Quick! What do you think of when hear drive-in? I think of the movie Grease! and John Travolta singing Stranded at the Drive-in after Sandy left him.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many drive-in theaters in America anymore. I used to love going to the drive-in. I remember sneaking my friend in by putting him in the trunk so we wouldn’t have to pay for him.
The drive-in was always a unique way to watch movies. I used to go to a drive-in in Twenty-nine Palms, California, where you could roller skate and watch a movie simultaneously. Well, I was telling my sons about my drive-in adventures and they couldn’t understand what I was talking about. I always like to broaden their horizon, so when I failed to explain to them how much fun we used to have at the drive-in, I wanted to take them to one, but I didn’t think there were any drive-ins left in our area. But I googled “drive-in” and discovered there was a Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago.
I took my sons just so they could see what a drive-in was like. Things were a little different from the last time I went. You can now listen to the movie on your car radio on AM or FM! They still had gray steel speakers on the poles, but they didn’t work. All cars are supposed to drive with their headlights off, but mine stay on whenever I start the engine. I sat on a lawn chair so my sons could sit in the front seats. Boy was I sorry! The compact car next to us contained an entire family. And they were so crammed into their little car that they were complaining during the whole movie.
Well, my sons and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but we decided never to go to the drive-in again.
I heard on the radio that salsa is the number one condiment in America! And I was glad to do my part to help. You see that pepper underneath this blog post? I did my part to publicize salsa over the years. So Mexico, or whoever it is who makes your salsa, can thank me whenever they have time. I’m following in my father’s footsteps. My father, who always carried a jar of salsa with him wherever he went, always had to have his salsa on everything we ate, from Burger King to Dunkin Donuts. This is such a happy moment in my life, even though I don’t eat that much salsa, thanks to my father. He always wanted me to put salsa on all my food. Once when I was about eight years old, he made some salsa and wanted me to try it. At first, I refused. But then he told me to try a small cube of potato that he took from the salsa. He was happy when I did. But even the potato was spicy! It had absorbed the hotness of the salsa. It’s no wonder I don’t like to eat salsa very often.
When I lived at 3006 W. 64th Street, I always used to eat at this great Mexican restaurant that was exactly one block away. El Gallo de Oro, 2952 W. 63rd Street, 773.737.8101, has been there since at least 1981 when I moved back to Marquette Park after being honorably discharged from the Marines. This Mexican restaurant serves real Mexican food cooked by real Mexicans to other Mexicans who patronize the restaurant. That’s how you can tell if a Mexican restaurant is really good: by how many Mexicans eat there. I remember once going to Milwaukee and my girlfriend suggested that we eat at a Mexican restaurant, either La Perla or La Fuente, but she didn’t know which one was better. We ate at the one where all the Mexicans ate! And it was great Mexican food! So are you wondering which restaurant was better? Well, I honestly can’t remember because I drank a few too many bottles of Negra Modelo. Anyway, El Gallo de Oro has great Mexican food, and I say this after having come back from having eaten Mexican food in many Mexican restaurants and Mexican homes in Mexico. Well, lately, I’ve been going to different Mexican restaurants in the Chicagoland area, or Chicagolandia as I like to call it since we have so many Spanish speakers here, and I’ve been ordering the enchiladas de pollo. Today, I tasted the enchiladas at El Gallo de Oro and they were ¡sabrosísimas! This is a great Mexican restaurant.
When I still lived in the neighborhood, I ate there several times a week. Of course, everything I needed in the neighborhood was within a two-block radius. The cleaners, the gas station, the locksmith, the used bookstore, Aldo of Italy my barber, and of course, El Gallo de Oro. I went to the locksmith exactly once, but it was nice to know that he was always available even though I dreaded the day that I would actually need him. Aldo of Italy cut my hair once a month before I ate at El Gallo de Oro. Aldo always loved speaking to me in Spanish while he cut my hair until I fell asleep. Anyway, again, I loved the attitude of the Mexicans at El Gallo de Oro. They were typical Mexicans who loved to brag about their food and service. I especially loved their sign in the window: “La competencia es buena, pero nosotros somos … ¡más chingones!” In English, The competition is good, but we are … ” Okay, I’m not sure how to translate the last two words, but you could tell who was Mexican and who wasn’t by how they reacted to the sign. Of course, at that time the FCC let a lot of profanity get aired on all the Mexican radio stations. So the sign remained in the front window for many years until about two years ago. I rather miss that sign. That’s the thing about Mexicans. They have chutzpah!
One time, I told my father, brothers, and sister that I had a special surprise for them for our Thanksgiving dinner that year. They were so curious, that I caved in to all their questions and told them my surprise beforehand. “We are eating Thanksgiving dinner at … ” and I paused for dramatic effect … “El Gallo de Oro!” “But we want turkey,” my sister shouted. “Yo quiere guajolote,” said my father. “Un momento,” I said. “El Gallo de Oro is serving turkey burritos on Thanksgiving Day!” After a little grumbling, they finally agreed to my Thanksgiving dinner plans! Everyone got to eat turkey, I got to eat at El Gallo de Oro, and my father got to eat so many jalapeño peppers that sweat poured from his forehead profusely and he had to keep asking for more and more water. Well, El Gallo de Oro managed to satisfy yet another finicky Mexican family–again!
Since my retirement, I’ve been trying to re-create a lot of things from my previous lives. That is, things I had prior to my marriage and children, things that I had to sacrifice for the sake of being a good husband and father. Now, I have the opportunity to regress a little and so I am trying to recreate my writer’s garret. Back in 1981 BC (Before Children), I had a nice little apartment all to myself that served me well for all my writing purposes. I actually wrote a lot back then, but nothing very significant like the Great American Novel or the Declaration of Independence. However I did get published in some local publications. Even though these bylines impressed no one but me, I was proud of my writing and myself for achieving another one of my personal goals. Furthermore, I also earned enough money to say I was a paid, published writer, even if it wasn’t enough to earn a living. But I was in my glory as an aspiring writer!
So now, in my retirement, I’m trying to write again. To finish the play that I started 25 years ago and have been finishing up for the last nine; to start the novel I’ve been meaning to write since I was in grade school but never actually started writing; and just to write everyday just to be able to say that I am a proficient writer. (Only real writers know how to use semicolons!)
To that end, I realized that I need my very own writer’s garret where I can feel comfortable expressing my most inner thoughts as a writer. I decided that I must create this writer’s space where I can agonize over the mot just and play the long-suffering writer who lives under squalid conditions that will induce great literature. I need a place where I may rendezvous with my muse, but she better bring some help because she’s really going to need a lot of reinforcements with me.
And so, I have been constructing my writer’s garret. Only, I’m not too much for playing up the suffering part. I’d rather focus on the creature comforts now, especially now during these warm summer months. Therefore, my “writer’s garret” is air-conditioned and has a ceiling fan. How am I supposed to write the Great American Novel if I’m hot and sweaty? Would you like to read a hot, sweaty novel? Plus, I need music to inspire me. Ergo, I have a high fidelity sound system in my garret, along with a cordless phone, a fax machine, Internet radio, and a television. Don’t laugh! So far it’s working. What you just read is a product of my writer’s garret!
I have reached that age where everything reminds me of the past. Listening to the radio, I remember what I was doing when I heard the song the first time years ago. It reminds me of how I used to be and who I wanted to be, but somehow I realize that I haven’t changed all that much, and in some ways, I’m still the same boy deep down inside. When I hear an old song on the radio again, I still like (or hate) the song as much as I did back then. I recognize some songs after only three or four notes.
My sons are amazed that I recognize those old songs on the radio. I told them, “You know how you listen to some songs over and over again? Well, I used to do the same thing when I was your age!” And that’s why the songs remind me of my youth. And that reminds me of a Led Zeppelin song whose title I can’t recall: “In the days of my youth, / I was taught what it means to be a man,” which in turn reminds me of my first car and my first “real” girlfriend of that time period and how I almost lost my virginity while listening to Led Zeppelin. But that’s a blog post for another day.
My present didn’t quite turn out the way I expected. Perhaps, I should start creating some good memories now so that I may have some good nostalgia in the future. When I recall my past memories of how I expected I would be now, my nostalgia sure hasn’t lived up to my expectations, in the past or now. I should have thought of my past for the future in the past and not now in the present where I regret not having created better memories for my future in the past. I wish I could go back in time and do things focusing more on the future. But that’s all water under the bridge now. There’s no use crying over spilled milk.
Sometimes when I wax nostalgic, I wonder why no one uses the word “wax” (as in “to increase in size, numbers, strength, prosperity, or intensity”) anymore. I also wonder why when I refer to the waxing and waning of the moon, I get some strange stares. In fact, the other day I was waiting in line at the supermarket when I was thinking about the cycles of the moon and I accidentally uttered, “I enjoy the waxing and waning of the moon” out loud. Suddenly, I was all alone in the front of the line facing a nervous cashier! They probably didn’t know what I meant by “wax.” I should be more careful when and where I wax nostalgic.
In the future, I would like to recall the past with fond memories of my present “present.” In the future, no more regretting the past and loathing the present. Because today is the first day of the rest of my life!