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Self Indulgent Nostalgia Series (S.I.N.S No. 3)
If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't, yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.
Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Star: Dana -- A gentlereader
"If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?"
Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& gentlereaders),
I confess that I've always loved the freedom a car provides -- and that I'm not even a little bit worried/feel guilty about my carbon footprint (science and the market will solve this problem if The Gummit and the Greenies stop helping them so much) -- but I only enjoy driving on slow hand roads. I've never been into speed for its own sake. I hate freeways.
Now that I'm an oldish Sexy Seasoned Citizen (I turned 39 for the 27th time this Summer) I'd rather have a driver, but I want my own vehicle parked in the
If there was any justice in the world, I'd be a wealthy man with a world-class personal assistant whom I would cheerfully pay a world-class salary. One of his duties would be to drive me around in a not white, nondescript, commercial-sized van with a cap and a suspension modified for comfort -- and equipped with all the amenities of your average Rolls-Royce.
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Prior to the age of 12.75, I lived in inner-city Pittsburgh (with an h) Pennsylvania. The first ten of these years were the last ten years of the Black&White Ages.
Just about all the necessary minimum requirements for survival could be met within walking distance of home. Multiple corner stores where, if one's cash flow was a mere trickle on a given day, a gumball could be purchased for a penny and you might get a metal gumball that could be turned in for a prize.
[Imagine what the lawyers would do with metal gumballs nowadays. If you bit into/swallowed one back then you might tell your mum, certainly no one else lest you be labeled a maroon.]
There were all sorts of pizza and burger joints, almost none of which were the local outlet of a national chain. Somehow their food was seasoned with a certain undefinable essence that doesn't come in a container.
This, of course, wasn't necessarily a good thing but any neighborhood kid with a clue knew where to eat and where to avoid by the age of seven at the latest.
Also, I must give a shout out to a regional chain, White Tower, that made the best burgers I've ever had. I know this is true because, although now long gone, they were still around when I was on the verge of gruphood.
Their burgers were seasoned with a secret blend of herbs and spices (why does that sound familiar?) that did come in a container. You could buy it by the can and if it still existed I'd pay a hunnert bucks to get my hands on one.
There were pinball machines shoehorned into all sorts of places (analog games rule!) that cost a nickel for five balls.
We had both a Good Humor and a Mr. Softee Truck (the baby boom was booming).
You could buy a hearth-baked soft pretzel from a corner pretzel vendor the size and shape of a large thumb for a penny.
[What's any of this drivel got to do with cars?]
Oh yeah, thanks Dana, my point is/was you didn't need a car to access the necessities of life. You could even buy crap like groceries, shoes, and clothes within walking distance of your house, and walk to school without being on the lookout for rusty white vans with cracked windshields.
[Before I forget, a shout-out for the 12th Street playground and the 22nd street playground/swimming pool. Oh, and 5 cent vanilla, chocolate, or cherry cokes mixed up on the spot and served at drug store soda fountains.]
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When I was 12.75 years old, we moved to the 'burbs. My mom and dad bought their first house. It was tiny and they could barely afford it but for the first time since they had gotten married, they owned a home.
There was well water to drink, grass to cut, and woods bordering on the back yard. There was even a small creek not far from the house that came with factory-installed mosquitos and a varying selection of aftermarket, discarded junk.
There was a tiny shopping center with a hardware store, a bank, and a drugstore about a half-mile away. The nearest supermarket was several miles away. We didn't own a car and couldn't afford one. Besides, my old man, mid-fifties and a confirmed city boy who had never owned (or driven) a car was an unlikely candidate for drivers Ed.
Ruh-roh Raggy! (To be continued...)
Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day
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