Wildwood Daze – Botto’s and the Office

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Late 1970s

Botto’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, we did that all the time up there.

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

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

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

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

Yea… tough times for Chaz in Wildwood!

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

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

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

Cherie – Chapter 5 – Be Careful What You Wish For – Part I

Don’t be a guy.

Be a man.

Saturday arrived. I woke up relatively early. Philly had periods of showers but the rain was supposed to stop around 1pm, so that was good. I didn’t want another rainy day date with Cherie. But actually I was looking forward to seeing her so the weather didn’t really matter.

I stopped by the salon to drop off some detergent and bring my friend Trish some fives for the register. She was hung over from a night of Jameson at Tattooed Mom’s with her friends on South Street. She stopped drinking alcohol about a year ago, because she said she didn’t like how she behaved on it. Said it made her angry. Trish is angry anyway and I can only imagine what a nightmare she is on booze. That’s probably part of the reason she can’t function without smoking marijuana everyday and drinking oceans of coffee just to get through the day. I’ll be writing a chapter about her in the near future but for now I’ll stick to the events of today.

I give Trish the fives and she hands me a twenty out of the register. I’m walking across the lobby to take a seat and chat with her for a bit when she says. You have a hole in the back of your pants. I’m like, “Stop checking out my sweet ass.”

“Seriously dude. You have a huge hole in your pants. Don’t you feel that?”

I reach back and sure enough, there is a pretty good-sized hole there.

“I didn’t want you going out on your date today with a big old hole in your pants, dude.”

I joke that maybe I could guide Cherie’s hand to it in the movie theater for some cheap thrills.

“It’s the 3rd date!”

“I hate that shit!”

I tell her I agree. I don’t know if you all know this but a lot of young people are under the impression that the 3rd date equals sex. Which I find stupid. In all seriousness I would rather get to know someone and if there is a mutual attraction, the sex should just happen as a celebration at some point. There should never be a deadline related to intercourse. That almost sounds predatory.

So I head back to my apartment to put on another pair of jeans. I grab a pair and realize I haven’t worn them in a while. Like two years. They are a 36 waist. I now wear a 32 waist, but can do a 34 with a belt. They’re just too big and I look ridiculous. I grab another pair. Another hole in the seat. What’s going on here? Did I wear out the seat of two pair of jeans? I know I see the occasional mouse here in the building but what sort of butt munching rodents do we have around here?

I find a pair that are in decent shape with no holes in the seat, and put them on. This will have to do. I go downstairs and summon an UBER. While driving down to Columbus Boulevard to the multiplex, I chat with my driver, Hanna. She asks me what movie I’m going to see. I tell her the lady I’m taking likes scary movies, so we’re seeing, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil.’ Some how she gathers from our conversation that my date is younger than me. She asks, and I tell her she’s a little younger. She tells me about a male friend of hers, who is 50 something and was dating a woman in her 40’s and just wasn’t happy. He said that women his age were all carrying all the same baggage. He’s now dating a woman around 30 and says that younger women are just more fun. I say that I agree, but when you date younger women they all eventually want to get married and have kids.  She says that her friend is always up front about that sort of thing. Maybe I should have been clear about that in my last 3 failed relationships. And here I am being driven to what could possibly be a 4th similar destination.

She lets me out and I go into the lobby and get in line for tickets. The movie starts at 1:50 and it is now 1:30. I get the tickets and as I turn to wait for Cherie, she appears. On time. Early. I like that. It’s really nice to see her. Even though it’s only been four days since our last encounter.

Her hair is up in a bun, exposing her lovely slender neck. makes me think about how I kissed that neck on Tuesday. She’s wearing a yellow blouse, and light brown slacks. They cling to her shapely legs.

We are about to enter our auditorium and we notice the floor is really sticky. Someone must have spilled a soda there, and they tried to mop it up but didn’t get it all up. Now I’ve been to plenty of movie theaters in my time, and have jokes about the sticky stuff and detritus that is on the floor of the theaters, but this was really sticky. I had to laugh out loud. I practically had to curl my toes to keep my shoes from being pulled off by that sticky floor. Just a classic ‘out at the movies’ moment.

We go in and decide that we both like to sit in the back of the theater. I ask her if she wants anything to eat. I suggest some delicious buttery popcorn. She says it’s ok but doesn’t like how it can stick in your teeth. She says she likes chocolate, but not dark chocolate. I tell her I love dark chocolate. She smiles and knows what I mean. I really do prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, but I also love the color of her skin. I go and mortgage my house at the concession stand on exorbitantly expensive snacks. Medium popcorn, medium cherry coke, bottle of water, and a bag of snickers minis for baby. $21. The food was as much as the tickets. The kid behind the counter even told me I could upgrade to a large popcorn and a large soda for $.50 more. I compliment him on his up-sell, but politely decline.

I get back to Cherie. I get all of our snacks and drinks squared away and sit down. “How did you know I loved Snickers?” she asks. “Well I’m funny and you like to laugh, so I figured, Snickers. she smiles and we settle into the previews. There aren’t many people in the theater. I like that. There’s also no late arrivals and no one is sitting in front of us. I love that as well. People are getting seated and chattering a little but that’s acceptable during the previews. We’re whispering closely. Then we kiss. It’s really nice. I feel like a teenager. I haven’t smooched in a movie theater in years. It was so sweet to hold hands too. She rubbed my arm and caressed my hand, and I was even so bold as to rub her leg and knee. It was all very gentle and romantic. What a refreshing difference from the crap women I went on dates with a few months ago. But I’m really enjoying this elegant romantic odyssey.

There is one rub that I have to mention. It’s happened a few times since then. We call it the C-Block, or the CBs. Cherie and I are in the very back row of the theater. All the way in the aisle to the right against the wall. There is only one way out. Doesn’t some pair of fucknuts sit at the very end of the aisle? This couple just sort of drops it there. One row down would have been fine. But they are right now, in OUR aisle. They could have sat anywhere. There weren’t that many people in the theater. It’s just a human thing. Homo Sapiens are such social animals they have to be together all the time. I can tell Cherie doesn’t want them there and neither do I. But there’s nothing we can do. Nothing but make a bunch of trips to the snack bar and the bathrooms. This way we can thrust our delicious firm buttocks right in their stupid faces.

Oh, never mind. It’s just annoying, we just wanted some private time to neck in the back of the theater!

The movie was a pretty by the numbers horror flick. I’d give it a solid three and a half stars. Demon possession, scary children, and good sudden frights do make you jump. We shared the popcorn and the candy. It was lovely. I was happy to be there sharing this Halloween treat with her.

After the film, we went outside. The sun was out and the rain was gone. It had been warm during the week, but had suddenly turned chilly in the last couple of days. Cherie always has trouble finding a place to park in the city, but down by the movie theater there is always loads of parking spots. We walk over to her Saab, and hop in to get out of the chill. We’re chatting about our next move, (which I have already planned) and more kissing ensues. She tells me she was hoping I would agree to sit in the back of the theater so we could neck. It appears this girl really likes me. She says she likes how soft my hands are. It makes me think of Captain Quint when he grabs Matt Hooper’s hands in the film Jaws, and says “You’ve got city hands, Mr. Hooper, from counting money all your life!” That, and the scene in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” when one of the men on the farm puts petroleum jelly in his one glove to keep is hand soft for when he touches his woman. I don’t know why my mind flashed to those two images but for a moment they do.

I suggest we go over to Dave and Buster’s to go play games together. She likes the idea. I will say this about my lovely neuroscience major. She is very bright and quick of wit, but extremely laid back and easy-going. She’s from California, and this chick is chill. I always compliment her about her sweet disposition, because I really like that about her. Peaceful is good. She tells me, that between her two jobs, going to class, and taking care of her son, she has to make many decisions every day. She says she likes how I take charge, and just tell her where we’re going and what time it’s happening. I always have a plan and take the lead. She finds that attractive. So take note male readers, many women like to be told what you’re doing with them and where you’re taking them. Women are great negotiators and communicators, but when it comes to picking a lunch spot, just tell them pizza or sushi or just take them somewhere they serve different stuff and go. I have to give thanks here to my late father in regard to the clock. If he told you something was going to happen, or we were going to be somewhere at a specific time, it happened without error. He taught me that your word is your bond, and always be punctual. Like Beau Bridges says to Michelle Pfieffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys, “Punctuality is the first rule of show business.” Life itself is like a giant long series. You’re the star of your own show. Make it a fun, exciting show if you can. To sum up: Girls like a take-charge man.

Don’t be a guy.

Be a man.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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Duncan – Concentrated Dosage – Part 1 – Friday

Duncan: “Dude. Can I crash at your place?”

Me: “Dude. My daughter Lorelei lives with me now. There’s no room.”

Duncan: “Cool. I’ll stay at the Ritz Carlton.”


Eight months ago Duncan scheduled for us to see the German heavy metal band UDO at the Trocadero here in Philly. Duncan lives in Charlotte, NC. Apparently, he likes to make plans far out into the future. I’ve known Duncan for twenty years now, and when he says he’s going to do something, he does it. Especially when it comes to seeing rock shows.

He loves UDO. His full name is Udo Dirkschneider (born 6 April 1952 in Wuppertal, Germany) is a German heavy metal singer who rose to fame with German heavy metal band Accept. After leaving Accept in 1987, he formed U.D.O., with whom he has enjoyed commercial success as well.

Duncan loved the band, Accept back in the eighties. I only remember Accept from seeing their video, “Balls to the Wall” on MTV back then. Other than that one video and the image of UDO riding on a wrecking ball while seeing the song, that’s all I remember. But Duncan loves the songs of Accept. I only know that one. But that’s why he flew up here to hang out with me. I haven’t seen him in over a year.

We’re going to see UDO Saturday night.

Duncan is thrifty with his money. He will always spend money on things he likes or other people, but when it comes to himself he’s cheap. Normally in the past when he came to Philly he’d always stay at my place. A week before his arrival he texts me to check in.

Duncan: “Dude. Can I crash at your place?”

Me: “Dude. My daughter Lorelei lives with me now. There’s no room.”

Duncan: “Cool. I’ll stay at the Ritz Carlton.”

What? That’s Duncan. He’d love to crash at my place for free, but if that’s not happening he stays at one of the best hotels in the city. Crazy, right?

So Friday rolls around, his flight gets in and he settles into his hotel. I text him and tell him I’m on my way. I took the day off so I can hang with him. He loves my sacrifice. I get there, and he’s already sipping a cocktail at the bar. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning, but it is Friday, and it is Duncan. (Oh, and he did not bring the giant bottle of vodka that he was supposed to give me for Xmas. (See: The Case of the Missing Bottle of Vodka)

Like I’ve said before, Duncan is not much of a drinker but this is a special weekend, and I haven’t seen my buddy in over a year. He’s sipping a version of a White Russian but instead of two parts vodka he asks the to make it with rum. It really is a creamy delicious drink, but I prefer my booze hard and dry. I order a glass of champagne to kick off our day of fun.

After a couple of rounds, we decide we’re hungry and head out for some food. I decide to take him to a local sports bar in Rittenhouse. My friend Ann Marie works there and I know Duncan will love her. She’s Vietnamese and cute as a button.

We get there and we realize that we’re actually starved. We peruse the menu and start out with their sampler platter of all of their appetizers. I intro Ann Marie to Duncan, and she takes the rest of our order. I think Duncan orders another one of those drinks like he had at the Ritz, but they don’t make it so he describes it. Ann Marie says she’ll do her best to create something as close as possible. I go with their spin on a Manhattan. It’s not very good, but it’s spirit forward and that’s all I care about.

So we obviously destroy the sample platter which I hadn’t had before and was actually very good. We both ordered cheesesteaks. It’s philly. I have to feed Duncan all the fun philly foods.  I went with a side of fries and Duncan chose the tater tots. Who doesn’t love tater tots?

During lunch and more drinking we decide that we’re going to go down to Columbus Blvd., by the Delaware River and go play games and drink at Dave & Buster’s. I hope if you’re reading this you know what Dave & Buster’s is but if not I’ll explain. It’s a national chain of family and adult entertainment centers. It’s a huge building that has a restaurant and several bars, and in the back is all kinds of cool arcade games you can play. There’s tons of stuff to do.

Check it out: http://www.daveandbusters.com/

I call us an UBER and off we go from Rittenhouse to Penn’s Landing.

We head in, power up our playing cards, grab a couple of rum and cokes and hop into this zombie killing game. It’s actually scary. We didn’t want to hog the machine away from the kids that were there, so we jump out after awhile and go to my personal favorite, Jurassic Park. Pretty much the same thing. Me and Duncan, shoulder to shoulder, blowing away all of the dinosaurs that are pursuing us throughout the game. After that we hit up the Transformer game. It’s pretty much all of the same shit. Just dudes shooting, killing, and blowing up stuff. We laugh and play like children, but drink like men.

We burn through $40 of gaming each. I suppose we were there for a couple of hours. When we go outside I decide I want to smoke a little grass. I don’t smoke very often, and when I do it’s normally a little skinny joint with very little in it mixed with tobacco. I never did drugs, and never liked marijuana, but I like to drink. Certain substances work differently with each persons physiology. But a little weed at my age is nice. I offer some to Duncan. He used to be a HUGE pot smoker. But he gave it up. He says he did so much weed and drugs when he was younger, that he wants to hold onto what little he has left. He realizes now that when he would be drinking and getting high, it would change his personality. I like the drinking Duncan way better than the high Duncan.

I smoke up my skinny doob and he says he loves the smell, but just can’t do it anymore. I toss the roach and we’re on our way.

We wander up South Street and so much time has passed it’s time for more chow. I bring him to Lorenzo’s. Lorenzo’s is one of the most famous pizza places in philly. They only serve plain slices, but they are HUGE. It’s what they’re known for. Duncan is blown away at the sheer size of these monster sized slices. But they’re just what we need at this point.

When we finish we make our way west on South street. We have so many fond memories of South street. We’ve been coming down here for twenty years when he visits. We stop in a few of the sex shops and look at some of the toys and gear for shits and giggles. Because I’m half in the bag and high, I can’t help but pick up the rubber dildos and hit Duncan in the face with them. Mostly around his mouth.

I remember talking to some crazy woman in one of the stores and she was going on and on about how she dominates her man. Whatever keeps the marriage alive!

We leave,and we’re walking along, and this guy that is walking towards us. He walks past us and we don’t think anything about it. We get to about 12th and South and suddenly we hear, Pop! Pop! Pop!

“Dude, that’s gunfire!”

Duncan looks back and sees the guy that passed us running in a different direction. We spring into action, and take off at a dead run. We run north on 12th street up to Pine. Once we round the corner, we slow down. We both look back and with no one there we just keep going. We head west and north zig zagging away from whatever that was behind us.

We decide we’ve had enough excitement for one day and head back to the Ritz for a final nightcap. Great thing was, every drink I had at the Ritz that weekend was paid for by Duncan!

Tomorrow we’ll be on to see UDO!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 9am EST.

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