Back The Tracks – Part 2 – On The Rails

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

I remember reading Stephen King’s book, Different Seasons many years later than the events described here. There was that one story entitled, The Body. It always reminded me of how it was when I hung out with my friends when we were young. It was later made into the film, Stand By Me. That story hits as about as close as anything we experienced as kids.

Having a place that was wild and uncivilized adjacent to our picture-perfect neighborhood was always a lure. I remember as a little boy my dad and I would sometimes go back the tracks and cross them over into the woods that lay on the other side. He would puff his cigar and we’d chat and go on a short explore.

There was a fallen tree that lay at the edge of the woods and we would always go back and visit it. I used to call it the whale shark, because it was large, grey, and looked like a fallen marine leviathan. It was fat at one end and broken which resembled a mouth. Along the tapering back of the wooden beast, was a thick broken branch that jutted upward that resembled a huge dorsal fin.

I still like the smell of cigars to this day because they remind me of my time with my father.

I was later told a story that when my older sister and I were really little, dad was carrying us down the embankment that led to the tracks. He was going to take us over to the other side to run around and play in the fields. He had lost his footing on the embankment and started to fall. As he slipped down the hill, he held us both aloft as he took the full brunt of the fall. He got a little banged up, but we both walked away without a scratch.

A classic tale of a lion protecting his cubs.

Let’s proceed with this chapter.

We’d line up all of the bottles and cans we could find on the rails and have contests to see who could break the most by throwing rocks at them. If a train approached you simply ran for cover. There were so many stories back then about the tracks. Horror stories. Like if you stood too close to a speeding freight train the force could suck you under the wheels and you’d surely be squished. We saw what a train could do to a penny if you put it on the rail when a train went by. It would completely flatten and stretch the penny thin. I heard all sorts of terrible tales and legends from other kids about the perils of the train tracks.

There were three sets of rails. The furthest was for the commuter passenger trains, the middle track was for utility purposes and passing, and the main rail closest to us was only for freight trains.

Some other horror stories I heard were gruesome. The story of the two boys who wanted to make a cable car that ran across the tracks from one embankment to the other. They held onto a metal cable and attempted to toss it across to the other side. The cable hit the high wires that the pantagraphs of the passenger trains used for power. Once the metal cable touched the high wires the kids’ bodies burned all the weeds as their dead bodies rolled down the hill.

What is Pantograph? How they are used in Electric Rail Engines? | by Shubhranshu Mishra | Medium

Or, the one about the kid who stepped into between the switch track and the main rail. It snapped shut crushing his foot and trapping him where he remained until he was later run over by a train and killed.

Railroad switch - Wikipedia

Or, this kid who urinated off a bridge and the urine hit the high wire, and voltage traveled up the stream and into his “lightning rod” and electrocuted him. There are 25,000 volts traveling through those overhead wires all day long.

I remember a tragic story where there were a few boxcars just sitting on the middle track on their own. Some kids climbed onto them to explore. One kid was standing on top of the boxcar and his head hit the high wire, and he sadly lost his life. I didn’t know the boy, but it was a terrible day for his friends and family. It showed us all how fragile life can be at any age.

You tell those kinds of stories to little boys and that hits hard. We were very careful playing back the tracks. But it never stopped us from going there and our parents were cool letting us play back there on the tracks all of the time. But life was full of danger for kids back then. But all we thought of was “I”. Invincible. Immune. Indestructible. Immortal.

But not all of us were so lucky back then.

You can read about another poor soul by clicking here:

Innocence Lost

It was so cool. You’re 10 years old, probably weigh around 60 lbs. tops. You’re small and light. You’d be back the tracks playing with your friends and then you’d hear a distant rumbling. If you were lucky, you saw the train coming in the distance. As an unspoken rule, anyone who saw a train coming instinctively yelled, “Train!” to alert his tribe. We all cleared out of there and found cover.

Normally, it was incredibly quiet back there, but when the train approached and roared by at full speed it was an absolute spectacle. The sheer size, speed, and power of that machine were incredible to witness. You see trains in the distance and see them in movies and on TV, but when you’re standing 10 feet from a speeding freight train, it’s like a giant Precambrian monster has come to claim you all. The noise was deafening and you could actually see the rails move up and down across the railroad ties from the sheer weight of the passing freight cars. We would always all stand quietly and let the behemoth pass. Powerless to do anything. Counting each freight car as it passed, sometimes losing count, but most times the number exceeded 100 cars long.

Our parents told us that the first rail went to New York. That always seemed cool to me. There was my little neighborhood on the edge of forever. I could walk down my street and cross Hasbrook Avenue and head back to the lot. We’d walk down the embankment that had long ago been carved out by men who built the railroad. I’d look down the rails and know that it was a direct line to New York. I lived in Philly but had no real concept of the size of the city. Just what I saw when my mom would take me into town. I got on a passenger train (Reading line) with her at the Cheltenham station by Martins Mill road, and off we went. When the doors opened again I’d be in the Reading Terminal in center city. We might as well stepped into a time machine back then. You get in, close the door, and appear somewhere else that looks completely different from your usual surroundings. All tall buildings and bustling people.

My father used to say, “You have to pay attention in school and make something of yourself so you don’t end up like one of those guys in Reading Terminal.” (Homeless, bums, panhandlers, etc.) Funny how back then it was like that. Now Suburban Station is the main hub because the trains no longer go to Reading Terminal. That place is now a thriving open market that’s a thriving tourist destination. Now, I’d love to end up like one of the guys in Reading Terminal. A successful business owner! How things change.

But the idea you could follow that straight train track to New York always intrigued me. What if there was some way we could board one of the boxcars and stowaway to Manhattan? A simple thing like that. Just kids who grew up on the right street near such power and might beyond the trees.

I always liked the notion of living in a quiet peaceful neighborhood. It was clean and safe. But just beyond the end of our block was something wild and dangerous.

But it belonged to us.

 

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One Slip…

Philadelphia, PA – 1969

I was 7 years old and in 2nd grade at Lawndale school. My teacher was Mrs. Koffler. She was like any other lady. When you’re really young anyone older than 12 years old looks like an adult. But I suspect Mrs. Koffler was in her mid to late twenties. A plain girl. Cat glasses with her straight blonde hair pulled straight back in a ponytail. Neatly dressed in the style of the day. Conservative sweaters and blouses, and always a nice skirt. She preferred patterns to solids. Always wore nude colored pantyhose. Comfortable shoes adorned her feet. Flats on most days. I suppose being on your feet much of the day dealing with a roomful of kids would tire any person out.

I remember Mrs. Koffler would sit at the front of the class and read to us sometimes. I remember she would sit cross-legged. I would be listening to the story with the other students and admire her legs. She was a young lady and I’m paying attention to the story, but her legs were distracting me.

I remember on occasion I would sometimes drop my crayon or pencil on the floor so I could bend down under my desk to pick it up, all the while stealing a glance at her well-turned gams.

Funny how you like certain things even as a young boy. You’re too young to even have any thoughts or actions in regard to sex. I know I didn’t find Mrs. Koffler attractive and didn’t even really like her. But I would still check out her legs. Odd, how things fire in the mind even when you’re very young. It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s still a vision you find pleasing.

I was a bright kid but found school in general an enormous bore. It felt more like a prison to me.

It was the time of day for us to do art. Which meant all sorts of supplies appear and an assignment given. I was always surprised that even art was structured in school. You got assignments. I get it. Draw a nice picture and give it to your parents to hang on the fridge. It’s Thanksgiving. Trace your hand and we’ll make it a turkey.

The one thing they never teach in school is creativity. Because they can’t. They can only give you exercises to develop it. Because they can’t do it and don’t even know what it really is. They’re just the hired help. You either have creativity or you don’t.

So, we’re all making something at our little desks with cloth felt and construction paper and Elmers glue. I always like Elmer’s glue. My favorite thing to do with it was to pour a small amount into my hand and spread it out across my palm. I would wait for it to dry and it became like an extra epidermis on my palm. I would slowly peel it off, and I felt like a snake molting its skin. I noticed that the glue made a beautiful impression on my tiny hand. I could see every detail of my palm on the sheet of dried glue. It even felt like skin when dry. I could see the fingerprints and everything perfectly. I used to wonder if this type of glue would ever have any practical applications for law enforcement or forensics. But what did I know? I was just playing with something I should have been slathering on the back of a piece of colored paper so I could affix it to something else. It was non-toxic so no one would die if they ate it. (Which I have done. It’s quite good and not nearly as salty a delicacy as Play-Doh)

I was nearly finished with my little mandatory art project and got up from my desk to throw away some scraps of paper. Maybe I was distracted by the ethereal beauty of my classmate, the lovely Donna McHugh with her blonde wavy hair and ice-blue eyes. But somehow as I rounded a desk I slipped on a piece of felt that had fallen to the floor along with other artistic detritus.

My head struck the edge of one of the desks, just between the suborbital foramen and the margin. (My left eyebrow)

I don’t remember actually striking the desk or any pain. I just remember someone getting me to my feet and walking me out of the class. (I think it was room 6) I was with this person, (Maybe Mrs. Koffler?) and I saw something I never saw before. As we walked down the hallway along the polished light hardwood floor, I watched as drops of bright red blood dripped away from my face and struck the floor. Big drops. Just every few feet as we quickly moved along. Drip….drip….drip.

We got to the school nurse’s office and whoever brought me in left. I simply obeyed the nurse’s orders. I wasn’t frightened. I wasn’t in any pain really. I just laid down on the little cot. I felt the white butcher paper crunch under me. I just wondered why would someone put paper on a bed.

She went to work on me with bandages and compression. My brow was apparently split open in a nasty gash. I never saw it and I suppose that’s a good thing. I’ve seen blood before. No big deal. Boys are always getting banged up in everyday life. It’s part of having wild fun. I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t see it because maybe that’s when the fear may have crept in.

I’m assuming they called my mother first. She didn’t drive so I’m sure she then called my father who worked at the Provident National Bank over on Cottman street.

I remember lying on the little cot when my father walked into the nurse’s office. He was wearing his overcoat and of course his hat. My father always wore a hat. He wore a hat beyond when it was no longer fashionable. He stayed right in the late sixties with his style. He told me that if he wore his style long enough it would come back again. (It later did!)

It was weird to see my father at school. Only moms haunted the school. Not dads. They were all at work every day.

The nurse had stopped the bleeding and had me bandaged up pretty good. My father lifted me up into his arms and carried me out of the school. I liked being carried by my dad. You feel safe in your dad’s arms. His cold coat. His rough face. His aftershave. All safe and familiar. Strong. He’s going to take care of this.

He carried me outside and put me in the back seat of the VW minibus. He asked that I lie down and be still, but hold on. I don’t know how long the ride was. Everything seems long when you’re little. Time is a crazy thing when you’re young. But time is relative. If you’re 50 years old and something’s going to happen in 6 months, that’s no time at all based on how long you’ve been on Earth. But if you were 5 years old and someone told you that Christmas was 6 months away, that’s 1/10 of your entire life. That feels like forever!

Anyway, we get to the hospital. I don’t remember going in or anything about the place. Just that everything was bright white. They laid me down on a bigger bed. (More butcher paper) The doctor came in and looked at my head. I remember him saying he was going to give me a few stitches. I’d never seen stitches except on the Frankenstein monster in the movies. Would it be a long black line, with shorter lines going across it like in a cartoon? Is that what they really looked like?

I know my dad stayed in the room the whole time. I remember looking up while the doctor went to work on me. He had a curved needle and thread. I guess my head had been hurting and the tiny little pricks really didn’t bother me at all for some reason. You’d think with my anxiety I’d have been freaking out, but anxiety is the fear of what might happen. This already happened. The doctor was just patching me up. I felt totally calm.

The doctor told me that he had put 12 stitches in my head.

It didn’t take long, and within no time my dad was taking me out of there. I don’t remember if I sat up or laid down on the way home.

Whenever any of the kids in the family had a cold they obviously stayed home from school. Sure you were coughing and sneezing and were just generally uncomfortable. But the cool thing was, we had a convertible sofa in our living room. We never used it for guests. We only used it when the kids were sick. My mom would open it up, prop up the head, and grab some pillows and a blanket. It was right in front of the TV. So getting sick wasn’t really that bad. getting your temperature taken and eating gross medicine was a bit unpleasant, but you got to watch TV all day and not go to school. Oh, and your mom waits on you hand and foot. Brilliant day.

Soup. Toast. All the fixings!

So, dad gets me home and my mom already has the sickbed ready. I got in my pajamas and hopped right in. I had a bandage on my head so my sisters couldn’t see my injury or my stitches. I remember it being described as a little black eyebrow above my real one.

Everyone was making a fuss over me and I was happy to be home. I just relaxed on the bed with my two sisters around me in the room as we watched TV.

I guess my dad had left for a short while because for about a half-hour I didn’t see him. But he soon returned and handed me a big bag. I opened it and inside it was a box full of little plastic spacemen! They were red white and blue and in all different positions. (Just like army men) I was very grateful to receive such a bounty. It wasn’t Christmas. I had simply slipped and busted my head open.

“Charles was so brave today. He never cried and laid perfectly still during the entire process. I’m really proud of him.”

I’ll never forget that.

Physical pain isn’t so bad. It’s mental cruelty and wickedness at the hands of others that make me cry. That’s an enduring pain.

A week or so later they took me to our local doctor. Dr. Alexander removed the stitches once the wound had completely healed. “The other doctor said he gave you 12 stitches, well  I just took out 13,” he said.

Seems like a more appropriate number in regard to what had happened to me that day. The doctor did a terrific job on my injury that day. The scar is so light you’d never know I had one. I’d have to bring up the story and show it to you.

And if we ever meet, I will.

 

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George – The Rugged Outdoorsman – Part 1

I was having a tough time in middle school. The year was 1977. I didn’t like school or any other part of my life back then. I was a smart kid, but school just wasn’t my thing. To me it was simply happy hunting grounds for bullies and teachers alike.

However, I did have artistic ability and my parents signed me up for Saturday morning art classes at a high school across town. I would take the 26 bus north on Rising Sun avenue to Cottman street, and then get a transfer for the Y bus east up to Northeast High school.

Times were so bad for me that I have few memories from junior high. I think I’ve blocked most of them out to cope and grow as a person. I was skinny, had bad skin, greasy hair, glasses, braces, no athletic ability, and was getting bad grades. For some reason my mom made me wear polyester slacks and black leather buckle shoes to school. All of the other kids wore more casual clothes. I stood out like a sore, swollen, pimple faced, tinsel toothed, thumb.  I was basically a target for anyone who wanted to use me as an object of their scorn.

Just horrible.

It’s funny, when you’re that age and ravaged by puberty, many of your friends suffer from the same ailments. I always had a few loyal friends.

I brought nothing to the table back then, and take responsibility for anything I did, or didn’t do. But I can see now why I was such an enormous disappointment to my parents.

So every weekend, I would go to Saturday Morning Art Classes each week at Northeast High. There was a nice group of kids in attendance, and I met a few of them.

It was a welcome repose from my tortured daily life. It was a pretty laid back experience full of kids like me who enjoyed making art. The structure was loose and creative. I think the teacher’s name was Mr. Gilper. He was a talented, chill dude and always had cool projects for us to create.

They would play the radio during class and I thought that was cool. Back in the Seventies the two big rock stations in Philadelphia were WMMR and WYSP. Now only WMMR remains, but it’s become an incredible bore like most terrestrial radio stations in America. They played most of the popular rock songs of the day, and WMMR did the same, but played a bit more deep tracks. So, if you were a music fan, WMMR was the cooler station. I think DJ Pierre Robert worked there back then and he’s still there to this day.

I met this boy named George and we shared a passion for comics and rock music. He was a nice, gentle kid with kind eyes. I remembered that he liked how I made my own comics and created my own team of superheroes. Deneb-6, Lazar, Midnightess, Cestus, Prince Apollo, and The Prowler come to mind. I can still envision those characters.

We got along well enough, but once the classes were finished, I didn’t see him anymore. He was my art class friend.

I remember one Saturday I came out of class and they were holding a flea market in the parking lot. I browsed the usual junk people were selling at their tables. I saw this one guy had a box of comic books for sale. I had some cash on me, so I bought a few choice books the guy had. There were more that I wanted because I was an avid reader and collector of good comics. I basically spent all the money I had in my wallet on comics with this guy. (Like, $10.)

I got home and showed my dad what I had gotten and that there were more good books there. So my dad being awesome, put me in the car and we went back up there and we got the rest of the books I wanted. The guy had many first issues and I knew they were more valuable than what he was selling them for. My dad was a hard core toy train collector and so he understood my urgency. So that ended up being a great day!

I was 14 in 1977 and in 9th grade, which thankfully was my last year at Fel’s Junior High School. The nightmare was ending and next year I’d be attending Frankford High School. I used to describe 9th grade as the worst year of my life back then. But, that summer turned out to be the year I went from caterpillar to butterfly and everything changed for the better.

Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1977 – El Morro Motel

There are more great tales from that summer, but it was a watershed moment in my life. You can find the rest of them in the Search bar under Wildwood Daze. (See: El Morro Motel, Terri,  & Anna Marie)

Anyway, you get the idea. So I get to Frankford High in the Fall of 1977, and the world is a better place for me. It felt like all of the animals who tormented me in junior high all went to Northeast High. Frankford was filled with a better group of kids.

I don’t remember if I ran into George in 10th grade or 11th grade at Frankford. But for this story let’s say 11th grade because it’s the most memorable.

I was 16 now and everything in my life was better. I was getting better grades, my braces were off, I wore cool shirts and jeans to school. My mom let me grow my hair. I was lead singer in a rock band, and my level of cool had gone way up over the Summer.

I was sitting in English class one day and noticed this guy sitting just one seat ahead of me of to my right.

It was George from Saturday Morning Art Classes! By that time, it seemed like a world away. I think he recognized me first and we connected. We shared that class, lunch and gym.

We would draw funny comics about our lives. Not our real lives but a world where we were these cool dudes who played rock and got all the chicks. I mean, in real life I sang in a band and was teaching myself how to play guitar.

You can read the complete saga if you enter the word Renegade in the Search bar.

Renegade – 1978 to 1979 – Chapter 5 – The Sears Silvertone

George and I would have so much fun laughing at all of our little exploits in our comics. (I still have them all on sheets of notepaper!) We also started having lunch together. I had come such a long way from the little weasel I once was in junior high. I had become friends with the most powerful student in the school. This guy Chris, who my sister Janice had known since 1st grade. He sat across from me in art class. He was not only president of the student body, but quarterback on the champion football team. But he wasn’t a jock. He had all these powers but liked music and had a bunch of nerd friends, and he and I connected immediately. He and my sister were a grade ahead of me, but he took a liking to me and my sense of humor.

So my friend George and I got to sit at the end of the cool kid’s lunch table everyday at 5th period lunch. It was like just a couple of regular guys who got to sit at a table full of celebrities. It all seems funny now, but it was just football stars and hot cheerleaders. But in high school that’s a coveted spot to be in. High School is like a little fictional world you get to act out for a few years before entering real life. It mirrors adult life in some ways, but none of it has any real sustainability for the rest of your real life. I always felt like high school was a show I was on and it lasted three seasons before my character was killed off and I had to move on and find a new gig.

So George and I happily munched our peanut and butter and jelly sandwiches at the end of this table. Not card carrying members, just a couple of B-rate extras.

But, we started to hang out a little bit outside of school. I don’t even know where George lived. I never went to his house. I know he liked to go fishing.

He would come to my house and I think he brought his guitar with him. I was pretty clueless, in regard to the instrument but was eager to learn in the Spring of 1978. I was just the singer in the band, but the guitarist would let me play three notes on the break during the song, Draw the Line, by Aerosmith. (My favorite band on Earth.)

But George could actually play, and he started to show me things on the guitar. I knew where the notes were on the neck of the guitar, but needed some rock n’ roll fundamentals. George had these huge hands and he could reach from the first fret to the sixth, which is basically impossible for most people. It gave him the ability to create complex riff runs that would be unique to his playing.

I was struggling to pull the concepts of the guitar together even though I had a head for music and an excellent ear. I had some books with sheet music and chords in them, and George showed me how to read and follow them. Technically not read music, but enough to understand it.

Sidebar here: Someone once asked one half of the two greatest composers of the 20th century about how he wrote such incredible songs. He stated that he never learned how to read or write music in the traditional way. “I never understood all of those little lines and dots.” he said. “My music simply comes forth from my heart and my head.”

That man was Paul McCartney.

One of the hardest things for a new guitarist to do is to create the muscle memory to hold a chord in place. All of your fingers have to be on the right strings and you have to press them down with enough pressure so that the chord rings and doesn’t sound muted or buzzes against the frets. It’s a difficult feat and takes a while to learn and master. You have to train your mind to get your fingers to just automatically land on the right strings in the right formation to make the right sound. Once you get the chord right and the smile appears on your face, you feel like you’re getting it, and it’s a wonderful feeling. But then you go to move your hand to hit another chord and the whole thing falls apart.

It’s like being a baby and taking your first steps. One step… two steps… oops! Then you fall down. You get up and keep taking steps over and over, and the next thing you know you’re running down the street. Same thing works for learning the guitar. (Or, probably anything in life!)

So, George realized I was a neophyte, and simplified the process for me. He taught me a super basic way to get it done with less fingers and still achieve the same sound.

That style that he taught me, is the basis for twelve bar blues. The boogie woogie chord, he used to call it. With my index finger and ring finger he showed me how to play the chord in a simplified manner. He also taught me how the blues worked and the chord progressions. How certain notes went together. What he was teaching me as we sat in my bedroom, was the foundation of all rock music.

George taught me how to play the blues.

Once I understood what sixth route and fifth route was, I was on my way. That was the evolutionary leap I needed to go forward. I don’t know if I ever told him, but in that moment, George was literally the monolith and I was the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I swear to god… it was on that level. That evolutionary leap.

What George taught me on those afternoons, catapulted my music creativity. The first thing I did, once I understood the basics of rock was to start writing songs. They were simple, and sounded like Ramones songs, but it had begun. My rock and roll life as a musician began thanks to George Schauer.

I know in high school he always thought I was cool, because I knew some hot chicks and had art and humor going. But the boy that gave me his friendship and time were more valuable than anything else in my life at that time.

Thanks to George, when I put that guitar on and started actually playing songs by Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and the Rolling Stones, I had become part of a secret club. Little did I know that my friend who I knew from Saturday morning art classes and English class, had become my mentor.

Once I learned the fundamentals, the rest fell into place and because of my love of the instrument and the music. From what George taught me took me from novice, to rhythm guitarist in the band Union Jacks six months later!

That fifth and six route basic style were the building blocks to some of the heavier riff driven stuff I would go on to write and perform in my future bands. Yes, the building blocks to my heavy metal sound.

I’m sure George didn’t know what he had given me. But he actually gave me his post prized possession.

His time.

That’s the greatest gift you can give someone, because once you give it, you can never get it back.

Thank you, George. You changed my life.

 

After 11th grade my family moved and I had to take my senior year at Wildwood High, which is documented in this blog. (See: Wildwood Daze)

I never saw or heard from George again.

Until now…

 

More tomorrow!

 

 

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

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Eileen – Chapter 17 – Farewell My Love

Eileen has been an absolute delight to have as an employee at the salon.

She’s 18 and gorgeous. I’m actually surprised I got her.

She called to see if we needed help and I was desperate. She came in dressed to the nines and looked 23. I texted Achilles immediately for where the hell the job applications were.

She called and I really needed help but when I saw her and had to have her.

She was immediately hired, and she took to the salon like it was her own.

I liked that she had a natural knack to service. She’s a hostess at an Olive Garden back at home inn St Louis in the summer. I have found the perfect employee.

Eileen has been amazing in every way at this salon. Achilles is free of the bullshit of staffing and I am bringing him his best.

Eileen is amazing and is the perfect employee that’s always on time. I manage her schedule and Achilles doesn’t have to deal with it. I do this all summer long.

How bad is my life? I kill it at the salon and work with the best girls in the world.

I feed and reward a good staff.

My girls kill it for me. I make the salon my own. They will heave free food and drinks whenever they desire.

Eileen is in a relationship with a boy back in St Louis. They wear promise rings. I take Eileen out on weekly dates to piss him off. It’s funny, because as much rage as Thomas feels, it’s unfounded. I am simply rewarding the fine work I’m getting from Eileen. She’s fantastic and one of the greatest hires I’ve ever had.

Thomas needs to cool his jets and know that I’m not some creepy old guy after his girl but a dad who adores his staff and takes good care of them.

Thomas has been angry lately. He thinks I’m a pervert. I like that. Be worried, child. I am simply rewarding a couple of great ladies for kicking ass during our busiest season.

Eileen and Amelia are the greatest employees we’ve ever had. I adore them both,

I’m honored they’re both in my life.

Ease up dude.

Eileen is a great girl you should honor because she’s amazing and forget about me.

I just loved being with her because she’s amazing.

“I’m not after her. I love the great work she did for me. Settle down, Thomas.”

Eileen is going back to St Louis and her work is done here.

She came in to see us and say goodbye, but it’s bittersweet, because we’re not just losing the Spring help. I’m losing Eileen. One of the best employees I’ve ever had.

But I have to understand. She has to go home. She’s worked so hard on her studies in Criminal Justice at Drexel and given her all here at the salon.

I dream of employees of Eileen and Amelia. We’ve been blessed this season.

I have loved working with both of these wonderful women, and enjoyed my time with them.

Eileen was mostly food and Amelia was more about cocktails, but I love that.

Help has been the major challenge at this company, but I have eradicated that problem with these two wonderful people.

I’ll miss my time with Eileen. She has been a delight to work with. Her personality, her dress code and service have always been first rate. She’s a lovely, smart girl that always looked great for work, and treated the clients with such great hospitality.

I trained she and Amelia and they were both on point.

It made life at the salon so much better during our busy season.

The clients don’t care, they just want to get their base on. But the girls have been amazing and innovative to keep everybody happy. That’s I how I trained them.

I miss Eileen already.

She boarded a jet back home for the summer. She works at Olive Garden as a hostess in her home town. She’s already asked me for a raise when she comes back.

Future lawyer.

I love her.

She texted Amelia and myself when she was going home and said she would miss us.

I know she’ll be missed far more by Amelia and I.

Can’t wait to see our friend again.

 

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

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10 Life Changing Things to Do While You Are in Self-Isolation

When it comes to the coronavirus, we are all in this together; but we are not in the same boat.

“When’s my ship coming in?”

“Swim out to it!”

When it comes to the coronavirus, we are all in this together; but we are not in the same boat. You may well find yourself alone at home, either because you are in self-isolation or because your employer has asked you to work from home. You may also find that you have less work to do as this crisis will be putting a stop to many business activities across the globe.

If you are an employee of a cash-rich company, then good for you. You will probably continue to draw your salary.  If you run your own business or work for one that has stopped trading, you could well be in a worse position. Last but not least, many of us will also be concerned about the health risks of the pandemic virus.

This article is by no means intended to trivialize the hardship that many of us will experience over the coming weeks or months, however, I would encourage you to find something positive in this difficult situation. Maybe that self-isolation and extra time at hand could be used to create a positive change in your life, or perhaps even new opportunities for your career or business?

Here are a few projects that you could take on while you are stuck at home, if indeed you are not actually ill (in which case you should rest!):

1. Review your life

Most people are so busy running on a hamster wheel each day that they never make time to stop and review their life from a bird’s eye view. I recommend everybody to make time once a year to reflect on the big questions of your life, such as:

  • Is this still the life I want to live?
  • Do I love my career?
  • What would satisfaction in all my key life areas look like?
  • What is most important to me in my life?
  • Where do I want to be in 5/10/20 years?

If you are in self-isolation, this could be a great opportunity to work through these questions in detail.  A coach like myself can assist you with this. Coaching can be done very safely and effectively via Skype video calls.  In fact, I receive my own coaching via Skype from people I have never met in person.

2. Learn a new skill

Hand on heart: Who here is guilty of having bought an online course in a bout of enthusiasm but then never completed it? I have for sure! Now is a great time to dig it out and work through the course; or buy a new one and actually complete it this time!

Maybe:

  • you always wanted to learn French?
  • you know that completing a software coding course would improve your job opportunities?
  • you have wanted to learn SEO strategies to boost your business?
  • you feel attracted to a creative writing course just for the sheer pleasure of it?

3. Brush up your CV and LinkedIn profile

Speaking of your job, if you are dreaming of greener pastures, how about brushing up your CV and improving your LinkedIn profile? There are lots of guides on how to do this available on the internet or Amazon. You could even go further by reaching out to your network and contacting recruitment agencies or a coach to discuss your career plans.  It is quite likely that over the coming weeks they will have more time to talk to you than normal.

4. Learn Meditation & Mindfulness

If you find it hard to stand still and be alone, it’s likely that you would probably benefit from practicing exactly that. Learning to enjoy being mindful and practicing meditation can be life-changing. It can improve your emotional wellbeing, sharpen your mind and reduce stress levels. You may even find that mindfulness will open a door to a completely new joyful experience of life. There are plenty of online courses on mindfulness available; or try a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace.

5. Connect to neglected friends

This could be the most powerful of all the items on my list.  Scholars of Positive Psychology tell us that social connections are the most important ingredient to our happiness; much more than our career, that dream job or looking beautiful.  Maintaining healthy social connections is particularly important when you are in self-isolation. It helps you keep our mental health on track.

Thanks to modern technology we can still connect to others even when we have to stay at home alone. A skype video call will be almost like having the other person sitting next to you. How about making time to have calls with all those friends and family members that you have been neglecting recently? How cool would it be if this crisis actually brought us closer together despite social distancing?

And don’t forget ordinary phone calls. When was the last time you spoke to a friend and truly listened to them, fully concentrating on their voice without browsing the internet at the same time?

6. Create a business plan

Ever dreamed of running your own business? Do you have lots of ideas but don’t know how to make them happen?  How about taking one of those ideas and think them through in detail! You can download a basic business plan template from the internet that tells you about all the items to consider, such as the basic concept, ideal client, the pricing model, route to market, etc. Do a SWOT analysis (you can look that one up too!) and exchange ideas with your friends over Skype. You can also work with a coach to explore and test your ideas.

Perhaps you could start by creating a website for your business? Sites like Wix and Squarespace make it super easy and fun.

7. Get fit

Get fit at home! How, you may wonder? Well, if you have free floor space of at least 1m x 2m, then that’s all you need to do a tough workout. There are lots of apps that offer workout routines that don’t require any equipment. My favorite is Freeletics. You tell the app your goals, basic stats and fitness levels and it will deliver weekly tailored fitness plans. You may be surprised how tough they can be.  Exercises such as burpees, push-ups and lunges will increase your fitness very quickly.

Obviously, don’t work out if you are actually ill with the coronavirus. In that case, your body will need all energy for recovery.

8. Sort out your finances

Do you know how much money and assets you have, and how much you spend on what? Do you have a nest egg and a retirement plan? These are topics that we tend to avoid, partly because retirement seems so far away, but also because we don’t really want to look into our finances out of fear of what we might find.

Well, now is a good time to do exactly that. Dig out your bank statements and create a list of where your money goes. Are you spending too much on the wrong things? Do you have savings to help you through times of crisis like the one we are facing right now? Perhaps it’s time to change your spending and savings patterns?

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If you find this hard to do, you don’t need to do it alone:

  • There are lots of apps that can help you with spend monitoring.
  • Contact a financial advisor to discuss your retirement plans.
  • Some charities offer free financial coaching.
  • Get a lawyer to finally make a will.  It’s cheaper than you think.

9. Declutter your home

Our home environment has a massive impact on our emotional wellbeing. Any of the following may well affect how you feel at home:

  • Your house is cluttered with lots of stuff that you don’t need.
  • There are piles of work that you think you “should” be doing.
  • Your home looks faded or untidy.
  • There are unfinished DIY jobs in every corner.

These things can be real energy-suckers. How about using your free time in self-isolation for a proper spring clean:

  • Ruthlessly give away to charity what you don’t need.
  • Tidy up your rooms, drawers and cabinets.
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to your walls.
  • Create a list of all jobs that need to be done and complete one of them each day.

Then enjoy the wonderful feeling of a lighter and fresh environment.

10. Spring clean your garden

Having sorted out your home, how about working on your outdoor space if you have any? Gardening is a fantastic activity with plenty of benefits such as:

  • physical activity that improves your fitness
  • exercising your creativity in a healthy setting
  • connecting you to nature
  • calming your senses and any anxiety you may be feeling
  • satisfaction from creating a beautiful space

What’s your next project?

Hopefully, one or two of the ideas in this article have inspired you to pick a project that creates a new opportunity in this time of social distancing.  Maybe the list even promoted a better idea of your own?

It all boils down to a key life skill that I cherish:

Rather than focusing on what you can NOT do, focus on what you CAN do!

This mindset turns an unhelpful complaint into a resourceful question that can generate new solutions for your life.

You are the master of your own life.  What are you going to do with it?

(Don’t just eat and drink too much and watch TV… That’s on you. This is your moment! Do something productive!)

 

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

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly