Gambler Rick

By Dr. Vince

About six miles south of Jim Thorpe, Pa., in the small town of Lehighton, is a bar called the Wik-Wak. Nobody is precisely sure where the name came from, but there are some theories, and some stories. One such story is that back in the sixties the Wik-Wak was a gay/straight bar – that there was a sign in the front window that read WE DON’T CARE WHICH END OF THE WIK YOU WAK. Of course there is some disagreement about the sign. Some say that it read WHETHER YOU WIK IT OR WAK IT, YOU’RE STILL GONNA WIKE IT. Some say there never was a sign of any sort – that the name came from an obscure candy bar from the fifties that boasted of having a filling made from 13 different nuts. Which seems more to the point. The Wik-Wak is a sort of breeding ground for absolute nuts.

Fridays at the Wik-Wak are great days to observe this particular point. If you sit at the bar, you can be next to any of a variety of strange characters – the kind of folks who make Fellini films look like senior proms. There’s Katie (Spunky) Lornwist who’s blown every guy in the bar at least three times and is quite proud of that record. Her solicitation involves the ever so delicate "Hey, got any money and honey, honey?"

Then there’s Gonzo Gornelli. Folks at the bar say of Gonzo "Why, if that boy were any smarter, he might just qualify for retard school." Gonzo is a plumber’s helper, which means that he shovels the shit and they get the money. But Gonzo doesn’t mind shoveling shit, and you sense that right from the start. He’s one of those guys you can look at and just know he shovels shit and takes shit and doesn’t mind. He has the look of someone who almost expects you to expect him to shovel shit.

There’s also Bugsy McGurck, called Bugsy because he’s had crabs more times that Hollywood producers had Doris Day before she was a virgin. There’s also Willie "Get it Right" Tangpoon. Folks at the Wik-Wak just sidle up to Willie and say, "Come on, for chrissakes – it’s Poontang!"

But my favorite of all the characters at the Wik-Wak is "Rumblin Rick the Pickle Dick." The "Rumblin" part comes from the fact that Rick has some mighty temperamental intestines, and so when he sits at one end of the bar you can frequently hear them rumbling at the other.

The "Pickle Dick" thing is a whole other story. It turns out that Rick used to have this saying – an exclamation of sorts. When things went very well or very badly, if his luck turned one way or the other, if he found himself surprised, amused, terrified, he would draw in a big fat breath and say, "Weeelllll, pickle my dick!"

It seems that, in the spring of ‘79, Rick bet on the horses at a track in New Jersey and lost big time to an outfit that people don’t want to lose big time to. When they came to collect at the Wik-Wak, Rick didn’t have any money. Apparently, the guys who came to collect were nasty looking boys, and feeling somewhat threatened by their presence, Rick became flustered. He sat back shaking, drew in a fat breath, and just wailed out without even thinking "Weeelllll, pickle my dick!"

As it turned out, these folks had the enthusiasm and the wherewithal to do just that. And so they knocked Rick off his stool, threw him in the trunk of their Cadillac, and drove to the kind of remote cabin that all gangster affiliates seem to have. There, they tied him to a cot, cut a whole in it, slid his dick through, and strapped it to a jar of pickle juice. It stayed there for thirteen days while Rick ate and slept and watched TV, and everything else. There’s talk that during this pickling of his dick, Rich begged for the pickling to cease, for the burning to cease, but in spite of his desperate pleas, the pickling went on. On and on and on. And they say that at the end of these thirteen days, Rick’s dick had, in fact, been pickled. Rick says that when they let him go, his dick looked like a kosher dill, but most say it looked more like a gherkin.

Anyway, the pickle is the point. Which is why when Rick walks into the Wik-Wak on Friday nights and the bartender, Joe, who is the only person I know with a tattoo of a scar on his arm, saunters up to Rick with the pickle jar and says, "Pickle, Rick?" or is that "Pickle Dick?", it’s kind of sad and kind of funny. It’s sad because Rick really had his dick pickled. But it’s also kind of funny because Rick had his dick pickled.

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