As the month of August progresses, the subject of summer vacations are still high in demand. Although this week through its next ushers the “back-to-school” line of rule as many of the school districts around the nation (Los Angels included), as well as colleges and universities running under the semester scheduling system (starting around the last week in August) begin their classes, we thought we’d present one final essay over summer vacations as experienced by yours truly over the many years.
Although the first two issues told about a trip I had taken with my family, this tale will focus on taking a trip on my own, a time where I didn’t have to rely upon my dad driving the ol’ family vehicle to a destination that they through of. This time around, I would be behind the wheel of a car driving to where I wanted to go, and to other places that would be of interest only to me. There would be no deciding by a committee on where to go, what to see, or to find out if the place of discovery would even be worth the time, space, and money. In other words, it’s “my” vacation! Not a vacation to a destination that my folks felt I should (or would) appreciate, but someplace that is designed by me, for me!
And that solo vacation did take place in August is that month would become my final opportunity to get away before I was going to start another session in school. This time around, it wasn’t elementary school, middle school, or even high school! It was going to be college. Lucky for me, the first college I would be enrolling in worked under the quarter system where the first week of classes didn’t begin in late August, but late September. So I would be free in the latter part of the month, and would be able to grab those summertime antics before I would be tied up (so-to-speak) for the next few months sitting in some classroom somewhere.
That first post-family-era vacation journey was based upon a whim that I encountered. I didn’t plan on taking this trip, let alone decided to where I wanted to go. It was set upon a day a few weeks before where I had the chance to pour over the Sunday newspaper!
The Sunday paper was the only edition that was chock full of sections to ponder over. Sure, there were the first section with the hard news, but nobody wanted to know about what was going on in the would on a Sunday! Yes, those events were important for what they were. But this was Sunday, a day where one can be lazy as to read the whole thing while in bed having a late breakfast consisting of anything one wanted to chomp on for the first meal of the day; A bowl of Froot Loops to last night’s pizza slices. As stated, it was Sunday! And on Sunday, anything that wouldn’t make sense during the rest of the week was totally fair game!
So there I was, eating a slice of pizza nice and cold after sitting in the original box for the last twenty-four hours, enough time to make that slice properly “aged” to perfection, while pondering on that morning’s edition of The Chicago Tribune. The Tribune (or “Trib” as the locals named it) was the full sized paper that was chocked full of sections for its Sunday edition, with a lot of advertising supplements. After pawing through those supplements looking for cents-off coupons for products that I actually use (let alone buy), I went to the first section of interest, the funnies! There for just a few moments, I would read on the latest antics from such strips as Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Blondie, and of course, Peanuts. Then there was the magazine section, where the Trib featured a magazine that was nearly as good as something found on a newsstand. This section didn’t waist time and space for fluff pieces found in “Parade”, “This Week” or though other sections that were syndicated to other newspapers that emphases on more shorter human interest articles, celebrity profiles, and other stuff that was amusing, but not really important.
After going through other articles in the paper, I went to the travel section that always gave reviews of places to go and things to see around town, around the country, and around the world. The story that was featured on the cover was to visit Canada, the “neighbors to the north”. Because the American dollar was getting stronger, one’s yankee buck would go father in Canada. Although I don’t necessarily recall the exchange rate at the time, I did know that a one dollar bill with a picture of George Washington on it would be worth more than a dollar bill with the likeness of Queen Elizabeth on its face. Since Lizzie was the Queen of England rather than the Queen of Canada, I never understood why her mug was on its front of the paper money. Wouldn’t the King/President/Prime Minister of Canada’s face be seen on its front? I really didn’t care. All I knew about Canada that they had a different national anthem that I would hear before a hockey game–or if the Cubs would play the Montreal Expos!
Anyway, the article gave all of the attractions going on that summer. One event was in Toronto where the Canadian National Exposition (or “CNE”) would take place in late August until Labor Day. (The American and Canadian Labor Day falls on the same day, the first Monday in September). The CNE was really a state-fair type of event, full of attractions, a carnival area full of rides, and other things to do and see that was akin to a state fair.
Since the last time I want to a state fair was a few years ago when the family, taking the ol’ ’68 Ford Country station wagon on its final vacation journey to the Michigan State Fair outside of Detroit, I though I’d take advantage of checking out the CNE on my own with a load full of American dollars that were worth more than a dollar bill with Lizzie’s face would ever put out!
So after going through that entire Sunday paper that morning, I decided that for the final week of August, I would drive on my own to Toronto to not only see the CNE, but to take a peek at other sights and sounds along the way! It was going to be my time, my journey!
So how was I going to get there? I didn’t own a car of my own at the time, so I was going to rent one. My dad was a member (thanks to the AAA), of a “VIP” club hosted by Avis where one would be able to receive additional premiums that Avis was offering at the time. One of these premiums were a family membership. Anyone in the family who had a driver’s license and was over the age of 21 could rent a car at a special rate. (I don’t recall the specific rate, but it was to an advantage!) However, my dad never used this VIP membership club. I don’t know why he had it in the fist place, although it was being paid through our AAA membership. Nevertheless, since I was on the family plan, I though that I’d take advantage!
I contacted Avis’s toll-free reservations number, and told the operator on the other end, some perky sounding woman, about my special membership. She asked me the usually questions for making a reservation, and told me to go to any of the Avis outlets in my area, or to a local AAA office, and get the car from there. Since I lived just walking distance to an AAA office, I headed out yonder!
My car was going to be an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, a midsize vehicle that was right for my purposes. But the perky sounding woman on the phone somewhat screwed up my reservations. When I arrived at the Avis desk at the AAA, they didn’t find anything, although I was lucky enough to write down my reservation number. So to make things up for me, they offered me an instant upgrade of getting an Olds Delta 88 sedan at the same rate as I would get a Cutlass. It was bigger and had more features, with plenty of trunk space to boot. (More room to store souvenirs!) I agreed on this upgrade. Before long, I had at my disposal for a week’s time, a white colored maroon interior Olds 88 with unlimited miles. All I had to pay was for the gas.
Within the next day, I packed my things rather quickly. And before long, I was off. I barely had time to say good-by to mom and dad. They knew I was heading off, but they didn’t seem to have much concern. They were not “helicopter parents” as being a “HP” didn’t take hold until the 1990’s. All they wanted to know was when I was coming back. All I told them was “next week”. and nothing more! A good enough answer for them!
My route was going out of Chicago along I-94. The highway would be taking me out of the city, through northwest Indiana passing such cities as Gary,, Hammond, and a few other spots along the way. I-94 then cuts through the southern part of Michigan. Along the way, one would pass Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Ann Arbor, and finally Detroit. Benton Harbor was the home of Maytag appliances that still used Jesse White at the “lonely Maytag repairman” in their ads, Kalamazoo, whose big claim to fame was a song about having a gal in Kamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo, as Tex Beneke and the Modernairs would vocalized in their hit song for Glenn Miller and the orchestra. Battle Creek was home of Kellogg’s cereals where billboards along the way advertised to “visit us” at their world headquarters. I made a note to perhaps visit the place on my return trip as I was anxious to head to Toronto first. I even recall one can exit at exit 100 and to follow the signs. Alas, I didn’t have that chance to see the place to where my favorite breakfast cereals came from! No Tony the Tiger, no Toucan Sam, not even Snap, Crackle, or Pop to lead the way! Perhaps next time!
Finally, I got to the Detroit city limits. When I first visited this town a few years ago for the Michigan State Fair, I found the city to be one big dump! Neighborhoods near the downtown region were nearly deserted. Plenty of building were abandon, falling apart, or totally gone! Grand River Avenue wasn’t so grand, either! In fact, it seemed that this city never recovered from the riots of ’67, and those riots occurred a number of years before. Most of the city’s “action” were found in the suburbs where it was a lot safer and (ahem) whiter! However, I wasn’t going to stay in Detroit. I was just passing through!
I had a choice to enter Canada. Either take the Ambassador Bridge, or through the tunnel that connected downtown Detroit to downtown Windsor, Ontario. I chose the former since the bridge was a lot easier to find (how can one hide an extension bridge anyway?), and offered a more scenic route.
Back in this time, it was a whole lot easier to enter Canada from the USA. First of all, one didn’t need a passport. Second, all one was asked by Canadian customs were three questions: Where are you from, where are you going, and how long are you staying? You didn’t have to even provide proof. They took you for your word! So after going over the bridge, the answers I provided to customs were, “The USA”, “Toronto”, and “For the week”! Although I was rather youthful looking, nobody arose suspicion that I was a young adult driving a late model Olds 88 sedan that was a rental car. How times have changed!
Upon entering Windsor, I looked for the next highway to travel, the Macdonald–Cartier Freeway or colloquially known as the four-oh-one. (Quote taken from the Wikipedia entry for this freeway!) That road would take me from Windsor, through a few smaller communities, finally leading to where I wanted to go–Toronto.
There were a few things I found amusing on that trip, mostly on how Canada positioned themselves.
For starters, the entire nation was under the metric system, meaning that gas was sold by the liter (just like soda pop in the USA), driving speeds were measured in kilometers, and the temperature was calculated in centigrade. It was a bit tricky to figure at first to what gas stations provided the better prices for fuel, But I knew that going to the off-brand station gave me a better value than, let’s say heading to an Esso dealership. (Many of the Dominion’s grocery stores also had gas stations near the front part of their outlets, so I usually gassed up there!) The speed limit on the 401 was 100 km. per hour, That roughly calculated at around 62 miles per hour, much faster than the USA’s 55 MPH speed limit. And if the local radio station reported that the temp was 30 degrees, it was going to be hotter than hell, so don’t bundle up!
And speaking of radio, many of the local AM stations were very much to an American station would program, playing music, presenting local news reports, as well as playing commercial spots for local businesses. One station I enjoyed listening to was CFCO-AM in Chatham, Ontario. The station offered a pleasant mix of news, music (adult contemporary), with local radio personalities to make it all happen. There were other stations found up and down the radio dial, but CFCO still sticks out in my mind.
After driving for a while, occasional stopping in a small community along the way (St. Thomas was one I recall), I reached Toronto, a huge megapolis that was as cosmopolitan as a Chicago or New York. Since I came from a huge city, I was rather comfortable in being such a town although I still found the smaller communities much more charming.
So I planned to head on over the the CNE’s location site, just off downtown near
banks of Lake Ontario. I was able to find the place rather easy since my map (from the AAA), showed me the way! I spend the entire day at the CNE, looking at all of the exhibit booths, going through the carnival midway (no ride riding for me), and just having a hugh blast. One exhibit I found amusing was an area that promoted travel to The USA i.e. “south of the border”! The slogan used at this area went something like “Warm, Near, and Friendly. That’s U.S.!” Among the many things on display that emphasised American at its finest was an actual Louisiana State Police Squad car, complete with an actual Louisiana State Trooper speaking in a creole accent! People there was admiring his uniform while he spoke in a classic “Bett’r be good, boy” accent. He somewhat remedied me of the character of Sheriff Buford T. Justice as played by Jackie Gleason in the feature Smokey and the Bandit. The squad car was a full-sized Chrysler. However, Bert Reynolds’ “bad-boy” Pontiac Firebird was nowhere to be found!
When I was not at the CNE, I did take advantage of the Toronto Subways. It was easy to get around, and unlike subway systems I knew of, they were spotless! Not even a cigarette butt to be found anywhere on its station platforms, and everyone at each station was there to await for a train! And speaking of transportation, Toronto still had its electric busses that used an overhead guy wire line, as well as actual streetcars for the 1940’s! I can understand way another modern classic feature film A Christmas Story took advantage of those streetcars as the location the feature was shot in did look like Cleveland, Ohio c.1940!!
It was a great trip I took way back on that late August week from not so long ago. And in the same tradition that I did when I went on my family excursions a few years before, my “paid” souvenir was the local edition of TV Guide! This time around, there was a full fledged Canadian edition of this magazine with ads for Canadian products, and articles about shows that aired on the CBC and CTV networks. Before that time, any edition of TV Guide made available in Canada had the same articles and ads as seen in the USA editions, even if those issues featured write-ups for shows not necessarily available to view in Canada, or for products not available either such as cigarette brands! The issue I got had on its cover a cartoon drawing of a boy and a girl as if they were marionettes with a humanized TV set playing the puppeteer. It was to note on a cover story on how TV programming can control kids in doing what it wanted those kids to follow! Parents be warned!
So the above ramblings were about my first summertime vacation as a solo. I would take other trips through my many years. Some were in other times of the year, but the August trips were the most memorable. That is why August is indeed a “magic” time for yours truly. But with such good things, they all must come to its end. Although the places I visited had come and gone over time and tide, as well as the souvenirs picked up along the way had since been lost, broken, thrown out, and maybe kept for the archives (the TV Guide back issues still remain), these memories still make up as part of the magic that the waning days of summer still bring. I can’t say if I will ever take trips or vacations such as the ones I did ever again, but things can change. It’s been said that “one can’t go home again”, but home is wherever you want it to be. It can be as a physical place, or as a state of mind. Wherever you are, you are there! All it takes is a little summertime magic!!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
PIZZA MAN, Darlene Craviotto’s black comedy about two rather frustrated and depressed women who create a plan to find a man to take advantage of only to receive what wasn’t expected, performs at Hollywood’s Dorie Theatre at The Complex.
Jazz Raycole and Teri Andrez are roommates Alice and Julie. The pair are both going through funks in their lives. Julie just lost her dead-end job while Alice just ended her short(er) term relationship with a man that decided to go back to his wife! Julie started to drink heavily, down to spending their last bit of grocery money on booze. The two don’t seem to have much of a love life either! But through their frustrations, they embark on an ominous idea to find a man and to take advantage of him. Not beating him or even robbing him for his pocket change, but to rape him! They find their “victim” through Eddie (Christian Gehring), a blond hunk whose seen a lot in his life, yet reduced to delivering pizzas. They find him through calling the local pizza parlor, only for him to arrive at the apartment to make his delivery. Not only they get their pizza–the only decent food in the place, they get their man to conduct their evil deed. Accomplishing their real goal wasn’t as simple as they through it would be. However, they find more than to just getting their sexual pleasures through force.
This play is a rather twisted look on how two woman attempt to become equal (so to speak) in domestic society only to discover that there is more behind the planning of a hideous crime. The three players in this production are very amusing. Jazz Raycole and Teri Andrez as Alice and Julie perform their roles as two women that already hit their wall in life before turning thirty. Christian Gehring as Eddie is the good looking beefcake of a guy that deserves more than just being a lowly pizza man. Natalie Sutherland directs this show experienced as a blend of a stage comedy with dramatic interludes, or as a drama with comedy relief thrown in. If this program was depicted as a full fledged comedy, the pacing could use a bit more pep into its step. If this play would be viewed as more dramatic, the action would move a bit faster as well. Not as fast as to let’s say, a frantic laff-fest, but enough movement allowing the said action to unfold in a better active clip!
Although there is no set director credited, the scene where all the action take place is a rather comfortable looking flat, complete with overstuffed couch, a kitchen counter used as a makeshift bar, with a few colorful knickknacks sprinkled hither and yon that make this home appear as a decent dwelling space.
PIZZA MAN is a comic drama or a dramatic comedy. It’s also a play that is rather interesting for what it is, even if what it may stand for shows that if one desires something far fetched, one may not receive it as intended!
PIZZA MAN, performs at the Dorie Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Wilcox), Hollywood, until August 26th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 PM. For tickets, order online via http://www.EventBrite.com.
Also visit http://www.PizzaManComplexHollywood.com, and via
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