I was working as a busboy at the Dolphin Restaurant for the second summer in a row. One season as a Pool boy at the El Morro Motel was enough. Greek-owned restaurant. Solid food. Nice hard-working people. It was what it was. I was in love with one of the waitresses named Therese. (Pronounced: Terez so it’s even hotter.) She had killer legs and was one year older than me. She had a boyfriend that was in college so basically to me she was dating a grown man. I could never compete with John. Therese was always so nice to me. I would joke around with her sometimes. She was totally cool with my dark sense of humor because she knew I was a good guy that was in love with her. I’d make cracks like:
“Wow, sorry to hear about John in that boating accident.”
“What? He wasn’t in a boating accident!”
“Oh, right… that’s next week.”
Spending all summer in Wildwood was every kid’s dream. I was 16 going on 17 just like that Liza Von Trapp girl.
Two blocks from my house was an arcade called Botto’s. We fucking lived in there. The owner was a guy named Joe Botto, a retired Philly cop. He was a cool dude considering 90% of his customers were a bunch of kids. He liked us because we were nice respectful boys for the most part. It was a pretty simple setup. Walls lined with a jukebox that played 45’s, (Google it youngsters) Pinball machines, and video games. (Galaxion, Pac Man, Space Invaders, etc.) In the middle of the room was a pool table. I spent many happy hours in that wonderful place. Obviously no cell phones back then but there was a payphone outside. If I wasn’t home, at the beach, working, or up the boardwalk, the only other place you could find me was at Botto’s. I’d be hitting free games on a pinball machine called Flash. That was my favorite machine of all time.
Sometimes there’s be some little guys in there. Eleven and twelve-year-olds. We were like their idols. But I knew guys that were twenty and twenty-one and they were my idols. It’s just a pecking order in young men. We gave the little guys nicknames, Chicken Man, Snappy Organs, and Slim Gonads. Chicken Man is a name I came up with. It started one day on the beach. I’d be hanging at the beach with my friend Tony, and this little skinny blonde kid would run up from the ocean and tackle him. I have no idea in regard to the origin of this ritual.
Tony would jump up, grab him and tackle him in the sand. Toss him around and roll him in the sand. He called it, “Shake and Bake.” I don’t know if they still have Shake and Bake but back then there was a cooking product named that. You buy a bag of this premixed seasoning, throw some chicken parts in the bag, shake it, and then bake the chicken in the oven sans bag. Very popular.
So when this kid would do this to Tony on a weekly basis, it became a thing. Soaking wet he would jump on Tony, I’d yell Chicken Man is here! Tony would tackle him back telling it was time for “Shake and Bake.” The kid would so covered in sand he looked like a skinny little chicken right out of the bag covered in seasoning. He was a nice kid and it was all good fun. Just boys doing horseplay. I don’t remember the kid’s real name, and apparently, that nickname stuck with him his whole life. (In an endearing way) Because to this day, I hear my family still refer to that guy as Chicken Man.
The other kid in this little crew was Snappy Organs. I don’t remember what his real name was either. But I do remember him being a bit hyper and known to be short-tempered at times. So he’s be snapping out about some nonsense so I just started calling him Snappy Organs. I have no idea where that came from, the organs part. Maybe something I saw on Monty Python.
The third kid, Slim Gonads. I think his name was Frankie Breslin for some reason. He didn’t have a nickname like his other two buddies and asked if I’d give him one. I just looked at him and said: Slim Gonads. Just like that. No idea. He was skinny and gonads is a funny word. He was like: “Cool! GO-Nads!” Like it was some sort of sporting cheer or a war cry. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his nickname literally translated to: “Slender testicles.”
While we’re on the subject of kids, there was another kid that we used to see around. He was super pale so he looked way out-of-place in a summer resort town. He always wore a hat like his mom didn’t want her baby to burn. They must have also had money because he was the only kid that rode around on a Moped.
He cruises by one day and my friend Tony is like, “There goes Don on his Moped. Look at those big lips. Hey! Steven Tyler! Ha haha! Slurp! (Oh, yea, that was Tony’s laugh: Ha ha ha ha…then he would slurp. It was fuckin’ weird)
Don just looks at him and keeps on rolling by.
“I wish I had a Moped.”
“No you don’t Tony. Mopeds are gay.” (Everything was gay back then)
“You either ride a motorcycle or drive a car. There’s no in-between. Having a Moped is like dating a fat chick. Sure they’re both a lot of fun when you’re on them, but you don’t want your friends seeing you on them.”
One day before work I’m blazing through a game of Flash at Botto’s. Snappy Organs comes in and stands next to the machine to watch me play.
“Didn’t you say you played guitar?”
“Do you want to start a band?”
“No. I know some guy from the neighborhood and he plays guitar too. I told him about you. He’s in some other band right now and they kind of suck. I think he wants to do something else.”
“Well you tell him to come here and meet me and we can chat.”
“Cool! I will.”
“Hey, Snap. I racked up a few free games on here. I gotta go to work. They’re yours.”
I head off to work thinking about that last transaction. I know Snappy will come through and set it up. These kids are super loyal to us. Let’s see who this guy is and what he’s all about. Who knows? Could be the next phase of my musical journey.
I walk into the restaurant through the back door. One of the cooks is standing out there smoking a fat joint. He offers but I pass. I wasn’t a huge fan of weed back then. That, and I have to work! I can’t be high busing tables! I’ll be giggling and thinking everyone’s staring at me!
I put on my little apron. I walk through the kitchen and out the swinging doors. It’s early. Before the dinner rush. The people plow in here. Eat and then head to the boardwalk. It all happens from 6 to 8 pm and then it’s over.
Oh, there’s Therese. She smiles. God, I love her.
I know… I’ll write a song about her!
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