Trick or Treat

Is that Yvonne Craig, Sally Field, and Lynda Carter? (I don’t think so!)

Philadelphia, PA – 1970s

That special time rolls around every Autumn. It’s not as great as Christmas, but it’s right up there.

Halloween!

There’s all the preparation leading up to the event. It’s almost too hard to believe. We get to dress up as cool characters for one night a year and collect candy from everybody in the neighborhood. Do you mean to tell me we just knock on doors and they give us free candy? How is this possible? We love candy!

Halloween in our neighborhood was especially good. You paint or carve pumpkins into Jack O Lanterns. Each kid in the family picked out their own pumpkin and created their own design. We’d sit them out in a descending line down the steps to show off our handiwork.

Watching Doctor Shock on channel 17. Mad Theater and Horror Theater. All the classic monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman were the best! Doctor Shock was the host and practically invented the genre long before Elvira and MST3K! He even brought his little daughter, Bubbles on the show.

Remember the real horror stories you heard as a kid? That bad kid from around the corner who’s going to be out with his minions to cut kids’ bags and steal their candy! (The mothers were ready with firearms!)

Not really.

It seemed like when you were a kid there were always horror stories. It’s as if they were all made up by adults as words of caution to children in general. There was no such thing as the boogeyman. But many were told of his existence. But it was to scare kids into not wandering off at night. Because in reality there were bad people out in the world who could hurt you. So they gave him a name.

Razor blades in apples? Did anyone ever get one? Of course not. But I think everyone would agree that if any kid ever got a piece of fruit in their trick or treat bag, that sucker went straight into the trash.

And what sort of person gives out fruit on Halloween? How have they not heard of the protocol? Did they not get the memo?

CANDY! WE ONLY WANT CANDY!

I want store-bought, name-brand candy ONLY. I want full-sized Snickers and Hershey bars. What’s with this new thing called “Fun Size?” There’s nothing fun about a tiny version of the real thing you want.

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That’s what I’m talking about.

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Yes, please!

Remember there was always that random neighbor who gave out little bags of loose candy? What sort of crap was that? Juju bees, hard candy, Dots, and candy corn? No one wants that loose candy that you’ve had your hands all over! Straight to the trash! 

We’d get so much candy, we’d have to stop home and dump it because our little orange buckets were brimming with treats. Once our bounty was secured, we’d head right back out again for more. Did we get tired? Hell no! Sugar kept us going, baby!

You wanted to eat it all at once! But your mom was always there with… “You can have ONE!”

Some people even gave us money! It was a bunch of pennies and nickels but hey, we prefer the candy but if you want to give us cash that’s okay too! (How about you toss a few bills in there, pops?)

Back then I remember people doing some decorating to their homes but not at the level at which people celebrate Halloween today. Halloween has become the most profitable holiday behind Christmas. You don’t even get a day off from work.

A few years ago, My friend Scott had come up to visit. I remember us walking into one of those seasonal Halloween stores that pop up around September each year. There was every terrifying nightmarish object imaginable in that store. The place looked like the prop department for Hammer Films!  My friend said, “I remember when Halloween was about getting dressed up, carving pumpkins, and trick or treating. Now it looks like Hell hath come to Earth!”

I found that very funny.

But I think I know as an adult why people love Halloween so much more now. For one night a year, you get to pretend to be someone else, party and drink, and you don’t have to spend time with your family!

But I digress…

When we were in grade school, you got to wear your costume to school on Halloween. That was so cool. You got to see what all of the other kids were wearing that year. The teachers would take us all outside in our costumes and walk us around the neighborhood near Lawndale School. We were like little celebrities in our Halloween parade. People would stop and say how cute we all looked.

Pictured: Melissa, & Deneen Hanley, Sandra Hoffer, Wayne Kacheleries, RJ McMeans, & my sister Jane

When you’re little your parents take you to the department store and you get to pick out your costume. They were all stacked on the shelves in boxes with the clear cellophane window on the lid so you could see the character’s mask. There was a great assortment of costumes for kids of all the things we liked. Most of all, the characters we wished we could be every day. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.

The funny thing was, you thought you were getting this:

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…and this.

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But you ended up with this:

Image result for 1970s batman halloween costume

Yea… Lame.

Girl: I wanna look like Lynda Carter in the show, Wonder Woman!

Yea… good luck with that. Not happening. WW doesn’t wear a polyethylene bag to fight crime.

Those cheap costumes looked more like pajamas than superhero outfits. But at least they were flame retardant. (It said so on every box) At least you knew the superpower you possessed dressed in one of these ridiculous costumes was you wouldn’t burn to death. Big deal.

Then there was that plastic mask with its razor-sharp edges.

Image result for 1970s batman halloween costume

I was always afraid I would cut my eye on one of the eyeholes in those kinds of masks. You’d be wearing it and the flimsy rubber band that was stapled to it would always come off. It would always somehow pull out of the sides. It never happened at home. It only gave way when you were blocks from your home.

But before that even happened the mask would get all steamed up inside. Sure, there were nose and mouth holes but the whole mask would get wet inside. It was gross. Your face would be soaked as you walked around your neighborhood collecting candy.

The first costume I can ever remember wearing was The Green Hornet. I was just a little guy, maybe 5 or 6 years old. I put it on thinking it was cool, and my dad would laugh because he said I looked like an adult midget! (No offense to little people, but it was the 70s and my father was not politically correct)

Image result for 1970s green hornet halloween costume

Does that look like the Green Hornet to you? No. It looks like the Green Hornet’s jommies.

Almost as bad…

Yea, that’s me.

But we didn’t care. As long as you had something that resembled a costume, you were good to go. My friend RJ would go out as the same thing every year. He didn’t care. Put on some banged-up ragged clothes, burn a cork and rub the charcoaled end all over your face, and grab a pillowcase for candy and your good.

Me: What are you supposed to be?

RJ: A bum.

Me: Cool. Let’s go get loads of candy!

It was that simple.

Remember when you were all fired up in your costume and chomping at the bit to get out there and start trick or treating and your mom would say this?

“It’s cold out. Put on your jacket.”

“Really mom? Batman doesn’t wear a coat over his costume!”

I remember as I got older we went with more creative costumes. If we had store-bought costumes we’d grown out of, we’d simply give them to younger kids in the neighborhood.

One year, someone in the local government came up with the brilliant idea of making the kids go out in the late afternoon. We thought this was a terrible idea. Halloween was meant to be played out at night.

I had passed on one of my old kid’s costumes to this kid who lived up the corner named Douglas Miller. It was a store-bought astronaut costume.

Image result for 1970s astronaught halloween costume

I remember the only cool thing about it, was that they had built in a tiny light bulb in the mask that could be operated by a little battery pack you had to carry. I give the company points for creativity and making a costume that is more visible at night. But here comes Douglass with the costume on carrying his trick or treat bag in broad daylight. I think he was the only one out at 4 pm in the afternoon!

That rule was quickly abolished the next year. The costumes looked bad enough at night let alone in daylight!

But the costumes did get better as we got older. I remember going out as Dracula one year. A friend of my dad’s had made a really amazing cape that was red on the inside and black on the outside. I slicked my hair back, popped in some fake fangs, and became a vampire that night.

I was a cowboy one year, complete with a cool hat, vest, boots, and a pair of toy Rango guns on my belt. Being a hippie a year or so later was also good. I really didn’t look that much like a hippie though. More like a biker or Jerry Garcia.

My older sister was a pilgrim one year and the costume looked really authentic.

And of course… there’s my absolute favorite Halloween costume of all time.

Pictured: Chaz (Gene Simmons)– Steve Peoples (Peter Criss) – Jimmy Hunsinger (Ace Frehley) Jimmy did all of our makeup. Such a talented fellow.

But the absolute most creative Halloween costumes I ever saw were made by our neighbor, Mrs. Hanley. She was an expert seamstress, who could make anything out of fabric.

Although brilliant designs with expert craftsmanship, they weren’t always that functional. Case in point, one year her two daughters went out as Witch Hats. Not witches. Just hats.

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This is the only image I could find on the internet that even remotely resembled the costume. Just picture a giant black witch hat, with a wide brim and a hole cut out for the child’s face. I couldn’t find the costume online because they were custom-made and completely original designs created by Mrs. Hanley. Elegant in theory, but as I said. Not very functional. You can’t climb steps in it. You can’t clear a doorway either. So, sadly the Hanley girls had to stand down at the bottom of people’s steps, and whoever they were with would have to point to them and say to the neighbor. “Oh, and can you give me two more candy bars for the Witch Hats down there?”

But she made them better costumes the next year. A more functional model. Mrs. Hanley made her girls into Mice. They were really cute costumes and the girls looked adorable. Again, custom designs and fully handcrafted. Something like this, but better.

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But here’s the thing…

The tails on the costumes were made of stiff wire. They even curled up at the end. So sadly, the girls’ little tails were getting hooked on everything! Doors, doorknobs, door frames, railings, street signs, fences, and other children.

Clever costumes, but be careful! They’ll put your eye out!

We were happy just to go from door to door with our little bags out and the neighbors would make a fuss and dump the treats into our bags. It was simple and efficient.

But there was always that one family…

We’d stop at the Hunsinger’s house at the corner of Fanshaw Street and Hasbrook Avenue. They had a super ferocious dog named Jason, so there’s that. But the worst part was, you couldn’t just stand on the porch with your bag out.

You had to go in the house. Say what your costume was, and tell a joke to EARN your treat. (Did they not get the memo either?) We’re not here to perform like chimps for your entertainment. We walk up. Bag open. Say Trick or Treat, and you turn over the goods to us and we thank you. Period!

I get that they wanted to see us, take photos and engage us. It was all in the spirit of the holiday, but come on. I have 39 Reeses Cups in this bag. How about we make it an even 40 and I’ll be on my way. Okay? We’re on a tight schedule here. We got rounds to make tonight!

We’d have a whole route mapped out to maximize our return on Halloween. But the final destination and most glorious was Rising Sun Avenue. It was wall-to-wall stores for blocks. We’d start at the beginning and go in and out of every single store getting candy. And it was the good candy too. You know what I’m talking about. We’d work one side of the street down to about Levick Street and then cross over and come down the other side and hit every store over there too.

Funny thing was, there was a really nice candy store called Bauer’s on Rising Sun. You could go in that store any time of year and it smelled like what a child would imagine what Heaven smelled like. Just delicious chocolates and sweets of every kind imaginable. A nearly mythical place from fables and storybooks.

But… on Halloween, I remember getting a giant taffy from there. It looked like an oversized lollipop on a wooden stick. The business end was carefully wrapped in wax paper and it was gently placed into my bag for transport. But wouldn’t you know, the very next place I walked into, I was given a candy apple? The clerk would blast that thing into my bag like they were Steve Carlton and it would shatter my lolly from Bauers! Thanks, Lefty!

After a few exhausting hours of trudging around in our costumes to as many places as possible, we’d head home.

But that’s when the inventory and trading took place. We’d lay out all of our candy onto the carpet. Counting how many of certain brands we got that night, and exchanging them with our family and friends. It’s probably the only time in your childhood where you actually can possess a substantial amount of something you love, and it’s absolutely FREE!

Pictured: RJ McMeans, Jane, Chaz, Nancy & Gail

But what I remember most was the excitement on the street itself. Kids running up and down the sidewalk in their costumes. The crisp snap in the Autumn air. The smell of the Fall. The leaves crunched under your feet as you ran from door to door.

The night wasn’t filled with ghosts and goblins. It was full of happy children and the sound of laughter.

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

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

Tales of Rock – The Cool Parents’ Guide to Rock Music for Kids

If there’s one universal truth to parenting, it’s that whatever songs your kid listens to will end up on repeat in your head at 3 a.m. Most of the time we’re fighting off tunes about frogs or balloons or shapes from Little Baby Bum, or we’re reluctantly humming a particularly annoying little ditty about a family of sharks (and just like that, dear reader, it’s now in your head too. Sorry).

Look, we have the power — the obligation — to introduce our kids to better music, for their sake, and very possibly, our own sanity. Nursery rhymes are adorable and learning-shapes songs are valuable. But with the state of things around us, social distancing and staying at home can provide a great opportunity for parents to expose their little ones to better music, some even with helpful life lessons.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite kid-friendly albums from what we dub the “Golden Age of Rock,” the classic oldies of rock ‘n’ roll from the ’50s through the ’70s, to help create a fun music experience for you and your kids. So, clear the living room, turn off the TV and fire up the record player (or Spotify playlist) and, hopefully, get to dancing.

Chuck Berry

The Great Twenty-Eight

Chuck Berry defined the sound and spirit of rock ‘n roll, so it’s only right that our kids hear his music. This compilation album, which Rolling Stone ranked No. 21 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, starts off with the toe-tapping “Maybellene,” and kids just know what to do when songs like this come on. Later on the album is “Johnny B Goode,” a fun opportunity for you to mention a great scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly baffles everyone at a dance with a rendition of this hit. This album is a necessary lesson on the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Nicknamed the “Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Berry was a major influence on decades of music that followed him.

Little Richard

Here’s Little Richard

With lyrics that go “A-wop-bop-a-loo-lop a-lop-bam-boo,” “Tutti Frutti” is probably the most fun a kid will have singing to a song, and the second you drop a needle on this track, your toddler will light up. It’s the opening track on Little Richard’s 1957 debut album Here’s Little Richard, which also includes “Long Tall Sally (The Thing)” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” Simply put, these are just fun songs.

The Beatles

Rubber Soul

The Beatles helped define 20th-century rock ‘n’ roll, but not before dominating the pop charts. If we had told fans of the hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that the same band would later be making songs like “Helter Skelter,” they wouldn’t have believed us. But, there’s one album, in particular, that is a great introduction to the Beatles for kids, and has both the catchy, pop-like melodies that launched the Fab Four to stardom, but a little more meaningful message than the idea that they want to hold your hand. And it seemingly has no references to drugs yet: Rubber Soul. It’s said that Beatlemania ended on Dec. 3, 1965, the day the record hit the shelves. It was the album that saw the Beatles as men, not boys, similar to a teenager coming of age. And tracks like “Nowhere Man” explored John Lennon’s own dealings with inadequacy.

David Bowie

Hunky Dory

David Bowie is a great artist to introduce to kids early on because he took on many alter-egos, opening up the possibility of a young person to find one that relates to their own personality. His music explores fantasy-like storylines, and he always encouraged young people to be themselves –– no matter how weird. His 1971 album Hunky Dory is especially great for kids, and the song “Changes” reflects those ever-changing personas. He also wrote the track “Kooks” for his first son, which is a great song to dedicate to your own children.

Wings

Wings Greatest

We’re the last people to reduce the fantastic music of Wings to “just another Beatles band,” but once your child realizes that the Beatles broke up in the summer of ’69 and are left wanting more, they may want to hear what one Beatles head songwriter, Paul McCartney, made in the ’70s. Only two years after John, Paul, George, and Ringo parted ways, McCartney co-founded Wings with his wife. Yes, we’re recommending a “greatest hits” album, but it’s a great start for kids, or anyone, who hasn’t taken the time to listen to the band before. It’s a fun record that highlights the best of a great band.

Melanie

Gather Me

This album is packed full of emotional ’70s folk-rock ballads. But track four, “Brand New Key,” recalls the innocent days of young love. A particularly adorable song from singer-songwriter Melanie, “Brand New Key” follows a young, empowered girl thriving off confidence and nudging a crush to play along as she roller skates along — and it’s super fun to dance to. The rest of the tracks are probably more fitting for a teenager, as it covers a lot of heartbreak, but it’s also a great introduction to blues-rock.

Bob Dylan

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Is your child an aspiring poet or songwriter? Look no further than Bob Dylan to inspire that creativity. And his fourth studio album, 1964’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, is a great introductory album for your little one. OK, this is a folk album, but Dylan has become an influential figure in rock ‘n’ roll. Like the album title suggests, this was the first album Dylan released that didn’t reflect his usual politically driven songwriting, making it easy listening for kiddo. In fact, it played on his humor quite a bit too. Give “All I Really Want to Do” and “I Shall Be Free No. 10” a listen with the kids around for a good laugh. “To Ramona,” though, shows Dylan at his best on this album. A beautiful, lullaby-like song, the melody alone is likely to capture your child’s attention.

The Beach Boys

Endless Summer / Pet Sounds

It’s hard to decide which album is best for introducing your little one to when it comes to The Beach Boys. Endless Summer, a great album for those summer pool days in the backyard, captures the best of The Beach Boys’ 1963-1966 catalog. Be sure to pick up the vinyl reissue that includes “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ USA” and “California Girls.” These are all great introductory songs to surf rock and capture a great slice of the band’s career. You can almost feel the warm sun and sound of the hot rods driving by.

Pet Sounds is universally regarded as The Beach Boys’ best album. So, go ahead and save your kid the future embarrassment of admitting they haven’t heard this album by introducing it to them now. It begins with the super catchy tune “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which captures the thoughts we have when we’re lovesick teenagers. It’s been said that Beach Boy Brian Wilson was aiming for tracks that kids could relate to on this album, and we think he did a pretty good job.

The Monkees

The Monkees Greatest Hits

Yeah, we’re recommending another greatest hits album. But look, this one cuts out some of the more experiential songs the band did (oh, you didn’t know about that?) We’re not going to recommend that you introduce your kids to The Monkees by having them watch the film Head, or listen to The Monkees’ soundtrack for it. Trust us. And, The Monkees didn’t have an endless catalog of amazing songs, but the hits they did have are upbeat, really fun, and definitely kid-friendly.

The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man / Turn! Turn! Turn!

This double album (not to be confused with a greatest hits album) was partly taken from earlier writings from Bob Dylan. It contains Dylan originals in a pop-rock-friendly tone, including: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “All I Really Want to Do” and more, so it’s a great opportunity to show your child how songs can be made differently.

Dusty Springfield

Dusty in Memphis

Dusty Springfield was an anomaly among the usual British female pop stars of the 1960s. Her voice was deep and rich, and her music sounded not unlike the hits coming from Motown or Stax. Her singles include “I Only Want to Be With You,” “Wishin’ and Hopin'” and “Son of a Preacher Man.” The latter of which is on one of the singles from her best-rated albums, Dusty in Memphis. A hallmark of the oldies we so love to wax nostalgic, Springfield’s music is a great lesson in love, and perfect for any lovelorn preteen.

Buddy Holly

20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives

Buddy Holly was a pioneer in 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” His signature “hiccup,” unique spin on rockabilly and as-innocent-as-can-be songs make him perfect for introducing a young person to rock ‘n’ roll. After all, he’s said to have inspired greats like Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, he died shortly into his blossoming career, so his discography mainly includes compilations. But 20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives is listed on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and includes tracks he made with The Crickets — his band he played with before going solo.

 

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

Karate Lessons

Philadelphia, PA – 1975-1976

I was picked on and bullied in Fel’s Junior High School. I never experienced this in grade school. It just didn’t happen there. Maybe all the disfunction in families comes to a head when kids reach the age of puberty, but I just don’t know.

It was hell for me for much of the whole 3 years I spent at Fel’s Junior High school. It felt more like a juvenile detention center than any sort of educational facility. When I think back on my life my memories are pretty sharp and I have great recall and detail. But when I think back to Fel’s, there isn’t much info. It’s as if during those formative years my mind blocked out much of that horrific pain to save me from mental illness later in life.

There was a show on TV at that time called Kung Fu. My parents used to watch it and my dad loved it. I remember watching a few episodes and although I never saw the pilot, I knew what the show was about. It seemed that this Chinese/American guy wanders around the American west and gets into these different situations. Normally there would be some bad guys who would get their butts kicked by the main character each week.

I thought it was all very cool, and Kung Fu and Karate were hot back in the 70s. There were lots of movies about the subject. Even the Green Hornet had a chauffeur named Kato that could do karate. It was Bruce Lee, who sadly died back in 1973, but he had already established himself as a bonafide star in his short time in show biz. He was the real deal.

I figured if I learned kung fu or karate, I could defend myself from all of the animals at school and in my neighborhood. I remember I had gotten a book about Judo and was reading about some simple moves, and I guess maybe I put it to my parents one day that I’d like to take karate lessons. It just seemed practical, cool and I liked the idea and philosophy behind it all. You have this amazing fighting skill but you only use it for the forces of good. You never pick a fight, you only use it to defend yourself and your loved ones. That’s like some superhero stuff right there. I figured that would be perfect for me since I loved comic books and the dudes that were in them defending the world against evil.

So, my parents signed me up for karate lessons. I remember it was $10 a week and back then and my father thinking that it was kind of expensive.

They sent me off to American Karate Studios in Rockledge Pa. That sounds far away, but it was just a bus ride away from my house. I would go there I think a few times a week. For my dad’s money, I would get 2 group classes and 1 private lesson per week.

I would finish school and then walk north on Oakley street to Martin’s Mill Road and hop on the N bus. Which I think either doesn’t exist anymore or they’ve simply changed the name of the bus route. I googled it looking for any old photos online and came up with this:

https://www.yellowpages.com/philadelphia-pa/mip/american-karate-studios-464769411

https://businessfinder.pennlive.com/1977929/American-Karate-Studios-Philadelphia-PA

Could that place still be open?

I would carry a plastic bag that had my Gi in it. That’s the white outfit the karate guys wear. I thought it was super cool and felt like a real kung fu dude when I wore it. It really allows the freedom of movement when you’re doing your moves.

Here’s a couple of old photos my sister dug out of me wearing my karate Gi doing some moves. Future Kung Fu Dragon!

A photo on the wall of my mother on her wedding day hangs on the wall behind me. Check out that ancient vacuum cleaner in the corner!

Anyway, I remember there being a series of belts you had to earn to move up to be a kung fu master.

Everybody started out as a white belt. That’s the beginner level Then you moved on to an orange belt. Then a purple belt. Followed by blue and then green. There were 3 degrees of brown, and 8 degrees of black.

The dream was obviously to become a black belt karate master. That would take years and years to achieve and I didn’t see myself ever getting there. But if I could learn enough moves, maybe I could defend myself against the minions in the neighborhood who picked on me.

There were a couple of kids that were already members and they wore some of the higher level belts. There was a little guy who had a green belt and he was really fast and had killer moves. I figured if that kid could do it, so could I. There was also this girl who was older than me who had a purple belt. She was really cute and always wore her hair back in a thick braid. The only way I ever saw her was with her hair back and in her Gi. I kind of had a thing for her, but I basically didn’t exist in her world and would never have a chance to get to know her. At least in some way, I was invisible to her… like a ninja!

The group classes were rigorous and filled with a bunch of skinny kids like me. We would exercise the moves that had taught us, like snap kicks and punches. It was fun to play/spar with the other boys because it was like we were fighting but no one really hit anyone else.

Once the instructor made us put a smaller kid on our shoulders and we had to do a series of front snap kicks. So while there is this kid sitting upon your shoulders you had to kick to the knee, midsection, and face to an imaginary adversary in front of you. This all had to be done without putting your kicking leg back down. It felt like some real next-level kung fu stuff!

Another time during the exercise and strength training portion of the class, we had to all lie on our backs on the mat and lift our feet up 6 inches off the floor. This was a great way to strengthen the muscles in our core. But the crazy thing was, they would make you hold it up until it was nearly unbearable. Then the instructor would walk through us and step on our stomachs. It didn’t hurt because our stomach muscles were so tense but it was wild. You wouldn’t think that would work but it did. He stepped on everybody. No pain. Future kung fu dragon!

My favorite part of attending karate lessons was the private lesson with my teacher. That’s where you learned all of the new moves and skills associated with your belt level. It was really cool. Like, if someone grabbed you by the lapels there were a series of moves you could perform to immobilize and destroy your opponent in seconds. I love this!

There’s also a dance you learn along with your training. It’s called a kata. It’s a series of punches and kicks you do in a formation and you have to memorize it and be able to perform it. It included many of the basic techniques that you were being taught for your belt level.

(I just got up from my desk to see if I still remembered any of that kata. Guess what? I went right into the routine like it was yesterday. Wow!)

Thank you, Sensei!

I even ordered some cool patches for my jacket. I had a round patch on the back of my jacket with the American Karate Studios logo on it. I also had a tiger and a dragon patch on each one of my sleeves. I was going to be like Kwai Chang Cain in the Kung Fu show on TV!

By the time the semester ended and I was supposed to go to the shore for the Summer I took my test, with one of the owners, (who was a black belt) and I passed! I earned my orange belt!

Of course, my dad said, “They better give you that belt after all the money I gave them for those lessons!”

I should have drop-kicked him.

Karate lessons were a welcome little repose in my tortured life back then. I think it really helped me. I never used any kung fu moves on anybody, but it did feel good learning something new, get some exercise, and be with other kids like myself.

Thank you American Karate Studios and to all of the staff who were kind to me and taught me some cool fighting skills!

 

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

Want To Meet The One? These Are The Top Places To Look

Knowing how to get a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner, especially without the help of a dating app, might seem like an impossible task in the modern age. However, it’s not as difficult as you might imagine. According to a new study from Compare the Market, 45% of couples still meet either at a social gathering or through mutual friends, and only 7% meet on a dating app. Alas, there is hope!

So fear not, it’s definitely still possible to meet your dream boyfriend, girlfriend or partner, in real life. You just need to know where to find them. Sex and relationships expert for Lovehoney Annabelle Knight breaks down the best places to meet your next partner face-to-face.

Through your uniVERSITY or former school

Somebody you went to school, college or uni with can be a really compatible option for a long-term partner. If you’ve grown up together or come from the same area, then you’re likely to already have a tonne of things in common. Plus, Compare the Market found that 9% of people still meet their partner through education, so it’s definitely a good place to consider starting a relationship.

And even if you didn’t get together with your partner when you were actually at school, there’s still hope later in life. Plenty of us has some kind of missed connection from our uni, college, or school days, someone we wish we’d dated but never actually managed to make it work with. Keeping in touch with uni, college, or school groups and going to meet-ups and reunions can be a great way to get together with old friends, relive your youthful memories, and maybe even hook up with that person that you never got the chance to with at school.

Photo credit: Hinterhaus Productions - Getty Images
Photo credit: Hinterhaus Productions – Getty Images

Social media, obviously

Meeting a potential partner online doesn’t just have to happen through a dating app. There are plenty of ways to meet people through other forms of social media too, with 6% of people meeting their partner on socials, according to Compare the Market. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great places to reconnect with people from your past, but they can also be somewhere to meet cool new people. Friends of friends can be easy to start a conversation with, as you already have somebody in common. Meanwhile, if you see someone you fancy on Insta, take the leap and slide into their DMs (respectfully, of course). What have you got to lose?

Plus, you don’t need to spend time getting to know someone when you do meet up IRL, cos you can find out everything you need to know online beforehand. Put those deep dive ‘research skills to good use…

However, age is also a massive factor when it comes to social media, with 14% of 18 to 24-year-olds meeting on socials, compared to 7% of 25 to 34-year-olds.If you do decide to opt for a dating app or site to find love (or just fun), the top place people surveyed by Compare the Market found a partner was Plenty of Fish, followed by Tinder and Match.com.

Volunteer

Donating your time for a cause you’re passionate about will help you to meet someone with similar values, and that can create cute shared experiences. But, obviously, don’t volunteer somewhere for the sake of getting a date. You should only do it if you want to broaden your network of friends, help an organization that means something to you, and learn. But, it’s through that network that you might potentially meet a new partner.

Photo credit: Juj Winn - Getty Images
Photo credit: Juj Winn – Getty Images

Get out of the house

As simple and basic as it sounds, staying at home is not going to get you that many dates. If you do genuinely want to meet someone, be proactive with your friends and suggest new places to go – galleries, museums, gigs, bars, etc. Basically anywhere that’ll shake you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to new people. If you’re able, try and do something new every week or month which will bring you into contact with new people, whether that’s joining a club or meet up, or a class for whatever hobby you’re into.

Going out the old-fashioned way is still the most common way to meet a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner. As found by Compare the Market, 27% of couples meet at a social gathering like a party, pub or night out. So, don’t be afraid to get out there and start a conversation with somebody new.

Make eye contact

This is like swiping photos in real life. But the difference is the person is right in front of you and able to make a direct connection. You instinctively know who you are attracted to, and there’s nothing wrong in making that clear through eye contact when you are out. Just obviously be respectful of other people’s boundaries, and don’t creep any out – that goes without saying.

Use your friends

In the nicest way possible, use your pals. After all, they know your great qualities, likes, and dislikes. And, crucially, they know better than anyone if someone is a good fit for you. Plus, you know that any potential dates they put you in touch with already have a bangin’ group of pals. Compare the Market’s study found that 18% of people meet a partner through mutual friends, so don’t be afraid to let your mates know you’re up for introductions to new people – you never know where it could lead. Make sure you return the favor and do the same for your single pals too.

Coworkers can also be a great route to finding love, as you likely already have the same interests and goals in life. Plus, the research found that 18% of people still meet their partner in the workplace. That person who caught your eye across the office? Don’t be afraid to start a conversation.

Photo credit: FG Trade - Getty Images
Photo credit: FG Trade – Getty Images
More

Work out

Only 2% of people meet a partner in the gym, according to Compare the Market, but it can be an easy place to start a natural conversation. Just ask them to help spot you or to move some equipment. Plus, if you go to regular classes you’re probably going to see some friendly faces you can chat to.

But the gym isn’t the only workout location perfect for meeting a partner. Try joining a club or a team for whatever kind of exercise you like: triathlons, yoga, hockey, football, etc. Meeting weekly to work out and going for a drink afterward will mean you meet a whole new set of people – and therefore their friends… it’s all about widening your network.

Accept invites

Yes, of course, it can be intimidating to go to events on your own, but it’s normally possible to get a plus one and bring a friend. If not, try and get out of your comfort zone if you can and go on your own. It’s daunting but gets easier with practice. Plus, the chances are your friends who invite you to these events will have cool and interesting mates you’ve never met before. You can always ask them to intro you if you’re feeling shy or awkward.

How to turn dating into a relationship

Sadly, actually going to the right places to find your potential partner is just half the battle when it comes to starting a relationship. Compare the Market found that 33% of relationships started with casual dating, while 32% actually started as platonic friends. Meanwhile, 20% of relationships began through a series of formal dates, with just 9% evolving out of a purely physical relationship. So, next time you start daydreaming about your friend with benefits or f**k buddy turning into an actual thing, think again as it’s not super likely to happen.

 

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

A Great Adventure

Philadelphia, PA – 1977 – Spring

In 9th grade, I was a total loser. But even back then one of the few things I had going for me was my artistic ability. I found a friend at Fels Junior High named Robert Weichert. He was a quiet thoughtful boy. Good looking with amazing blonde curly hair like a young Robert Plant.

We were of like mind. We liked rock music and comic books. He would come over to my house and we would hang out in my room and listen to records and read comics together. I remember my times with Robert were amazing. He was one of the few people I had made a connection with. I remember laughing so hard with him that my stomach would hurt. Normally my stomach only hurt if I was having anxiety, some reaction to food, or I was being punched by some bully in school.

We both hated school and all of the animals we had to deal with in that zoo. Even the teachers.

Robert had a talent for writing and I had a talent for drawing. We would make up our own line of superheroes. He would write the little stories, and I would draw the comics. It was a perfect union of creativity that belonged only to us in our little teenage world.

I think his family was breaking up. He said he was going to take the name of the man who was now with his mother. I don’t remember many details but it must have been a rough time for him. The man’s last name was Ketterer and I noticed that Robert would write the name “Ket” on his record albums to identify them as his when he went to summer camp.

Boys didn’t really talk about feelings or family back then. We simply lived in the moment. If we were together laughing, reading comics, and listening to rock we were happy. It was these little moments of repose that were the only solace we had in the hellish existence in junior high school.

When I think about how my daily life was back then in 9th grade, I displayed all of the symptoms of someone who was profoundly depressed. A terrible student, and the thing my father always told me not to become… A victim. I was a victim every day. More like a target. Deal with the animals at school, and then come home and face the king of them all at home, when his car would pull up the driveway each night.

I was growing weary of being picked on and humiliated at school on a daily basis and also by some of the boys that hung up the corner from our house.

I remember gathering a couple of small empty green 7up bottles that I had taken out of our trash. I rinsed them out and filled them with paint thinner or some other accelerant we had in our basement. I tore up some rags and tied them around the necks of the bottles and capped them. I hid them under the sinks in the front of our basement. I was thinking if things got to a breaking point with this one specific kid that had it in for me, I would go to his house and throw those Molotov cocktails through his front windows.

It was a dark time. But I never acted on any of my ideas. But at least I felt a moment of comfort knowing that I could do something to end it once and for all. Instead of lashing out with words and hands, my depression was simply my rage turned inward on myself.

I think I eventually dumped them out, thinking if my mom found out that I was building firebombs in the basement she’d have me committed.

I remember going to my guidance counselor about this other kid that was torturing me for his own pleasure at school. The counselor knew this boy and his advice to me was to hit him back. The kid was a coward, and I should hit him back and he’d stop. That’s wonderful advice, sir. More violence. I am not a violent person. But back then I had a seething temper I later learned to control. When you’re 14 you’re at your absolute purest as a young killer. The hormones and chemicals firing in your brain make you act out. But I never did. But I knew if I ever did anything, it wouldn’t be a scuffle in the schoolyard where I could get my glasses broken and my teeth knocked out. I would simply end it with my attacker.

I knew I had to control that animal that lived inside my mind. I knew him very well and he was worse than any punk at school or the beast who lived down the hall. But I knew if I ever let him out, he’d do something that he could never take back.

You’d think I would have simply walked back to the lot at the end of our street and laid on the railroad tracks and wait for the train to take me.

But I’ve never had thoughts of suicide. Never. No matter how bad things ever got in my life I never wanted to do that. Nobody asks to come here. You should be able to leave when you want to. It’s your life. It’s really all you own. But you don’t really own it. Your soul inhabits a vessel that you rent until it expires and you’re gone.

I used to say that 9th grade was the worst year of my life. It was then, but I would have worse times in the future. But they all happened by my own device. My own bad decisions. Mostly on the people, I chose to have in my life.

But that’s not what this story is about.

At some point, Robert’s mother said she was going to take Robert out of school for one day to take him to Great Adventure. He wanted me to come with him. I had never been there but I had heard about it on TV. Wildwood had a bunch of amusement rides on the boardwalk, but Great Adventure was a big amusement park in New Jersey. I didn’t like the wild rides in Wildwood. Most of them were things that went up high, spun around, or went too fast. I wasn’t having any of that and preferred the more gentle attractions on the boardwalk like the Pirate Ship, Whacky Shack, or the Keystone Kops on Hunt’s Pier.

I have no idea how we got that trip approved. I was a horrible student basically flunking out of all of my subjects. Please tell me the last time you needed Algebra or Spanish in the last month. I remember my father giving me a small, sharp lecture on how he shouldn’t let me take a day off from school to go play in an amusement park with some friends.  Why should he let me go, or reward my poor performance in school by giving me a special day off to go play in a park?

I have no idea, but my parents let me go. I was having my usual low-level anxiety about getting in a strange car with Robert’s mom and his stepdad, but I sat in the back of their station wagon with Robert, and seeing him kept me calm. He was really sweet like that. He was my comrade. The writer and creator of our little comics. Deneb 6, Cestus, Midnightess, Prince Apollo, Captain Universe, Kid Universe, and the Prowler. I loved the Prowler. I designed a cool costume for that character in the comics we made.

Turns out his mom was a really nice lady and her husband was a good, chill guy. They looked like the type of folksy couple that would run a gift shop in some little village somewhere. I felt at ease with them as the car headed over the Tacony Palmyra Bridge into New Jersey.

We get to the park and Robert’s mom and stepdad are just lovely to be around. Just really cool people. They bought us both little bracelets that were all-day passes to the park. We could go on any ride as many times as we wanted, as long as we wore the bracelets.

Then the incredible happened. They cut us loose. They told us where to meet them and what times to check in, but they walked away.

It was a beautiful sunny day in a new world with my friend. His folks said they were going to probably get some food, and then go check out the wild animal safari. That’s where you drive your car through an animal preserve and look at wild animals. Monkeys jumping on your car, etc. I watched as his parents simply left us alone and we were two 14-year-old boys free to do whatever we wanted in the park. I was stunned and elated.

We walked around and explored the park. It was beautiful. Just me and one of my best friends, free for the afternoon in a wonderland. I don’t remember all of the things we saw and did, but I remember how I felt that one day with Robert. We were both free from school and everything else for a day.

We both loved girls at that point. What teenage boy doesn’t? There was plenty there, which surprised me because I thought they should all be in school. But I suppose most were tourists from somewhere else out with their families.

At some point, Robert asked me if I wanted to go on the log flume with him. I had never been on the log flume on Hunt’s Pier or any rollercoaster, due to my fear of everything.

But Robert gently coaxed me with his words.

“Come on, Chaz. It’ll be fun. Look, there’s a bunch of girls going on it. Maybe we can talk to them.”

“I’m afraid, Rob. I don’t go on rides like that. I’m scared I’ll get sick.”

“You’ll be okay. I’ll be right there next to you. No pressure. But we’ll have fun. It’ll be over before you know it.”

“Okay.”

I was terrified, and probably trembling as we approached the gate. The fear crept in. The worst part was when you committed and got in line. Once you were far enough in on the line there was no turning back. I didn’t want to wreck my friend’s day by running away and being embarrassed.

We finally got to the front of the line. The attendant steadied the log/boat and we got in.

“Just breathe, Chaz. Trust me.”

I did trust Rob. We were close. We shared a lot. I needed to steady myself and survive this scary ordeal. I knew I shouldn’t have done this! I’m probably going to puke!

The boat floated along for short a time and then grabbed the rubber rotating conveyor belt that carried it up the first hill. It was a small one so I held on tightly. I could hear Rob’s voice. He was calming me, but only a little. I was on high alert. I was in danger. But Robe was there. I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay, right? I won’t die. Look at all of these other people. They’re all happy and I’m terrified. They’re all having fun and right now I am living in the opposite. My whole psyche is upside down in this life. Why am I like this? Why can’t I be like everybody else?

We reach the top and the boat slides down the small hill with a splash!

I didn’t die. That was okay, and I’m nervously laughing in relief. That wasn’t so bad.

Then the next climb is a bit higher. Another hill. Again… up and then down. Splash! I somehow have survived again. It’s a miracle. The boat’s cruising along and two girls are sitting right in the seat in front of us. They’re giggling and looking back at us and… smiling.

I must be strong. The boat climbs an even higher hill. But for some reason, I’m not dying. Rob’s smiling and reassuring me. I can’t look like a loser in front of these cute girls. We’re low in the boat and I focus my eyes on the inside of the small craft. We’re pretty high up and I can’t look out, because I’ll die. But the way these little log boats are constructed we’re low in the seats to keep the center of gravity down.

The boat is at the top now.  But it doesn’t go right down a hill. It goes along on a straight line around the top. It’s making a turn now. I glance over. I can see the hill over to my left. That’s the hill we’re going to go down. We’re so high up. I’m scared but I have to hold it together, for Rob and for myself.

We get to the crest of the hill and down we go. I can hear the screams of delight from the girls in front of us, and as we land with an enormous splash I feel a sudden rush of relief wash over me (Along with a lot of water!)

That’s it. I did it. I went on my first thrill ride and I didn’t puke or die. It’s a gosh-darned miracle.

We exit the ride and are pretty wet, along with everybody else. It feels good. I experienced what exhilaration felt like for the very first time. I’m not athletic and don’t do any sports or anything risky, so my fear turned into relief and excitement. It felt good. I didn’t know it back then, but the dopamine was dropping. What a wonderful relief. What a wonderful feeling. The girls even talked to us a little bit after the ride. It was nice. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a leper mutant.

“See, Chaz. You did it. It was great, right?”

“Yea… yea… It was pretty cool. I was panting and feeling joy and relief.

I liked that feeling.

“Do you want to walk around a little bit?”

“No Rob. Let’s get back in line.”

We rode that log flume probably a dozen times that day. I was frightened, but I was with Rob. We did it together. I felt safe with him and liked the high I got from the ride. I had somehow turned my fear into excitement. I learned something about myself that day.

Nothing is ever as bad as you think it is, as long as you don’t let the fear in.

You can take that fear and turn it into something else. I was a long way from conquering my anxiety or my depression, but it was a step, albeit a small one.

But it was a step. The only thing holding me in my prison cell was me holding onto the bars. If I would just let go, the bars would fall away and I could walk right out.

It’s not that simple, but I learned that if you want to conquer something in your life, simply take a step. Any step. Just take the step. Then slowly walk toward the things you fear. Keep doing it over and over, and after a few years or decades in my case, you’ll rewire your mind to carry forth into tomorrow.

My life changed that afternoon in a small way. I thankfully graduated from 9th grade and went to the seashore for the summer. The summer of 1977 was the first great summer of my young life. Everything changed and I was on my way.

I rode every rollercoaster in Wilwood that summer.

The Supersonic on Sportland Pier, The Jumbo Jet on Morey’s Pier, The Flyer on Hunt’s Pier, The Wild Mouse on Marine Pier, and the glorious Queen’s Rollercoaster on Marine Pier West.

One evening I rode every rollercoaster on the island!

Life can be like a rollercoaster. There’s all that anxiety and fear as you climb the hill of your life. You slowly reach the top and you’re terrified. It’s too high. I’m going to die. Then the coaster zooms down the first hill and the fear turns into excitement. Every hill after that is never as thrilling as that first one. That long difficult climb to the top to face your fears is now behind you. Once the ride is over and the coaster roars into the station, you can only think about one thing.

I can’t wait to do that again.

Rob and I lost touch after Junior High because he went to a different high school than me. But I’ll never forget that boy, and that special day we got to play hooky from school and go on a great adventure together.

 

 

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