Jim and I remained friends. I would walk up to his house at 19th and Central Aves. every morning and we would walk to school together. We were close. I always felt a deep connection with Jim.
There was nothing open in Wildwood in 1979 after the season ended. I have no idea what the kids did here when not in school. I did notice a high level of drinking, drug use and teen pregnancy. So it was basically like living in an affluent rural area. An odd dichotomy.
School was going well for both of us. Me the fresh transplant from Philly, and him out of middle school and now in high school. Jim never felt younger to me. He always felt like a mature thoughtful, brooding equal.
We would just walk the streets at night of this resting resort town that felt like a ghost town to me for the first time. I had only known Wildwood as a full on circus every summer. This was its dark underbelly. A lonely empty place. We both did the best we could on this deserted island.
In the windy nights on the Cape we really got to know each other. We’d frequent the local haunts. There was a pizza place at 15th and New Jersey Aves. that was open all year round. We’d eat slices and drink sodas there. We’d go to the bowling alley. There was place called the Sundance around 26th and New Jersey Aves. Kids would gather there and eat and sip sodas. At least it was warm. Something to do.
We never bowled there, we’d just sit and talk and look at girls. Sometimes we’d end up at the 7 Eleven downstairs and talk to some weird clerk there we named Scoodly because that was entertaining to a couple of teenage boys. He was a bit eccentric and we got a kick out of him. But it always felt good to get a frozen soft pretzel from the freezer and pop it into the microwave. A sweet reminder of my lost city of Philadelphia.
My greatest memories of hanging with Jim in the dead of winter back then in this godforsaken wasteland was at that very bowling alley. We’d sneak into the little lounge they had there. There was always a live band playing in there and it was fun to watch older guys and girls play. We were just so fascinated by live music and bands that were working and do it.
We’d slip in and check out the latest band playing top 40. The music was not what we were into but it at least felt like something we were interested in. Sometimes we’d last longer than other times. I was 17. Jim was 15. But he looked older. The drinking age in Jersey back then was 18. Unbelievable by today’s standards. But I looked so young with my baby face but Jim could pull it off. We’d get a few beers and watch the set and do our best to be cool and hang in, but there was always that point after about two beers we’d be suspect.
I’d get tossed first and then they’d ask Jim for ID and he couldn’t provide either so out we’d go.
But we’d always go back because we wanted to see live music, and there was NOTHING in Wildwood to do in the winter back then. It was a horrible place to live as a teenager. A selfish unforgiving decision had been made against my life.
One night we met this guitar player in one of the lounge acts that was playing in that place. He was older but so nice to us. We told him how we were musicians and picked his brain about music. It just felt good to talk to older guys that were doing what we wanted to do. But not exactly.
“Jim, I would rather kill myself than play top 40 in a fucking bowling alley for a living. I want to be a band that plays in big bars and then tours and them makes records.”
“I just would never want to have to play all of that shit for a living.”
“You need to get a real guitar.”
“What? My shit’s real.”
“It’s a Sears Silvertone kid’s electric guitar, Chaz.”
“Yea but I learned on that. I like it. It has good action.”
“It’s a fucking toy guitar. If you really want to play rock, and you’re serious about this you should get a proper instrument.”
“Alright well. I guess. I could start to look at instruments.”
“I play a Strat. It’s a really good versatile instrument.”
“Yea… your Fender’s awesome. Brown and functional. I think I’d like something a little flashier.”
“Well that’s up to you. It’s your money, but your guitar is shit.”
Yea, I guess you’re right.”
Suddenly we are approached by the bar manager.
“You guys got some ID?”
Jim and I do a simultaneous bottoms up with our beers and run out of the bar laughing.
I’m happy I have a friend and at least I have the bonus of him being a sensitive and funny musician like myself. Musician. Who and I kidding? I’ve only been playing guitar of six months.
But I’m learning fast.
Maybe I need to look at getting a real guitar.
So I can get this dream going….
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