So, I’m relaxing by listening to the George Shearing quintet, sipping an Old Fashioned, and recalling a telephone conversation I had several days ago with a lifelong friend who lives two hours away in Tucson. We reminisced about a time more than 50 years ago when we made the trip west to what was then the paradise of Southern California. |
The place has since turned into a colossal septic tank that continues to reek, deteriorate, and levy tax upon tax on its citizens to support illegals, crooked politicians; and anyone else who claims they need a (whine) sanctuary. I mean, the place catches on fire every six months, and they moan that the Federal Government doesn’t provide enough fire-fighting funds. This from a state that has blown $30 billion propping up illegal immigrants. Why? The socialist Democrats in power will do anything to buy votes; and to pad the electoral college number. The latter is what’s behind trying to get illegals counted in the census.
Dennis and I left the snowy Midwest in the early morning several days after Christmas, which coincidentally was the same date my father was to die decades later. We loaded his Triumph TR-3, as much as one can load a small roadster, and headed west on US-24 toward US-66 and points west to seek our fortunes and (mainly) meet girls. We were students of that fine philosopher from MAD Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman, who said, “There are more important things in life than money, but they won’t go out with you unless you have some.”
Within our immature minds was a romantic notion of the famed highway from a popular television series, and a well-known, timeless 12-chord, blues progression song that claimed you’d, “Get your kicks on Route 66”. Kicks? We’re in!
I read one account that alleged Bobby Troup wrote the song on his honeymoon trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, which makes a good Hollywood-type story. Unfortunately, that narrative is false. Troup married Cynthia Hare in 1942, but wrote the song in 1946 while motoring 10 days with his wife from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles mostly on US-40, which was then called the National Highway. Part of his journey was on US-66, but he intended to write the song about the former thoroughfare. What changed his mind was the rhyme of “kicks” with “sixty-six”. Nat “King” Cole recorded the song that same year; and Troup had a hit, which became a timeless American standard. Royalties are still pouring into his estate.
Dennis and I passed through Fort Wayne, Indiana about 45-minutes into the trip, and both enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of two vacuous fellows from our town who started the same journey a year previously. Riblet and Rimer spent their first night in a Fort Wayne motel. Let’s see, at 45 miles a day, it would take about two months to reach California, and cost a fortune in lodging. Locally, Riblet was famous for his form on the high dive at the municipal plunge, and Rimer for screwing-up practically everything he touched. Example: In a high school general business class, Rimer went from an “A” to an “F” in just one semester. That takes real dedication in screwing-up. What an overachiever.
We hooked up with US-66 south of Chicago, and the next memory I have of that road trip occurred in St. Louis. That’s right; Riblet and Rimer again. Riblet had a longtime girlfriend four years his junior. He always carried a picture of her in a (get this) glass frame under his jacket over his heart. Turns out she was responsible for his trip to California because she dumped him after a five-year courtship. Riblet was devastated, and pleaded over-and-over with her to take him back. No soap. She’d had another duffass warming up in the bullpen over their last few months together; and figured the new dude was a better deal. Riblet’s logic was: I’ll show her by moving to California, and she’ll never see me again—meanwhile still keeping her picture over his heart. She’ll be sooo sorry. Hoo-hah! Wrong! She was thinking: This is great! Anyway, they get to St. Louis, and Riblet can’t stand it anymore. Maybe she’s learned her lesson. Maybe she’ll relent.
This was real life blues in action. Jazz pianist, Ben Sidran, claims the two most important things about the blues are: 1) a bad romance, and 2) a good travel agent—because nothing will get you out of town faster than a bad romance.
Distraught, Riblet turned the car around. Rimer, who was mooching a ride anyway, was white-hot angry, and swore at Riblet during the entire return trip. During their lifetimes, neither made it to California. Riblet couldn’t win back his erstwhile girlfriend, and broken-hearted, eventually moved to Columbus, Ohio. Rimer became a full-on goofball, and haunted the streets of our hometown turning into one of those infamous town-characters mothers warn their children to avoid.
Both prematurely passed beyond the veil of what we call existence. However, the tale of Riblet and Rimer aptly demonstrates, in real life, the theater masks of Comedy and Tragedy—the incongruous juxtaposition of incompatibilities. R.I.P. gentlemen. Say hello to Bobby Troup; tell him he owes you some “kicks”.
Road trip travelogues are incredibly boring so I’ll spare you any and all staring-through-the-windshield memories. Here’s a quick synopsis: corn, corn, corn, soya beans, corn, prairie, etc.
When we pulled into Albuquerque, the TR-3 was making a strange and unwelcome noise. Worse, first gear would not engage. At the time, owning a foreign car could be daunting—if something went wrong. Fortunately, we found a mechanic who had experience with a number of imports. He diagnosed the problem as a faulty throw-out bearing; said we could “probably” make it to Los Angeles. Neither Dennis nor I liked the risk involved so we decided the faulty part should be replaced. Luck was on our side. Turned out the mechanic happened to have a replacement part—a miracle in itself. A day later we were back on the road, and the cost for the part and labor was a mere $70.00! The guy obviously cut us a huge break. Today, the mercenary, money-grabbing paradigm of almost everyone in the USA would result in a bill of thousands of dollars.
The money, money, money attitude so prevalent in our society is why the Islamic world refers to us as the Great Satan. How do I know? I lived and worked in the Middle East, and heard the weekly sermons issued from the minarets of their mosques. Trust me, they think our preoccupation with money (and bosoms) is downright evil. (What’s the matter with bosoms?)
For Dennis, the journey could have ended in Albuquerque. When in a supermarket checkout lane for snacks, he became thunderstruck at seeing a tall, exotic, dark-haired young lady with a soft olive complexion three lanes away. Alas, she never glanced his way. “Beautiful beyond belief!” Dennis later exclaimed. “Stately, even regal.” Apparently, she ticked-off all his perfect female boxes. Also, at that time of our lives, we were both full of confidence; confidence that had us believing we could charm any and all young ladies. He stood by the decision to continue on to California, but it’s nagged him to this day. Her vision still haunts him.
Our next stop was New Year’s Eve at a classic lodge hotel perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon rim. We figured the place would be jumping, and we’d get in on the revelry—maybe even get lucky (heh-heh). We were ready, willing, and able. To our chagrin, the place was silent as a tomb; the only sounds being crickets, the wind—ghosts?—and plumbing. What a letdown.
A few days later we arrived in Santa Ana, California, said “hello” to Dennis’s older brother, and proceeded to Glendale where we rented an apartment. Why Glendale? We heard it mentioned on the Jack Benny Show, and looking at an L.A. City map, appeared to be centered in metro Los Angeles. Wrong. It had an unofficial zipper that was pulled up about 9pm. It was a nothing-happening place, so we didn’t stay long. Dennis headed for the San Fernando Valley, and I to the beach cities. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, and visit each other periodically.
In the meantime, I married, and we’ve lived in California, Utah, Texas, Indiana, and finally Arizona. My next move will be in a hearse or maybe an art deco urn with ashes to be blown out the bell of my trombone by a surfer riding a wave near the Huntington Beach pier. Dennis? Well, as he puts it, “I’ve been happily married and happily divorced numerous times.” Now there’s a true Californian!
Dennis and I did find our fortunes, but in a different way than anticipated. I’d finished undergraduate school before we made the trip, and finished my graduate work after moving west. This led to career as an international executive. Dennis finished his BA at UCLA, and became a successful executive in the credit union industry. And as mentioned above, we also got-the-girl. In Dennis’s case, several times.
To bring this rambling discourse to conclusion, I’m part of a popular, local music ensemble called the NO NAMERS BAND. We play vintage rock and blues. Guess who does the vocal for ROUTE 66?
By Gene Myers with Dennis Hull who went through St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri, but didn’t find Oklahoma City especially pretty. We saw Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona, but forgot Winona; saw Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…
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Southern California, illegals, Alfred E. Neuman, Route 66, Bobby Troup, real life blues, Albuquerque, NO NAMERS BAND,