Featured

Jaws

Happy 4th of July!

Philadelphia, PA – 1974

I was in Fels Junior High School.  My time at Fels was the worst time of my young life. I was entering puberty. I had greasy hair, braces, zits all over my face, glasses and weird clothes. I don’t know what my mom was thinking when she bought my wardrobe back then. I wore black dress shoes that had buckles on them. Kids would make fun of me and called them Pilgrim shoes. I was a total mess. If I had been a good student or an athlete all would have been forgiven but I was just a total loser. Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety didn’t help. But I was a smart kid. But that doesn’t help when you’re a total failure. I remember my mom later said she wished she could have just put me to sleep and wake me up when I was 18.

The school of thought back then was you didn’t have to love your kids. I remember my mother later told me that she didn’t love me during that time. I get it. But you don’t tell your child that. You don’t ever say those words to a little kid.

I loved to read. My father taught us all how to read before we ever went to school. He would spend time with us with books on how to sound out words and vowels and consonants. I will say when it came to educating us kids my father was amazing.

He would read us The Hobbit at night before bed.

I was a deadly reader long before my peers. I have instilled the same in my daughter growing up.  I may say no to you for another toy but I’ll never say to you if you want a book. I’ve bought plenty of both for Lorelei but she has always been an avid reader like her dad. I love that about her!

I was sitting in the auditorium after lunch one day doing study hall or whatever and this kid named Eric Dorfman gave me a paperback he had just finished entitled Jaws.

I loved sharks, dinosaurs, barbarians, superheroes and horror movies and everything like that so I was interested.

“You should read this. You’ll like it.”

I had never read an “adult novel” until then. I had only read science books, textbooks for school, and most of all, comic books.

The book opens with a strong hook. Just like the opening of the film that would later premiere. I remember being drawn into the story immediately. My dad told me that the author Peter Benchley was the grandson of the author Robert Benchley.

Robert Charles Benchley was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings, at the Harvard Lampoon, while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his acclaimed short films, Benchley’s style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from New York City and his peers at the Algonquin Round Table to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry.

His grandson Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author and screenwriter. He is known for the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its subsequent film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for cinema, including The Deep, The Island, Beast, and White Shark.

Later in life, Benchley came to regret writing such sensationalist literature about sharks, which he felt encouraged excessive fear and unnecessary culls of such an important predator in ocean ecosystems, and became an outspoken advocate for marine conservation.

By 1971, Benchley was doing various freelance jobs in his struggle to support his wife and children. During this period, when Benchley would later declare he was “making one final attempt to stay alive as a writer”, his literary agent arranged meetings with publishers. Benchley would frequently pitch two ideas, a non-fiction book about pirates, and a novel depicting a man-eating shark terrorizing a community. This idea had been developed by Benchley since he had read a news report of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pounds (2,060 kg) great white shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. The shark novel eventually attracted Doubleday editor Thomas Congdon, who offered Benchley an advance of $1,000 leading to the novelist submitting the first 100 pages. Much of the work had to be rewritten as the publisher was not happy with the initial tone. Benchley worked by winter in his Pennington office, and in the summer in a converted chicken coop in the Wessons’ farm in Stonington. The idea was inspired by the several great white sharks caught in the 1960s off Long Island and Block Island by the Montauk charter boat captain Frank Mundus.

Jaws was published in 1974 and became a great success, staying on the bestseller list for 44 weeks. Steven Spielberg, (Who was only 26 years old when he directed Jaws!) who would direct the film version of Jaws, has said that he initially found many of the characters unsympathetic and wanted the shark to win.  Book critics such as Michael A. Rogers of Rolling Stone shared the sentiment but the book struck a chord with readers.

Benchley co-wrote the screenplay with Carl Gottlieb (along with the uncredited Howard Sackler and John Milius, who provided the first draft of a monologue about the USS Indianapolis) for the Spielberg film released in 1975. Benchley made a cameo appearance as a news reporter on the beach. The film, starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, was released in the summer season, traditionally considered to be the graveyard season for films. However, Universal Studios decided to break tradition by releasing the film with extensive television advertising. It eventually grossed over $470 million worldwide. George Lucas used a similar strategy in 1977 for Star Wars which broke the box office records set by Jaws, and hence the summer blockbuster was born.

The lesson here is, if you’re an artist don’t listen to people who aren’t. The greatest creators in the world followed their own path.

Benchley estimated that he earned enough from book sales, film rights, and magazine/book club syndication to be able to work independently as a film writer for ten years.

I remember being terrified reading the book in my bed. I think about that now, and it seems silly. How could a monster who couldn’t leave the ocean even get me in my bed? But I was young and this was a grown-up scary story. One of the things that I noticed about the book that was different from the movie was this: In the book, Hooper is having an affair with Brody’s wife, and in the end, he dies. In the book, he’s in the shark cage and the shark smashes through it and eats him.

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1975

There was so much hype about this film when it came out. It was the summer of ’75 and we were down the shore in Wildwood. (Which is a resort/retirement community somewhat like Amity in Jaws) There were five movie theaters around the island and they all had the posters for the movie up. But another brilliant piece of marketing they had going were these other posters called “Shark Facts.” They had the Jaws logo at the bottom, and then a list of facts about sharks. My favorite one was “Most shark attacks occur in 3 feet of water.” I knew this scared the hell out of everyone.

After seeing Jaws you really never saw people just running down to the ocean and jumping in. It was more like, walk to the water’s edge, stop, peer out into the ocean, and then step into the water.

One of our neighbors took his daughter Stacy to see it. (Which I thought was inappropriate, because she was too young to see a film that violent and gory.) Of course her dad Steve always did stupid stuff. The scene at night when they’re underwater investigating the wreck of a boat. Hooper sees a hole in the hull and pulls out what appears to be a Dorito chip-sized shark tooth from the wood. As he does this a dead person’s head pops out. It’s one of the most startling moments in the entire film. Well, Stacy jumped, the popcorn went flying, and was stuck in her hair as well as her father’s hair! (They both had dark curly hair)

I remember a group of us went to see it. I’m pretty sure my older sister was in that group. I remember during the opening credits, which is a camera cruising underwater through the seaweed, I started having anxiety. I knew we were in for some real thrills and chills. The film is so well done. Even though the shark by today’s special effects standards looks so fake, it still holds up as a great movie.

While filming Jaws they had so many problems with “Bruce” the mechanical shark, that they couldn’t show him as much as they wanted to. But this worked out really well. You’re always more afraid of what you can’t see than what you can see. And that music! Brilliant score by John Williams. Probably the most iconic two notes in history.

It’s just a great story about three very different men, thrown together in a small space in a very dangerous place, up against a massive marine predator.

I’ve watched the film again recently. I watch it every summer. Five years ago it came on TV at my favorite bar, Square 1682, and the bartender passed out bowls of their delicious and savory truffle popcorn. It really made the moment and brought everyone together at the bar as we watched this landmark classic film.

Jaws invented the Summer Blockbuster!

Found this cool metal version of the theme. Rock!

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

Little Birds

September 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howlin’ Wolf – How Many More Years – 1951

Link Wray – Rumble – 1958

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

Surf and garage coming together. Hard rock is developing.

The Chessman – Cant’s Catch Me – 1966

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

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

Carson County Band-Morning Train – 1971

Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs -1971

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

Buffalo – Suzy Sunshine – 1972

The Valentines – Build Me Up Buttercup – 1972

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

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

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

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

Which brings us here…

Oh yea…

There you have it.

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

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

Hardware

Philadelphia, Pa – July 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Week of July 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Silver Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m thinking, “Is this woman drunk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there’s that.

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

Me: Thanks for the M&Ms!

 

…and that was it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to both songs, and you be the judge!

Here’s Nirvana…

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

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

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

 

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

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

%d bloggers like this: