Every generation has that romantic notion of what life once was. We remember fondly the schools that chipped away, or tried to, our individuality. We felt like prisoners in a giant building. So in time we restore the memories with a twist. We remember the friends, the laughs and the lunches. When we pass by that giant building – only to notice that it has dwarfed over time, it still looms large in our mind and soft in our heart.
There were the old people who sprinkled our lives with humanity we mislabeled as crotchety.
The old man opening his window to tell the kids playing outside to, “Be quiet! and go home.”
The old lady walking pushing her laundry in a wagon as she crosses the street without looking, almost gets hit by the oncoming traffic; then curses at the drivers who dare to honk.
Time is the caretaker of life – it mops, cleans and takes away the waste, the spoiled and the old. Sometimes, too often, it discards the fresh, the young and the unfulfilled. You can complain all you want – its a one sided argument.So we move on, time discarding some of the pain but never enough to keep the paths of the hallways clear so we can pass.
In keeping with our revisionist images of our past – we remember the old candy store where we would hang for hours – Oscars, which was located between East 5th and Ocean Parkway on Kings Highway. An old couple we knew as Oscar and his wife ran the place. He made egg creams, sold a lot of candy, kept the place kind of dark and most importantly, housed the video games! Space invaders, Asteroids, Donkey Kong and of course the car racing games.
There was Jerry’s Auction Outlet, where we would buy our wiffle balls and the occassional clincher softball.
But nothing speaks romance like the Carvel Ice Cream store on East 3rd and Kings Highway. I think I am lost in my own romantic nostalgia when I remember it as an extension of heaven on earth. Lallapalooza, flying saucers, those milk shakes and the parfaits in hard clear plastic containers that showed the layers. My favorite was always a chocolate cone with chocolate sprinkles.
On Wednesdays, when it was Sundae – they would have the 2 for 1 special. Buy one sundae and get the second one free! So we would partner up with someone and split the cost. Or we would, I would, invite one of my friends of the opposite sex to a free Sundae. (they didn’t always say no!)
The line was long and all the cast and characters from our lives were on that line. From parents, to friends, to foes, to teachers, Jews, Italians and policemen.
In my minds eye we all are talking and laughing, In reality, who knows? Who cares at this point? Isn’t the past and its memories kept for our own sanity so we can look back on them as a safe place to go? So we change the past – who said it couldn’t be done – to better frame our present.
The filters are cleaned and the dialog is changed. The actors, the scenery improve as the time passes and only the idea remains the same. We were all younger and had more options back then. Freedom wasn’t a cause to fight for – it was our reality. Yes we had that old building we were confined to 8 hours a day, 5 times a week – we had rules we needed to follow at home and had pimples the night before a big party or date. But in our mind – it was simpler back then. Seeing our friends daily was not a choice – it was our job.
The things we dreaded and the situations we were forced into when we were children brought about the things that define who we are as adults. Could it be that the traits in people we dreaded and disliked back when we were younger are part of the people that we have now become? The old man screaming out the window – is that my role to play today?
Writing is like acting, you put yourself in situations and then you write about who you are and what you see. Life is just a combination of the two – we live our lives acting in our homes, in our jobs and in public settings, playing the roles as a chameleon adapts to its environment. When you are younger, in school, in your home or on the streets, you learn the nuances of the role playing you will need to survive. You learn to smile when you feel like you need to cry, you learn to be silent when you yearn to fight back.
So the memories of who we once were, where we once traveled and the places we kept in our daily lives – they shine all bright and shiny. Why sully the memories with cracks and mud?
There was a parking lot on the corner of east 3rd and Kings Highway – with an Ice Cream shop in the middle. When I recall it I see it filled with cars, music playing and everyone I knew sitting outside, laughing and joking. We are all young again, the canvas yet to be touched and the torch just lit, shining bright.
These days I am serving my time on stage for 8 hours a day. I put on the costume, paint on my smile and head on out. I need to hurry and get to work now. On my way I pass the streets where I spent my time in my youth. Today when I pass east 3rd and Kings Highway, even though Carvel is long gone and a building stands in its place, I will smile and remember. Maybe for old times sake I will even say under my breath, “Chocolate cone with chocolate sprinkles please?”