Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE
In the summer of 1964 our family drove a white Ford Custom from Oregon to New York to visit relatives and attend the New York World's Fair. My cousins drove in another car beside us. To this grade school boy, the country was vast and spacious and full of weird bugs. We drove on endless highways, through vistas I'd only seen in cowboy movies, wheatfields and cornfields and farmland where giant trucks hauled produce. Freight trains rolled through the heartland. The car radio played "Rag Doll" and "Under the Boardwalk" and songs from the latest pop sensation from England, The Beatles. We drove all day and stayed in a secession of motels at night, where my Dad and my Uncle Randy would unwind with a bottle of Four Roses and smoke cigarettes until late. We stopped in Indiana, to visit my uncle's family, and all the kids had heavy southern accents and said the N-word regularly and we ate chicken and white cake for dessert. On to New York. I'd been too young to remember when I'd lived there before, but now I was wide-eyed and amazed by the skyscrapers and the crowds. We stayed in Brooklyn with the New York cousins. We ate baked ziti for dinner, and talked about the trip across America while my cousin Gerard mocked his brother Joey. I'd never seen such insolence. At night there were fireflies outside and we played on the street with the corner boys, including Little Anthony and Big Anthony. We talked about the scariest movies we'd seen. Meanwhile, my Oregon cousins stayed in a hotel in midtown Manhattan right next to the Empire State Building and were too terrified to leave until we rescued them. Dad, New York born and raised, showed them the ropes. We all went to Coney Island, ate frankfurters at Nathan's, and walked around gawking. No, I didn't get to go on the Parachute Jump. It was a broiling hot summer, and the World's Fair was jammed. I begged my parents to buy me a Beatle wig. They wisely refused. We took turns pushing my little sister Bekki around in a stroller shaped like a car. It was impossible to believe the stream of people from all over the world, every race and religion, soldiers and sailors and screaming kids and exhausted parents. We floated past Michelangelo's Le Pieta on a conveyor belt and took this ride through the future in the General Motors Pavilion (shown below). That's what I did on my summer vacation.