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May 29, 2005 - Return to the Past

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The World’s Laziest Journalist

May 31, 2005

By Bob Patterson


It took a monumental effort combining cajoling, coercing, and emotional black mail for this columnist to get some of his old high school friends to provide some feedback reminding him of just how quiet and unassuming he was when we were going to school in Scranton back - before the real Sixties had arrived.


The chance to take a trip back East, to meet up with some of them was an irresistible temptation, so, since no one had offered to lend the World’s Laziest Journalist a Ford Cobra to travel to New York and return to tensile town, we did the next best thing and jumped on a Greyhound bus and looked at a scroll showing American scenery and small urban life that was 3,000 miles long and took almost three days to unroll.


A friend from Germany, who has helped boost Just Above Sunset’s readership in that country by a considerable amount, was going to rendezvous with us at Jersey Bill’s home and, after that, the Jersey kid was going to continue the class reunion motif by loading us into his RV and taking us over to Virginia to reminisce about things such as how they managed to settle down into model citizens and how this writer slipped from being a model student into a quiet unassuming journalist with the delicate sensibilities of “a wounded rhinoceros.” 


None of them gave the least credence to the columnist’s most tepid conspiracy theories.  When we got to some of the more advanced ones (such as the inevitability of the war with Iran which will begin in June) they threw up their hands and were unanimous in their opinion that, if some of the nuns that taught us heard these theories, they would label me a lost cause. 


(Surely there must be some record of where the Queen Mary was on the night of December 6, 1941.  One of the best conspiracy theories maintains that a tiny coincidence had it steaming away from Hawaii at that particular point in its history.)


Hey, when you haven’t seen some pals for about thirty-five years, and you’ve been softened up sentimentally by some non-stop playing of the Mamas and Papas, Buddy Holly, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, you’re just happy to see them, and not all that determined to convince them that one of their heroes probably flunked out of flight school and didn’t really get a million dollars worth of training just so that he would have a skill to practice when his reserve unit held their meetings.


After all that it was time to drive from rural Virginia back to New Jersey, but we convinced our host to detour through Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where we had worked as a reporter/photographer some time ago.  (How many rookie journalists start their newspaper career by replacing a Pulitzer Prize winner?)


How much does a town change in thirty five years?  It changed almost completely (Luckily, the low-key columnist has remained the quiet and unobtrusive observer of life that he always was.  You got a problem with that?) 


The small town on I-81, has saved some of the local landmarks, such as the Capital Theater, which now presents plays and isn’t used for showing movies, but the Washington Hotel has been demolished - and the place where Pappy’s bar in the basement was is now a flower-covered parking lot.


Back in 1968, towns had unique personalities, but these days the county seat for Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania are filled with businesses bearing names that are very familiar to a visitor from Los Angeles County.  Subway, Holiday Inn, Seven Eleven, and the like are ubiquitous now.


Where did the Sunnoco, Moble, Esso, and Chevron gas stations go? 


Why should someone take the time and make the effort to travel all that way just to stop into another Krispey Kreme franchise?  Yeah, they are almost as good as the ones you can get back home at Randy’s or Stan’s, but shouldn’t there be a local place in the Keystone state that is like none other on earth? 


Unfortunately the visit was too late in the day to sample the delights that might have been found in the three used book stores we saw in the downtown business district. 


Seeing that “old gang of mine” is about the only reason to make the trip, and that’s fine, but the more the homogenizing of the American scene expands, the less and less will be the motivation for traveling just for the pure joy of going “on the road.”


Writing on the road has proved to be a bit more difficult than this columnist assumed, but it can be done.


This column has to be filed with the chief in Los Angeles, so we’ll end this report here.


The disk jockey will play the Mamas and Pappas Song, 12:30 (it’s about a street that is about two blocks away from Just Above Sunset world headquarters) and we’ll slide on out of here for this week.  Tune in again next week when we will describe our visit to the Antique Automobile Club of America’s museum in Hershey, Pa.  Until then have a week of good friendship.  Ciao





Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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