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

Wildwood Daze – The Dolphin Restaurant – Part 2

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1978

The girl I worked with was named Therese. (Pronounced: Terez, which makes it so much sexier and exotic) But Therese was just a nice girl who like myself had been moved to this island as a teenager. She told me she was originally from DC and went to Wildwood Catholic High School. She was 16 and I was 15 at the time. I’d be forced to move to the island the very next year, but that’s another story.

Therese said she was miserable and lonely when she first moved to Wildwood. The place was a resort and it was literally a ghost town in the winter. She said that the kids were mean to her and she described her experience in Wildwood Catholic as being like a scared little animal.

But Therese was absolutely beautiful. What made her lovely to me wasn’t just her lovely smile, sparkling eyes, and world-class legs… she had a sweet disposition. She was one of those girls who’s hot but doesn’t know it. Just a really nice, moral person. I loved her and I think she was my first “#1 most beloved”.

I knew she had a boyfriend. Some “Joe College Type” who was tall and good-looking named John. She was taken and there was no way I could compete with an 18-year-old guy on his way to university in August. It was like pitting a boy against a man. An unwinnable war.

But I was just happy to work beside her in the restaurant every day. After the morning rush, we’d clean up the dining room and start doing our side work. They were little maintenance chores we all had to do to prepare for the next shift. I would always blaze through mine early so I could help Therese. Sometimes I would even do her side work for her without her knowing. So when the time came for her to have to do it, I had already completed it for her and she could just leave.

I remember once I had taken care of some arduous task for her that she didn’t want to do. She rewarded me with a peck on my cheek. I blushed and felt like my head was going to explode. I was so smitten!

She knew I was crazy about her and instead of it being weird, she was always sweet to me. It was so obvious. She was like my queen. I understood what Eddie the dishwasher was experiencing with his feelings for hot Sue across the street. The unattainable goddesses we desire but can never have. We just scuttle along washing our dishes and carrying our bus pans like the rodents we are.

“So sorry to hear about John getting into that boating accident.” I would say to Therese.

“What?”

“Oh… right. That’s not until next week.”

Even back then I had a twisted sense of humor. But Therese would just laugh knowing I secretly wanted her boyfriend out of the way, so I could be the king to her queen. (So diabolical!)

I knew John was leaving for college and Therese was sad her boyfriend was leaving. I was relieved that this obstacle was being extracted from the equation and maybe I could make some sort of move. It was risky, but even at 16 years old I knew fortune favored the bold. What would my idol Dave Bradley do? I needed to talk to him tomorrow on the beach.

“Just walk up to her when she’s on her own in the dining room near the end of the night and ask her out.”

“That’s it? No special instructions or any kind of move?”

“Just have a plan, my friend. Don’t just ask her out, have something you want to do with her. Think it through. Nail down a time and a day. You’ll be fine.”

“Umm… okay, Dave.”

The next night it was around 8 pm and we were cleaning up the dining room after getting run over by tourists. I went over to one of Therese’s tables as she was picking up the check and her tip. I loaded the dirty plates into my bus pan.

“Hey… Crazy night, right?”

“Yea. My feet are killing me. I’ve been running around here all night like crazy!”

“Umm… (I smiled as I looked upon her beauty. My heart thumping in my chest and my stomach doing flip flops) Therese, would you like to go to the movies with me the next time we’re both off?”

She paused, then smiled. “Sure, Chaz. What do you want to see?”

I was stunned. This was actually working. Don’t blow it… “I was thinking Animal House. I heard it’s hilarious.”

“Oh, yea. Me too. I wanna see Animal House. I’m off on Thursday, would that work?”

This was too easy! “Yea… I’m off too. I’ll get the showtimes and we’ll figure it out this week.”

“Great. It’ll be fun. Thanks for asking me.”

I smiled and went back to cleaning. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I stared at the reflection of the young man who would be taking Therese Freeman on an actual date. This was a watershed moment. These sorts of things didn’t happen to guys like me. Or did they? I had been on a couple of dates last summer. I had navigated these treacherous waters before. She was just a girl I worked with. No reason to be nervous. Just a couple of coworkers checking out a funny film together. No big deal.

But no… this was a big deal. This was my queen. The woman I loved. The unattainable was nearly in my grasp. I needed to play it cool and not screw anything up before Thursday. I could hardly think over the sound of Aerosmith’s song, Back in the Saddle blasting in my head as the dopamine splashed all over my euphoric brain. This was the big time. A date with Therese Freeman. Dave Bradley would be proud, and his lecherous brother Chickie would be jealous.

Welcome to the NFL, Chaz!

The next night we worked the same shift again. I had already looked up the movie times in the newspaper and knew exactly where and when we were going to see this movie. “Planning is everything”, as my father used to say. We coordinated the time and Therese wrote down her phone number and address on a slip of paper.

Just having that data in my hands was worth a fortune to me. Things were definitely happening in my life! Everything was getting better. I just needed to survive this date with Therese and not screw it up.

Later, I was in the kitchen emptying my bus pan and Chickie Bradley was there doing the dishes. Therese walked in and dropped off some plates from one of her tables. Chickie immediately hit on her. (The filthy animal!)

“Hey, yo… Therese, we should uh… you know… go out some time.”

My heart sank with rage and despair. Chickie Bradley could get any woman. He was a rake and had a reputation for closing deals. He probably had so many notches in his bedpost that it was whittled away completely!

Therese smiled and spoke. “I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last man on earth, Chickie Bradley.”

She glanced over at me, gave me a knowing grin, and left the kitchen.

As the big wooden doors to the dining room swung back behind her I could feel Chickie’s spirit exit his body. I was in my glory. I’m indestructible now. A real player in the game of life. New confidence and power coursed through my veins. This was a fantastic moment in my young life. Say hello to the new king, Chickie Bradley! Take that!

Thursday arrived and I was terrified. My anxiety was off the charts. This wasn’t just a date to the movies with a coworker. This was Therese Freeman. A date with the queen. I was a nervous wreck. I had the power and the nerve to ask these girls out, but my anxiety would be tearing me apart before the event. It was absolutely as horrible. The pain equaled the joy I had felt the other night when she said yes.

It just didn’t seem fair. Why was I like this? I wanted to go out on dates with girls but was always in a terrible state leading up to it. Little did I know, this would go on for years and years. Anxiety and depression are the worst. An unexplainable fear and sadness you carry around with you. Where your friends and family are happy and excited to do things, you are crushed with blackened fear that squeezes your heart to near paralysis.

It was so bad, that my family actually had a little acronym for me. They used to call me The ARM. That stood for Anxiety Ridden Mess. Isn’t that lovely?

Thanks, family. YOU’RE NOT HELPING!!!!

Acute anxiety disorder. How do you overcome it? I’ll tell you how. Without drugs or medicine. You’re born this way, and you literally have to keep walking toward the things you fear the most. You have to do this over and over for maybe decades. Most people aren’t willing to do this, nor do they possess the inner strength to carry out this incredible burden. You have to rewire your brain to keep walking towards that which you fear. After a while, you realize you’re not going to throw up or die from going into the unknown.

If you’re willing to do that, you’ll succeed and not only overcome it, you’ll realize something wonderful. After all of those years of being afraid and sad, you’ve become stronger in spirit than most. You’ve spent years overcompensating for those fears. You’re more charming and cool around people because you’ve been performing like that for years. You then become an even better version of yourself than you ever realized.

People will call your charm a gift of gab, or a special way with people. No. Quite the contrary. You simply practiced for years to mentally overcome your disability. I did it, and you can too.

Back to the story…

I remember lying in the bathtub in our upstairs bathroom before the date. I thought maybe a nice cool bath would calm my shattered nerves. The clock ticked away the minutes ever faster as the deadline approached when I’d have to leave the house and pick up Therese.

This is an awful feeling. Why did I even bother asking her out? This is too much for me to handle. I’m out of my element!

I pulled myself out of the tub and got ready. I want to do this. I asked for it and she said yes, so this is definitely happening. I did everything I could to calm my mind but to no avail.

I remember my dad handing me some extra cash in case I wanted to buy her ice cream on the way home from the movie. Dad comes through in the clutch again!

I walked up our street west on 8th street. I walked past the ball fields. I lingered there for a few minutes to gather my courage. I figured if I had to throw up, now would be the time. I remember one of my friends later told me they saw me milling about there and I appeared to be talking to myself. (Yea, it was that nuts.)

I get to 5th and New Jersey Ave. and approach her house. I look down and carved into the pavement is her name in the concrete. It even had the two little accents over the vowels and everything. Of course, her name should be carved in stone forever. She’s Therese!

I step onto the porch and tap on the screen door. It starts to get a little fuzzy here. I don’t remember meeting any parents. Maybe her family was out or something. But I do remember Therese just chilling in her living room in a lovely blouse and a pair of white slacks. She looked awesome. I had only seen her in her waitress uniform. Here she was. All ready to go on a date to the movies with Chaz.

I don’t remember what we talked about on the walk to the theater. Probably work and general stuff about our friends and families. I was too terrified to be on record mode during that trip. I think Animal House was playing all the way down at the Shore Twin which was on Atlantic Avenue, west of Marine Pier. (Later, Mariners Landing)

I still have half of the ticket from that night. I even wrote her name on it and kept it to memorialize the event.

The film was great. Animal House is one of the funniest comedies ever made. The late, great John Belushi is brilliant in the role of Bluto Blutarsky. This movie solidified his stardom.

Therese laughed a lot and I knew this was a good choice. I always later told my friends who lacked experience with dating to always pick a movie. I would tell them that it was two hours you get to spend with her and you don’t have to talk or seem interesting. You let the movie make the night great and fun. If she’s having a good time at the movies, then she’ll associate you with fun and exciting feelings. It’s just science, folks.

I had a wonderful time that evening and so did Therese. I was happy to just spend time with her and be close to a girl I really liked. She was the sweetest thing. I walked her up to her doorstep and sealed the evening with a kiss.

I probably skipped all the way home that night. My older sister was there and asked me how the evening went. I gave her the thumbs up and was happy I survived it. She knew I was nervous about it and was worried about me.

It was pretty great to be the only guy that got a date with Therese after her boyfriend went off to college. I think being brave and a gentleman goes a long way. Women just know.

I didn’t really see Therese after that summer. I moved on to a job at Hunt’s Pier. We did stay in touch a little though. I still have her letters. She went into the medical field. Of course, someone as sweet as Therese would have a job where she helps people.

I ran into her once back in the 1990s in Stone Harbor, NJ. I was staying at my wife’s family’s shore house up in Avalon. I was standing out on 96th Street while my wife was in some shop.

I just suddenly saw Therese standing there like an apparition from my past. It had been over 15 years since I’d seen her. My heart leaped at the sight of her. She still looked smoking hot.

I said her name and she turned. It was an amazing moment. After all of this time, here she was. We chatted a bit and caught up.

Thoughts of the gift shop suddenly bursting into flames and my wife dying in the fire and Therese having to comfort me with my sudden loss came to mind… but only for a second. (Oh, stop it… I’m kidding!)

I noticed she had a little brace on her arm near her wrist. I asked her what had happened and she told me she had rheumatoid arthritis. I found this heartbreaking but told her my mother suffered from the very same thing. I thought, how can there be a god when this kind of stuff happens to perfectly wonderful people? It’s not fair.

It was great seeing her and I couldn’t wait to tell my family who I had run into in Stone Harbor that day. They all knew I adored Therese since the 70s.

I haven’t seen her since, but at least we’re friends on social media!

I’m so glad I have all of these great memories to wrap myself up in and share with you. Thanks for reading this. I really enjoyed writing about the restaurant and of course my queen!

Thanks for saying yes that day in 1978 and going on a date with me. It meant the world to me.

I will always love you, Therese!

Here’s a pic of Therese I found on Facebook. It was taken around 2012.

A stunning beauty!

On a final note, I earned around $500 that summer. I was becoming a serious self-taught musician and decided to make an investment. You can see what that was here.

Want to learn more about RA? Go here: https://www.aiarthritis.org/

or here: https://www.facebook.com/IFAiArthritis

or here: https://www.facebook.com/TerezFreemanHumphrey/?ref=page_internal

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

You Are What You Eat

Philadelphia, PA – September 2021

I’ve been on the Paleo diet for 50 days now. Five years ago I gave up cigarettes. Three years ago I stopped drinking oceans of booze. Now I’m a teetotaler that drinks less than the average American male on a weekly basis. At the time of this writing, I’m determined to shed the excess pounds and fat from my body.

During the pandemic, all I did was write my blog and my books. I was no longer running around working 55 hours a week at some horrible sports bar anymore. But sitting around and eating and drinking will make you fat.

I started walking back in 2020 and as long as the weather was nice I’d try to do 5 miles a day a few times a week, but I didn’t lose any weight. I’m sure my respiratory and cardio were improving and I was getting good circulation and moving my muscles but I still looked out of shape.

I was always a skinny kid and recently saw a friend of mine from back in 1980. He’s 60 years old and looks physically the same as he did when he was 20. That could be just his genetics and physiology but the guy looked great. He lost his hair and shows the lines of age but physically he looked the same. I knew I could get back to at least close to the size I was when I was 20.

I’ll be 60 years old in August 2022! But there’s no reason for me to be flabby and carrying extra weight. Cigarettes and booze are basically gone. What’s missing? That’s right. My food intake. I looked at what I was consuming on a daily basis and knew that it was the key. You are what you eat is such a valid statement. There are no fat and out-of-shape animals in the wild. Why? Because they’d be killed and eaten by something else. Humans don’t have to worry about food anymore. We’re surrounded by it everywhere. The media is always waving delicious tacos, pizza, and burgers in front of our hungry eyes. I needed to make a change. A life change. Not to lose weight and look better for some younger attractive girl I was dating, but for me.

You don’t need drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. You can live a perfectly happy and healthy life without them. They’re a luxury. But all addictive. You don’t even need candy or coffee. But the world loves all of the above and can’t live without many of them.

But you do need food. You don’t eat… you die. There’s no way around that. So I turned to Paleo for the right reasons. Paleo is based on the original diet of our ancestors. Lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That’s it. Eat all you want. It’s probably the easiest diet in the world and the most simple in its design. No refined carbohydrates… but vegetables contain carbs and you can eat them. Because they’re the good carbs. Not french fries or bread or any fried stuff. Cut out the sugar. No desserts, donuts, candy cake, muffins… nothing! No caffeine. You don’t need it. People become addicted to caffeine and crave the free lift it gives them. An apple contains far more nutrients and more good energy than any cup of coffee on the planet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the smell and taste of coffee. Who doesn’t love a nice warm cup of coffee with a nice dessert or donut? It’s amazing. But I’ve never been a person who needed coffee. For some reason, I’ve been blessed with a natural get-up and go. Just sunny energy that emanates forth from within. I love it. I don’t need sweets, caffeine, nicotine, or booze. I actually enjoy being clean and eating properly. My guitar goes straight to the amp. Nothing in between the thought and the sound.

It’s not a hard diet to do. I have scrambled eggs and bacon each morning. Lots of lean protein. For lunch, I’ll have a little salad with some chicken. For dinner, I’ll have chicken, pork, steak or fish with some sort of vegetables. Spinach, broccoli green beans… anything veggie works. How about eating fruit for dessert? There’s sugar in fruits. They’re sweet and delicious. But they’re filled with natural sweetness. Not all that processed sugar and high fructose crap that’s in everything else.

I used to know a guy who stopped drinking booze and has been sober for 5 years. He’s 300 pounds! Why? because he stuffs his head with all of the wrong foods and doesn’t get any exercise.

You don’t need to go to the gym unless you want to really build muscle. Most of us just want to look good and for our clothes to fit properly. I see this girl I know on Instagram working out like crazy in the gym. She’s 30 and does it so she can eat and drink all she wants and still remain fit. But here’s the thing. All the working out in the world won’t change your face or your personality. In every other photo on Instagram, she has a drink in her hand. She’ll always attend a lot of weddings over the next few years but always be a bridesmaid. Because no one will tell her she’s a functioning alcoholic. It’s a shame.

But none of this is my concern. I don’t see any of these people anymore. They need to find their own way. But you really are what you eat. You can exercise all you want but if you’re not putting good healthy whole food as fuel in your body you’re going to be a fat load. Take it from me. You can not smoke or drink and walk all you want. If you don’t change your diet and let your body function the way it should, you’re kidding yourself.

I miss carbs like a long-lost lover. I love nothing more than to stuff my head with pizza, cheesesteaks, burgers, fries, tacos, and wings. I love all of the things that are bad for me. But I had to let them go. Not forever but I had to lay off all of that processed food. I want to look at all of those foods as the occasional treat, not the food I live on. It’s just not good for you.

I hope by the time you read this I’ll have been on a balanced diet for the last 8 months. But it’s not about losing weight. It’s about eating right and taking care of the vessel that houses your soul. I’d like to be around for a while and get to live off my social security and travel a bit. Take good care of your body. It’s the only one you have and it will wear out. Try to slow that process. You’ll thank yourself for it.

“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” – Dean Wormer, Animal House – 1978

July, 2022 – 25 Pounds of fat…GONE!

 

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

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

Theater of the Mind

Philadelphia, PA – 1974

I hated school and I hated everything about Fel’s Junior High School. But, I was always a good reader and loved books and comic books. I had a class at the end of each day called Reading. It was my favorite class. The teacher, Miss Ruscoff (Later Mrs. Dembitzer when she got married) was a nice lady who was actually a good teacher and patient with us kids. I was surprised at how many of the students were poor readers. That must have been stressful for them having to read aloud in class but I never minded doing so. I would not only read aloud, but I would also add feelings and inflections into the story to make it more interesting. I did this naturally because I knew it just sounded better and more interesting that way.

On Fridays, Miss Ruscoff would haul out an old reel to reel tape recorder and play old radio shows for the class. I think most kids put their heads down and napped during the recordings but I loved them.

Radio was king before the advent of television and I thought the shows and stories were really cool. The ones she played were from the 40s and 50s. I sort of wondered why this form of entertainment had gone away. The stories were from series like X Minus 1, Suspense, Inner Sanctum, and several others.

What I liked most about them is that the stories were usually scary and I had a vivid imagination. I loved that they would have the actors doing their roles and they would add sound effects to make it more real. Often the roles on the shows were performed by hollywood stars because many of them got their start on the stage and then on the radio.

When you watch a movie or television the whole thing is spelled out for you. You can see the actors and what they look like, the sets, and all of the action appears before your eyes. It’s all someone else’s vision as to what this story should look like. I’m not knocking TV, but radio shows are brilliant.

They could be darker in content and scarier than anything on TV. Because you couldn’t see anything you had to use your imagination to picture what the characters looked like and what was happening in the story. I just felt it was a far more riveting form of entertainment and the networks could get away with more.

I always remembered listening to all of those great stories and in the 80s I bought a box set of X-Minus 1 old radio shows on cassette. I loved listening to all of those cool stories and it was a bit nostalgic for me even back then.

Philadelphia, PA – 2020-present

During the pandemic, I discover a whole channel of old radio shows on Sirius/XM radio. A whole channel! 24/7 of old radio shows. I discovered so many more shows I had never heard of, like Dark Fantasy, The Whistler, Escape, and Johnny Dollar.

Now I can flop on my bed and listen to all of my favorite stories and use my imagination to create the scenes in the shows. I really find this a great exercise for my creative mind and it’s so restful because it’s a passive activity. I sometimes fall asleep during them and have to listen to them again.

My mother always told me she loved listening to the radio as a kid and would practice her penmanship while she absorbed all of the great stories adapted from good American literature.

It’s a lost art form that still exists today in the form of podcasts. People like podcasts and it’s basically the same thing. You don’t have to watch anything. Just use your imagination and feel the story the way you want to.

Spotify also has all these shows available too. It’s a great way to tap into a lost art form.

Former Fels HS building to be demolished

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

Little Birds

September 2021

I came out of my house the other day to go to breakfast at my favorite local spot Racheal’s. I got to the corner of 19th and Pine and suddenly saw these two little parakeets on the pavement together.

I was shocked and stunned to see these two tiny exotic birds right there on the sidewalk. I wondered where they had come from. Did they somehow escape from a cage in someone’s house? Did they just fly out the window? They’re caged birds and could hardly fly.

I carefully approached them to observe and then another gentleman approached. We were both amazed and he called the local animal hospital over on 20th street. They said they don’t take birds, just mostly dogs and cats. But they gave us the number of a woman on Facebook who looks after birds in Philly.

I called her but of course, no one answered. Another guy showed up and we tried to get the birds to hop into a little box that someone else had brought us. But they wouldn’t be caught. They would hop away. They could fly a little bit but I knew they had probably spent their lives together in a cage and didn’t have the strength to fly any great distance. We would try to catch one and he would flutter away but remain close.

I called the bird lady again and left a long message regarding the situation and the location. But I figured that’s all I could do. The other guy that had shown up told me he had to get to work so I was left with these birds.

But I had to get going as well. So as much as I hated to leave them I had to go. We’d called the animal hospital, I tried the bird lady, and there was nothing else I could do.

But here’s the thing. No matter what we did, the birds stayed together. The one bird, I’m assuming the male because he had the prettier plumes, wouldn’t leave his mate’s side.

I thought about the dedication of these terrified little birds. Two living things. Two little beautiful birds that could fly. The only species are other than insects and bats that could truly fly. And what did humans do? They stuck them in a cage. A prison that they could never escape from. Never to fly and be free and use the gift of flight they were born with. Now here they were, ironically free, and they wouldn’t leave each other’s side. They were out in a strange world. The phrase, free as a bird comes to mind. But even in their newfound freedom, they wouldn’t separate. All they knew and all they had was each other. Like the inmate that’s spent his whole life in prison, they couldn’t make it on the outside. They didn’t even know what the outside world was like.

It was so sad and yet uplifting. No matter how cruel I thought it was to capture these lovely entities and steal them from their natural habitat, they stuck together. That spoke to me.

Why can’t people just leave the natural world alone? The planet operates perfectly well without humans. But here we are. We destroy our habitat all in the name of growth, expansion, and industrial progress. Everything we need is here and it’s all free, and we choose to capture it, kill it, or monetize it. It’s so sad. We’ve kind of blown it as a species. It’s too bad humans can’t walk among the rest of the living things on this planet and try to live in harmony. Instead of killing it, conquering it, or destroying it. Humans aren’t so great after all.

I later came by the area where I initially found the birds. They were gone. So was the box. I’m hoping they were rescued by someone and the cute little couple are okay. Even if they ended up back in a cage somewhere. At least they’d be able to live out what remained of their little lives together.

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

Tales of Rock – Origins of the Hard Rock sound of AC/DC

Hard rock is a manifestation of garage rock, surf rock and psychedelic rock, and British blues of the 1960s. It was not until the kinks did this kind of guitar sound begin. Old speakers in London clubs provided a banged-up ratty sound. After a while, the bands started to like the sound the punctured and torn speakers in old amps made. That was a growly sound that would get you fired from a club gig until they started to like it and use it to their advantage.

Listen to what Howlin’ Wolf does with a guitar. Early distortion.

Howlin’ Wolf – How Many More Years – 1951

Link Wray – Rumble – 1958

Distortion, tremolo, and the guitar are dominant. It’s a riff.

Surf and garage coming together. Hard rock is developing.

The Chessman – Cant’s Catch Me – 1966

A hard, customized soundsystem. Volume to kick it in. A disaster at Woodstock and Altamont, crowds moving, in the wake of these two concerts. Rock and roll moves into arenas and out of outdoor parks. You can load up with gear and blast out your music.

Let’s go to Australia. AC/DC doesn’t form until 1973. But there’s a working-class youth that’s coming up that wants out of their lives. The bar scene is about rock music. Sounds a little like mid-70s Foghat.

Carson County Band-Morning Train – 1971

Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs -1971

Now we’re talkin’… That’s starting to sound like hard rock for sure. I love this!

Buffalo – Suzy Sunshine – 1972

The Valentines – Build Me Up Buttercup – 1972

Yea, that backup singer is Bon Scott. Hard to believe that one of the premier voices of 70s hard rock started out singing backup and dressed like that!

Marcus Hook Roll Band – Watch Her Do It Now -1973

Malcolm,  Angus and their older brother George. So we’ve got two of the founding members of AC/DC. You can already hear the pull in the band between pop and rock happening.

Their older is working on her sewing machine and looks down at the steel label hammered into the machine that says, AC/DC – (alternate and direct current) and suggests it to Angus as a name for his new band.  She also suggested the school outfit for Angus. She said he looked so cute in it but it became a snub at authority and school. He only zig-zagged on stage to dodge the bottles thrown at the bands in the hardscrabble roadhouse bars they played in.

Which brings us here…

Oh yea…

There you have it.

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

Hardware

Philadelphia, Pa – July 2021

About a week after I got back from my four-day stint in Wildwood at my sister’s shore house I figured I should probably look for a job.

I had been on unemployment for over a year and a half and it was about to run out for good.

Back in March of 2020 when I was laid off from my hospitality job at a sports bar working 55 hours a week on my feet, I was happy to be off.

After working for 40 years I was happy to get a break. What began as a time of apprehension, quickly became a joy when I started getting $360 a week plus another $600 a week from the government which lasted 6 months. (Not to mention the $1200 stimulus checks I got!) Then they extended unemployment past that and still provided $300 extra per week so I was in good shape financially over the whole year and a half.

During that time I monetized this blog with WordPress ads, and Google AdSense, and acquired my own advertisers to promote their brands on my site. So there was that added income rolling in. I also published six books over that year and a half. Phicklephilly: One Man’s Journey to Find Love in Philadelphia, Phicklephilly II: He’s Found Love, But Can He Keep It?, Crazy Dating Stories, Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon, Angel with a Broken Wing, & Below The Wheel. So, royalties were rolling in from the sale of all of those books.

Back in April, I started cranking up some freelance writing assignments from different companies across the country. That brought me thousands of dollars and is still going on today. I was in great shape financially. I made more money and grew my investments during the pandemic than when I was working 55 hours a week in some terrible bar job.

I could see why once things started up again restaurants couldn’t find people who wanted to work. People were making great money on unemployment and all realized they could enjoy the summer and maybe find a vocation that was better than working in hospitality. It’s horrible, demanding work and I wouldn’t recommend that type of job to anyone.

It’s full of drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill people, illegal aliens, felons, and those who can’t get a job doing anything else. I was told by an executive in the hospitality industry that it attracts the very worst people. I had to agree with him. It’s a thankless, garbage life.

I decided I could never go back to anything like that but didn’t completely rule it out if I couldn’t find anything else at almost 60 years of age. But I was told by friends that they knew I’d get something because of my skills and personality.

During the pandemic, I decided that if I could find a little job to keep myself in step with humanity that was somewhere locally, I’d take it. Maybe something in retail in my neighborhood. But who knows?

About a week after I came back from Wildwood, I decided to look. I updated my resume and made a dozen copies at the local Kinkos over on 15th street. I applied to a few places on Craigslist and Indeed but didn’t hear anything.

The Last Week of July 2021

One day I walked over to the hardware store that’s a block and a half away from my house. I wanted to pick up a timer for some mini lights in my bedroom. While I was there I asked one of the guys working there if they were hiring. He said they were and to bring my resume in the next day. I did, and it was taken by one of the managers.

The next day I got a call from the owner and he asked me to come in and meet with the general manager the next day. I went in and met with him and was hired on the spot. I started that Friday and have been there ever since.

But here’s the thing… the same day I dropped my resume off at the hardware store I met with the owner of a local bar at 23rd and Sansom. He hired me on the spot as well. I told him I had managed a restaurant but never tended bar. He didn’t care but hired me anyway. I was shocked at my flood of good fortune.

I later had to decline the bar gig because I didn’t want to have to work until 2:30 in the morning. No way! Not doing that.

But the hardware gig is great. The guys I work with are nice and the whole vibe of the place is laid back. The work is easy and the customers are great. It’s nice to serve the community and help them with all of their household needs.

I was surprised how smooth my transition went from being unemployed for a year and a half to a nice job a block and a half from my house.

It’s been a great year of freedom and creativity, and now this cat has once again landed on his feet!

 

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

The Silver Fox

I was going to meet my friend Michael who I knew as a barback when I managed the sports bar back in 2019-2020. He and I had become friends and after the smoke from covid cleared we decided to hang out and get a drink.

We arranged to meet at Mix, which is a brick oven pizza bar with world-class pies at 21st and Chestnut st. They do a 12″ that when it arrives at the table seems like too much, but it’s easily crushed by one hungry dude… no problem.

I left my home around dusk and walked west on Pine street towards 21st street. I got to the corner of 20th when I saw an older woman all dressed in black exiting her house. She was with a man and another woman. As I passed by she reached out and caressed the grey french scarf I was wearing. That seemed a bit odd but she was just admiring it and maybe seemed slightly tipsy but delightful.

I love that scarf. It was made in France and given to me by an Englishman who had acquired it in Australia. We were in a bar on 11th street back in 2012 at an event at a place called Strangelove’s. He was looking to do business with the company I was working for at the time and I liked the scarf he was wearing. So in a drunken act of kindness, gave me the scarf. It’s grey and white and the colors sort of fade together. It’s long and slender and has an “aging English rocker” vibe to it. So I’ve worn it every Autumn since then.

So back to the present. This older woman grabs my scarf and starts chatting with me. The people she was with say goodbye and leave.

She’s an attractive lady who looks to be in her late 60s or early 70s. She loves my scarf and I stop to chat. She introduces herself and I’m sort of surprised and intrigued by this encounter. Remember… I’ve been in isolation for the last year and a half due to the pandemic, so I was happy to chat with anyone at this point.

She proceeds to tell me that she just came from burying her husband. He was a successful dentist for many years and they were married for a very long time. But why does this woman seem to be hitting on me the day of the funeral? It seems odd, but she’s so charming I just go with it. She asks me to remove my mask so she can see my face. I comply and she says: “You’re far too handsome to be hiding that face.”

I’m thinking, “Is this woman drunk?”

We chat some more and after a short while, we exchange numbers. She tells me she has to mourn the loss of her husband for a month due to religious beliefs. That’s fine with me. I sort of get that, but this lady seems ready to go now.

She says she’d like to meet up for coffee one day so we can get to know one another. I’m fine with that. She’s charming and engaging and it’s nice to talk to someone that comes from at least somewhere near my historical background. I’m sure there are a lot of great stories to share.

I tell her I have to get to Mix to meet up with my friend but will be in touch.

A few weeks go by and I text her and don’t hear anything back. Was it just a tipsy encounter on a painful day? I don’t know. Is she done mourning? Who knows?

A few months pass and I don’t think about her all that much. But recently I ran into her again. She looked at me and was like, “Do I know you?” I dropped the mask and she lit up. She grabbed my hand and squeezed. She was happy to see me again and we chatted a bit. She told me her dog had just died and she would have to bury him this week.

I’m thinking it seems like the two times I’ve encountered this woman there’s been a death. I’m not superstitious, but it still seems a bit strange. But of course, this doesn’t deter either of us and she still wants to meet up for coffee.

So maybe after her pup is in the ground, we can finally meet up and hang out for a bit. I’m intrigued by this unique opportunity and would like to see where it goes.

She did say something about taking me to Scottsdale and showing me off to her friends.

So there’s that.

UPDATE: I ran into her again recently and she gave me a bag of M&M’s! This seemed odd but I love the mint ones. She was sweet to me and there were some hugs. I don’t know what her deal is and I haven’t seen her since. But I did text her when I got home and thanked her for the candy. The texts went like this:

Me: Thanks for the M&Ms!

 

…and that was it.

As this saga unfolds, (and I hope it does!) I’ll write more. Stay tuned!

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

Tales of Rock: Did Kurt Cobain Steal the Riff for Come As You Are?

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Please remember those who gave their lives in this world’s terrible wars.

We all know the song, Come As You Are by Nirvana. It was one of the many hits from their landmark record, Nevermind. That record has achieved triple diamond status. Gold means 500k in album sales. Platinum means 1 million! Diamond status is 10 million units sold. But they’re at triple diamond on this album. That’s 30 million records sold! Phenomenal!

But I was in a store the other day and the song, Eighties by the post-punk group, Killing Joke was playing on their Spotify. I heard one of the employees start singing the lyrics to Come As You Are along with the song.

It got me thinking… did Kurt Cobain hear that song back in the 80s and consciously or subconsciously lift that riff from the song and slow it down in his song, Come As You Are?

Listen to both songs, and you be the judge!

Here’s Nirvana…

Now check out this great song by Killing Joke entitled, Eighties…

Very similar right? I’ve never heard of this comparison before and normally I can pick up on anything similar in songs I hear. Led Zeppelin was famous for stealing songs from other artists and turning them into gold. But this one sounds blatantly similar.

Just thought it was worth sharing. Maybe I’ll do a series on all of the stolen songs in rock!

 

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

Floating Hope

Philadelphia, PA – Summer 2021

One of my followers reached out to me on my blog. She stated that she was coming up to Philly from Florida for a baby shower. I’m always happy to hear from my readers and was glad to hear the news. She asked if while she was up here if we could meet. Of course, I agreed.

It was on a Saturday, and happily I was free from any obligations. I arranged a reservation at Devil’s Alley for food and drinks. I’ve never met this person so I asked if there were any dietary issues, and she said no. I figured the place wouldn’t be busy. Unlike spots like Parc in Rittenhouse which are nice, but expensive and usually packed.

Saturday arrived and I headed up to Devil’s Alley around 11:45. I got there and informed the hostess of what was going on. She liked the story and told me that she’d get me a table upstairs. While I was chatting with her, my friend appeared! She had sent me a photo before she traveled here so I knew what she looked like.

We headed upstairs and took our seats. We ordered cocktails and started chatting. It was immediately a lively conversation. We had some things in common. Both divorced with grown kids. We talked about some of our past relationships and dating in general.

It was great to sit and chat with a fellow writer who is from the same generation as I am. It seems that she was married for many years and then after her divorced, she jumped into a relationship that lasted four years. She said that at one point she had outgrown the relationship and moved on.

She’s been dating and seems to be very active in the dating arena. She still uses Bumble and maybe one other app. I remember when I first started writing this blog I was on all the apps! Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel and others. (I may have even tried Hinge near the end) I’m no longer on any of them and really don’t see the need at this point. If I meet anybody now it’ll just happen organically in my everyday life.

But my friend is on the dating apps and she’s doing well. I was impressed with her confidence and how successful she’s been in her career and her dating life. It’s good to see a woman who’s a bit younger than me that’s out there having fun and meeting new people and potential mates.

We had Devil’s famous dry rub wings and I think she enjoyed them. It was just a light snack and drinks on this visit. (To be honest, they weren’t as impressive as they usually are)

I didn’t know how much time she had to spend with me, but I had planned if she could have hung out longer, I probably would have taken her to the bar at the top of the Comcast 2 center at the Four Seasons. It’s an incredible view of the city and thought she might like that.

But her time was limited and she had other commitments for the afternoon. I was happy that she took the time to hang out with me. It was a real pleasure to meet one of my subscribers in person for the very first time. So to me, it was a landmark event even if it was just a few hours.

After our meeting, we walked down Pine street near my house. I told her I needed to run inside for a moment. When I reappeared a few minutes later I presented her with a copy of my latest book, Below the Wheel. (I hope she likes it, but it’s okay if she doesn’t!)

I walked her back to her hotel over by City Hall and said goodbye. It was a lovely afternoon with a new friend. We agreed that if she comes up again we’ll hang out again.

I’m looking forward to that!

We did a selfie, and both agreed to write about the encounter in our perspective blogs. I’ll be interested to read what her take on the day was.

You can find her blog here: https://findingmynextchapter.wordpress.com/

We both decided to write about our experience, and both publish our stories on the same day! Thank, Birdie!

Here’s hers: findingmynextchapter.wordpress.com/2022/05/17/meeting-another-blogger

 

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

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