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.

 

 

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7 Grounding Techniques To Calm Anxiety When You’re This Close To Losing It

Because it happens to all of us. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life. But as I’ve gotten older I learned to rewire my brain and spank those demons and make them pay.

And you can too.

No one is immune to feeling anxious at least on occasion. And no matter who or what it is that sparks your pending eruption, knowing how to calm down the anxiety and anger you feeling when you’re seriously this close to losing it can save you and those around you a lot of collateral damage.

Life happens, and a simple chain of events can slowly stoke a fire within you. Then all it takes is one “he said/she said” or “they did/they didn’t” to push you across the threshold into this close-to-losing-it territory.

Once you’ve learned some effective grounding techniques and coping skills for calming anxiety, calling upon them can be far more empowering than impulsively unleashing your fury ever will be.

Here are seven tips on how to calm down when you’re feeling anxious using simple grounding techniques and positive coping skills.

1. Excuse yourself, gracefully

Leave the room, the situation, the area, or park the car, but get yourself to a safe place. That can even mean staying right where you are until the heat of it subsides.

It may be a big test of your inner strength not to storm out of a situation while huffing, puffing, slamming chairs and doors, but do it with grace anyway.

Depending on the circumstance, leaving may not be possible or ideal. Take a deep breath before asking for a time out (or simply informing them that you are taking one), and be sure to do so in a calm and controlled way — even if you have to fake it.

Graceful exits may also mean hitting pause by drinking a glass of water and feeling it dampen your fire. If no water is handy, you can imagine it.

Leaving in a civilized way, either literally or virtually through a pause, versus going into full throttle bulldozer mode can be the step that helps quell your eruption from spewing.

2. Put pen to paper

Intense anxiety or anger can be vanquished by saying what you feel you have to say on paper rather than directly to the object of your frustration.

Kick it old school by handwriting everything that is on your mind so you can vent about this current situation.

The benefits of handwriting as opposed to typing it into a text message or email are twofold:

  • You can’t accidentally click send and unleash your unfiltered thoughts, feeling, and words into someone’s inbox
  • When you finish venting, you can shred the pages with your bare hands (another bonus), leaving no digital trace that may inadvertently be found later

Handwriting has been proven more cathartic than typing, and as well as to help improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills. And being this close to losing it needs solving.

And as explained by Eric Grunwald of MIT’s Global Studies and Languages Department, “Freewriting, a writing strategy developed by Peter Elbow in 1973, is similar to brainstorming but is written in sentence and paragraph form without stopping. Thus, it [increases[ the flow of ideas and reduces the chance that you’ll accidentally censor a good idea,” which can add another level of efficacy in reducing your angst.

3. Visualize the old heave-ho

Fantasizing about flipping the desk over, clearing the table in one swipe, or playing Frisbee with your laptop. It feels good and satisfying, doesn’t it?!

Visualization, also known as imagery, has been a tool employed by Olympians and other elite athletes for decades, and there is much evidence backing its efficacy for putting desired outcomes into motion without ever leaving the room.

How far can you imagine your laptop will actually fly? How well does it bounce?

Keeping your action-packed fantasy in your head allows you to see the action, feel your muscles contracting, hear the thud of your desk, taste and smell the scene in excruciating detail, without leaving an unpleasant mess to clean up afterward.

When you are this close to losing it, you are so wrapped up in the instant gratification of the moment that you don’t see the final scene — the one where you have to pick up the pieces and clean up the debris, all while shrouded in regret, remorse, guilt, and shame for literally following through with your actions.

4. Get tactile

When you are in overdrive and your foot is fully depressed on the accelerator on the thisclose freeway, take the off-ramp by redirecting some resources from that feeling and shifting them to a tactile action like counting your toes.

With the bulk of your attention invested in your current state, very little of you is connected to the physical.

Whether you are standing or sitting, wiggle your toes and notice how many you can feel. Press each individual toe into your shoe and count them, one toe and one foot at a time. Repeat and repeat again.

By counting your toes, you begin to re-ground yourself. You can go further by scanning your body and noticing how your shoe feels or how the fabrics you are wearing feel against your body or what the chair you are sitting in feels like.

This is especially effective when you are in a situation you cannot dismiss yourself from. Tuning into your body helps to calm the mind, and therefore, your emotions.

5. Catch your breath

When in a high emotional state, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, which in turn moves you closer to losing it because it’s like fanning the flames of a fire to burn bigger.

Box breathing or four-square breathing is a grounding technique used by Navy SEALs you can put into action no matter where you are and is a highly effective way to get back into control of yourself when things are reeling out of control.

  • Inhale slowly to the count of five
  • Hold for a count of five
  • Exhale slowly to the count of five
  • Hold for a count of five
  • Repeat

As Healthline reports: “According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of calm.”

Deep breathing also delivers more oxygen to the muscles you are clenching as they begin to release with each cycle you repeat, essentially disarming the cortisol accumulation simultaneously.

6. Get physical

Dropping down and doing ten push-ups to burn off your anxious or angry energy may not be appropriate at the time, but taking yourself out for a brisk walk can help.

Being in nature helps calm the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight, flight or freeze” response), and putting your pent-up energy into your pace can help to return you to calm.

Even when you can’t get outside to commune with nature, you can use the power of your mind to take you wherever you decompress best.

Maybe your happy place is a white sandy beach where the ocean waves wash all your stresses away. Or perhaps it’s riding down the open highway on your motorcycle, sitting under a tree, or climbing a mountain.

Creating or recalling an image that brings life back into perspective is only a thought away.

7. Grab onto gratitude

Chances are, in a moment when you are trying to figure out how to calm down, you are as far away from feeling grateful as you can get.

However, you always have the power of choice, and flexing your gratitude muscle may effectively diffuse the situation.

Bring to mind someone who you are wholly grateful for, or think of ten things you are grateful for in your life. Feel that gratitude infuse your body and mind.

We cannot feel fully grateful or fully enraged at the same time, so go with the positive feelings gratitude evokes.

Most importantly, you can think about how grateful you will feel for not losing it when you don’t, as well as how proud you are of yourself for keeping it together in this volatile moment in time. Remind yourself that feeling this close to losing it is temporary, and gratitude is the long game.

Keeping a gratitude journal and choosing to be intentionally grateful for the people and things that add value to your life helps sustain you in times like this.

Gratitude acts as an antidote to stress. The benefits of giving thanks in our life are endless, especially helping us to build our resilience overall.

Be aware that not any one of these tips is guaranteed to work for you every single time you need to calm yourself down.

You need to find your combination of tools to get you on the other side of losing it, and all are most effective when sampled and practiced before you need them.

Regardless of how few or how many you need to use these techniques and skills, it’s worth the effort, in the end, to find what works best for you.

The Absolute Dater – Making Online Dating Easy Again

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Back The Tracks – Part 6 – The Pink Inferno

Philadelphia, PA – Mid 70s

My friend Michael and I were hanging out in one of our forts just chilling one afternoon. We’re just chatting and watching the trains roll by. We noticed some other kids who we didn’t know across on the other side playing around with matches. We figured just a couple of firebugs like us.

But stuff starting to catch a little bit and we decide to investigate. They were a little younger than we were, so we felt a bit of hierarchy there, (plus this was our territory, We had forts!) We crossed the tracks to go talk to them.

Growing all along that side of the tracks on the Cheltenham side were these pink colored weeds. We knew most of the plant life around the area because we had all come home at one time or another with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Pretty, gross. I had it all over my arms once and not only does it burn and itch it creates these little pustules on your skin that burst into tiny yellow crusty sores. Yea, the woods are fun. We tell them to watch out for the pink weeds because they’re really flammable. We’d used them before to help get our little campfires going. But these idiots are just doing what they want and before we know it, the pink weeds start to burn.

Pink Muhly Grass | Naturehills.com

Normally the tribe just take off their jackets and beat down the flames. That usually worked for us, but it’s getting a little bigger. At one point somebody says, “Does anybody have to take a wicked piss?”

No one did, so that solution was struck down. Fire on dry weeds start to spread, and somebody had the brilliant idea to pick up this big slab of wood the size of a door and say: “This will put it out,” thinking that will crush and extinguish the flames. Normally that could work, but what it did as it fell, was create this burst of air that landed on the main fire, but blew the flames out all around it. Now the fire was 5 times bigger.

There’s a moment when boys realize they’ve lost control of a particular situation. At that point, there is only one solution. And that my friend, is to RUN like Hell.

Michael and I knew the fire was out of control and bigger than anything we’d ever seen. If we ran back across the tracks and headed home, neighbors would see the two of us, walking away or running away from a blazing fire and billows of grey smoke coming from where we just were. We’d totally be blamed because the other kids simply vanished at some point heading south.

So thinking quickly, Mike and I ran west across the old ball fields. They led to the woods we were very familiar with, and we just kept going. We ran through the woods in terror not looking back. We were so frightened and paranoid we’d go to jail for being framed for arson and burning down the woods, we just kept running. There was a path that ran along Tookany Creek. I told Micheal we shouldn’t take it because if they put together a search party, they’d look on the path, and what if they brought dogs? We were so just so scared. Our fear had hit hyperdrive. I came up with the idea that we should slide down the embankment on the creek edge, and follow the creek south as far as we could. No one could see us from the woods down there.

I remember back then we referred to Tookany Creek as, “The Crik.”

We made our way along the creek bank for about a half-mile, stepping on stones making our way along the creek out of sight. We got pretty far down until we came upon a small waterfall, so we knew where we were. We climbed up the embankment and got back on the path.

I remember, while down there making our way along the creek I found an old metal helmet. It was underwater, banged up, rusted, and looked pretty old. It was round with a wide brim and I knew it didn’t look like a modern army helmet I’d seen soldiers wearing in movies or Vietnam footage. We figured it was maybe from the Civil War. Our young minds conjured up battles fought a hundred years ago between the North and South. A helmet lost in combat right in the woods on the edge of our neighborhood.

But we’ll get back to that.

We walked up Levick street which was a huge hill. Not as high as Martin’s Mill road but a solid climb. We got to the bridge that went over the tracks and climbed under it. There was a cool space where you could sit under the overpass out of sight. Just a moment of repose to gather our thoughts and plan our next move. It’s funny when you’re a kid you think you find all of these cool hiding spots around your neighborhood. But, there’s always evidence somewhere to show you that you weren’t the first ones there. I’m sure kids had been hanging and drinking under that bridge for years.

Still scared to death, I said we should walk east on Levick street until we got to Rising Sun Avenue. We got to the corner of Levick and Rising Sun and headed north along the avenue. We strolled along, fanning our jackets trying to get the smoke smell out of them.

Once we got to our street, we turned left on Magee Avenue. We casually walked up to Oakley street and then down our block. This way, if anything was going on it would look like we were just two innocent little boys who were coming from the opposite direction to whatever destruction had occurred. As we approached my house we saw the white Cheltenham firetrucks sitting over by where the fire had been. There was smoke still billowing up from a very large section of the pink weeds that had been decimated by the fire.

We went into my house through the back door and I ran the old helmet up to my room. I came back downstairs and Michael and I peeked out the front porch side window at what was going on over there. Our parents would have skinned us alive and left us for dead in a ditch somewhere if they thought we had any part of something where the Cheltenham Fire Department had to come and put it out.

Michael and I never talked about what had happened that day for a long time, but later when we told the story it was always good for a laugh.

Oh, and that helmet I found…

When my mom saw the rusty helmet in my bedroom, I told her I found it in the creek. (Not a lie, even though it was connected to a two-alarm blaze!) She knew my friends and I were a bunch of trash pickers so she never raised an eyebrow. It looked worthless like many of the things we found.

I sprayed it gloss black, and painted a German Iron Cross on it. I just thought it looked cool like that. It sat on the radiator of my bedroom for years until I agreed to lend it to my sister for some play she and her classmates were putting on. I told her I wanted it back when they were finished their little show, but I never saw it again after that. I think some little weasel absconded my helmet. I was a little salty that my cool helmet was gone. Had someone realized it was an authentic relic from the Civil War and sold it for a bunch of money?  But, I was so busy in my life by then I pretty much forgot about that.

Turns out it was only a doughboy style, early World War II Civil Defense Helmet.  Sounds like an impressive collectible, but you can buy helmets like the one I found today that are in better shape for about $40 on eBay.

ORIGINAL EARLY WWII CIVIL DEFENSE HELMET - OD DOUGHBOY STYLE

So, no harm done Sis.

Tune in next Tuesday for, Wildlife and Evil Pets

And Thursday for,  Back the TracksThe Journey to Metamorphosis

 

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

Back The Tracks – Part 4 – Railroad Detective

One afternoon I was with my friend Paul, and we were walking around the woods and the train tracks. Whenever a freight train went past we’d always throw stones at the boxcars just to see if we could hit them and watch them bounce off. That one boxcar is 30 tons. That’s 60,000 pounds. A rock hitting that is like a fly bouncing off a car door. I’ve touched a boxcar close up. It feels like a stone wall.

We had entered the tracks by way of Passmore street. Passmore was a little street that had a steep incline that ended in a roundabout at the bottom. Beyond the end of the street was a stone wall. You could climb over the wall to the right next to where a fence began. Once over the wall, you could see the railroad tracks. But if you looked to your left there was an embankment that led down to some sort of water drainage area. The water was shallow and full of rocks. There was a stone tunnel that went under the tracks and led off to a large, round stone pit. You’d see the occasional rat running around back there in the rocks. Beyond that was the woods that led through to Tookany Creek.

After doing a little bit of research, I found out that the word “Tookany” is actually derived from “Tacony,” which is derived from the term “Towacawonick,” which means “uninhabited place” or “woods” in the language of the Lenni Lenape American Indians (Unami Language) The place we all played was once inhabited by people that had been here for a long time before our ancestors ever arrived here. I always wondered what those kids were like.

Think of this sort of tunnel but with shallow water running through it.

Bridgehunter.com | BO - Tunnel No. 6

None of us knew why it was there. I’m assuming that maybe because Passmore street ended in a steep hill, it was once used for drainage and sewage removal many years ago.

There were all sorts of graffiti on the walls and bits of detritus everywhere. My all-time favorite bit of graffiti sprayed on that wall was the following joke:

“Dick Hertz was here.”

“Who’s Dick Hertz?”

“Mine does.”

I’d seen graffiti before but I always liked that someone took the time to write something funny that would give boys a chuckle whenever they came through the area.

I remember one night, Buddy Drew, (I’m pretty sure he lived on Passmore street) came running up to us and told us to come and see something wonderful happening on his street. My friend Michael and I walked over there in the rain. Parked on the corner of Passmore and Newtown Avenue was a long black limousine. I looked in through the tinted window and could see an 8 track tape of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti in the player. We peeked through the bushes of the house where Buddy told us the magic was happening. I could see the celebrity through the window chatting with his cousin, (or, sister?)Miss Tallerico.

It was Steven Tyler.

Anyway… back to the story.

So we’re throwing rocks and just doing the things boys do. But one of the unspoken rules was that no one I knew would ever throw a rock at a passenger train. We just didn’t do it for obvious reasons.

I remember my mother telling me once she was sitting on the train one day headed into the city when she suddenly heard a loud bang, and when she looked down her whole lap was covered in tiny bits of broken glass. Passenger train windows are like automobile windows in that respect. They don’t shatter creating big pieces because they’re a piece of transparent tough flexible plastic inside the window. So if it breaks it busts into little nonlethal bits and the window technically doesn’t break a hole in it. Some idiot obviously threw a rock and that was the outcome. So stone-throwing at passenger trains was a big no-no in my neighborhood. It just wasn’t a cool thing to do because somebody could get hurt.

So, later we returned back to the treehouse at the end of the lot near my house. We just sat there doing our thing. Paul had to go home so he ended up climbing down and headed out.

A little while later I decided it was time to go home a well. So I started walking up the lot toward Hasbrook Avenue. When this black car slowly pulled up out of Newtown avenue and into the lot, blocking my path. A man got out and wasn’t wearing a uniform or anything.

I had heard of railroad detectives through local schoolboy lore. But I didn’t think they were real. Well, apparently they were and still are. But there was a part of me that thought this guy might be a pervert that molests kids. We knew about the whole stranger danger thing even back then. I also wondered why this guy showed up now. It had been hours later, and I was now alone.

Chuck Malloy Railroad Detective on the Streamliner by McClusky, Thorp: Fair Hardcover (1938) 1st Edition | Frank Hofmann

He started asking about me and my friend throwing rocks at trains. So he must have seen us when we were all the way down by Passmore street. I was pretty nervous about the whole situation and explained that we would never throw rocks at passenger trains and were just doing a little target practice. I don’t know if this guy was just doing his job, or being a dick, or indeed a pervert.

But he pulls out this pad and pen and starts asking me questions. He asked my name and my address and my phone number and a bunch of other standard questions, but I remember him asking me other stuff like did I go to church and stuff of that source. That’s what seemed weird about the whole thing.

He ended up letting me go and didn’t do anything to me, but I was just scared that he’d call or come around my house and tell my parents. I just didn’t need one more thing for my dad to knock me around.

But that memory always stuck with me, and I never heard of it happening to any other boys I knew at the time. Just a weird day in the life of a kid.

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

How to Plan a Date to Knock the Socks Off Anyone You Want to Impress

You’ve got yourself a date—great news! Now the reality sets in of what you must do, how to plan a date to remember! It’s all in the creativity…

A great date isn’t about huge amounts of money spent. It’s not about doing something crazy and out there. No, knowing how to plan a date to remember is about being creative, thinking of something fun, and being yourself. It’s really that easy!

Most of us panic when it comes to planning a first date. We’re so high on the energy of them actually agreeing to go out with us. Then, the panic of what to actually do on the date dawns on us.

The good news is that understanding how to plan a date to remember isn’t really about needing huge amounts of time or cash. It’s about thinking outside the box.

How to plan a date to remember: The dos and don’ts

Let’s explore this subject a little more deeply, and touch upon the dos and don’ts of a great date.

#1 Do avoid checking your phone. Okay, you might need to leave your phone on just in case of an emergency, but do not keep checking the damn thing! There is nothing more annoying than not being present. Your date will notice it and wonder whether you’re wishing you were somewhere else.

Think about how you would feel if your date was doing the same. Incidentally, if they are, it’s probably time to find another date altogether!

#2 Don’t stick with the regular routineDinner and drinks? Boring! Cinema? No time to talk! Rather than sticking with the regular tried and tested routines, when it comes to knowing how to plan a date well, the best tips all center around doing something different. Go to the zoo or a festival. Check out a local event or see a comedy show.

Basically, go somewhere that interests both of you, and avoid the regular haunts which put far too much pressure on how a date goes. By being creative, you’re setting the scene for conversation and quirkiness, not regular boredom!

#3 Do find out if they have any specific fears, irrational or otherwiseIt’s a good idea to do a little delving before you plan the date. Find out if there is anything they really don’t like or are fearful of. For instance, we mentioned going to the zoo. What if your date hates animals? Unlikely, but it’s possible!

You might plan a butterfly sanctuary visit, and they’re really scared of the little creatures! By asking questions about the things they like and don’t like when you’re generally chatting and texting, you’ll avoid these kinds of minor disasters.

#4 Don’t have a friend obviously lurking nearbyThere is a difference between letting a friend know where you’re going for safety and actually having them sitting at the next table! Your date will notice. It certainly won’t make them feel comfortable! If you don’t feel safe with your date, whether you’re the one planning it or not, don’t go. It’s that simple.

#5 Don’t think you need to splash the cash. You don’t need to spend a fortune to plan a great date. If they are only impressed by money, they really aren’t the type of person you should be dating anyway. Of course, it’s nice to offer to pay, and it’s nice to go to quality places. If you’re really low on cash, don’t feel pressured into heading to a fancy bar for cocktails.

Sometimes, the small touches really mean more. We’re talking about things like holding out a chair, holding open a door, taking a coat, etc. These things are far more valuable than anything money-related.

#6 Do attempt to impress with your sense of humorThe number one thing which most men and women find attractive is a sense of humor. Don’t turn the date into a stand-up comedy routine, but make them giggle a few times. This disarms the other person and puts them at ease. Bonus, it also makes you feel more comfortable.

When you make someone laugh, you’re showing your true personality. Who you are is what will really shine through. Which leads onto…

#7 Do be yourselfThe biggest piece of advice on how to plan a date, above everything, is to always be yourself. Never try and be someone you’re not simply because you’re nervous about how it will go. Remember, if things do go well, you’re going to need to keep up the pretense of being someone different for any dates following. That’s just downright exhausting!

Be yourself and you will shine. It’s really that simple.

#8 Don’t choose a venue too far awayFor the first date, choose somewhere relatively close to home for both of you. This is not only for convenience but also for safety. You don’t know this person well. You don’t want to be a million miles away from home if things don’t go as well as you would like. In addition, the drive there and back may be awkward!

#9 Don’t put too much pressure on the first dateIf you place a huge amount of pressure on yourself and the outcome of this date, then you’re not going to enjoy it. You’re not going to be the best version of yourself, and it’s probably going to be a disaster.

If on the other hand you relax, enjoy your time, and simply be yourself, you’re more likely to not only have a great time but also bag a second date!

What makes a great first date anyway?

If you watch anything from Hollywood, you probably think that first dates have to be swish and hugely impressive to make it to date number two. This is not true. A great first date is about connection and having fun together. It’s not about money or huge effort.

Of course, do your best to impress, but impress with your personality above everything else. Some of the best dates are simple in nature. For instance, a walk through a national park, followed by a lunch in a cozy country pub is a wonderful way to spend your first date together!

If you go too over the top, keen and eager to impress, chances are that you will come over as ‘trying too hard.’ That’s never a good thing. Most men and women are turned off by someone who’s clearly trying to impress with money and flashy items, rather than their sense of humor, warm personality, and wit.

Being humble and kind is a far better option. Even the biggest failure of a date can turn into a success with a smile and a quirky remark to make someone laugh!

When it comes to knowing how to plan a date that impresses even the most difficult to impress date, the simple tactics are always the best. You simply need your personality, creative thinking, and the ability to make someone smile.

 

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