It’s a Buick Roadmaster Deluxe. For sale for $4,000 if you’re looking for a project. It’s been parked at various spots around Mariposa and Alabama streets, a couple blocks from where I ply the radio news editor trade, for at least a month. (Those stacks in the background of the top photo–I’ve been looking at them for the last year and I haven’t yet investigated what defunct local manufacturing operation they might have been part of.)
At 18th and South Van Ness. I walked by a couple months ago at midday while exploring a different route to work. I haven’t investigated, but maybe the location is part of a bygone chain (on the other hand, the sign says “since 1955”). In any case, it’s the one and only Whiz burger stand I know. I haven’t yet sampled the fare.
It’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
`By thy long beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me ?
The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin ;
The guests are met, the feast is set :
May’st hear the merry din.’
He holds him with his skinny hand,
`There was a ship,’ quoth he.
`Hold off ! unhand me, grey-beard loon !’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
By my mother’s account, she went into labor sometime late on March 31, 1954. Dad drove her to a hospital on Chicago’s far South Side; she didn’t supply the detail on how she got to the hospital, but it’s the only way I can imagined it happened. The weather, from what I glean from weather records, was cold; March had ended with an 8-inch snowfall, and the And then, she said, they waited. She was in labor all the way through April Fool’s Day. Then around 9 in the morning on the 2nd, I made my debut. I’ll go light on further details.
So here I am, at the threshold of 55. I know it’s not one of those big decade numbers. Still, there’s some weight there for me. Maybe it’s the memory of my father losing his long-time job when he was 55. I was talking to my friend Pete about that episode recently and how back then, in the age before the mass layoff, getting fired or pushed out, especially from a job one had invested 25 years in, as my dad had, carried a sense of death with it. At 55, you weren’t a kid anymore. How were you supposed to pick up the pieces and continue? As it happened, my mom went to work and my father did put the pieces back together.
So, 55. I’ve found myself thinking about the group of kids I went through school with in the fringe suburbs of Chicago, kids who had birthdays around mine. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep track of a few of them. One’s a petroleum geologist, now working in Nigeria. One’s a job counselor for the emotionally disabled in the Sacramento Valley. One’s an atmospheric scientist in Chicago. Another runs a homeless advocacy group in Indianapolis. And one is a programmer-type down in Texas.
Odd to think of them all hitting this age. I remember them in First Communion class, or on the playground the day President Kennedy was shot, or helping run a classroom campaign for LBJ in fifth grade, in the band room at our district junior high school, or on the basketball court, softball diamond and football field (many of these people showed up in more than one of these scenes, along with a cohort of other friends, older and younger, who I’ve not forgotten).
Not kids anymore, but I knew them when they were.