The man was finishing his ice cream cone as we walked in.
Dressed for Sunday, he was clearly enjoying it while sitting by the window in the sun. The store was busy, and the server scurried around behind the ice cream counter scooping and mixing. As she began cashing out a customer, she stopped suddenly and headed to the door – where the old man was about to leave. Thanks for coming, she said to him – touching his arm slightly as only as friend would do. After finishing the customer’s transaction, she started to cry before helping us.
“That man? His wife just passed away. He came and ordered a cone for each of them and ate both.”
She wiped her eyes. “Sorry,” she said smiling. “It’s totally fine,” I said back.
I was crying too.
An extremely vivid memory from the past popped into my head this morning as I drove The Clark Boys to school.
David wanted to hear AC/DC’s Back In Black on CD while we drove; when the first song “Hell’s Bells” rang its way in, I was immediately transported to 1981, and a club in North Seattle called Mister Bill’s. One night like many nights those days, a friend and I were cruising in his Nova SS. We ended up at Mister Bill’s parking lot, near a beautiful red 1969 Chevy Camaro parked across two spots. I didn’t know the owner, a guy in his early 20s, but I knew his leather-clad copilot: a 15-ish year old classmate of mine who I hadn’t seen at school for a few months. Her coat was black, her brown hair was feathered, and her jeans were wide. All perfect for the time, down to the heavy Joan Jett makeup. To this day I don’t recall her name. She was cagey about why she hadn’t been at school. Talk turned to his Camaro, then Hell’s Bells came on the guy’s stereo.
With the windows down, the bells in the song echoed across the parking lot and attached that time and place permanently to my brain.
He explained all the work done to the car – fast motor, sound system, red lacquer paint, Crager S/S rims, and a suspension rake that had 1979 written all over it. The car was beautiful, and presumably fast. “Yeah, it gets me in a lot of trouble,” he explained. “Cops pull me over all the time, just because it’s red.” Since that night I’ve always wondered if that was a myth, because I’ve heard arguments from both sides. Still, I can close my eyes and see that car – jacked up in the rear and gleaming under the parking lot lights. And the girl leaning against the front fender. I always remember the girl.
And whenever Hell’s Bells plays, I see her in my mind – all over again – and wonder whatever happened to her.
When I was 11-years old I “designed” a space ship.
It had a modular design (see above right, drawn today from memory), which allowed for the center section to be disconnected from the front control module and the rear engine module. That way the center module could be purposed in many ways, and swapped out for other units – a process which promoted utility and efficiency. With my design, fewer ships were required. Never mind that the ship I created looked vaguely similar to the “Eagle” landing craft used in the TV show “Space:1999.” I was 11. I was impressionable.
My space ships were called the “Flying Tigers II,” and they were part of a story I never finished.
Like the original Flying Tigers during World War II, the story of FTII started with a volunteer group of humans helping an alien race in the 21st century – against the attacks of a vicious interstellar foe. The ships even carried the fabled “Shark’s Teeth” on the nose from the original Flying Tigers, an artistic treatment that I also went on to use in college for The Food Shark: my pizza delivery car. While the story of Flying Tigers II wasn’t completed, the space ship design stuck with me in countless doodles and drawings. When I read that NASA was designing a reusable orbiter, I sent them a picture of an FTII ship and a letter explaining why its modular design would be a good configuration to use.
And NASA replied.
“We like your submission very much,” the letter explained (paraphrased), “but unfortunately we have already designed our orbiter (space shuttle is drawn above left). Thank you for taking the time of sending it to us.”
They also sent along an entire folder filled with space shuttle books, magazines, and space info. Somewhere in my archives (aka “Plastic bin in garage”), I have those documents, my uncompleted story, and several drawn versions of the FTII ship. At the time I was learning about drawing in perspective, and many of the works show FTII in dog fights in space.
The fact that I was able to draw it today from memory – nearly forty years later – might give you an idea of how often I drew them. Just thinking about FTII today brought back many great memories of being that age, plus the wonder and limitless possibilities of creativity.