Some one asked me not too long ago why I haven't been writing lately.
"What's up with that?" they said.
The simple answer is that I don’t always have the time. Writing is something I do when I can, like playing the guitar, or painting, and when things get busy at home, or I'm too tired after work, I have to put it off. It's not that I don't have a lot to write about. In fact, I have a long list of titles. That might sound funny, but that’s just how I work. I come up with a few key words, and fill in the story with details.
Sometimes, it's not a title that inspires me, but something I see around town. That happened just the other day, as I was driving past the 10-Minute Oil Change Place, on Rochelle Avenue. I glanced behind it as I went by, and started thinking back to when it was known as Vet's Texaco. There were times when I would hang out there as a kid to watch George, the owner, work on a car, and when I got older, I would bring in my own car if it needed something I couldn’t do myself.
But there was another reason why the Texaco station was one of my favorite spots. The hill alongside of it was one of two areas in town where people dumped "non-perishable items," as we would call them today. I'm not sure where they came from, or how they got there, but every once in a while, something good would be tossed over the hillside, like an old radio with vacuum tubes, or a rusty baby carriage with a perfect set of wheels, or anything with an electric motor. The memory of searching the dump for the things we treasured as kids was so strong, that I turned my car around and pulled into the church parking lot next to the oil change place. In the back of my mind, I had the idea that after all of these years, I might still find some kind of treasure buried in the hillside.
I started thinking about the Philco radio at my grandparent’s house. It was made of wood, stood about three feet high, and sat between two stuffed chairs in their living room. It had a small dial in the middle that lit up when the radio was on, and speakers that would make a boombox proud. In the winter, when I would stay over at their house, my grandfather would turn off the lights after supper, put a kerosene heater in the middle of the room, and turn on the radio. While my grandparents sat in their chairs, I sat on the floor or propped my head up on pillows, and waited for our favorite programs to begin. From my vantage point, I could see the flames inside the heater, and feel the heat coming through the vents, but what caught my attention most of all was the circle of light that was projected on the ceiling through the holes in the top of the heater. It radiated upward, and cast a warm glow over the room that made listening to Abbott and Costello, The Lone Ranger, and stories from the Inner Sanctum even more sensational.
When I pulled into the church parking lot, I didn't expect to find anything that good, but I got out of the car and walked over to the edge of the hill anyway. At first, I thought I might be in the wrong spot, because all I could see were a few fallen trees, clumps of wild grass, and bushes, but then I spied an old bedspring half-buried in the dirt, angling out from under the brush. There was hope.
I side-stepped down the hill, and looked for something a little more interesting, but except for a few chunks of concrete, and a badly worn tire, all of the good stuff was gone. I searched the entire hillside, but even though I came away empty-handed, I was determined to find something that day that would connect me to my childhood, so I drove over to the hill behind the American Legion. That was also used for dumping in the 50's, and where the vets threw things after the monthly scrap drive. In those days, what wasn’t sold for scrap cascaded down the hill where the pavilion now sits.
I didn’t have any luck there either, but I wasn’t disappointed for having tried. As I walked along the area between the pavilion and the hill, I couldn’t help thinking that searching for buried treasure is a lot like looking at the past and writing about what it was like to grow up here in the 50’s. All that is left of the past are the memories, but if I search hard enough, and have the time, I could write a book.
I think I will.