Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tales from the Roadmaster

Beware the ides of March, or you may repeat your road trip.

Yesterday's drive East was my ritual trek to help Mom make potato cheddar soup and Irish soda bread for the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon for the 68 bridge-playing women in her club, which involves me doing a lot of chopping, measuring, tying and stirring to produce the necessary foodstuffs, party favors and accouterments to ensure a good time.

So naturally, I drag my butt out of bed hours earlier than usual to make it to the Northern Neck early enough that Mom isn't freaking out about how much we have to do, only to walk into the house and find them still at the breakfast table reading the paper and finishing up their pastries.

At 9:45, mind you.

"Oh, I figured you'd be late because of the time change," Mom says, casually. No big deal, in other words, except usually she wants me there just after dawn.

If there's one thing I've gleaned from my regular visits to my parents, it's that the rules change on a whim. Octogenarian privilege, I guess.

Besides helping Mom with food prep, Dad wanted assistance with hanging the two clocks I'd gotten fixed for them at the Clock Shop next to Mekong, a crazy place with scores of clocks chiming consecutively on the hour and a clock maker who looked straight out of a Disney movie.

I assumed it would be a quick and easy process assisting Dad in between making vats of soup, but instead, I was recruited to help scout locations, measure distances horizontal and vertical, hold drills/anchors/screwdrivers and rearrange furniture post-hanging so that the refurbished clocks could be shown off to best advantage.

But my favorite oddball chore came from Mom. Presenting me with a tiny, porcelain frame and an ancient black and white photograph in three sections, she asked that I "restore" the photo and re-frame it, please.

It was a tiny picture of my impossibly young-looking Dad sitting on a brick wall when he was stationed at Fort McNair. Without missing a beat, he says to me, "You can see why she was so interested, as handsome as I was."

And his image is handsome, but one arm is missing and most of the left side of his body has disintegrated with age, but I set about doing my best to tape what's left back together - some pieces crumbling to dust as I do so - before attaching it to a sturdy backing piece and returning it to the frame.

Because apparently Mom still wants to look at that crumbling picture of the man she fell in love with all those decades ago.

They just don't make romantics like they used to, do they?

Today's trip to the Northern Neck involved no one I was related to, but instead two men who sat me down at a farm table one of them had made a quarter of a century ago to spend hours talking about everything from chasing moonshiners to doing sound and lighting for bands.

Just to mess with my head, one of them brings out an old black and white photograph - not nearly as old nor crumbling - of himself and three buddies the day they left for Myrtle Beach after graduating high school.

The man standing in front of me is also the handsomest one in the picture and I tell him so.

"Oh, I wasn't so much," he says, clearly pleased at my compliment. "But look at that old car!" He's right, the curves of the Buick Roadmaster behind the boys are a thing of beauty and that big ole hunk of Detroit iron must have made for fabulous driving to the beach, so now we really get to talking.

I thought I'd be there for an hour and the entire afternoon is gone before I return to my car, one of the guys saying, "Well, it was gray when you got here and now it's sunny and beautiful! Sure you don't want to stay for sunset?"

Yesterday's sunset had been spent at Shelley's Comida Latina - or as the sign says for us gringos: "Shelley's Food" - after a favorite bartender had raved about the place as his go-to Monday joint. I knew the location well because it's where I used to go for Not So Classic Movie nights back when it was River City Diner and Grill.

Not a lot was different except the booths and the Latino MTV playing some of the corniest music videos ever, although even having table service was a decided step up from before.

Our timing was off, though, because I wanted beef tongue tacos and the tongue was still cooking, drat the luck.

We made do with the taco variety pack - yard bird, pig, steak - and shrimp tostadas, as a steady stream of Spanish-speaking customers came in for take-out or a quick bite at the counter, before cutting out for Sonny's Bar and Grill where I once saw a KISS cover band - despite not being a KISS fan - and met a lot of locals - as in born and bred Lakeside guys - over the course of a very loud and riotous Saturday night.

Turned out to be poker night at Sonny's and practically every table was full of card players - again, lots of Lakeside boys and a few women - so we had little competition for bar seats.

Probably a good thing since our bartender (who called herself a gin and tonic girl despite having a fondness for cheap tequila) was having a terrible, awful, no-good day because her man had looked at her phone and seen that a former boyfriend had messaged her.

First of all, and I don't even have a cell phone, but what kind of boyfriend snoops around on your phone? But she was upset because although she'd done nothing wrong, he was giving her a hard time about it all, ruining her day.

"I've been married twice and I don't need that shit any more," she said after a smoke break to clear her head. "I just need friends with benefits. You live in your house, I live in mine. I like things a certain way and I don't need anyone messing with my stuff."

Honey, find yourself a friend. Then pour yourself a G & T and enjoy the hell out of those benefits. Problem solved.

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