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

California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 3

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

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

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

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

Philadelphia, PA – 2008

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

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

Philadelphia, PA – 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 1983

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tomorrow!

 

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California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 1

Santa Monica, CA – 1982

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s her modeling photo card. Beautiful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More tomorrow!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, share, and most of all, follow Phicklephilly. 

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

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