Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer – 1980
As I walked up the ramp to the boardwalk, to make the short walk in the golden late afternoon sun down to Hunt’s Pier. I thought about how different my life was now. I had come so far from the world I lived in back in Fel’s Junior High.
Can you imagine being equal to the Golem in Lord of the Rings? That’s how I felt in Junior High School. It was a terrible place for me to go every day. Everything was against me. My face, my mind, my body, my parents, my sisters, the faculty, the kids, the bullies at school, and everywhere around me. I was a thing I didn’t understand. I only knew a small part of how I worked. Just basic functions. I was a disaster.
All of the ways I could describe myself back then. Greasy hair, pimples all over my face, chest, and back. No athletic ability. Bad grades. braces. glasses. weird clothes. I should have just put a potato sack over my head and spray painted a target on it because that’s what I was. An easy target for scorn and cruelty. I brought nothing to the table. I felt like an absolute failure in the house of my life, and I had no keys to any of the locks that held the doors to everything I wanted. I wanted it so much, but none of it was for people like me.
Ugly. A failure as a person already. Not even 14 and I hate my life and who I am already. Everything is wrong with me.
I remember this pretty girl in my art class I liked. I didn’t know how to talk to her, or what to say. She was making some lam picture and kept hitting the paper with a crayon. I asked her about her work.
“Why do you have so many dots on that?”
“Why do you have so many zits on your face?”
How could a child be that cruel to another one? I didn’t even know her. I was just a slug, a nothing, scuttling along through the hallways of this prison. This act of cruelty had to have somehow been learned. How could a girl that pretty have such ugly things come out of her mouth?
She was beautiful, but ugly on the inside, already. I was ugly on the outside but I would never hurt anyone like that. But that was back in 1977.
It was now 1980.
I graduated from Wildwood High with second honors after spending my senior year in a strange school in a dark cold town that I was dropped off in by my father. Ripped from Frankford High, a school I liked with teachers and kids I could connect with. I was a singer in a rock band in Philly. But now I was a guitarist in a band here in Wildwood. I was left here to squirm and perish, but I thrived. How about that?
Anxiety? Depression? Stranger in a strange land? Wildwood in the winter? Awful. But we all adjusted and made the best of it. I know I made the best of it. I conquered Wildwood.
I was no longer the 14-year-old mess. But I’ll never forget him. He has his place in my past, but I’m no longer chained to him.
Pictured: Vince Kostek
I remember coming onto the pier one night at the beginning of my shift and Vince the manager handed me an envelope.
“Hey. This came for you today, handsome.”
“It’s a letter addressed to you, and based on that lipstick kiss on the back I’m assuming it’s from some young lady.”
“Umm… okay, thanks.”
“Are you having your fan mail sent to the pier now, Sport?”
I later read that letter and made the connection to the postcard that was dropped off at my ride the other day.
What an elegant gesture. Honest and beautiful. I was honored and in awe. So sweet. Fragile. Bold. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Feels like something that only happens in a movie. But it was real. It was real and it was happening to me. In my life.
The lame cub of the litter…
Now a lion.
I had finally arrived.
All of the money in the world can’t buy a minute of time, and it certainly can’t buy what Gail did for me that day.
If anyone reading this recognizes Gail or knows her from PA, give her my contact info on here, I’d love to chat with her and thank her for her sweet letter. If we had met back then, I would have been honored to take her out on a proper date!
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Footnote: In 1983 when I was in Los Angeles, California I was hanging out in my apartment in Mar Vista one night and I called the number that Gail had written in her letter.
She was surprised and happy to hear from me. But she told me she had heard from a “friend” of mine some years ago and he told her that I was a womanizer and a horrible person in an attempt to destroy her image of me. He was basically describing himself to her which is the ultimate irony.
I had shown the letter to this individual back in 1980 when I originally got it. He had been jealous of me since 1977 and didn’t like the idea of me getting adoration from women. He had peaked in 9th grade and although a bright kid, was a social failure and a pathological liar. Gail told me his name and it really showed me what a truly awful person he was. She told me she never believed a word he said, so his little scheme against me was just another one of his many failures.
I don’t speak to this person anymore and want nothing to do with such a toxic person. But what a sad and mean-spirited thing to do to one of your so-called friends just to make yourself feel better about your own pathetic life. A thief and a liar. That’s what he is.
Even though we hung out a lot back in the 70s, I’ve vowed to never write about him in this blog and will only refer to him as “the neighbor” or “the kid next door” because his existence in my history doesn’t warrant giving him any sort of life in this forum or anywhere else.
The best part is, when I leave this world I’ll leave a rich legacy of wonderful memories with so many great friends, lovers, and family. He, on the other hand, leaves only a trail of bad memories strung together by lies and betrayal.
Like Iago in Othello, he poses as a friend but willfully with premeditation, a clear understanding of their actions, the weight of their consequence, commits injury anyway.
Just a rotten human being that could have achieved greatness due to his incredible intellect, but instead chose the path of sloth and malice.
Although forgiven, I will never dignify his existence by ever writing about him.