A few weeks ago, I got an email from a gentleman I didn’t know. His name is Tom Kranz, and he’s an author and has his own podcast called Type. Tune. Tint. He asked me if I would be a guest on his show, and of course I agreed!
We talked about my latest book, LAWNDALE and how we’re from the same part of the city and some of our collective history. It was a great experience and I’m really grateful that Tom reached out to me.
I decided that I should share it with you all and hope you enjoy listening to this short piece as much as I did making it with Tom. It’s entitled: Creativity Born in a Philadelphia Row home.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” – Michael Corleone (The Godfather III)
I attempted to write this a week ago, but something else came out. But I think I’m ready to focus on the story at hand. As I said in that other post,(There’s Clarity In The Truth) this could be nothing, but at least I finally have a new story for this blog. I’ve been writing about my youth non-stop for the last year! Those posts have done well and kept Phicklephilly afloat regarding content. But, to be true to the why I created this blog back in 2016, it’s my responsibility to report on things that happen in my life now.
I came out of my house the other day. I was probably headed down to Walgreens to pick up some stuff for the house. I haven’t gotten out much in the last year due to covid, but things are opening up now. I’m fully vaxxed and ready to safely mingle with the populous.
I went through the front doors of my building and there sitting on the steps of the building next door with her little dog, was one of my new neighbors.
She was a cute Asian girl with frosted hair and was obviously in her 20s. I stopped to say hello and pet her less-than-friendly animal companion. I noticed she was reading a book about chess master, Bobby Fischer.
I introduced myself and told her that was a great book. I asked her if she had been inspired by The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. She said that she had not and was just interested in chess.
We engaged in some general small talk; apartment life, Philly, relationships, where we’ve lived, how long, and how things had been through covid. There’s plenty to discuss with people now more than ever. We’ve all just come through a global health crisis and have that in common.
She stated that she had recently ended a four-year relationship because her significant other cheated on her. That’s rough. A deal-breaker for many. She had dated a guy she met on one of the dating apps for about a month, but that too had petered out. The coincidence of that last foray for her in dating is that the new guy lived on the same block as she did when she lived up in Fairmount.
She had said when they dated she was over his house nearly every day. But once she moved down here to Rittenhouse, he was done with her. Weird right? But it sounds to me as with all of these dating apps and the sheer availability of people on them with zero game, it’s easy to hook up with new people all the time. He either met somebody hotter or was too lazy to make the effort now that she’d moved across the city. I’m positive it’s one of them.
She had told me a story where she was hanging in the park and some guy started to chat with her. His move was to open with a few words about her dog and maybe he had one of his own. I’ve seen this MO before and wonder why no one has invented an app where you could rent a cute dog for the day just to pick up chicks!
But this guy asked for her number and she relinquished it to him. Funny thing was, she later saw him at Vetri Pizza and he was working there. He also was wearing a wedding ring. So this clown is a player and a cheater. She found that abhorrent.
She asked me what I did and I gave her a short history. Musician and artist turned banker for 20 years and Ad exec for 10. I told her how I grew tired of being stuck in a cubicle all day and started to work in places where I could be around different people. Just work a job and go home every day. The last couple managing restaurants here in center city. I wasn’t particularly good at any of that and restaurant work just isn’t for me. I just don’t have the head for that business. It’s a grinding and vulgar industry and I want nothing to do with it ever again. It seems it attracts the worst people and that’s just not a match for my life.
She said that she worked as a nurse at Jefferson Hospital. I thought that was cool and that she was a bright girl. She even mentioned how she was interested in architecture and how she’d like to learn more about that.
Somehow books and writing came up, (probably all me!) and I told her I was currently doing commercial freelance writing for several different companies. I handed her my business card and told her to enter my name into the search bar on Amazon. She did this and of course, all of my books appeared. I loved it when she held her phone up to me and I saw the cover of Angel with a Broken Wing.
“You wrote this?”
“Yea, that and a few others.”
Lin said she loved books and literature and thought that was pretty cool. She even blew my mind when she said, “You’re like the most interesting person I’ve met in this city.”
That’s when the dopamine dropped in my brain and I felt all of my fatal charms returning to me after being in quarantine for over a year. That part of me that I’m so good at, but haven’t used in so long. I thought my powers were gone, but apparently, that’s not the case.
I loved the surge of meeting a new attractive lady. But this wasn’t some nice gal from Tinder. This was my neighbor. I had to tread carefully. We chatted for a while and it was really nice. Lin is someone I’d like to hang out with. She loves books, so maybe a visit to the Philadelphia Library or some small book stores around town. Or, maybe some conversation over a coffee or a cocktail. I would love that. Just the rush of hanging with someone new and interesting and of course, easy on the eyes.
She now had my business card and I purposely didn’t ask her for her number. Too soon. Too much. She’s right next door. No need to rush. She’s not going anywhere.
But since that initial meeting, I had thought about her and how I’d like to hang out with her. She just seemed nice and it would be fun to hang with a new person.
I told her that Southgate, the Korean BBQ bar and grill was opening up their inside bar on Friday and I was going to go there. She was free to join me there for a drink if she wanted but I just threw it out there. She may forget when the day comes or not bother coming, but as I said before. I have no expectations.
I’m just sliding down destiny’s rainbow, like always.
We had chatted for over forty minutes and she had to go in. I still had to get something to eat and pick up some stuff at the store, so we said goodbye.
Of course, I looked for her on social media and found her. Everything seemed happy and normal enough and there were no red flags. I figured at some point we’d cross paths and chat again.
Then I got buried in commercial writing assignments. They hit like a freight train. When it rains, it pours, and be careful what you wish for. I had wanted to be a freelance writer for a while figuring if I could just make some money doing it, it would support me, the blog, and my freedom to compose books. Just like the poet Robert Graves once said; “I raise dogs to feed my cats.” What he meant was, do what you have to to survive, so you can do the things you like.
Anyway, so here we are into the new year and this is my first new Phicklephilly story about meeting a new person. I’d like to get to know Lin and spend some time with her. As I said before, this could all be nothing, but if nothing else, she could be a nice person to hang out with and grab the occasional refreshing beverage.
I have no expectations.
But, we’ll see what happens.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.
Chock full of colorful characters, constantly adrift on a sea of international adventure and not shy of a plot twist or 25, the rock world feels predestined to generate some of the most horrifying, inspiring, and downright incredible stories imaginable. We’ve stopped short of naming the ‘top 13’ rock biographies – simply because there are literally hundreds out there more than worth your time. Instead, we have listed thirteen of the best rock music books you should read right now.
THE DIRT: CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS ROCK BAND (MÖTLEY CRÜE WITH NEIL STRAUSS, 2001)
The classic. A title that’s become synonymous with the bad-boy rock biography, The Dirt feels like the ultimate chronicle of the genre’s ’80s excess. Looking back now, the idea that Mötley Crüe classics like Wild Side and Girls, Girls, Girls only scratched the surface of their unshackled debauchery seems almost unbelievable. A kaleidoscopic odyssey of booze, drugs, groupies, dealers, cops, tour buses, strip clubs, and car-wrecks, both figurative and literal, it’s a tale that needs to be read to be believed. If you only pick up one rock bio today, probably best to make it this one. Devotees should be sure to grab Nikki Sixx’s bleaker but equally essential 2007 follow-up, The Heroin Diaries, too.
TRANNY: CONFESSIONS OF PUNK ROCK’S MOST INFAMOUS ANARCHIST SELLOUT (LAURA JANE GRACE, 2016)
Known, during writing, as Killing Me Loudly, the autobiography from Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace draws extensively from the journals she had been compiling since third grade. Its eventual title ‘Tranny’ is a term the singer hates, but its appropriation here is symbolic of her taking ownership of a personal struggle through which she noted the supposedly accepting punk community were “more closed-minded than the church”. Illuminating. Poignant. Inspiring. It’s equally essential reading for individuals struggling to come to terms with themselves and those same closed-minds struggling to understand.
WHITE LINE FEVER: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (LEMMY KILMISTER, 2002)
Possessed of a godlike air like few others, Lemmy always seemed like something of an unapproachable icon even for those of us fortunate to make his acquaintance. As such, this exceptionally grounded autobiography – charting the life of Ian Fraser Kilmister, son of an RAF chaplain from Stoke-On-Trent – brought us brilliantly closer to the man behind the myth. Of course, from his early musical exploits with Jimi Hendrix and Hawkwind to decades-long scene leadership at the helm of Motörhead, the man led a life that most of us could even imagine. “It’s a fallacy to say I taught him how to drink,” the legend writes at one point, remembering a young Lars Ulrich. “I actually taught him to throw up, and that’s what he did, all over himself. That’s what he got for trying to keep up with older people’s habits…”
GIRL IN A BAND (KIM GORDON, 2015)
Sonic Youth was never a band to shy away from unpleasantries in their dogged pursuit of beauty and authenticity. Fittingly, bassist Kim Gordon’s chronicle of her break-up with guitarist Thurston Moore and the dissolution of their seminal indie-rock outfit isn’t just a tale of heartbreak; it’s one of the sporadic mundanity, unpredictability and seat-of-your-pants adventure of holding a prime seat on the alt.rock roundabout for the best part of three decades. Girl In A Band proves itself essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the New York noiseniks – or the scene they helped define.
HAMMER OF THE GODS (STEPHEN DAVIS, 1985)
Another of the classics. It’s probably not that difficult to write a rollicking recount of one band’s tumultuous journey when that band is Led bloody Zeppelin. From quaaludes to bathtubs full of baked beans to the extremely questionable use of one taxidermied shark, many of the anecdotes here have slipped into rock’n’roll folklore, but that takes little from the experience of finding them compiled into this singular volume. It’s best not to spoil them too much further here. Let’s just say this is another must-read addition, for rockers or anyone else with a heartbeat…
THIS IS A CALL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVE GROHL (PAUL BRANNIGAN, 2011)
It can be difficult, at times, to get a real sense of what goes on under the surface with The Nicest Man In Rock™. K!’s own Paul Brannigan charts his fascinating story with a dextrous grip on the evolving scenes through which Dave Grohl has endured and a spectacular sense of the adventure he’s experienced along the way. From the kid from the D.C. suburbs who dropped out of school to go on tour with Scream, to the stickman catapulted to superstardom with Nirvana, to the iconic Foo Fighters frontman called upon to play for the Obamas on the White House lawn, few lives share the rollercoaster momentum of Dave’s.
SLASH (SLASH, 2007)
Most rock bios are about the gritty build and the glitzy payoff. Safe to say, the Slash bio is virtually all payoff. Born Saul Hudson in England in 1965 to a white British graphic artist father and a black American costume designer mother, Slash’s story was never going to be that of your garden variety guitarist. Growing up in Los Angeles ’70s bohemia, his mum dated David Bowie, hung out with Joni Mitchell, and taught the youngster that “being a rock star is [about finding] the intersection between who you are and who you want to be”. As the story of Guns N’ Roses’ meteoric rise and incendiary fall-out (their latter-day reconciliation is not part of this 2007 volume) unfold, they seem like simply the logical narrative developments of one of music’s most dramatic life stories.
LORDS OF CHAOS (MICHAEL MOYNIHAN, 1998)
Before you see the movie, read the book. As feels inevitable for any volume skewering the adolescent, corpse-painted pomposity of the ’90s Norwegian black metal scene – and laying bare the narcissistic inhumanity of the suicide, church burnings and murders that followed in its wake – the accuracy of Michael Moynihan’s Lords Of Chaos has been called into question by many of those involved at the time. Regardless, this is a fascinating trip into metal’s most evil sub-genre and a chilling reminder of what can happen when the lines blur between the cvlt theatre and stark reality. Special mention to Dayal Patterson’s Evolution Of The Cult (2013) and The Cult Never Dies (2015) for further deconstructing the scene’s horrifically compelling progression, too.
HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN (CHARLES R. CROSS, 2001)
Much (perhaps too much) has been written about the life and death of Kurt Cobain. This first (arguably definitive) long-form retelling of his life story does spectacularly well to disperse the rumor that hangs around an individual who was, at his core, a musically prodigious slacker from the lower-middle-class of North Seattle. Even better, it charts Nirvana’s explosion of incredible cross-cultural success – one that, we should remember, lasted a fleeting three years – with a remarkable blend of cool analysis and awe. It’s in a chilling final forensic analysis of Kurt’s self-destructive streak, though, that Heavier Than Heaven comes into its own: daring the reader to put aside music and mythos to pass judgment on the individual in the harsh light of the bare facts.
SMASH: GREEN DAY, THE OFFSPRING, BAD RELIGION, NOFX AND THE ’90S PUNK EXPLOSION (IAN WINWOOD, 2018)
It’s strange how the story of ’90s skate-punk has been distorted through the retrospective lens of the last two-and-a-bit decades: its lineage conflated and confused with that of the pop-punk genre it helped inspire. Veteran K! contributor Ian Winwood’s book shatters those perceptions, transporting us back to the poverty, addiction, and unhinged chaos of the era that spawned so many of our favorite bands. Finding The Offspring guitarist Noodles working as a janitor, Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong living in a Salvation Army shelter, and Green Day maestro Billie Joe Armstrong infested with body lice during a debut European tour, it’s a fascinating look at the underground grit and shit before the platinum-rated sheen that followed.
GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG (HENRY ROLLINS, 1994)
Something of a gritty yin to The Dirt’s glamorous yang, Get In The Van is a superb, zero-bullshit diary of life on the road with LA hardcore legends Black Flag. Fronting the band between 1981 and 1986, punk’s storyteller supreme Henry Rollins had a drivers-seat view of the violence, squalor, and sheer chaos of hardcore’s early days. From roadies forced into eating dog food to hard-nut cops to borderline psychotic fans, it’s a dirt-beneath-the-fingernails classic unafraid to show the bleak underbelly of life in a touring band – albeit one with an ultimately triumphant arc. Any fledgling rock star wannabes out for fame and fortune should really stop to read this first…
DARK DAYS: A MEMOIR (D. RANDALL BLYTHE, 2015)
On May 4, 2010, in the Abaton club in Prague, during a concert by Virginian metal legends Lamb Of God, 19-year-old fan Daniel Nosek sustained injuries to his head. Over the weeks that followed, he would slip into a coma and pass away. Although following his initial release on bail, legal counsel advised against returning to the Czech Republic to face trial, frontman Randy Blythe insisted he “could not run away from this problem while the grieving family of a dead young man searched hopelessly for answers that he might help provide”. Those events provide the tragic backdrop for the singer’s stunningly frank account of the dark days (and months) that followed his indictment on manslaughter charges and incarceration in a Czech prison. Even years since Randy’s release, it’s a story that delivers gut-churning jailhouse anecdotes, tales of galvanizing camaraderie, and ultimate redemption that even the most optimistic dramatist might’ve struggled to conjure up.
METALLICA: ENTER NIGHT (MICK WALL, 2010)
It’d be unreasonable to compile a list of great rock biographies without including at least one of the biggest metal bands in the world. Tracking a path from the thrash kings’ spandex-clad genesis to their coronation as globe-straddling, genre-transcending megastars, this packs in all the drugs, booze, and drama any self-respecting fan would expect. From early acrimony with Dave Mustaine through the devastating loss of Cliff Burton to the callous early treatment and furious departure of Jason Newstead, all the personal drama is captured. As are the band’s mid-’90s creative swerves, the (ever-more hilariously redundant) Napster fiasco, and the cringing in-studio therapy that formed the basis of seminal rock-doc Some Kind Of Monster. Crucially, though, Enter Night perfectly charts the band’s place in the rock and metal scene forever evolving around them.
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After the success of my first work of fiction, Angel with a Broken Wing, I knew I wanted to do another book.
But, I wanted to do something different. I started writing the first draft for Below the Wheel. My first book was about a man running away from his life. He was miserable in his job and wanted to hit the road and be gone. I always loved the idea of writing a road story. I’ve driven across the United States so I understood the subject and the lay of the land.
Below the Wheel is a story about friends and relationships. Two guys who worked together for years and grew tired of the rat race. They open a detective agency in Camden, New Jersey, and the story goes from there.
I write from my heart and my gut. The first draft of Below the Wheel was a brutal piece of work. Laced with graphic sex and violence, and peppered with profanity. When I let an agent read it, she liked it but couldn’t take the violence and filth. It was just over the top. I learned from crafting Angel with a Broken Wing, that less is more. Rather than lay it all out there for the reader, I decided to take a different approach. Clean it up a bit. Let the reader picture what’s happening in the scene using their imagination. They’ll get it. You can say it without actually saying it or showing it. I’ve learned a lot from writing this book, but more from editing it.
Like Angel with a Broken Wing, I added a new chapter during the editing process. I always like to leave things a little open for the chance of a sequel. But, I felt like this book needed a little more resolution than I originally gave it. So, I added a nice twist to the story. It also fixed something I never felt completely satisfied with. I feel better about the story and the fate of the characters now. When you write you have to look after your characters. They belong to you. I’d like to someday write a follow-up to this book.
Where did the title come from? That’s a secret. If we meet in person I’ll reveal that to you.
The Admiral Wilson Boulevard. You can read about it here:
It’s an interesting bit of history, but its portrayal in my book is accurate. In the 80s and 90s, it was a grey serpent littered with drug addicts, hookers, and vice. They only cleaned it up when the Democratic Convention came to town sometime after that. It’s all different now. Gone are the strip joints, short-stay- fleabag motels, and human detritus.
Alex Hunter: Like Christian Blackmore from Angel with a Broken Wing, they’re completely made up. I think writers sometimes base their main characters on themselves. I think that was the case here, but we always change things and add things that make them more interesting. I did quit smoking back in the 90s when my daughter was born. I didn’t want to be around my baby smelling like cigarettes. That sweet little head that smells like heaven. I just didn’t want to be the stinky smoky dad around her. I also thought of the health aspects that come from smoking cigarettes. I did use a nicotine patch to get me off the ciggies and it worked. It was rough going though. I’d get stressed back then or be fighting with my then-wife and really want a cigarette. So, I could relate to what Alex was going through in this story.
Alex also has a problem with alcohol. I like interesting characters with feet of clay. I always have. The underdog wants to do the right thing and save the world but struggles with himself. That’s why Batman is more popular than Superman. Batman’s parents were murdered right in front of him as a child. He’s got issues. But Superman was born Superman. He actually has to act like a wimp and a coward to fit in with us mortals. I like the imperfections in a character. It gives them life and relatability to the reader. Who wants to root for Joe Got-It-All? He’s probably a bore. I would much prefer to cheer for the underdog. The failure. The guy who has moments of greatness and yet somehow is undone by his own vices and devices. It just seems more real.
I hardly ever drink anymore. I just became bored with it. After so many years, it just didn’t make sense anymore. Why would I want to stand in a bar with a bunch of drunks? Why would I want to fry my liver and wreck my health? Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the occasional well-made Manhattan, but it’s just not interesting to me anymore. I certainly don’t need it to write like some authors. A clear mind will always prevail. But Alex still loves the bottle and struggles with it all the while trying to be a better person.
Scott Appel: He’s based on my real-life friend, Scott. I know most writers change the names of characters based on real people, but Scott’s my friend. We’ve been pals for over 20 years. When I told him the theme for this book he was enthusiastic about being in it with me. So we changed his last name and he came up with it himself. It didn’t mean much to me so I left it in. Why not write about what you know? It’ll make the characters more real. The banter back and forth between Alex and Scott is how we actually speak to each other. It’s all fun ribbing and slagging. That’s what friends do. Besides, Scott won’t sue me for using his name in my book. I’ve got too much dirt on him anyway!
Genevieve Bouchard: She’s the insurance agent with whom the boys share an office in Camden. This character is based on an actual girl I knew back in the 90s who sold insurance for a living. She was my agent for years. I didn’t know much about her, but she looked like the character in the book. Even though I was married back then, I always liked her. She just seemed like a cool, nice person who was down to Earth. She did have a common-law husband though. They never married and he did run a contracting business. But the Bruno Cartiglio character is completely made up. I never met her significant other. I just created him based on the biker types I’ve met in my life. He’s just a bad egg.
Dr. Ignatious Feeny: The coroner is based on a customer I knew back when I worked for First Union Bank back in the 90s. He looked like Iggy in real life. Right down to the teeth. He was an odd character. A little touched in the head. My father always taught me to treat everyone fairly. I had good customers and bad ones. But they all had money in my branch and deserved respect. This guy would always ask me if he could use the phone in my office. I let him because he told me his neighbors were listening in on his conversations. He was obviously nuts but a harmless person. Just because someone is different or weird doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. You’d be surprised how well people respond with a little kindness. So he gets to be the brilliant but weird coroner in my book!
Ezra Chambers: The Police Luitenant was completely made up. I just pictured Morgan Freeman in the role and he was born!
Otis Guth: I based him on this fat, slovenly guy I once worked with at a record store in the early 90s. He wasn’t like Otis Guth at all. But when I think of the character in my mind I see that guy. Just hard to look at and listen to. Otis’s history is all made up except for the bit about him pursuing the kids who stole the car. That happened to a police officer friend of mine.
Alyssa Ward: She’s completely from my imagination as well. But when I think about the character, I probably was inspired by the lovely Alycia Lane the former co-anchor at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. Google her, and you’ll see what Alyssa Ward looks like in my book. Quite the babe!
Robert Wick: He’s based on a manager I had when I worked at Security Financial Services in the mid-90s. He was a gruff hard-ass but I loved him. He was great at his job and a fair manager. I would put him in the top 3 of the best men I’ve ever worked with. He wasn’t as mean or as foul-mouthed as my character, but he had that same swaggering confidence. A brilliant guy.
Karen Moore: This poor thing was based on several drug-addled prostitutes and strippers I’ve met in my life.
Her daughter Luna, is completely made up. I just wanted to create a truly good and innocent person in this story. A victim of circumstances not of her own making. A good kid, who had great potential but had just been dealt a bad hand in the game of life. The only rose to grow in a garden filled with thorns and spent hypodermic needles.
Pastor Victor Dorath: I was once in love with a girl named Linda Bradley back in the 80s. She was from Philly and I lived in Wildwood at the time. I met her on the beach and was smitten. But I hardly ever saw her. She was a straight-A student and somewhat religious. I actually went to see a pastor in Cape May, NJ for counseling. I know it seems nuts now that I think back on it, but I just needed someone to talk to about my feelings. I based this character on that gentleman. He was really sweet and a kind ear at the time.
Darren Cain: He’s based on a manager I once worked for back in my Midlantic Bank days in the 80s. He had appeared one day from New York and seemed to have an evil streak to him. No one liked him because he was so intense. But he liked me, and I think he probably had a thing for me. (He was gay) When I think of Darren Cain I see Pete Rallo. A crazy, misunderstood guy that was drunk with power. Oh, he later died from AIDS.
Lisa Devlin: (A minor character but worth mentioning) She’s based on a girl I knew who actually did work at Gloucester County College. I was taking some night courses there back in the 90s when I was married. (Like Christian Blackmore in Angel with a Broken Wing!) My then-wife thought I should finish my education. (Her family was extremely collegiate) Lisa was this nice girl that helped me navigate my classes and credits. I ended up hanging out with her a few times at a bar called Rock Lobster that used to be on Deleware Avenue in Philly.
Did I leave anybody out? I think that’s it.
I hope you like reading Below the Wheel as much as I did writing it. I think my next book of fiction may be something different again. I was thinking maybe a music story about a kid who rises in the music business in early 80s Los Angeles.
I still would like to release a collection of stories from my youth in Philadelphia, and Wildwood, NJ. But we’ll see.
You can get it here on Kindle and Paperback:
This song is dedicated to my sister Jane.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?
After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Is there a scarier city somewhere across the river? Should I try to make a story inspired by true events?
I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys that were friends who decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life, but seen through the eyes of lighthearted, unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.
Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the lives of the characters in Camden, New Jersey in the Summer of 1998.
Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden New Jersey. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement. Especially detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.
Alex is the obsessive, suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking advice by attending church, and getting spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.
Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local television newswoman, Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently, her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.
His partner Scott, is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black and leave the exciting stuff to the police.
The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent, hard-working woman, but is trapped in a toxic relationship with her abusive common-law husband, Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction on one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous extracurricular activities.
During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.
A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott’s reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.
Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.
The boys work the case, and it’s full of twists, turns, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who is doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?
First and foremost, I want to thank the incredibly talented artist, Kellie Stiles who designed and painted the cover for Below the Wheel. Without her tireless efforts, we’d have… well… a book without a cover!
Special thanks to my wunderkind daughter, Kathryn. You’ve always been my greatest inspiration. A brilliant artist and musician in your own right. I appreciate you listening to me complain endlessly about the process of creating new literature and writing in general!
Thanks to the amazing team at Amazon Kindle. Without you, I’d be lost in a sea of technology. I can write the words, but you guys help me turn them into books.
Thanks to everyone at Amazon. I became a member over 25 years ago when you were just a giant bookstore. After crawling on my hands and knees to agents and publishing houses for years, Amazon finally gave me the biggest platform on Earth to bring my literary work to the world.
A special thanks to everyone at WordPress. Without you, I couldn’t publish Phicklephilly every day for the last five years! Now we’re a dot-com and I’ve monetized the site with ads from companies I’ve acquired, and we’ve also added Google AdSense! You gave me a home to bring my work to everyone! Thank you!
Thanks to all the folks over at GoDaddy. You made the transition from just another blogger to a dot-com look easy. Thanks for always being there when I needed you. You’re the best!
And of course, I have to thank my agent, JR for keeping this rocking boat afloat, and getting me steady commercial writing work to put food on the table for me and my daughter!
And last, but certainly not least…
Thank you, dear readers and subscribers, (2300 strong!) for your support over all the last 5 years I’ve been writing this little blog. What started out as a hobby to write about all my crazy dates, relationships, and people in my life has grown exponentially! You all got me to a quarter of a million page views this year! I appreciate you all and try to respond to all of your comments.
Please buy my new book. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. It’s quite a ride! You can read it on the beach this summer!
You can get it in paperback or kindle here:
We did it again in 2021!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
Can we talk numbers for a moment before I get to the good stuff?
Last year in 2019 we had 24,000 visitors and 43,000 page views.
In 2020 we had 93,000 visitors and over 133,000 page views!
Here’s where we are as of this writing. Over the last 5 years, we’ve had over 145,000 visitors to the site, over 226,000 page views, and 2,315 subscribers! I can’t believe my good fortune. Our biggest market is obviously the US, but the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, and Germany are not far behind.
Phicklephilly is read in over 200 countries globally every day!
Thank you all!
Did you know there’s a Language Translation widget on the homepage? It’s really increased my global reach, and I like that people everywhere in the world can now enjoy my stories in their native tongue. Phicklephilly can be read in any language with a simple click of a button! (Now you have no excuse not to read my blog!)
I started this blog back in the Fall of 2016 with a single post on a Monday about a date I went on. After writing it, I thought… How the heck am I going to come up with something for next week? But I wrote something else and was on my way. It was a very long and slow progress in the beginning. (The only way to become a writer is to simply write!)
Then I’d do an update on the occasional Wednesday. Then came Tales of Rock. Then Crazy Dating Stories from my past. What followed was Dating and Relationship Advice. What was once a weekly thing, has grown to a daily forum!
I think the greatest thing that came out of 2020 was the publication of my first work of fiction, Angel With A Broken Wing. You can get that here:
Here’s where we’ve been this year.
Sadly, Sun Stories are finished. I no longer moonlight at the tanning salon, so there simply aren’t any new stories to write. But the good news is, you can read every story ever written and a whole lot more in my book, Sun Stories: Tales From A Tanning Salon, available on Amazon! At 720 pages, it’s my longest and most lurid work ever.
I’m almost out of gas on these stories. They’ve been fun to recount, but there are only so many in my memory. I’m sure there’ll always be some crazy story to tell based on who I am, but for the most part, they’ve been exhausted at this point. I’ll eventually tell the tales of my young life in Philly and New Jersey with some legendary people, and there are still some from my time in California in the early 80s, but beyond that, not much is left.
But, you can read all of them in 3 volumes on Kindle or acquire the entire collection in, Crazy Dating Stories – Anthology!
I really enjoyed writing about the journey on the road to Los Angeles back in those days. I think I did justice to the trip itself, but I know there’s so much more to tell. I still have more stories to write, but they’ll no longer be running every Friday anymore. I’ll probably write a few more and run them on Saturdays. I’ll compose them as the memories surface, but I’ll write them when the mood strikes me. I promise they’ll be interesting, but for now, I need to focus on the things that are happening in my life right now. (So, they’re not going away, just published a bit less.) I recently reconnected with an old girlfriend from back in 1983, so that story will surface at some point.
This was a monthly series where I collected funny, crazy dating profiles from online dating sites. Frankly, I don’t really use those sites anymore and got tired of collecting, cutting, and pasting all of that nonsense into my blog. So they’re also sadly dead on this site. You can always go back and read the old ones. They’re pretty funny!
Phicklephilly the Podcast
I’ve done a few of these on Spotify and enjoyed making them. If I have time I’d love to do a podcast series about a former love of my life, Michelle. I still miss her friendship and would like to create a kind of audiobook type thing so you can hear my stories in my own voice. I’d also like to have guests on and interview interesting people about a myriad of different subjects. Please stay tuned, this is new ground for me and any feedback is always welcome! But, it’s been a crazy year and I’ve been so busy creating new content and publishing to sit down and do the podcast. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s resting on the back burner for now.
She was my girlfriend over 10 years ago. I still sometimes think about her, and you can read her series on Phicklephilly from 2016-2017. Originally there were only about 15 chapters but it ended up being 24 based on events and time. But I assure you, Michelle is not coming back. I miss her and wish her well, but it is what it is. There will be no more Michelle stories.
Anyway, let’s talk about what’s coming up in 2021.
Dating and Relationship Advice
This series began back in 2017. I would publish content on the weekends. It just seemed like a natural progression for the blog to take. I wrote about dating and relationship tales from my own life, and thought, why not give a little advice to help others?
It was okay for a while, but then a friend of mine was going through a difficult separation from his wife and I wanted to help. I, of course, rallied around him to assist. But I also thought, what if I try to write something every day that references dating and relationship guidance? I’ll do it every day for 30 days and he can read it, and it’ll help acclimate him to the new dating world after being off the market for 12 years.
Well, that turned into 90 days. Then I simply pushed on and kept researching and writing, and before I knew it, it became a daily thing.
But… after a year I realized he was too busy to read it and it felt like a waste of my time. I also wanted to focus on the things I wanted to write about in my own life. I was tired of having to edit 14 posts for over 3 hours every Sunday night, just to be ready to publish for the upcoming week’s material.
But then something magical happened.
My daily traffic doubled, and then tripled!
I liked that very much. But after a year and a half of that I decided around the end of the third quarter of 2019 I was sick and tired of writing dating and relationship advice every day. I decided to stop doing it by year-end and focus on stories that were exclusively about my life experiences from then on.
But… it got to be about a month later and I realized that dating and relationship advice had become the foundation of the blog itself. It seemed people loved reading them and always enjoyed the content, and commented to let me know that it was helping them in their daily lives. Some of them have become the most popular posts ever and are read every day!
So… Happy 2021! I’ll continue to try to bring you the best and most interesting dating and relationship content I can for at least another year. (Knowing me, I’ll probably never stop writing about the subject because there’s so much to tell!)
Thank you for all of your words and support. Dating and Relationship Advice is here to stay!
Tales of Rock
I still love researching and writing this column. As a musician and a fan of music, it’s fun to dig up these stories about the musicians we all love and hate. They’ll continue to run every Sunday through 2021. I’ve also added another feature entitled, The Best Band You Never Heard. It’ll run on the first Sunday of every month and introduce you to just that. Great bands, you may never have heard about that rock! Tales of Rock is here to stay!
I have a new series that happens on the first Saturday of every month entitled, His & Hers, that I write with my friend Jackie. Readers send us dating and relationship questions and we answer them. If you have a question you’d like us to address, go to the Contact tab on my homepage and hit me up!
Future Posts and Series
Due to the pandemic and not being able to go out and make new stories, I’ve turned my thoughts inward. I’ve written several stories from my past. I think you’ll find them entertaining. I’m going to try to publish one story every other Tuesday in 2021. It’ll be all-new tales from my past life. I mean, if I do get out and something happens, I’ll definitely write about it, but I think these could become a future book.
I recently started writing a series entitled, The Worst, Creepiest & Annoying Songs of the 70s. It’ll include just that. I loved digging out these songs, and as the series progresses, the songs will get worse and worse! The series should be around 7 parts and run on Tuesdays when there isn’t new story content.
I’ve recently written another 7 part series entitled, Back The Tracks, about my childhood memories of where my friends and I used to play. That series will begin on January 7th and run every Thursday.
I also have a 9 part series about the band, Aerosmith starting In March. I know everything’s already been written about that band. They were always my favorite growing up, so I decided to write about MY experience with that group. Where I was and what was going on in my life through the years as each of their studio albums were released. Should be a fun ride! That series will begin on March 4th and run every Thursday through the end of May.
In May I’ll begin another series entitled, Hunt’s Pier. It’s about an amusement pier in Wildwood, New Jersey. It spans over 60 years and should be a solid tale. That series should run every Thursday through July.
After that, I need to finish writing a series about a woman who was my girlfriend back in 1984. It was a unique relationship that’s full of surprises. As I said, I’ve been writing about the past until I can get out and start socializing again. So I have some good stories to keep you all entertained until then. The series is called, Betty Ann and will run through the summer to October. I think you’ll dig it.
New book: Below The Wheel
This is a hard-boiled detective story I’ve been working on after Angel with a Broken Wing. It takes place in Camden, New Jersey. Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are private investigators who get caught up in the case of a serial killer. With a bit of luck, I’ll finish it and hopefully publish it in the Spring of 2021.
The core formula of Phicklephilly has always been my personal experiences here in Philadelphia. Although Dating and Relationship Advice has become the foundation of the blog that carries it forth, I believe the stories about my life lie at the center of its existence.
I live a quiet and private life now but have always believed in absolute transparency in the words that I write here. I have no illusion as to who, or what I am in this world. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done, and it’s all from the heart. But, let’s face it, because of the pandemic I can’t go out in the city and go on any dates anymore, so I’ve begun writing stories from my past. But, if things return to normal this year we can all get back out there.
There’s more, but this is the direction I’m going in for this blog.
Other than that I’ve been leading a pretty quiet and uneventful life. I like to write and stay busy. I feel like old Ben Kenobi from Star Wars, Episode IV- A New Hope. Not Obi-Wan out fighting the Empire, just old Ben hanging out in his little house watching Netflix.
Sometimes I feel like all of my memories are here on phicklephilly and scattered in a bunch of letters and photo albums in my house. I need to get all of those memories onto the page!
But… I’m still alive and well, and I’m sure there’ll be some new adventures I’ll explore in this brand new year. It’s going to be okay everybody. We have a new President and we’ll all pull together like we always do as a nation and go forward.
Thank you again for reading Phicklephilly loyal readers!
Onward and upward into The Roaring ’20s!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
I’ve been writing Phicklephilly for over 5 years now, and it’s been an incredible journey of dating, love, relationships, and discoveries.
I’d like to first express my incredible gratitude to everyone who’s chosen to read, like, comment, and most of all, follow my blog. I appreciate every one of you and will always try to respond to any of your comments on any of my stories.
This year’s been one of many challenges. I’m not here to talk about the number of cases or deaths from this virus. We all hear enough about that every day. We’ve all lost loved ones during this dark time. I hope we’ve all learned some things through this.
I’m just going to mention a few people here. I lost my childhood friend Michael back in March and that was a shock. To lose one from your generation at such a young age is jarring.
I’ve realized something very important during this pandemic. You really find out who your real friends are. I’ve reconnected with some wonderful people from my past and it’s been glorious. My current lineup of friends is going strong and I love every damn one of you! Also, I have to mention my three wonderful sisters. I love you all and I’m proud to be a part of this family!
But, I’ve also had to release some toxic people from my life. I realized through this I have nothing in common with any of them and simply acquired them through my jobs. I had to let them go. Some I wanted to cut off 2 years ago but didn’t have the heart. I knew they’d only stalk me at work. But in 2020 they made the decision simple. They just don’t fit into my life anymore. I’m not going to mention any names. I have no malice and hope they all find their way in life.
Anyway, let’s move on to brighter subjects.
Here’s where my life’s been in 2020.
I remember working 55 to 60 hours a week at my job earlier in the year. One day I came home feeling tired. I looked in the mirror and said, “I wish this would all just stop.”
And it did.
My daughter and I were both laid off from our jobs in March. We waited a week, and then both filed for unemployment.
The first week or so it was just strange. Then we sort of settled into the fact that we couldn’t go to our jobs anymore.
What would we do with this sudden, paid free time?
We had some ideas. I decided to make phicklephilly.wordpress.com into my own domain. I bought Phicklephilly.com four years ago and own it. So I called the nice folks over at GoDaddy and had that integrated into my site. Now it’s more searchable on Google and has brought so much more traffic to the site. If you google phicklephilly now, it’s the first thing that comes up.
With that came WordPress ads. They run ads on your site, and that generates revenue. You have to complete a bunch of forms for that and give them all of your tax info. Because it’s real income.
But here’s the thing… the revenue for the ads run is minimal. They’ll serve thousands of ads on your site. But the return is tiny. Phicklephilly’s been around for over five years and I have tons of content. (Over 2,000 posts) I figured more content, more page views. It worked, but I’d probably need millions of page views to make any money from these free ads thrown to me by WordPress.
I’m not complaining, but I felt I needed to do more. So I signed up for Google Analytics. That opens up the world of Adsense. Once that processed it generated ads on my site which will equal more revenue. The site’s really coming into its own. So, we’re growing.
I have all of this free time. I’ve never had this much paid time off in my whole life. What to do?
(If you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can borrow and read the digital versions of my books for free!) Everybody else has to pay.
Thanks to the amazing team at Amazon Kindle. Without you, I’d be lost in a sea of technology. I can write the words, but you guys help me turn them into books.
Thanks to everyone at Amazon. I became a member over 20 years ago when you were just a giant bookstore. After crawling on my hands and knees to agents and publishing houses for years, Amazon finally gave me the biggest platform on Earth to bring my literary work to the world!
A special thanks to everyone at WordPress. Without you, I couldn’t publish Phicklephilly every day for the last five years! Now we’re a dot com and I’ve monetized the site with ads! You gave me a home to bring my work to everyone! Thank you!
Thanks to all the folks over at GoDaddy. You made the transition from just another blogger to a dotcom look easy. Thanks for always being there when I needed you. You’re the best!
While writing my first work of fiction, Angel with a Broken Wing, there was something nagging at me. The itch I had to create was being satiated by writing the book, but I felt there was something more I could do for Phicklephilly. The little blog that started me on this journey shortly after the death of my father in 2016.
I started to think… I’m putting all of these pieces together, is there something else I could do?
While creating Angel with a Broken Wing I would listen to music on Youtube. I’ve been listening to everything! It’s been great, but sometimes between songs, they run these commercials. I don’t really mind it if it doesn’t go on too long. I grew up in a world where radio and TV were supported by commercials.
I worked in advertising for 10 years when I returned to Philadelphia from New York back in 2007. So I understand the importance of ad revenue to support these sites.
I remember as I was typing one day, this ad came on for a company called, Dr. Squatch. I stopped what I was doing to watch it. Normally, when people are enjoying a show or listening to music, all they want to do is skip the ads. But Dr. Squatch’s ads were so good, I was captivated by their brand. It was a brilliant, fun campaign to promote their male hygiene products. You know an ad is good when you WANT to watch it because it’s so engaging.
Here’s an example of a tremendous, creative ad. Its incredible imagery and music make it unforgettable. However… the ad was so fun and engaging most people didn’t realize that the ad was for the new Nissan Maxima.
It got me thinking… all I did for 10 years in Philly was sell advertising. Digital advertising for Philly.com. Then for a happy hour website, and later, Philly Weekly. I started with nothing at all three of those companies and made it work. Most people don’t like to sell, or can’t sell. Either you have it or you don’t. No one likes rejection, and that’s 95% of sales. You need mad game to sell. It’s a ruthless, thankless business. But perfect for me. An overachiever, and a track record of closing impossible deals. In banking, as a broker, I was a million-dollar producer every year. At Philly.com I was billing $40k a month. It all comes down to who will relentlessly make calls on clients, meet with them, close them, cross-sell them, and get referrals. Then repeat that over and over again. That’s sales. Just run down the game and kill it every day. Like a lion on the savanna, you hunt every day to feed your cubs. Most days you go hungry. But you keep at it. Most don’t have the will to keep at it. But if you do, like anything else, eventually you’ll make a kill.
So, here I am creating content for my dating and relationship blog here in Philly during the quarantine. How can I write a blog like this in quarantine? I feel like I’ve been grounded by my parents and I can’t go out and do what I do socially.
But, while I’m waiting for WordPress and google analytics and AdSense to all come together for me, I should maybe try to do what I’m good at.
Sell digital advertising while I’m waiting for them to get their act together. It’s what I’m good at. Selling stuff. Any job I’ve ever worked where I don’t get to create or sell stuff I usually fail. Because we have plenty of people that are built to take orders and work hard to build somebody else’s dream. Business leaders love cheap labor.
Don’t get me wrong… Phicklephilly and writing books isn’t my dream. The only dream I ever had died 40 years ago in Los Angeles as a failed rockstar. Now the only dreams I have come to me during slumber and that’s just my brain dumping thoughts, feelings, and images.
Phicklephilly’s been a glorious hobby. Yea, it’s a hobby. If you don’t have a hobby, you should think about maybe getting one. It’s a lovely release from all of the things you HAVE to do every day to survive. It’s a sweet little pleasure that you get to create.
It’s kind of cool to watch something that started as a passion or a hobby become something bigger. It’s like a garden. You tend the seeds and the plants and vegetables, with water, care, and sunlight. It starts to grow. Because you care about it. You like it. It’s fun. It feels good. It’s not a job to pay the bills. It’s your thing. It belongs to you.
I don’t know why I never thought about this back in March, but I guess I was busy writing my book. But it started to work on me about six months ago. Back in May, I decided that part of my day would be dedicated to going through all of my leads and contacts. I have hundreds from New Jersey, New York, and obviously Philly.
I would spend only one hour a day for 60 days going through all of my contacts, corporate contacts, business cards, Linkedin, old sales files from the last 20 years, and see what that would yield. I called on every advertising agency in my old book of business. I knew if I dug into all of my New York contacts, I could mine some gold. Sometimes the one-hour goal would stretch beyond that, but I wanted to do it every day consistently. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, in case it never came to fruition.
Which brings me to this.
The sight obviously looks different. Especially the sidebar. I wanted to fit them all in where I could.
At least for now.
What’s weird is… I remember being contacted years ago by acquaintances that had attached themselves to me like sea lampreys in the industry. They had their websites about Philly, or food, or music. They always wanted me to sell ads for them on their sites. I have no idea what their business plan was for their sites, but I can guess. Write a blog with some relevant content about something they were passionate about. But somewhere they thought they’d like to run ads on their site and make money. Sadly, they didn’t possess the ability to execute that part. So they approach some schlub to do it for them. They have no revenue to pay the individual. Sadly, all of those sites have failed, and hopefully, those folks found jobs somewhere. I get it. Great idea. Poorly executed.
But don’t be nice to me thinking I’m going to do your job for you. That’s just fiction, man.
Most writers can write, But there aren’t really any writers out there that can sell.
So, I’ve been digging in hard every day for the last few months to maybe monetize Phicklephilly. There’s no way I’d do this for free for someone else’s little dream, but for my little hobby…sure.
I haven’t sold advertising since 2018. But I still have all of my contacts from my corporate life. I haven’t had a platform worth selling anything on. But the cool thing is, Phicklephilly just sort of grew like a weed over the last 5 years. It grew because I gave it a lot of love. (Along with all of you reading this!)
So here we are.
Funny what you can accomplish when you don’t have a job to go to.
I know for the moment the site’s looking a bit cluttered, but I wanted to show everybody that decided to run on my site. I’ll clean it up, and WordPress and Google will help me out.
I’m blown away by the support that all of these brands have brought to Phicklephilly.
I want to take a moment and thank everybody!
ALYAKA, AQUATALIA, BERETTA, BERRYLOOK, HARD TAIL, TRETORN, BUXTON, EVERLAST (You guy have been great! I appreciate all of the rapid responses!) FREDRICKS OF HOLLYWOOD (I have a story for you guys from my youth when I first saw your ads in a Hollywood gossip mag!) GRAND SLAM – NEW YORK, JACH’S – NEW YORK, KATY PERRY (Katy… your agency is a delight to work with!) LANCER, LIFELINE, LUVYLE (I love you guys! Thanks for Berrylook!), MADDA FELLA, MADISON STYLE, PURLISSE, ROYAL DOULTON (Thank you guys in London for being first!), SLEEPSTAR, SMOKO (Beautiful ads, guys!), WATERFORD, WEDGWOOD, YOUNGBLOOD, and MINERAL COSMETICS.
You guys rock! You’ve all been so kind and patient with me. I can write, but I suck at all of the technical stuff. I just love that I was able to pitch you guys and you got it. I can’t run all of your stuff all of the time, but I’ll do my best to promote your brands on the site to the best of my ability.
My daughter’s had the opportunity and time to create new music! A lifelong singer and musician, (like her dad!) she’s started composing her own original songs! (And videos!)
I’m so proud of her! She wrote all the lyrics and music for these songs!
I’m super proud and happy about what my daughter’s creating. We both agree that if you had something you always wanted to do, then this was your opportunity to do it!
She’s currently in the process of producing an EP of all NEW music due out in early 2021.
Even I got into the act and dug out some of my old recordings and got them online!
Check out this old rock ‘n roll geezer!
And… while visiting my sisters at Christmas, my little sister converted an old VHS recording of me attempting to do stand up comedy at Stockton State College back in 2003!
In reference to new beginnings, a dear friend of 20 years recently got married! After a few delays due to the pandemic, they finally got it done. My daughter and I had a great time, and it was nice to reconnect with some dear old friends. My daughter even did a reading at the reception.
Despite all of the bad things that are happening, we’ve managed to make a lot of good things happen! so, to us, 2020 has been a fantastic year!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
Ever since I was a little boy, I loved the space program and all things having to do with the universe. I always liked science and nature.
On Sundays my dad would take my sister Janice and I to a book store where he picked up his copy of the New York Times. We lived in a neighborhood called Lawndale and the store was over in Cheltenham. It was a 15 or 20 minute ride from the house.
I remember one time we went there and there were a half dozen flatbed trailers in the parking lot. On each trailer were these giant dinosaur models. But, get this… you could put coins in a machine on the thing and it would make you a miniature model of the dinosaur you were standing at the foot of. It was incredible. Of course my dad got us one of each.
(They were made out of wax and plastic. It was almost surreal to me at the time. If I can find any info on this, I’ll write about it in a future post.)
1960s Tyrannosaurus Rex Wax Mold-A-Rama Injection Mold Dinosaur Small Variation
I will have to say this here being a student of science. Notice how back then people thought T-Rex walked upright like a guy in a Godzilla suit dragging his tail behind him? When it’s painfully obvious if you look at the bone structure of the T-Rex he’s built more like a bird. The genuine article leaned forward and his tail stuck out for balance.
More like this rendering:
Since this story is about science I felt it needed to be said!
My dad read the NY Times every Sunday for as long as I can remember. We had the Evening Bulletin delivered to our house every day by the local paperboy, but he would buy the Times for himself every weekend. It was a behemoth of a publication. Easily 100 pages. This is when print was king and the Times was probably the greatest paper in the country. (Maybe the world!)
I once asked my father why he read that paper and he told me that he felt that the Times told the unbiased truth when it came to the news. It was a high brow intelligently written paper that brought you news from around the world. He felt that it gave him everything he needed to know each week.
He’d be chatting with the staff and browsing for books, and Janice and I would wander around the store looking at all kinds of different books. I loved walking up and down the aisles looking at all sorts of different books!
My dad would sometimes say no to getting us a toy. But he never said no to getting us a book.
I loved looking at all of books and comics. Normally, my sister and I would come home with something on those trips.
We always had lots of books growing up. My father was an avid reader and always had a book going. He was a self educated man. He read about everything. He would pick a subject and read all he could about it. I always thought that my dad was a really smart guy, but he would always dismiss it by saying that he was just older. But I knew he got smart from reading so many books. He wanted to better understand the world and its historical events to better navigate his own life. He used to say that the three greatest things in his life were my mom, us kids, and his books.
He passed in 2016, but I wonder what his reaction would have been to discover his son had become a published author?
He used to say that books and knowledge gave him the tools he needed to better navigate the world and the people and events in it. That habit trickled down into us kids, and we all learned so much from him. Don’t get me wrong, my mom liked to read too, but she was more into Agatha Christie and works of fiction. My dad liked non-fiction. Mostly history, biographies, and science. He did love science fiction and read all the great works by Clark, Asimov, and Heinlein. He enjoyed authors who took a more scientific approach to their writing rather than the fantasy stuff of say… Ray Bradbury. He always liked stories about stuff that could maybe happen in the future. That’s why he always liked Batman better than Superman. Superman was an alien from another planet with incredible powers. Batman was just a regular guy. Batman was cool, because Batman could be a real guy! You could never be Superman, but if you had the money and skills, you could maybe be Batman!
I remember he got me a huge poster and I hung it on the wall of my bedroom. It was of our solar system and I would always look at it think about our galaxy. Here’s a guy who took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. We loved space and all things science fiction. I used to stand on my bed at night and just stare at that poster. I always thought it would be amazing to travel to the stars. But I was afraid of heights, so that was off the table.
We had stacks of books about science and nature. I remember my sister and I would get these little paperback digest sized books about animals. I especially loved those books. Each one had a different subject. Fish, Reptiles, Amphibians, Insects, and Spiders and their kin. I asked dad what the word kin meant, and he told me that they were all in the same family. Just like us. Reading all of these kinds of books as a kid were not only fun and informative, but they made you smarter, and you didn’t even realize it was happening. I don’t remember many of my friends in the neighborhood having many books like that growing up.
I loved space, aliens, space travel and science fiction movies growing up. My father was a huge fan of the Apollo program as it began to take shape in the 60’s. We followed it together and would watch the launches on our black and white TV. I remember I was in first grade for Apollo 8.
But, bigger and better things were coming.
A promise President Kennedy made to the American people just eight years before. His words ring true today now more than ever.
I’ll never forget the night of July 16th, 1969. I was in bed, and my father came and woke me up and brought me downstairs. I remember sitting on the floor in my pajamas next to his chair, and watching as the Apollo lunar module touched down on surface of the moon. The moment I saw Neil Armstrong step carefully down the ladder as the first man on the moon.
A glorious moment in human history.
I always felt bad for Alan Shephard who stayed behind in the ship orbiting the moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. But they needed Alan pick them up and take them back to Earth.
But in that moment as the astronauts looked back upon that blue marble surrounded by blackness, they maybe thought…All life as we have ever known it is right there. All of the people, animals, fish, birds, insects, plants… everything was on that blue marble.
Except for them. They were out there.
As usual, I was struggling in school. It’s not that I wasn’t bright, I just didn’t like school and it’s inhabitants. My dad tried to challenge my mind at home, so he bought a bunch of books. Space, History, Science, Biology, Anatomy, and Animals. They were this amazing series of books on nearly every subject. But it was all written in terms a kid could understand.
Here’s an example.
The How and Why Wonder Books!
He would assign me chapters to read at night when my regular homework was finished. I also read them in my free time and on the weekends.
Initially it felt like a punishment. To me it was a punishment. More schoolwork?
But what I later realized is, that learning was fun. The world is a fascinating place if you have the right materials and most of all, the right teacher. I would read the assigned chapters, and then my dad would give me a list of questions I had to answer on a yellow legal pad. (Yes, I was tested to see if I retained the information.) I didn’t like this forced learning, but after a while I began to feel a certain pride in learning all of these things. If for nothing else than to become a smarter person. A boy who knew more about the world around him.
He figured if I wasn’t going to pay attention in school, then by god, he was going to fill my head with as much good information as he could jam in there. He knew I had the head for it. But I didn’t realize it at the time. But after a while it got easier, and the books became more interesting to me. I was under 10 years old, and I knew all of the stages of gestation, even though I hadn’t a clue what sex was yet.
Reading those books and being tested was simply the beginning of all of the things my father taught me. Those books and all of the other books he gave me on a regular basis made me an avid reader where I later excelled in school. I’m happy to report that I’ve never said no to my daughter in regard to a book, and she’s a brilliant reader. So my sisters and I have tried to replicate all of the good things our parents taught us, and discarded the bad. Why hold onto it? They were mistakes. Focus on the triumphs, and go forward.
Sometimes on a Saturday, my mom would take the girls into town. When you lived in the suburbs back then, you referred to center city as ‘going into town’. They would be gone half the day shopping at the big department stores. Gimbels, Lit Bros, and Strawbridges.
Saturday morning meant one thing to me as a kid.
Saturday Morning Cartoons.
When I was a little guy, (Like four or five) I was so into Saturday morning cartoons, that I knew what show was coming on at what time, and what to watch next on what channel.
I couldn’t even tell time yet. However, back then there were only a few channels. VHF: 3, 6, 10 & 12. UHF: 17, 29, & 48. That was it.
One of the cool things about a Saturday with dad instead of mom was lunch. I remember he would be sitting at his place at the dinner table in the kitchen. The sun through the windows would illuminate his paper. If I was hungry, he would make me a dish called, ‘Junk’.
Junk consisted of Planter’s cocktail peanuts, (When they were perfectly salty and greasy) a handful of crispy pretzels, and three or four slices of American cheese (New Yorker) tossed in a little green cereal bowl. That was placed on a folding snack table in front of my TV chair, and I was good to go. Wash it down with some Hawaiian Punch and you’re all set.
You’d think that wasn’t enough for a growing boy, but I was a fussy eater, and I loved that combination. I didn’t realize that I was basically eating bar snacks for lunch. It was awesome, and I loved it. We all did!
I was finished lunch one Saturday and dad and I are discussing some of the things I was learning from the books he gave me to read. I was struggling with some of the laws of gravity, inertia, and centrifugal force.
My dad came up with the idea that he should do what he always did; lead by example. Anything worth doing was worth overdoing. So he came up with a plan.
He went into the basement, and when he returned he produced a bucket of water.
Now, I’m a little kid. There’ve been times I’ve done things, or brought things into the house that I shouldn’t have. Boys always pull stuff like that. But here we were in the living room and he’s got a big bucket of water. Every cell in my mind tells me that mom doesn’t want anything like that in the living room. Kids spill stuff all the time. A glass of juice is one thing, but a bucket of water would be a solid call for corporal punishment.
But dad’s explaining to me the laws of gravity, rotation and centrifugal force. If dad’s here we’re good. Mom’s not home so it doesn’t matter. He’s got all the power in regard to what you should, or shouldn’t do in my mom’s nice living room.
My dad proceeds to swing the big bucket of water back and forth. I’m watching with startled eyes as he begins to swing it higher and higher. Then, without warning he swings it all the way over his head like a pinwheel. I’m talking Pete Townsend windmill moves. Frankly I’m amazed that none of the water is coming out of the bucket as he swings it in a circular motion over his head. It doesn’t make sense…
Until it does.
I see it. Now, I get it.
Centrifugal force, a fictitious force, peculiar to a particle moving on a circular path, that has the same magnitude and dimensions as the force that keeps the particle on its circular path (the centripetal force) but points in the opposite direction.
Later, mom and the girls came home from shopping in town, and no one was the wiser.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
When I started writing Phicklephilly back in May of 2016, I never realized how much it would grow and flourish as I went forward. It began as an earnest effort to start writing again. After a few false starts through the summer, I finally decided that if I was going to start writing again, I should stop talking about it and just do it.
It began like most creative works. Slowly. Once I published my first post, I thought; how am I going to do this every Monday? I had no followers and no exposure anywhere. Instead of worrying about that, I decided to dig in and start to tell stories from my recent past. But since then it’s grown exponentially. It’s a dot com now and has hundreds of thousands of page views. I’ve monetized the site and secured advertisers that generate revenue to support my work. It’s been a lot of fun!
In the beginning, my inspiration was a server named Maria who worked at a local restaurant. I sort of had a crush on her but it never became anything. But it was enough to get me writing again. When I met her I had already been in Philly for almost ten years.
My first relationship with Michelle had only lasted about three years before she left me. She was approaching age thirty and the alarms were going off in her head to get married and make babies. I had already been married and divorced years before that and had a daughter. I wasn’t going down that painful and expensive road again. The odd thing about my relationship with Michelle was, it was the first time I had a girlfriend that after we broke up, stayed friends with me. We were best friends. Isn’t that the key to all successful and loving relationships?
Michelle reconnected with her former high school boyfriend. Normally that never works but I think this time it might. I think Michelle broke up with him, left Delaware and came to Philly because the guy wasn’t on the road to success. I think Michelle needed to explore the world a bit. She did that for a while and then met me. I was new and different and we had the time of our lives together in the city. But what neither of us realized was that was all we really were. A couple of people who loved the city and it’s nightlife. The drinks flowed and the laughter ensued. But once we got an apartment and moved in together it was the beginning of the end. We didn’t know it at the time, but domestic life never suited our relationship. We were best friends who liked the social excitement of going out, and being a deadly couple in the city. Once the adventure ended it was over.
We tried it for a while, and did all of the things that couples do. Celebrate the holidays, birthdays, family stuff, and all of the other grinding aspects of domestic life. But we just got to a point where Michelle realized I wasn’t going to marry her and give her kids. We remained friends for several years after that until she moved to California in 2013 to be with her former boyfriend. He had become the man she had hoped he’d be many years ago. She married him, and at the time of this writing has a baby daughter. So it all worked out for her. She achieved the American dream.
I on the other hand started dating Annabelle in 2013. Annabelle is a failed actress and photographer. She makes her living shooting head shots and weddings. The reason things failed with Annabelle was our obvious age difference, and absolute opposite lifestyles. I was the corporate sales guy, and she lived in a world surrounded by theater people. It was like oil and water, and the only thing we shared was our mutual attraction to each other. Annabelle served as a temporary stand-in for my friend Michelle. The relationship lasted a tumultuous nine months and ended. It was fun in the beginning, but all romantic endeavors are. Once the reality sets in that you’re not a match, normally the relationship dissolves. Both of these relationships are well documented in the first Phicklephilly book.
Michelle is long gone, but her memory continues to haunt me of what could have been.
Near the end of the book I met Cherie. When I started writing the blog I realized I had to get back in the dating game. So I did what most people do. I went on Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and whatever else was available. I went on a bunch of crazy dates, but things clicked pretty early on with Cherie.
I realized I had an ending to my first book. I had burned through a couple of relationships, and then met my love, Cherie. Everything was right in the world. She made me happy and we shared some wonderful times. Over the first couple of months we became close and Phicklephilly had a happy conclusion. It seemed like the perfect ending to a great story. I had reached my destination, and had found love in Philly!
Also, when I was with Michelle and Annabelle, I wasn’t writing. Their stories were told from memory, so it’s basically our greatest hits. But phicklephilly the blog was alive and well when I met Cherie. A rich history indeed!
But what happened after the end of the first book? We’re both in love with each other and things are going great. The story has to continue. I can’t just let the tale end there. There’s so much more to reveal.
Well, we’ve reached another milestone here at Phicklephilly! We finally achieved 100,000 visitors!
When I started writing this blog 4 years ago, I never thought I’d reach these kind of numbers! Thank you to everyone who’ve taken the time to visit, read, like, comment and follow Phicklephilly. 100,000 visitors has translated into 168,000 page views so far. I hope to get to 200,000 by years end!
I’ve tried over the years to bring you the best, fun, and informative content I can. A lot has happened during 2020! Despite the obvious challenges we face in the world right now, I’ve taken this time to let my creativity flourish.
In the Spring, I released the book, Crazy Dating Stories. I compiled as many insane dates from hell from my life that I could remember. The book’s done well. Apparently people like to read about insane dating stories.
Summer brought the publication of my first work of fiction, Angel with a Broken Wing. That’s been a great seller and I’m so happy it’s done as well as it has. I have another work of fiction I’m currently working on entitled, Below the Wheel. It’s a hard boiled detective story that takes place in Camden, New Jersey. A couple of young private investigators get caught up in a serial murder case. I hope to publish that in early 2021.
I’m happy to announce the anticipated release of the sequel to Phicklephilly next week! The long awaited, Phicklephilly 2 will drop on the 14th! This book picks up where the first book left off. I was now fully ensconced in an exclusive relationship with my girlfriend Cherie, and how that all went along over two years. Michelle makes a few appearances, and there are some surprises along the way. (Some good… others, not so good.) I had a good time, but I really learned a lot about myself being in that relationship, and writing that book.
I can’t promise anything, but there is a possibility that the long awaited, Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon, may be dropping soon as well. I’m just working through some contractual things and issues in pre-production on that book. It’s a wild story that starts out with some interesting funny stories, but slowly transforms into a series of intense encounters with some of the female clients. I never expected any of that to happen, but life is what it is, and why not do it all with a great tan! If I get a green light on that project I may have that out sooner than later!
I’m hoping to publish a book that compiles stories from my young life in 2021 as well. Two of my sisters think it’s a good idea for a book, so I think it would be fun to write.
I have also been in talks with a long time friend and comedian of mine, about writing a comedy called, The Last Video Store. So there’s a lot going on here at Phicklephilly studios!
Thanks again to everyone who visited the sight! I will continue to bring you interesting and engaging content everyday!
Onward and upward!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
My new book, Phicklephilly 2 is coming soon on Amazon!