Connected Memories

The LAWNDALE book has been on sale on Amazon since August 9th. Happily, it’s been selling really well. And for that, I’m very grateful. There’ll be a special blog post about that this Thursday.

But in the meantime, here’s a little bonus story for you all to enjoy.

“Relics may be the literal remains of holy people or objects that the holy people have used or touched. Examples of relics include teeth, bones, hair, and fragments of objects such as fabrics or wood. … Relics are believed to have special powers to heal, grant favors, or exorcise spirits.”

Philadelphia, PA – Lawndale – Late 60s Early 70s

When I was a kid the cool place to hang out at night was down the basement. It was a little chilly down there, so my mom always made us wear our sweaters. There was a nice built-in bar with an old-time working telephone, a pool table, a comfortable old sofa, a chair, and my dad’s desk.   My dad would hang out down there and listen to his music and read after dinner.

My dad liked to smoke the occasional cigar and had a nice wooden humidor where he kept them. I remember he would open it and pull out the little metal screen in the lid and ask me to run it under the faucet in the bathroom. He would shake the excess water out of it and replace it back into the box. The screen kept the cigars moist and fresh.

On my dad’s desk, he had his papers and reports for work or anything else he was attending to. A couple of his hobbies were writing and filmmaking so he always had something he was working on down there.

One of the things that he had that I always liked was this old cast iron ashtray from the 1930s. It was specifically designed for cigars because it had two large grooves in the edges of the tray that would accommodate a couple of stogies.

I have no idea where he got it and maybe it belonged to his father, but its origin never came up. I just thought it was cool because on the tray it had a little man clinging to a lamp post. He wore a yellow vest and a derby hat. He was painted and his eyes were little Xs. I remember asking my dad why his eyes looked that way, and he said that the little guy had too much to drink and was clinging to the pole to steady himself. I always thought he was just holding on because he was in a wind storm, but my dad said he was three sheets to the wind.

It was just a cool, old artifact that was always around and my dad used it to ash his cigars in it when he was down there. Years later in 2016, when my father passed away, the object once again appeared. I wasn’t interested in getting anything out of his house when he passed, but one of the members of my family got in there and started taking stuff. I thought this was wrong because technically the property was left to two other members of the family and this person was trespassing and stealing. (looting!)

I asked if the little ashtray was still around. It was the only thing I wanted. Back then I still smoked and thought it would be a cool nostalgic addition to my desk. I put the word out and the little guy was mailed to me.

I was happy to have him. I cleaned it up, and because it was made from cast iron, it looked exactly as it did when I was a boy. It sits today on my desk in my place in Rittenhouse.

Here he is. (Looks a bit like Andy Capp!)

Philadelphia, PA – 2021

I was working at the counter at the hardware store and an older gentleman was there picking up some string and nails. He handed me the postcard pictured at the beginning of this post. I asked him what it was about and he told me that there are people who collect old postcards from around the world. I thought this was cool and never knew that people did that. But people collect everything so why not postcards?

I took the postcard and told the man I would probably stop over and check it out and say hello.

October 29, 2021

The day arrived and I decided to walk over and take a look. I was just looking for something to do on my day off. It was at the First Unitarian Church over at 22nd and Chestnut next to the Mutter Museum. The First Unitarian Church is cool because it’s open to everyone and has a vision and mission of love and values. But in the basement, they’ve hosted hardcore metal shows in the past, so I was down.

I get there and a guy was sitting outside at a table accepting $5 donations and signing people in. I paid my fee and carefully walked down the stone steps to the basement beneath the old church. I went inside and the postcard show was a very small affair. They only had a handful of tables set up with boxes of postcards from all over the world. One of the coolest aspects of this show was that many of the old postcards had writing on the backs of them. These were real postcards from real people from the past!

I read the words from long-dead people saying what a wonderful time they were having wherever they were, and how they didn’t want to come home. It touched a part of me who came from a time when people wrote cards and letters to each other. This was something I did as a youth in Wildwood. I would meet these girls and go on dates and then we’d correspond all winter until the following summer. It was a cheap, fun way to stay in touch with people you cared about. Calling them on the phone was too expensive and getting a nice letter and photos in the mail was so much more fun.

I found an old postcard from the 30s and it was a picture of the post office out next to 30th street station here in Philly. I read the caption on the back and it stated that it was the only building in the country that you could land a small plane on. The building is a block long and they must have landed the little propeller planes carrying the mail on the roof back then. Amazing!

I noticed one of the tables had a few old typewriters set up and they would let the guests buy a postcard, and type who they wanted it to go to on the back. They even had a list of prominent people’s names and addresses you could send them to. So cool!

I watched as people struggled to use this ancient technology to communicate. It almost seemed alien to them because they can now text and send photos in seconds with today’s technology. I like that technology is so stunning now late in my life, but I’m glad I come from an age when people wrote letters and cards to each other. It’s so much more intimate and romantic.

I happened upon one of the tables and was looking at some old postcards from the 70s from places I knew. I figured I should pick up a couple just for the sake of nostalgia. I also wanted to support the people that took the time to share their collections with the general public.

But then I saw something that caught my attention.

A little cast iron figurine clinging to a pole. But he didn’t look like my drunk ashtray guy. He wore a top hat, tails, and spats. He looked like he’d just come from a classy night out at the theater but maybe had one too many martinis that evening. This object looked to have been manufactured by the same people that made my old ashtray.

I had to have it. 

I asked the man behind the table how much he wanted for it and he said $5. I couldn’t get my cash out fast enough. I handed over the money and he placed the little guy in a bag for me. I told him the story about the ashtray and he told me that one of this guy’s tails from his jacket curls off to the right. It’s a bottle opener!

Now I have a cute set and a companion for my ashtray guy. They’re also a reminder of how I don’t smoke and rarely drink anymore. I’m sure there must be plenty of these types of things all over the country, but I was just so surprised that I ended up at this unique show and found this little guy.

Here he is!

All in all, I think my favorite part of attending this little event was, chatting with the vendors about the past. I can see myself doing this sort of thing when I’m retired. Just go to old antique and collector shows to look at cool stuff from the past, and chat with the people who love them. It just felt good to reminisce with people from my generation about our memories from a forgotten time.

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

My new book, LAWNDALE is available’60s,Drthroughout for sale on Amazon!

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

Clay Guys

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

I had lots of toys as a kid. Cars, trucks, games, action figures, and comic books. I loved all of my toys. But one of my favorite toys was modeling clay.

Modeling Clay | Childhood memories, My childhood memories, Childhood

I owned several of these packs of clay as a kid. The problem with store-bought toys was they come in very specific shapes and sizes. The plastic army men or spacemen figures are rigid and are stuck in their cast positions. But clay can be shaped into anything you want. The things you can make out of clay are limited only to the skill of your hands and your imagination.

So your choices are unlimited as to what you can create with clay. It was my favorite toy as a kid. A simple shapeless lump of modeling clay.

It was great when you first opened the packet because you had a few colors to work with. But in time they all eventually blended and all of your clay was one color. Brown.

This didn’t matter because it wasn’t about the color of the things you made, it was the shape and what you did with them.

Unlike Play-Doh, clay never dried out. It stayed in its natural form no matter what you did with it. If you left Play-Doh out and didn’t seal it up in an airtight container, it dried out. It turned hard as a rock.

I remember Play-Doh had a salty taste to it and I do remember eating a bit of it as a kid. Children learn early by putting things in their mouths. It’s a primitive learning skill. Play-Doh, like Elmers Glue, was both non-toxic and didn’t taste that bad. Even if it was just an experimental exercise.

Photos: Vintage Play-Doh Cans and Playsets | Mental Floss

But Play-Doh just didn’t hold the same eternal magic and durability as modeling clay. If you made something out of Play-Doe and it was good, you wanted to give it to your mom or just leave it out. It then turned to stone and became a permanent artifact. You couldn’t play with it anymore. But with clay, if you needed more clay or were tired of your sculpture, you could simply squish it and make something new.

I remember watching the 1933 classic film, King Kong. I immediately grabbed my clay and sculpted the great ape fighting with a giant snake from a scene in the film. My father was impressed with my creation, and how I captured the moment in the film. But at some point, I either moved it or changed the positioning of the figures and my dad said I messed it up. This hurt my feelings so I squished it. I thought…it’s my clay and I’ll make what I want. You can’t create the things that I can.

Modeling clay is such a wonderful toy for children. The highest form of intelligence on the planet is creation. Remembering or memorizing facts and figures already created and thought of by others is just a memory exercise. That’s a decent skill and it is needed. But taking a lump of shapeless clay and turning it into something that never existed before is a real talent.

Isn’t creating something our greatest homage to our creator? To emulate our creator is the best compliment we can give to that entity. Real or not. Why settle for someone else’s vision of what a toy should look like. Clay gave me the ability to create my toys and characters to make my adventures.

I once sculpted a little brown bunny rabbit for my mother. It was maybe two inches long. My mother loved it so much she placed it on a shelf in our kitchen and it stayed there for years. My mother passed away a few years ago but always kept the little rabbit. A couple of years ago my older sister found that sculpture and gave it to my daughter to give to me. After half a century in existence, the bunny was still intact. After 50 years he was a bit dried out but that’s how durable modeling clay was back then. (Sadly, he crumbled a few years ago and I had to toss him.)

My friend RJ and I spent hours and hours making things out of clay. I remember he once sculpted the nativity scene out of clay and presented it to his mother for Christmas. It was a great work of art for a child. He was very talented as a boy.

One of our favorite things to make was a thing we called “Clay Guys”.  They were little men about an inch tall. We occasionally made little clay girls. The only difference between these simple figures was the female clay people had a little swatch of clay hair on their heads and two tiny balls of clay on their chests. These were covered with another thing swatch of clay around the figure to form a dress. There was nothing sexual about it because we were just children, but that’s how we defined the gender of our characters in simple child terms. But 99% of our characters were guys. Clay guys!

Sometimes we’d find little things they could use as tools. Like a pin or needle from a sewing kit. These became swords in the hands of our characters. Sometimes, instead of the little bump on the top of their shoulders that represented the head, we would replace that bump with a marble. Two little oval clay eyes were affixed to the marble, which made that figure into an alien.  Cat’s eye marbles looked the coolest because it was as if you could see inside the alien’s head and his thoughts were swirling around in there. Hence making him a brilliant alien.

Here you can see us with an army of alien clay guys!

As I write this, I wonder where this perception of what an alien life form could look like. I’m guessing it was probably inspired by images we’d seen in comic books or old science fiction films we liked to watch. Mad Theater and Horror Theater on channel 17 with host Doctor Shock come to mind.

Sometimes we’d make the occasional giant clay guy or the monster that our little clay guys had to fight to the death. The cool thing about our clay guys was they could be destroyed, but also resurrected. If one of your guys lost an arm or was cut in half during a battle, he could be repaired, or even squished and reborn as a new clay guy!

We would make little search parties of clay guys and send them on journeys through our house. Climbing, jumping, hanging from ropes (strings), and going into battles were all part of the adventure. We knew some of our team wouldn’t come back from the journey, but that was the fun of it. Our toys had mortality. They could die on the adventure. But as I said, you could always bring them back from the dead to live and play with again.

Once we made a bunch of clay guys and stood them all up in a line going across our street. The cars would come, and run over part of our team squishing them horribly. We knew we’d lose a few, but there were always the survivors. If you could pick the cinders, dirt, and stones out of the survivors’ bodies, they’d live again to go on another adventure tomorrow.

The possibilities of making things out of modeling clay were endless. It was the best toy and inspired us to use our hands, our minds, and our imaginations. Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun. I know now there are so many high-tech toys out there and video games are king. But holding a lump of clay in your hand and making something from your imagination was the best.

 

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

Rock – Ola

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

My dad had this couple he was friends with back in the late 60s and early 70s. He met them through the bank where he worked in Northeast Philly. They were a cool sort of hippie couple in their 30s. That period in our history was a great time of change in this country. But my dad liked them and they were nice people. They turned him on to the counter culture of music, film, and of course marijuana.

I remember going over to their house when I was a kid and they had a lot of cool, artsy stuff around the place. One of the things that struck me was this old-time jukebox. It was an actual working antique even back then. It was chock full of over fifty 45rpm records from the 50s and 60s. Cool!

My sisters and I were captivated by this massive cabinet full of flashing lights, swirling colors, and loads of great songs inside. It was an incredible piece of technology. It must have weighed over 500 lbs and made of solid oak. The front door swung open and you could see how it worked. You could also watch the operation through a little window in the front of the unit. The 45 rpm records were all stacked on metal plates and when you pushed the play button, would swing out and a little turntable would rise and pick up the platter and it would meet the stylus and play the record. Neat to watch. The heavy sound blasted out of a 15-inch woofer in the front.

Check this out:

My dad’s friends were going to be moving to a smaller place and told him that the jukebox was just too big to fit through the door of their new home. They asked if they could loan it to him and keep it at our house. Of course, my dad agreed, much to the joy of my sisters and me.

It sat in the corner of our enclosed porch at the house at 312 Magee Street for the rest of the 70s. We slowly began adding new 45 rpm singles that we had bought so we could listen to our music in this booming beast.

This will give you an idea of what it was like even though this one in the video is a little different from ours. (But we did have Jailhouse Rock in ours and played that song often. I think Treat Me Nice was on the B side of that single)

It was almost like we had this big entertainment robot living on our porch. Any of the kids could just push a button and music would come on. The girls could dance and the boys would simply rock out to the tunes.

I think the most memorable time of having this jukebox in our family was on Halloween. We’d have it lit and playing music, and when kids came to the door trick or treating they would all see it. No one had ever seen anything like it and they were all amazed at the sight of this technological musical marvel.

We had it on loan from them for over 40 years. It went to the shore house in North Wildwood in 1979 and remained there until a few years ago. The grown son of the couple wanted the jukebox back. In my opinion, after having the jukebox in our possession for over 40 years that it was rightfully ours. Possession being 9/10s of the law. But the right thing to do was to give it back to the family. We were no longer interested in the unit and it had been on loan to us that was an agreement my father had made with them back in the 70s so my sister wanted to honor that decision.

So it’s been gone for a while but I sometimes think back to all the fun we had listening to our music through that booming beast from a bygone era.

There I am in the early 80s next to the Rock-Ola!

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

10 Couples Tattoo Ideas Without Initials, Just In Case

Relationships don’t always last forever, but tattoos certainly do. If you and bae can’t wait to seal your love with some matching ink, there are so many creative ways to commemorate your ‘ship. But going all in and getting each other’s names or initials might be risky if the relationship doesn’t go the distance. Luckily, whether you want a bold design or something a bit more subtle, there are plenty of couples tattoos that don’t have initials you can base yours on. Naturally, there will always be naysayers who can’t get behind the idea of having matching tattoos with a partner. But if you and your SO are both on board, follow your bliss.

Thankfully, couples tattoos aren’t limited to just hearts or the date of your anniversary in Roman numerals. Any shared memory, hobby, or passion can be transformed into a cool design that’ll always make you think of your partner. As with any tattoo, the most important step is finding a tattoo artist whose work you’re both excited about, and doing plenty of research. Your tattoo artist should be working at a credible shop that follows the proper health and safety regulations. Also, it’s important that you and your partner can decide on a design, you both love. It’ll be on your body forever! Depending on how complex your tattoo idea is, it might take some ongoing discussion between you and the artist to fine-tune the final design, and that’s OK. Here are some fun design ideas inspired by couples tattoos done right.

1. Something To Commemorate Your First Date.

These little Ferris wheels are a great example of a minimalist design done well. Maybe it’s a nod to the location of their first date or kiss.

2. Something That Pays Homage To A Character, You Both Love.

If you and bae your partner share a love for the same character, movie, song, or superhero, this can also be incorporated into a sweet tattoo.

3. A Symbol That Reflects Your Connection.

These baby lightning bolts are too cute. Even though they’re in a prominent spot, they can be easily covered by the strap of a watch for work environments that might not be tattoo-friendly.

4. A Classic Motif With A Twist.

If you want to incorporate traditional elements into your tattoo design, adding a second meaning makes it unique.

5. Something In A Meaningful Spot.

These ring finger dots are as subtle as it gets, but their placement gives them added significance.

6. Reminders Of The Promises You’ve Made.

Meaningful words or phrases you and your partner have exchanged are also a good route to take. For all the Harry Potter fans out there, these elegantly penned “always” tattoos are the perfect nod to the series.

7. Two Elements That Interact In A Clever Way.

This hoop and basketball design shows how effective the interaction between two totally different tattoos can be.

8. Something With Complementary Symbols.

These tattoos are another great example of how you can use different designs to complement each other. The sentimentality of sharing ink still rings true, and these tattoos can easily stand on their own post-breakup.

9. Designs That Are Similar Enough, But Still Different.

If you want the focus of your tattoos to be the same, but are open to small details that differ, consider something like this (or the more traditional yin-yang symbol).

10. Something That Nods To A Shared Interest.

If you have a shared interest, like astronomy, it’s easy to extract inspiration for beautiful tattoos.

Couples’ tattoos can be a creative way to express your utter devotion to an SO. That said, to avoid regrets, spend time thinking through any pros and cons. With the right prep, you’ll have a beautiful reminder of a meaningful relationship that will last a lifetime.

 

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

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

Phicklephilly reaches 300,000 Page Views!!!

Wow.

Just wow.

Another milestone in our short 5-year history as a blog.

I’m so happy to report this. We hit a quarter of a million back around the beginning of the year, and here we are now at 300,000!

Thanks to all of my WordPress readers, Facebook, and Instagram followers. I appreciate all of the views, likes, and comments from you all.

Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t go out and make any new stories so I was forced to look inward around the end of last year. I decided to tell stories from my past in Philly and Wildwood. The response was overwhelming over the last year. It turns out people like to read about all things nostalgic and from our collective past. I did my best to convey the feelings of those moments from my youth.

I think that brought us more subscribers and fans and for that… I’m grateful. I’ll continue to bring you the best dating and relationship advice through the end of the year. But there will be a few historic tales tossed in there every other week until Christmas.

One of the best things to come out of the pandemic and what I was writing was that it helped me reconnect with some great people from my past.

The next book I’m going to write will be about growing up in Northeast Philly in the 70s, followed in 2023 by a book about all of my memories from Wildwood in the summer of the same decade. Both should be worth reading.

I’m still kicking around some different works of fiction and will experiment with some of that next year in the blog. Maybe in the form of short stories.

The blog continues to march forward just like me!

Thanks again to everyone who reads and follows Phicklephilly and I appreciate every single one of you around the world!

See you all at 500,000!

… and now, a cool french song from the 60s with all the things I like in it.

 

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

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

Tales of Rock: Man photographed as baby on ‘Nevermind’ cover sues Nirvana, alleging child pornography

The man who was photographed naked underwater as a baby and later ended up on Nirvana’s iconic “Nevermind” album cover filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that he was a victim of child pornography.

The album cover shows Spencer Elden, now 30, in a swimming pool as a then-infant with his penis exposed.

The image used for the cover of Nirvana’s sophomore 1991 album includes a digital imposition of a dollar bill on a fishhook that the baby looks like he is trying to grab. The cover was widely considered a rebuke of capitalism.

Non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law. But Elden’s lawyer, Robert Y. Lewis, alleges that the inclusion of currency in the shot makes the baby appear “like a sex worker.”

Kurt Cobain “chose the image depicting Spencer—like a sex worker— grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed,” the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court’s Central District of California, stated.

Elden is asking for at least $150,000 from each of the defendants, who include surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; Courtney Love, the executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate; Guy Oseary and Heather Parry, managers of Cobain’s estate; photographer Kirk Weddle; art director Robert Fisher; and a number of existing or defunct record companies that released or distributed the album in the last three decades.

Original Nirvana drummer Chad Channing is also named as a defendant, even though he had been replaced by Grohl in 1990, before the album was recorded or the cover photography shot.

Nirvana's "Nevermind"
The cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind.”

Entertainment Weekly reported in 1992 that Elden, at 4 months old, was cast for the shoot along with three other babies. Cobain commissioned the shoot after he had seen a documentary on babies being born underwater and “thought the image would make a cool cover,” Fisher told the magazine at the time. “That vision was a bit too graphic, so we went with the swimming baby instead.”

Weddle took the pictures in an Olympic size pool at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California.

“Weddle took a series of sexually graphic nude photographs of Spencer,” the suit said. “To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals.”

“Weddle produced these sexually graphic images with the goal of enhancing and increasing the commercial success of Nirvana, L.L.C.’s Nevermind album.”

The album was selling about 300,000 copies a week when it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 in early 1992. The album, with the classics “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are,” has spent at least 335 total weeks on the Billboard 200.

The cover image did receive pushback, at which point Cobain agreed to release the album with a sticker over Elden’s genitals that said: “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”

“The sticker, however, was never incorporated into the album cover,” the lawsuit said.

As a result, Elden “has been and will continue to suffer personal injury” and “permanent harm,” including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses,” the suit stated.

Neither Elden nor his guardians signed a release authorizing the use of the image, according to the suit said. The family was paid $250, Entertainment Weekly reported in 1992.

In 2008, Spencer’s father, Rick, recounted the 1991 shoot to NPR. His friend Weddle, the photographer, “calls us up and was like, ‘Hey Rick, wanna make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink?'” the father recalled. “I was like, ‘What’s up?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I’m shooting kids all this week, why don’t you meet me at the Rose Bowl (Aquatic Center), throw your kid in the drink?’ And we just had a big party at the pool, and no one had any idea what was going on!”

The NPR story went on to say that the family didn’t think more about it until, three months later, they saw a 9′-by-9′ blowup of the cover on the Tower Records wall on Sunset Boulevard.

“Two months later,” the article said, “Geffen Records sent 1-year-old Spencer Elden a platinum album and a teddy bear.”

Elden has repeatedly recreated the pose as a teenager and adult, diving into pools to pose — with swim trunks on — on the occasion of the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries.

However, in most of the interviews accompanying these photoshoots, he expressed mixed feelings about being famous for the “Nevermind” cover and whether he was exploited by it. Until now, despite his ongoing ambivalence about the photo’s legacy, he hadn’t described it as pornographic.

In previous interviews, he’s also said he tried to get in touch with Grohl and Novoselic, on a friendly basis, but never got a reply.

In 2016, the last time Spencer recreated the pose as an adult, he told the New York Post he wanted to take the shot naked.

“I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” he said.

“The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was 4 months old and it became this really iconic image,” he said at the time. “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.”

He added that he prefers The Clash over Nirvana.

Phicklphilly: This is not child pornography. This is an artistic photo of a naked baby in a pool. There is nothing sexual or lascivious about it in any way.

This sounds like a cash grab 30 years after the fact by a desperate person.

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

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

California Dreamin’ – A Look Back at California’s Car Cruising Scene In The 70s

STUNNING photos show the ultra-cool cruising scene of Southern California in the early 1970s.

Teens would take their Camaros, Corvettes, Volkswagen vans, and other shiny gems up and down the main drag of Van Nuys Boulevard.

 Teens hang out on a warm night in Southern California in the 1970s

Teens hang out on a warm night in Southern California in the 1970sCredit: Rick McCloskey

 It was quite an era that will likely never be repeated

It was quite an era that will likely never be repeated. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Cars were the focus of social gatherings five decades ago

Cars were the focus of social gatherings five decades ago. Credit: Rick McCloskey

Gas only cost 33 cents for young motorists in 1972 in the San Fernando Valley.

The art of cruising was displayed all over the country for decades, up until about 1980.

“Every town in America had a strip where kids would take their cars and go hang out whether it was only a block long – big towns, little towns, cities,” said photographer Rick McCloskey.

“It was really a thing for everybody to be involved at some point.”

 Teens congregate and have a good time in the 1970s

Teens congregate and have a good time in the 1970sCredit: Rick McCloskey

 The price of gas shockingly low

The price of gas shockingly low. credit: Rick McCloskey

 The stylistic cars were big and small

The stylistic cars were big and small. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 

 Teens gather between two cars to socialize

Teens gather between two cars to socializeCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Two friends hang out on the side of a car

Two friends hang out on the side of a carCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Much of the cruising took place at night

Much of the cruising took place at night. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Glitzy Southern California was the scene

Glitzy Southern California was the scene. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Mall culture took over years later

Mall culture took over years later. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Teens enjoy the Southern California nightlife

Teens enjoy the Southern California nightlifeCredit: Rick McCloskey

 Cruising did play out all across the country

Cruising did play out all across the country. Credit: Rick McCloskey

 Teens hang out in the back of a pick-up truck

Teens hang out in the back of a pick-up truckCredit: Rick McCloskey

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

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

New Book: BELOW THE WHEEL – Behind the Scenes, Characters and Inspiration

After the success of my first work of fiction, Angel with a Broken Wing, I knew I wanted to do another book.

But, I wanted to do something different. I started writing the first draft for Below the Wheel. My first book was about a man running away from his life. He was miserable in his job and wanted to hit the road and be gone. I always loved the idea of writing a road story. I’ve driven across the United States so I understood the subject and the lay of the land.

Below the Wheel is a story about friends and relationships. Two guys who worked together for years and grew tired of the rat race. They open a detective agency in Camden, New Jersey, and the story goes from there.

I write from my heart and my gut. The first draft of Below the Wheel was a brutal piece of work. Laced with graphic sex and violence, and peppered with profanity. When I let an agent read it, she liked it but couldn’t take the violence and filth. It was just over the top. I learned from crafting Angel with a Broken Wing, that less is more. Rather than lay it all out there for the reader, I decided to take a different approach. Clean it up a bit. Let the reader picture what’s happening in the scene using their imagination. They’ll get it. You can say it without actually saying it or showing it. I’ve learned a lot from writing this book, but more from editing it.

Like Angel with a Broken Wing, I added a new chapter during the editing process. I always like to leave things a little open for the chance of a sequel. But, I felt like this book needed a little more resolution than I originally gave it. So, I added a nice twist to the story. It also fixed something I never felt completely satisfied with. I feel better about the story and the fate of the characters now. When you write you have to look after your characters. They belong to you. I’d like to someday write a follow-up to this book.

Where did the title come from? That’s a secret. If we meet in person I’ll reveal that to you.

The Admiral Wilson Boulevard.  You can read about it here:

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20160218_Camden_s_boulevard_of_unfulfilled_dreams.html

It’s an interesting bit of history, but its portrayal in my book is accurate. In the 80s and 90s, it was a grey serpent littered with drug addicts, hookers, and vice. They only cleaned it up when the Democratic Convention came to town sometime after that. It’s all different now. Gone are the strip joints, short-stay- fleabag motels, and human detritus.

Alex Hunter: Like Christian Blackmore from Angel with a Broken Wing, they’re completely made up. I think writers sometimes base their main characters on themselves. I think that was the case here, but we always change things and add things that make them more interesting. I did quit smoking back in the 90s when my daughter was born. I didn’t want to be around my baby smelling like cigarettes. That sweet little head that smells like heaven. I just didn’t want to be the stinky smoky dad around her. I also thought of the health aspects that come from smoking cigarettes. I did use a nicotine patch to get me off the ciggies and it worked. It was rough going though. I’d get stressed back then or be fighting with my then-wife and really want a cigarette. So, I could relate to what Alex was going through in this story.

Alex also has a problem with alcohol. I like interesting characters with feet of clay. I always have. The underdog wants to do the right thing and save the world but struggles with himself. That’s why Batman is more popular than Superman. Batman’s parents were murdered right in front of him as a child. He’s got issues. But Superman was born Superman. He actually has to act like a wimp and a coward to fit in with us mortals. I like the imperfections in a character. It gives them life and relatability to the reader. Who wants to root for Joe Got-It-All? He’s probably a bore. I would much prefer to cheer for the underdog. The failure. The guy who has moments of greatness and yet somehow is undone by his own vices and devices. It just seems more real.

I hardly ever drink anymore. I just became bored with it. After so many years, it just didn’t make sense anymore. Why would I want to stand in a bar with a bunch of drunks? Why would I want to fry my liver and wreck my health? Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the occasional well-made Manhattan, but it’s just not interesting to me anymore. I certainly don’t need it to write like some authors. A clear mind will always prevail. But Alex still loves the bottle and struggles with it all the while trying to be a better person.

Scott Appel: He’s based on my real-life friend, Scott. I know most writers change the names of characters based on real people, but Scott’s my friend. We’ve been pals for over 20 years. When I told him the theme for this book he was enthusiastic about being in it with me. So we changed his last name and he came up with it himself. It didn’t mean much to me so I left it in. Why not write about what you know? It’ll make the characters more real. The banter back and forth between Alex and Scott is how we actually speak to each other. It’s all fun ribbing and slagging. That’s what friends do. Besides, Scott won’t sue me for using his name in my book. I’ve got too much dirt on him anyway!

Genevieve Bouchard: She’s the insurance agent with whom the boys share an office in Camden. This character is based on an actual girl I knew back in the 90s who sold insurance for a living. She was my agent for years. I didn’t know much about her, but she looked like the character in the book. Even though I was married back then, I always liked her. She just seemed like a cool, nice person who was down to Earth. She did have a common-law husband though. They never married and he did run a contracting business. But the Bruno Cartiglio character is completely made up. I never met her significant other. I just created him based on the biker types I’ve met in my life. He’s just a bad egg.

Dr. Ignatious Feeny: The coroner is based on a customer I knew back when I worked for First Union Bank back in the 90s. He looked like Iggy in real life. Right down to the teeth. He was an odd character. A little touched in the head. My father always taught me to treat everyone fairly. I had good customers and bad ones. But they all had money in my branch and deserved respect. This guy would always ask me if he could use the phone in my office. I let him because he told me his neighbors were listening in on his conversations. He was obviously nuts but a harmless person. Just because someone is different or weird doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. You’d be surprised how well people respond with a little kindness. So he gets to be the brilliant but weird coroner in my book!

Ezra Chambers: The Police Luitenant was completely made up. I just pictured Morgan Freeman in the role and he was born!

Otis Guth: I based him on this fat, slovenly guy I once worked with at a record store in the early 90s. He wasn’t like Otis Guth at all. But when I think of the character in my mind I see that guy. Just hard to look at and listen to. Otis’s history is all made up except for the bit about him pursuing the kids who stole the car. That happened to a police officer friend of mine.

Alyssa Ward: She’s completely from my imagination as well. But when I think about the character, I probably was inspired by the lovely Alycia Lane the former co-anchor at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. Google her, and you’ll see what Alyssa Ward looks like in my book. Quite the babe!

Robert Wick: He’s based on a manager I had when I worked at Security Financial Services in the mid-90s. He was a gruff hard-ass but I loved him. He was great at his job and a fair manager. I would put him in the top 3 of the best men I’ve ever worked with. He wasn’t as mean or as foul-mouthed as my character, but he had that same swaggering confidence. A brilliant guy.

Karen Moore: This poor thing was based on several drug-addled prostitutes and strippers I’ve met in my life.

Her daughter Luna, is completely made up. I just wanted to create a truly good and innocent person in this story. A victim of circumstances not of her own making. A good kid, who had great potential but had just been dealt a bad hand in the game of life. The only rose to grow in a garden filled with thorns and spent hypodermic needles.

Pastor Victor Dorath: I was once in love with a girl named Linda Bradley back in the 80s. She was from Philly and I lived in Wildwood at the time. I met her on the beach and was smitten. But I hardly ever saw her. She was a straight-A student and somewhat religious. I actually went to see a pastor in Cape May, NJ for counseling. I know it seems nuts now that I think back on it, but I just needed someone to talk to about my feelings. I based this character on that gentleman. He was really sweet and a kind ear at the time.

Darren Cain: He’s based on a manager I once worked for back in my Midlantic Bank days in the 80s. He had appeared one day from New York and seemed to have an evil streak to him. No one liked him because he was so intense. But he liked me, and I think he probably had a thing for me. (He was gay) When I think of Darren Cain I see Pete Rallo. A crazy, misunderstood guy that was drunk with power. Oh, he later died from AIDS.

Lisa Devlin: (A minor character but worth mentioning) She’s based on a girl I knew who actually did work at Gloucester County College. I was taking some night courses there back in the 90s when I was married. (Like Christian Blackmore in Angel with a Broken Wing!) My then-wife thought I should finish my education. (Her family was extremely collegiate) Lisa was this nice girl that helped me navigate my classes and credits. I ended up hanging out with her a few times at a bar called Rock Lobster that used to be on Deleware Avenue in Philly.

Did I leave anybody out? I think that’s it.

I hope you like reading Below the Wheel as much as I did writing it. I think my next book of fiction may be something different again. I was thinking maybe a music story about a kid who rises in the music business in early 80s Los Angeles.

I still would like to release a collection of stories from my youth in Philadelphia, and Wildwood, NJ. But we’ll see.

You can get it here on Kindle and Paperback:

This song is dedicated to my sister Jane.

 

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

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

New Book Published: BELOW THE WHEEL – Now Available on Amazon!

After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?

After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Is there a scarier city somewhere across the river? Should I try to make a story inspired by true events?

Maybe…

I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys that were friends who decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life, but seen through the eyes of lighthearted, unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.

Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the lives of the characters in Camden, New Jersey in the Summer of 1998.

Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden New Jersey. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement. Especially detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.

Alex is the obsessive, suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking advice by attending church, and getting spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.

Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local television newswoman, Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently, her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.

His partner Scott, is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black and leave the exciting stuff to the police.

The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent, hard-working woman, but is trapped in a toxic relationship with her abusive common-law husband, Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction on one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous extracurricular activities.

During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.

A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott’s reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.

Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.

The boys work the case, and it’s full of twists, turns, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who is doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

First and foremost, I want to thank the incredibly talented artist, Kellie Stiles who designed and painted the cover for Below the Wheel. Without her tireless efforts, we’d have… well… a book without a cover!

Special thanks to my wunderkind daughter, Kathryn. You’ve always been my greatest inspiration. A brilliant artist and musician in your own right. I appreciate you listening to me complain endlessly about the process of creating new literature and writing in general!

Thanks to the amazing team at Amazon Kindle. Without you, I’d be lost in a sea of technology. I can write the words, but you guys help me turn them into books.

Thanks to everyone at Amazon. I became a member over 25 years ago when you were just a giant bookstore. After crawling on my hands and knees to agents and publishing houses for years, Amazon finally gave me the biggest platform on Earth to bring my literary work to the world.

A special thanks to everyone at WordPress. Without you, I couldn’t publish Phicklephilly every day for the last five years! Now we’re a dot-com and I’ve monetized the site with ads from companies I’ve acquired, and we’ve also added Google AdSense! You gave me a home to bring my work to everyone! Thank you!

Thanks to all the folks over at GoDaddy. You made the transition from just another blogger to a dot-com look easy. Thanks for always being there when I needed you. You’re the best!

And of course, I have to thank my agent, JR for keeping this rocking boat afloat, and getting me steady commercial writing work to put food on the table for me and my daughter!

And last, but certainly not least…

Thank you, dear readers and subscribers, (2300 strong!) for your support over all the last 5 years I’ve been writing this little blog. What started out as a hobby to write about all my crazy dates, relationships, and people in my life has grown exponentially! You all got me to a quarter of a million page views this year! I appreciate you all and try to respond to all of your comments.

Please buy my new book. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. It’s quite a ride! You can read it on the beach this summer!

You can get it in paperback or kindle here:

We did it again in 2021!

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

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

Tales of Rock – 29 Secret Backstories You Don’t Know To Hit Songs You Do

Songs have a way of worming themselves into our brains and lives in subtle ways, without us giving a single thought to how they arrived in our ears. And as it turns out, most songs have really interesting histories.

So we asked our plasticians to come up with fascinating facts about well-known songs, that you can worm into your brain alongside that catchy melody. Here’s what they came up with:

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

29 Secret Backstories You Don't Know To Hit Songs You Do

Wanna be a better guitarist? Click this link to learn the secret!

https://beginnerguitarhq.com/guitar-exercises/

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

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

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