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

Rock – Ola

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

My dad had this couple he was friends with back in the late 60s and early 70s. He met them through the bank where he worked in Northeast Philly. They were a cool sort of hippie couple in their 30s. That period in our history was a great time of change in this country. But my dad liked them and they were nice people. They turned him on to the counter culture of music, film, and of course marijuana.

I remember going over to their house when I was a kid and they had a lot of cool, artsy stuff around the place. One of the things that struck me was this old-time jukebox. It was an actual working antique even back then. It was chock full of over fifty 45rpm records from the 50s and 60s. Cool!

My sisters and I were captivated by this massive cabinet full of flashing lights, swirling colors, and loads of great songs inside. It was an incredible piece of technology. It must have weighed over 500 lbs and made of solid oak. The front door swung open and you could see how it worked. You could also watch the operation through a little window in the front of the unit. The 45 rpm records were all stacked on metal plates and when you pushed the play button, would swing out and a little turntable would rise and pick up the platter and it would meet the stylus and play the record. Neat to watch. The heavy sound blasted out of a 15-inch woofer in the front.

Check this out:

My dad’s friends were going to be moving to a smaller place and told him that the jukebox was just too big to fit through the door of their new home. They asked if they could loan it to him and keep it at our house. Of course, my dad agreed, much to the joy of my sisters and me.

It sat in the corner of our enclosed porch at the house at 312 Magee Street for the rest of the 70s. We slowly began adding new 45 rpm singles that we had bought so we could listen to our music in this booming beast.

This will give you an idea of what it was like even though this one in the video is a little different from ours. (But we did have Jailhouse Rock in ours and played that song often. I think Treat Me Nice was on the B side of that single)

It was almost like we had this big entertainment robot living on our porch. Any of the kids could just push a button and music would come on. The girls could dance and the boys would simply rock out to the tunes.

I think the most memorable time of having this jukebox in our family was on Halloween. We’d have it lit and playing music, and when kids came to the door trick or treating they would all see it. No one had ever seen anything like it and they were all amazed at the sight of this technological musical marvel.

We had it on loan from them for over 40 years. It went to the shore house in North Wildwood in 1979 and remained there until a few years ago. The grown son of the couple wanted the jukebox back. In my opinion, after having the jukebox in our possession for over 40 years that it was rightfully ours. Possession being 9/10s of the law. But the right thing to do was to give it back to the family. We were no longer interested in the unit and it had been on loan to us that was an agreement my father had made with them back in the 70s so my sister wanted to honor that decision.

So it’s been gone for a while but I sometimes think back to all the fun we had listening to our music through that booming beast from a bygone era.

There I am in the early 80s next to the Rock-Ola!

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Base Camp

This was the only photo I could find online of what our little tents looked like, but you get the idea.

Philadelphia, PA – 1976

One of the things we used to like to do was to make tents in our backyard. This was accomplished by finding some large sheets and old blankets.

Back then many people had a washer in their basement but not a dryer. My mom would hang our clothes to dry on lines strung across the front of the basement, and in nicer weather, she’d hang them on the line in the backyard.

The clotheslines were always up in the backyard in the warmer months. I don’t remember who came up with the idea of fabricating our little tent out there. We located a few old raggedy sheets and blankets and went to work. We hung the edge of one sheet to the clothesline and clipped it in place with clothespins. Then we did the same thing on the other side with another sheet. Now with both securely fastened to the overhead line, we spread them out and drove broken wooden clothespins into the corners on the sheets into the ground. Once tacked down securely we had ourselves a tent. We spread a couple of blankets on the grass on the tent floor, and we were good to go.

Like the forts, we used to build back the tracks and in the woods nearby, I think we just liked having our little places to hideaway. Kids like getting into little shelters and dens. I think it’s almost instinctual for humans to find and build shelters.

I brought out a transistor radio and we were all set. We just hung out in there, listening to the radio and smoking cigarettes.

My friend Michael and I asked our moms if we could sleep out there all night. The yard was fenced in, but anybody could come along and open it at any time. But the idea of sleeping outside all night intrigued us.

When you’re a kid you always have guidelines put forth by your parents regarding the clock. You always had to be home at a certain time for dinner, and if you were out at night you had to be in by the time the streetlights came on.

But this was an opportunity to not go inside that night. We would be free when the whole neighborhood was inside their homes asleep in bed. We’d be outside all night and didn’t have to go to bed if we didn’t want to. We could stay up all night if we wanted to.

Everybody enjoyed listening to the radio back then. Especially the two rock stations in Philly. WYSP 94 and WMMR 93.3. FM was king and other than having an older sibling it was the only way we found new music back then. I think anyone from that era can attest to the fact that they found their favorite bands and songs on FM radio on one of the aforementioned radio stations.

But kids and teens mostly listen to the radio during the day. What sort of music was played on those stations late at night? Well, whatever the overnight DJ wanted to play. So we discovered some new music that night but one struck us a little harder than any of the others.

The late-night DJ had said they were going to play an entire album by a band called Pink Floyd. We had only heard the song, “Money” on the radio. We didn’t know much else about the band. But now we were going to hear the whole Dark Side of the Moon album at midnight.

It was really quiet at night being outside, and frankly, it was a little spooky. Just the sound of crickets chirping and the occasional bark from some lonesome canine in the distance.

The DJ started the record at midnight and we were amped to hear some Floyd. If you’ve ever heard that record, and I’m assuming you have, it starts very quietly. So we turned up the radio to hear the song a bit better. It starts to build and build until it’s that rotating metallic sound and then that scream happens.

Well, that completely caught us off guard and terrified us. We were already spooked by the general vibe of the night and our imaginations were running a bit wild. But then the song settles down into the song, “Breathe” and we chilled out. It turned out to be an amazing experience even though neither of us had ever smoked marijuana and wouldn’t even try it for another year or so.

We were out there for hours through the night and really couldn’t and didn’t want to fall asleep. It was just fun to be up and doing what we wanted with zero parents or rules.

But then we heard some strange noises coming from the east. It sounded like something crunching or being broken, and it appeared to be coming from somewhere up the block from us. Then we heard some voices. We put our sneakers on and went to investigate. By now it was around 4 am.

We quietly exited the tent and opened the gate. We crept down the driveway and out to the street. It was eerie to be standing out on the sidewalk in front of my house at this hour. The whole neighborhood was as quiet as a morgue.

We heard the noise again and started to walk up the block towards Oakley Street. By the time we got up there, we saw the fire department had arrived and it looked like the Zerbach’s garage was on fire. They were putting it out and I wondered why I never heard any sirens. But I figured they addressed the problem and didn’t want to wake the whole neighborhood.

The authorities were really surprised to see a couple of boys out there at that hour of the night. We told them we had been sleeping in a tent out in my backyard, heard the commotion, and came to check it out. We told the firemen what we had heard but I don’t think we were much help. (When I think about this now, I’m glad we weren’t blamed for whatever happened!)

We eventually went back to our tent and laid down inside, talking about the events of the night. We never found out what or who caused the fire but it was the topic of conversation around the neighborhood for about a week after that.

I don’t think we ever slept the entire night. Mike went home at daybreak and I went into my house too. (My mom left the backdoor unlocked in case we bailed during the night and I wanted to come in.)

My mother was awake and in the kitchen. I told her what had happened and she asked me if I wanted to go up to my room and sleep. That was exactly what I wanted to do because I was exhausted from staying up all night.

We pitched a few more tents like that through the Spring and even made one in Mike’s neighbor’s yard one night. (We couldn’t do it in his yard because they had a big above ground pool) His neighbor Mr. Hersch was nice enough to let us camp in his yard for the night.

I went to Wildwood for the Summer and we didn’t make any more tents in the yard anymore after that, but I’m glad we had the experience.

Just stuff you do as a kid that’s all part of experiencing life.

 

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

Brussel Sprouts

Philadelphia, PA – the Late 60s

When I was a kid I was a picky eater. I liked certain things but most of the stuff my mom served at dinner I didn’t find appetizing. My mom hated to cook but made my sisters and me three square meals a day for over 20 years.

She used to say, “I’d rather clean endless dirty dishes rather than have to cook.” But she always made sure we had a hot balanced meal every single night for dinner.

I liked breakfast and lunch as a kid. What kid wouldn’t like to eat Cap’n Crunch, toast, bacon, and orange juice every morning? I think that’s why to this day, breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day. Everything else is to simply quell the pangs of hunger in my stomach for the rest of the day.

Albert Einstein once said, “If I didn’t ever get this empty feeling in my stomach every few hours I’d never work.”

Someone once said to me, “I live to eat, but it seems like you just eat to live.” She was right. I love my daily breakfast, but other than that, food to me is simply fuel. It’s just something I have to get out of the way to continue my day. It almost feels like an interruption.

I have an acute sense of smell and taste and can enjoy the taste of many foods, but I only require a simple boring diet. If I could just take a pill and be full, I’d be fine. I think there’s too much focus on food in our culture anyway. All those endless dumb pictures on social media of what everybody is out drinking and eating. We get it. You like to go to restaurants and have somebody cook for you. You do it all the time. You probably have a lot of revolving debt.

Check it out:

10 world hunger facts you need to know

Anyway, the one food I hated as a kid was Brussel sprouts. Now, as I said my mom hated to cook. her role as wife, mother, cleaning lady and the overall servant was placed upon her when she married my dad. If you hate doing something, you’re never going to be any good at it. That’s a simple fact of life. People are good at things they like, right?

My mother had a few favorite dishes. She loved sweet potatoes, lima beans and I suppose Brussel sprouts.

I hated Brussel sprouts. That gross sauce on them. The leaves on the outer portion of the sprout, and the hard yellow interior. All gross to me. And the taste? Ecch!

So on one particular evening, I just couldn’t eat any more of these awful things. So I came up with a plan. I would create a distraction at the table, do a quick sleight of hand, and get one of those Brussell sprouts off my plate, into a napkin, and my pocket.

I got at least 4 off my plate without being caught that evening. I thought this was a great plan and would attempt to pull this move every time they were served from now on.

But like many of my plans back then, I was good at closing the sale, but not maintaining the account after I closed the deal. Where I usually failed was in the aftermath of the deed. There was no follow-up. I’ve pocketed the sprouts, got them in my pocket, had my dessert, and was away from the table.

What I should have done is go upstairs and flush them down the toilet to destroy the evidence. But for some stupid reason, I just shoved the napkins into some plastic cups I had in my room and forgot about them.

This poor follow-up had already failed during one of my other heists. So, a day or so later when my mom was collecting laundry or stripping the bedsheets she must have noticed the wadded-up napkins in the 7-Eleven Superhero cups in my room. She discovered my Brussel sprouts crime and thwarted my plan for any future campaigns.

I didn’t get in trouble for the act. I think my parents and sisters found it funny. My middle sister still laughs about it today.

But, to be honest, I’ve had Brussel sprouts prepared well in a fine restaurant as an adult, and you know what? They’re pretty good! I’ve also begun buying bags of frozen petite Brussel sprouts and I sautee them in a pan with some seasoning. They’re a wonderful, chewy, satisfying vegetable full of nutrients.

Let the master describe my feels towards some foods as a kid. Enjoy!

 

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

Home for Christmas

I’m going to begin this piece with a few funny bits I remember from a couple of late-night TV hosts.

“I was driving through LA the other day and I saw an adult book store with a sign on the door. The sign read: Open all day, Christmas day.

“Does anybody ever wake up Christmas morning and say to themselves, ‘I’d love to look at some filthy magazines today. I wonder if anything’s open?” – Jay Leno

“Remember when you first got your Christmas tree home? Don’t put the screws on the stand into the tree too tight. Put a little sugar in the water, and keep it hydrated. Then… the day after Christmas… “Get that fire trap outta here!” – Jay Leno

Okay, last one.

“What does Christmas look like at my house? I’ll tell ya. I get up really early, I get really drunk, knock the tree over, and start a small electrical fire.” – David Letterman

I love those bits!

 

Philadelphia, PA – 1930s

The Christmas season was always a magical time growing up in our house. When my father was a kid he loved Christmas and this carried on throughout his life. He was the architect of the best Christmases any kid could imagine.

But when he was a kid I suspect his Christmases weren’t all that bright. His father was sort of disconnected from his family. Although an honorable man of principles, he was more interested in his work and hanging at the bar with his buddies. Not a drunk, but enjoyed drinking and adult fun instead of spending time with his wife and two sons.

At Christmas, he would hand his wife money and tell her to get the boys whatever they wanted. Not a lot of money, but enough to get maybe a couple of sets of toy trains and some other various trinkets. he just wasn’t that into family or Christmas.

His son on the other hand who would eventually become a father to me and my three sisters was determined to change all of that.

Philadelphia, PA – 1950s

My parents were married for 5 years before any of the kids appeared in their lives. They made a big deal about Christmas. (There is even a home movie somewhere that he shot of them preparing and celebrating Christmas together. We should probably have those videos converted to digital files so they can live online forever.) I remember in this one home movie he shot it was my mom pulling boxes of decorations and goodies out from under a bed.  He edited it so it looked like she was pulling an endless amount of stuff from under the bed. I liked how he didn’t simply document the Christmas season he made a fun little movie about it with his wife.

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-Present

One of my earliest memories of Christmas was my sisters and I as little kids standing at the top of the steps in our pajamas. My mom would give the signal and we’d all slowly descend the steps carrying our stockings. What you couldn’t see was my father filming the whole thing in 8mm. He had a rack of really bright lights set up so he could get a quality shot. (All of the cameras and film were low lux back then)

Here we all come down the stairs squinting because the lights were so incredibly light. It was like something out of the film Close Encounters! We’d walk across the living room and try in earnest to get up on our tiptoes to hang our stockings over the fireplace on the mantle. We’d all smile and wave still squinting like mad. My mother would be holding my youngest sister in her arms and hang her little stocking for her.

This went on for years. My dad loved to document all the holidays with his trusty movie camera. I don’t think any of the other kids in the neighborhood have the massive catalog of films that my family has about family events.

(That’s me in 1966)

One of the main components of the Christmas season was putting the toy trains up. My father had a wooden platform in the basement with tracks nailed to it. He would gather some old orange crates out of the garage and set them up in the corner of the living room. The platform would sit upon it and then the Christmas tree would be placed on it in the corner.

Then he’d bring up a couple of his model trains and we’d play with them and run them around the platform. He had little houses, cars, and people to complete the village. It was great because you only got to play with these specific toys the month before Christmas. So it was a cool pre-holiday treat. My sisters and I would run the trains and play for hours with these little people in their town in the days leading up to the big day.

Christmas carols and holiday music would play throughout the house, relatives would visit and usually, my grandmom would come and stay for the week leading up to Christmas. They would give her my room and I’d sleep on a cot in my sister’s room. This was fine because this way the kids were all together as Christmas approached and we could all talk about it. What we had on our lists, stuff we hoped we’d get, and just vibe with the season.

My mother would bake these glorious butter cookies from a recipe she found in a magazine. To this day they are my favorite cookies on earth. Thankfully my middle sister has been able to replicate that recipe and make cookies that look and taste exactly like mom used to make. I love them. each year she gives me a Tupperware container full of them and it takes me three months to slowly consume them all.

I remember as we got a little older we’d help my mom make the cookies. I think my older sister would help my mother mix the batter, my middle sister would roll them out, I would cut them into shapes and my baby sister would decorate them with sprinkles. I know my youngest sister is going to read this but I’m going to say it anyway. Once when she was maybe 2 years old I remember her standing on the chair at the end of the table and decorating the cookies and she suddenly sneezed.

“Good job! You just decorated the cookies!”

“Ewww!”

Poor kid. She was just a baby and didn’t even know what she did! That story still circulates the table at annual holiday gatherings.

As usual, I was a disaster in school. So my dad had taken it upon himself to sort of home school me during the early 70s. I still went to school, but he would give me books and make me read them and then test me on the subjects. It was torture for me back then, but I learned so much about so many aspects of the world that many of my peers don’t know even to this day. He even would assign me poetry to memorize and recite to him after I’d learn it. You’d think verse would be a little easier for me to memorize word for word but try to read, and understand, The Tyger by William Blake!

One Christmas one of his assignments was for me to read and memorize “A Vist from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, and I did it! I memorized the whole thing and recited it word for word for him. Even though this felt like some sort of extended punishment from my everyday life, it wasn’t. He was exposing me to great literary works and building the neurons in my brain for better recall. He knew I had a good mind, he just didn’t want me to waste it.

Anyway, Christmas was always a magical time in our home each year. The anticipation was nearly unbearable. My middle sister and I would conspire to figure out ways to sneak downstairs early Christmas morning with a flashlight and take a look at what Santa had left for us. This was always met with inquiries from my other sister, “Well, what did you see down there?”

My father and sisters and I would trim the tree and my mom would sit in her chair and direct us as to where each ornament should go. My grandmom would be there giggling and sipping eggnog.

When some of us were old enough to realize the truth about Santa Claus we took it upon themselves to do something my father referred to as “rooting”. This was when one of the kids would look under the pool table or in a closet for potential future Christmas presents. My dad quickly caught on to this practice and make sure everything was gift-wrapped immediately upon acquisition of the gift.

Once he even stuck a little postcard between the door of a closet and the molding near the upper hinge of the door. If anyone opened the door, the card would fall and he would know some little elf was “rooting”. So he would simply move the presents to another secret location.

Watching all the great Christmas shows on TV only added to the excitement of the season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is coming to town were all wonderful, just to name a few!

Christmas morning would finally arrive and we’d all head downstairs to see the bounty of gifts that old St. Nick had dropped off. Each child had a designated area for their presents around the living room. Each kid went to their spot and started to rip into the wrapping paper. My parents would sit back, sip their coffee, and just smile.

You had to take a break after the main presents and stop and eat breakfast before ripping into your stocking. There were more goodies in each one of those! Sometimes something wonderful, like a watch or a piece of jewelry for the girls.

What set my parents apart from many families is, they shopped for Christmas all year round. So they never had to stress about the hustle and bustle associated with any last-minute shopping issues. They were done and wrapped months before Christmas day ever arrived. They were so organized and such great planners.

Thanks to my mom and dad every Christmas was unique and incredible in its own right. There were always some special gifts that you really wanted and some unexpected delights that appeared each year. This family tradition continued on into our twenties down the shore in Wildwood, NJ when we moved there in 1979.

Christmas was bigger and better than ever. He had not one but two completely decorated trees in the house. One downstairs in the dining room and the other one upstairs in the front window of the house. The trees always had to be Fraser firs because they were the bushiest and smelliest trees money could buy. (No dropped needles on the floor!)

My father would have mini lights running along the ceiling down the hallway just to keep the Christmas vibe going throughout the house.

It would be a couple of days before Christmas and he’d suddenly make this statement each year. “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve… of Christmas Eve.”

This became part of our mythology through the years and someone would always say, about a week before Christmas… “You know what today is?”

“What?”

“It’s the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve, of the eve of Christmas Eve!”

Yea…we’re a Christmas crazy family.

We would exchange gifts between the kids and my parents on Christmas eve. I don’t remember when this started, but it added to the holiday energy because you got that extra night of opening presents even before the main Christmas day event! We would stack them on a card table in the living room and sometimes one of the kids would be sniffing around them wondering what was in them.

My mom put up a sign and rested a whiffle ball bat against the table. The sign stated that if you were caught touching the presents on the table you’d get “the bat”. (This was all in fun, but we had that thing there every year)

Even though by then my dad was into his 60s, he’d be sitting on the sofa next to me with his finger under the wrapping paper on one of his gifts. “Is it my turn yet?” he’d exclaim. He loved Christmas so much!

My first sister picked up the torch of the Christmas spirit in the 90s. She still hosts a holiday party every December at her house and it’s wonderful! The food is great and the company is always amazing. I remember going to her house back in the 90s and my parents were still alive and there could be a few uncles and aunts there, and the rest of us. They were the oldest people in the room. The senior members of our tribe. But as time has passed, I looked around the room and saw my daughter and all the nephews and nieces, and now my sisters and I are the old people in the room!

Time slips away so fast.

This is another one of those instances where it’s difficult to put into words what our Christmases were really like. It was more of a feeling.

You just had to be there.

My mother and father have been gone for many years, but Christmas continues to live on in the hearts of my sisters and me. My first sister has continued to have her annual holiday party every year for decades and we are all so grateful for her.

Here we all are now!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 

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

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

Tales of Rock – The Cool Parents’ Guide to Rock Music for Kids

If there’s one universal truth to parenting, it’s that whatever songs your kid listens to will end up on repeat in your head at 3 a.m. Most of the time we’re fighting off tunes about frogs or balloons or shapes from Little Baby Bum, or we’re reluctantly humming a particularly annoying little ditty about a family of sharks (and just like that, dear reader, it’s now in your head too. Sorry).

Look, we have the power — the obligation — to introduce our kids to better music, for their sake, and very possibly, our own sanity. Nursery rhymes are adorable and learning-shapes songs are valuable. But with the state of things around us, social distancing and staying at home can provide a great opportunity for parents to expose their little ones to better music, some even with helpful life lessons.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite kid-friendly albums from what we dub the “Golden Age of Rock,” the classic oldies of rock ‘n’ roll from the ’50s through the ’70s, to help create a fun music experience for you and your kids. So, clear the living room, turn off the TV and fire up the record player (or Spotify playlist) and, hopefully, get to dancing.

Chuck Berry

The Great Twenty-Eight

Chuck Berry defined the sound and spirit of rock ‘n roll, so it’s only right that our kids hear his music. This compilation album, which Rolling Stone ranked No. 21 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, starts off with the toe-tapping “Maybellene,” and kids just know what to do when songs like this come on. Later on the album is “Johnny B Goode,” a fun opportunity for you to mention a great scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly baffles everyone at a dance with a rendition of this hit. This album is a necessary lesson on the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Nicknamed the “Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Berry was a major influence on decades of music that followed him.

Little Richard

Here’s Little Richard

With lyrics that go “A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop a-lop-bam-boo,” “Tutti Frutti” is probably the most fun a kid will have singing to a song, and the second you drop a needle on this track, your toddler will light up. It’s the opening track on Little Richard’s 1957 debut album Here’s Little Richard, which also includes “Long Tall Sally (The Thing)” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” Simply put, these are just fun songs.

The Beatles

Rubber Soul

The Beatles helped define 20th-century rock ‘n’ roll, but not before dominating the pop charts. If we had told fans of the hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that the same band would later be making songs like “Helter Skelter,” they wouldn’t have believed us. But, there’s one album, in particular, that is a great introduction to the Beatles for kids, and has both the catchy, pop-like melodies that launched the Fab Four to stardom, but a little more meaningful message than the idea that they want to hold your hand. And it seemingly has no references to drugs yet: Rubber Soul. It’s said that Beatlemania ended on Dec. 3, 1965, the day the record hit the shelves. It was the album that saw the Beatles as men, not boys, similar to a teenager coming of age. And tracks like “Nowhere Man” explored John Lennon’s own dealings with inadequacy.

David Bowie

Hunky Dory

David Bowie is a great artist to introduce to kids early on because he took on many alter-egos, opening up the possibility of a young person to find one that relates to their own personality. His music explores fantasy-like storylines, and he always encouraged young people to be themselves –– no matter how weird. His 1971 album Hunky Dory is especially great for kids, and the song “Changes” reflects those ever-changing personas. He also wrote the track “Kooks” for his first son, which is a great song to dedicate to your own children.

Wings

Wings Greatest

We’re the last people to reduce the fantastic music of Wings to “just another Beatles band,” but once your child realizes that the Beatles broke up in the summer of ’69 and are left wanting more, they may want to hear what one Beatles head songwriter, Paul McCartney, made in the ’70s. Only two years after John, Paul, George, and Ringo parted ways, McCartney co-founded Wings with his wife. Yes, we’re recommending a “greatest hits” album, but it’s a great start for kids, or anyone, who hasn’t taken the time to listen to the band before. It’s a fun record that highlights the best of a great band.

Melanie

Gather Me

This album is packed full of emotional ’70s folk-rock ballads. But track four, “Brand New Key,” recalls the innocent days of young love. A particularly adorable song from singer-songwriter Melanie, “Brand New Key” follows a young, empowered girl thriving off confidence and nudging a crush to play along as she roller skates along — and it’s super fun to dance to. The rest of the tracks are probably more fitting for a teenager, as it covers a lot of heartbreak, but it’s also a great introduction to blues-rock.

Bob Dylan

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Is your child an aspiring poet or songwriter? Look no further than Bob Dylan to inspire that creativity. And his fourth studio album, 1964’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, is a great introductory album for your little one. OK, this is a folk album, but Dylan has become an influential figure in rock ‘n’ roll. Like the album title suggests, this was the first album Dylan released that didn’t reflect his usual politically driven songwriting, making it easy listening for kiddo. In fact, it played on his humor quite a bit too. Give “All I Really Want to Do” and “I Shall Be Free No. 10” a listen with the kids around for a good laugh. “To Ramona,” though, shows Dylan at his best on this album. A beautiful, lullaby-like song, the melody alone is likely to capture your child’s attention.

The Beach Boys

Endless Summer / Pet Sounds

It’s hard to decide which album is best for introducing your little one to when it comes to The Beach Boys. Endless Summer, a great album for those summer pool days in the backyard, captures the best of The Beach Boys’ 1963-1966 catalog. Be sure to pick up the vinyl reissue that includes “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ USA” and “California Girls.” These are all great introductory songs to surf rock and capture a great slice of the band’s career. You can almost feel the warm sun and sound of the hot rods driving by.

Pet Sounds is universally regarded as The Beach Boys’ best album. So, go ahead and save your kid the future embarrassment of admitting they haven’t heard this album by introducing it to them now. It begins with the super catchy tune “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which captures the thoughts we have when we’re lovesick teenagers. It’s been said that Beach Boy Brian Wilson was aiming for tracks that kids could relate to on this album, and we think he did a pretty good job.

The Monkees

The Monkees Greatest Hits

Yeah, we’re recommending another greatest hits album. But look, this one cuts out some of the more experiential songs the band did (oh, you didn’t know about that?) We’re not going to recommend that you introduce your kids to The Monkees by having them watch the film Head, or listen to The Monkees’ soundtrack for it. Trust us. And, The Monkees didn’t have an endless catalog of amazing songs, but the hits they did have are upbeat, really fun, and definitely kid-friendly.

The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man / Turn! Turn! Turn!

This double album (not to be confused with a greatest hits album) was partly taken from earlier writings from Bob Dylan. It contains Dylan originals in a pop-rock-friendly tone, including: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “All I Really Want to Do” and more, so it’s a great opportunity to show your child how songs can be made differently.

Dusty Springfield

Dusty in Memphis

Dusty Springfield was an anomaly among the usual British female pop stars of the 1960s. Her voice was deep and rich, and her music sounded not unlike the hits coming from Motown or Stax. Her singles include “I Only Want to Be With You,” “Wishin’ and Hopin'” and “Son of a Preacher Man.” The latter of which is on one of the singles from her best-rated albums, Dusty in Memphis. A hallmark of the oldies we so love to wax nostalgic, Springfield’s music is a great lesson in love, and perfect for any lovelorn preteen.

Buddy Holly

20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives

Buddy Holly was a pioneer in 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” His signature “hiccup,” unique spin on rockabilly and as-innocent-as-can-be songs make him perfect for introducing a young person to rock ‘n’ roll. After all, he’s said to have inspired greats like Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, he died shortly into his blossoming career, so his discography mainly includes compilations. But 20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives is listed on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and includes tracks he made with The Crickets — his band he played with before going solo.

Wanna be a better guitarist? Click this link to learn the secret!

https://beginnerguitarhq.com/guitar-exercises/

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

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

Breakfast Cereal – Part 1

Philadelphia, PA – 1960s-1970s

Growing up in the suburbs in Philly was great. We lived in a pleasant, quiet neighborhood. It looked like a snapshot from nostalgic America back then. All of the dads headed out in the morning in their cars to their jobs and the moms stayed home and took care of the house and kids.

Breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Sure, lunch usually consisted of a sandwich on white bread with some potato chips and a drink, and dinner was a protein, a vegetable, and a carb. You got a couple of cookies for dessert and a glass of milk.

All good, but breakfast was the most fun meal of the day. That’s because back then, we had so many cool cereals to pick from. Many of them tasted the same and were just manufactured into different shapes and brands. But they had such great personalities. No other food in your life as a kid had funny characters and mascots like breakfast cereals did. You also never got a prize in a bag of peas or a can of baked beans.

I used to love going to the supermarket with my mom. She would be off somewhere in the store pushing the cart and collecting items from the handwritten list she’d made at home. I would be standing in the cereal aisle for the entire hour. Time moves slowly when you’re a kid, and normally doing errands with your parents was boring. Unless there was the promise of some treat at the end of the trip for good behavior, it was a drag.

But looking at all of the cereals in the aisle made the trip worthwhile. So many cool cereals to choose from. Most of our moms worked on a pretty strict food budget. They had to think of the five people at home and how to make the food money go the farthest.

But as a kid, you have no concept of money because you simply don’t have any, nor the skills to earn any of it for yourself. (Unless you had a paper route, then you were an earner!)

I would stand in that aisle and read all of the boxes carefully. Never worry about any nutritional value or cost. The big questions in my mind were always the same. What kind of prize is the best out of all of these cereals? How many box tops do I need to send away to get an even better free prize?

Before I begin, remember Tang? That weird orange drink that the astronauts drank on the Apollo spacecraft? I tasted it as a kid, and it reminds me of the flavor of today’s Sunny D. We never had Tang as a kid. My mom would buy these rolls of frozen orange juice concentrate in bulk. I remember her mixing it up in the kitchen. Chopping through the slushy mess until it became orange juice. She was always nice enough to strain the pulp out of mine. I thought pulp was gross. It always felt weird in my mouth. Like I was drinking something that had some weird stuff in it that shouldn’t be there.

I write these nostalgic pieces and I really enjoy it, but sometimes I like the reader to come away from it having learned something.

Do you know why kids like candy and sugary cereal? Why do we crave sugar in any form as a kid? The reason goes back millions of years to the origins and development of our species.

What’s usually the first thing a baby does when you hand it something. Yep. Right in the mouth. Why? Because we’re predisposed to test objects we find as babies to see if they are a potential food source. That’s how we learn what we can and can’t eat to survive. Over thousands of years of evolution, babies developed a taste for sweets.

Why? Because most things that are sweet are not poisonous. That’s why little children like sweets. They won’t die if they put it in their mouth like everything else. So the next time you reach for that Kit Kat, you’re just doing what your ancestors knew was right.

Let’s talk healthy first. I remember my dad never agreed with us chowing down on bowls of sugary cereal every day. “It’s not good for your teeth!” “It’s a bunch of sugary crap that has no nutritional value!” “It’s junk!”

All the while he was chowing down on fried eggs, and greasy bacon every morning. Cholesterol and fat city, dad!

He once had the idea that we should all try cream of wheat instead of eating sugary cereals every day. We all tried it one morning on a weekend. It was horrible. We’ve already been eating the crunchy, sugary deliciousness of store-bought fun cereals. Why would we ever want to eat this swill? A big warm bowl of gruel? What sort of medieval torture is this? Gross! No, thank you.

I will say this. My mom was awesome. Every morning for 20 years I would roll downstairs and have a seat at the table. I ate a bowl of cereal while intently reading the back of the box. Next, 2 pieces of bacon, a slice of buttery toast, and a glass of orange juice.

remember waking up in your bed, and you could smell the bacon cooking downstairs? there’s nothing like that in the world. Why does bacon crackle and sizzle when you fry it in a pan? Yes, because it sounds like applause. Bacon has rightfully earned that ovation!

My daughter is Vegan, and I feel sad for her as I write these words.

i could have drunk more than the small 6oz glass of orange juice each morning but you simply don’t need that much juice to get your daily dose of vitamin C. “It’s full of sugar and citric acid! It’s going to irritate your stomach.” Yes… dad again.

But it was a balanced breakfast. Oats, protein, carbs, and vitamin C. Sounds good to me. I think that’s why I love breakfast so much even today. Did you ever go into a 24-hour diner and have breakfast for dinner? Brilliant!

Oh, and when my dad brought home some donuts from the bakery? Cream-filled powdered donuts? My favorite! Good bagels? yes, please! A well-made bagel doesn’t even need anything on it to be awesome.

But I digress…

Let’s talk about some of these breakfast cereals we had as kids.

I’m just going to cruise over the boring adult cereals and get to the fun stuff, but they’re worth mentioning.

  1. Cream of Wheat – Awful
  2. Wheaties – Popular with the athletic sports set
  3. Shredded Wheat – Parent breakfast food. I’m assuming dad needs a bit more fiber
  4. Spoon-Sized Shredded Wheat – Let’s make the same thing smaller so they can shovel more of our product into their gaping maws.
  5. Rice Chex & Wheat Chex – Looked like something you dumped into at a party to snack on. (But I always wondered how they made those little ventilated squares)
  6. Corn Flakes – No taste. Gets instantly soggy, and is really Frosted Flakes that have been stripped of their sugary deliciousness. So sad.
  7. Special K. – Also crap. No, thank you. As bad as Corn Flakes. There’s a reason we called that one girl, Special K  who rode the short bus to that ‘other school’.
  8. Product 19 – Did anybody even buy this cereal that sounds like a failed experiment?
  9. Rainin Bran – What’s Bran? No, mom, I don’t want to eat raisins as a snack and especially not in my cereal. Just chewy grossness.
  10. Life – Is this boring cereal what adult life will eventually become for me? Probably. But, no.
  11. Grape-Nuts– No one believes anything Wilfred Brimley is saying about this cereal. As Seinfeld says, No Grapes. No Nuts. What’s the deal?
  12. Total – I don’t know or care. Totally boring, okay?
  13. Cheerios – Okay… these are good and I still eat them when I get the munchies if you get what I mean.

Remember those variety packs of cereal they used to make? I think they still make them today. But back then they looked cool because they were tiny replicas of the real cereal boxes. I once asked my mom what these little boxes had an I-shaped perforation along the face of each box. She told me, that if you opened it that way and tore open the bag inside, you could pour milk in there and the box would serve as an on-the-go bowl of cereal. I never did that but thought it was an innovative idea. But I thought, what if I went through all of that and then realized I had forgotten to bring a spoon with me?

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. We’ll talk about the fun cereals!

 

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

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

7 Tips for Dating After Divorce That All Single Parents Should Know

Avoid drama and open yourself to true love.

Dating after divorce can be rough, especially when single parents have to balance their kid’s lives and their own love lives.

When you are a single parent, it often feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

You may even wonder if you should add more pressure and responsibility to your life by exploring the murky waters of dating when you already have your hands full with parenting.

You’ve heard the horror stories of blended family drama increasing brokenness in the children’s lives. But, there’s a way to avoid this.

As a personal Matchmaker who has worked with countless single parents throughout my professional career, I coach them through this process and give them the best dating advice possible.

When your kids watch you date in a healthy way, they can learn how to build positive relationships in their own lives.

Here are the 7 ways single parents can get dating after divorce right when they want to fall in love again.

1. Date the kind of people you see as potential role models for your children

I always advise our single moms and dads to date someone who they want their (future or present) child to grow up into as adults.

Though easy to fall for the exciting playboys or the flakey party girls, avoid attaching yourself to this type of person, and let consistency in the relationship mean more to you than any fleeting feeling.

2. Behave like you would want your child to behave

Often, dating brings up a lot of excited and nervous feelings, boundary questions, and frankly the desire to throw caution to the wind.

It can feel exhilarating to enter into the dating scene after a long time but refuse to rush into a relationship and take your time.

Have fun, but also maintain your self-respect, values, discipline, and wisdom.

3. Give yourself “me” time and date-time

Tyler Perry’s hilarious “me time” Madea riff aside, if you lose yourself in your children, they may fail to see the importance of self and soul care.

Be there for your children on weekends and after school, but carve out time for dating.

Single parenting means relying heavily on scheduling to get everything done.

Give yourself a weekly night out to attend a non-work-related event, and hire a trusted sitter if necessary.

Block out an hour each morning for prayer time, meditation, reading, or whatever it is you want to do, even if it means waking up a bit earlier to ensure that you get those coveted moments of solo time.

Consider planning time alone with your children in your schedule to do the activities that you’ve had on your family bucket list.

Refuse to cancel plans with your children. They may hide it, but it will hurt them when they feel like the second priority.

Be a person of your word, and chances are, they will too.

4. Only introduce them to your kids if you could seriously see yourself marrying them

Wait to introduce the kids to your love interest until you’ve made the relationship exclusive: official boyfriend or girlfriend status.

I recommend waiting 3 months before establishing this title since you want to get to know each other as much as possible before committing to each other exclusively.

Even after you have defined this relationship, you may want to wait another 3 months to really see if they will stand the test of time.

When deciding if your next boyfriend or girlfriend could be your future husband or wife, take your time getting to know them in different settings, especially when you have children.

Children get attached quite easily and too many “new” Mommies or Daddies who they meet could cause them to get disillusioned, defensive, and bitter.

5. Avoid putting your children at risk and take security precautions when dating after divorce

Unless you work with a dating service, this is an important step for single parents dating after divorce

Unless the introduction comes from a respected source, get the dating prospect’s last name, and as much information as possible about them before you let yourself catch feelings for them.

Do your own background checks. Google the person, look on mugshots.com, subscribe to an online background check company, get Facebook and social media accounts, even simply for that purpose.

At the same time, in researching someone beforehand to make sure that they pass the “serial killer test”, stop yourself from getting too judgmental or picky.

While the internet, Instagram, and Facebook can supply a lot of information, it also contains false material and will always fail to show the person in their entirety.

Only through time will you discern the full story.

6. Explore topics of conversation other than your children or former spouse

Commonly, when I Date Coach a person who went on a date with a single parent, he may say that he really liked her but she sounded still angry, hung up on the ex, or talked about her children incessantly.

Before you start dating, ensure that you have found peace with the death or divorce of your former spouse and that you can open your heart to love another person.

Then, try to make your match feel like the only man/woman in the world. That was the past, this is (potentially) the future.

Frequently, when nervous on a first date after a divorce, people will default to the most comfortable topics for them, and for single parents, it’s commonly their children.

While completely fine to bring them up in conjunction with a story, for instance, try writing a list of other topics that you can speak on, and look at them before your date.

This will train your brain to redirect your thoughts when on a date.

Although you love and devote much time to your children, allow yourself to explore other interests, memories, and insights on your dates.

7. Don’t treat your child like a therapist, Date Coach, or confidant

Although frequently wise beyond their years, children need space from your dating life.

This is another benefit of working with a Date Coach, like us, through your dating journey.

Since children want to make you happy, if you include them in your dating life, they will try to defend you, and end up growing up too quickly.

This leads them to develop issues in their own relationships.

They try to have the strength to make up for the weakness and vulnerability that a parent shows in the dating process.

With these tools, you can start dating after divorce as a single parent successfully.

While dating can fill you with a newfound exuberance, refuse to sacrifice your soul to please someone.

Expect ups and downs because falling in love can feel like a rollercoaster.

Ensure that you have the proper support system in place, rather than your children, before you begin.

Most importantly, listen to the still, small voice inside, which will guide you through the most challenging of dating experiences.

Though a new and confusing era for dating, a rose, is a rose, is a rose, and red flags are always red flags.

You can still guard your heart, date with purpose, and get on that train track to meet the love of your life.

 

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

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

Wildwood Daze – Maritime Fun – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – 1976

My father was a Vice President at the Provident National Bank in center city. In his time with the bank, he had risen up the ranks and had made dozens of friends and contacts. My dad was a charming and effervescent guy. Everybody liked him. He was the “cool” dad to my friends. A guy who shot from the hip and not afraid to tell it like it was. I think my mom and I would disagree with some of that.

He had a diverse set of friends and acquaintances around Philly. One of his friends was this rich lawyer who drove a Rolls Royce. He’d get drunk and stay in the city at his apartment at The Drake. He’d tell my dad to take his Rolls for the night and bring it back to him the next day. I remember getting driven to school in a Rolls Royce one morning and it was like sitting in my living room.

This lawyer guy was a total maniac. One night he was hit by a drunk driver in the Rolls. The drunk guy who hit him was killed instantly in the crash, and the Rolls was the only thing that saved my dad’s friend’s life. They took him to the hospital, and while he was waiting to go in to get checked out, he bummed a cigarette off of somebody in the lobby. (You could smoke anywhere, anytime back in the 70s!) As the man is puffing away on the cig, he notices that smoke is coming out of the side of his shirt. In the accident, his lung had been punctured and the smoke was leaking from his wound. The man told the doctors not to put him under anesthetic. Just sew him up while he was fully awake. He said, “If you put me under, I’ll die.”

Yea, this dude was a wildman. He would be speeding down the Garden State Parkway with my dad in his Rolls, and my father would warn him to watch his speed. The guy would simply say, “Let the cops mail me the ticket.”

Lunatic.

But this story is about another friend of my father’s. He owned/managed a restaurant that my dad and his friends would frequent in the city. It was called Davinci’s. My father became friends with the man, and they’d chat at length. We’ll call him Steve, and leave it at that.

He loved hearing about my dad’s place at the seashore, the sweet sea air, and the sheer bliss of having a shore house. Steve wanted this for his family.

Steve had a hot wife who was a slender redhead with an unforgettable bustline. His eldest daughter Jaime was a slightly curvier version of her mother who was blessed with the same assets. He also had an adorable younger daughter Stacy, who was a delightful, hip kid despite her young age.

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1977

So, Steve decides to buy a shore house right around the corner from us on 9th street. It was nice hanging out on the beach with this family. Steve was a charming guy. Picture Lou Ferrigno but without the speech impediment. His wife Jackie was a lovely woman who became fast friends with my mother.

My friends and I, being 15-year-old boys, were instantly enthralled in the presence of daughter Jaime. She exuded raw sexuality and aloofness which fascinated us. (In hindsight, I think it was just that body) Jaime wanted nothing to do with twerps like us. She was already dating older dudes.

Here’s a photo I found of me and hot Jaime.

This is what we’re dealing with. That girl is only a year older than me. She’s built like a woman and I look like a twink next to her. What made things worse for us guys was, she and her friend Debbie would go out into the ocean up to their necks. They would then proceed to remove their tops and swing them around their heads. We were like… “Are they trying to make our brains explode?”

My bathing suit was wet when this photo was taken, but there was endless ribbing from my friends about how it looked like I was “sportin’ one” because I was standing next to her.

Here’s another shot of me with Jamie and Carol. (Sandy’s older sister from the previous chapter)

The struggle was real.

Sigh… I need to move on.

Their house was nothing like ours because they were obviously wealthy. I remember seeing a french phone on a fancy table in their house. Who has a $100 phone in their seashore house in the 70s?

French Crystal Telephone | French Phones at NoveltyTelephone.com

We just assumed they were loaded. They owned a restaurant in Philly. They must be rich. We don’t know anything.

One day, we’re all on the beach and Steve tells my dad that he’s acquired a little boat. (Like the one in the photo above) He’s determined to firmly ensconced himself into seaside living. Apparently, he had won the boat in a card game in Philly. That’s some high stakes, I thought. (I think the boat was worth $12k) He told my father that he could use it any time he wanted.

It was a cool little boat to have access to. My father of course got me a little book to read about boating. I like how before my dad took on anything new he tried to learn all he could about it. He passed that good trait onto me. I read the book cover to cover. I knew starboard from port, and bow to aft. I also knew that if the tide was going out that you had to give the boat that was traveling with the tide the ‘right of way’. All of these things are as important as rules that apply to the road when you’re driving a car.

I remember the boat being up on its trailer in our yard for a period of time. Somehow it was my job to scrub the barnacles off the bottom of the hull and paint it with a special blue paint to keep them from getting back on there.

I also studied the steering mechanism of the boat and rewired the whole thing with fresh cable to fix the steering. That was my contribution to our new shared toy.

Before we ever left the dock my father would always make his presence known with someone on staff. He would tell them where we were going and how long we expected to be out. Safety first!

On the property of the marina was this goose named Thor. He was like the watchdog of the whole place. I had seen him on several occasions squawk and chase hapless mariners around the property. Head down, wings out, at a full angry run.

We’d take the boat out and dad taught me how to drive it. It wasn’t like the boat I had previously ridden in. This had a steering wheel and a throttle. (Way cooler!) You’d get it out in the bay and gun the throttle up, and the nose of the boat would rise up as the boat went faster. I still had much fear about the ocean and water in general, but I really enjoyed driving the little speedboat around.

Once my dad took my sister and me out of the bay and across the channel into the ocean. We were across from second and JFK Blvd at the northern point of the isle. Once we crossed the channel, (which I was told had been dredged to 40 feet deep so the bigger boats could travel through it!) he drove us out to a huge sandbar 100 yards offshore. This amazed me at the time. One always thinks that the farther you go out into the ocean the deeper the water becomes. This is true, unless there’s a sandbar.

He beached the boat and tossed out the anchor. So we were far from the shore and standing on dry land because the tide was low. It was like being on a small desolate island offshore from Wildwood. My mother had packed us all lunches and we had a little picnic out there that afternoon. Everything always tastes better at the shore!

Dad would get his fishing rod out and cast a few times back into the channel. Normally, if there is a sand bar, the bigger fish hang out at the edge of it, waiting for the little fish to come across the sand bar as the tide rolls in.  As they reach the deep water they get eaten by the bigger fish. My dad was hoping to get one of those fish to fall for his lure.

I walked on the sandbar away from shore. It’s so cool because if you walk east you would think the water would suddenly get deeper and you’d go into the sea. But I could walk really far out into the ocean and it only remained a foot or so deep. It was weird to be so far offshore and only be in water up to your knees for 50 yards. But of course, the idea of all of this went against all of my instincts and I didn’t stay out there long. That coupled with my active imagination. I had remembered reading that most shark attacks against humans occurred in less than three feet of water. So I was pretty sure, even though I was in shallow water, I was really far from the shore. I was positive there were tons of big sharks out there just waiting to kill and eat me there. So, I quickly got back to the safety of the sandbar and my dad.

We had some good times out in that little boat. I have another story about our fishing exploits on that boat in another post.

The tide would start coming in and we’d head back to the marina. We took care of that boat like it was our own. But that’s how our parents raised us. You clean up after yourself and you take good care of things that don’t belong to you.

However, this wasn’t the case with Steve’s family. His daughter Jaime and one of her boyfriends would go out in the boat on occasion. We’d find trash in the boat and things in just general disarray onboard when we’d go to use it.

I remember finding a bottle of men’s aftershave stowed under the dashboard of the boat once. I was looking for something when I came upon it.

“Hey, dad. Now we don’t have to worry if the boat sinks.”

“Why not, son?”

Amazon.com: Canoe By Dana For Men. Aftershave 8-Ounce: Beauty

“Because we can just hop into this!”

I don’t think my dad really liked having to share the boat with Jamie and her friends, but it was Steve’s boat, and she was his daughter, so there was little we could do.

I was once sitting on the beach with my next-door neighbor. We were just minding our own business and chilling on the banket. Jaime’s boyfriend comes rolling up to us. He was this big, tanned, buffed-out dude named Rocky. We used to refer to him as “Rocky Berufi” because it just seemed to fit him. (Happy Days TV show reference) He was just a big meathead.

So he comes over and says: “Where’s Jaime?!”

“We don’t know. Isn’t it your job to watch her?” (Me, always the wise guy)

This response only serves to infuriate the brute even further. He grabs our little bag of pepperidge farm goldfish crackers and proceeds to crush it in his hand, turning the contents to dust.

This is like being in a cartoon. Are we supposed to be afraid of this guy?

“Where is she?”

“We really haven’t seen her, Rocky.”

And off he goes down the beach looking for her. I’m sure Jaime was probably out somewhere with a new suitor. We got a fit of laughing after his dramatic exit.

At some point, Steve started giving me $5 a week. He told me that if it ever rained, I was to promise to go out to the marina and bail the water out of the boat. Back then, I was happy to have the free cash and it seemed like an easy gig.  But I was young and busy with my life at the shore. Things slip your mind when you’re a teenager. Too many distractions!

I also wondered if he has the disposable income to pass on to me, why doesn’t he simply invest in a tarp to cover the boat?

Well, one day it really rained hard and I totally forgot to go check on the boat.

It flooded and sank to the bottom of the bay.

He came over to our house and gave me an earful. I was sure that I was in deep trouble. But the gods were smiling upon me that day. My father snapped at him for going behind his back and giving his son money to bail out his boat instead of buying a tarp.

All was forgiven, but we really didn’t use the boat much after that.

I really liked that family. They were really fun people to be around. Much different than my family. My favorite memory of Steve was when their dog once ran away during a thunderstorm. They were from Philly, so the dog probably spent its life in a nice apartment in a building in center city. But at the shore the weather was wild, and thunderstorms on the cape could be intense.

So, their dog panics and gets out of the house, and takes off. I’ll never forget that night. Hours passed and Steve came back into the house after looking for the lost dog. He was soaking wet and quite agitated, but happy he had located his lost dog in the storm.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t his lost dog. It didn’t even look like his dog. It had short hair and was obviously an older stray.

“Steve… I don’t think that’s your dog. Your dog had longer fur than that dog has.”

“What kind of sicko steals another man’s dog and shaves his fur off to make him look different?!”

“Yea… I think it might be time to lay off the coke, dude.”

The family only kept their shore house for a few seasons before they sold it and didn’t return to the shore again.

But with every encounter in life, a story is born.

 

 

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

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

Truancy – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – Spring, 1977

We followed Martin’s Mill Road out towards Cheltenham. It was interesting to watch all of the N buses pass us by. We knew there were kids in there on their way to Fels and hoped no one who knew us would see us. Just paranoid I suppose. We crossed the bridge over into Cheltenham where I knew there was a train station. I only knew about it because that’s the station where my mom always took us to go downtown.

We went inside and all bought tickets to center city. We then went out to the platform outside to wait for the train. It would be along soon, so we discussed some of the things we wanted to do while we were downtown. We also concocted a story if anybody we ran into asked us why we weren’t in school.

The train arrived and we boarded and found some seats. None of us had ever gone into the city on our own, so we were pretty clueless as to what to do when we got there. The only time any of us had ever been into town was with our parents or on some sort of school trip.

We did end up chatting with a nice couple while we rode the train. We concocted a story that we were going into the city to meet with our parents. We were all cousins and our folks were staying in the city at the Ritz Carlton, and we were coming from our grandmothers. Just some made-up nonsense like that. I don’t know if the couple bought it, but they were nice and we figured if we could fool them, we could fool anybody.

The train soon pulled into Reading Terminal. This is way before it became a farmer’s market and a literal orgy of food and tourist destination.

https://readingterminalmarket.org/

Today all of the incoming and outgoing trains use Suburban Station at 15th and JFK Blvd. But back in the 70s Reading Terminal was the spot. I remember it being a smelly bum pit of a place. As I walked through the station with my friends, I remembered something my father used to say. He’d tell me I needed to pay attention and do well in school so I didn’t end up like one of the guys in Reading Terminal. Which meant a bum.

Here I was cutting school and going against all that was proper. We didn’t care. We were living in the moment.

We decided we wanted to go visit Billy Penn. His statue stands atop City Hall and was once the tallest building in Philadelphia a long time ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_City_Hall

The skyline back then was far different than the one you see on the homepage of this blog.

We went over to city hall and the admission to go to the top was free! They probably charge for it now but back then you could just get in line and head up to the top. We piled in the elevator with a bunch of other tourists and up we went. It was cool to walk around at the foot of the giant statue atop City Hall. I noticed they had a couple of those coin-op binocular-type machines up there to get a closer look, but we were happy to just be all the way up there with no parents and teachers in sight.

“If I drop a penny from this height and it hits somebody in the head, will it kill them?”

“I don’t think so Dave, but just in case, don’t do it, okay?”

I knew from my love of all things science that a penny wouldn’t have the weight or the velocity to hurt a person if it fell on their head from a great height. But I couldn’t risk us getting in trouble while we were cutting school.

Later, we were just walking around the city and stuffing our heads with soft pretzels. We got to 16th and Chestnut, we saw that there were these older girls standing on the corner handing stuff out. Everybody likes free goodies so we walked up to them. They proceeded to hand each of us little four packs of Merit cigarettes. It must have been a new light brand they were trying to introduce, so what better way than to randomly pass out little packs of smokes to a bunch of teenagers.

It was like the wild west back then. We all bought and smoked cigs and no one ever asked me who the cigarettes were for. EVER. We were always ready to say, “They’re for my mom.” but no one ever asked. They just sold us cigarettes in every store we ever went into. You could get a pack of cigs for .51 cents a pack at Rite Aid! So cheap!

We immediately opened the packs and started smoking the Merits. But when we got to the next corner, we saw a group of different girls doing the same thing. So we went up to them too. We realized that they were on every corner of that whole block so we just walked around the block a few times until we’d gotten around 20 packs of smokes. Yes!

We headed out the Ben Franklin Parkway towards the museum district. We noticed that there was some construction going on at the Academy of Natural Sciences. We all loved that museum because it was one of the fun ones. It had dinosaurs and stuff in it so we had to get in there. We saw that there was a door open on the side and workmen were coming in and out of there. So we waited until no one was looking, slipped under a bunch of ropes and barriers, and got in there.

We’d all been there before on class trips, but when you sneak in and do the museum with your friends it’s just better. You don’t have to stay with your partner, pay attention, stay in line, go over here.. .etc. You just wander.

We had a lovely time in there for a couple of hours looking at all of the exhibits. We checked out some brochures near the exit and noticed something called the Cultural Loop Bus. We decided to hop on that out front of the museum. That bus went straight to the Philadelphia Zoo.

We spent the afternoon looking at all of the animals and enjoyed a nice lunch of hot dogs, french fries, and sodas in the Children’s petting zoo. I remembered going there with my parents as a child. But this sort of thing is always better with your friends. Just absolute freedom. We even rode the monorail!

Remember these? If you had this key, you could put it in the lock on these little green metal boxes they had at each habitat and it would play an audio message about the animals. A brilliant idea for kids!

I think that was the first time I really thought about what the zoo was. When I was little it appeared to be the greatest pet shop in the world where none of the animals were for sale. But when I really thought about it, it seemed more like an animal prison. Here we were a couple of teenage boys who had broken free for a day to go on an adventure, and these animals had been kidnapped from wherever they really lived and dropped off in here. A place where humans can gawk at them while they waste the rest of their lives in cages and glass enclosures. I could suddenly relate to the sad-looking gorilla or the majestic tiger just lying on the equivalent of a bathroom floor behind a piece of tempered glass. It seemed like a horrible, cruel existence. Just knowing you will never escape. Your whole life just the same day over and over again. Not the majestic place in the jungle or the savannah. Just another inmate. It looked very much like Fels Junior High at that moment.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could unlock all of the cages and let all of the animals just run away?”

“That would be awesome, Dave but we’d probably get beaten by our parents and end up in juvenile hall.”

We left the zoo and hopped back on the bus. Once we’re back in the city we found our way back to Reading Terminal. But there were so many trains there. Which one should we get on to get back home? We had no idea.

But then I remembered my mom always said that we needed to get on the Fox Chase train to get back home when we were in town with her. I’m glad I remembered that because we would have ended up getting lost. We got on that train and off we went. I knew we were on the right route because when they called out the Olney stop, I noticed that the train was on a tilt. My mother had also pointed that out to me on one of our trips into town.

We got off at the Cheltenham stop and made our way back to Rising Sun Avenue to get our stuff from out of the bushes of that big house. Happily, all of our stuff was still safely stashed and we collected it. We said our goodbyes and all agreed it had been a great day off from school.

I walked home wearing my bookbag with my umbrella in hand.

“How was school today, Chaz?”

“Good. Happy it’s the weekend.”

“You can put your umbrella in the closet. I’m glad it didn’t rain today.”

Me too, mom. Me too.”

“Go wash up for dinner.”

So I got away with cutting school.

Sort of…

I went to school on Monday but had forgotten to bring the absence note my sister had forged for me. It was still in my desk drawer. But when I got to homeroom, I found out that my teacher had also been absent on Friday. Which meant there was probably a substitute there that day. Maybe no role was taken. Because my teacher never said anything about my absence. So not only was I in the clear, I still had the note that I could use the NEXT time I cut school. Sweet!

A couple of weeks went by without incident. But one day my mom was cleaning my room or looking for contraband and found the note in my desk. She called me out on it.

“What are you planning on doing? Did you get one of your little chippies to write this for you? It’s actually pretty good. They did a good job replicating my handwriting.”

Little chippies? I didn’t have any little chippies. Everyone hated me at school, especially the girls.

I told her she was right, and the note was something one of the chippies made for me if I ever wanted to cut school. I said I was sorry and that I’d never cut school. She confiscated the note and tore it up. Of course, I would never give up my older sister. That would have had catastrophic repercussions on my future in Frankford High next year.

So, technically I pulled it off.

Funny… you’d think a bunch of teenage boys who would cut school would take the opportunity to get into some deviltry. Maybe drink beer, shoplift or smoke pot somewhere. But we didn’t do things like that back then. Beer was for older people and pot was drugs and they were illegal.

We took a Friday off in April and went to the city. We did some sightseeing, went to a museum, and the zoo. Just normal, fun kid stuff.

 

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

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

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