Shipwrecked with Alessandra – 5 Minutes

Here’s an unfinished fiction series I once started to write. I wanted a series that was 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 months, and 5 years. But I never made it past 5 minutes. It sat in my drafts for years, so here it is.

The name’s Erik. I’m a photographer. I shoot mostly fashion stuff for magazines and shows. I’m out on assignment today. We’re on a boat somewhere west of Australia. It’s a beautiful day. I’m doing a shoot for a new swimsuit line worn by model Alessandra Ambrosio.

I work with models all of the time. After a while, it’s like working in a bank. You’re surrounded by millions of dollars in cash, but after a while, it’s just the thing you work with every day. It’s not yours, and it’s just business. All of the women are beautiful. Probably some of the most beautiful women in the world. But it’s just a job like any other. You work, you hope you get the right shots, and you get paid. Sometimes you put in long hours. The travel wears you out, and life on the road gets lonely.

What concerns me today is the skipper was complaining that the port engine on this 1996, 37-foot flybridge motor yacht just wasn’t right; the gas engine was running rough and losing power. Something about loose valves or pistons. He’s below now taking a look at it.

It’s just the four of us out here. Me, the captain, Alessandra, and her makeup artist, Sidney.

Out of all of the models I’ve ever worked with, Ale’ has always been my favorite. She’s a sweet woman with a great sense of humor. Always on point and ready to work despite her fame.

Right now I’m out on the bow with her. She’s wearing a lovely multi-colored bikini. My Nikon D3X Digital SLR camera is clicking away. These shots are going to be great. They better be. This baby cost me seven grand.

“Sidney! Can you help me out a sec?” The captain shouts from below. Sidney rolls his eyes and heads to the back of the boat. “Coming!”

I turn my attention back to Alessandra. “Ok, dear. Give me a little smile. Turn. Little more to the left. Okay, look up just slightly. Perfect.”

Out of nowhere, there’s an explosion. Ale’s eyes were wide as she clutches the grab rail on the bow. I fall backward onto the deck. “What the hell?” she exclaims.

That’s when the screaming began. Screaming from below deck. Screaming I’ll never forget. It was the captain.

“Fire! The boat’s on fire!” Alessandra cried.

I looked backward, still reeling from the shock. Flames burst forth from the hold in the back of the boat. I scrambled to my feet. I glanced back at Alessandra. “Stay here.”

This was a fuel fire. I could smell it. Large billows of black smoke poured skyward from the flames. I could hear them screaming, but I couldn’t get to them. The heat was so intense. I clambered to the bridge looking for a fire extinguisher. I got inside and looked wildly about. Then I saw it. The metal hook on the wall to where the fire extinguisher was supposed to be but wasn’t.

I went towards the helm. I located the distress button and lifted the cover. I pressed and held the button until it beeped. Hopefully, the DSC signal will tell the Coast Guard the ship’s information. I grabbed the radio. “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Lady Louise! We’re on fire!”

I could feel the panic clutching me like a giant claw. I couldn’t give a location. I didn’t even know where the hell we were!

God, it’s getting hot in here. The heat is taking me and I can’t stop coughing. Smoke is filling the cabin. I looked out the windshield at Ale’. She had a terrified grimace of mute protest on her beautiful visage. A look I had never seen before. Then she said something I wished I’d never heard.

“We’re sinking!”

I grabbed what I could and threw it in my bag. Then reached for the only two things that could keep us from dying here in the next few minutes. I scrambled out the side door of the cabin. The flames licked my left arm. Searing it instantly. I screamed in pain and made my way toward Ale’.

The boat was going down, and the screaming from below had stopped. The thought turned my stomach. Hopefully, they didn’t burn to death and the smoke took them instead.

“Put this on.” I could see the tears streaming down her cheeks and her lower lip quiver as she put on the bright orange life jacket. She snapped it in place. She was hyperventilating. I grabbed her by the shoulders to steady her. “We’re going to be okay, honey. We’re going to get out of this.”

“Are we going to die?” She squeaked.

“No!”

“What about Sidney and Captain Pike?”

“They’re dead. We have to go.”

She started crying more, but then suddenly stopped. “Wait. Look!” She pointed behind me. I wheeled around. Strapped in a rack at the foot of the bridge was what appeared to be an inflatable raft and two oars.  I yanked it out. “How are we going to get it inflated in time?” she said.

“With this.” I affixed the CO2 cartridge into the nozzle. Thankfully it began to inflate. The ship was now tilting to the side. Lady Louise was going down for the last time. But we were going to get out of this if we could just get off her and into the raft.

“Alessandra. I need you to listen to me. I’m going to lash this raft to the side of the boat here. Then I’m going to throw it overboard. I’m going to drop this bag here into the raft. Then I’m going to go in. I’m going to ask you to then untie the raft and jump. I’ll catch you. I promise.”

“What about women and children first?”

“Just do it, Ale’!”

The raft went into the water. Followed by my bag containing my camera and what supplies and tools I grabbed from the cabin. I then climbed down and dropped into the raft. I looked up at her crouching on the deck. “Okay, Ale’. Come on!”

She was about to climb over when she suddenly hesitated, glancing backward. “What are you waiting for? Come on!”

“One sec.” She said, holding up her perfectly manicured index finger.

Then she was gone. Just the sun glinting in my eyes as I looked upward. “Ale’! Come back! What are you doing? They’re dead! You can’t do anything. We have to go! Please!

Suddenly she reappeared, coughing and gasping. “Here. Catch.” A huge duffel bag landed on me, knocking me to the floor of the raft.” I pushed it to the side, as it was followed by the slender 5’9″ 119 lb frame of a global supermodel. She fell into my arms as I broke her fall. Her face was inches from mine for a moment. She didn’t move. Her breath came in short gasps of fear.

“Jesus, You scared the hell out of me, Ale’. You could have been killed running back for that!” She could sense the anger mixed with terror in my voice as I gazed into her lovely feline eyes.

“What? If you’re entitled to one carry-on bag, then so am I,” she said, rolling off me.

I just shook my head but was somewhat relieved. The raft drifted away from the sinking Lady Louise. She was engulfed in flames now. Maybe someone will see the column of black smoke that poured from her, I thought.  We both watched as she disappeared beneath the waves. The ocean hissed, mocking us. Extinguishing the flames in a final puff of smoke.

“Grab an oar. I’ll try to get our bearings as to where we are.” I said, looking around. I squinted in the hot sun.

Ale’ scanned the horizon. “Look!”She turned toward me. “Land! See it?” She pointed to what appeared to be a small island in the distance to our west. She grabbed an oar and locked it in place. I did the same. “Well, let’s hope there are people there that can help us.”

So here I am. Out in the middle of the ocean. Miles from the mainland of Australia with a gorgeous, international supermodel. Possibly one of the most beautiful women in the world. Here we are. Shoulder to shoulder, paddling an inflatable orange raft to who knows where.

Should I finish this? Let me know in the comments if you think it’s worth pursuing!

(If you click on the link of her name in the story above you can read the blog post from a few years ago when I met her in New York!)

 

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: Who’s Libretto?

Philadelphia, PA – 1968

My uncle Jack used to work for Columbia Records back in the 60s. He was a well-known producer and had lots of connections in the music industry. When I lived in Los Angeles in the early 80s he was out there on business and called me to meet up with him for lunch.

I was happy to meet up with him. It would be nice to not only see a member of my family because it was my first time far away from home. But also because he was my favorite uncle. He was a brilliant guy with a lightning-fast wit. He was an easy-going dude that everybody liked.

I drove out to Century City in my 1969 VW minibus to meet him for lunch. We were joined by the former president of Columbia Records who was a buddy of my uncle’s. I remember it was cool to hang out with these guys and listen to their stories of the glory days of popular music in the 60s.

During his time in the business, my uncle met many musicians and celebrities like Andy Williams, and Barbra Streisand.

One story that stand out in my mind is when his buddy told a story about how the Jefferson Airplane had recorded a demo for Columbia and they didn’t like it and turned it down flat for a record deal. He said one of the guys in the band urinated into the planter in the corner of his office upon hearing the news. He said they later signed with RCA Victor and got an unheard of $25k advance to get on board with them. (which was a fortune in 1965)  “They were a bunch of crazy people.” he said about the band.

Anyway, I always loved my uncle and still miss his wry wit to this day. But back to the story at hand.

Because my uncle was in the industry he would be given lots of vinyl demo albums to check out and review. Anything that was popular or mainstream he could relate to, but when he was given anything relating to classical music or opera, he would give them to his brother.

Which was my father. My dad loved classical music and opera and it was probably his favorite kind of music. Since my uncle was clueless to that kind of music he’d pass them to my dad to give him the lowdown on each orchestra and album.

This went on for many years and my dad got loads of free music to add to his collection. As a kid, I always wondered why on many of his record albums there was always a red stamp on the back. It read: “Not for Sale. This album is for demonstration purposes only.” Those were the ones my uncle gave him. If for some reason there was some unknown rock band in one of the many albums he gave him, my dad would pass it to me. Even as far forward as the late 70s. I remember my dad handing me the soundtrack to the animated film, Heavy Metal based on the comic magazine. It’s where I first heard the song, Mob Rules by Black Sabbath. There was even a record that consisted of a collection of songs by different artists, and one of them was a really old recording from the German metal band Scorpions (Whom I loved) it was a song called “Am I Going Mad?” from the album Lonesome Crow, which I didn’t even know existed back then.

Anyway, back in 1968, my uncle was chatting with my dad about music, and an interesting question came up. He said he had a buddy over at Decca Records that was working with a somewhat popular band from the UK. The group had been generating some buzz as an up-and-coming mod/rock band. They were trying to find their voice and identity and had released a few small hits.

Back in the 50s and early 60s, bands and singers only released singles. Short songs that were never longer than 3 minutes long. If that artist had generated enough popular songs in a period of time, the label l would put the songs out as a collection on an LP.

But the Beatles changed all that when they started to release albums of all-new material. No longer would albums be collections of hits but bonafide creative works of music.

But the main guy in the band over at Decca was a brilliant songwriter and wanted to take his band’s music to the next level. He came up with a unique concept. He ran the idea and played a few songs for his producer. It was a groundbreaking idea for an album that hadn’t ever been done before.

The producer over at Decca ran the idea by my uncle to get his thoughts on the subject. He of course spoke to his brother, (my dad) about it. My father listened intently to the idea and gave him this response:

“Do they have a libretto?”

“A what?”

A libretto. Every opera has a libretto. It’s the text and the substantive ideas that inspire the composition, including the dramatic structure, characters and scenario of the opera.

“Okay…”

“Well, tell your friend that if this band is going to do some kind of opera, they’ll need a libretto so when people buy the record they can read along and know what’s going on with the story of the songs even if it’s in a different language.”

So my uncle goes back and tells all of this to his buddy over at Decca, and he tells the guy in the band who’s writing the album. He loves the idea and they decide to include a libretto with the new album. My uncle tells my dad and he’s happy he was able to help out based on his expertise with classical music and opera.

“By the way, Jack, what’s the opera about?”

“It’s about a deaf, mute, and blind boy who is abused as a child and becomes an incredible player at the game of pinball.”

“Okay, well that seems a little weird, but I hope they have success with that. Glad I could help.”

My dad obviously got a free demo copy of the album before it came out and turned me on to this incredible band and their music.

So my father had something to do with the creation of Tommy by The Who.

 

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

Fifty-Nine

Philadelphia, PA – August 2021

It’s not a significant birthday. It’s just the year before you hopefully make it to 60. I suppose that’s a milestone. I’m too old to care about my birthday and haven’t for many many years.

As my father said, birthdays are for little kids.

Each year is a milestone when you’re growing up. I understand turning 18 and 21 and even 30. But beyond that, just stop it.

I see all of these silly twenty-something girls celebrating their birthday weeks and it’s so juvenile and ridiculous. We get it. It’s your birthday. Another year of you doing the same stupid stuff with a drink in your hand in every photo on your Instagram. Come on, ladies!

But I turned 59 and really didn’t pay any attention to it. But my friend James took me out a few days before and we had some lovely cocktails at 1 Tippling Place  and he bought me a bottle of Creege Isle for my small collection. (My collection is getting smaller because I rarely drink anymore. I’ll probably end up regifting that bottle away.) But I appreciate the sentiment.

On my actual birthday, I was surprised that my daughter took me out in the morning for a healthy smoothie at a place I’d never been. It’s a new spot called Playa Bowls up at 18th and Chestnut. I love that I’m writing about smoothie shops now instead of bars and drunken antics.

I went to work and was home by 6 pm. My daughter then suggested she take me out to dinner. Again, I was surprised. She doesn’t have to do anything for her old man for his birthday, and she knows I no longer care about such nonsense, but she wanted to do something for me.

We were going to go to the Korean BBQ spot just south of our house in Rittenhouse but soon discovered they were closed on Mondays. Thinking quickly, she suggested we hit Tio Flores down at 16th and South streets.

I had never been there and at the time I was only about 3 days into my Paleo diet, but I figured what the heck It’s my birthday and I’m happy just to be spending time with my daughter.

She’s lived with me for the last 7 years and it’s been great. We co-habitat well and we’re chill people who give each other their space. In the past when she was growing up we’d hang out on the weekends and spend the whole two days together. But once you live with someone it becomes more casual. So any time I get to hang out with her now it’s a blessing. Because I know someday soon, my little bird will fly away. (As she should!)

The dinner was delish and we loved our tacos. She got a vegan version and I went with the chicken. It was amazing and we had two rounds of margaritas. (They were strong!) So that was a great birthday thanks to my daughter.

I will say, that getting 40+ happy birthday wishes on Facebook was nice. I would say it was equal to getting little cards from people when you’re a kid. But once you “like” them all and thank everybody for the “love” you’re over it.

That was Monday. On Wednesday, my daughter asked if I would go with her to the eye doctor at Will’s Eye down at 8th and Walnut. She’s been suffering from a stye she had somehow acquired from maybe wearing her mask too much and sweat and bacteria building up in there.

A stye is a red, painful lump near the edge of the eyelid that may look like a boil or pimple. A stye can develop after the small glands that line the eyelid get plugged. Styes are often filled with pus. Sometimes a stye can form on the inner part of the eyelid. In most cases, a stye will begin to disappear on its own in a few days. A warm washcloth applied to the eyelid may relieve pain and discomfort.
My daughter is a night owl. She does all of her best creative work at night. I’m the opposite. I’ve always been a morning man who likes to be up and active during the day. She made the appointment for 8 am and that is super early for her. But she wanted to get in there and get it over with.
She got up and got ready and we took a Lyft down there. We were right on time and they took her in immediately. She’d been suffering from this for months and it should have been gone by now. She’s had it looked at by several doctors in New Jersey, but it was time to let a seasoned professional from Philly take charge and get this done right.
The doctor was on point and did what he needed to do. I was able to sit with her during the operation which I was happy to do. At one point he was really going to work on her and even though they had numbed the area, I could see she was feeling some stress. So I reached out and placed my hand on her foot and spoke to her.
“You’re doing great. You’re almost done. Just focus on your breathing. It’ll be over soon.”
She later told me that it helped and since I’m her dad, and I knew it would. It’s what we do. Look after the well-being of our kids no matter how old they are.
Once it was finished, we headed out and went to a very popular breakfast spot in mid-town village called Green Eggs. It truly is a magnificent breakfast spot. She’d been brave and I was hungry so I said, my treat! She was down for it and we had a lovely breakfast together.
So this was the third time I got to hang out with my daughter that week and that felt great. So even though I say I don’t care about my birthday anymore, it was nice to spend time with my daughter and celebrate my BIRTHDAY WEEK!

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

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 3

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

When I got back to Wildwood, NJ I would write letters and sometimes talk to Ashley on the phone. One night I had been drinking while I was on the phone with her and the conversation turned to sex.

Ashley became enraged, that I was gone from her life and all I wanted to do was talk about how great our sex had been. She yelled at me and told me she never wanted to speak to me again. She was peevish, ex-lover spurned with jealousy and rage.

I was fine with that. I was already seeing someone else by then.

Philadelphia, PA – 2008

25 years later, I’m living in Rittenhouse with my girlfriend, Michelle. One day I go on Facebook, and I have a friend request from Ashley! I was happily surprised to hear from her after so long. Facebook was still pretty new back then and people were reconnecting with all of their old friends from the past. Whether that’s a good idea or not, I don’t know. I’m going to say it’s a good thing. I’ve been able to chat with many of my old friends and it’s nice to see some of them after all of these years.

But after about a week or so, Ashley writes me a message that I’m not being a good Facebook friend and she’s cutting me off. I didn’t understand what that meant. I guess I was supposed to be more attentive on this social media platform. It seemed weird to me at the time, but after all that time I didn’t care. She just seemed crazy. Mental illness is an insidious thing. I’ve met enough crazy people here in Philly, and I just don’t care anymore.

Philadelphia, PA – 2020

Here we go again. We’re all in lockdown due to the global pandemic. Out of the blue, I get a message on Facebook from Ashley. Now it’s been 37 years since I laid eyes on her.

She and I would message each other on Facebook. It was nice to chat with her again after all of these years. We had a shared history from a long time ago when we were young and free in L.A. in the early 80s.

She had been to school and became a chef, married for over 30 years, had no children and had been living in Italy for many years. It was fun to catch up.

But after a short period, I started to notice a very angry tone in her messages. She seemed bitter and preachy about certain subjects. I’ve been around for a long time and have a wealth of life experience. I can pretty much read people through the written word as if I’m listening to them in person. It sounded like when she’d get mean in her messages, she was drunk.

I think she searched my blog looking for some heartfelt story about her and there just wasn’t any. I wrote about a bunch of wild things that happened to me and the boys when we got to LA but never got around to writing about her.

She gave me a really hard time about some of my posts. I felt violated and insulted by how corrosive her words were about my blog. So many cruel, words. It hurt, but I’m accustomed to trolls by now. I’m sure it was just her drunken bitterness coming forth from a life not lived. Just silly, juvenile, embarrassing behavior from a middle-aged woman.

It’s a shame when you find out a person has lived over half a century and hasn’t ever evolved as a person.

I have a low tolerance for drunk people even though I have a high tolerance for alcohol. (Not anymore, thank you) But she seemed drunk and rambled on in some of her messages. It felt uncomfortable and I felt bad for her. When I looked on her Instagram it was just a bunch of pictures of locations where she lived. She seems lonely. That’s the vibe I got. No kids, married for 30 years and has almost no info or photos of her husband.

I suppose what happened to her is that she’d sadly lived a life that’s been unfulfilled. She speaks and acts as though she hasn’t grown as a person or matured as an adult. She was still pissed about me leaving her back in 1983!

We spoke on the phone one morning and it was lovely. But she wanted to chat so much on Facebook messenger that it started to feel like too much. She said, “Promise me we can do this every week.”

Who says that? Promise me? I’m not making any promises to some 60-year-old woman who lives on the other side of the planet. I haven’t seen her in 37 years! Anything we ever were was finished a long time ago.

I also noticed how she would message me on Facebook, and if I didn’t respond, she would delete them all which seemed juvenile and weird. Sadly, Ashley’s never matured as a person and hasn’t evolved through the years. I can’t relate to any of that nonsense.

I think poor Ashley’s bored in her life and where she’s ended up, and has turned to alcohol for solace. But that never works. That’s just a band-aid covering up your real issues.

I spoke to my daughter about it and she said it all seemed kind of weird after all of this time.

I would have been happy to chat with her ocassionally on messenger. That would have been nice. But I don’t want to be in constant touch with someone and have them sending me clips of a bunch of music and songs I have zero interest in. It all seemed juvenile. I guess if you marry too young and don’t live a full life, you kind of get stuck behaving a certain way. I don’t know how her husband has put up with all of this childish behavior for so many years. I’d have divorced this woman/child years ago. But that’s his life, not mine. I don’t know the man.

So, at one point she sends me a message about how it’s been great talking to me and hopes I have a nice life. I saw it and didn’t respond. I could tell it was just an attempt to get my attention. But I simply don’t care. I feel nothing for this person.

There were a few more drunken messages that were later deleted. I’m assuming she writes a bunch of wild things when she’s half in the bag, and then the next morning when she’s sober, takes them down.

I figured she’d wait until the end of December of last year. If she hadn’t heard from me, she’d cut me off for the third time.

Had she just reached out to chat and behaved like an adult, we could have remained friends, but she hasn’t the ability to do that. I’m thinking possible bipolar and alcoholism at this point. But I’m not spending any time thinking about it at all. I’m too busy.

I was promoting some of my stuff on Facebook the other day, and I noticed the message chain from her was gone. I thought, “This is it.”

I searched for her on Facebook. She didn’t cut me off or block me, but she had unfriended me. So silly.

So, 3 strikes and it looks like I’m out.

But… like I always say. No matter what happens, good or bad… at least I got a story out of it…

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, 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

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 1983

One day I somehow acquired tickets to a David Bowie concert out in Anaheim. (It may have been the Glass Spider tour) We were on our way to the show when my van suddenly stalled. I had never had any problems with it before, but this was the worst thing that could have happened at the very worst time. I remember a truck full of Mexicans was kind enough to push my disabled vehicle off the highway.

We missed the show, but I got the van running again. Ashley was incredibly disappointed so I made it up to her. I took her to a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the very first time I tasted veal.

On another occasion, we were out partying in a bar somewhere and were on our way to her house. I was on the freeway when the cops pulled me over. They said I was swerving, but I know that I wasn’t. I think they saw the New Jersey tags on an old 1969 VW minibus and decided to stop me.

They took me through a sobriety test which I passed, but when I blew into the breathalyzer, I failed. I remember Ashley telling me that while this was happening, one of the officers was hitting on her. “What’s a nice pretty girl like you doing with a loser like him?” the cop said.

So, they arrested me and took me to jail. They photographed and fingerprinted me and tossed me in a cell with a couple of drunk guys. I remember sharing a cigarette with one of them. It was a rare bonding moment with another inmate. Odd thing was, I wasn’t even scared at all. I was only 21 years old when all of this happened.

I guess one of the cops took Ashley home and they left me in the can to chill. I got my one phone call and spoke with my roommate. I told him where I had some cash hidden in the apartment. He hopped in a cab and came to bail me out.

The cops told us where the van was impounded, but said not to get it and drive it because I could be stopped again. Which would make my current infraction even worse. We agreed and left the precinct.

We immediately went to the impound lot and got my van out. I drove my roommate and me home and we were fine.

Bad night.

I called my father and told him what happened. He was cool about it and was just glad I was okay. I had left a grand in my bank account back in Wildwood, NJ in case of emergency. This was that emergency.

I had to go to court, plead no contest, pay the fine, and attend classes. (All of it seemed like fee income for the city of LA and a waste of my time.) After all of the negative experiences in LA and the feeling that it didn’t matter where you were in the world, it really came down to who you were at that given time in your life.

No matter where you run to in this world… there you are. You make or break the place where you live. I was fed up with all of the phoniness of LA and didn’t see any point in staying out there anymore. I wasn’t going to become the next heavy metal god and was really feeling despondent about my life there. It had all become very mundane. (I’ll write about the deeper parts of this decision in some future post)

My roommate and I eventually decided to pack it in and return to New Jersey. I was tired of LA and missed my family and friends. I was just done with the whole scene out there.

Of course, Ashley was heartbroken that I was leaving, but I had to go. There was nothing I could do. I wasn’t staying out there. She was, and our relationship was over.

I guess that’s how I was back then. My whole existence was about survival and dealing with my anxiety and depression. But I thought nothing of just doing what I needed to do to survive. I know now that I broke some young hearts back then. I never intended to hurt anyone intentionally, I just kept moving. But I see now I was running in circles.

More tomorrow!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, 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

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 1

Santa Monica, CA – 1982

When I first got to Los Angeles in 1982, I got a job as a busboy at a local restaurant in Santa Monica called Cafe Casino. It was located in the Wilshire Pallisades building down by the beachfront. Someone had come up with the idea of serving French cuisine in a cafeteria model. People would enter the restaurant, grab a tray and get in line for their meal. They would point to the things they wanted, and there were a couple of girls that would serve them. It was like an expensive high school lunchroom experience. We had a fun crew of people working there and we had a good time.

I had become friends with one of the girls who worked there named Kellie Lawson. She was from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was one of a million people who had migrated to Los Angeles to become an actor. Most people that you met out there back then all wanted the same thing. Every person in the service industry was waiting for the big break that would never come. Every waitress was either an actress, singer, model, or dancer. Most of the men you met were actors, musicians, or screenwriters. None of them working in the industry, but waiting…

Kelly had got on a greyhound bus to escape the grinding boredom of her hometown in an attempt to make it big in Hollywood. A classic scenario seen a thousand times out there. We had started dating and would frequently fool around at her apartment. We sort of grew out of touch after I left that job to work at Merlin McFly’s down near Venice.

One afternoon, we’re at the restaurant and the guys and I were hanging outside the dining room by the doors. The lunch rush was over and the two glass doors swung open. Who comes rolling in with his squad but Heisman Trophy champion, O.J. Simpson!

I knew him more from the Hertz commercials, but the other guys all cheered when the athlete entered the restaurant. He was a good-looking guy and said hello to us all. When I shook the hand of this man, who could realize that 10 years later he’d be famous for something else.

One of the girls who worked there that I befriended was a charming beauty named Joelle. She was a part-time model and her boyfriend worked at Disney studios.

Here’s her modeling photo card. Beautiful!

A lovely girl. She was not only beautiful but full of sass. She’d laugh at all my jokes and seemed to find me amusing. I liked working with her and having her as a friend back then.

One day, I came to work and she was standing there with another girl. She was 19 years old, cute, and Joelle told me she was her cousin from Philadelphia. I chatted with her and thought she was cool. Since I was originally from Philly we had a small connection.

She was new to California, and I told her we should hang out. She gave me her number and we made plans to do something together.

Eventually, we started dating and things became romantic. I had already been out there for over a year and was pretty jaded. But Ashley was new and was a fun, sweet girl to spend time with. Sometimes we’d just drive around LA in my van and end up down by the beach. We’d make out in the VW minibus and it was a romantic hot time.

We went on several dates. We went to see, ET: The Extraterrestrial, (I cried like a baby) The Dark Crystal, (A bunch of muppets with David Bowie), and Flashdance. (Chick-flick, but the great soundtrack.)

Sometimes we’d just hang out at my apartment, but many times I’d finish work and come visit her at her cousin’s house out in Culver City. It was fun to hang out in her room and watch TV and make out. We were just a couple of teenagers enjoying life and our youth together. We were a couple of kids on the loose in LA. She loved Richard Gere and I loved Farrah Fawcett.

One night I stayed over there late. We stayed up all night as young people do. When I came out to get in my van to go home, I saw that the driver’s side door was standing wide open.

My minibus had been broken into, and the thieves had stolen my entire stereo system. This was heartbreaking to me because I loved my van and listening to my tunes. They even took the boom box that I used to listen to on the beach back in Wildwood, NJ. I felt so violated by that incident, I was reluctant to go back to her neighborhood again. It was a planned professional job. They had hit several cars on the street that night.

The more Ashley and I spent time together the closer we became. She would stay over at my apartment in Mar Vista on the weekends. That eventually turned into our first intimate encounters. I don’t think I realized at the time that I was Ashley’s first.

But after that, it was really fun to be together, and fooling around became part of our relationship. It was a natural progression back then. You can only make out in my van for so long before the bigger things start happening.

One night while we were in my apartment fooling around someone broke into the apartment next door and robbed the place. My neighbor was in Greece at the time with her boyfriend so nobody was home. The thieves ransacked the place and I suppose stole anything valuable.  I later heard from one of my neighbord that they saw some guys listening next to my window to see if anybody was home. But I guess hearing our laughter they moved on to next door and ripped off my neighbor’s place instead of robbing us. Crazy!

My neighbor moved out shortly after that and I moved into her apartment. It was bigger and installed a waterbed I had gotten from a chef I worked with at McFlys who had back problems. That waterbed only cost me $120 and was awesome! It was so cool having a waterbed. I remember one night the thermostat in the unit went off and the whole side of my body was cold when I woke up. I thought I was half dead! I had a lot of wild times on that waterbed.

More tomorrow!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, 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

Double 8

Philadelphia, PA    1973-1975

Before I begin this story I have to tell you something about my father. I said this about him in his eulogy. With my dad, anything worth doing was worth overdoing. Now, that didn’t apply to anything negative like booze or drugs or anything. My pop was a pretty straight shooter but what I meant by that statement was, he went big on anything he liked.

I mean, BIG.

I’ll give you an example. I think this was back in the ’90s. When my older sister’s son was little he spent a lot of time with his grandpop. (My father) He loved playing with toy trains with my dad, and of course, my father was a huge toy train collector. He had tons of toy trains. Lionel trains were his favorite.

He set up a little ring of track on the floor in a corner of the attic. This way they could go up there and run the trains and watch them go round and round. I’m sure this delighted my nephew. But when I saw it I said to my father, “Isn’t this just the beginning, dad?”

“What do you mean?”

“This is how it starts.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Aren’t you going to start building this little ring of track out bigger and bigger until it’s gigantic?”

“No. It’s for the boy.”

I even joked that he’d build a train layout so large that it would run the entire length of the attic. It would be an enormous museum-quality setup, with multiple lines and trains running on it, villages, buildings, cars, people, and whatever else he could turn it into.

 

Cut to a year or so later, and he did just that. It was the biggest train layout I’d ever seen. A giant wooden platform was constructed three feet off the floor. Multiple trains running on several different tracks. Lights, switches, several transformers to run it, whole villages and towns built throughout. It was absolutely brilliant.

If you went into someone’s house and went up in their attic and saw something like this, you’d say, “Who the hell built all of this?”

So, you get the picture. He liked to take something and go big with it. It was massive and beautiful. My father loved it. He once said, “My toy train layout. It’s the only world I can truly control.”

LAWNDALE

Let’s jump back to Christmas, 1972. We were celebrating the holidays just like always and it was great. We all got plenty of toys and everybody was happy. It was probably the happiest day of the year in my house growing up.

My dad knew a younger couple he was friends with that he knew from the bank where he worked. They were cool people and we all liked them. They were around a lot and were interesting, fun people.

They gave the family a present that year. Or, maybe it was for me. Maybe they gave something to each of my sisters but I didn’t notice. Because the present they gave was a little racing set.

Aurora made plastic models and HO slot car race tracks.

No one I ever knew in the 60s and 70s dressed like this in real life to play. (And who are those little guys driving the cars?)

I knew the name Aurora because I liked building little models when I was a kid. Aurora and Monogram made the best models, but Aurora had this line of slot cars and racing sets they manufactured. This was a fantastic toy.

In the box is enough track to make the double eight configuration, two controllers, and two cars. One was a little red Mustang that was okay, and an old tan Lincoln that looked like it was modeled after a car from the 40s. I liked the idea of a racing set and playing with little cars but these two they gave you in the set were kind of lame. But… it was so you would go out and buy more of the cooler cars they made.

Weekend Mornings with Slot Cars: Throwback Thursday

That’s a yellow late 60s Corvette. They didn’t give you that car. I can’t even find a picture on google of the old Lincoln the set came with. (I love how it says: The Double 8 is the most exciting road racing set in the WORLD!)

Here’s what the controllers looked like. You turned the wheel to the right to accelerate and left to slow down. There was a little switch on the right to change directions, and a brak button on the left which killed power to the car and it would stop short. It was so intense sometimes the little steering wheels would end up breaking from the sheer pressure of the hands upon them. Thrilling racing action! (lol)

In our basement, we had a pool table. We also had two boards that made a ping pong table you could place on top of it. So my dad set up the small race track on the ping pong table. He wired it all up and it was cool to race the little cars around the track. But my dad being the man he was, got interested in this little pastime. Not just for us kids, but for the adults.

He went out to the local Kiddie City and hobby shops in the area and started researching how he could expand the layout.

I don’t know how long it took, but probably only a few months into the Spring of 1973, and the little racing set was rapidly becoming larger.

I liked it because I could have some of the boys in the neighborhood over and we would play for hours down in that basement with the racing set. The raceway kept getting bigger and better.

From that one little gift, my dad turned it into an incredibly fun racing track. At one point he made a layout that was four lanes wide, with four controllers, and electric lap counters. He and my mom would be down there entertaining their friends, having drinks, and having these epic auto races while we kids were asleep in bed. I’m talking 100 lap marathon races that went on for a long time. Some people would be racing cars and others would act as spotters if a car fell off the track during the race. It was like Indianapolis down there.

My dad and his friend were famous for whipping out a “secret car” that no one had seen before just to make the racing more thrilling!

Dad even went out and bought a record album that was just the soundtrack from different real races around the world. Like Grand Prix and Le Mans! This way when they were racing the sounds in the background made it seem even more real. It was great!

Check this out!

Then the cars started. The Batmobile. The Green Hornet’s car (Black Beauty) A few Corvettes, Ferraris, Cheatahs, etc. In no time we had over 40 cars. All different colors, and even fleets of all the same model. (Like real racing teams!) I feel like at one point we had at least one of every car that Aurora made for slot car racing.

Yep, dad always went big and it was glorious.

Everybody had their favorite car, and mine was a white Mako Shark. I loved it because it looked like a Corvette Stingray and that was my favorite car in real life back then.

Boxed 1960s White Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark Aurora Slot Car - TPNC

My dad was always bringing home new cars and cool accessories for the layout. The coolest thing ever was something called a Hop-Up Kit.

Inside this little box was equal to finding the Ark of the Covenant to me and the boys. For under a dollar you could soup up your car to make it not only faster, but handle better on the track.

Better pick up shoes and brushes to generate better power current into the motor, Bigger crown gears to make the wheels turn more revolutions per minute, fatter tires, bigger rims, and cool decals to dress up your cars. This little box of goodies changed the whole game. We had a few of these on hand at all times. My friend RJ and I would soup up our cars and beat everybody else’s cars.

I never bought any of this stuff. My dad just kept finding more cars, curves, controllers kept bringing them home. It was a toy that kept on giving and kept all of our friends entertained for hours. (My sisters and their friends too!)

Here’s my friends RJ McMeans and Wayne Kachelries going head to head, while my middle sister and I keep our eyes peeled in case a car goes flying off the track. (Look at that 8-foot straightaway!!!)

That curve you see closest to the camera is called a Daytona Curve. It was banked so you could go around it faster without crashing. We later added a Monza curb beside it. This was an amazing racing layout!

I’ll never forget all of the hours of fun we spent as kids in that basement at 312 Magee St. It was nice and cool down there and just a fun rec room for us growing up.

Later as teenagers, we’d play ping pong and shoot pool down there while listening to all of our records on my dad’s stereo. (The GOOD stereo!)

Even now, at almost 60 years old, I’d still love to play with a racing set like this!

I think a lot of people would agree with me.

Way better than video games!

Final Note: My youngest sister read this article and sent me the following photo. Apparently she saved 3 of her little slot cars all of this time and still has them! Amazing!!!

 

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

A Trip to the Shore

This is a compilation of a 4-part series I just ran on my blog this week to share with my friends on Facebook as a one-shot. It just makes it easier to read. Enjoy!

Philadelphia, PA – July 2021

Thursday

My old friend Wolfie texted me that he was going down to Wildwood to attend a family event. He asked me if I wanted a ride down there. He said He’d swing by Philly and pick me up and then we’d head down. He wasn’t coming back home to where he lives until Tuesday so I figured that could work. I texted my sister who was already down there at her house to check with her.

She said the upstairs was free from other guests and that I was welcome. I figured I hadn’t been on vacation in years so I told her I’d be down for a few days. I had been writing my butt off for two months straight on commercial gigs and needed a break.

Wolfie said he’d be down late Thursday after he visited with his daughter who was leaving to join the Navy. So I figured I had time to pack that afternoon. But he texted me around 2 pm that he was done seeing her and that he was headed to me. I leaped up from my desk and grabbed a bag. I stuffed it with as many items as I could think of for a 4-day vacation. I hadn’t been away in a long time and kept a checklist on my phone just in case, but it suddenly became crunch time.

He showed up in no time and within less than 20 minutes he was in front of my house. I tossed my stuff on the backseat of his car and off we went. I was stupid happy to see my friend and former bandmate of 40 years.

It was a sunny warm day and lately, it’s been a pretty hot summer so far. We decided once we got over the bridge we were going to take the back way to the shore. Most people take the Atlantic City Expressway to the Garden State Parkway to get down there. I prefer the back way. It’s a more scenic route and you can stop off anytime you like to do whatever.

The first stop was to grab some lunch. We pulled off the road to a little roadside burger joint called the Purple Penguin. I love places like this because it reminds me of my times back in the early 80s when I’d take road trips in my old van. And of course on the road to California back in ’82. I love the road. Just that endless black ribbon under that massive blue sky. There’s something liberating about being in a car on a warm day and traveling to places unknown.

Wolfie tells me that he’s been on a healthy diet so he goes with a wrap and of course, I go with a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries.

It’s a hot day and the only place to escape the July sun is at a picnic table under an umbrella, which is just fine. After about 20 minutes we’re back on the road again. I wanted to do something for my sister as a little thank you for letting me come down and hang out for a few days at the shore, so I ask Wolfie if we can stop again if we see a roadside nursery.

We do in a short while and he grinds the car into the dirt lot out front. There’s an array of plants and flowers everywhere, and I’m sure I’ll find something to bring my sister. I figured a plant was better than flowers because flowers die. But Wold pointed out that maybe it’s good that flowers die because it’s a nice gesture, but then they die. A plant sort of forces the recipient with a new responsibility to care for the living thing you just gifted them. Point taken, but I’m sticking with the plant for now as a present.

I found this lovely plant with pink flowers. I’m sure she’ll like it. We hop back in the car and make our way towards Wildwood.

We did get a little turned around for a moment but I told him, if we just keep heading south we can’t get lost. Because New Jersey just keeps getting slimmer the further south you go. No matter what happens, if we head south we’ll hit the shore!

We end up on route 9, and we’re right on track. It doesn’t take us to get to the shore after that. It was a great moment for me to be riding in a car with one of my oldest friends as we drove over the bridge and onto the island. It was like… we’re back!

We get to the house and pull up on the carport. My sister comes out to greet us and I’m really happy to see her. I whip out the flowery plant, but then notice she has not one, but two of the exact type of plants hanging from the porch. (You can see those beauties in the photo at the top of this post!) They are so much bigger and more beautiful than my little “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” plant! We get a good laugh about it and she likes the plant anyway.

Wolfie comes into the house and is amazed at how my sister has remodeled the old shore house. She took what was once lovely in the ’70s to a clean, white modern version of what a shore house should look like. Truly elegant! She did an amazing job bringing the property into the21st century.

They chat a bit and I stay quiet because I’ve been chatting with Wolfie for the last two and half hours. My sister hasn’t seen him since our parent’s funeral and I wanted to give them a chance to catch up.

Wolfie always liked my dad. Everybody did. He was a cool guy to all of my friends. They all thought he was an amazing dude.

After a bit, Wolf had to get to where he needed to go. The reason for his trip to the shore was to meet up with his family for a social event. Someone was having a baby and there was to be a shower. He wouldn’t be attending that in particular but there would be many relatives there so he wanted to see them all. We hoped we could meet up over the weekend and hang out a bit if possible.

Wildwood, New Jersey – July 2021

Friday

The next morning I woke up upstairs in the apartment on the second floor of the shore house. This used to be where my father lived. This may be the bed he slept in for all I know. The apartment still has the 70s vibe and the walls are covered in wood paneling. I kind of like that it reminds me of a time in the past when life was simpler.

I looked at my phone at it was 5:30 am. Early. I looked at the weather app and it said sunrise was at 5:45. I knew I had 15 minutes to walk the block and a half to the beach to see the sunrise. I hadn’t seen a sunrise in I don’t know how long. It may have been the late 70s or early 80s but it was probably after I’d stayed out all night with some woman.

It’s always cooler at the shore. The heat was unbearable in Philly in July, but even when it’s blazing outside, there’s always a breeze at the shore. I threw on some clothes and quietly headed out. My sister’s husband had already left because he was going out on a fishing boat for the day with his brother or a friend.

I walked down the street towards the beach. Some of the properties have remained the same. The old-time, small clapboard shore houses. But many of the properties on the island have been torn down and transformed into massive condo complexes. It’s kind of sad because the architecture is part of the essence of a town. Being all built up like this sort of ruins the aesthetic of the community.

What was once a landscape dotted with little shore homes has now been mostly replaced by buildings that take up the entire property. Case in point: next door to the shore house was once a little one-story home. It was cute and perfect for the block like the other homes. But it’s been torn down and a massive three-story building is going up on that property. This completely blocks the air and the view of the sea from my sister’s place. So that’s another thing ruined. When you look out any window in the house now on that side all you’ll see is someone else’s gigantic house right in your face.

Where there were once motels all designed in the classic doo-wop design, are now massive properties and condos. Gone are all of the tourists that would stay at those motels each summer. The sound of people coming and going, and kids laughing and splashing around in the pools and music playing… all gone. It’s very quiet down there now. It looks nice and clean, but a huge part of the look and feel of the place is long gone.

I get to the beach and there are a few people around ready to see what I’m about to witness. I live in Philly. There are no sunrises to see. I’m surrounded by huge towers of steel and glass. It’s a city. They all look the same. It’s the neighborhoods and local businesses that make a city. They give it a personality. Wildwood has lost a lot of its personality.

The beach has retained its natural beauty. That timeless place for millions of years has done the same thing. The moon’s gravitational pull makes the waves lap the beach turning rock into sand over time.

I approach the lifeguard chair here on the 8th street beach. The chair is a timeless symbol of the seashore. The guards sit in the summer sun and go from tan to brown through the season. The protectors who sit and watch that no one drowns on their watch.  The lifeguard persona is like a fireman. A protector, and yet, fit and admired by the women and girls who would flock to the beach each summer.

As I get closer to the chair, I notice a little plaque on the back of one of the horizontal stabilizing beams on this one. I take a closer look to read the inscription.

I don’t have any idea who John Steiger is, but the plaque on the right is a memorial to my father.

My dad loved the beach and being at the seashore. He’d been coming here during his childhood and then in the 60s with mom and the kids, and then bought the house in the 70s. He was never a lifeguard but always made friends with the guards and liked swimming in the sea. He was a social guy and I suppose he enjoyed the whole vibe of the beach scene. If they gave him a plaque I’m assuming he was an annual contributor to the Wildwood Beach Patrol over the years.

Whatever happened, it was nice to be standing here at almost 60 years old on the beach that held so many fond memories from my youth. I hadn’t stood on this beach in many decades. At least this was unchanged. You can’t move or build on the Atlantic Ocean, so it remains the same. That’s comforting. It made me smile to see my father’s name on that chair. It put him there with me for a few moments.

There’s an orange glow in the sky and upon the sea where the Earth will turn towards its nearest star to welcome a new day.

I’m happy to be here today to witness this daily event that we all take for granted. Life is good right now. I’m at the shore. There’s no stress in my life, I have my health and I really can’t complain about anything right now.

Like a shiny new penny, the sun begins to rise from the sea. It’s really beautiful. I see a couple off in the distance by the shoreline. They are but silhouettes and embrace each other as the golden disc rises before them. I smile and think back to when I fell in love every week back in the 70s in Wildwood.

Wildwood, New Jersey – 2021

Saturday

After witnessing the sunrise, which was glorious and elegant in its simplicity, I went to Russo’s market for breakfast. The business has been there since 1972. Having a little market/deli/sundries shop a block from our shore house was great. It’s one of the few things left in this town that still looks and feels like it did 50 years ago.

I walked to the back to the deli section and ordered my usual, (bacon egg and cheese on a bagel) from one of the girls working there and waited for my order.  I decided to wander around the store to see if it still held the seashore magic it once did. I soon realized that it did.

All kinds of goodies.

A whole aisle for flip-flops.

Monogrammed hats and shirts!

A palm tree full of cool sunglasses.

Little toys and stuff for kids!

Postcards! Classic!

Paperback books and magazines to read at the beach? I’m in heaven!

Balls!

More fun beach toys!

I don’t know if the owners are still present much anymore, but whatever deal they made with whoever runs it now must have included that the store had to look a certain way and carry certain products. My nostalgia meter is going off the charts standing in this store right now!

For the first time since I’ve arrived here, I felt like I was back in the old Wildwood. I’m so glad this store still exists. Sadly, at this point, it’s nearly one of a kind. Just beautiful. This store has always been a class act and a treasure to this island.

I walk back to the deli to wait for my sandwich. I was looking at some of the stuff hanging on the walls back there. One of the photos caught my eye.

This giant memory collage of photos of many of the past employees. But two of the photos caught my eye…

That’s my older sister with her friend Susan from back in the 1970s! She worked there for years and was one of their most beloved employees.

Just below their photo is an old picture of Michelle and Rich Russo, the original owners!

Good times!

I got my sandwich and headed outside. Next to the building, they have a little area where you can sit and eat at a few tables in the shade. I enjoyed my breakfast and although I was surprised at how quiet it was, I contemplated my next move.

I decided to walk up the boardwalk and see what was going on up there. It was still early, so it wasn’t blazing hot out yet. Even if we’re dying from the heat up in Philly, it’s always cooler at the seashore.

I headed up there and there were lots of people around. Many of them were on bikes. I assumed you could ride your bike on the boardwalk until noon. I stuck to the right near the shops and began my journey south on the boardwalk.

It’s still got the original 5 piers full of amusement rides, but they’re all now owned by the Morey family. They used to only own one pier back in the 70s but always invested their earnings back into the pier and later acquired Marine pier which became Mariner’s Landing and then they grabbed the rest of them over the years.

It’s expensive to go on the rides now. Gone are the days when you could buy 5 tickets for a buck and take a ride. Now it’s all about day passes and wristbands and amusement ride/water park passes. I guess they followed the Disney model. I don’t know. Now if a family goes to the boardwalk and wants to play on the amusements they’re going to drop at least $200 before the night is out. I’m not thrilled by this premise, but I’ve never been a huge fan anyway. It’s now just a massive money generator.

I got down as far as the old Fun Pier which used to be trash in the 70s but is now built up and has a classic wooden rollercoaster called The Great White. I kind of wanted to ride that this weekend, but couldn’t figure out how much it would cost for one ride, or when the pier opened.

Now that it’s mid-day, the heat is killing me. July has been brutal this year, even at the shore.  So I turn around and head back.

Living in a city you become accustomed to seeing people dress a certain way all year round. But it’s always a little shocking to see women walking around in bikinis in broad daylight. I know it’s the shore and I’ve seen this every summer back in the day, but it just seems odd to see it now. Someone walking around in the equivalent of underwear in public. But I’m sure if I lived down here, I’d become accustomed to it. As jaded as I am, it still feels a little weird to me from living so long in a city. (Put a shirt on, Miss!)

The heat is killing me and my sister had said if I got tired she’d get in the car and come get me, but I want to press on and get my exercise today. I come upon Sam’s Pizza and I’m instantly pulled in by their tractor beam. (Star Wars reference) I’ve been walking for 3 hours and it’s time to consume some nostalgic slices.

Although Sam’s had legendary pizza back in the day, when I get my order, it seems hollow. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s just not the same. I don’t want to sound like a bitter old man who wants everything exactly like it was back in 1978, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t look or taste the same as it did back in the 70s. I don’t know what they did, but it’s changed. It was also really expensive. New York has the God pies and Philly has a few spots that make slamming pizza that I love. Sadly, Sam’s has become a disappointment as well. I want to love it, but I’m more in love with the memory of what it was and the fun we had there than the taste at this point. I’m trying to find the Wildwood I once loved but most of it’s gone.

At some point, I went to a place that’s up at 8th and New Jersey Aves for food. It was some sort of dog-themed burger joint. It was a little crowded and they only had outdoor seating. At least I was in the shade so I didn’t mind too much. But here’s the thing… I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a drink. The burger and the fries were served in dog dishes. Yea… what? The burger was blah and the bacon was bacon bits spread on it. It was awful.

I finally trudged out to Anglesea to the Wawa to buy Juul pods. It was the only place I could find that had them. At least they were cheap, $15 for a pack of 4. Better than Philly even with my local hook-up.

But overall it just doesn’t feel like Wildwood by the Sea anymore.

There are tiny pockets of Wildwood left on this island and don’t get me wrong, it’s nice down here, but it’s changed so much I feel like it’s more like Avalon and Stone Harbor now.

I’m going to continue my quest to see what’s left of my beloved seashore resort.

Wildwood, New Jersey, 2021

Sunday

I went to Russo’s again for my breakfast and then came back home to chill. My sister and I decided to walk down to JFK blvd down by the beach. We followed it down to 2nd street and then followed it out along the walkway that heads west along the shoreline.

We followed it out to the historic lighthouse and decided to take a look around.

There were a couple of benches donated by my family to the lighthouse. One has our family name on it and the other is a memorial bench to my grandmother and her husband.

It was nice to hang out with my sister and chat and look at all of the historic stuff. Especially since it was on my late father’s birthday. I think he’d be 90 years old now had he lived!

We later returned to the house and hopped in the car and went to Douglass Fudge. It’s a famous landmark candy store on the boardwalk. I think the best part was when I started chatting with this 92-year-old woman who worked at the counter. She was part of the original Douglass family and formerly worked in this very store when she was 9 years old. I thought this was amazing. Good for her, still working in this sweet-smelling store.

After that, we thought we’d go check out the Wildwood Historic Society on Pacific Avenue. What was once the strip that was lined with bars and clubs that made up the whole Wildwood summer nightlife scene has now been reduced to a handful of sorry-looking stores.

Another grinding disappointment.

The Historic society is a refurbished store space that is a disorganized gallimaufry of old bits of history and artifacts from Wildwood’s once glorious past. They have tons of volumes of books with all sorts of memorabilia inside them. Of course, I went straight for the nightlife ones from the 70s. To put it simply, there was almost nothing from the rock n roll glory days of the 70s in any of these books, so that was sad.

But it was another great day to hang with my sister so I didn’t mind any of it. It was all good to see. My phone rang at some point and it was my buddy, Wolfie. I hadn’t heard from him in 3 days so I wondered what was up.

He said he was riding bikes on the boardwalk and asked where I was. I told him and asked if he wanted to stop down. He stated he wasn’t sure where that was and that there was no lock on the bike so that was a no-go. I know he was staying down until Tuesday and I was going home Monday, so any chance of us hanging was another bust.

None of it made any sense to me.

Early that evening my sister and I walked out to the northern part of the island and wanted to check out a rock band we had heard about. But they played at 4 pm so we missed them. There was some nostalgic band playing at an open-air bar. I was non-plussed. They’ve blocked off a few streets out there and it’s a bunch of open-air bars and some live music. To me, it was just a bunch of people drinking and eating and I can see that anywhere but care not to.

I suppose the best part of coming down the shore was to hang out with my sister and see my other sisters as well. Family is always the best part of anything. It makes everything better. I also loved that my sister and her husband cooked me dinner every night I was there. The food was delicious and I was just happy to be with them in their lovely home.

My sister was nice enough to drive me home the next day, and on the way, we stopped to see my little sister at her house and my middle sister joined as well. So that was a fun riot.

I was happy to be back in Philly in my own space after a busy few days, but overall it was a nice few days at the shore.

But as I’ve been saying lately…

Everything that I love about Wildwood is long gone.

 

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

A Trip To The Shore – Part 2

Wildwood, New Jersey – July 2021

Friday

The next morning I woke up upstairs in the apartment on the second floor of the shore house. This used to be where my father lived. This may be the bed he slept in for all I know. The apartment still has the 70s vibe and the walls are covered in wood paneling. I kind of like that it reminds me of a time in the past when life was simpler.

I looked at my phone at it was 5:30 am. Early. I looked at the weather app and it said sunrise was at 5:45. I knew I had 15 minutes to walk the block and a half to the beach to see the sunrise. I hadn’t seen a sunrise in I don’t know how long. It may have been the late 70s or early 80s but it was probably after I’d stayed out all night with some woman.

It’s always cooler at the shore. The heat was unbearable in Philly in July, but even when it’s blazing outside, there’s always a breeze at the shore. I threw on some clothes and quietly headed out. My sister’s husband had already left because he was going out on a fishing boat for the day with his brother or a friend.

I walked down the street towards the beach. Some of the properties have remained the same. The old-time, small clapboard shore houses. But many of the properties on the island have been torn down and transformed into massive condo complexes. It’s kind of sad because the architecture is part of the essence of a town. Being all built up like this sort of ruins the aesthetic of the community.

What was once a landscape dotted with little shore homes has now been mostly replaced by buildings that take up the entire property. Case in point: next door to the shore house was once a little one-story home. It was cute and perfect for the block like the other homes. But it’s been torn down and a massive three-story building is going up on that property. This completely blocks the air and the view of the sea from my sister’s place. So that’s another thing ruined. When you look out any window in the house now on that side all you’ll see is someone else’s gigantic house right in your face.

Where there were once motels all designed in the classic doo-wop design, are now massive properties and condos. Gone are all of the tourists that would stay at those motels each summer. The sound of people coming and going, and kids laughing and splashing around in the pools and music playing… all gone. It’s very quiet down there now. It looks nice and clean, but a huge part of the look and feel of the place is long gone.

I get to the beach and there are a few people around ready to see what I’m about to witness. I live in Philly. There are no sunrises to see. I’m surrounded by huge towers of steel and glass. It’s a city. They all look the same. It’s the neighborhoods and local businesses that make a city. They give it a personality. Wildwood has lost a lot of its personality.

The beach has retained its natural beauty. That timeless place for millions of years has done the same thing. The moon’s gravitational pull makes the waves lap the beach turning rock into sand over time.

I approach the lifeguard chair here on the 8th street beach. The chair is a timeless symbol of the seashore. The guards sit in the summer sun and go from tan to brown through the season. The protectors who sit and watch that no one drowns on their watch.  The lifeguard persona is like a fireman. A protector, and yet, fit and admired by the women and girls who would flock to the beach each summer.

As I get closer to the chair, I notice a little plaque on the back of one of the horizontal stabilizing beams on this one. I take a closer look to read the inscription.

I don’t have any idea who John Steiger is, but the plaque on the right is a memorial to my father.

My dad loved the beach and being at the seashore. He’d been coming here during his childhood and then in the 60s with mom and the kids, and then bought the house in the 70s. He was never a lifeguard but always made friends with the guards and liked swimming in the sea. He was a social guy and I suppose he enjoyed the whole vibe of the beach scene. If they gave him a plaque I’m assuming he was an annual contributor to the Wildwood Beach Patrol over the years.

Whatever happened, it was nice to be standing here at almost 60 years old on the beach that held so many fond memories from my youth. I hadn’t stood on this beach in many decades. At least this was unchanged. You can’t move or build on the Atlantic Ocean, so it remains the same. That’s comforting. It made me smile to see my father’s name on that chair. It put him there with me for a few moments.

There’s an orange glow in the sky and upon the sea where the Earth will turn towards its nearest star to welcome a new day.

I’m happy to be here today to witness this daily event that we all take for granted. Life is good right now. I’m at the shore. There’s no stress in my life, I have my health and I really can’t complain about anything right now.

Like a shiny new penny, the sun begins to rise from the sea. It’s really beautiful. I see a couple off in the distance by the shoreline. They are but silhouettes and embrace each other as the golden disc rises before them. I smile and think back to when I fell in love every week back in the 70s in Wildwood.

More tomorrow!

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

Lin – What Would Simon Say?

I was walking back from the grocery store that’s about two blocks from my house the other day. I’m carrying two big paper bags when I suddenly see Lin with her little dog.

The dog immediately pulls on the leash and its back legs starts viciously barking at me as if I’m a criminal. Normally kids and animals like me because they can sense my inner kindness, but this pup is just being a jerk.

Typical yappy dog. Lin seems in a hurry to get where she’s going. “Hi, I’m just taking him to the park.”

“Nice seeing you. Have fun.”

And that was it. Now, I’m loaded down with groceries and she’s being pulled by a precocious pooch.

But I noticed something I hadn’t before. Both times I encountered her she was seated. But today she had on a pair of black bicycle shorts and some sort of white halter top on. (Those tight compacting shorts that hold everything in)

As she walked away I stole a glance back at her.

This is not the girl I saw in her Instagram photos. In her pics on social media, she’s raven-haired and fit. A petite, cutie. But this person walking away from me no longer fits that description.

She’s blonde and packed on quite a bit of weight. Her back is chubby and her legs are thick. This isn’t good. Could she be stuffing her feelings about her ex? Has she gotten back with him? He cheated on her and she dumped him. But now she’s a little chubette and I can’t imagine him wanting to come back to a worse version of the chick he already cheated on.

Then her next boyfriend in Fairmount suddenly cut her loose too. Something’s wrong here.

Maybe she just stuffed her face during Covid? No. That wouldn’t make sense. She’s a nurse. They were busier than ever during Covid. It must be the depression of being on her own and the loss of not one, but two boyfriends. What is with these Asian girls? No offense, but this reminds me a lot of when I knew Kita from the tanning salon a few years ago. Addicted to tanning, the super bleached blonde hair. Do these girls want to change themselves because they’re unhappy in their lives? They look perfectly great with their natural hair and skin color. It’s beautiful to me. I’m a huge fan and have been for over 40 years. I’ve had a couple of Asian girlfriends and liked the way they looked.

I don’t know, but I’m getting a bad vibe about this chick and I swore no more crazies back in 2019. There just seems to be a lot of things going on with this chick.

I saw her one more time the other day. I was about half a block away from her as she was entering the building next door. She was in the hallway with her yippie dog and fiddling with the lock on the front door. I know she didn’t see me earlier and as I walked by all I could see was that back fat.

I get that if you read this you’ll think I’m being shallow. Maybe I am. But I’m not pursuing this girl. It appears that in the short time that I’ve known her, (Two brief encounters) that she’s got some issues with several things. The sudden hair color changed, twice! The rapid weight gain. Drug use. The bounced rent check. The sudden need to get a tattoo.

Where are this girl’s friends and family? She’s got a good career, but it seems she’s making a lot of wrong and desperate moves. I’ve known too many mentally unstable people during my 15 years in this city.

So, sadly… I’m going to steer clear of this one.

Oh well, like I always say: Good or bad, at least I got a story out of it.

Simon Cowell GIFs | Tenor

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

%d bloggers like this: