Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 4 – Carny Life

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1980

Carny, also spelled carnie, is an informal term used in North America for a traveling carnival employee, and the language they use, particularly when the employee operates a game (“joint”), food stand (“grab” or “popper”), or ride at a carnival.

I had been working as a busboy at the Dolphin Restaurant for the 1978 and 1979 summer seasons. I was tired of being a busboy. It wasn’t a bad job. I liked the owners and my coworkers. But I longed for something a bit more fun. Something where I had more exposure on the island. I wanted to work on the boardwalk where all the action was happening.

Hunt’s banked with First Fidelity, and that’s where my father worked as a regional manager. He knew the two guys who ran Hunt’s Pier. Vince Kostek and Merle Paul. Vince was the main guy on the Pier and it’s operations, and Merle managed all of the theater properties Hunt’s owned at the time.

Vince Kostek

It was late spring of my senior year at Wildwood High. My father came home one day and told me that if I wanted to work on Hunt’s Pier this summer they had a job for me. I was overjoyed because it sounded like an awesome place to work.

I went up to the pier and asked for Vince. We chatted and I filled out an application and that was it. I was in. Vince told me that normally you had to be 18 to work there, but since I’d be turning 18 in August, he said it would be fine. Vince had a daughter named June who worked in the office and helped out where needed around the pier. She was maybe a year or so older than me and I always liked her. She was cute and really tan and had an unapproachable vibe about her. There was something forbidden about liking the boss’s daughter. I like when people tell me I can’t have something. It always makes me want it more. (Took her on a few dates in 1984!)

Hunt’s was the classy family pier. Of course, Morey’s Pier next door was the cool, hip, pier, but Hunt’s held their own with the classic rides they had running for so many years. The employees wore black slacks, white dress shirts, and black ties. All of the ride operators on every other pier looked like a bunch of carny slobs, and we looked like professional dudes. People respond to a uniform and we looked really great as a team.

So when I graduated in June I started working on the Golden Nugget Mine Ride. I went up on a Saturday and met the man who ran the ride and had run it every season for many years. His name was Louis Vendittelli.

Lou was born in Lyon, France to the late Giovanna Cistrone and Pietro Vendittelli. Lou proudly fought for France in the Algerian war prior to his arrival in America. Known as “French Louie”, he was a local personality in the Wildwoods for decades of work as the operator of the Golden Nugget on Hunt’s Pier.

Louie was a real character. People who worked there and really knew him liked and respected him. But of course, there were those who just thought he was a hothead. I never saw that in the man. He and I always got along and really built a great friendship over the two seasons I worked at Hunt’s Pier. I guess he was in his late forties then. He wasn’t a tall man, but he was super fit. He was really strong and wiry. He drove a huge, red convertible Cadillac Deville. Just this little guy in a massive car.

Like this:

1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, Gateway Classic Cars - Nashville #533 - YouTube

On my first day, he took me around the ride, which I thought was so cool, because I had only ridden the ride, and never explored all of the inner workings of the ride itself. Louie had built a tracking system for the ride so you could see on a board where all the cars were at any given time inside the ride. He was a brilliant guy that could build or fix anything, and after working for decades on the Golden Nugget he knew everything about it. He knew everything about every ride on that pier. But the Nugget was his. He showed me how to operate the ride. How the brakes worked to slow and stop the cars as they came into the station. He also showed me how to operate controls to release the cars to send them up the hill to the top of the ride.

He knew I wasn’t just another “Hunt’s Pier Flunky” as he called them. Working on an amusement pier in the summer is like joining a traveling carnival or a circus. There’s a core group of competent people that sort of run things and then there are the flunkies that also end up working there because they don’t fit in anywhere else. Because of Hunt’s rich history, they had some folks who had worked there every summer for many years. So for me it was a very entertaining place to work.

If you were smart, clean, and presentable, you got to work on the premier rides. The Log Flume was the most popular ride on the pier, but the Golden Nugget was a strong second.  Most of the lifers and old guys worked the older more passive rides, and the flunkies ran the low-end stuff.

There was this one guy that had worked on the airships,  named Fuji. He wasn’t Asian, and I don’t know what his nationality was but he was really tan, had black hair that was slicked back, and wore wrap-around sunglasses all the time. He had been there since the sixties. I remembered him because my dad loved the ride he operated. He thought he was a cool guy. But when I started working at Hunt’s and got to know him, he turned out to be just another weird guy that worked at the pier for decades. We later found out that he had a little room above the Jungleland ride where he used to hide his Playboys. Who knows what he did up there. Weird.

There was another guy named Bob that had worked the Keystone Kops ride for many years. The Kops ride was a bunch of old-type cars that you sat in and it basically went into the ride and there were attractions inside and black lights so everything glowed. The cars basically ran on a track so you didn’t really drive them. You just rode through and saw stuff. That, and bashed through doors. It was cute. Kids liked it. Bob was a good guy who had worked on Hunt’s since the early 70s. He managed and operated the Keystone Kops for many years. It was HIS ride. I’m not sure but I think he even had some equity in the pier and some of its rides. (WILKY Group?) He was always nice to me and I respected his tenure with this institution.

There was another character that worked on Hunt’s named Bruce. He had a brother who also worked on the pier named Eddie. Bruce ran the El Scrambler at the front of the pier. He was a filthy person and so was his brother Eddie. I don’t even know where these carny types came from. Bruce was known as a person who rarely bathed and apparently always stunk. Our team on the Nugget and the guys over at the Flume didn’t really associate with anyone else on the pier. We were too busy running the two biggest money makers on the pier every night.

But I remember someone told me that somebody had left bars of soap and bottles of shampoo at Bruce’s ride one day. I thought that was cruel. Having been a victim to bullying and humiliation in middle school I found this really mean. But people can be wicked, especially in low-end jobs like carny life. I remember some of the guys over at the Log Flume one night grabbed Bruce and threw him in the water tank of their ride. It was their idea of sending him a message that he desperately needed a bath. Again… terrible, cruel behavior. My guys at the Nugget never had anything to do with that sort of crap. I always had a soft spot for Bruce. He just seemed like a poor soul. He was a nice person but just lacked options. But the stuff that was done to him was awful. This wasn’t teen boy stuff. He was a grown man, which made it all worse. The Log Flume guys got drilled by management for that infraction and after that, they left Bruce alone.

But on a lighter note, Bruce actually met a girl that summer and fell in love. I would see them together all of the time. I think she worked in the ticket office. Her name was Cathy. This one guy who worked one of the games up at the front of the pier would refer to them as ‘Muskrat Love’ when he saw them. They eventually got married.

Here’s a shocker: Ironically, in 1986 when I went to work as a teller at Midlantic Union Trust Bank, Cathy actually was a teller there too, and trained me. She was in charge of the safe deposit vault. Two years after that in 1988, she worked as a teller in their North Wildwood branch. I suppose she and her husband Bruce were struggling financially, and she actually stole money from the bank.

Back then you could pay your gas and electric bills at your local bank. If a customer came in and paid their bill with cash, she would steal the cash and mark the bill paid. Sadly, it was a horrible plan, because the next month all of these customers came in saying their utility bills were delinquent when they had receipts that they paid. All of the payments were processed by Cathy. I was an assistant manager by then and they sent me down there to sort it out with the manager there. Cathy was crying and they fired her for the infraction. The banks back then didn’t prosecute you, they simply let you go to avoid the embarrassment and community exposure. Crazy man!

The pier was filled with all kinds of characters and I became friends with several of them. I was just getting started in my new job as a ride operator on Hunt’s and was really excited to see what life would be like working every night on the boardwalk!

If anyone has any good “character” stories from Hunt’s I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

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

The Horror You Experience When You Realize You’re A Rebound

The rebound is a natural part of the love food-chain.

Here’s a guest post from one of my subscribers here on WordPress. I really like her dramatic writing style!

Take it away!

“I don’t know HOW she could possibly move on from me THAT quickly!” I once blubbered to a friend, fat, salty tears sliding down my swollen face. My first serious, committed relationship had just come to a screeching halt, and I’d found out that in the same moment that I’d been nursing my broken heart by weeping into a bowl of macaroni and cheese, my ex had been on her third date with someone new.

“Oh, come on, Zara! She’s totally a rebound,” my friend rolled her eyes so hard she looked like she was being exorcised by a priest.

“You think?” I whispered. I felt my spirit spring up, like a baby meerkat; incredulous and hopeful.

“Zara are you stupid? She’s not even her type.” She filled up her glass of wine to the tippy top. “This bullshit won’t last a month.”

“You’re right.” I felt a sudden wave of relief wash over me. It was as if I’d just popped a Xanax! This new little b*tch my ex was carousing around town with? Well, she meant absolutely nothing. She was a rebound. A glaringly obvious rebound at that. A smug smile made its way across my distraught, dehydrated face. “Poor girl,” I purred flashing my bleached teeth.

We’ve ALL had experiences with rebounds, right? The rebound is a natural part of the love food-chain. We silently shake our heads when our friends claim to be in “love” with some floozy they started dating days after their breakup. We wake up in horror, overcome with a mean case of sudden repulsion syndrome when we realize the person sleeping next to us — the one we thought might be the next great love of our lives — was nothing but a rebound. We judge our exes for their rebounds and gab to our friends about how much better we are and what a downgrade she is and how embarrassing for everyone involved!

But what about the awful, degrading realization of *being* the rebound? Of having that revelation that *you* were the temporary floozy? Of being hit with the dark epiphany that you were nothing but a fleeting distraction, a pretty pink band-aid patching up a cracked heart?

It was a humid, rainy summer in Florida when it happened to me. While it might’ve poured so hard every single day that the palm trees grew cartoonishly big and plump, I was experiencing a drought as dire as Texas in 2011. Dating apps were new and while I swiped so hard I developed carpel tunnel in my right hand, I never seemed to match with anyone date-worthy.

Until I matched with a short-haired editor named Georgina. Georgina and I met up at a cozy Italian bistro and I liked her right away. We had one of those first dates that feels magical — like you’re about to embark on something new and glittery and exciting. We wasted no time suffering through the usual robotic small talk. We dove into the deep end of the pool right away. We discussed our childhoods, our career ambitions, our teenage traumas. We looked into each other’s eyes like we’d known each other for lifetimes. She drove me home and we passionately made out in the driveway, like two sex-starved gay teens having the first taste of their own gender. Before she peeled out of my driveway I received a text message. “I had such AN AMAZING TIME WITH YOU! Can we meet up again SOON!?” she messaged, thirstily.

I forced myself to wait ten minutes to respond.

“Me too. Let’s meet up!”

The next two weeks were a whirlwind of soul-baring dinner dates, libidinous sex sessions, ardent late-night phone calls, and poetic text exchanges.

“Isn’t this a little fast?” my friends said all at once, a lesbian greek chorus clad in dr. marten boots and flannel shirts.

“Maybe,” I admitted as I guzzled down my wine.

“Didn’t she just get out of a relationship?” the lesbian greek chorus dutifully sang. I hadn’t told them she had, but gays somehow know all the tea on other gays, regardless of where they live or where they’re from, or what social sorority they pledge to.

“Yes,” I smirked. “She’s assured me that the fire in her last relationship burned out a LONG time ago.” I smoothed my hair down like a true Republican lady and ignored their worried glances. What did they know about instantaneous love? (A lot because they’d all U-Hauled, but that’s beside the point).

One night, as I was getting ready for a date I felt a strange twinge in my stomach. Do you know that feeling you get right before someone breaks up with you? It sort of feels like you’ve been hit with an arrow straight in the gut? I felt that. “Don’t be ridiculous, Zara,” I said to myself. “After all, she’s the one who is more into YOU. She’s been pursuing the shit out of you. This is SO typical. You don’t, deep down, believe that you are deserving of nice things. Well, I have news for you! You are, babe,” I hyped myself loud enough to drown out the lingering doubt tickling the inside of my ear with its breathy whisper.

I arrived early and ordered champagne. I was wearing an amazing dress, a dark gray “fit and flair” that had an actual wire at the hem, which made it flute out at the bottom, like a bell. My hair was long and loose and my eyes were smokier than an Eastern European nightclub. My lips were fire-engine red. My nails were fire-engine red. I felt like a Real Housewife of New Jersey mixed with a chic London socialite. I twisted a faux ruby around my finger, sipped my champagne and tried to quell the gnawing feeling holding court in my chest.

My lover of two fervent weeks finally arrived. She ordered a canned beer, the least festive drink on the planet. The moment it was plopped down in front of her distant eyes, she cleared her throat, dramatically, like she was a politician about to deliver a speech to the people. “Zara. Look, I’ve had an amazing time with you.”

I looked at my hopeful glass of champagne and felt instantly depressed.

“But I think I rushed things a bit. I’m so sorry. I just got out of a really big relationship and I haven’t dealt with it yet. I’m not…”

“Ready. You’re not ready,” I cut in, finishing her sentence.

“Yeah. How did you know I was going to say that?” Her eyes looked a little paranoid like she was afraid I was reading her mind. I could’ve. But I didn’t. (It’s not classy to abuse your psychic gifts on a date).

“Because I’ve given this exact speech before,” I quipped. “To rebounds.“

“You’re not a rebound!” she raised her eyebrows defensively. “I’m just not ready.”

“Yes. But the next girl you date you’ll be ready for. Make sure she sends me flowers and a thank you card,” I grumbled, sliding out of my seat.

I did what I always do when my feelings are crushed. I went out. I met up with some friends at our favorite bar downtown.

“Can you believe it?! SHE ENDED THINGS. WITH ME,” I shouted to my best friend Eduardo.

“That sucks,” he said with dead eyes. “Let’s do a shot?”

“I don’t think you quite understand! I was her rebound. She used me!” I felt dirty, like that old rag you use to wipe down your kitchen and the windows.

“I get it. But it happens to everyone,” Eduardo paid for a round of shots. “It’s just the way life goes.” He passed me a little glass filled with clear liquid.

We tapped glasses, threw our heads back and inhaled straight tequila. My eyes burned so badly from the severity of the alcohol I felt like someone poured peroxide in them. “Am I f*cking rebound girl now? Am I that girl you project a fantasy onto because you’re heartbroken and need a warm body to make you feel whole again?” I shivered. I looked at my red nails. Hours ago they looked shiny and vibrant, now they looked desperate. My nails have no chill. My dress has no chill. I have no chill. My thoughts spiraled out onto the street.

“It has nothing to do with you. You know that. You’ve had rebounds. We all know you don’t even see a rebound. You plaster your own ideas onto their faces. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, Z. Get over it.” His eyes were no longer dead. They were young and alive.

Like me.

Suddenly I felt my feet rooted into the bar floor. Eduardo was right. While it’s a blow to the ole’ ego to be a rebound, it’s not the end of the world. And maybe it’s good for us to be a rebound. After all, isn’t their a famous Sufi saying about how “When the ego weeps for what it has lost, the spirit rejoices for what it has gained,”? I’ll do anything to strengthen my spirit! Because I know that bitch will long outlive my frail-ass ego.

So if you’ve just realized you are a rebound, I want you to release your pain into the ether. Because you haven’t really lost anything worth having.

 

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

Angel with a Broken Wing – Chapter 2

My new book, Below the Wheel, drops on June 22. Here’s a little taste from last year’s novel, Angel with a Broken Wing.

 

TWO

The next evening, Christian relaxed on the couch watching the news on television. He glanced at his watch.

“Six-thirty? Whoa! I got class tonight.”

He leaped off the sofa, grabbed his textbook off the kitchen table, and headed out the door. He had some difficulty getting the Pinto started, but after several tries, the engine of the old ‘Gas Crisis Classic’ finally turned over.

“Going to work all day and then school at night is brutal. I should have done this right out of high school when I had the time. “I’ll be thirty-five this summer. It’ll take me forever to get my degree.”

The Pinto hesitated and bucked as he pulled into the parking lot of Gloucester County Community College. 

“This car’s a piece of junk! Didn’t they used to say that if you got hit from behind in a Pinto, the thing blew up?”

“The Flinto!”

He parked the car and began the long walk to the main building. He shivered as the frigid February wind whipped across the parking lot. It seemed to go right through his jacket and rattle his bones. 

He got to the door and a blast of warm air poured forth as he opened it, and dashed inside.

The hallway was filled with the sound of students chattering and running to class. It felt like high school to Christian. High school without the lockers.

He suddenly felt old as he trudged past the groups of twenty-year-olds that congregated outside the classrooms. He couldn’t help but notice the abundance of baggy pants, bad haircuts, tattoos, and body piercings.

“What the hell has happened to our culture?”

Christian finally arrived at his classroom and tried the door. 

Locked. He then noticed a note taped to the inside of the window on the door.

PSYCH CLASS CANCELLED DUE TO DEATH IN THE FAMILY

“Yea… Join the club, man. This sucks.”

He turned and headed back down the brightly lit corridor. The walls were lined with bulletin boards displaying upcoming student activities. Activities Christian would never attend. He was nearly to the door when a particular sign caught his eye. It was covered with brightly colored advertisements regarding travel. He stopped for a moment to read the board.

GO ON YOUR DREAM ADVENTURE! TRAVEL TO BEAUTIFUL COLORADO WITH US THIS SUMMER!

“Is it really that good? It can’t be as nice as the pictures. I suppose it’s good for the kids to get involved in something positive.”

“I wish I could go away…”

He continued to read the notes and signs on the board.

DIG UP DINOSAUR BONES!

HELP FEED THE CHILDREN!

BE A BIG BROTHER!

ROOMMATE WANTED!

NEED A RIDE!

“Need a ride?”

It was a small 3×5 card tacked to the corner of the board. Christian pulled it free from the thumbtacks that held it to the corkboard and read it carefully.

I NEED A RIDE!!! GOING WEST, POSSIBLY CALIFORNIA. WILL SHARE EXPENSES. IF INTERESTED, PLEASE CALL (609)555-2602) ASK FOR T.R. JEROP. 

SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY!!!

He read the card again, turning it over in his hand. He glanced up and down the hallway, and not seeing anyone, stuffed the card in his pocket. He walked towards the nearest exit. He stood in the warm vestibule and lit a cigarette before stepping back out into the bitter cold.

“What am I doing?” He made his way along the tree-lined promenade that led to the parking lot. “I should just put the damn thing back. I’m not going anywhere. Maybe I’m just jealous that this free spirit is going somewhere and I’m not. I don’t have the time, or the money to go anywhere. I’ve met so many people that would love to win the lottery and just fly away. This Jerop guy… he’s probably twenty years old, not a care in the world, nothing to tie him down. He just wants to see the country and cruise to the golden coast this summer. Must be nice. I gotta find some way to change my life. Jeezus it’s friggin’ cold out!”

Light snow began to fall as Christian got into the Pinto and drove home.

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

Angel with a Broken Wing – Chapter 1

My new book, Below the Wheel, drops on June 22. Here’s a little taste over the next 3 days from last year’s novel, Angel with a Broken Wing.

 

ONE

Christian Blackmore sat quietly in the law office of Timmons and Weiss in Miami, Florida. He looked around the room at his mother and three sisters as the executor read the Will for his uncle’s estate.

He ran his fingers through his blonde hair and rubbed his eyes. He still felt hungover from last night after the funeral, but the dark cloud of alcohol was beginning to lift from his head.

“And to my dear nephew, Christian, I leave the following possessions… my entire record collection, because I know how much he loves music. My 1974 Ford Pinto, because I want him to have quality transportation. All of my custom luggage, because I know how much he loves to travel. Finally, my favorite briefcase, so that when he goes off to work, he’ll always think of me! HA, HA.”

“Excuse me, sir… But what’s so funny?”

“I’m not laughing, Christian.”

Mrs. Blackmore interjected. “Mrs. Weiss, I just buried my favorite brother. I think it’s nice that he thought enough of my son to leave him some of his personal belongings. I don’t think your attempt at levity is appropriate.”

“But I didn’t laugh, Ma’am.”

“We all heard you, Weiss. It’s the part about the Pinto, isn’t it?”

“Christian, Please. You don’t understand. It says here: ‘and my favorite briefcase so that he can always think of me when he goes off to work. HA, HA.’ That’s what’s written in the will, the words ‘HA, HA.’ See for yourself.”

Christian snatched the document from the old lawyer’s hand and read it closely.

“It does say that, Mom.”

“I told you…”

Mom… is this some kind of joke?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t know, Christian. I just don’t know.”

The next morning, Christian loaded the Pinto and headed back to his home in Woodbury, New Jersey.  The old ‘gas crisis classic’ held up rather well over the two days it took him to get home. As he drove he had some time to reflect on his life.

“Five years.”

For five years he had worked for Midland Bank. It was a pretty good gig working down at the seashore. Though it was very busy during the summer season, it was dead during the winter months. He had had enough of the resort/retirement community and needed something more. Something that was at least consistent twelve months a year. He had tried to get a transfer within the company to the Philadelphia area. He figured at least there’d be more opportunity and exposure in a more populated area. After months of trying he finally resigned from his position with the bank.

He took a job with a finance company in Turnersville, New Jersey. It was in Gloucester County, a few miles outside Philly on the Jersey side of the Delaware River.

He found that the differences between banks and finance companies were radical. He was asked by management to refer to the firm as financial services, not a finance company.

One day he asked his boss why, and he told Christian that the phrase finance company held a certain negative image.

Christian figured that the job wouldn’t be much different from the one he held at the bank. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. It was like comparing apples to oranges.

When he managed a branch for the bank his duties were, do your audit and compliance books, open checking and savings accounts, develop new business, oversee branch operations, and most of all, keep your tellers happy.

If you get the occasional customer who wants to borrow money, it’s a no-brainer. If he or she had even one delinquent account on their credit report, you simply denied the request. It was that easy. The bank has the lowest rates, so they only lend money to the best customers.

But what if you had a good reason for your late payments? What if you lost your job, or your child was sick in the hospital and medical bills were piling up?

The bank doesn’t care that bad things happen to good people. Sorry.

So what does this customer do to get a loan? Where can he go to get a loan to help meet the needs of his family?

He goes to a finance company. The customer needs money to buy Christmas presents for his kids, or his daughter needs braces, or maybe she needs tuition for school. Whatever the client needs…Christian is there.

As he navigated the old Pinto North on Interstate 95, He thought of the hundreds of customers he had served over the years at Midland Bank. He visualized the typical customer walking out of his chosen branch where he kept his money after being declined for a loan. The bank where he deposited his paycheck every week. The bank where he had his savings account. The place his wife made her weekly payments into their Christmas Club. The bank where his grandfather renewed his certificates of deposit every six months. This man walks out of his bank and comes across the street to see Christian. Christian Blackmore. Finance Company Man!

He thought about how the meeting would go. Turning it over in his mind. They were all just different players in the same game.

His game.

“Hey Joe, how’s it going?”

“Not good, Chris. My bank just turned me down for a loan. I’ve been banking there since the joint opened!”

“Well Joe, maybe we can help you here.”

“Really? That’d be great!”

“Why were you declined?”

“I got hurt on the job a year ago, and I got behind on some of my payments because I was out of work for a couple of months.”

“Are you current with everybody now?

“You mean up to date on all my bills?”

“Yes.”

“Absolutely.”

“How much do you need to borrow?”

“About $1,500 would do it I guess.”

“Okay, that’s going to be $63 a month for say…18 months?”

“Yea sounds good. Hey, what’s the payment on $2,000?”

“Well Joe… let me get some more info and we’ll see if we can get this done today.”

“Thanks, man!”

Christian took a sip from the paper cup filled with bitter black coffee. He turned up the radio to drown out the hammering of the old engine as it pushed the tiny old Ford through the night.

He continued to relive his daily life as he drove on. His loathing for his job helped keep him alert as he entered his sixteenth hour on the road. He thought about how that very same customer would enter his office the same afternoon to sign papers and receive his check for $2,000.

Pretty amazing, Christian thought as he lit a cigarette. Quick and easy. The client’s happy. He can send his little girl to summer camp or get his leaky roof fixed, or pay off his gambling debt to his bookie in Atlantic City.

Who cares. He’s only got to come up with $100 a month. What a super job. What a great guy Christian Blackmore is. What a satisfying vocation he has chosen. Guy had a need, and he satisfied it. The client had some delinquent payments in the past but he’s current now. Handed him a check the same day. The bank would have taken a week and charged him about 12% had they approved him.

But they didn’t.

But Christian did. He charged Joe what his boss told him to charge on every unsecured loan he made, no matter what the credit score looked like. He charges them all the State Maximum for the state of New Jersey.

That rate is 30%!

30%! That’s only 20% less than the loan sharks in South Philly charge.

Christian thought about his boss. That pig Andy. He could almost hear his voice now… “Don’t lose any business boys. If they balk at the rate, cut it back to 28%. Show ’em we’re flexible.”

“Oh yea, thanks, Andy. They’ll love that rate. Don’t people usually like to have their clothes off when they’re getting screwed?”

Christian knew he needed to get out of this job. He could feel the rage rising in him. He took a deep breath and exhaled so as to not drive faster due to his anger. He spoke out loud to himself in the car.

“They love that low payment I quote them. Yessiree! That low payment is packed with Life, Disability, and even Unemployment insurance. It’s sick! People pay so much in interest and insurance we pack into these loans. We make a fortune from their misfortune. ‘At least we get ’em the cash when they need it.’ Andy says.”

“Yea… but what a price they pay. Jeezus, what I do to these hard-working people every day is criminal. I should just go put on a mini skirt and a pair of fishnets and heels, and just grab a handful of credit applications, and go stand on the corner of Mickle Street and the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, and peddle my wares with the rest of the hookers!”

Christian maneuvered through the traffic around the beltway in Washington, DC. The little Pinto would sputter and buck whenever he would gun the accelerator. He thought about how a huge part of his job was collecting payments from slow-paying customers. That was the worst part of the job.

“I gotta find another job. As soon as I get back, I’m going to do it. I don’t know what I’m waiting for. Damn slow accounts. Calling those people every Tuesday and Thursday night to see if they’ll make a payment on the overpriced loan I made them.”

Christian pushed on for another three hours until he arrived home. He pulled into his driveway. He began unloading his ‘inheritance.’ He was too tired to carry all the junk into the house so he locked it all in the garage, went inside his house, and fell onto his bed to disappear into blissful sleep.

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

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A Trip to the Orthodontist – Part 2

Philadelphia, PA – Spring – 1976

My friend Michael and I were sitting on the curb at the corner of Newtown and Passmore Street. We were just taking a break from our adventures to smoke a cigarette. We were a couple of punks, but all kids smoked back then. Cigarettes were still beloved in the 60s and 70s despite the obvious health warnings from the Surgeon General.

Michael was sitting there counting his dollars to see how much he had on him, in case he wanted to buy some candy or a soda. I was holding one of the bills and we were looking at it. We were trying to figure out what all of the weird symbols on the bill meant. Why the unfinished pyramid with the eye over it? Why does money have reference to God on it?

With my cigarette, I burned the corner of the bill just for badness. I think it was just to see if you could burn money. Michael snatched it from me and put it out. It was just the corner and I told him it was still good and that I was sorry. I was just fooling around. He stuck it back in his pocket and off we went.

I told him I had to get ready to go to the orthodontist later. He told me he’d walk up there with me. This was nice because then you had somebody to talk to on the long walk there and we could check out different surroundings. If you’ve been reading these stories, we all loved going on little journeys to see new things. The orthodontist’s office was miles away, but like I said… if you’ve got the time.

Michael sat patiently in the waiting room, while Dr. Beiler performed his medieval deviltry on my teeth.

When I was finished, I picked up my next appointment card from the front desk and we left to head home. As we walked South on Castor avenue, a shaggy-looking dude approached us. He wasn’t threatening or anything. He just looked like a drug addict or something. I sort of slid past him, but he caught Michael. I thought Mike was right behind me, but the guy had Michael close to a wall and was speaking intently to him. The whole incident didn’t last longer than a minute or two, and Michael soon stepped away from him and joined me a few feet away.

“Do you know that guy, Mike?”

“No.”

“What did he want?”

“Money.”

“Did you give him any?”

“Yea. I was scared so I gave him what I had and he walked away.”

See? You didn’t think this story was going this way, did you? You thought it was going to be about a bunch of buck teeth and humiliation.

We chalked it up to just a weird guy bothering us and talked about it on the way home. Neither of us was injured in any way so we were just happy to be away from him.

But when we got back to our neighborhood, Michael and I went into his house and told his father who was sitting at the dinner table drinking a cup of coffee. We gave him a full account of what had occurred earlier on Castor Avenue.

He immediately gathered both of us and put us in the backseat of his car. We both sat in silence glancing back and forth at each other.

When we got up to Castor Avenue, Mike’s dad drove up and down the street looking for the guy. He flagged down a police car and identified himself. He must have conveyed the story to him because within a few minutes there were more cops suddenly appearing in the area.

Michael and I sat quietly in the car for what seemed like forever but it was probably only a half hour. Mike’s dad came back to the car and parked, and asked us to get out. There was a paddy wagon that had pulled up behind us. Mike’s dad took us to the back of the paddy wagon where the doors were open so we could see who was inside.

It was the guy who had taken Mike’s money! He was handcuffed and looking out at us.

Mike’s dad spoke. “Is this the guy?”

We both nodded yes.

“Is this the money he took from you?”

“I think so…. no wait. It is. Look! The corner of that bill is burned. I burned it earlier today down on Passmore street.”

“With what?”

“Umm… a cigarette?”

“I don’t like that you boys are smoking, or that you damaged US currency, but you just gave us the proof we need to lock this guy up. Thanks guys. Now get back in the car. Both of you.”

We both climbed into the backseat of his father’s green Chevy Caprice.

“Do you think we’re in trouble?”

“No, Mike. We’re innocent. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

We peeked out the back window of the car and could see through the windshield, past the cage, and into the back of the paddy wagon.

Out of nowhere, the bad guy started bouncing around inside the back of the van like he was having some sort of seizure. The wagon was literally shaking from his violent movements.

Mike’s dad got back in the car and we drove off. He looked angry and his face was red. He wanted to stop at the station to let the precinct know what had happened. We had a couple of questions for Michael’s father on the way there.

“What was going on with that guy in the back of the paddy wagon?”

“What? Nothing.”

“It looked like he was bouncing around back there.”

“I bounced him around.”

When we arrived at the station, we saw the other police officers unloading the perp from the van. He was handcuffed as they walked him into the precinct. His face was looking pretty beat up. We went inside with Mike’s dad. One of the cops there spoke with him.

“This is the guy they called in about. He’s been trouble in that neighborhood. What happened to him?”

“He fell.”

All of the officers just smiled and went about processing the guy. We left and Mike’s dad drove us home.

About a month later we all had to go to court and identify this guy as the man who frightened and robbed my friend. It was a short process and I was glad the whole mess was over. But it was nice to get a day off from school.

It wasn’t right what happened that day. Not to Michael or to the guy that mugged him. But that’s how it was back then. It showed the violence in his father. But, you never know what that feeling is like until you’re a parent. I understand. I mean… if anybody ever did anything bad to my daughter, I wouldn’t mind a little time alone with the guy.

But in the end, we’re all equal. We’ll all depart this place and leave little behind but our children and our memories.

But looking back… Michael Mitchell was my very best, and enduring friend in Lawndale growing up.

 

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_