop and was beginning his career as a summer cop to gain experience.
I’m happy to say that through the years, he stayed in law enforcement and became a roaring success. He achieved success beyond anything I could have imagined for him.
We sat on his porch in the quiet evening silence of North Wildwood. All the craziness was happening 25 blocks away on the boardwalk and in the clubs on Pacific Avenue. But we both had a moment of repose from our jobs this evening and were just chatting and sipping a few cold beers. The glow of the neon signs from the motel, The Friendship 7 across the street was the only light that illuminated our presence on that porch.
He would do these comedy bits like he was the voiceover guy for a movie preview. It was hilarious and I loved when he would come up with these things. It was like he was describing me as a character in a horror movie. He would say; “In 1980 you loved him as the Wildwood Gigalo. But now…he’s back. It’s been four years… but he’s back. Chaz is… THE HOMEWRECKER. This time it’s not your girlfriend…It’s Your WIFE!”
I liked that he referred to me as the homewrecker as if I were the villain in a movie. So funny. I told him how Betty drove a light blue BMW 5 and that she and I stayed in motels in Wildwood to hook up. I never thought back then how much Betty must have spent on babysitting fees for someone to watch her daughter, Kelly while she galavanted around Wildwood with her young boy toy, ten years her junior.
But as much as I had built up a reputation as a rocker and charmer of women, it was nice to reach that legendary status with my friends. It’s all so silly when I think about it now.
I’d be on the phone with Betty.
“I want to come to Wildwood to see you this weekend, Chaz.”
“That would be great, Bets.”
“Can you maybe rent a room for us?”
Because the season hadn’t started yet, the rooms would not only be available at several motels in town, they’d be much cheaper.
This became a regular thing with Betty and me. She liked her anonymity in Wildwood. She had no fear of running into anyone she and her husband knew up in Absecon. Plus, she had that whole rule about not having sex with her in her house, car, or matrimonial bed.
I was totally fine with it. I was working and had money to burn, and Betty always had cash. Most times she would pay for everything. I remember one day I was at her house and she gave me a brand new Gucci watch. It was beautiful. A 14k gold timepiece with a lizard skin strap. I wore that watch until the strap practically dissolved on my wrist. I loved that watch. It was the nicest piece of jewelry I had ever owned.
At this point, I wasn’t falling for Betty…
I had already fallen.
I always shared with my mother what I was up to romantically in my life. I would sit at the kitchen table chatting with my mom and profess my love for my new, older girlfriend. I told my mom I was done dating girls and only wanted to date women now.
“Oh, you mean that alley cat you’re currently running around with?”
Mom did not approve. I think she had some concerns about the seed not falling far from the tree in this family. She had already had enough of my father’s many dalliances and probably feared I was becoming like him. On the other hand, I know my dad secretly loved the idea of his son capturing the heart of such a lovely woman that was in his wheelhouse.
(This polaroid was taken in a little photo booth in an arcade on the Wildwood boardwalk. It was her idea. I’m so glad we did this. I was so happy.)
We stayed in several different motels that spring and it was awesome. We once stayed in a motel that was right on the corner of 8th and Surf Ave. That was around 100 yards from my parent’s house! Crazy night!
We’d do fun things like go to the boardwalk, and it was amazing. Going out to eat and just spending time together. I just loved being with Betty. I know she enjoyed my company too because I think I helped her retain her youth and show her how fun it was to date again. I think she needed that in her broken marriage.
The passion we shared.
I remember we once pulled up at a motel where one of my friends was working as a lifeguard and I introduced her to him. Betty Ann stepped out of the car in a white mini-dress. Her caramel skin glowed in the sun and her raven tresses tumbled over her shoulders like a moonless river.
I didn’t really hang out with this guy/clown anymore. He had burned too many bridges with me by then. I really did it just to show off my spectacular girlfriend to him. He later told me that if he ever got a girl like that he would never let her go, but I knew by then I was now operating at a level that he’d never understand, or ever be able to achieve.
I was so proud to be with such a beautiful, sweet woman. Just kissing Betty was like waking up on Christmas morning. We’d kiss, and she always ended it with a little extra peck on the side of my lips. It was like she was putting her signature on that last kiss… just to remind me I was hers.
But no matter what we did during the afternoon on our dates, it was all simply delaying the inevitable. We always ended up back in the room…and back in the saddle.
(Cue up: Aerosmith – Rocks – Side 1, Track 1)
One night, we stayed in a motel on New Jersey Avenue. As summer approached it was getting harder to find available reasonably priced rooms. But it was a nice place, and of course, at the end of our fun day we ended up back there. I remember it being especially hot outside, and the air conditioner was right over the bed. It kept us cool while we passionately tore each other to pieces like teenagers through the night.
The next morning we walked out to the car and there was a piece of paper clipped under the windshield wiper. It looked like a ticket.
It was an official warning from the police.
The notice stated that we had violated the local noise ordinance in North Wildwood. It said that neighbors were complaining about the loud sounds of, “Moaning, Screaming, and a Squeaking Bed… Nonstop”.
I was obviously stunned, and Betty was horrified.
But as I read down toward the bottom, I recognized the name of the officer who had issued the warning last night. It was my buddy, Pitchy. He knew I was staying there and recognized Betty’s BMW.
Nice shot, dude.
(I may still have that warning ticket packed away somewhere!)
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My next book, DOWN THE SHORE, is coming Memorial Day Weekend, 2023
The next time I saw Betty was in the store. It was business as usual. She came in to order another video for purchase.
I would never kiss and tell and this new affair was top secret. No one I worked with knew what was happening between this queen and me, and I wanted it to keep it that way. I had never had an experience with an older woman, let alone a married one.
A few days passed.
When the movie she ordered came in I called her to let her know we had received it.
“Why don’t you bring it by my house tonight and bring something else we can watch. I’ll get a babysitter for little Kelly.”
After work that day I again drove to her house. This time it was under the cloak of night which I preferred. I was worried about her neighbors seeing something, or worse… saying something. I was pretty paranoid this whole time.
I get there and she invites me in. She gives me a hug and a little kiss. She’s very much in control of this situation.
She tells me that she’s having some issues with her video equipment and something’s not working right. This was pretty common back then. The technology was new and there were a lot of different complex hookups the average person didn’t understand. But because I was working at a video store I was a master of all things VCR and TV.
“I appreciate you taking a look at my system. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. Oh, and can you see if you can get the sound to come through the stereo when I watch a movie on the VCR?”
“I’ll take look at that.”
“A couple of my girlfriends may be stopping by for a sec to drop off some stuff for a bridal shower we have to go to next week, okay?”
“I don’t care. You do your thing and I’ll see what’s wrong with your system, Betty.”
I’m down on the floor in front of their entertainment system checking all of the leads, wires and plugs. At one point I even had to move it away from the wall a bit and climb behind the piece of furniture.
I can hear the doorbell from the other room and Betty chatting with several other women.
But then it gets a little quiet. I’m checking the RCA audio/video cables and making sure red is right and white is left and yellow is direct video. I remember I had brought some really good gold top cables from the store. (Paid for with my employee discount of course!)
I came out from behind the unit to see several attractive ladies standing together giggling at the edge of the living room. They were whispering and smiling at me. Betty introduced me as her friend Chaz who was “helping” her with her video system from the store. I smiled and waved, and went back to the task at hand.
In a short time, I heard the front door close and Betty returned to the room.
“I think I fixed it, Betty. Watch.” I flipped a few switches and grabbed the remote. Everything was working fine and the sound was coming through the stereo now.
“Thank you, Dr. Video!”
I liked that title. “That’s me! At your service, Miss.”
“That was my friends. They thought you were cute.”
“They seemed nice.”
“I wanted them to see you. I was showing you off to them… my boy toy.”
“Is that what I am to you, Betty?”
“Of course. Come here and join me on the sofa.”
I obeyed like a dog. She welcomed me into her arms and we kissed. I loved kissing Betty. She was just so beautiful and perfect.
If she wanted me to rob a bank with her I would have done it.
She takes my hands and looks into my eyes. “Listen Chaz. We have to talk about a couple of things.”
(Here we go…) “Okay…” (Is this where we plan to rob a bank?)
“We have to have some rules. We can’t fool around in this house.”
(What’s she talking about? We haven’t even done anything yet!)
“You can’t drive my car, and we can’t fool around in my car. We can’t ever have sex in my bed either. I can only see you when I can because I’m the one with everything to lose here. I’m the one who’s married.”
(This all seems a bit premature, but I’ll say whatever she wants at this point. I just like seeing her.)
“I understand, Betty. I’m just happy to know you and spend time with you. I’d never do anything to make you feel uncomfortable in any way or jeapordize your marriage in any way.” (But in reality, it was she who called me and started this whole affair. But whatever.)
“That’s good, Chaz. We can have a lot of fun together and I think you’re a sweet guy. I just need to set some guidelines at the onset of this.”
“I totally agree, Betty. You’re right. I promise to respect your wishes and will make every effort to protect your interests.”
(I can almost hear my father in this moment…)
“Thank you, Chaz. That means a lot to me. I just don’t want any complications.”
“Me either, Betty.”
“C’mere…” She pulls me to her and kisses me deeply. It felt wonderful to hold and kiss this lovely woman with caramel skin. Her raven tresses tumbled over her shoulders like a moonless river.
I wasn’t falling for Betty at this point. I had already fallen for her the first time I laid eyes on her in the store. It was instant. But I never dreamed I’d be here with her right now. It was all a miraculous dream. I felt resurrected after failing to become a rockstar in Los Angeles. Here I was still able to pull the talent. I still had my mad game no matter what I did for a living. I had come so far from the timid, loser of my early teen years. Now I could get the kind of girls I could never have imagined would even talk to me in junior high school. But here I was. Making out with the lovely Betty Ann.
Most men dream about getting women they fantasize about when they meet them in real life. But I had become a magnet for this in the summer of 1980 in Wildwood and later in LA.
We wrestled on her sofa like a couple of high school kids. I don’t even remember what videos I brought over and I know we didn’t watch them. It was exciting. It was probably something Betty missed in her life now. She missed the rush of a new guy. A new face. A young man. Boundless energy and a fiery libido in its absolute prime. I was just happy to be in this simple teenage-like intimate moment with her. We were like a couple of kids just making out on the couch and doing a little gentle touching.
“I really appreciate you listening to me tonight, Chaz. It means a lot to me that you’ll respect my wishes and stick to my rules. I needed that.”
“Of course. I completely understand.”
Betty smiled and held me tightly. Her warm perfume swirled about me as my face disappeared into her dark mane that was like ribbons of coal.
At that moment, I knew.
I knew what I had to do. I was now determined to a singular mission.
I was going to break EVERY ONE of those rules and Betty Ann was going to like it.
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I called Betty and assured her I was on my way. I had the necessary videos on the front seat of my car.
Betty lived in a nice house in a lovely neighborhood in Absecon. As I pulled into the development, it was as if they had simply poured asphalt into the shape of a road through the woods and dropped a few elegant houses in there.
I parked away from the property and approached her house. (What if something crazy happens and I have to make a quick getaway?)
Betty Knight. The prettiest lady that came in our video store. How was this different from California? Those days in the early 80s were full of debauchery and recklessness. I was back. But I lived with my parents for god’s sake. I failed out there in L.A. My career or, my imagined career in music was already over. Why? How did that happen? All I ever wanted was to be a rockstar and now here I am.
I sang in a band in Philly, played guitar in a band in Wildwood, and played more rock in L.A., and none of it amounted to anything. My favorite thing in the world wasn’t going to happen to me. What was to be my fate now? Was I just a leaf cast upon the winds of my whims and dreams only to be cast asunder in some grinding domestic life from now on?
But all of the magic things happened in the summer of 1977, 1980, and 1983. I was on a 3-year success cycle there. What happened? It’s 1984, and I thought my luck had run out. My transformation was over. I’ve had my laughs and had my fun with all the girls, I need to buckle down and fly right.
But here I am. Walking up the pathway to this lady’s house. This stranger. This beautiful woman that looks like a Mayan queen and smells like the first day of spring. No matter what I do I always end up here. Walking up to the next adventure. The next extraordinary affair in my life. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe it’s not me, and it’s the forces trying to get me back on track as to where I’m supposed to be.
(This is her front porch. What’s behind the Green Door?)
I was nothing in the ’70s. Then I rose up. But there were those who seemed superior to me. Undoubtedly these things had been allotted to the beautiful, the athletic, and those with clear skin. This stuff was for them. Not a loser like me.
But here she is. I’m at her house. Not a girl. Not some teenager hanging at my side by the pinball machine. This was a woman. 10 years my senior. For some reason, she’s chosen me. It can’t really be happening.
Is my co-worker Tyrone some sort of cupid or even a wizard in matters of love?
I didn’t know what love was back then. Any love I ever felt for anyone came at a price. Whether it was scorn or the sweetest touch of a hand in mine.
I knocked on the door. There’s the moment. You’ve made a sound. Has it been received? There is nothing in the world right now but you and your waiting.
Do you knock again?
Knock again. Use the brass knocker on the door this time, buster.
I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. In this neighborhood, knocking on this customer’s door. I look down at the two plastic tape cases in my hand. Rod Stewart and Eddie and the Cruisers on Beta.
The door opens.
Betty is dressed in casual clothes. Light blue button-down blouse and jeans with white Keds. Those dark eyes and raven mane though…
Nothing alarming here. Gotta stay cool. She welcomes me into her home.
She’s lovely and relaxed. I on the other hand am a cluster of nerves and anxiety. I almost can’t describe the feeling. It’s as if I’ve been the miraculous winner of some exotic lottery.
We exchange pleasantries and I set the vids on the table. Her house is how one would picture the home of what appears to be a wealthy person. I know she drives a light blue BMW 5 series, but I don’t know what Betty does for a living.
She takes me on a tour of her house. It’s clean, neat, and nicely appointed, but nothing that points to extravagance. But it’s a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood. We go down a flight of stairs that lead to the basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the basement in some John Carpenter film, it’s a finished basement. As we head down the steps I see some framed photos that appear to have been taken at the Grand Prix. This part of the house is giving me a strong male vibe here. We walk through a finished playroom area complete with a bar and pool table. Spider sense is tingling like mad now.
“Well, I guess you know I’m married.”
“Umm… No, I didn’t. I hadn’t thought of that, Betty.”
To be honest, if a lady is renting little mermaid videos she obviously has a little daughter. If she has a little daughter, she might be married. But in my blind desire for her back at the store, I can honestly say I didn’t think about any of that. I know I should have, but at that age, I only saw what was before me and what I liked and wanted. I think that’s simply a trait of youth. You act before you think of the repercussions of your decisions. I know I did that well into my 40’s! You want what you want when you want it, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You only see the end goal and not all the hazards along the way to your destination.
“My husband, Dick works at the Showboat Casino.”
“Is he in the mob?”
“Oh gosh, no. I wish everybody would stop assuming that just because someone works at the executive level in a casino they’re associated with the mafia.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Follow me.”
Betty then takes me into the laundry room. (Is this where I get murdered and no one ever hears from me again?) I doubt it. Betty is 5’3″ and 100 lbs. She reaches into the dryer and pulls out a man’s dress shirt. She holds out the collar to me.
“Look at this.”
“What does that look like to you?”
“That looks like lipstick, Betty.”
“Yea. The lipstick on your collar always tells the tale on you.”
“I suppose so… I wouldn’t…”
“And look at this.” She reaches behind a cup on the shelf above the washer and produces what appears to be a woman’s earring.
“I found that in his car.”
Things don’t look good for Dick at this point. Who named Richard goes by the name Dick anyway? I would love to know the question’s when, how, and why.
“Yea, what does all of that make you think of?”
“Well if that’s not your earring and that smear on the collar of his shirt is clearly not your color, I’d say your husband is probably cheating you, Betty.”
“Yep. That son of a bitch.”
Clearly, she’s pissed.
Why is she showing me all of this so early in our first meeting? It’s as if a message and a motive need to be sent. As nervous as I am at this moment, I kind of like the rush and intrigue of my current situation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like this. The nice innocent guy who is somehow drawn into the darker aspects of existence. This is a precarious position I’m in and the bigger question is… where is Dick right now? Cheater or not, I’m in the basement of the guy’s house with his wife right now. I don’t know where the escape routes or heavy sharp objects are in the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Where is he right now?”
“He’s in Chicago on business until Tuesday.”
(Sigh of relief.) Oh… okay. Well, I’m sorry this is happening to you, Betty. You seem like a really nice lady.”
“I am, but I should have expected something like this to eventually happen. Let’s go back upstairs. Would you like a beer?”
“That would be awesome.” (Alcohol would be the perfect remedy for my nerves right now.)
We get up to the brightly lit kitchen. “When you said you should have expected this, what did you mean?”
She takes a bottle of Heineken from the fridge and pops the cap. Pouring it slowly into a pilsner glass I notice how dainty her hands are and how lovely her vermillion nails are. “Well, that’s how I met Dick. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.”
“I was his secretary. He was married before. I worked for him in my early twenties and he started having an affair with me.”
“He left his wife and married you?”
“Yep. So I suppose I should have seen this coming. Maybe he’s tired of me now that I’m 32. I wonder who he’s fooling around with this time.”
Her sadness mixed with betrayal and scorn flashed before me. She’s so beautiful and perfect that I can’t imagine a man wanting anything but her. But I was young. I’m jaded from being in bands and living in L.A. for a couple of years, but youth is still a place I can’t escape. I take a deep swig from the ice-cold beer for solace.
“I’m sorry, Betty. I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me how you’re feeling.” (I’m navigating new waters at this point.)
“Yea… Hey, come look at my cul-de-sac. I love my cul-de-sac.”
Okay, at this point I have no idea what a cul-de-sac is. Is it french for some sort of sexual thing? No. Can’t be. Is it something in the house? I’m lost here. I had heard the word but never knew what it meant or what it was.
She walks me over to the kitchen sink. I look down. Okay… drain, spigot, dish sprayer thing. What am I supposed to be looking at?
She points out the window over the sink. “Look. Isn’t that a lovely cul-de-sac?”
All I see out there is the end of a street surrounded by other nice houses in a circle with no apparent exit. It’s just a street that ends with no passage. I’m confused but I have to play along. I look intently out the window at the view. “Well, I must say, Betty… that’s about the best-looking cul-de-sac I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“I know, right?”
But as I turn around and away from the window, Betty is standing right there in front of me. Like, right there. Like six inches in front of me. My heart quickens as I look into her dark eyes. I can feel the familiar searing burst of warm color that explodes in my mind and heart.
This is ignition.
I set my glass on the counter and kiss her lips. It feels like I’ve kissed her before. But it’s brand new. But there’s a friendly familiarity to her kiss. We fit naturally together like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe right now. I take her in my arms and we kiss deeply. It’s amazing. I’ve been kissing girls all of my life. but now I’m kissing a woman. A beautiful, exquisite, experienced woman. My god, she’s beautiful. If Dick walks in here right now and shoots me dead, I’ll die willingly knowing the last thing I ever did in this life was to kiss this lovely woman.
The kiss comes to a conclusion and she hugs me tightly. She smells incredible. What is that fragrance? Is that Red Door? I don’t know. I can’t think straight. There’s too much dopamine firing in my brain. I lean back on the counter and look at her. She smiles and her eyes twinkle as she tosses her raven mane to the side. My god… what did I do to deserve this moment?
“You’re cute, Chaz. I like you. Bonus points for being a great kisser.”
I blush like mad and look down. “I always liked you, Betty. Ever since the first time you came into the store. You were my favorite. You’re the prettiest girl that comes in the store. I’m glad Tyrone said something to you now.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but this is probably what she needed to hear from her husband. She was over 30 and had a 5-year-old daughter now. No longer the spring chicken she was when she met her husband. No longer the forbidden fruit that he spent time with at the office every day. Most men never leave their wives for the mistress, but this guy did, and then cheated again.
“I always thought you were cute and nice, Chaz.” Get your beer. Let’s go into the living room. and watch a movie.”
We watched Eddie and the Cruisers. It is a cool story, with a great soundtrack, but is a cliche-ridden mess. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch with this pretty lady. There were more beers drank and more sweet kisses stolen.
We watched some of the Rod Stewart video because she loved him. Most girls from that generation loved Rod Stewart. I never understood it, and neither did my mother. “What do they see in that skinny big nosed Scotsman?” she would say. But what was happening here now was no place for thoughts about my mom.
After some cuddling on the couch and more kisses, it was time to wrap up the day. I smooched her one more time before opening her door and making my departure. We planned on getting together soon, and I didn’t ask any questions. It was her movie and I was merely an actor in this one. A very willing actor.
I think this was an audition for me. Betty wanted to see what I was like outside of the store. She felt comfortable enough to bring me to her home, so at least there was that. But would I get a lead role in this affair?
Only time would tell.
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Like any job when you work with men, we always have our favorite female customers that come in. Everybody had their favorites, but there are always the top 5, top 3, and number 1. I know it may sound silly or sexist, but it’s really just something men do. I’m sure women do the same thing as well. That certain guy that comes in with the shoulders, eyes, or voice that makes you weak in the knees when he comes in your store to buy or rent something. It makes any job more fun.
But there was this one lady that came in that I absolutely adored. She was petite, with lovely caramel skin and raven hair. Her name was Betty Knight.
I made it known to my male coworkers that she was my number 1. They all agreed she was one of the prettiest women that came into our store. No one knew much about her other than the fact she was beautiful, over the age of 30, and had a little daughter. Just a lovely lady who periodically came into the store to rent movies.
There was this black guy I worked with named, Tyrone. He was in perfect physical condition. I remember the guy just being in incredible shape. He could just grab onto any secure object from above and pull himself up in the air. You could wash clothes on this guy’s abs. I was always envious of guys that looked like that. Anyway, he was a sweet guy who had a goofy sense of humor.
He liked silly jokes and pulling pranks. One time I was putting away some of the video boxes on the shelves in the library. I was reaching up high to put a box on a shelf and Tyrone snuck up behind me and tickled me. I was not only surprised, I accidentally farted. I was embarrassed, but Tyrone thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. He joked and kidded about it with me for the rest of the week.
I didn’t really mind, because no one else was around when he did it, and he didn’t tell any of my co-workers. He simply enjoyed juvenile humor. I liked him so I took it in stride. Just locker room horseplay among guys working together in a boring retail job. Let’s face it, farts are funny.
He knew I liked Ms. Knight because when she would come in I always said that I’d wait on her. I would fuss over her and go above and beyond on the charm and customer service. I don’t know if she realized it at the time, but I simply did it because I thought she was gorgeous, and enjoyed engaging her in the store. Any excuse to chat with her and be near such an ethereal beauty.
One morning I was working the day shift with my man, Tyrone. We were just working the counter, chatting, and watching videos on MTV. (Which ran all day, every day at the store.) Betty came in to drop off some videos and get some more. Of course, I greeted her and did intake on her returns. She then went back to the library section to look for more movies.
When I looked at her account I noticed she rented The Little Mermaid on a regular basis. Now, this isn’t the one we’re all familiar with. This isn’t the animated Disney classic that my daughter grew up on. This was a cartoon made back in 1975, and one of several titles that found its way onto home video in the 1980’s. I’m talking some Hans Christian Andersen stuff here.
Not many people have ever seen this relic, but back in the mid-’80s, you couldn’t get many Disney titles back then. They hadn’t made the leap to home video yet. I knew a guy I worked with who had a bootleg of Disney’s Pinocchio back then. That was a rare and illegal copy of the film. The video and audio were poor quality, but it was still Pinocchio and a watchable dub.
We chatted a little bit when she returned to the counter to rent her movies. I mentioned to her that I noticed that she rented the Little Mermaid quite often and that if she wanted we could order her a copy for purchase and it would only be around forty bucks. I even told her I could hook her up with a discount. She said she’d think about it.
The transaction passed without incident and she was preparing to leave. Then Tyrone suddenly said the following words:
“Charles likes you, Miss Knight!”
I was mortified. I couldn’t believe the unmitigated, awkward, audacity of the outburst. Was this something he did to his friends? Just outed their private romantic feelings to whomever? It was insane.
“Shut up, Tyrone!”
She simply smiled and I was so embarrassed I could barely look up from the counter. She gathered her things and walked out the door, smiling and saying goodbye.
“What the hell, man?”
“What? You know you like her!”
“But you didn’t have to tell her! I don’t know anything about this woman! It’s weird, dude!”
Tyrone just laughed it off and went back to stocking the shelves.
A week or so passed, and I was working at the counter with a different guy who worked there. That’s when the phone rang. My co-worker was waiting on someone so I answered it.
“Thank you for calling Home Video Centers, this is Charles. How can I help you?”
“Charles. Just the person I want to talk to. This is Betty Knight.”
(My heart rate speeding up…)
“Oh… Hi Betty. What can I do for you?”
“I thought about what you said, and I want to order the Little Mermaid for purchase. Can you order it for me?”
“Sure! Let me just write that up and take some of your information for the order.”
I do that and then… “We’ll probably get that in a week to ten days, and I can probably get you a discount. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Umm… would you like to get together sometime?”
My brain almost couldn’t process the data that was coming through the phone into my ear. I nearly threw the receiver into the air thinking this was some sort of spell that had been cast upon me by evil wizards and witches.
“Uh… yea. Sure…” (Anxiety raced through my system like a freight train.)
“You have my address and phone number. Are you working Saturday?”
“Why don’t you just come to my house on Saturday around 2pm. Can you do that?”
“Yes, I can Betty.”
“Bring over a couple of tapes. I like Rod Stewart. Bring over one of his concert videos and maybe something else. Do you have any suggestions?”
“Uhh… how about Eddie and the Cruisers. That’s a great movie.” (trembling)
My mind is reeling at a million miles per hour. Dopamine is searing my brain as it explodes and blooms like a flower in my cerebrum.
“Great. Call me before you come, okay?”
“Sure thing, Betty.”
“Great. I’m looking forward to seeing you, Chaz.”
“Umm… you too. See you then.”
She hung up and I had to step away from the counter. I had to go outside into the parking lot to process what the hell just happened. I lit a cigarette. How was this possible? She’s like the hottest woman that comes in here! Why me? This almost seems like a prank. It can’t be real. It can’t be happening to me! I’ve lived a charmed life since I was 15 years old, but I don’t remember anything about me getting wishes granted. Had I somehow accidentally made some pact with the devil for my soul one night while I was drunk? This can’t really be happening.
But it was happening.
It was real, and it was on.
More next Tuesday!
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It’s chock full of stories from my youth growing up in Northeast Philly in the 70s!
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