The Paragon – Chapter 2 – The Past

Back in 1978, I was the singer in a band called Renegade in Northeast Philly. The musicians were already playing together when I joined the band. It was a huge leap for me and was the beginning of my life as a musician. I’ve written about this time in my life and it’s all pretty well documented.

We played the song, Draw The Line by Aerosmith, and Gerry the guitarist asked that I learn and play the guitar part when he did an extended slide solo during the song. I leaped at the opportunity to play guitar so he brought in his old Silvertone to practice and showed me how to play the three notes I needed to play.

Larry, Mike, Chaz, and Jerry

I eventually acquired the guitar from him. He played a blonde post-CBS Fender Stratocaster. He needed money to buy a Valentine’s Day present for his girlfriend and he sold me his old Sears Silvertone for $15. He even threw in the amplifier that came with it. He was a great guitarist and had a cool Stage amp and a Univox Super Fuzz distortion pedal. The equipment he was using became the model of what I wanted to do musically even though I could barely play.

I found this pic on the internet and it is the exact model I owned into the early 80s.

Time went by and I continued to practice every day. Learning the notes on the fretboard and pouring through my sister’s old piano songbooks to learn songs. I would forgo going out to stay in and practice my instrument. My main focus was to learn the basics and then start writing songs. I wrote my first song called Get Lost on that guitar. I had only been playing the guitar for a couple of months. I always had a good ear and a sense of music in my head. I loved rock music since I was a kid, and leaned more toward the harder acts like Steppenwolf rather than The Beatles. I really dug hard-hitting powerful guitar sounds. The heavier the better.

Let’s jump to 1980 and I’m living in Wildwood, New Jersey with my family. My dad had decided that once my older sister went off to college, we’d leave Philly and live at the seashore. Wildwood back then was an absolute wonderland in the summertime. But in the winter it became a desolate awful place for kids and teens to live. There is absolutely nothing to do. It’s a resort/retirement town and only exists because of its location, free beaches, and a boardwalk full of amusement rides.

But I survived the winter and actually thrived when I met a kid who played guitar. We started jamming and later joined a few other guys to form the Union Jacks. My buddy said I probably needed to buy a “real guitar” if I was going to be taking music seriously. I thought this was a great idea and started looking through magazines to see what my favorite guitar heroes were playing.

The one instrument that really struck me as the guitar that was right for me was the Ibanez Iceman. It had to be black and would represent the cool heavy metal/glam image and persona I wanted. I guess once I learned how to play guitar and write songs I didn’t really focus on being a great musician. I just wanted to write good catchy songs and be a rockstar. I remember reading once that the artist, Sting once said, “I saw the Beatles and I wanted to be in a band. I saw Jimi Hendrix and I wanted to be a musician.”

You can read about my whole music saga in my upcoming book, Down The Shore: Stories from my summers in Wildwood, NJ

But for this story, you can click on the link below to get the backstory of this musical instrument.

The Ibanez Iceman

When I saw the film Hard Day’s Night I wanted to be a rockstar. A cool job playing rock music and being hounded by throngs of girls wherever I went. So I always liked being in a band but my focus was on becoming a famous rockstar on my songwriting merits. I figured I could always get other musicians to bring my poetic and musical vision to life with their musical prowess.

So now I had the Iceman and I loved it. I referred to it in the feminine sense like men name their boats female names. It’s a term of endearment. Even though the Iceman had the word MAN in the name, and had sharp edges, an angular body, a hook, and what looked like a stinger I still regarded the instrument as female. She was beautiful and loyal and brought me hours of joy. She was far better than most people I knew. But the instrument still had a very heavy metal masculine image to it. Look at the photo. That’s a metal guitar. You don’t come out onstage with a black Iceman and a Marshall amp behind you and play ballads. You crank hard rock and metal at a loud volume.

I remember seeing a picture of a guitarist playing guitar in a music magazine and he had a black guitar strap with a white lightning bolt on it. I had to get one of those to complete my look. I had the cool Iceman, but my strap was plain black leather and I put neat buttons on it. Buttons were popular back then and my guitar strap was covered in buttons. Buttons with images and words like, I want complete control, I want it all, a picture of Alex from Clockwork Orange, a photo of Farrah Fawcett, etc. Just stuff I liked and thought was cool at the time.

But I wanted that lightning bolt strap to complete my rockstar look. But couldn’t find one anywhere. It was 1979, and I lived in a ghost town so music choices were limited. There was a TV repair shop owned by a guy who had a few guitars and gave lessons, a music store called Back to Earth, and a place called Gilday’s up in Pleasantville. Not much else. It was even difficult to find good music down the shore. All they had was one crappy radio station broadcast out of Atlantic City and if you wanted a cassette by a specific band the store had to special order it for you. I was probably the first person on the island that owned Def Leppard’s first album, On Through The Night, and Some older Judas Priest albums because there was just no call for any of that music where I lived. When I think about how sparse and talentless the population was in Wildwood in the wintertime I’m surprised to this day that we all actually came together and created a viable rock band.

I spoke to my father about the black strap with the lightning bolt and he said he’d see what he could do. He had always come through for all of us on anything we wanted when it came to Christmas, so why not ask Santa himself to procure this elusive item for me? He was great at locating things and bringing them home. I was sure he’d find one for me.

But as time went by, he came to me and said he wasn’t able to find the strap I was looking for. Was it a custom item that the guy I saw wearing it had specially made for him? Maybe. I eventually let it go and continued to play wearing my plain leather one covered in buttons.

The Ibanez Iceman had taken the place of the Sears Silvertone. The guitar that I learned to play and started my songwriting journey on. The guitar looked like a slender Stratocaster, but once you got close to it or held it realized it was one level above being a toy for a child. But it was a great guitar to learn on and it meant a lot to me.

But it eventually started to have electrical problems and spent more time in the closet because it had been replaced by my new girlfriend. My best girl. My beautiful powerful black Iceman. I had a tendency to do that with women back then too. I would have a girl I liked and I would spend time with her. Let’s use Anne as an example. Anne was my little girlfriend at the end of the summer. That lasted into the winter and she would come down and visit with her mom during the winter and we would hang out. I was 17 and she was 14. But I was immature and she was the perfect girlfriend for me. But once I was enrolled in Wildwood High and playing in a new band, I started dating a local girl. She was tall and blonde and I was digging her. New and shiny like the Iceman. Anne slowly became the Silvertone. I thought less about her and enjoyed my time with the girl who was new. I was fickle even back then. I didn’t even feel bad when I dumped Anne to be with the new girl. Anne was a better match than the new girl, but I wanted what I wanted. As the song says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” The new girl won out because she was available. But because of who I was at the time, once the summer of 1980 broke, I cut them both loose to enjoy all the fresh tourist girls who would arrive in droves each week on vacation.

That was 40 years ago and none of it matters now, but I noticed some interesting parallels in my life lately. The Ibanez Iceman is the only guitar I’ve purchased in the last 40 years. I thought about getting a Gibson Explorer as a second guitar back then, but they were expensive. I had the Iceman and that was enough. I could only play one guitar at a time anyway. The Gibson Explorer would have been a vanity purchase not because of how well it played but because it looked cool. Pretty much why I wanted the Iceman. It looked cool. My decision to spend all of my busboy earnings on a $500 guitar back in 1979 was simply because it looked cool. I wasn’t about the ease of play or tone. I got it because it looked sharp and I had never even played it before I bought it. I just wanted that look. Pretty superficial and shallow thinking. But I’ve always been that way. I’ve put up with so much from so many women because they were beautiful. I was always very forgiving of beauty, mistaking it for sophistication and kindness. When normally beauty is the opposite.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about getting another guitar. Just something simple, inexpensive, and functional. I don’t want to have to drag the Iceman (which is now a valuable collectible antique) out from its case underneath my bed, get it hooked up, and jam. I’d rather just write.

I had spoken to a musician who worked as a delivery driver at the last restaurant where I worked four years ago. He said he would buy blank guitar bodies and necks and build guitars himself. He’s a really talented guitarist but I think it’s more of a pet project than something he was thinking about turning into a business. We chatted about it on a few occasions but nothing ever came out of it.

To be continued next week…

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The Paragon

What better time than Valentine’s Day to write this love note

Initially, I wanted to call this post, About A Girl, but decided against it.

I remember I always liked you and others like you. I didn’t know anything about any of you, but there was always an attraction. Especially when you were the focal point. You became very popular in my youth. I always watched from afar as you and the others were in the spotlight. 

I always wanted to become better acquainted and learn more about you. But I never was allowed the opportunity. But still, I yearned for years to meet you. I liked you the best because you were so unique. You could do what all the others could do, but you always looked better doing it.

Alas, you were always in the arms of another man.

When I was around 16 I met one like you. I was introduced by a friend. But it just wasn’t the same. However, I was just happy to be learning more about you. Like the song says: “If you can’t be with the one you love. Love the one you’re with.”

It was a learning experience for me. I tried my best to gather as much information about you and those like you. I knew if I could be better I’d somehow win your heart. But I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it.

I was happy for a while, but there was still that yearning in my heart. You always want the thing you can’t have. It sounds nuts, but it just makes you want it more. 

A few years passed, and things were getting better for me in my relationship with the other, but it just wasn’t you. It wasn’t tearing at my heart or anything, but you were always there. No point to string it along.

I got very busy in my teenage years just growing up and exploring life. I worked through the summer and had a good time at the seashore. I started hanging out with a more experienced group of people and I felt that if I wanted to fit in and tune into my own identity, things needed to change.

So I spoke to an older guy I knew from the community and explained my plight. He was good at fixing things. I suppose you could call him, a machine head. He told me he knew how I could finally meet you. I listened intently and being the wiser man with more experience, I followed his advice. It was time to make a switch.

I’ll never forget the night you finally came down from New York. I’d seen photos of you, and you always seemed to be living such an incredible life. Usually held in the passionate embrace of some rockstar.

But here you were. I went nuts for you.

Even on the walk home together to introduce you to my family, I had to stop and look at you. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

I took you in my arms and told you I’d never let you go. I was surprised at how willing you were to join me on my journey. I had worked so hard on my own to be better, and I felt that I had earned the right to hold you in my arms.

There were others like you. But you were mine, and I loved you for that. When I introduced you to my friends they actually seemed surprised that I could win such a prize as you. But I knew in my heart I had earned the right to be with you. I worked hard on myself and with other people to have you in my life.

I felt so much cooler just having you by my side. Especially when we went out together. That was always a blast. I was surrounded by beauty, but you never got jealous. You knew we were in tune with each other. You knew I wouldn’t bolt, I’d always come home to you.

You were so good to me. The afternoons in my room communicating with each other for hours. You really brought out the best in me. I don’t know if you could say the same, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. But you seemed like you enjoyed it. You always went along with whatever I wanted without protest. 

I mean, sometimes I was a little sensitive to your feedback, but for the most part, you were always sweet to me. I appreciated your input.

Don’t fret. I love you unconditionally and promised to never leave you.

I’d seen others like you, and some even better discarded by others or broken, and I promised I would never let that happen to you.

We had some of the best times of my life together back then. I’ll never forget them, or you. You were always so loyal. You always stayed by my side even after the party was long over. You never took from me. Only gave. All I needed to do was take good care of you and protect you. And I did fiercely. 

There were times another man would ask to dance with you. Even just for a minute. But the answer was always no. Find your own, I would say.

But time passes and life changes. I always loved you but things started to get in the way. Adult things like work and family. But I never neglected you. I know we couldn’t always be together doing the things we enjoyed most in the past, but you were always near. The distant sound of your voice was always with me.

You were never sad. But if I was sad you’d reflect that through your voice and somehow make it beautiful. You said it was a minor thing but it meant a lot to me. You were always a major influence in my life growing up. 

Even when I was away from you I was thinking about you. The more we were apart the more I missed you.

I remember I came home one night and found someone had broken into my house. The only thing I cared about was that you were okay. You were fine. They never knew you were there.

I’ve loved a lot in this life. People have come and gone. I’ve had a great time, but you were always there. I could write volumes about you.

I know as time has passed you’ve become more desirable. So many people want you, or something like you. But you can’t put a price on your pretty head. You’re priceless to me. I know initially, I loved you because you were sexy and cool. But like all great relationships they grow and the things that mean more come forth. What you gave to me and helped bring out in me are some of my greatest moments.

You never cheated on me or ever betrayed me. I wasn’t as loyal to you as you were to me, but I needed to take care of other things in my life that mattered at the time. But I never forgot about you.

You always fed my creative spirit all the while making me look good. But you always let the light shine on me. As lovely as you are you simply reflect your beauty onto me. I’ll never forget you for that. 

I’m growing older. We’ve been together for over 40 years now. We’re aging as time goes by each year. My hairline recedes and my waistline expands, but you remain as sexy as ever.  

You’ve always retained your lovely figure and lovely tone of voice after all these years. I know I did the right thing by keeping you in my life and taking good care of you. You look just as gorgeous as the day I brought you home for the first time back in 1979.

I no longer have the speed and agility I once had in my youth but you’re always ready to get up and go whenever I want. I can always rely on you. You never made me sad. Not one day in my life was I ever sad if you were in my arms.

Just to hold you is magic.

Just to be together alone with you. Our own private conversations. Those moments belong only to us.

It’s been a while, but lately, I’ve had more free time and I’d like us to have fun together again. I know it’s been too long, but you’ve always been so patient with me. I can’t say that you miss me, because maybe you too needed the rest. But you never minded sitting by and waiting for me to come back to you. 

It’s been too long. I want to hold you in my arms again. I love you, and I always will.

I’d love to dance and sing with you again.

Not the wild days and nights of our past, but in homage to what we can do when we’re together.

I want to hold you gently in my arms again and caress your lovely neck.

Think of these words as my first love song to you, dear. 

1980 – 17 yrs old – Morey’s Pier, Wildwood, NJ

2013 – 50 yrs old – Philadelphia, Pa

2023 – 60 yrs old – Philadelphia, Pa

Thank you for 43 years of joy, Ibanez

A paragon means someone or something that is the very best. The English noun paragon comes from the Italian word paragone, which is a touchstone, a black stone that is used to tell the quality of gold. You rub the gold on the touchstone and you can find out how good the gold is.

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A Tale Worth Repeating


At a hotel restaurant, I saw an attractive woman sitting alone at the next table.

Suddenly, she sneezed, and a glass eye comes flying out of her eye socket. It hurls by me and I snatched it from the air and handed it back to her.

“This is so embarrassing,” she said, as she popped her eye back into place. “I’m so sorry to disturb you. Let me pay for your dinner to make it up to you. May I join you?”

I nodded.

The woman was a stimulating conversationalist, a stunning, lovely woman, and I found that we had a lot in common.

I got her phone number and asked, “You’re the most charming woman I’ve ever encountered. Are you this nice to every man you meet?”

“No.” she replied. “You just happened to catch my eye.”


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Alcohol vs Marijuana

Having been an aficionado when it comes to alcohol and a person who now rarely drinks, I think I have a pretty good idea of the effects of alcohol. But in the last few years, I’ve begun to enjoy the benefits of marijuana.

They both have similarities but there are some distinct differences. When it comes to alcohol, it enters your system and sort of just rolls with how you’re feeling. If you’re happy, you get happier, if you’re sad it can sometimes cheer you up temporarily. Whatever emotion you’re feeling it kind of amplifies it. It enters your mind and you’re sort of seeing only one door. You kick it in and go through it.

But marijuana opens the mind. There are several doors you can go through. They’re all open. You can peek inside any room in your mind you want to and enter at your discretion and explore.

Alcohol loses the mind and tongue and sometimes you can power through anything and be somewhat creative. But after continued applications, you start to lose those abilities. It sledgehammers your talent and creative mind and you’re simply drunk. Not good.

On the other hand, if you smoke a little grass your mind opens up in several areas and you can come up with some cool stuff. Things are brighter, clearer, funnier, and just all-around better.

Alcohol is a depressant but in some people, it acts as a stimulant. Marijuana is a hallucinogen and reacts to the chemicals in your mind differently. Sometimes for the novice, it’s too much. You may become paranoid and that doesn’t feel good. If you are like me and suffer from anxiety and depression it will heighten your fears. But the cool thing about THC is it makes you uncomfortable with your thoughts sometimes, but when you think about it, it’s usually stuff you’re not dealing with or are afraid of in your sober life. When done correctly, you can identify what’s going on with you in your daily life, and on THC figure it out.

Alcohol just slaps a band-aid on it temporarily and makes all of your problems invisible. But as I said, it’s only temporary. The next day when you’re hungover, your issues are still there and you feel worse.

But if you take the positives from marijuana, and embrace that you really can have a lot of fun with them. Marijuana grows naturally in the wild and is simply dried and smoked in its natural state.

Booze is made from different elements but has to be fermented or distilled to make it alcoholic. So it’s something you have to manufacture to get high. Weed comes out of the ground ready to be used just the way it is. If I had to pick one over the other I would choose weed at this point. I used to love to drink lakes of chardonnay and oceans of vodka but no more. Booze is too hard on the body as you get older and can do a lot of damage to your organs. Weed, when done in moderation doesn’t hurt you at all. Your liver, kidneys, and brain are just fine.

I’m not saying to have a glass of wine here and there, but weed is SO much better for you than booze. I think edibles could have saved my father’s life in his final years. I offered but he declined. He had never faced his fears and mental issues to correct himself, and when he got into his 80s he started to lose it. He was in perfect health but his mind started to go. Not Alzheimer’s or any real ailment, just him sort of losing his will to live. It’s his life and he can do what he wants with it, but I think if he would have eaten some edibles, his appetite would have improved, (munchies!) and he would have slept better. I would have even done it with him to guide him through the mental process. I believe it could have extended his life and he wouldn’t have been such a handful that my older sister had to deal with.

I never liked weed and didn’t smoke it for years. From 1984 to 2013 I never touched the stuff. Didn’t like the way it made me feel and had zero interest. I instead drank my way through my life self medicating myself to bury the pain from my childhood and my life choices in general.

But once  I stepped away from booze, I found that a little toke now and then is not only pleasurable and feeds my creative mind, it’s way better for me.

Come on, has somebody high ever hit a cop? No. But plenty of drunk people have taken that risk. It’s just a better trip. I’m grateful that its finally become legal in so many places. Smoking weed makes people lazy, but I don’t think it’s a gateway drug or destroys families as alcohol does. Drunk people get out of control. Folks who are high just want to kick back, chill, listen to some music and eat some snacks.

Which one is better?

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Tales of Rock – Hard Days Night and Beyond

I once heard Sting from the band The Police say, “When I saw Hard Days Night I wanted to be a rockstar. When I saw Jimi Hendrix  wanted to be a musician.”

That sounds dumb to me because when I saw Hard Days Night I wanted to be a rockstar, and when I saw and heard Jimi Hendrix I still wanted to be a rockstar. I knew if I could just figure out how to play the guitar one day I could be a rockstar. I never wanted to be a guitarist that could shred a bunch of notes on the neck like a typist, I just wanted to write good songs and be a rockstar and live that life.

When I was young, I saw Hard Days Night on TV. I absolutely loved it. I fell in love with The Beatles and even though I preferred more aggressive rock music like Steppenwolf, I totally got what the greatest composers of the 20th century were doing with The Beatles. Paul was the driving force, but I liked John better because he was the cool one and the funnier of the two.

You couldn’t rent or download any movies back in the 70s. The technology simply didn’t exist. You had to tune into a specific channel on a certain night and time if you wanted to see anything. But I was probably 16 the second time I saw Hard Days Night. I loved it all over again and appreciated it even more as a landmark film that depicted the Beatles beautifully. They are all so young in it and you can see they’re really enjoying themselves after toiling away as a band in the clubs for over 8 years before they made it big.

I had a cassette tape recorder that my dad had given me and I set it for record on a little snack table next to the TV. I recorded the whole movie’s audio track that evening. Now I could go back and listen to the entire movie anytime I wanted. But like all of my Bill Cosby and George Carlin records I listened to, I learned all the dialogue and songs. So I could sit in art class at Frankford High and recite Beatles bits to my classmates. I would even do all of the accents and everything. It was a riot and I delighted my friends with my comedy bits.

I later owned the film on DVD but it just wasn’t the same as seeing it as a teenager and absorbing the magic of the movie in my mind. I recently watched the Peter Jackson film, Get Back on Disney+. I had heard about it and knew that it was something Peter had been working on for a long time. He took hours and hours of film and audio from the sessions from 1969 and created a concise picture of where the band was at the time. It’s in 3 parts because it’s so massive but it’s brilliant.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I was so close to the Beatles. The 4 guys as a band and as best friends. Working out the songs for Abbey Road and Let It Be in a recording space in the basement of the Apple Records building. It’s a long film and for most people, I think it’ll be boring, but for me, it’s absolutely captivating. You can actually see how the songs are created and composed right there live. It’s amazing to see John and Paul create these songs and you know that the song is gorgeous and finished, but they’re not quite there yet. For the composer or musician, this film is like opening a box that’s been buried for 50 years and it’s filled with diamonds and gold.

If you love The Beatles and the writing and composing process of geniuses, this is definitely worth a watch. The guys aren’t even 30 years old yet in this film and they’ve already changed the world.


It took me a week to finish it because I watched it like I do everything else I like. In little bite-sized bits.

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Holiday Odyssey – Part 10

Booster – December 30, 2021

I walk down to my local Walgreens and inquire about getting a booster shot. The nice pharmacist, Gabrielle tells me I have to go onto Walgreens’ website, find a location, and schedule my shot. This seems like a bit of a pain but I need to get it done now, especially with the emergence of the highly contagious strain of covid called omicron. But before I leave I decide to use my powers on Gabrielle and give her a push.

Me: So it’s all booked up for shots here today?

Her: Yes.

Me: When people make these appointments do they always keep them?

Her: No. Sometimes we get a few no-shows.

Me: How about I give you a call tonight and see if anybody canceled?

Her: Umm… okay. Here’s my card, Charles.

Me: I’ll see you later.

I go home and make an appointment for the first available which is a week from now. But around 7pm I call Gabrielle and see what was happening. She says she’s waiting to hear from a few people but I should call back at 8pm but no later than ten after. I’m fine with that.

At 8pm I call the store and ask for the pharmacy.

Me: Hey Gaby, it’s Charles again. How are we looking?

Her: Come on down and we’ll get you boosted.

Me: See you in 10 minutes!

Sweet! My fatal charm and powers of negotiation have triumphed again!

I head down there and fill out the form. In a few minutes, she takes me back into a little room that I didn’t even know existed in the back of the store. We walk in and she closed the door, and I open my shirt revealing my left arm for the shot.

Me: I didn’t even know this little room existed back here.

Her: Well we don’t want you to disturb the customers when you start screaming…

Me: Wait… what?

Her: I’m kidding! You’ve been through this before.

Me: I like medical professionals with a sense of humor. Good bedside manner, Gabby.

I barely feel it and in a minute it’s done. She tells me to stay in the store for at least 10 minutes, and if I feel okay I can leave. Of course, I’m fine and off I go. I’m glad that’s done!

Xmas with daughter

With everything that’s been going on, there’s been no time for my daughter and me to sit down and exchange gifts. She’s got some things for me and I for her, but we’ve both been so busy with other people. I’m sure we’ll get to it soon. We don’t care about tradition or doing something on a specific date so we’ll probably get to it sometime in January.

My life has become so much more peaceful in the last couple of years and I love it. I’m happy just to write, work, cook my dinner, and watch my shows on Netflix at night. I thought the holidays would be quiet this year but they’ve been action-packed. I’m so grateful for my good health, and all of my friends and family and I think it’s been a fine year!

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Holiday Odyssey – Part 9

Duncan – Sunday, December 26, 2021

I finish work and text Duncan. I tell him to meet me at Rosy’s Taco Bar at 4 pm. It’s a great spot over on 23rd and Walnut just outside the Rittenhouse bubble. I know the GM through the hardware store and he’s given me the drink hookup last time I was there with my friend James. I figure Duncan will enjoy the place and it’s something different to do.

I get there a little early and take a seat. My server is a 23 yr old chick who is cute and charming. Duncan arrives and joins me at the table. He’s also smitten with our charming server. It’s rare to get such great service and effervescence in hospitality staff anymore. The whole industry just seems a bit broken from covid.

Duncan insists we get nachos so I’m down. We both go with a couple of hot toddies to drink because it’s a little chilly out today. They serve them in a couple of mugs and they’re delicious.

Nachos always seem like too much food before the actual meal but I don’t care. (They were actually pretty good!) After that, we get a round of beers and I get the chicken tacos and Duncan gets some sort of corn-based platter.

Our conversation is lively as always and our server is absolutely wonderful. We tell her the only way we’d go to another place is if she were our server at each place. She laughs and tells us she’d come to hang with us if she didn’t have to work. Whether this is skilled hospitality or not, we appreciate the gesture. She tells us that in March she’d going to hike on the famous trail that goes from Mexico to Northern California. I’ve seen the film, Wild, with Reese Witherspoon which I found awful… but okay. It seems like a dangerous and arduous journey, but hey, do a lot of adventures while you’re young. I decide to follow her on Instagram so I can watch her make the trip.

After a couple of hours, we head out into the chilly December night. It’s Sunday, and covid is still doing its thing so with it being a holiday weekend, nobody’s really out. I was surprised to see how desolate the city looked. A lot of places were closed. Years ago, around the holidays and with everybody home, the bars would be swinging. But Duncan and I aren’t young anymore and neither of us drinks much so it was somewhat of a waste of time to walk around center city.

While strolling down 15th street, we’re accosted by these two young women. They tell us that their phones are dead, they’re from Jersey, they’ve been separated from their squad and they don’t know their way around the city. Years ago this would have been an opportunity for our two heroes, but now Duncan whips out a portable charger to help the girls and I start giving the directions with no thought of trying to get them to hang out with us. It never even entered either of our minds. We just wanted to help. I suppose we both now look like just a couple of clean-cut older gentlemen willing to help. Which I suppose we are.

They were both adorable. Duncan liked the little brunette and I the leggy blonde of course, but we didn’t even mention this to each other until we’d powered up their phones and sent them safely in the right direction. Just a couple of aging superheroes in our secret identities helping the fine citizens in the city.

We end up going to Marathon Grill over on 19th and Spruce. The place is dead and I’m still stuffed from Rosy’s Taco Bar. I get a glass of chardonnay and Duncan gets an iced tea and a chocolate chip cookie. Long gone are the two wild men that used to go to rock concerts like AC/DC. Judas Priest and Iron Maiden then hit the streets to get even drunker. Now we’re just two old friends chatting at a lonely table in a quiet diner.

This suits me just fine and I’m so glad Duncan came to Philly and spent some time with me. We’ve been pals for 25 years and have a rich history together.

And for that… I’m grateful.

The Guitar lady returns – December 27th

The contractor/musician lady comes into the hardware store again. She checks in with me to see if I’m still interested in hanging out with her and that I should text her. I apologize to her for not reaching out and tell her I’ll text her that night. A couple of the guys are there in the store and they hear this exchange after she leaves they tell me that it sounds like she likes me. Well, we’ll have to see what happens. Now that I think I may be positive for omicron I have to be careful. I’m not worried, I just don’t want to infect anyone else.

That night I text her when I get home from work. I hear nothing back from her. I mean, she seemed a little flakey in the store but who knows what’s going on with people over the holidays.

The next day I was off and decided to just give her a call. She answers and says she’s been under the weather since getting her flu shot and her booster on the same day! I can understand how those shots knock most people for a loop. I should probably get my booster soon! We chat a bit and she tells me she’ll text me later if she’s feeling better.

She does text me later but says she’s giving me a raincheck on playing guitar together or hanging out. I’m fine with it. She knows where I work and if she wants to get together she can come find me.

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

You can check out my books here:

Holiday Odyssey – Part 8

Bonding through Hardware – December 24, 2021

I was at work talking to the general manager and he showed me this local website where you could buy books. He said the owner was a client of ours. If you purchased books through this website it kept the money local and helped out our client. He said it was a great resource for books. I asked him if maybe my books were on there. We put in my name and sure enough, there were all six of my published books! So cool. I love seeing my stuff everywhere.

He told me that the guy had a little bookstore down on Sout street. I told him I had walked by there several times and always wanted to go in. He said I should go visit him and talk to him about doing a book signing and/or he could carry my books in his store and maybe even display them in the front window, which would be awesome. I’d love to see my books in a storefront window in a bookstore here in Philly. I tell him that the next time I’m off I’m going to take a walk down there and chat with him.

I then get a text from my friend James who tells me that he woke up the other day feeling achy. He says he went and got a covid test and it came back positive. Oh no…

I text him back that I’m fine. He’s relieved and says he’s be bummed if I somehow caught it from him when we hung out the other night. I assure him that I’m fine.

But I’m not fine. I feel a little achy myself, have a slight headache, and have a dry cough. I think I may have caught omicron from him, but I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I tell myself I may be being a bit of a hypochondriac and I’m probably fine. But it’s probably just me being paranoid as well as in denial. I tell no one.

I think back to when this whole pandemic began back in January 2020. I was feeling achy, and tired, and felt the onset of a cold coming on. This is before anything happened in this country. I was working at the restaurant back then and some of my co-workers were wondering if I was okay. I told them I felt okay, just a little run down. I think that’s when I first contracted delta before anyone knew what it was. My immune system knocked it out in about 3 days and it never went any further.

By March 2020, I was laid off from work and the world was getting covid. I got vaccinated in April and again in May and never had any symptoms. My immune system has always been robust so I wasn’t even worried. But you can’t be too careful, especially at my age.

No here it was 7 months later and I was due for my booster and I was experiencing the very same symptoms. I’m vaccinated and I was feeling fine but something was up. I had been out a lot over the last two weeks and came in close contact with dozens of people over that time. I probably got omicron.

One of our employees tested positive and has been in quarantine for over a week. Christmas day comes and goes. My Christmas already happened on the 18th when I saw my whole family. That was magic. My daughter has been busy with work and family functions on the other side of the river so I haven’t spent any time with her so that’s good.

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

You can check out my books here:

Holiday Odyssey – Part 7

These are events that took place in 2021

The Artist and Duncan – December 22

I was standing behind the counter at the hardware store and this gentleman walks in and start chatting with me. He seems just sightly nuts but not dangerous. He keeps saying he used to be homeless but isn’t anymore. He asks if I’ll move my mask so he can see my face so he can sketch me. He whips out his pad and pencil and goes to town. He calls me pretty boy and says he’s met me before. He seems a little familiar but I’ve met many characters in this city over the years. He isn’t causing any sort of harm or disruption in the store so I let him go. My fellow employees are enjoying this exchange so we let him do his thing. He’s telling me his story about how he used to draw people at the supermarket to get food and change in exchange for his drawings to survive when he was homeless. Of course, this strikes a chord with me as an artist myself and can imagine how hard his life has been over the years. I’m glad he’s okay now.

He ends up doing a nice rendering of me and gives me the drawing. He purchased a few small items and spent around $10. I take the money and give him his change. I then reach into my wallet and pull out $20 and hand it to him in exchange for his drawing of me. He’s surprised and grateful. An artist should be paid for his work and I’m happy to give him the cash for his sweet gesture. He leaves the store and I haven’t seen him since. But somehow I feel like he’ll be back in the store again someday soon.

I’m supposed to meet with my friend of 25 years, Duncan. The last time I saw him was back in 2019 when the Eagles were in the playoffs. We saw each other in 2018 when they won the Superbowl, but the last time was in 2019. It seems like a long time ago now. But you know how it is with close friends. You can not see each other for years and once you’re back together it’s like you were never apart. I love Duncan and I’m so glad we’ve been able to sustain this relationship for so many years.

(You can go to the Search Bar on this site and enter “Duncan” to read our past adventures!)

Duncan is visiting with his family for the holidays and he’s made some time to see me during the trip. He wants to meet up tonight for a fancy dinner so I’m game for that. I make a reservation at The Love on the corner of 18th and Sansom. It’s a classy place in the heart of Rittenhouse and home to a quiet vibe and American cuisine. I know Duncan probably doesn’t want anything too wild or exotic and I feel this will be perfect. I’ve never been there but the menu looks good and I’ve heard good things.

I finish work and stop at home to freshen up before heading up to the restaurant. The funny thing is, when I get there the hostess recognizes me from the city. I’m flattered and glad to see that she’s doing well. We have a bit of history that is somewhat colorful so if you put the name “JILL” in the SEARCH bar you’ll find some pretty crazy tales. Some of it is downright scandalous. You’ve been warned!

I say hello and she tells me my party is already seated. All I asked for in my reservation with Open Table was that I wanted a quiet spot. They’ve given me that and I’m happy. I see Duncan and he is looking sharp. I’ve missed him! It’s been 2 years! He stands up and we embrace. There’s nothing like the hug of a dear old friend. I am stupid happy to see him!

I start with my signature Manhattan and Duncan not being much of a drinker goes for a Cuba Libre.

We chat a bit and our server rolls over to the table. Duncan is reading the wine list and wants to order the cheese plate as an appetizer. I’m not a huge fan but who am I to complain? It’s a nice restaurant and it’s what my friend wants.

Here’s a pic:

Duncan must have been hungry because he ripped into that cheese plate with a vengeance. I dipped the french bread into the brie and it was lovely. But what I found odd was that they made two little mice out of cheese. I think the most bizarre part of this was their choice of animal to make a cute cheese thing out of. Come on… think about it. What is the one thing you never want to be associated with a restaurant?

Yea… rodents.

They look cute and are made of cheese as the little card shows, but the idea is off-putting. I’ve worked in hospitality and mice are the one thing you never want anyone to see or associate with your restaurant. We got a laugh about it, but instinctively neither of us touched the little mice!

Duncan says he’s into fine red wine now so I let him order whatever makes him happy. He gets an Italian red and looks at the price and says, “$100 for the bottle? That’s not too bad”. and orders it.

Okay. Whatever you want Duncan. I’m just happy to see you, dude.

I order the salmon and Duncan goes with the chicken. The dinner was sumptuous and the conversation lively. I’d be just as happy sitting in a sports bar or even a MacDonalds’s with my friend. This is another great night of an already surprisingly good holiday season!

The dinner is great and our server asks if we want dessert. Duncan says we do. I excuse myself to the restroom to hit my vape and take a break from all of the food. I just let him order whatever he wants. Normally I’d never eat like this now, but like  I said before… It’s the holidays and for these two weeks, all bets are off. I can get back into my disciplined life after the New Year.

When I return to the table there is some sort of magical blonde brownie and ice cream creation that is delectable. We devour that little desert like a couple of starving men. Just the idea of eating like this again is incredibly decadent to me but at this moment I love it!

The bill comes and of course, Duncan insists on paying. This has never been my intention but I’m surrounded by affluent friends. I can’t complain and I’m just happy they’re in my life for reasons money can’t buy. But it is all greatly appreciated.

We leave the restaurant and head east on Sansom. I figured we could stop at my old stomping ground Square 1682 just like old times. But it’s closed! I always have a backup plan for whenever when I’m out on the town in Philly, and tonight is no different. We keep moving and head over to Harp and Crown. Happily, they’re open but the place is pretty dead. We have no problem finding a seat at the bar and Duncan continues with his rum and cokes and I go with a glass of Chardonnay.

We chat a bit more and both get into fits of laughter reminiscing about our times working together at the bank back in the 90s and exchanging funny stories. The holidays are going so much better than I imagined they would this year. I’ve been living a very quiet life in basic solitude for the last year and a half and here I am with pretty much something to do and someone to see every other day for these last two weeks of the year!

With the recent surge in omicron cases (super contagious but not fatal) the city is pretty empty regarding nightlife. So after an hour or so they’re ready to close it up for the night. I put Duncan in a Lyft and send him back to his hotel. I think we’re both ready for a bit of rest before he has to go spend Christmas with his family. But we vow that we’ll meet up again on the Sunday after Christmas to hang out one more time before he returns home to North Carolina.

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

You can check out my books here:

Holiday Odyssey – Part 6

This series is a review of last year’s holiday season

Hollywood Happy Hour – December 21st, 2021

I get a text from James (talent agency friend) that the only night we can hang out before Christmas and exchange presents and have cocktails is tonight, so I’m down. I’m off on Tuesday, so tonight is perfect. I’m still riding the happy wave from seeing my family and recently getting a raise.

I work my shift at the store and then head home at 6 pm. I clean up and change into my usual cocktail character/nightlife guy. I head up to AKA Bar at the corner of 18th and Walnut at the edge of Rittenhouse Square Park.

I arrive and he’s already there sitting at a table by the window with a pile of wrapped presents. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed because he’s so hard to buy for and so far I’ve only received in the mail one of the many gifts I got him this year. I left it at home because when we meet up we end up back at my house near the end of the night.

I’ve been sober with this new lifestyle for over 80 days, but it’s the holidays and I want to share some delicious well-crafted cocktails with my friend tonight. I’ll partake but also drink plenty of water.

I’m happy to have some one-on-one time with him after only seeing him briefly at his massive party aboard the Moshulu last week. We discuss the party, the people, and what the party could look like next year. He tells me he’s going on a cruise in about a week for his 35th birthday, and I think that’s great.

He sort of broke up with his girlfriend of 8 years last summer but they never really broke up. I would say they just took a break or something. They’re still together but she no longer lives with him. To me, it’s just extending the inevitable. They either break up for real and end it and maybe remain friends if that’s possible, or they decide to throw in the towel and just get married. I’m sure that’s what she wants but at this point, James doesn’t have any idea what he wants. It’s none of my business and I’m just happy to have him in my life. He’s a very successful businessman and his talent company hasn’t suffered through any changes in his personal life, so more power to him. He’ll figure it out.

The cocktails are great and the ones I pick are sumptuous. The secret to enjoying vice is to only partake in it in very small doses on rare occasions. You just enjoy it more. It’s so easy to want to have a drink at the end of every day but it quickly loses its luster. The key is moderation. All the things you love should be treats, not a daily obsession.

The place is quiet and we get a chance to talk. While we’re there, I get an email from my editor. I go to the bathroom to hit my vape and read the email. She asks me if I want a quick and dirty post that was due in 2 days. 1000 words, $100. It’s been a super lean month, so of course, I jump at the opportunity. That’s a huge positive.

We close out our tab and James insists on paying. “Company card, a business expense,” he says.

I’m getting hooked up this year. Everyone’s been so good to me. We decided we’d like to stay out a bit longer and need to get something to eat. I suggest Cavanaugh’s over on Sansom because the food’s good and they stay open until all hours of the night. A lot of the nicer restaurants close early these days but not the sports bars. They’re back to staying open until 2 am every night. I feel for the people who can still live and work in jobs like this. It’s a grinding profession.

We get there and it’s not too crowded. It’s Monday night, but Cavs is always a good time. I’m hungry, it’s the holiday, and I’m with my dear friend so all bets are off regarding my diet. This will be a rare treat. James orders the french dip and I go with buffalo chicken nuggets and fries. This is glorious. I haven’t had a french fry since July. The food is amazing, (probably average but I can’t tell!) and we’re having a good time. I’m sipping a whiskey club and he’s enjoying an IPA. After an hour or so we decide to head back to my place.

We get there and James chats with my daughter for a bit and then we head back into my room. I always have a little chair and table set up for him so he can sit, have a drink, and have a snack. It’s time to break out the presents. I think next year we need to cut this back. It’s just too much. I’m going to tell him I’m going to change it to only one gift next year. It’s too hard to shop for everybody and it’s a lot of money going out on stuff. But I’m pleased with what he got me.

He got me these cute little fridge magnets that look like mini VHS boxes for movies. Adorable! He also got me this whiskey system where you have different flavored wood chips you burn and then place a glass over it until it goes out and then pour the booze into the glass, and it gives it a smokey flavor. Cool, but I don’t know when I’ll ever use it. Another cool thing he gave me this year was a unique candle. He knows I like candles, so he came up with something I never expected.

How amazing is that? A candle that when burned will recreate the smell of going to the local Blockbuster with my daughter on a Friday night to get some movies for the weekend! I can’t even believe someone came up with this idea for a candle, but why not? I can’t wait to burn this little guy!

He also got me this nice bottle of rye! I don’t drink that much anymore but I’ll add it to the collection for sure!

Resurgent Straight Rye Whiskey 750ml

I hope the gifts I got him are up to snuff like these amazing presents. But this is too much and too nice for me. We need to scale it back next year… big time! But I’m very grateful!

I hope he likes the stuff I got him. His birthday is also coming up any day now so it looks like it’s going to be a Xmas/birthday when I see him next time. He says he’s going away on a cruise soon, and won’t be back for a while but with the recent surge in omicron, I fear his cruise will be canceled.

We stayed up late chatting, and the time always flies by when I’m with James because our conversations are lively. He’s a great friend and I love spending time with him. Around 2 am he calls for a Lyft and off he goes. I hope I see him sooner than later in the new year!

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

You can check out my books here:

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