Wildwood Daze – The Button Master

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1979-1980

There was a little unique shop on the boardwalk called The Button Master. My friend, Wolfie who was in a band with me at the time used to call the place, The Button Bastard. (I don’t know why, but why not?)

The shop was nothing but buttons. This was a trend in the mid to late 70s. They had all kinds of cool phrases on them and they could even make custom buttons for you if you brought them an image.

I always had a few buttons stuck to my green army jacket, which had the logo of my band on the back, The Union Jacks. I also had several buttons on the black guitar strap for my guitar. They were one of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, (Read the book by Anthony Burgess in 12th grade in American Lit class and loved it but hadn’t seen the Kubrick movie yet because it was no longer out in theaters and they would never show something like that on TV back then!) I had a button that said; I Want It All, Total Control, and a custom button I had made of Farrah Fawcett. (Because I LOVED her back then)

The owner was never there and I only met him once. But there was a guy who was in his 20s from New York named Tom Duke who worked there. He was a nice guy and would always let me hang out there and talk about rock music. Which I loved. I would sometimes just go up there on my day off and just browse the buttons and chat with him. They were all super cheap. Maybe a buck apiece.

I think Tom lived there, because there was a mattress on the floor in the back room, and I assumed he crashed there all summer. He was skinny and sort of gaunt, so he may have been a random drug user who didn’t seem like a person of means. But he had vast musical knowledge and I loved talking about rock with anybody who knew what they were talking about back then.

He was a big, YES and Genesis fan, and told me he knew some of the guys in those bands which I thought was super cool. (Could have been a lie, but who’s checking?) He liked that the latest Genesis album was entitled, Duke, because that was his last name. Just a weird coincidence I suppose.

Sometimes he had beer and we’d drink and chat and make it a fun night laughing it up in the store. Alcohol was new to me back then and I could get a nice buzz from 2 bottles of Bud. I remember Tom going out the back door of the store once and peeing right off the edge of the boardwalk into the parking lot below. Somebody yelled at him to stop, but he just laughed and shouted, “What? It’s my F*cking parking spot!”

I thought that was hilarious.

One night I was hanging out in the store and it was getting late. I knew he’d be closing soon and I’d be going home. I was just hanging in the store and talking rock with him, and helping customers find different buttons. I had spent so much time in that store I sort of knew where everything was. Just sheets hung up around the room and thousands of colorful buttons pinned all over them. Pretty simple setup and cheap inventory with low overhead.

This couple came in and they sort of looked like hybrid hippies. In their late 30s or early 40s. Like, maybe they used to be hippies but cut their hair but still had that hippie vibe to them.

I noticed the guy had an iron-on of Wile E Coyote on his yellow T-shirt. But I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an image licensed by Warner Brothers. It was Wile E, in a diving position with his mouth open and the message said: Muff Diver.

I’d seen that image before, but it just seemed kind of creepy even back then. We only wore fun images and rock band names on our shirts, and here was this old guy with this weird awkward shirt on.

I pointed to the wall of buttons and asked him if there was anything he was interested in. His response was:

“Other than f*cking?”

Okay, that’s weird.

So then, what I’m assuming was wife starts flirting with me right in the store. I’m getting nervous because her husband is right there on the other side of the store. She’s touching me and rubbing my back and stuff. I’m 17 years old and still pretty naive. I’ve been dating girls since I was 14 years old, but this was some new adult ground for me back in 1980. But I have a couple of beers in me, so I’m not having an anxiety attack.

She says she wants me to come back to their motel room for some fun. She was kind of hot and I was debating whether I should do it, but something was telling me I shouldn’t. I was experiencing some classic stranger danger. I didn’t know these people. What if they took me back to their room and killed me? I liked horror movies and my mind went right to that image.

Her husband was sort of just standing off in the distance watching all of this. He was smiling and nodding his head. I’m thinking, is this something these people do? Hunt young teen guys for their kinky debauchery? I wasn’t stupid and I’d heard of people who were swingers but I hadn’t encountered anything like this before.

So, Tom Duke says, “Why don’t you two just go into the back room and have at it. I felt a little better about that idea because he was there and if anything weird went down he could come and save me.

But, here’s the thing, they were in agreeance only if her husband could join in. I was like… No way. No three-way with an old dude. His wife continued to stay close to me and rub my back like I was some sort of pet.

I told them I appreciated their offer, but I just wasn’t into that sort of thing. They were nice about it and just laughed. She turns to her husband and says: “I think it’s just a lack of experience.”

I protested that I was hip to all things like that but just wasn’t into that particular thing. But they knew. I did lack experience. But in all honesty, there was no way I was fooling around with a lady and a man in some sort of sexy tryst.

They smiled, said goodbye, and left the store to go hunt down some other hapless teen. I hope they didn’t find anybody.

The next day I went and told my boss Louie on the Golden Nugget the whole lurid story. He told me I did the right thing by declining their offer. I’ll never forget what Louie yelled to me over the noise of the ride.

“You could have been screwing the lady and then all of a sudden, you feel some guy getting you from behind!” (add expletives and profanity from your imagination)

Just another crazy summer night in Wildwood.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

Here’s my latest book. There will be a book about my summers in Wildwood coming Memorial Day 2023!

You can check out all of my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

New Book: LAWNDALE – Now Available on Amazon!!

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?

I do.

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.

Thank you one and all.

You can get your copy of my book here.

Finally!!!

I was going to place the video for “I’m in a Philly Mood” by Daryl Hall here, but this song just seemed more apropos.

There will be a book about my summers in Wildwood in the 1970s

coming Memorial Day of 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all Follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week on Tuesday.

You can see all 7 of my books here.

Wildwood Daze – Botto’s and the Office

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Late 1970s

Botto’s

One of our favorite hangouts growing up at the shore was the beloved Botto’s Arcade at 10th and Surf Avenue. It was 2 blocks from our house and was a meeting place for the local kids.

In the first half of the decade, it was a small market full of food staples, sundries, and beach stuff. It’s where we used to go to buy our kites and string. But because Russo’s Market at 9th and Ocean was such a juggernaut and go-to spot they sort of ran Joe Botto out of business. Just geographic competition. Botto, a retired Philly cop, was never happy about that, but shifted gears and turned it into an arcade much to the joy of the neighborhood youth.

Botto’s had everything we needed for an enjoyable afternoon or evening as an alternative to the beach and boardwalk. A phonebooth outside in case you had to drop a dime and make a call, and a soda machine full of ice-cold beverages stood out front. Joe’s wife normally worked during the day, giving out change for the machines inside and operating the bike rental part of the business.

The place was small, but just the right size for us kids. A regulation-sized, slate pool table in the center of the room, and a thunderous jukebox packed with 45’s of all the hits of the day parked against the front wall near the entrance. (It played A and B sides! This way, I could listen to Walk this Way and Uncle Salty!)

All around the perimeter of the room were pinball machines and video games. My favorite pinball machine, Flash was where I spent most of my time and quarters. They had some of the greats… Eight Ball Deluxe, Gorgar, Wizard, Playboy, El Dorado, and Joker Poker, to name a few.

But, they had all the classic video games of the day in there too. Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Super Breakout, and Asteroids.

Botto’s was a place where teenagers could hang out, play games, chat, flirt, shoot pool, drink soda and smoke cigarettes. The owners were cool, and there was never any trouble there. I’ve spent many a rainy day or health night in that arcade. The phrase “health night” came from my mother. She used to say to me, “You’re out every night! Take a health night!”

You never knew who you might run into while you were there, but it was always a solid meeting spot to hang and make plans for where you may be heading afterward. It was surrounded by motels so even though its core audience was kids from the neighborhood, they always got a few tourists in there as well.

Across the street was a place called Golf City. It was pretty much a waste of valuable real estate that was home to a miniature gold course. Fun for the little kids and they had a small arcade as well, but overall it was lame.

Botto’s was the cool kid’s place. I spent many wonderful times in Botto’s in my youth, but sadly it’s now long gone. What stands in its place now is an ice cream stand.

All that’s left to remind me of the original Botto’s in the brick face and the door and windows. So picture this place without the A-roof, the awning, the sign, the benches, the lights, and the rest of anything pink.

What’s left would be a pretty boring-looking spot. But, none of that was important. Botto’s was about what was inside. The people, the music, the games, and the laughter.

The Office

That’s not what it was called. It was a little game room on the third floor of The Flying Dutchman Motel.

Right there on the southwest corner of the 3rd floor!

The photo I used at the beginning of this post is the motel before they added the 3rd floor. But that’s what The Flying Dutchman looked like in the 70s.

We knew the owners and they were cool with us going up there to smoke cigarettes and spend our quarters on their vending machines in their game room.

The reason we called this little spot The Office, is because we used it not only as a place to hang out and play but to have meetings. If there was some local drama going down or some stories to be told, this was the place it all took place.

I remember trying to tell my older sister some convoluted story about some things that had gone down on Morey’s Pier or some other crazy news from the neighborhood one day. She was trying to understand what we planned to do about this matter and I simply said: “Office…now.”

We liked it because it was high up off the street. We had a view and also liked the games they had in there. Just two pinball machines and an old 1972 Pong machine. There’s a link I provided, but it was so basic it may have been the first video game ever invented. But a fun game! Pinball was still king, but video games were getting better with every coming season.

The biggest difference between this place and Botto’s was, this spot was quieter and more private. You could hang up there, sit at the card table they had set up in there, and just chat. It didn’t have the number of games and music that Botto’s had, but this was our spot. Most of all, it was unsupervised.

This is probably one of the most important aspects of this little game room.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Pinball machines are designed so that you can’t rock them around too much or they’ll “Tilt.” What that means is, if you shake the machine too much or lift it up to slow the ball down or anything else to upset the machine while the ball is in play, it’ll light up, TILT, and the unit goes off and your ball drains down the hole. You’re done for being too rough with the unit and most of all trying to cheat.

But kids are creative, cunning, learning machines. You know that if the adults come up with some solution to thwart our fun or sustained play, we’ll probably work to come up with a solution to beat it.

So while the machine was on, we’d have one kid gently lift the lower front up off its legs and stack quarters under the legs, one or two at a time. This would flatten the play area on the board but not enough to TILT the machine. We’d get that baby up as high as possible. This would slow down the gameplay and go virtually unnoticed if someone walked in.

By applying this simple remedy, the game would be easier, you’d get a higher score and rack up more free games. That was the main goal. Free games! 

This also assisted with the legendary, “Back from the Dead.” What this meant was if you were in the middle of a game and the ball somehow got past your flippers, and towards the hole… if it was moving fast enough to bounce back out of the hole and back into play, it was always deemed a miracle, which was met with cheers from any onlookers. The ball literally came back from th dead!

So, we did that all the time up there.

Sometimes I would just go up there on my own and play pinball. I just wanted a little time alone to think and reflect on my life living at the seashore all summer. It was a brilliant and unforgettable few chapters from my young life.

Braces off, skin clear, and finally emerging from puberty!

Here’s a pic of me in 1978 on the 3rd-floor sun deck of The Flying Dutchman. The Office wasn’t just for pinball. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet the vacationing talent.

Pictured: Me with Ann and Gina Dougherty on the roof deck of the Flying Dutchman Motel -1978

Yea… tough times for Chaz in Wildwood!

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Wildwood Daze – The Dolphin Restaurant – Part 2

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1978

The girl I worked with was named Therese. (Pronounced: Terez, which makes it so much sexier and exotic) But Therese was just a nice girl who like myself had been moved to this island as a teenager. She told me she was originally from DC and went to Wildwood Catholic High School. She was 16 and I was 15 at the time. I’d be forced to move to the island the very next year, but that’s another story.

Therese said she was miserable and lonely when she first moved to Wildwood. The place was a resort and it was literally a ghost town in the winter. She said that the kids were mean to her and she described her experience in Wildwood Catholic as being like a scared little animal.

But Therese was absolutely beautiful. What made her lovely to me wasn’t just her lovely smile, sparkling eyes, and world-class legs… she had a sweet disposition. She was one of those girls who’s hot but doesn’t know it. Just a really nice, moral person. I loved her and I think she was my first “#1 most beloved”.

I knew she had a boyfriend. Some “Joe College Type” who was tall and good-looking named John. She was taken and there was no way I could compete with an 18-year-old guy on his way to university in August. It was like pitting a boy against a man. An unwinnable war.

But I was just happy to work beside her in the restaurant every day. After the morning rush, we’d clean up the dining room and start doing our side work. They were little maintenance chores we all had to do to prepare for the next shift. I would always blaze through mine early so I could help Therese. Sometimes I would even do her side work for her without her knowing. So when the time came for her to have to do it, I had already completed it for her and she could just leave.

I remember once I had taken care of some arduous task for her that she didn’t want to do. She rewarded me with a peck on my cheek. I blushed and felt like my head was going to explode. I was so smitten!

She knew I was crazy about her and instead of it being weird, she was always sweet to me. It was so obvious. She was like my queen. I understood what Eddie the dishwasher was experiencing with his feelings for hot Sue across the street. The unattainable goddesses we desire but can never have. We just scuttle along washing our dishes and carrying our bus pans like the rodents we are.

“So sorry to hear about John getting into that boating accident.” I would say to Therese.

“What?”

“Oh… right. That’s not until next week.”

Even back then I had a twisted sense of humor. But Therese would just laugh knowing I secretly wanted her boyfriend out of the way, so I could be the king to her queen. (So diabolical!)

I knew John was leaving for college and Therese was sad her boyfriend was leaving. I was relieved that this obstacle was being extracted from the equation and maybe I could make some sort of move. It was risky, but even at 16 years old I knew fortune favored the bold. What would my idol Dave Bradley do? I needed to talk to him tomorrow on the beach.

“Just walk up to her when she’s on her own in the dining room near the end of the night and ask her out.”

“That’s it? No special instructions or any kind of move?”

“Just have a plan, my friend. Don’t just ask her out, have something you want to do with her. Think it through. Nail down a time and a day. You’ll be fine.”

“Umm… okay, Dave.”

The next night it was around 8 pm and we were cleaning up the dining room after getting run over by tourists. I went over to one of Therese’s tables as she was picking up the check and her tip. I loaded the dirty plates into my bus pan.

“Hey… Crazy night, right?”

“Yea. My feet are killing me. I’ve been running around here all night like crazy!”

“Umm… (I smiled as I looked upon her beauty. My heart thumping in my chest and my stomach doing flip flops) Therese, would you like to go to the movies with me the next time we’re both off?”

She paused, then smiled. “Sure, Chaz. What do you want to see?”

I was stunned. This was actually working. Don’t blow it… “I was thinking Animal House. I heard it’s hilarious.”

“Oh, yea. Me too. I wanna see Animal House. I’m off on Thursday, would that work?”

This was too easy! “Yea… I’m off too. I’ll get the showtimes and we’ll figure it out this week.”

“Great. It’ll be fun. Thanks for asking me.”

I smiled and went back to cleaning. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I stared at the reflection of the young man who would be taking Therese Freeman on an actual date. This was a watershed moment. These sorts of things didn’t happen to guys like me. Or did they? I had been on a couple of dates last summer. I had navigated these treacherous waters before. She was just a girl I worked with. No reason to be nervous. Just a couple of coworkers checking out a funny film together. No big deal.

But no… this was a big deal. This was my queen. The woman I loved. The unattainable was nearly in my grasp. I needed to play it cool and not screw anything up before Thursday. I could hardly think over the sound of Aerosmith’s song, Back in the Saddle blasting in my head as the dopamine splashed all over my euphoric brain. This was the big time. A date with Therese Freeman. Dave Bradley would be proud, and his lecherous brother Chickie would be jealous.

Welcome to the NFL, Chaz!

The next night we worked the same shift again. I had already looked up the movie times in the newspaper and knew exactly where and when we were going to see this movie. “Planning is everything”, as my father used to say. We coordinated the time and Therese wrote down her phone number and address on a slip of paper.

Just having that data in my hands was worth a fortune to me. Things were definitely happening in my life! Everything was getting better. I just needed to survive this date with Therese and not screw it up.

Later, I was in the kitchen emptying my bus pan and Chickie Bradley was there doing the dishes. Therese walked in and dropped off some plates from one of her tables. Chickie immediately hit on her. (The filthy animal!)

“Hey, yo… Therese, we should uh… you know… go out some time.”

My heart sank with rage and despair. Chickie Bradley could get any woman. He was a rake and had a reputation for closing deals. He probably had so many notches in his bedpost that it was whittled away completely!

Therese smiled and spoke. “I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last man on earth, Chickie Bradley.”

She glanced over at me, gave me a knowing grin, and left the kitchen.

As the big wooden doors to the dining room swung back behind her I could feel Chickie’s spirit exit his body. I was in my glory. I’m indestructible now. A real player in the game of life. New confidence and power coursed through my veins. This was a fantastic moment in my young life. Say hello to the new king, Chickie Bradley! Take that!

Thursday arrived and I was terrified. My anxiety was off the charts. This wasn’t just a date to the movies with a coworker. This was Therese Freeman. A date with the queen. I was a nervous wreck. I had the power and the nerve to ask these girls out, but my anxiety would be tearing me apart before the event. It was absolutely as horrible. The pain equaled the joy I had felt the other night when she said yes.

It just didn’t seem fair. Why was I like this? I wanted to go out on dates with girls but was always in a terrible state leading up to it. Little did I know, this would go on for years and years. Anxiety and depression are the worst. An unexplainable fear and sadness you carry around with you. Where your friends and family are happy and excited to do things, you are crushed with blackened fear that squeezes your heart to near paralysis.

It was so bad, that my family actually had a little acronym for me. They used to call me The ARM. That stood for Anxiety Ridden Mess. Isn’t that lovely?

Thanks, family. YOU’RE NOT HELPING!!!!

Acute anxiety disorder. How do you overcome it? I’ll tell you how. Without drugs or medicine. You’re born this way, and you literally have to keep walking toward the things you fear the most. You have to do this over and over for maybe decades. Most people aren’t willing to do this, nor do they possess the inner strength to carry out this incredible burden. You have to rewire your brain to keep walking towards that which you fear. After a while, you realize you’re not going to throw up or die from going into the unknown.

If you’re willing to do that, you’ll succeed and not only overcome it, you’ll realize something wonderful. After all of those years of being afraid and sad, you’ve become stronger in spirit than most. You’ve spent years overcompensating for those fears. You’re more charming and cool around people because you’ve been performing like that for years. You then become an even better version of yourself than you ever realized.

People will call your charm a gift of gab, or a special way with people. No. Quite the contrary. You simply practiced for years to mentally overcome your disability. I did it, and you can too.

Back to the story…

I remember lying in the bathtub in our upstairs bathroom before the date. I thought maybe a nice cool bath would calm my shattered nerves. The clock ticked away the minutes ever faster as the deadline approached when I’d have to leave the house and pick up Therese.

This is an awful feeling. Why did I even bother asking her out? This is too much for me to handle. I’m out of my element!

I pulled myself out of the tub and got ready. I want to do this. I asked for it and she said yes, so this is definitely happening. I did everything I could to calm my mind but to no avail.

I remember my dad handing me some extra cash in case I wanted to buy her ice cream on the way home from the movie. Dad comes through in the clutch again!

I walked up our street west on 8th street. I walked past the ball fields. I lingered there for a few minutes to gather my courage. I figured if I had to throw up, now would be the time. I remember one of my friends later told me they saw me milling about there and I appeared to be talking to myself. (Yea, it was that nuts.)

I get to 5th and New Jersey Ave. and approach her house. I look down and carved into the pavement is her name in the concrete. It even had the two little accents over the vowels and everything. Of course, her name should be carved in stone forever. She’s Therese!

I step onto the porch and tap on the screen door. It starts to get a little fuzzy here. I don’t remember meeting any parents. Maybe her family was out or something. But I do remember Therese just chilling in her living room in a lovely blouse and a pair of white slacks. She looked awesome. I had only seen her in her waitress uniform. Here she was. All ready to go on a date to the movies with Chaz.

I don’t remember what we talked about on the walk to the theater. Probably work and general stuff about our friends and families. I was too terrified to be on record mode during that trip. I think Animal House was playing all the way down at the Shore Twin which was on Atlantic Avenue, west of Marine Pier. (Later, Mariners Landing)

I still have half of the ticket from that night. I even wrote her name on it and kept it to memorialize the event.

The film was great. Animal House is one of the funniest comedies ever made. The late, great John Belushi is brilliant in the role of Bluto Blutarsky. This movie solidified his stardom.

Therese laughed a lot and I knew this was a good choice. I always later told my friends who lacked experience with dating to always pick a movie. I would tell them that it was two hours you get to spend with her and you don’t have to talk or seem interesting. You let the movie make the night great and fun. If she’s having a good time at the movies, then she’ll associate you with fun and exciting feelings. It’s just science, folks.

I had a wonderful time that evening and so did Therese. I was happy to just spend time with her and be close to a girl I really liked. She was the sweetest thing. I walked her up to her doorstep and sealed the evening with a kiss.

I probably skipped all the way home that night. My older sister was there and asked me how the evening went. I gave her the thumbs up and was happy I survived it. She knew I was nervous about it and was worried about me.

It was pretty great to be the only guy that got a date with Therese after her boyfriend went off to college. I think being brave and a gentleman goes a long way. Women just know.

I didn’t really see Therese after that summer. I moved on to a job at Hunt’s Pier. We did stay in touch a little though. I still have her letters. She went into the medical field. Of course, someone as sweet as Therese would have a job where she helps people.

I ran into her once back in the 1990s in Stone Harbor, NJ. I was staying at my wife’s family’s shore house up in Avalon. I was standing out on 96th Street while my wife was in some shop.

I just suddenly saw Therese standing there like an apparition from my past. It had been over 15 years since I’d seen her. My heart leaped at the sight of her. She still looked smoking hot.

I said her name and she turned. It was an amazing moment. After all of this time, here she was. We chatted a bit and caught up.

Thoughts of the gift shop suddenly bursting into flames and my wife dying in the fire and Therese having to comfort me with my sudden loss came to mind… but only for a second. (Oh, stop it… I’m kidding!)

I noticed she had a little brace on her arm near her wrist. I asked her what had happened and she told me she had rheumatoid arthritis. I found this heartbreaking but told her my mother suffered from the very same thing. I thought, how can there be a god when this kind of stuff happens to perfectly wonderful people? It’s not fair.

It was great seeing her and I couldn’t wait to tell my family who I had run into in Stone Harbor that day. They all knew I adored Therese since the 70s.

I haven’t seen her since, but at least we’re friends on social media!

I’m so glad I have all of these great memories to wrap myself up in and share with you. Thanks for reading this. I really enjoyed writing about the restaurant and of course my queen!

Thanks for saying yes that day in 1978 and going on a date with me. It meant the world to me.

I will always love you, Therese!

Here’s a pic of Therese I found on Facebook. It was taken around 2012.

A stunning beauty!

On a final note, I earned around $500 that summer. I was becoming a serious self-taught musician and decided to make an investment. You can see what that was here.

Want to learn more about RA? Go here: https://www.aiarthritis.org/

or here: https://www.facebook.com/IFAiArthritis

or here: https://www.facebook.com/TerezFreemanHumphrey/?ref=page_internal

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Wildwood Daze – The Dolphin Restaurant – Part 1

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1978

I was turning 16 years old that summer. I had had great success working as a pool boy the summer before at the El Morro Motel. But I wanted to do something else. So working as a busboy at the Dolphin Restaurant seemed like a good progression. There was a small salary plus tips and free meals so it just made sense.

Now that I think back on my time as a pool boy at the El Morro Motel, I was earning a flat $40 a week. But I worked 7 days a week from 7 am till noon. Then I had to go back every night at 7 pm and bring the cushions in from all of the lounge chairs around the pool. So I roughly worked over 35 plus hours a week there for $40. That’s like a dollar an hour! (As Napoleon Dynamite would say)

It wasn’t a bad job at the Dolphin because I normally worked days and some nights, but the night shift was from around 4 pm until 7 or 8 pm. It would be busy in the morning for breakfast, then quiet down around lunchtime. Everybody would be at the beach so the place was dead from 1 pm until 5 pm.

Then it would pick up again as families and groups came in to grab dinner before heading off to the boardwalk for the evening.

The owners were a nice Greek couple. Bill and Lanie. Bill ran the line in the kitchen and Lanie was the hostess and cashier out front. The Greeks are brilliant people. They start these restaurants, work their butts off and bring their whole family over to work. The Dolphin was also in a great location. Close to the beach and surrounded by motels. So there was always plenty of foot traffic from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This was the sign on the roof of the restaurant. How cool is that? A life-sized dolphin that rotated on the sign. A creative, retro artifact. That had to be expensive to design and construct. That’s pride, baby.

Here’s the actual feature restored to its original glory. (Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society)

The job was easy. I liked the people I worked with. The waitresses were all nice and so were the setup girls. Waitresses were normally around 16 or 17, and set up girls and busboys were 14 and 15 years old.

We had a great time working together. We liked and hated all the same things working in a restaurant. Especially when a huge family would roll in and had kids. The dreaded high chairs for babies. We all knew there’d be plenty of food to clean up off the floor! But for the most part it was a fun and lively place to work.

I remember when I turned 16 that summer the girls had a little party for me and got me Supertramp’s latest album, Breakfast in America. Which seemed fitting based on our vocation and the image on the album cover.

Breakfast in America - Wikipedia

I just realized something for the first time. The image is the view from the window of a plane. The waitress represents the Statue of Liberty and the table in the background is New York.

How did I miss this back in 1978? I guess I was too busy listening to my Aerosmith albums!

Anyway, it was nice to have a job where I was surrounded by other people. When I was a pool boy I was an army of one. It was just me working as the entire maintenance crew for the motel.

But now there was a whole cast of characters I worked with every day. There were all the macho Greek guys working as cooks in the steaming hot kitchen, the ladies working in the dining room, and the wait staff.

One afternoon I was walking across the parking lot about to enter through the back door. We all went inside that way. You’d go in, turn right into this little room and find an apron to wear for the night.

Standing outside in the parking lot, leaning against the wall was one of the Greek cooks. I forget his name. Just picture a tan, swarthy-looking, Mediterranean guy with a head full of black curls and a bushy mustache.

He was smoking a really fat joint. He sees me and offers me a toke. He says: “Smoke pot? Here…” and points the joint at me. Not wanting to appear to be the wimp I was, I took it from his fingers and hit it. Just one hit. That was it. I thanked him and went inside. Mission accomplished. I’ve paid the gatekeeper and showed him I’m cool too.

It didn’t hit me until I sat down at the middle table with all of the rest of the wait staff before our shift was to begin. We would all hang there and Lanie would go over any last-minute specials and whatever else we needed to know.

I had this stupid grin on my face and all of the girls instantly picked up on it. They were all laughing at me, and I couldn’t believe that it was instantly apparent I was high. I did my best to hide it from Lanie so she wouldn’t send me home for illegal drug use. During my shift, I confided in one of the other busboys named Grover. He was an older friend of the family but a cool dude. He said he had gotten high once before work and it made him feel like everyone in the restaurant was staring at him.

Since he said that to me, I now thought the very same thing. He had implanted a fresh paranoid thought in my hallucinogenic head. I looked around and everybody WAS staring at me. (They weren’t but I thought they were. They were just glancing over at me because I was part of the staff. But in my stoned brain I thought they were staring and knew I was baked!)

I spent most of the night giggling my way through my shift.

“Why you so silly tonight, Charlie?” Lanie asked in her broken accent.

“I… I don’t know. I just guess… I’m just a silly guy sometimes.”

Totally lame response, but I managed to get through my shift.

Lanie had a sister or a cousin that came to work there for a period of time. She spoke zero English and was sometimes really annoying to be around because no one could understand what she was saying. It was really frustrating. So one night when she was getting on my nerves… anything she would say to me, I would respond with a big smile and say a bunch of nonsense to her. It helped pass the night and I sort of liked that I could say whatever I wanted to her without any repercussions from the owners. I just kept smiling and bussing my tables.

There was usually a rotating cast of clowns that worked as dishwashers. Most notable was this guy named Eddie. He was the classic loser. The guy who resembled something out of a 1950s teen drama. The stained T-shirt, the slicked-back hair. The punk who always wanted to run with the cool guys and outlaws, but was always caught by the cops because he was too dumb to pull off any kind of heist. He had the worst job in the restaurant and the one that took the least skill and finesse, but he seemed happy enough doing his job. Sadly, he was socially inept and everyone just sort of tolerated his presence.

One day he starts going on about this girl he’s in love with. He describes her as the most beautiful girl on the island, and he’s going to make her his girlfriend. We had no idea who he was talking about. We figured he made her up! Also, in a town like Wildwood in the summer, how could anyone make such an assumption? The island was teeming with beautiful women!

But one day he reveals that she’s the ice cream girl from across the street at a shop called The Corner Store.  So we decide to see what’s up. Turns out she’s the eldest daughter of the owner of the Corner Store. Her mother used to work at the Provident National Bank in Philly back in the 70s with my father. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but Eddie was right. Her daughter Susan was a spectacular beauty. Dark tan, tawny hair like Farrah Fawcett and piercing blue eyes. Drop-dead gorgeous but unassuming. She was probably simply doing her job and was cordial to Eddie and he instantly fell in love with her. But I get it…

I had designs on one of the waitresses that I worked with at the Dolphin. Back then and for many years after that, I put women on a pedestal. Actually, I put certain people on pedestals for no reason other than I thought they were awesome. I think it was tied to my low self-esteem. I was just happy to be in the presence of the cool and the beautiful.

There was this guy who would work there sometimes as a dishwasher at night named Chickie Bradley. He was cute but all the girls knew he was a womanizing devil. He had an older brother named Dave who was super cool though. Dave ran an umbrella stand on the beach at 5th street. Dave was cool because he had his own apartment for the summer and would let me and my friend hang out at his umbrella stand with him. He was probably 18 years old at the time so he was basically a man and light years ahead of me in terms of any sort of masculine powers.

I would stop over his apartment and he would put on The Rolling Stones latest album, Some Girls and that’s what really got me into the Stones. He’d always offer me a cold bottle of Miller and I felt like such a big shot just to be in the same room with Dave. He was just so cool. But a nice guy who would let younger guys like me hang out. I knew I couldn’t go on his nocturnal adventures with him because I was too young, but it was just nice to hang.

He once told me that his landlord was talking about throwing him and his brother Chickie out of the apartment they were staying in for the summer. When I asked him why he said that the neighbors were complaining that it looked like they were running some kind of brothel out of the apartment.

I thought this was amazing. Just knowing a guy that could have so many girls and get them to come over all the time. This was beyond my imagination. I barely had the courage to even talk to most girls to try to get a date. But these guys were apparently lotharios that could just pull in the ladies with their wit and charm.

I remember Dave had some sort of problem with his larynx. It gave him this low hoarse voice. But that made him even cooler. When I would appear before him, he’d always say:

“Hello. my friend.” In that dark voice.

Dave was my idol.

A super cool dude, whose cousin I would later date 7 years later. But that’s another story. (Don’t worry. I’ll get to them all!)

However, there was this one special girl with whom I worked at the Dolphin that I found especially appealing.

To be continued tomorrow…

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Silver Fox

I was going to meet my friend Michael who I knew as a barback when I managed the sports bar back in 2019-2020. He and I had become friends and after the smoke from covid cleared we decided to hang out and get a drink.

We arranged to meet at Mix, which is a brick oven pizza bar with world-class pies at 21st and Chestnut st. They do a 12″ that when it arrives at the table seems like too much, but it’s easily crushed by one hungry dude… no problem.

I left my home around dusk and walked west on Pine street towards 21st street. I got to the corner of 20th when I saw an older woman all dressed in black exiting her house. She was with a man and another woman. As I passed by she reached out and caressed the grey french scarf I was wearing. That seemed a bit odd but she was just admiring it and maybe seemed slightly tipsy but delightful.

I love that scarf. It was made in France and given to me by an Englishman who had acquired it in Australia. We were in a bar on 11th street back in 2012 at an event at a place called Strangelove’s. He was looking to do business with the company I was working for at the time and I liked the scarf he was wearing. So in a drunken act of kindness, gave me the scarf. It’s grey and white and the colors sort of fade together. It’s long and slender and has an “aging English rocker” vibe to it. So I’ve worn it every Autumn since then.

So back to the present. This older woman grabs my scarf and starts chatting with me. The people she was with say goodbye and leave.

She’s an attractive lady who looks to be in her late 60s or early 70s. She loves my scarf and I stop to chat. She introduces herself and I’m sort of surprised and intrigued by this encounter. Remember… I’ve been in isolation for the last year and a half due to the pandemic, so I was happy to chat with anyone at this point.

She proceeds to tell me that she just came from burying her husband. He was a successful dentist for many years and they were married for a very long time. But why does this woman seem to be hitting on me the day of the funeral? It seems odd, but she’s so charming I just go with it. She asks me to remove my mask so she can see my face. I comply and she says: “You’re far too handsome to be hiding that face.”

I’m thinking, “Is this woman drunk?”

We chat some more and after a short while, we exchange numbers. She tells me she has to mourn the loss of her husband for a month due to religious beliefs. That’s fine with me. I sort of get that, but this lady seems ready to go now.

She says she’d like to meet up for coffee one day so we can get to know one another. I’m fine with that. She’s charming and engaging and it’s nice to talk to someone that comes from at least somewhere near my historical background. I’m sure there are a lot of great stories to share.

I tell her I have to get to Mix to meet up with my friend but will be in touch.

A few weeks go by and I text her and don’t hear anything back. Was it just a tipsy encounter on a painful day? I don’t know. Is she done mourning? Who knows?

A few months pass and I don’t think about her all that much. But recently I ran into her again. She looked at me and was like, “Do I know you?” I dropped the mask and she lit up. She grabbed my hand and squeezed. She was happy to see me again and we chatted a bit. She told me her dog had just died and she would have to bury him this week.

I’m thinking it seems like the two times I’ve encountered this woman there’s been a death. I’m not superstitious, but it still seems a bit strange. But of course, this doesn’t deter either of us and she still wants to meet up for coffee.

So maybe after her pup is in the ground, we can finally meet up and hang out for a bit. I’m intrigued by this unique opportunity and would like to see where it goes.

She did say something about taking me to Scottsdale and showing me off to her friends.

So there’s that.

UPDATE: I ran into her again recently and she gave me a bag of M&M’s! This seemed odd but I love the mint ones. She was sweet to me and there were some hugs. I don’t know what her deal is and I haven’t seen her since. But I did text her when I got home and thanked her for the candy. The texts went like this:

Me: Thanks for the M&Ms!

 

…and that was it.

As this saga unfolds, (and I hope it does!) I’ll write more. Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Floating Hope

Philadelphia, PA – Summer 2021

One of my followers reached out to me on my blog. She stated that she was coming up to Philly from Florida for a baby shower. I’m always happy to hear from my readers and was glad to hear the news. She asked if while she was up here if we could meet. Of course, I agreed.

It was on a Saturday, and happily I was free from any obligations. I arranged a reservation at Devil’s Alley for food and drinks. I’ve never met this person so I asked if there were any dietary issues, and she said no. I figured the place wouldn’t be busy. Unlike spots like Parc in Rittenhouse which are nice, but expensive and usually packed.

Saturday arrived and I headed up to Devil’s Alley around 11:45. I got there and informed the hostess of what was going on. She liked the story and told me that she’d get me a table upstairs. While I was chatting with her, my friend appeared! She had sent me a photo before she traveled here so I knew what she looked like.

We headed upstairs and took our seats. We ordered cocktails and started chatting. It was immediately a lively conversation. We had some things in common. Both divorced with grown kids. We talked about some of our past relationships and dating in general.

It was great to sit and chat with a fellow writer who is from the same generation as I am. It seems that she was married for many years and then after her divorced, she jumped into a relationship that lasted four years. She said that at one point she had outgrown the relationship and moved on.

She’s been dating and seems to be very active in the dating arena. She still uses Bumble and maybe one other app. I remember when I first started writing this blog I was on all the apps! Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel and others. (I may have even tried Hinge near the end) I’m no longer on any of them and really don’t see the need at this point. If I meet anybody now it’ll just happen organically in my everyday life.

But my friend is on the dating apps and she’s doing well. I was impressed with her confidence and how successful she’s been in her career and her dating life. It’s good to see a woman who’s a bit younger than me that’s out there having fun and meeting new people and potential mates.

We had Devil’s famous dry rub wings and I think she enjoyed them. It was just a light snack and drinks on this visit. (To be honest, they weren’t as impressive as they usually are)

I didn’t know how much time she had to spend with me, but I had planned if she could have hung out longer, I probably would have taken her to the bar at the top of the Comcast 2 center at the Four Seasons. It’s an incredible view of the city and thought she might like that.

But her time was limited and she had other commitments for the afternoon. I was happy that she took the time to hang out with me. It was a real pleasure to meet one of my subscribers in person for the very first time. So to me, it was a landmark event even if it was just a few hours.

After our meeting, we walked down Pine street near my house. I told her I needed to run inside for a moment. When I reappeared a few minutes later I presented her with a copy of my latest book, Below the Wheel. (I hope she likes it, but it’s okay if she doesn’t!)

I walked her back to her hotel over by City Hall and said goodbye. It was a lovely afternoon with a new friend. We agreed that if she comes up again we’ll hang out again.

I’m looking forward to that!

We did a selfie, and both agreed to write about the encounter in our perspective blogs. I’ll be interested to read what her take on the day was.

You can find her blog here: https://findingmynextchapter.wordpress.com/

We both decided to write about our experience, and both publish our stories on the same day! Thank, Birdie!

Here’s hers: findingmynextchapter.wordpress.com/2022/05/17/meeting-another-blogger

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

My Wicked Mistress – Part 1 – Alcohol

Philadelphia, PA – 2018

I quit smoking cigarettes years ago. I was no longer addicted to nicotine and it had just become an expensive toxic habit I no longer enjoyed.

https://atomic-temporary-111921946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/08/04/my-wicked-mistress-chapter-1-cigarettes/

I could write a whole blog regarding this subject, but I’ll keep it focused on this forum.

I had my first taste of beer when I was a kid. My dad let me try it. It was so bitter I spit it out on the kitchen floor. I agree that you should let children try things they’re curious about. It demystifies those things. People always want the forbidden and the taboo. If you just let them try it and show them that it’s not bad it removes the desire.

Everybody reacts differently to drugs and alcohol. It’s not black and white. Nothing in life is. As my daughter says about sexuality and mental health, it’s a spectrum. I’ve always agreed with her. No one is either crazy or sane. No one is either sober or an alcoholic.

It’s a range. A long winding, grey area.

I know I’m going to piss a few people off here but that’s not the purpose of my words. I’m writing this because I want to tell you all about my experience with alcohol.

I’m going to open with this. Alcoholism isn’t a disease.

Disease: A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury. Diseases are often construed as medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs.

When I think of diseases I think of the big ones.

  • Autoimmune Diseases.
  • Allergies & Asthma.
  • Cancer.
  • Celiac Disease.
  • Crohn’s & Colitis.
  • Heart Disease.
  • Infectious Diseases.
  • Liver Disease.

Stuff like that. They happen. But alcoholism isn’t a disease. It’s called that because so many “normal” folks are afflicted with it. It destroys lives indiscriminately. Yale to jail. Top to bottom.

But…

It’s a disease you have to BUY.

You don’t just catch it. You have to willfully do it. You have to go to the bar or a store and pick up a bottle and decide to drink it.

That’s not a disease. That’s your mind and body vs. alcohol. Everybody’s different.

But this piece isn’t about that. That’s for another blog. Not mine.

This is my brief story. I’m going to keep this as short as possible because it could eat up my whole blog if I go on too long about this subject.

I’ve always suffered from anxiety and depression. That coupled with low self-esteem and being an overachiever is a perfect cocktail for alcohol consumption.

I remember the first time I caught my first buzz from alcohol. I was out on the fishing pier one night in Wildwood, NJ with my friend and bandmate, Wolfie. We had a 6-pack of Molson Golden Ale and I had maybe 3 of them. I was 17 years old.

I walked back out onto the boardwalk when my very first buzz from alcohol hit me.

It was beautiful.

I felt exhilarated, euphoric, and indestructibly confident.

I couldn’t believe the power of this bitter elixer. It made the weak strong, the tired energized. The sad, happy. The loser, confident.

I went home and told my mother about my experience. She had also suffered from anxiety and probably some depression her whole life. I explained to her how good it made me feel and it also made my anxiety, (Which was really bad back then) simply vanish.

“That’s great, but don’t ever let it become a crutch.”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“Don’t rely on a drink to carry you through something.”

Those words stuck with me my whole life.

I love to drink. It’s fun. It feels good. It’s a wonderful social lubricant.

I’ve had my ups and downs with booze. Many of us have. The fights. The drunken misunderstandings. The brilliant hilarious nights. The random hook-ups. The crazy sex. The bad decisions. The great ones. The bed spins. The vomiting in inappropriate venues.

I’ve experienced all of that stuff.

I drank beer and wine. When I got to California I started getting into sipping Jack Daniels.

I enjoyed beer and cocktails in the ’80s in my 20s. I went into banking. Having a few drinks after work was just something everybody did.

Happy Hour. What a lovely name for something that involves people, booze, and lasts two hours instead of one.

I think during my very unhappy marriage is when my drinking escalated. My wife wasn’t much of a drinker and certainly didn’t like my drinking.

I would sneak nips from a half-pint of Smirnoff’s Vodka hidden in my garage.

I can see it all very clearly now. My social drinking had now become a band-aid over the pain of my domestic life.

My drinking didn’t end my marriage. Turns out we were simply incompatible as people on so many levels. I should have never gotten married. I know now it’s not an institution I can belong to. This shark needs to be free to swim and roam the oceans.

With my wife gone, I was now free to drink all I wanted whenever I wanted. I could listen to the stereo,  rock out to my music, and drink my Ketel One and tonics.

I was never one to drink in the morning or during the day. As much as I loved to drink, I always had strict rules regarding time. I would only take a drink after 5 pm.

Sure, I’d have the occasional glass of wine at a brunch or something, but no more. The real drinking happened at night. In a bar or behind closed doors and drawn blinds.

I was writing a book back then so I would just disappear from my sad life into writing and booze.

I didn’t even realize what was happening to me or why I was doing it. A former artist and musician, reduced to a branch manager at a bank. My marriage is already over. The only one in my family divorced. And then there’s dividing up all of the assets I had worked so hard to construct. Then the child support begins. $600 a month of your net income vanishes from your account every month. For 15 years! Do the math. It’s a financial nightmare that seems without end. I missed my little daughter. My little family was destroyed. Ruined.

When you begin drinking it’s for fun. It makes you laugh and feel happy. Later, it can be used to extinguish pain. Alcohol numbs you to the point where for that night you no longer care and have no worries about life in general.

But you might as well throw gasoline on a fire to put it out.

The booze kills the pain. But alcohol is a wicked mistress. You love her and she’ll fool you at every turn. She’s a beautiful and sexy girl. Doesn’t cheat on you. Won’t ever disappoint you. Always there for you. Comfort. Forget your problems. “Don’t work through them, honey. Just drink me in. That’s it, dear.”

I drank like that at night for the next 10 years.

I had no problems with my drinking through the 2000s. It’s just something we did after work.

Let’s jump to the Spring of 2018.

I quit cigarettes. My daughter lives with me. She’s happy. I’ve left corporate life. I have a nice little job I like doing. Child support is long over. But I continue to drink as if I’m covering some sort of pain.

But I’m not sad anymore. I have wisdom. I fought through anxiety and depression over the last 50 years without therapy or medicine. I’ve won!

But I continue to drink out of one directive. It’s simply a ritual. Just like smoking became. But one far more deadly.

I think I thought at the time I needed it to fall asleep. I did. Because I could no longer fall asleep without alcohol. My body needed it to shut down. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I never really addressed why I was doing it. It simply became a function of my evening life.

Everything was good in my life. This became a dark secret.

I could be out at the bar having a few drinks but the minute I got home I just kept going on my own. Alone in my room drinking vodka and club soda. One after the other. I never counted. I just did it until I could sleep and off I went.

But my will is strong. I can drink like that and get up for work the next morning with Metallica Metallicano problem.  Never call out and I’m never late. Am I doing this to overcompensate for my drinking? Probably.

If my mind wouldn’t race at night maybe I could stop drinking so much in the evening.

Two to three times a week I would go to the liquor store and pick up a 1.75 bottle of Nikolai or Wolfschmidts vodka. I wasn’t quite at the level of drinking as Guns n Roses bassist, Duff McKagen, but I was working on it.

My older sister said I was a functioning alcoholic. Normally that would be correct.

But not in my case.

Was this something I was simply stuck with from my old life, for the rest of my life?

Time would only tell.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 3

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

When I got back to Wildwood, NJ I would write letters and sometimes talk to Ashley on the phone. One night I had been drinking while I was on the phone with her and the conversation turned to sex.

Ashley became enraged, that I was gone from her life and all I wanted to do was talk about how great our sex had been. She yelled at me and told me she never wanted to speak to me again. She was peevish, ex-lover spurned with jealousy and rage.

I was fine with that. I was already seeing someone else by then.

Philadelphia, PA – 2008

25 years later, I’m living in Rittenhouse with my girlfriend, Michelle. One day I go on Facebook, and I have a friend request from Ashley! I was happily surprised to hear from her after so long. Facebook was still pretty new back then and people were reconnecting with all of their old friends from the past. Whether that’s a good idea or not, I don’t know. I’m going to say it’s a good thing. I’ve been able to chat with many of my old friends and it’s nice to see some of them after all of these years.

But after about a week or so, Ashley writes me a message that I’m not being a good Facebook friend and she’s cutting me off. I didn’t understand what that meant. I guess I was supposed to be more attentive on this social media platform. It seemed weird to me at the time, but after all that time I didn’t care. She just seemed crazy. Mental illness is an insidious thing. I’ve met enough crazy people here in Philly, and I just don’t care anymore.

Philadelphia, PA – 2020

Here we go again. We’re all in lockdown due to the global pandemic. Out of the blue, I get a message on Facebook from Ashley. Now it’s been 37 years since I laid eyes on her.

She and I would message each other on Facebook. It was nice to chat with her again after all of these years. We had a shared history from a long time ago when we were young and free in L.A. in the early 80s.

She had been to school and became a chef, married for over 30 years, had no children and had been living in Italy for many years. It was fun to catch up.

But after a short period, I started to notice a very angry tone in her messages. She seemed bitter and preachy about certain subjects. I’ve been around for a long time and have a wealth of life experience. I can pretty much read people through the written word as if I’m listening to them in person. It sounded like when she’d get mean in her messages, she was drunk.

I think she searched my blog looking for some heartfelt story about her and there just wasn’t any. I wrote about a bunch of wild things that happened to me and the boys when we got to LA but never got around to writing about her.

She gave me a really hard time about some of my posts. I felt violated and insulted by how corrosive her words were about my blog. So many cruel, words. It hurt, but I’m accustomed to trolls by now. I’m sure it was just her drunken bitterness coming forth from a life not lived. Just silly, juvenile, embarrassing behavior from a middle-aged woman.

It’s a shame when you find out a person has lived over half a century and hasn’t ever evolved as a person.

I have a low tolerance for drunk people even though I have a high tolerance for alcohol. (Not anymore, thank you) But she seemed drunk and rambled on in some of her messages. It felt uncomfortable and I felt bad for her. When I looked on her Instagram it was just a bunch of pictures of locations where she lived. She seems lonely. That’s the vibe I got. No kids, married for 30 years and has almost no info or photos of her husband.

I suppose what happened to her is that she’d sadly lived a life that’s been unfulfilled. She speaks and acts as though she hasn’t grown as a person or matured as an adult. She was still pissed about me leaving her back in 1983!

We spoke on the phone one morning and it was lovely. But she wanted to chat so much on Facebook messenger that it started to feel like too much. She said, “Promise me we can do this every week.”

Who says that? Promise me? I’m not making any promises to some 60-year-old woman who lives on the other side of the planet. I haven’t seen her in 37 years! Anything we ever were was finished a long time ago.

I also noticed how she would message me on Facebook, and if I didn’t respond, she would delete them all which seemed juvenile and weird. Sadly, Ashley’s never matured as a person and hasn’t evolved through the years. I can’t relate to any of that nonsense.

I think poor Ashley’s bored in her life and where she’s ended up, and has turned to alcohol for solace. But that never works. That’s just a band-aid covering up your real issues.

I spoke to my daughter about it and she said it all seemed kind of weird after all of this time.

I would have been happy to chat with her ocassionally on messenger. That would have been nice. But I don’t want to be in constant touch with someone and have them sending me clips of a bunch of music and songs I have zero interest in. It all seemed juvenile. I guess if you marry too young and don’t live a full life, you kind of get stuck behaving a certain way. I don’t know how her husband has put up with all of this childish behavior for so many years. I’d have divorced this woman/child years ago. But that’s his life, not mine. I don’t know the man.

So, at one point she sends me a message about how it’s been great talking to me and hopes I have a nice life. I saw it and didn’t respond. I could tell it was just an attempt to get my attention. But I simply don’t care. I feel nothing for this person.

There were a few more drunken messages that were later deleted. I’m assuming she writes a bunch of wild things when she’s half in the bag, and then the next morning when she’s sober, takes them down.

I figured she’d wait until the end of December of last year. If she hadn’t heard from me, she’d cut me off for the third time.

Had she just reached out to chat and behaved like an adult, we could have remained friends, but she hasn’t the ability to do that. I’m thinking possible bipolar and alcoholism at this point. But I’m not spending any time thinking about it at all. I’m too busy.

I was promoting some of my stuff on Facebook the other day, and I noticed the message chain from her was gone. I thought, “This is it.”

I searched for her on Facebook. She didn’t cut me off or block me, but she had unfriended me. So silly.

So, 3 strikes and it looks like I’m out.

But… like I always say. No matter what happens, good or bad… at least I got a story out of it…

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, and most of all, follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 1983

One day I somehow acquired tickets to a David Bowie concert out in Anaheim. (It may have been the Glass Spider tour) We were on our way to the show when my van suddenly stalled. I had never had any problems with it before, but this was the worst thing that could have happened at the very worst time. I remember a truck full of Mexicans was kind enough to push my disabled vehicle off the highway.

We missed the show, but I got the van running again. Ashley was incredibly disappointed so I made it up to her. I took her to a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the very first time I tasted veal.

On another occasion, we were out partying in a bar somewhere and were on our way to her house. I was on the freeway when the cops pulled me over. They said I was swerving, but I know that I wasn’t. I think they saw the New Jersey tags on an old 1969 VW minibus and decided to stop me.

They took me through a sobriety test which I passed, but when I blew into the breathalyzer, I failed. I remember Ashley telling me that while this was happening, one of the officers was hitting on her. “What’s a nice pretty girl like you doing with a loser like him?” the cop said.

So, they arrested me and took me to jail. They photographed and fingerprinted me and tossed me in a cell with a couple of drunk guys. I remember sharing a cigarette with one of them. It was a rare bonding moment with another inmate. Odd thing was, I wasn’t even scared at all. I was only 21 years old when all of this happened.

I guess one of the cops took Ashley home and they left me in the can to chill. I got my one phone call and spoke with my roommate. I told him where I had some cash hidden in the apartment. He hopped in a cab and came to bail me out.

The cops told us where the van was impounded, but said not to get it and drive it because I could be stopped again. Which would make my current infraction even worse. We agreed and left the precinct.

We immediately went to the impound lot and got my van out. I drove my roommate and me home and we were fine.

Bad night.

I called my father and told him what happened. He was cool about it and was just glad I was okay. I had left a grand in my bank account back in Wildwood, NJ in case of emergency. This was that emergency.

I had to go to court, plead no contest, pay the fine, and attend classes. (All of it seemed like fee income for the city of LA and a waste of my time.) After all of the negative experiences in LA and the feeling that it didn’t matter where you were in the world, it really came down to who you were at that given time in your life.

No matter where you run to in this world… there you are. You make or break the place where you live. I was fed up with all of the phoniness of LA and didn’t see any point in staying out there anymore. I wasn’t going to become the next heavy metal god and was really feeling despondent about my life there. It had all become very mundane. (I’ll write about the deeper parts of this decision in some future post)

My roommate and I eventually decided to pack it in and return to New Jersey. I was tired of LA and missed my family and friends. I was just done with the whole scene out there.

Of course, Ashley was heartbroken that I was leaving, but I had to go. There was nothing I could do. I wasn’t staying out there. She was, and our relationship was over.

I guess that’s how I was back then. My whole existence was about survival and dealing with my anxiety and depression. But I thought nothing of just doing what I needed to do to survive. I know now that I broke some young hearts back then. I never intended to hurt anyone intentionally, I just kept moving. But I see now I was running in circles.

More tomorrow!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, and most of all, follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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