Happy New Year – 2023

Happy New Year!

What a year it’s been! A lot has happened and I’m going to touch on the highlights of 2022.

I’ve been writing this blog for over 6 years now. 2022 has been a great year with many changes. The pandemic rolled on and as more people got vaccinated it began to slow down. I was laid off from my hospitality job back in March 2020 and was unemployed for a year and a half. Normally that would sound sad but it was a spectacular and creative time for me and my daughter.

For a whole year and a half, we weren’t slaves to horrible jobs. We both vowed that when things returned we’d never work in the hospitality industry again. The one thing people love in this city is going out to dinner and drinking. But working in that industry is the absolute worst place for anyone to be as a vocation. It not only attracts the worst people and those who lack the skills to do anything else, but the hours also suck, and the clientele is impaired.

Just awful.

But I’m glad we both did it because we knew what we never wanted to do again, and it gave us the means to file for unemployment and collect on the government’s dime for a year and a half.

It was like getting a grant to create and make music for over a year. If you leave artists alone, they’ll have the time and money to simply work on their art.

During that time my daughter composed and produced an EP of original songs and put them out on YouTube and Soundcloud. I continued writing and publishing my blog but didn’t have any new stories for content. So I decided to turn inward and write stories from my young life growing up in Philly and my summers in Wildwood.

They were all wildly successful. I dropped the links into groups on Facebook that liked that sort of nostalgic content and the members loved them. It brought me a lot of fresh content and traffic. The best part of it for me was reconnecting with people from my past and realizing what my next two books would be about.

2022 saw the release of my fifth work of non-fiction, LAWNDALE, a collection of stories from my childhood growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. It continues to have brisk sales on Amazon.

I had the honor of being a guest on Tom Krantz’s podcast, Type. Tune. Tint. It was a great experience and helped promote my book. You can check it out here.

Regarding numbers on the blog, we’ve had another good year. We hit over 380,000 page views since the blog’s inception.

Here are some of the 2022 YTD data:

Page Views: 55,000

Visitors: 44,000

Subscribers: 2,400

I’m really happy with how much the blog has grown organically since I started it with just one post back in the Fall of 2016. I appreciate everyone who reads, likes, comments and subscribes to Phicklephilly.

Phicklephilly began as a place for me to tell my stories about dates I went on, past and present girlfriends, and friends. I later added dating and relationship advice which was popular and brought me tons of traffic. I had grown tired of it all back in 2020 and wanted to stop doing the dating and relationship advice because it just became too hard to generate and maintain. But I kept it going because people liked it and it brought me traffic. But back in 2016, I prophecized that there would come a day when Phicklephilly would become nothing more than stories from my life and nothing more. I’m at a point with this blog where I’m writing for myself.

After doing it for 6 years and cranking out 7 published books I’m hungry to create something of real value. But I don’t want it to publish every day. It’s too much work and not my ultimate vision for this blog. I make a nice living now doing freelance commercial writing for companies across the country. It’s a challenge to create and the money is decent. I love the idea of making a living doing something I created rather than working in some job with a bunch of no-talent mooks. (which was my life in corporate America for the last 30 years)

I went from working in sales in my professional life to a guy who makes his living writing. I love to create. Nothing brings me more joy than making something and publishing it.

Starting back in January of 2022 Phicklephilly no longer provided any dating and relationship advice. I’ve been doing it for over 3 years and I’m tired of it. I feel like I’ve covered every aspect of it and it no longer interests me. People can still read all of that stuff because it will live in the archives on this blog forever. My traffic for the site is still solid despite the changes made last year and the lack of new content.

I only publish once a week. I put out something new and different every Tuesday. There will be no notice and each piece will stand on its own. Think of the quote from Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never what you’re going to get.” That’s what Phicklephilly has become. Every Tuesday you get a new story but it will only be about things I want to write about or stuff I did.

I like the idea of the absolute freedom to create the stories I want to tell. But fear not… these are all interesting little stories about cool topics. I’m finally making the blog I want to make with no interest in page views, likes, revenue, or stats. Will I cash all the checks I receive from WordPress and Google for the ads I allow them to run on my site? Of course, I will. Why not? I provided all of this content and this ad revenue helps support the site. But it will no longer drive why I generate content. I’d rather write something heartfelt and meaningful than just crank out dating and relationship advice.

I’m getting older now. (60!) I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I’m so glad I left the rat race behind. I don’t go to happy hour anymore. I eat better and rarely drink alcohol. Going out to bars and burning money with a bunch of drunks seems like a waste of time. I haven’t been on a dating app in over two years. I just don’t care. Those sites are all filled with leftovers and losers anyway. Sad lonely people looking to replicate the love of their lives that’s long gone and can never be reproduced.

I’m glad I lived all of these adventures and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time in this city. But it’s over. I’m done. There’s absolutely nothing I can learn from hanging out or dating young women. Other than their youth and beauty, they bring nothing to the table. Let the young people find their way with each other. I don’t belong out there anymore. To me, it’s just boring.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s been a great year. I will write about all of the adventures I’ve had in 2022. They’re stories best told in the coming year. I assure you, they will be interesting.

However, Tales of Rock will live on in 2023. It will happen when I think of something interesting and then write a piece about it and drop it on a Tuesday. That’s it.

I’m looking forward to how the blog will evolve and change as time goes by. I continue to evolve so why not my work? You should always be evolving throughout your life. If you’re not, you’re stagnant. I’m happy that I’m always growing and changing, even at this point in my life. There’s always new cool stuff to do and experience, and I want to share those stories with you.

I’m grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read Phicklephilly and bought my latest books over the years, but the best is yet to come!

I hope to publish my 8th book, Down The Shore around Memorial Day this year. This will be a book about my life in Wildwood during the 70s.

Health and Happiness to all in the coming year!

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

Here’s the wrap-up from Tom’s podcast.

Got Googled

Back in 2020, I applied to get Google AdSense on my site so they could run ads on my blog and generate revenue. It was a complicated process and took months for them to get back to me.

I was finally approved, and ads began to run on Phicklephilly. I had already secured my own clients to run on the site so this was an added bonus. The income isn’t that great unless you have millions of page views but it was free money I earned while I slept, so I was down.

But here’s the rub.

Google has very strict guidelines when it comes to running ads on your site. Your content has to be very PG and you can’t have anything sexual or offensive on your site. I always wrote from my heart and used the whole language. Especially in the beginning. I wasn’t too worried, because most of my stuff was pretty tame. I’d rather mention it and leave the images up to my readers.

But one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written was about Asian massage parlors in Philly. I wrote it back in 2017 and it was just me interviewing a friend of mine about his experiences at those establishments.

Google Adsense was immediately all over it with warnings about how they wouldn’t run any ads on that page unless I fixed it. What they meant by “fix” was to clean it up and make it safe so anybody could read it. I didn’t like any of this but I complied. I changed a few things but they were relentless in their attacks on my work.

I thought the one page that’s had over 17,000 page views should be a winner for advertising revenue… but no. They kept flagging the site for violations and ultimately I simply relented and took it down. I didn’t want to offend anybody, but it really felt like a form of censorship. I mean… here’s a company that runs ads for HBO and that cable network has tons of profanity, violence, and sex on it. I wondered, why me? That all seemed a bit hypocritical on the part of Google. But I wanted the revenue and it took me forever to get approved, so I sadly gave into their will. They had me at their mercy.

Things have been fine since then and I got over it. But then something else happened last year. My Google email account was hacked. I didn’t realize it at first. A small letter Y appeared in my search engine bar on Google Chrome. I would go to search for something at I would be redirected to Yahoo. I didn’t want any of this. I tried to clean it off my Chrome account using different security measures but none of them worked.

This went on for a week or so, and then one Sunday night I got a text from google that they had disabled my account. So I had no access to my email, calendar, and my google drive. Google has the power to not only disable your account to keep you safe it can easily cut you off from everything you have in your accounts with them. They do this with no remorse and without warning. This is a little disturbing that this company has this kind of power over its users. (It’s funny how the only two industries that refer to their clients as users are internet companies and drug dealers)

My mail has been in place for 10 years and had everything in it. My calendar had dates and things scheduled in it since 2010. My Drive had both manuscripts of my works of fiction, and every article I’d written for the freelance commercial writing I do for a living.

Google told me that my google account had been disabled due to harmful malware and phishing that had hacked into my account, and some entity tried to change my password. I thought, the next thing they’d do was try to hack into my bank account or my brokerage accounts. It was pretty scary.

But with the account disabled it stopped the perpetrators dead in their tracks. I found a way to clean out the malware from my chrome account and I sent google a message telling them what I did to try to fix it.

They got back to me in 48 hours and told me the account was irreparably corrupted and they wouldn’t reinstate it.

And that was it. Everything was simply… gone.

But the good news is, I don’t really care about my email or calendar, I just made a new one with a new name and password. But I was a little salty about the elimination of everything in my Drive.

But I wasn’t that upset.

All of my books are held securely at KDP Amazon and I have complete control over them. I also have copies of the manuscripts saved to my computer. Everything I’ve ever written commercially has been shared with my editor and she has records of everything I’ve done. So I’ll be fine.

It was actually a bit liberating to know that although someone could come in and attack my account I really didn’t lose everything. If anything, it gave me a fresh start with a new email free from clutter and a new calendar. I’ll just have my editor share with me copies of everything I’ve written for her to my new Drive.

So as daunting as something like this can be, I just had to think to myself for a moment and not panic. My house hasn’t been broken into. My daughter is safe and so am I. My money is secure and untouchable. My creative work is safe. I’m fine and I really haven’t lost anything. The only time you really lose something is when your perception is that it’s a loss.

If you’re fine without something you don’t really miss it. Nothing of real value has been affected and we’re all fine, so this is simply a story and a warning to everybody out there to be careful and be mindful of what’s going on with your digital footprint across all of your devices.

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

If Only

Los Angeles, CA – September 1980

Jack walked into the nightclub on Sunset Strip. He didn’t dread these meetings, he just never knew what to expect.

He spoke with security and told them he was there to see Marty. He gave the password, and they let him come into the private room in the back. Marty was there sitting at the bar sipping a glass of whiskey.

“Jack! Great to see you, buddy. It’s been too long. Have a seat. What are you drinking?”

“Nothing for me, thanks. What’s on your mind?”

“We’ve got a little situation. Everything’s fine right now, but we’ve heard some things from some of our contacts in Hawaii.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

“One of our people overheard a guy saying some things to his friends at a bar. We’ve had our eye on this guy for a while, and we think you should look into it.”

“Is there a file yet?”

Marty reached into a leather bag on the floor next to him and produced a folder. He handed it to Jack. He took the folder and flipped through it.

“Is this everything?”

“Well… it’s never everything, Jack. That’s why I called you. Read the file and get to know this individual. We’ve gathered as much intel on this guy’s background as possible. We just feel that things could escalate and that can’t happen.”

“What’s the fee?”

“The usual. But if things get sticky you’ll be compensated accordingly for any extra effort.”

“What’s the time frame on this?”

“Well, we know where he is right now and where he may be going, but not much else.”

“So you just want me to follow him?”

“Yea. Keep an eye on him.”

“We’ll give you his location and the details are in the file. If you want to talk with him at some point, that’s your call. But I really think this needs to be addressed sooner than later. There are a few of these types out there but usually, it never comes to anything. But this one’s got me nervous.”

“Do I need to know who the client is?”

“No. That’s why I brought you in, Jack. You’re good at helping people and doing the right thing when necessary.”

Jack looked at the file. “No previous criminal record. Interesting.”

“Yea. Could be nothing but the client doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”

“How long’s the job?”

“Hard to say. Could be a month, maybe longer. We really don’t know.”

“Alright. Anything else?”

“Uh, yea. I want you to partner with Adhira.

“Come on. You know I only work alone, Marty.”

“Look… for this job I want you to have her with you. This way you won’t stand out too much.”

“Oh, okay… me and some hot Indian chick. Yea, I won’t stand out at all.”

“You two have worked well together in the past and I think while you’re traveling it’ll just look less conspicuous if it looks like you’re a couple. As I said, this all could turn out to be nothing, but it’s for the best if Adhira is with you.”

“Fine. So what’s next?”

“Here are your tickets to Honolulu. Adhira’s already there. She’ll pick you up at the airport.”

“Okay. You got it.”

Honolulu, HI – September 1980

As night fell on the island, Jack and Adhira had dinner at Roy’s Hawaii Kai.

“Food’s great here, Jack. Remember when we worked that surveillance gig back in’78?”

“Yea. That was a crazy time, Adhira. It’s been two years. You still look the same.”

“You look a little tired, Jack. Have you read the file?”

“Probably jet lag that’s all. Yea, I read it on the plane on the way out. The guy seems a bit nuts but I don’t see the urgency here.”

“Well, if Marty hired you it must mean something. Hey…how bad is your life? You’re in Hawaii for goodness’ sake.”

“Yea, but why are you here, Adhira?”

“Oh, thanks a lot, Jack. Way to make a girl feel welcome.”

“You know what I mean. I always work alone. I just like it that way. Free to move around how and when I want.”

“Marty just thought that for this sort of job, you could use a little company on the road. You know my skills. One of them is to keep whoever I’m with calm and centered. And you know how you you can be.”

“How can I be, Adhira?”

“A little intense. You tend to get a little obsessed with the work sometimes. I’m here to provide you with a bit of balance.”

“Did Marty tell you that about me?”

“There are files on all of us, Jack. Now eat your butterfish.”

Jack grinned and took a mouthful. He looked into Adhira’s dark eyes. She smiled and sipped her wine. He always wondered how such a beautiful woman could end up working at the agency. Her lovely face was framed by raven tresses that tumbled about her shoulders like a moonless river.

“So what’s your take on this guy, Jack?”

“Well, as I said, he seems a little nuts. Textbook upbringing. His father was a sergeant in the air force, and his mom was a nurse. Dad was a little abusive to his mom and he never felt like his old man loved him. That sounds like my family. What son hasn’t thought that about their father?”

“Yea, and he wasn’t athletic in school and sort of a poor student. Kind of a loser.” Adhira frowned.

“Yea, kind of like me. But then there’s all the religious stuff he’s gotten into. I think that’s where the real trouble usually starts. People get these righteous ideas, and some can get a little fanatical about that. My ex-wife was religious and she had a lot of good intentions… if you get what I mean.”

“Yea. The road to hell is paved with them. I get it. He did have some early success working at that kid’s camp in Georgia. Maybe he should have just kept doing that.”

“But I think as he’s gotten older he’s started to unravel a bit. I don’t know what happens to some people. Most of us get disillusioned and sad about stuff, but we move on. Then there are other people who just can’t seem to pull themselves out of it. It’s a shame really.”

Did you see in the file how he started to get into these altercations with the camp counselors and can’t seem to fit in anywhere?”

“Right. Which for some odd reason brings him out here. Kinda weird. It’s expensive to live on this island. It’s a resort. Then he attempts suicide by asphyxiation in his car, but screws that up too when the hose he stuck on the exhaust pipe melts, and he survives. Some people move to California thinking they’ll start a new life. But like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, it’s just the last exit for the lost. But why Hawaii to kill yourself?”

“Maybe to die in paradise? Didn’t they give him a job at the mental hospital they stuck him in after his attempted suicide?”

“Yea, but then he got into an altercation with the head nurse and quit. I think the last job he held was as a security guard. Funny how he’s good with the kids at the camp, then works at a hospital, and then in security. It’s like he’s always working in jobs that serve and protect human life. But then he starts drinking, and that’s never a good thing if you’re suffering from mental illness.”

“I think it’s only made his obsessions worse.”

“Yea, booze makes you feel better in the beginning… but after a while, it sledgehammers everything else in your life.”

“Speaking from personal experience, Jack?”

“What do you think?”

Manhattan, NY – December 1980

Jack and Adhira sat in their agency-issued vehicle in front of the hotel where their subject was staying.

“We’ve been on this job for a couple of months and although I’ve enjoyed our time together, Jack. I don’t know what to think now.”

“Yea… He goes to New York, and he wanders around the city and not much else. Then he leaves. We follow him to Atlanta, he meets with a friend and then he’s back in Hawaii. Now here we are back in New York again. It’s just weird. But I believe he’s still thinking about doing something.”

December 7, 1980

Jack and Adhira followed their subject as he walked around the city. Keeping a close tail but far enough away to seem inconspicuous. It was pretty easy in a city as populated as Manhattan. They were standing near the 72nd Street subway entrance when they saw their subject speak to someone for the first time since they’d been following him.

“Jack…look. He’s talking to that guy over there. I wonder what that’s all about? Planning something with him?”

“I don’t know, but doesn’t that guy look like the singer, James Taylor? It’s uncanny.”

“Yea, that’s funny. He really does look like him. Let’s just stay close.”

December 8

It was early morning. Jack and Adhira sat in a cafe across the street from the Sheraton Hotel. They watched as their subject walked out of the hotel lobby.

“He’s on the move. Let’s go.”

They followed him to a local bookstore. He was inside for a few minutes and then exited the store. They again followed him to 72nd Street just off Central Park. He just hung out in front of a large apartment building chatting with people and the doorman. Jack watched from across the street and Adhira went to get the car.

They later sat in the car parked nearly in front of the building. Watching their subject just hanging around the entrance.

“This is boring, Jack. He’s just standing around. He’s not doing anything. Maybe his connection is late or something. This doesn’t make sense. All we’ve seen is a guy chatting with people, and that one lady with the little kid he said hello to. But I don’t think he really knows any of these people.”

10:45pm

“Jack, we’ve been here all day watching this guy. What time is it?”

“Nearly 11 pm. Are there any of those fries left?”

“Here.”

“Thanks. You know what? Stay here. I’m gonna get out and stretch my legs. I’m going to go talk to this guy.”

“What are you going to say?”

“I’ll think of something. Move into the driver’s seat, in case we have to leave again, okay?”

“No problem. But after this, you’re buying me some real food and some strong drinks.”

“You got it.”

Jack exited the car and approached the apartment building’s archway entrance. The subject stood off to his left.

A black limousine pulled up in front of the building and caught Jack’s attention. A man and woman exited the limo and walked toward the entrance.

Jack was right behind the subject at this point. Adhira watched from inside their car. The man and woman walked past the subject and Jack thought he heard the subject say the man’s name. The subject then reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun.

From years of training, Jack was ready. He was always ready. This was what he did for a living.

The hunter.

The problem solver.

Jack emptied the clip of his .38 automatic into the subject’s body. Headshot first followed by a hail of bullets into his body. The subject fell to the ground as the woman with the man screamed and ducked behind her husband. They both turned and looked into Jack’s face.

But only for a moment.

Blood began to pool around the subject’s head as he died on the pavement in front of the building. Guards grabbed the couple and pulled them inside the lobby.

Jack was already gone. He leaped into the car, and Adhira hit the gas. Within minutes they were far from the scene.

“Oh my God! How did you know, Jack?”

“It’s what I do. Just keep driving.”

Los Angeles, CA – December 9

Jack sat alone at the bar in the club on Sunset Strip. He was approached by one of the servers.

“Marty will see you now, sir.”

Jack walked into the back room and sat down in front of Marty’s desk.

“You did good, Jack. Real good.” He placed a briefcase on the desk in front of him.

Jack looked at him and took a sip from his drink. “No.”

“No? but, there’s extra in there.”

“You keep it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yea. This one’s on me.”

I wrote this story back in 2020 in memory of one of my fallen heroes who was taken from us too soon on December 8, 1980.

If only things could have been different…

Rest in peace, John.

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

Merry Christmas, everyone.

If Only – Part 3

Manhattan, NY – December 1980

Jack and Adhira sat in their agency-issued vehicle in front of the hotel where their subject was staying.

“We’ve been on this job for a couple of months and although I’ve enjoyed our time together, Jack. I don’t know what to think now.”

“Yea… He goes to New York, and he wanders around the city and not much else. Then he leaves. We follow him to Atlanta, he meets with a friend and then he’s back in Hawaii. Now here we are back in New York again. It’s just weird. But I believe he’s still thinking about doing something.”

December 7

Jack and Adhira followed their subject as he walked around the city. Keeping a close tail but far enough away to seem inconspicuous. It was pretty easy in a city as populated as Manhattan. They were standing near the 72nd Street subway entrance when they saw their subject speak to someone for the first time since they’d been following him.

“Look, Jack. He’s talking to that guy over there. I wonder what that’s all about? Planning something with him?”

“I don’t know, but doesn’t that guy look like the singer, James Taylor? It’s uncanny.”

“Yea, that’s funny. He really does look like him. Let’s just stay close.”

December 8

It was early morning. Jack and Adhira sat in a cafe across the street from the Sheraton Hotel. They watched as their subject walked out of the hotel lobby.

“He’s on the move. Let’s go.”

They followed him to a local bookstore. He was inside for a few minutes and then exited the store. They again followed him to 72nd street just off Central Park. He just hung out in front of a large apartment building chatting with people and the doorman. Jack watched from across the street and Adhira went to get the car.

Later, they sat in the car parked nearly in front of the building. They watched their subject just hanging around the entrance.

“This is boring, Jack. He’s just standing around. He’s not doing anything. Maybe his connection is late or something. This doesn’t make sense. All we’ve seen is a guy chatting with people and that one lady with the little kid he said hello to. But I don’t think he really knows any of these people.

10:45pm

“Jack, we’ve been here all day watching this guy. What time is it?”

“Nearly 11 pm. Are there any of those fries left?”

“Here.”

“Thanks. You know what? Stay here. I’m gonna get out and stretch my legs. I’m going to go talk to this guy.”

“What are you going to say?”

“I’ll think of something. Move into the driver’s seat, in case we have to leave again, okay.”

“No problem. But after this, you’re buying me some real food and some strong drinks.”

“You got it.”

Jack exited the car and approached the apartment building’s archway entrance. The subject stood off to his left.

A black limousine pulled up in front of the building and caught Jack’s attention. Two people exited the limo and walked toward the entrance.

Jack was right behind the subject at this point. Adhira watched from inside their car. The man and woman walked past the subject and Jack thought he heard the subject say the man’s name. The subject then reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun.

From years of training, Jack was ready. He was always ready. This was what he did for a living.

The hunter.

The equalizer. 

The problem solver.

Jack emptied the clip of his .38 automatic into the subject’s body. Headshot first followed by a hail of bullets into his body. The subject fell to the ground as the woman with the man screamed and ducked behind her husband. The man and woman turned and looked into Jack’s face.

But only for a moment.

Blood began to pool around the subject’s head as he died on the pavement in front of the building. Guards grabbed the couple and pulled them inside the lobby.

Jack was already on the move and leaped into the car as Adhira hit the gas. Within minutes they were far from the scene.

“Oh my God! How did you know, Jack?”

“It’s what I do. Just keep driving.”

Los Angeles, CA – December 9

Jack sat alone at the bar in the club on Sunset Strip. He was approached by one of the servers.

“Marty will see you now, sir.”

Jack walked into the back room and sat down in front of Marty’s desk.

“You did good, Jack. Real good.” He placed a briefcase on the desk in front of him.

Jack looked at him and took a sip from his drink. “No.”

“No? but, there’s extra in there.”

“You keep it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yea. This one’s on me.”

 

 

I wrote this story back in 2020 in memory of one of my fallen heroes who was taken from us too soon on December 8, 1980. 

If only things could have been different…

Rest in peace, John.

 

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

 

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

 

If Only – Part 2

Honolulu, HI – September, 1980

As night fell on the island, Jack and Adhira had dinner at Roy’s Hawaii Kai.

“Food’s great here. Remember when we worked that surveillance gig back in’78?”

“Yea. That was a crazy time, Adhira. It’s been two years. You still look the same.”

“You look a little tired, Jack. Have you read the file?”

“Probably jet lag, that’s all. Yea, I read it on the plane out here. The guy seems a bit nuts but I don’t see the urgency here.”

“Well, if Marty hired you it must mean something. How bad is your life? You’re in Hawaii for goodness’ sake.”

“Yea, but why are you here, Adhira?”

“Oh, thanks a lot, Jack. Way to make a girl feel welcome.”

“You know what I mean. I always work alone. I just like it that way. Free to move around how and when I want.”

“Marty just thought that you could use a little company on the road for this sort of job. You know my skills. One of them is to keep whoever I’m with calm and centered. And you know how you can sometimes be.”

“How can I be, Adhira?”

“A little intense. You tend to get a little obsessed with the work. I’m here to provide you with a bit of balance.”

“Did Marty tell you that about me?”

“There are files on all of us, Jack. Now eat your butterfish.”

Jack grinned and took a mouthful. He looked into Adhira’s dark eyes. She smiled and sipped her wine. He always wondered how such a beautiful woman could end up working at the agency. That lovely face framed with raven tresses that tumbled about her shoulders like a moonless river.

“So what’s your take on this guy, Jack?”

“Well, as I said, he seems a little nuts. Textbook upbringing. His father was a sergeant in the air force, and his mom was a nurse. Dad was a little abusive to his mom and he never felt like his old man loved him. That sounds like my family. What son hasn’t thought that about their father?”

“Yea, and he wasn’t athletic in school and sort of a poor student. Kind of a loser.”

“Yea, kind of like me. But then there’s all the religious stuff he’s gotten into. I think that’s where the real trouble normally begins. People get these righteous ideas, and some can get a little fanatical about that. My ex-wife was religious and she had a lot of good intentions if you get what I mean.”

“Yea. The road to hell is paved with them. I get you. This guy did have some early success working at that kid’s camp in Georgia. Maybe he should have just kept doing that.”

“But I think as he’s gotten older he’s started to unravel a bit. I don’t know what happens to some people. Most of us get disillusioned and sad about stuff, but we move on. Then other people just can’t seem to pull themselves out of it. It’s a real shame.”

Did you see in the file how he starts to get into these altercations with the camp counselors and can’t seem to fit in anywhere?”

“Right. Which for some odd reason brings him out here. It’s odd. It’s expensive to live on this island. It’s a resort. Then he attempts suicide by asphyxiation in his car but screws that up too when the hose he stuck on the exhaust pipe melts, and he survives. Some people move to California thinking they’ll start a new life. But like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, it’s just the last exit for the lost. But why Hawaii to kill yourself?”

“Maybe to die in paradise? Didn’t they give him a job at the mental hospital they stuck him after his attempted suicide?”

“Yea, but then he got into an altercation with the head nurse and quit. I think the last job he held was as a security guard. Funny how he’s good with the kids at the camp, then works at a hospital, and then in security. It’s like he’s always working in jobs that serve and protect human life. But then he starts drinking and that’s never a good thing if you’re suffering from mental illness.”

“I think it’s only made his obsessions worse.”

“Yea, booze makes you feel better in the beginning but after a while, it sledgehammers everything else in your life.”

“Speaking from personal experience, Jack?”

“What do you think?”

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion!

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If Only – Part 1

Los Angeles, CA – October 1980

Jack walked into the nightclub on the sunset strip. He didn’t dread these meetings, he just never knew what to expect.

He spoke with security and told them he was there to see Marty. He gave the password, and they let him come into the private room in the back. Marty was there sitting at the bar sipping a glass of whiskey.

“Jack! Great to see you, buddy. It’s been too long. Have a seat. What are you drinking?”

“Nothing for me, thanks. What’s on your mind?”

“We’ve got a little situation. Everything’s fine right now, but we’ve heard some things from some of our contacts in Hawaii.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

“One of our people overheard a guy saying some things to his friends at a bar. We’ve had our eye on this guy for a while, and we think you should look into it.”

“Is there a file yet?”

Marty reached into a leather bag on the floor next to him and produced a folder. He handed it to him. Jack took the folder and flipped through it.

“Is this everything?”

“Well, it’s never everything, Jack. That’s why I called you. Read the file and get to know this individual. We’ve gathered as much intel on this guy’s background as possible. We just feel that things could escalate, and that can’t happen.”

“What’s the fee?”

“The usual. But if things get sticky you’ll be compensated accordingly for any extra effort.”

“What’s the time frame on this?”

“Well, we know where he is right now and where he may be going, but not much else.”

“So you just want me to follow him?”

“Yea. Keep an eye on him. We’ll give you his location and the details are in the file. If you want to talk with him at some point, that’s your call. But I really think this needs to be addressed sooner than later. There are a few of these types out there but usually, it never comes to anything. But this one’s got me nervous.”

“Do I need to know who the client is?”

“No. That’s why I brought you in, Jack. You’re good at helping people and doing the right thing when necessary.”

Jack looked at the file. “No previous criminal record. Interesting.”

“Yea. Could be nothing, but the client doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”

“How long’s the job?”

“Hard to say. Could be a month, maybe longer. We just don’t really know.”

“Alright. Anything else?”

“Uh, yea. I want you to partner with Adhira.

“Come on. You know I only work alone, Marty.”

“Look… for this job I want you to have her with you. This way you won’t stand out too much.”

“Oh, okay… me and some hot Indian chick. Yea, I won’t stand out at all.”

“You two have worked well together in the past and I think while you’re traveling it’ll just look less conspicuous if it looks like you’re a couple. As I said, this all could turn out to be nothing, but it’s for the best if Adhira’s with you.”

“Fine. So what’s next?”

“Here are your tickets to Honolulu. Adhira’s already there. She’ll pick you up at the airport.”

“Okay. You got it.”

To be continued tomorrow…

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 10 – Moving On

Wildwood, NJ – 1987

I was still living at my parent’s house then. I had started dating a girl I had met who worked as a teller at the bank where I worked. Her name was Lori, and I was smitten. Not the mad passionate love I had briefly with my affair with Betty, but simply a local girl I found nice. I’ll tell her interesting story at some point.

Here she is:

One night the phone rang at the house and it was Betty. She told me she had just seen the band Y & T. She remembered that I had told her my band had opened for them at the Troubadour in Hollywood years ago. She said she missed me and that she and her husband were moving back to the area. She also reminded me that I once told her that even if I were dating someone else, if she ever came back I would dump them immediately and pick up with her.

This song always reminds me of Betty cause she always kept her lipstick fresh and sometimes wore a leather skirt.

But 3 years had passed, and my life had changed. I wasn’t working in a video store anymore. I had cut my hair, put on a suit and tie, and joined the ranks of society. I was a banker now, and I was seeing someone I was committed to. I was older now, and the chapter of my life with Betty was closed. It was a moment in time that we couldn’t go back to. It needed to be left alone.

It was really nice hearing from her but I was done. She was married, and I had grown as a person. When I had gotten involved with her I was wrong. It didn’t make what her husband did right, but more infidelity wouldn’t ever solve the problems in their marriage. Apparently, they had gone to counseling and had worked things out. But from the sound of her call, it sounded like she was still in love with me. But that wouldn’t solve anything. It would tear open any wounds in her marriage that had hopefully begun to heal. I’d broken enough hearts already. I didn’t need any more to add to my list.

May’s Landing, NJ – 1988

I was at the Hamilton Mall with my girlfriend Lori. We had been together for over a year now. We enjoyed going to the mall on the weekends and walking around. We were both young and making money and it was nice to shop for music, movies, and video games. (The original Nintendo system with Mario and Duck Hunt!)

Lori loved to go into the bookstore and look at the classics. All of the bestsellers were obviously in the front of the store, but you had to go all the way to the back to find the classics. She liked to look through them and usually bought something in paperback. She especially loved the work of Edgar Allen Poe.

I was standing in the front of the shop and looking at a rack of calendars, and also some of the newer works of fiction. But something caught my eye out the front window of the on the other side of the mall.

What I saw was Betty Ann chatting with another woman. Her little daughter Kelly was with her and was now probably 9 or 10 years old. I started having anxiety at the sight of her, but then that went into overdrive when I saw that she was holding a stroller. In that stroller was what appeared to be a 3-year-old baby. I couldn’t really see if it was a boy or a girl, but I started to do the math in my head.

Could that baby be my child? She had said she had gone off birth control, and that having a child from me would be a nice present from our brief union. I was freaking out thinking about that possibility and immediately glanced around the store. All the way in the back was Lori browsing the classics.

I was having a bad panic attack and I took one last look to burn the image into my mind and headed to the back of the store. I made some excuse to Lori that I was having some stomach disorders and wanted to get out of the mall.

I never saw Betty again, and I don’t know if that child was mine, but it has always left me wondering.

I found this pic on Facebook recently. Betty Ann is now 70 years old and still looks great. I’m assuming that’s her husband and it’s nice to see that they’ve managed to stay together after over 35 years.

Here’s a trilogy of songs I wrote in the 80s and recorded in the studio in the 90s. The 2nd song is entitled, Betty Ann. It’s obvious the song was written for my sweet girlfriend from 1984.

If you write a song about somebody, they’ve made a major impact on your life.

(You can hit the play button up in the left corner of the image below to play the songs. At the 4:30 mark, the song Betty Ann begins.) Enjoy!

  1. Tear Me Up
  2. Betty Ann
  3. Can’t Let Her Go

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tale from my past as much as I’ve enjoyed reminiscing and writing it.

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

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Last Exit for the Lost

Sarah Louise DeVos was born February 12, 1976, in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, to William and Sandra DeVos. She leaves behind her parents, sister (Sharon), brother (Mark), two nephews (Isaiah and Rashon), two great-nieces (Ariana and Makenna), as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, and the many friend’s children who also considered her their Auntie Sarah. She also leaves behind an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances from around the globe who loved and adored her for the beautiful, creative, compassionate, stylish, and loving person she was.  

Sarah was raised in both Cape May and Carlisle, PA. After graduating from Carlisle High School in 1994, she moved to Philadelphia. She self-funded her education at Moore College of Art and Design, obtained a degree in graphic design, and made lifelong friends. During college, Sarah worked as a valet for the Rittenhouse Hotel, which was an ideal position for someone who loved stylish cars. She also worked at Shampoo during college, one of the most well-known nightclubs in Philly during the 90s, which allowed her to enjoy many things she loved – fashion, music, and people.  

Sarah took her degree and talents to every agency she worked for, most recently Free People in Philadelphia. She also took on many freelance gigs throughout her career, during which she created some award-winning chalkboard illustrations for friends’ weddings, and special events, and logos for businesses. She also displayed her artwork in Old City on First Fridays.

In addition to being a talented artist, Sarah loved music and fashion. She could easily dance all night in three-inch heels and often sent her friends CD mixes of some of her favorite songs. When other people saw clutter at a discount clothing store, Sarah saw an opportunity. She could create the most unique and stylish outfits from any discount clothing store.

Sarah also loved meeting people, hearing their stories, and talking with them about their adventures.  She used those skills throughout her life, including visits to Paris, Italy, Prague, London, Mexico, and throughout the US with friends.  

Sarah loved taking walks and looking at architecture.  If you ever spent time with her in her beloved Philly, she would share all this passion with you. She was observant and would point out all the details in the ornately decorated buildings as you walked past. And she usually had a story about all of them because she had no qualms about walking up to someone outside of these buildings and asking to tour them. Most of the time, people obliged her whims, happy to share their places with her appreciative eyes. 

She never owned a car during her time in Philadelphia but mastered the public transit system like she’d been riding it her whole life. Also, you would see her gracefully navigating through the heavy Philadelphia traffic on rollerblades or a bike like it was an Olympic sport.  

From her childhood friends to those she made at Moore College of Art and Design, to the strangers she turned into friendships, and all of the furry creatures she loved, everyone she met would be forever changed by her presence. She will be missed dearly by all that knew her.

Service will be held at Daybreak Church, 321 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA, on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at 11:00am.  Visitation will be held for an hour prior to, at 10:00am.  There will be space available at the church if people would like to stay afterward and share further remembrances.  

Sarah’s portfolio can be viewed at http://www.thedutchfox.com 

To honor Sarah’s spirit, the family asks that you reach out to the person you love who needs to know they are loved.  All donations in her name came to be made to https://nami.org/Home,  https://www.furryfriendsnetwork.org/donate/,  or any other organization that contributes to the arts, mental health, or animal rescues. 

Arrangements are being handled by Hollinger Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc., Mt. Holly Springs. Visit www.HollingerFuneralHome.com to offer condolences to the family.

Please visit our flower store to plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sarah DeVos.

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If you know anyone struggling, down, or feeling sad… give them a call. Or better yet, go see them. Check on them. See if they’re okay. If you are feeling like you can no longer cope in this life, help is available 24 hours a day.

Just call: 988

Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 5 – Summer Nights

North Wildwood, NJ – May 1984

The saga continues…

I was sitting on the porch at my friend Pitchy’s house and telling him all about my exploits with Betty. He was amazed by the tales of my recent prowess. Pitchy was my best summer friend at the seashore since 1971 when I first met him as a kid. He lived right around the corner from me at 7th and Ocean Ave. We had a rich history together hanging out all of those summers in the 70s. He was a close friend and we’d had some great times together. He had a lovely dry wit that was uncanny. He was also a person I could always trust.  One of his gifts was that he had always been the master of the dime toss game on the boardwalk.

But he was never that good at talking to girls. I noticed a lot of young men struggled with that back then. (And even today!) I never understood that but I guess we’re always good at things we like, and I loved the company of pretty women so I was okay.

I would tell him… “If you think you’re going to be tongue-tied on a date with a girl… take her to the movies. That’s two hours right there where she’ll be entertained and fed. You don’t have to say or do anything at all. Just hold her hand during the picture. If the film is fun and exciting, she’ll associate those feelings with you and you’ll be fine.”

Pitchy was working as a summer cop in North Wildwood by 1984 and really enjoyed police work. He had always wanted to be a cop and was beginning his career as a summer cop to gain experience.

I’m happy to say that through the years, he stayed in law enforcement and became a roaring success. He achieved success beyond anything I could have imagined for him. 

We sat on his porch in the quiet evening silence of North Wildwood. All the craziness was happening 25 blocks away on the boardwalk and in the clubs on Pacific Avenue. But we both had a moment of repose from our jobs this evening and were just chatting and sipping a few cold beers. The glow of the neon signs from the motel, The Friendship 7 across the street was the only light that illuminated our presence on that porch. 

He would do these comedy bits like he was the voiceover guy for a movie preview. It was hilarious and I loved when he would come up with these things. It was like he was describing me as a character in a horror movie. He would say; “In 1980 you loved him as the Wildwood Gigalo. But now…he’s back. It’s been four years… but he’s back. Chaz is… THE HOMEWRECKER. This time it’s not your girlfriend…It’s Your WIFE!”

I liked that he referred to me as the homewrecker as if I were the villain in a movie. So funny. I told him how Betty drove a light blue BMW 5 and that she and I stayed in motels in Wildwood to hook up. I never thought back then how much Betty must have spent on babysitting fees for someone to watch her daughter, Kelly while she galavanted around Wildwood with her young boy toy, ten years her junior.

But as much as I had built up a reputation as a rocker and charmer of women, it was nice to reach that legendary status with my friends. It’s all so silly when I think about it now.

I’d be on the phone with Betty.

“I want to come to Wildwood to see you this weekend, Chaz.”

“That would be great, Bets.”

“Can you maybe rent a room for us?”

Because the season hadn’t started yet, the rooms would not only be available at several motels in town, they’d be much cheaper. 

This became a regular thing with Betty and me. She liked her anonymity in Wildwood. She had no fear of running into anyone she and her husband knew up in Absecon. Plus, she had that whole rule about not having sex with her in her house, car, or matrimonial bed.

I was totally fine with it. I was working and had money to burn, and Betty always had cash. Most times she would pay for everything. I remember one day I was at her house and she gave me a brand new Gucci watch. It was beautiful. A 14k gold timepiece with a lizard skin strap.  I wore that watch until the strap practically dissolved on my wrist. I loved that watch. It was the nicest piece of jewelry I had ever owned.

At this point, I wasn’t falling for Betty…

I had already fallen.

I always shared with my mother what I was up to romantically in my life. I would sit at the kitchen table chatting with my mom and profess my love for my new, older girlfriend. I told my mom I was done dating girls and only wanted to date women now.

“Oh, you mean that alley cat you’re currently running around with?”

Mom did not approve. I think she had some concerns about the seed not falling far from the tree in this family. She had already had enough of my father’s many dalliances and probably feared I was becoming like him. On the other hand, I know my dad secretly loved the idea of his son capturing the heart of such a lovely woman that was in his wheelhouse.

(This polaroid was taken in a little photo booth in an arcade on the Wildwood boardwalk. It was her idea. I’m so glad we did this. I was so happy.)

We stayed in several different motels that spring and it was awesome. We once stayed in a motel that was right on the corner of 8th and Surf Ave. That was around 100 yards from my parent’s house! Crazy night!

We’d do fun things like go to the boardwalk, and it was amazing. Going out to eat and just spending time together. I just loved being with Betty. I know she enjoyed my company too because I think I helped her retain her youth and show her how fun it was to date again. I think she needed that in her broken marriage. 

The passion we shared.

I remember we once pulled up at a motel where one of my friends was working as a lifeguard and I introduced her to him. Betty Ann stepped out of the car in a white mini-dress. Her caramel skin glowed in the sun and her raven tresses tumbled over her shoulders like a moonless river.

I didn’t really hang out with this guy/clown anymore. He had burned too many bridges with me by then. I really did it just to show off my spectacular girlfriend to him. He later told me that if he ever got a girl like that he would never let her go, but I knew by then I was now operating at a level that he’d never understand, or ever be able to achieve. 

I was so proud to be with such a beautiful, sweet woman. Just kissing Betty was like waking up on Christmas morning. We’d kiss, and she always ended it with a little extra peck on the side of my lips. It was like she was putting her signature on that last kiss… just to remind me I was hers. 

But no matter what we did during the afternoon on our dates, it was all simply delaying the inevitable. We always ended up back in the room…and back in the saddle. 

(Cue up: Aerosmith – Rocks – Side 1, Track 1)

One night, we stayed in a motel on New Jersey Avenue. As summer approached it was getting harder to find available reasonably priced rooms. But it was a nice place, and of course, at the end of our fun day we ended up back there. I remember it being especially hot outside, and the air conditioner was right over the bed. It kept us cool while we passionately tore each other to pieces like teenagers through the night.

The next morning we walked out to the car and there was a piece of paper clipped under the windshield wiper. It looked like a ticket.

It was an official warning from the police.

The notice stated that we had violated the local noise ordinance in North Wildwood. It said that neighbors were complaining about the loud sounds of, “Moaning, Screaming, and a Squeaking Bed… Nonstop”.

I was obviously stunned, and Betty was horrified.

But as I read down toward the bottom, I recognized the name of the officer who had issued the warning last night. It was my buddy, Pitchy. He knew I was staying there and recognized Betty’s BMW.

Nice shot, dude.

(I may still have that warning ticket packed away somewhere!)

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You can get my latest book LAWNDALE, now on sale on Amazon!

My next book, DOWN THE SHORE, is coming Memorial Day Weekend, 2023

It’s gonna be another burner!

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 3 – Lipstick on your Collar

Spring, 1984

I called Betty and assured her I was on my way. I had the necessary videos on the front seat of my car.

Betty lived in a nice house in a lovely neighborhood in Absecon. As I pulled into the development, it was as if they had simply poured asphalt into the shape of a road through the woods and dropped a few elegant houses in there.

I parked away from the property and approached her house. (What if something crazy happens and I have to make a quick getaway?)

Betty Knight. The prettiest lady that came in our video store. How was this different from California? Those days in the early 80s were full of debauchery and recklessness. I was back. But I lived with my parents for god’s sake. I failed out there in L.A. My career or, my imagined career in music was already over. Why? How did that happen? All I ever wanted was to be a rockstar and now here I am.

I sang in a band in Philly, played guitar in a band in Wildwood, and played more rock in L.A., and none of it amounted to anything. My favorite thing in the world wasn’t going to happen to me. What was to be my fate now? Was I just a leaf cast upon the winds of my whims and dreams only to be cast asunder in some grinding domestic life from now on?

But all of the magic things happened in the summer of 1977, 1980, and 1983. I was on a 3-year success cycle there. What happened? It’s 1984, and I thought my luck had run out. My transformation was over. I’ve had my laughs and had my fun with all the girls, I need to buckle down and fly right.

But here I am. Walking up the pathway to this lady’s house. This stranger. This beautiful woman that looks like a Mayan queen and smells like the first day of spring. No matter what I do I always end up here. Walking up to the next adventure. The next extraordinary affair in my life. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe it’s not me, and it’s the forces trying to get me back on track as to where I’m supposed to be.

(This is her front porch. What’s behind the Green Door?)

I was nothing in the ’70s. Then I rose up. But there were those who seemed superior to me. Undoubtedly these things had been allotted to the beautiful, the athletic, and those with clear skin. This stuff was for them. Not a loser like me.

But here she is. I’m at her house. Not a girl. Not some teenager hanging at my side by the pinball machine. This was a woman. 10 years my senior. For some reason, she’s chosen me. It can’t really be happening.

Is my co-worker Tyrone some sort of cupid or even a wizard in matters of love?

I didn’t know what love was back then. Any love I ever felt for anyone came at a price. Whether it was scorn or the sweetest touch of a hand in mine.

I knocked on the door. There’s the moment. You’ve made a sound. Has it been received? There is nothing in the world right now but you and your waiting.

Do you knock again?

No.

Wait.

Knock again. Use the brass knocker on the door this time, buster.

I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. In this neighborhood, knocking on this customer’s door. I look down at the two plastic tape cases in my hand. Rod Stewart and Eddie and the Cruisers on Beta.

The door opens.

Betty is dressed in casual clothes. Light blue button-down blouse and jeans with white Keds. Those dark eyes and raven mane though…

Nothing alarming here. Gotta stay cool. She welcomes me into her home.

She’s lovely and relaxed. I on the other hand am a cluster of nerves and anxiety. I almost can’t describe the feeling. It’s as if I’ve been the miraculous winner of some exotic lottery.

We exchange pleasantries and I set the vids on the table. Her house is how one would picture the home of what appears to be a wealthy person. I know she drives a light blue BMW 5 series, but I don’t know what Betty does for a living.

She takes me on a tour of her house. It’s clean, neat, and nicely appointed, but nothing that points to extravagance. But it’s a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood. We go down a flight of stairs that lead to the basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the basement in some John Carpenter film, it’s a finished basement. As we head down the steps I see some framed photos that appear to have been taken at the Grand Prix. This part of the house is giving me a strong male vibe here.  We walk through a finished playroom area complete with a bar and pool table. Spider sense is tingling like mad now.

“Well, I guess you know I’m married.”

“Umm… No, I didn’t. I hadn’t thought of that, Betty.”

To be honest, if a lady is renting little mermaid videos she obviously has a little daughter. If she has a little daughter, she might be married. But in my blind desire for her back at the store, I can honestly say I didn’t think about any of that. I know I should have, but at that age, I only saw what was before me and what I liked and wanted. I think that’s simply a trait of youth. You act before you think of the repercussions of your decisions. I know I did that well into my 40’s! You want what you want when you want it, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You only see the end goal and not all the hazards along the way to your destination.

“My husband, Dick works at the Showboat Casino.”

“Is he in the mob?”

“Oh gosh, no. I wish everybody would stop assuming that just because someone works at the executive level in a casino they’re associated with the mafia.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Follow me.”

Betty then takes me into the laundry room. (Is this where I get murdered and no one ever hears from me again?) I doubt it. Betty is 5’3″ and 100 lbs. She reaches into the dryer and pulls out a man’s dress shirt. She holds out the collar to me.

“Look at this.”

“Okay… Hmm…”

“What does that look like to you?”

“That looks like lipstick, Betty.”

“Yea. The lipstick on your collar always tells the tale on you.”

“I suppose so… I wouldn’t…”

“And look at this.” She reaches behind a cup on the shelf above the washer and produces what appears to be a woman’s earring.

“I found that in his car.”

Things don’t look good for Dick at this point. Who named Richard goes by the name Dick anyway? I would love to know the question’s when, how, and why.

“Wow.”

“Yea, what does all of that make you think of?”

“Well if that’s not your earring and that smear on the collar of his shirt is clearly not your color, I’d say your husband is probably cheating you, Betty.”

“Yep. That son of a bitch.”

Clearly, she’s pissed.

Why is she showing me all of this so early in our first meeting? It’s as if a message and a motive need to be sent. As nervous as I am at this moment, I kind of like the rush and intrigue of my current situation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like this. The nice innocent guy who is somehow drawn into the darker aspects of existence. This is a precarious position I’m in and the bigger question is… where is Dick right now? Cheater or not, I’m in the basement of the guy’s house with his wife right now. I don’t know where the escape routes or heavy sharp objects are in the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Where is he right now?”

“He’s in Chicago on business until Tuesday.”

(Sigh of relief.) Oh… okay. Well, I’m sorry this is happening to you, Betty. You seem like a really nice lady.”

“I am, but I should have expected something like this to eventually happen. Let’s go back upstairs. Would you like a beer?”

“That would be awesome.” (Alcohol would be the perfect remedy for my nerves right now.)

We get up to the brightly lit kitchen. “When you said you should have expected this, what did you mean?”

She takes a bottle of Heineken from the fridge and pops the cap. Pouring it slowly into a pilsner glass I notice how dainty her hands are and how lovely her vermillion nails are. “Well, that’s how I met Dick. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.”

“Go on…”

“I was his secretary. He was married before. I worked for him in my early twenties and he started having an affair with me.”

“He left his wife and married you?”

“Yep. So I suppose I should have seen this coming. Maybe he’s tired of me now that I’m 32. I wonder who he’s fooling around with this time.”

Her sadness mixed with betrayal and scorn flashed before me. She’s so beautiful and perfect that I can’t imagine a man wanting anything but her. But I was young. I’m jaded from being in bands and living in L.A. for a couple of years, but youth is still a place I can’t escape. I take a deep swig from the ice-cold beer for solace.

“I’m sorry, Betty. I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me how you’re feeling.” (I’m navigating new waters at this point.)

“Yea… Hey, come look at my cul-de-sac. I love my cul-de-sac.”

Okay, at this point I have no idea what a cul-de-sac is. Is it french for some sort of sexual thing? No. Can’t be. Is it something in the house? I’m lost here. I had heard the word but never knew what it meant or what it was.

She walks me over to the kitchen sink. I look down. Okay… drain, spigot, dish sprayer thing. What am I supposed to be looking at?

She points out the window over the sink. “Look. Isn’t that a lovely cul-de-sac?”

All I see out there is the end of a street surrounded by other nice houses in a circle with no apparent exit. It’s just a street that ends with no passage. I’m confused but I have to play along. I look intently out the window at the view. “Well, I must say, Betty… that’s about the best-looking cul-de-sac I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“I know, right?”

But as I turn around and away from the window, Betty is standing right there in front of me. Like, right there. Like six inches in front of me. My heart quickens as I look into her dark eyes. I can feel the familiar searing burst of warm color that explodes in my mind and heart.

This is ignition.

I set my glass on the counter and kiss her lips. It feels like I’ve kissed her before. But it’s brand new. But there’s a friendly familiarity to her kiss. We fit naturally together like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe right now. I take her in my arms and we kiss deeply. It’s amazing. I’ve been kissing girls all of my life. but now I’m kissing a woman. A beautiful, exquisite, experienced woman. My god, she’s beautiful. If Dick walks in here right now and shoots me dead, I’ll die willingly knowing the last thing I ever did in this life was to kiss this lovely woman.

The kiss comes to a conclusion and she hugs me tightly. She smells incredible. What is that fragrance? Is that Red Door? I don’t know. I can’t think straight. There’s too much dopamine firing in my brain. I lean back on the counter and look at her. She smiles and her eyes twinkle as she tosses her raven mane to the side. My god… what did I do to deserve this moment?

Instant love.

“You’re cute, Chaz. I like you. Bonus points for being a great kisser.”

I blush like mad and look down. “I always liked you, Betty. Ever since the first time you came into the store. You were my favorite. You’re the prettiest girl that comes in the store. I’m glad Tyrone said something to you now.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is probably what she needed to hear from her husband. She was over 30 and had a 5-year-old daughter now. No longer the spring chicken she was when she met her husband. No longer the forbidden fruit that he spent time with at the office every day. Most men never leave their wives for the mistress, but this guy did, and then cheated again.

“I always thought you were cute and nice, Chaz.”   Get your beer. Let’s go into the living room. and watch a movie.”

We watched Eddie and the Cruisers. It is a cool story, with a great soundtrack, but is a cliche-ridden mess. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch with this pretty lady. There were more beers drank and more sweet kisses stolen.

We watched some of the Rod Stewart video because she loved him. Most girls from that generation loved Rod Stewart. I never understood it, and neither did my mother. “What do they see in that skinny big nosed Scotsman?” she would say. But what was happening here now was no place for thoughts about my mom.

After some cuddling on the couch and more kisses, it was time to wrap up the day. I smooched her one more time before opening her door and making my departure. We planned on getting together soon, and I didn’t ask any questions. It was her movie and I was merely an actor in this one. A very willing actor.

I think this was an audition for me. Betty wanted to see what I was like outside of the store. She felt comfortable enough to bring me to her home, so at least there was that.  But would I get a lead role in this affair?

Only time would tell.

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