Friday, October 11, 2013

“Grand Marquis + 30 Years”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

On a recent day off I met one of my friends after work, for dinner. Our rendezvous happened near her home in Ashtabula. The trip back to Thompson involved a bit of driving. So I decided on a leisure tour of Route 20, south of the lake.
In Geneva, I passed the “Trading Post” where long ago, I had purchased a couple of vintage guitars. The business closed soon afterward, sitting idle since the 1980’s.
East of Madison, I spotted a 70’s Mercury Grand Marquis for sale. This vehicle proudly displayed all of the style one would expect from that bygone era. It carried a vinyl roof and rear-fender skirts. The beast was powered by a 460 cubic inch V-8 motor.
It was particularly interesting because of a personal connection.
Thirty years ago, I lived in Ithaca, New York. Late in the summer, friends who knew my parents decided to visit them in their new home, which was the community of Chardon, Ohio. My father was a pastor and had moved the family many times since my birth in Columbus, circa 1961.
Myron Morey invited me to join his wife and daughter on the trek. Their oversized Mercury promised to make the trip a comfortable adventure.
We exited my upstairs apartment on Fayette Street just after sunrise. I had not really prepared for our journey and felt woozy upon leaving. Artistic friends thought it was crazy to return to Buckeye Country under any circumstances. But I wanted to see my family again.
We floated over the highway like a yacht navigating open water. The tour went smoothly until reaching a place called Geneva, just off of Interstate 90 inside Ohio. There, Morey’s Mercury shredded its fuel pump. We limped off the road, to a service station. A mechanic on duty proclaimed that the car needed a $90 repair.
And our wallets were nearly empty.
We explained this situation, and promised to return with the necessary funds once we had reached Maple Avenue, in Chardon. Amazingly, the station manager let us leave.
During our visit, I attended the Great Geauga County Fair for the very first time. We drove around the county, sightseeing. The Morey clan marveled at observing rural Ohio, directly.
When we reappeared in Geneva, the station manager looked surprised. He accepted payment of our bill with obvious disbelief. The drive back to New York transpired without any further excitement. I was hugging my girlfriend by nightfall.
I could not have known that in only a few months, Chardon would be my home.
Unemployment and poor judgment soon found me without a place to live. My girlfriend moved back to California, and I took up temporary residence under a bridge and with a variety of friends.
During my last nine days in the Empire State, I conducted a music recording session with friends from the group “Absolute Zero.” I chain-smoked Camel cigarettes through this rebellious, Rock & Roll ordeal.
Then, I said goodbye.
Chardon was completely unfamiliar. I had little more than the clothes on my back, with no money. Walking around town only reinforced my sense of isolation.
I celebrated Christmas of 1983 while pondering the awesome power of fate.
My present for the season was a vinyl copy of “Undercover” by the Rolling stones. I spent countless winter days huddled inside listening to “Wanna Hold You” and “Too Much Blood.”
Almost thirty years later, the Mercury Grand Marquis, east of Madison, resurrected these visions from my past.
I pulled off the road, for a quick vehicle inspection. My iPhone captured pictures, to be reviewed after returning home. I guessed that the vehicle must have been of a vintage sometime around 1977. It was colored a creamy shade of gray, with a maroon, vinyl roof.
Myron Morey would have been proud.
The gas station in Geneva had long since been reduced to an empty lot. My own awkwardness with Chardon had turned to calling Geauga’s capitol “my adopted home town.”
Mr. Morey and his wife had both passed away.
But the used Mercury offered a chance to time-slip back to this fanciful, earlier age.
The car interior was filled with rubbish. A poster display of the seller’s local phone number graced the rear, driver’s side window.
While taking phone photos, I noted signs around the property that warned of an alarm system and a canine guard on duty.
A desire to exit quickly hung in the air. Yet I lingered for a moment, with reflection taking hold. I remembered playing my Les Paul guitar on the elevated porch at Fayette Street, in Ithaca. And homemade tortillas fried up by my girlfriend with eggs and sausage.
“Thirty years,” I whispered, standing behind the massive Mercury. “Thirty years gone by.”
The window sign offered no details beyond a Madison phone number. No price or mileage claim. No year designation.
I wondered to myself about the likely cost of this relic.
“$1,000?” I said, silently, to myself. “$1,500? $2,000? Or more?”
A doggie defender did not appear. There was no sound of an alarm. Just the mechanical whirring of traffic going by as sunset took hold.
I bowed my head in tribute.
Thirty years had gone, but the Mercury was unchanged.

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