DOUBLE LIFE OF A YOUNG WOMAN
Flash to the Past "Cuisine"
Traveling through Time in my Mind
DOUBLE LIFE OF A YOUNG WOMAN
Looking back, looking forward
As a younger woman, barely out of my teens; I traveled these United States extensively. Having all the necessary ingredients; youth, curiosity, no commitments, and nothing to hold me down; I’d take off at the mere mention or suggestion that “we should go to Colorado,” or “I wonder how Gail is doing in Oregon?” I had no fear, no worries and, fortunately; there had been no bad experiences in my traveling adventures previously.
These flights of fantasy were so easy to do. Just grab a few things and jump into the Van or, in more daring times; stand by the side of the road with my thumb out, hoping a kind soul would pull over and take us to (many times) destinations unknown. During these traveling escapades; it wasn’t unusual that wherever the driver was going was also where we were headed. With no absolute itinerary and no time constraints; with little money during a time when it was possible to see the world on a dime; we’d hit the road with great expectations and wearing rose colored glasses. Everything was possible! Nothing could or would get in our way! We were completely confident that every thing would be just fine! Thank God and with great good fortune; this is exactly how those years unfolded.
AWE INSPIRING EYE OPENING
One of my favorite things about traveling, then, was the awe inspiring freedom; the ‘newness’ of every breaking day; the delight and surprise in the discovery of new landscapes, exciting cities and small towns ‘out of the way and off the beaten path;‘ places which were a large part an unchanged aspect of the recent history of my country. I was deeply moved by the discovery of large cities, too; exuding rushes of anticipation and enchantment that stirred my imagination! Such a mystery! What would it have been like to grow up in such places?
Drifting down towards the large expanse of lights just as dawn was about to break brought tears to my eyes. What wonder lie just a few miles away? I would try to imagine what life was like for all those people who lived in such a large city. Lights, sparkling and twinkling in the distance were everywhere! My mind conjured up fantastic tales of young lovers, excitedly living day to day in a thriving environment full of music, art; so many things to see, touch, feel and experience! Just as we were descending from the mountainous pass, before most would be awaking to a new day; I felt the magical sense of a city coming alive just as we entered. Tired, exhausted from traveling for hours still, the event of driving into the heart of an early morning beginning held mythical allure for me.
I’ve always been drawn to remnants of our past. I love old buildings and interesting architecture. I am thrilled walking down the street of ‘any town,’ U.S.A….specially when that small community harkens back to the earlier, romantic, era of our collective pasts. The roadside cafes, truck stops, “mom & pop” corner stores and more. Driving off the highway into a little traveled enclave caused my heart to skip a beat and an almost palpable yet subtle excitement….I can’t explain this and I don’t know why; it just was…and is.
I love the old style ‘truck stops.’ Those individually owned and operated shops which were not franchises and you’d be hard pressed to find another one just like it….anywhere! The waitress calling the order to the fry cook, while she is so familiar with her ‘regulars.’ Diners were addressed as “honey,“ and “darlin’ “ in a friendly, familiar acknowledgement as they swung the door wide open on their way to the counter. Everyone who sat at that counter was given an opportunity to spy the goings on through the large, open pass through where orders were written on small 4 x 5” pieces of paper that were hung on round carousels which the cook would grab so that he could begin that order; and huge, steaming plates of freshly made fare was passed back through the opening to the waitress, who would rush it out to the waiting customer. Voices were loud, music always playing, smoke drifting about waist high along the aisle (because, smoking had not yet been banned from eating establishments), and light shone through the large, room length windows which were partially covered w/louvered shades. Truckers lined the curved counter, greeting and nodding to one another; hungry as bears and edgy, too, for reasons which I won’t mention, here!
Reliving the past this way; visiting areas of our country which were not touched by time and change; set my heart aflutter and raised a level of anticipation the likes of which nothing else could stir.!
IN FANTASY AND IN FACT!
Have you ever spent time in a vintage ‘soda fountain,’ where old fashioned malts, shakes and big, home made greasy fries are served up as regular fare? Sidling up to swivel stools at a long counter running the length of the shop, with the little caddies holding salt and pepper; mustard in squeeze bottles beside catsup containers of the same design and the always present sugar and cream service? What a treat! What great fun it was to play with the music jukebox selector kiosks placed in such a way that every patron could access the magical musical devices! Such artists as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Vee, James Darin, Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley and more graced page after page of these eclectic, music players offering what we now consider vintage tunes. During my early traveling days, these had already become ‘Oldies but Goodies!’ Funny thing, though, is that in the roadside cafes and Main Street restaurants of the ‘50’s which still were going strong and “business as usual” several decades later, such places were what the locals experienced as every day reality. That was it! Nothing out of the ordinary! The interior of diners and road side restaurants were taken for granted; not something out of the dreams of a young woman traveling her way through life.
The service dishware in these establishments of yore consisted of thick, off white, worn and heavy china. Sometimes, these industrial strength plates and cups were gaced with a single stripe of color to embellish the design. Coffee cups probably held about 4 to 6 ounces of liquid but the refills came without asking. Plates were piled high and filled with home cooked goodies…all the ‘bad stuff’ we avoid at all costs, today.
Having lived in a quickly growing and rapidly changing little town striving to be a destination spot which meant everything ‘old’ must GO!~seeing areas of this country where such businesses were main stream was a delight and discovery.
When I walked the streets of such places, than as now, it as if I have been transported in time. There was and is a strong sense of having been here before; déjà vu…a familiar memory. I like to feel transported in time; as if the year is not the present but, somewhere in the not so distant past. When strolling along, looking at the surroundings for the first time; being moved by first impressions; is wonderment exemplified!
I feel as if I belong .
Have you ever felt this way? The attraction of the past….the romance of history, the yearning for simpler times? And, just around the corner….just out of sight, you just know you’ll see that old, familiar friend……
NOW YOU SEE IT - NOW YOU DON’T
Recently, we drove from SE Kansas back to California in the first of several adventures in moving. We were in a hurry so we were not able to drive Route 66, the fabled highway so notorious as the icon of highways in its day; turned into a "must see" part of travel plans. Made notorious by the inimitable series “Route 66” with George Maharis and Martin Milner as Buz and Tod, whose stories were told while traversing middle America in their two tone Corvette! “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” the theme song written by Bobby Troup (and repeated by many famous artists such as Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry and, even, the Rolling Stones in 1964) made the series even more widely viewed and popular for the 4 seasons it ran.
Always looking for that Americana of the past to rise up from the ashes of destruction caused by the government’s mad rush to “upgrade and update” our aging towns and cities known as Urban Renewal. I have found this experience harder and harder to find. Each time we drive Hy 70 to the north or Hy 40, lower towards the south, I keep a keen eye out for vestiges of our past. Perusing the landscape, checking to see if ‘that old structure’ has been abandoned or, cross my fingers; still houses an active peek into the past; “could it be?”, a café or diner.
Sadly, as each year passes, and we find ourselves ‘on the road again,’ I have seen fewer and fewer of these fabulous road side havens. They are being replaced with cookie cutter, one and the same, carbon copy plastic fantastic “wanna be” restaurant franchises doing their darndest to mimic the natural ambiance of the past.
No can do!
They fail, miserably!
Now, in place of what actually was; we have all out efforts to replicate it…embellish it, “add to.” I say, you cannot improve upon perfection; and perfect were these fine places because they were just what they were…and NOT trying to be anything else.
I shall continue my search for the Real Dealio!
Hello my friends! I’m jumping around with this ‘series.’ I seem to have reached a roadblock regarding many of the earlier childhood and adolescent experiences…I trust they will return! In the meantime, I’m going to fast forward to early adulthood. Here is the first effort.
Thanks for reading!!