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

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

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

My Wicked Mistress – Part 3 – The Final Piece

Back in ’13, I was sloshing through life smoking cigarettes, drinking booze, and eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

But then I met Annabelle, and everything changed. I stopped smoking and went on the Paleo diet to look better for my new girlfriend.

I went from a 36″ waist to a 32″ waist in about two months.  It was miraculous. I never slowed down with my boozing, but the ciggies were gone and so was the fat off my body. It was great.

But what I later realized was, that I didn’t do it for myself. I did it to look good for a 26-year-old girl whom I just met at age 52.

I was never in love with her. I was in love with the idea of being in love. The rush of new love and romance. That dopamine drop I got from falling in love was better than any glass of liquor or drug you could ever take. It’s a euphoric high.

But it’s not healthy. I simply traded ciggies and fatty junk food for something else. All for the wrong reasons. I didn’t realize any of this at the time, but it’s just a weird cycle of events that one can spiral through at the onset of a new relationship.

The relationship only lasted 9 months for obvious reasons. We had nothing in common. She had no idea who she was or where she was going. And she was too young for me and from a world that was different than mine. The fundamental things that make for a good relationship between two people just weren’t present.

I didn’t mind that she was gone, but I didn’t like that she kept coming back every month for these little drunken hookups. It never allowed either of us to heal. It just kept the wound open and I had to put a stop to that. So I cut her off for good.

It’s all well documented in the series on this blog, and in my first book, Phicklephilly: One Man’s Journey to Find Love in Philadelphia.

You can read about that disaster here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

So, once she was gone I went back to smoking cigarettes and eating and drinking whatever I wanted. But I remained active and never really gained the weight back.

But in 2018 I gave up cigarettes for life. I was just sick of them and no longer enjoyed any part of it so I ended it. But in the first part of this series, you can see how I traded it for the JUUL vapes. I like them and at least nothing’s burning, there’s no carbon monoxide, there’s no mess, no dirty cigarette smell on me and my clothes and house, and no dirty ashtrays. Just a cleaner vice. (For now!)

Then in 2018 I had the health scare and cut out the consumption of the “oceans of chardonnay and the lakes of vodka” I consumed like I was in Motley Crue in the 80s. Now I consider myself a teetotaler. I probably drink less than the average American now and it’s great. Like cigarettes, I’m just not that into it anymore. I like feeling good and being clear and sober.

I used to write this blog drunk all the time in the beginning. The booze helped loosen my mind and my tongue to release all that content from my brain. But now I only write sober and hardly drink at all anymore. It’s great!

Now here we are in 202o-2021 and I go from running the sports bar on 11th street and 18th street on weekends to sitting at my desk all day writing my blog and my books during covid. This goes on for the rest of 2020 into 2021.

I’m writing my blog, which I’ve monetized, there are book royalties that roll in, and I write freelance commercial articles for companies across the country. So there are a few revenue streams but I still want something to do once my year and a half of being on the dole runs out.

The first retail place I drop my resume off hires me the next day. Spectacular. Any fear that I’d be too old or not able to find work after the pandemic vanished. I’ve got the gift of gab and a myriad of talents, so off I go again into a new vocation and social chapter of my life. I have no fear about anything now. I have no one to impress. I’ve had a colorful life and I just want to keep living and feeling good.

They gave me a couple of T-shirts to wear while working there. But I quickly realized the only ones that fit me comfortably were XL. Extra-large? Really, Chaz? You’re 5’9″ and have been a relatively slim guy your whole life.

But I haven’t been slim. I’m supposed to be, but my boozing and poor diet kept me looking bloated and paunchy. I could hide it with a black button-down shirt and a blazer, but there’s no escaping what your body really looks like. I’m not fat. I’m just out of shape and carrying too much weight for my sized frame.

So I decided to go back on the Paleo. It worked like a charm back in 2013. But I did it for the wrong reasons. I did it to look good for some young lady. You have to do things for yourself. Not someone else. That never works. You’re lying to yourself. You have to eat right and exercise and live right because you want to look and feel healthier for YOU. You should look like you’re supposed to look.

It’s pretty hard because you don’t need cigarettes. That’s a toxic poison. You don’t need drugs. You don’t need booze. You can live perfectly well without any of that. But you must have food. If you don’t eat, you’ll die. And that’s why it’s so difficult for most people to lose weight. We’re surrounded by food in our culture and so many of the things that make us fat or are bad for us taste soooooo good!

But you have to discipline yourself. Cut out the refined carbohydrates, sugar, and caffeine and you’re on your way. Fish, lean meat, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. All foods found in nature are all you need to be healthy. (Sure you need some carbs, but you can always add them back after you’ve turned your weight around)

By the time you read this, I should have already achieved my target goals months ago, but I thought it important to talk about these negative elements that have been in my life for so long.

I’m happy to be free from them and living the healthy happy life I’m supposed to be living and should have been living for my entire adult life.

It took a long time working through my anxiety, depression, and self-medicating to survive. But don’t get me wrong, I had a great time doing all of that bad stuff for years. I wouldn’t trade any of it, because it’s all been a part of my journey.

But I’m happy to say, I finally added the final piece to my health puzzle and it is now complete!

 

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

My Wicked Mistress – Part 2 – Sick

Philadelphia, PA – May 2018

(Warning: graphic content)

It was life as usual for me in 2018. things were good and not much had changed in the last year.

I didn’t get out as much and preferred a quiet life at home. Some of my friends and drinking buddies had moved on to other cities and careers. Bartenders moved on to different positions and the big drinking and social life was over.

I had cut loose most of the detritus in my life. All the crazy girls were gone and I rarely saw anybody from my old life in media.

I hadn’t been feeling well lately. I had some aches and pains that I was attributing to middle age and work.

I was trying to drink a lot of water. I would drink maybe 80 oz a day. I figured that was good.

But no matter how much water I drank I began to notice that my urine was more of an amber color than the usual healthy yellow.

I had also had diarrhea over the last day or so. Loose stool and yellow bile.

I called out sick from work because I just felt like garbage. I figured it was simply a stomach flu.

But in a day my mind brought me around to what was happening to me.

I pre-gamed with a cocktail or two before I would go out at night. While at the bar I pounded 5 to 6 glasses of wine. Then maybe stop somewhere else and have a nightcap. Usually a Manhattan. Then home. Grab a rock glass and pack it with ice. Crack open a can of seltzer and start pouring in the vodka.

By then I had no idea of the dosage of vodka I was imbibing. The only way to get an accurate measure would be to see how far down the vodka was in the bottle. If a lot of the vodka was gone out of the bottle, well then I drank a lot.

I went online and looked at the signs of alcohol damage to the body.

Oh no.

I stopped drinking that day.

I had an uncracked half-gallon of Nikolai vodka in my room. I gave it to my daughter Loralei and told her it was now the house vodka and she could have it and share it with her friends. I also gave her a 6 pack of spiked seltzers.

I still had all of the expensive bottles of booze in my room.

They always say throw away all of the booze in your house. But my life doesn’t work like that. I’m not going to drink that fine liquor. I have no triggers. I’m just going to stop buying gallons of vodka and pouring it into my body. I don’t know what demon I was trying to drown. It was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

From what I read and saw, my liver was struggling to break down the alcohol because it was overworked. Hence the yellow bile in my feces. My kidneys were also struggling. They couldn’t break down the blood properly to purify it.

I was toxic.

I also read all I could about alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal. I went to the grocery store and loaded up on fruits, vegetables, and vitamins. A multivitamin, Vitamin E, B12, Melatonin, and Milk Thistle.

Google all of that. Find foods that are antioxidants.

I did all that and braced myself for the worst.

I had some trouble sleeping but that was it.

Within two days I felt so much better. By being completely sober I gave my body a chance to heal after years of abuse.

In a couple of days, everything went back to normal. Regular and healthy urinary and bowel function.

I have a strong immune system. I’ve written about it before. I not only bounced back, I felt SO MUCH BETTER!

My appetite returned with a vengeance. I suppose it was resetting from getting over 1000 empty calories a day in pure booze. I was so ravenous for food about a week after I stopped drinking.

After a few days, I realized the reason I was drinking the way I was. It was because I was stuck in an old nightly ritual I used to NEED to turn off my mind. I had so many problems in my past life I had to have something to make them stop.

The quiet darkness. Like a silent shroud over your day. You huddle down in your bed and wait for them to come. The cycling thoughts and fear that you’ve allowed into your life. My anxiety and depression… like shadows, were my only company.

But all of those things have been banished from my life in the last few years.

It’s like cigarettes. I once did it for happiness and then to relieve pain, and then it was just something I was simply doing out of habit and no longer had a use for it.

So I dumped it.

Booze for me was the same thing. Once I could sleep unassisted, I was better. I felt clear. Happy. Sharp. Better physically.

It was like I was ingesting insecticide into my system every night and suddenly stopped. The body wants to be well. Once I stopped hurting myself, my body went right to work on repairing the vessel.

I even went to an AA meeting.

That was an eye-opener about a lot of things. The people that are in there are there for a reason. Alcohol is the one thing they should never do again.

Alcohol makes them crazy.

They drink and it changes them chemically. It destroys who they are and everything around them. They’re at a point in their lives where they can no longer even have a drink. But like I said… it’s a spectrum. It’s not black and white. Everybody’s physiology is different. Some people change when they drink. Others not so much. I just did it out of habit and to soften the world a bit at night.

I heard all of the horror and heartfelt stories in that AA meeting.

But when I left the meeting I knew I wasn’t like them. I’m not an alcoholic.

Abstinence isn’t the solution for everybody.

I enjoy the occasional drink now, but that’s it.

I’m so glad that dark chapter of my life is over.

Tune in next Tuesday for the 3rd and final chapter in this little series.

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

My Wicked Mistress – Part 1 – Alcohol

Philadelphia, PA – 2018

I quit smoking cigarettes years ago. I was no longer addicted to nicotine and it had just become an expensive toxic habit I no longer enjoyed.

https://atomic-temporary-111921946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/08/04/my-wicked-mistress-chapter-1-cigarettes/

I could write a whole blog regarding this subject, but I’ll keep it focused on this forum.

I had my first taste of beer when I was a kid. My dad let me try it. It was so bitter I spit it out on the kitchen floor. I agree that you should let children try things they’re curious about. It demystifies those things. People always want the forbidden and the taboo. If you just let them try it and show them that it’s not bad it removes the desire.

Everybody reacts differently to drugs and alcohol. It’s not black and white. Nothing in life is. As my daughter says about sexuality and mental health, it’s a spectrum. I’ve always agreed with her. No one is either crazy or sane. No one is either sober or an alcoholic.

It’s a range. A long winding, grey area.

I know I’m going to piss a few people off here but that’s not the purpose of my words. I’m writing this because I want to tell you all about my experience with alcohol.

I’m going to open with this. Alcoholism isn’t a disease.

Disease: A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury. Diseases are often construed as medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs.

When I think of diseases I think of the big ones.

  • Autoimmune Diseases.
  • Allergies & Asthma.
  • Cancer.
  • Celiac Disease.
  • Crohn’s & Colitis.
  • Heart Disease.
  • Infectious Diseases.
  • Liver Disease.

Stuff like that. They happen. But alcoholism isn’t a disease. It’s called that because so many “normal” folks are afflicted with it. It destroys lives indiscriminately. Yale to jail. Top to bottom.

But…

It’s a disease you have to BUY.

You don’t just catch it. You have to willfully do it. You have to go to the bar or a store and pick up a bottle and decide to drink it.

That’s not a disease. That’s your mind and body vs. alcohol. Everybody’s different.

But this piece isn’t about that. That’s for another blog. Not mine.

This is my brief story. I’m going to keep this as short as possible because it could eat up my whole blog if I go on too long about this subject.

I’ve always suffered from anxiety and depression. That coupled with low self-esteem and being an overachiever is a perfect cocktail for alcohol consumption.

I remember the first time I caught my first buzz from alcohol. I was out on the fishing pier one night in Wildwood, NJ with my friend and bandmate, Wolfie. We had a 6-pack of Molson Golden Ale and I had maybe 3 of them. I was 17 years old.

I walked back out onto the boardwalk when my very first buzz from alcohol hit me.

It was beautiful.

I felt exhilarated, euphoric, and indestructibly confident.

I couldn’t believe the power of this bitter elixer. It made the weak strong, the tired energized. The sad, happy. The loser, confident.

I went home and told my mother about my experience. She had also suffered from anxiety and probably some depression her whole life. I explained to her how good it made me feel and it also made my anxiety, (Which was really bad back then) simply vanish.

“That’s great, but don’t ever let it become a crutch.”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“Don’t rely on a drink to carry you through something.”

Those words stuck with me my whole life.

I love to drink. It’s fun. It feels good. It’s a wonderful social lubricant.

I’ve had my ups and downs with booze. Many of us have. The fights. The drunken misunderstandings. The brilliant hilarious nights. The random hook-ups. The crazy sex. The bad decisions. The great ones. The bed spins. The vomiting in inappropriate venues.

I’ve experienced all of that stuff.

I drank beer and wine. When I got to California I started getting into sipping Jack Daniels.

I enjoyed beer and cocktails in the ’80s in my 20s. I went into banking. Having a few drinks after work was just something everybody did.

Happy Hour. What a lovely name for something that involves people, booze, and lasts two hours instead of one.

I think during my very unhappy marriage is when my drinking escalated. My wife wasn’t much of a drinker and certainly didn’t like my drinking.

I would sneak nips from a half-pint of Smirnoff’s Vodka hidden in my garage.

I can see it all very clearly now. My social drinking had now become a band-aid over the pain of my domestic life.

My drinking didn’t end my marriage. Turns out we were simply incompatible as people on so many levels. I should have never gotten married. I know now it’s not an institution I can belong to. This shark needs to be free to swim and roam the oceans.

With my wife gone, I was now free to drink all I wanted whenever I wanted. I could listen to the stereo,  rock out to my music, and drink my Ketel One and tonics.

I was never one to drink in the morning or during the day. As much as I loved to drink, I always had strict rules regarding time. I would only take a drink after 5 pm.

Sure, I’d have the occasional glass of wine at a brunch or something, but no more. The real drinking happened at night. In a bar or behind closed doors and drawn blinds.

I was writing a book back then so I would just disappear from my sad life into writing and booze.

I didn’t even realize what was happening to me or why I was doing it. A former artist and musician, reduced to a branch manager at a bank. My marriage is already over. The only one in my family divorced. And then there’s dividing up all of the assets I had worked so hard to construct. Then the child support begins. $600 a month of your net income vanishes from your account every month. For 15 years! Do the math. It’s a financial nightmare that seems without end. I missed my little daughter. My little family was destroyed. Ruined.

When you begin drinking it’s for fun. It makes you laugh and feel happy. Later, it can be used to extinguish pain. Alcohol numbs you to the point where for that night you no longer care and have no worries about life in general.

But you might as well throw gasoline on a fire to put it out.

The booze kills the pain. But alcohol is a wicked mistress. You love her and she’ll fool you at every turn. She’s a beautiful and sexy girl. Doesn’t cheat on you. Won’t ever disappoint you. Always there for you. Comfort. Forget your problems. “Don’t work through them, honey. Just drink me in. That’s it, dear.”

I drank like that at night for the next 10 years.

I had no problems with my drinking through the 2000s. It’s just something we did after work.

Let’s jump to the Spring of 2018.

I quit cigarettes. My daughter lives with me. She’s happy. I’ve left corporate life. I have a nice little job I like doing. Child support is long over. But I continue to drink as if I’m covering some sort of pain.

But I’m not sad anymore. I have wisdom. I fought through anxiety and depression over the last 50 years without therapy or medicine. I’ve won!

But I continue to drink out of one directive. It’s simply a ritual. Just like smoking became. But one far more deadly.

I think I thought at the time I needed it to fall asleep. I did. Because I could no longer fall asleep without alcohol. My body needed it to shut down. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I never really addressed why I was doing it. It simply became a function of my evening life.

Everything was good in my life. This became a dark secret.

I could be out at the bar having a few drinks but the minute I got home I just kept going on my own. Alone in my room drinking vodka and club soda. One after the other. I never counted. I just did it until I could sleep and off I went.

But my will is strong. I can drink like that and get up for work the next morning with Metallica Metallicano problem.  Never call out and I’m never late. Am I doing this to overcompensate for my drinking? Probably.

If my mind wouldn’t race at night maybe I could stop drinking so much in the evening.

Two to three times a week I would go to the liquor store and pick up a 1.75 bottle of Nikolai or Wolfschmidts vodka. I wasn’t quite at the level of drinking as Guns n Roses bassist, Duff McKagen, but I was working on it.

My older sister said I was a functioning alcoholic. Normally that would be correct.

But not in my case.

Was this something I was simply stuck with from my old life, for the rest of my life?

Time would only tell.

 

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

Tales of Rock – Black Sabbath & Me

Manhattan, New York – 2007

These were my final day in New York. I had moved up there in 2005 for the company I was working for. By this point, I was working as a consultant for a firm that cleaned up smaller banks and credit unions. My office was at the corner of 34th and 5th Avenue, across the street from the Empire State Building.

My friend Duncan, who I’ve been friends with for over 20 years now, found out that Black Sabbath would be kicking off their latest tour at Radio City Music Hall.

Black Sabbath are the godfathers of heavy metal.

I’ve written about their guitarist, Tony Iommi before in this blog. It’s quite interesting and will give you insight into how the Sabbath sound was accidentally created. Check it out!

Black Sabbath began in the late 60s and played with singer Ozzy Osbourne for most of the 70s. But when Ozzy became too drunk and drugged out he was kicked out of the band. He was replaced by Ronnie James Dio another godfather of metal.

I love the early Sabbath albums. The first four to be specific. But two of my favorite albums the band ever made are Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules made with Ronnie. They’re perfect bookends of the Dio Years.

The band was reuniting with Ronnie for a special tour called The Dio Years and we had to attend. The tour of North America would debut in Manhattan and that show would be recorded for an upcoming live concert DVD to be released in 2007. But they had just released a CD to refresh the memories of the fans of the Dio years.

One of the things that Duncan and I have always had in common was our love for hard rock and heavy metal. You can find our stories here.

He bought the tickets and flew up to the city and stayed at my apartment in Jersey City. We met up and hung out in the city. We went out to lunch together and even flirted with some old ladies in the restaurant. We were just being our usual mischievous selves. Two metalheads wandering around the city.

But by nightfall, we were gearing up for the show. After several drinks and Duncan smoking from a little one-hitter I got for him, we were ready to rock.

We went to the show and to be honest it wasn’t like any metal show we’d ever been to. Most shows we attended were a sweaty, drunken, drugged-out mess. I mean, we were always well behaved and just banged our heads in metal fury, but this was Radio City Music Hall. Security was super tight, and there was no smoking in the theater. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to RCMH but it’s a nice place. Really nice. Great acoustics to play and record a live show, but there would be no monkey business at that show. So the crowd was subdued.

Whenever the band played anything from Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules we would rock out. But if they played anything else they did with Ronnie, that was my cue to go get us two more beers.

The show was great and we had a great time as always. We got out of the concert exhausted. Of course, Duncan had a strong case of the munchies and immediately headed for a food cart. I stayed away from street meat but Duncan wasn’t hearing it. He proceeded to devour a couple of kabobs.

We made our way to the PATH train to get back to Jersey City, where I was currently residing. I was surprised how many people were on the same train at that hour and we were sausaged in there with a ton of other people.

We finally made it back to my house, and it was a race to the bathroom for Duncan. I told him not to eat food from a Roach Coach, knowing this could happen. But he was fine.

He crashed at my place, and the next morning he was to head back to Charlotte, North Carolina where he lives. I asked him if he could stay longer because the band was going to be at Best Buy in two days to do an album signing.

But Duncan being the consummate employee to the bank where he’s worked since 1993, said he had to go.

But, I was determined to go back to Manhattan and meet the band if possible.

Two days later, I headed back over to Manhattan. When I got there, the line of fans went out the door of the store, around the corner, and down the street. I got at the end of the line around 5 pm.

The great thing about having to wait in a long line to see your heroes is, you get to meet and chat with a bunch of other people that all have the same thing in common. We are all there for the same thing. So it’s not boring because you can trade stories and talk about the band’s music. It was a nice day, so I was happy to be there with my rock n’ roll brethren. I wished Duncan had stuck around but I really wanted to see if I could meet them.

After about an hour or so, I finally got inside the store. The limit was 3 copies of their new album. So, of course, I bought 3. When I finally got up front I took a couple of photos.

Of course, once I was in the eye and earshot of the band I made sure they heard me say in my best Dio impression, “I’ve been waiting so long to see you guys, I feel like I’m the last in line!

(That’s a line from a Ronnie James Dio song and I got a laugh from the band!) Yes!

 

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But the best part was actually meeting the godfathers of heavy metal. When it came to my turn, I had all of the CDs open and had pulled out the liner notes to get them signed. I dropped them onto the table in front of Tony Iommi. I put out my hand and he took it to shake.

“Thank you for 40 years of joy, Mr. Iommi.”

“Your welcome. It’s been my pleasure.”

I was so caught up in the moment of meeting one of the gods of rock, I wasn’t paying attention to where my liner notes they were signing went. I looked down and they were gone.

“Hey, where’s my stuff?”

A voice came from the man sitting next to him. “I think they’re moving down that way.”

BLACK SABBATH | Black Sabbath: The Dio Years Autographed

I looked over, and those words came from the mouth of the man himself.

“Thank you, Ronnie James Dio!” I shook his hand and it was a glorious moment to stand before the golden voice of all British heavy metal. He looked really old and small, but I knew in my heart that tiny gnome held great power. He signed my stuff and passed it down to none other than Geezer Butler! The man who wrote many of the great Black Sabbath songs.

I shook his hand as well and thanked him for all of the joy he and the band had brought my friends and me over the last four decades. Vinnie Appice had replaced drummer Bill Ward for health reasons so it was no big deal to meet him. (Sorry, Vinnie)

I walked outside with a guy I had met in line, and we carefully held all of our liner notes out to let the sharpie signatures dry. We headed over to a bar and shared a laugh and a beer.

It was a beautiful few days in my life and a nice cap to my time in New York. In two months I’d be living in Pennsauken, New Jersey with my ex-mother-in-law. But that’s another story.

But there’s more… keep reading!

Philadelphia, PA – 2010

I was living in Philadelphia by now and working at Philly.com. I was doing well, had a beautiful girlfriend and everything was right in the world. (As much as it could be)

I heard that Ozzy Osborne was going to be at the Borders book store at the corner of Broad and Chestnut. (Now a giant Walgreens) After work, I headed over there. I bought a copy of his new book and got in line. It started on the first floor and went around the store and upstairs. Ahh… always a line to see the gods of rock.

Here’s some stuff about him from the blog.

When I finally got up to meet him, I couldn’t believe I was standing there in front of the amazing OZ! I handed him my copy of his book.

“Thank you for 40 years of joy, Mr. Osbourne!”

(Mumbles) “Your welcome.”

And security pushed me along so the next fan could get their book signed.

Not as great as seeing his former bandmates and Dio three years earlier, but  I was at least happy to get his book and autograph. I did get some better pictures at this event though.

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This band made so much great music over the years I’ll listen to their records until the day I die.

 

 

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 4

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

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