Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Lots of unanswered questions, of course. And I'm not entirely happy with where I am or what I've accomplished. Obviously fatherhood is a significant accomplishment and ongoing struggle. Some would argue that I should be satisfied with the progress thus far. But for me there's still a disconnect between youthful expectations/aspirations and the present reality.
The other day someone asked me a) What would be your dream job, and b) If you could be anywhere else right now, where would you be? My dream job alternates between being a full-time artist with a nice studio in a brownstone here in the city . . . or working as a travel writer. If I could be anywhere else, I'd either be hiking in the Yorkshire Dales or walking along the shore of Iona, a tiny island in the Scottish Hebrides that is home to a 6th century monastery, a few sheep, and even fewer people.
I know that sounds like an odd choice, given the typical response that includes "on a beach in (insert your favorite tropical location here)." But it really is a magical location, in the Celtic tradition considered one of the "thin places" (in Gaelic, CAOL ÁIT, pronounced "keel awtch"), a spot where this world and the realm of the spirit come close together. It's the burial site for numerous ancient Scottish kings (including Macbeth) and has some excellent examples of Celtic crosses.
It's also rather remote and not easy to reach. (First, travel to the northwest of Scotland, the town of Oban . . . catch a ferry at Oban to the Isle of Mull . . . then drive to the end of Mull on mostly gravel, single-lane roads . . . then take a passengers-only ferry over to Iona. If you're ever in Scotland, it's worth the effort!)
Now . . . should I get a tattoo of a Celtic cross for my birthday (to go on either just above my ankle or on my shoulder)? It would be my first tattoo. I already wear a Celtic knot earring.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
So with my impending birthday, I'll continue in the vein of showing off the progeny. This is Son #1, who will be 8 in the spring. He's the athlete, excelling at soccer and baseball, already throwing a ball at 40 mph. Since this photo was taken a couple of years ago he has lost the rest of that "baby fat" and now looks like a little gymnast. His upper body strength and muscle definition are amazing. I'm envious. LOL. He lives and breathes sports, and will watch baseball, football, basketball, whatever is on, whether pro or college. He also has an incredible memory for player names and faces. He's a redhead - closer to the strawberry blond or well-worn copper penny, depending on the light. He also has the fiery personality often associated with redheads. He's also demonstrating considerable facility for music, which is a relief, since my wife and I are both musicians.
I like this photo, and the pic of Son #2, posted earlier. The contrast between light and shadow really works, I think. Both were scanned from 120 prints, the originals taken on a vintage Czech-made TLR from the 1950s, hand-metered with a vintage Weston selenium meter. (Yes, I have a rather eccentric approach to photography. Most is done with vintage cameras and I guess reflects my background as a historian and archivist.
No doubt some of this can be explained in the ways we account for our nostalgia over the "roaring 20s" or the "fabulous 50s." We filter the unpleasant realities and regard these periods as "a golden age" or "simpler time." Yet examining the mythic character of the 1950s - with which we're all familiar thanks to Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, and Happy Days - Stephanie Coontz, in her landmark monograph, The Way We Never Were, notes that Leave It to Beaver was "not a documentary." We could say the same thing about Gone With the Wind.
Margaret Mitchell's novel describes a South enjoyed by only a small percentage of the total populace. Although happy, deferential stereotypes, her African-American characters hardly represent the estimated 4 million slaves living in the region in 1860. The bulk of the white population was desperately poor, engaging in subsistence farming. A miniscule middle class clustered in the region's widely scattered town and few cities. In short, the South was a pre-capitalist, agrarian society possessing scant manufacturing. Literacy levels were lower in the South, while infant mortality rates were higher than other regions of the country. (My mother's family owned slaves, farming the tobacco lands of south-central Virginia. They supported secession, fought in the war, while one served in the Confederate Congress. In the postwar period, they maintained control of the land and its labor force, using former slaves as sharecroppers.)
As for the war, greeted with all the emotional fervor one would expect from a society well-enamored of its established militia system, it quickly shed the romantic garb of the zouaves and the ridiculous names of local volunteer units (for example, the "Montgomery Fighting Yankee Killers"), and embodied all of the horror that one associates with warfare of the 19th century.
How do I feel about the romanticization of the "Old South?" I'm not entirely certain. To be sure, there's much of the "history" associated with this vision that's simply incorrect. Yet, every society engages in this kind of mythologizing or fictionalizing of its history. Just look at the way the English have treated the Middle Ages! In the end, a touch of the romantic in our interpretation of the "Old South" isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's balanced with a knowledge of the reality.
Monday, January 29, 2007
But the South . . . where to begin? First, realize that there are multiple "Souths" defined by different histories, cultural influences, foods, weather, geography, etc. Sociologist John Shelton Reed - whose books inspired the name of this blog - made a career at UNC trying to identify the variables that define the South. What he found was fascinating. Surveying older southerners, Reed discovered that scions of the South identified some pretty obvious elements when trying to define their region: the Civil War, the experience of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, weather and geography, religious fervor, conservatism, speech. Yet he received very different answers from younger southerners who had been born and raised in the post-segregation era. These respondents, when trying to define "southerness," often cited food, NASCAR, regional accents, "wrestling" (think WWF), bass fishing, and humor (think Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy). Hmmmm, that's something of a shift.
With most of these answers I'm not surprised. The failure to link the Civil War to the region's identity is a bit surprising, however, even when one factors in U.S. students' increasing ignorance about matters historical and geographical. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, the Civil War was still a much-discussed topic. I had grandparents who remembered not-so-distant grandparents reminiscing about the experience. My paternal grandmother would laugh when talking about how she and her siblings had played with a trunk full of "worthless" Confederate money. There were numerous photos of relatives who had survived that period and its trials. Moreover, growing up in Virginia I was literally surrounded by battlefields. Our family vacations nearly always included stops at the far-flung encampments of the Confederate and Union armies: Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chattanooga. As if Manassass, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Chancellorsville, Petersburg, Cold Harbor, and Appomattox - all in Virginia - weren't enough for my parents and grandparents. My maternal grandfather in particular loved steering his '63 Ford Galaxy 500 from monument to monument, redoubt to redoubt.
For college, I succumbed to the siren-song of history (and the plain, unvarnished stupidity of a typical 18-year old ) and attended the Virginia Military Institute (sometimes referred to as "the West Point of the South") where Stonewall Jackson (a professor at VMI) and Robert E. Lee (buried next door at Washington and Lee University) were still very vivid personalities. For a school so grounded in the traditions of the "Old South," I'm still amazed over the number of non-southerners who flocked to VMI.
(An aside about my parents . . . Ed and Corenne in no way romanticized the Civil
War, nor did they ever regard it as the "Lost Cause." There are plenty of people in the South who still feel that way; read Tony Horwitz's brilliant Confederates in the Attic. Civil War battlefields, however, just happened to be the most convenient stops for parents who enjoyed history in general. Living only 45 minutes from Williamsburg, Jamestowne and Yorktowne, our Sunday drives and school field trips also included a healthy dose of Colonial and Revolutionary history. If we were traveling in other parts of the U.S., we invariably stopped at historical markers, Native American reservations, and the sites of myriad "firsts" in American history. Perhaps this early exposure to things historical explains my decision to be a history major in college? Nah.)
But back to the theme of Southern identity and the Civil War . . . for an older generation of southerners there's that great passage from Faulkner which explains something of the mythic quality of the Civil War:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.
William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
To be honest, I don't feel that way about the Civil War. Nevertheless, it's an integral element in defining the region. What other things "southern" do I think of when describing the region to northern friends? Here's a partial list, in no particular order, that represents just the tip of the iceberg.
1. Literature . . . There's definitely a genre of southern lit. with stellar examples: Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy. Those are just the most obvious examples. One could include countless other authors who use the region and its culture as a foundation for their stories.
2. Music . . . Where to begin? There's "southern rock," Dixieland, bluegrass, country, blues, gospel, Elvis (Are you a Presleyterian?), and often an amalgam of several of these genres to form new hybrids.
3. NASCAR . . . As much as I dislike this and miss the point of watching cars drive around a big oval, it is a southern staple that is becoming increasingly popular beyond the South.
4. Juke joints . . . You know those little rectangular concrete buildings that dot the southern landscape . . . with their Bud Lite neon and rows of pickups parked outside. They're the southern equivalent of the English pub. There's always a pool table, juke box, and a jar of pickled eggs on the bar. In some Deep South locations one can find juke joints that have windows on the side of the building from which African Americans, not welcome inside, can order food and beer. Often there's an adjacent picnic table.
5. Football . . . In some places it's the equivalent of a second religion. In Texas football is life.
6. Race . . . Even in the post-Civil Rights movement era race is still a potent issue. And one encounters the broad spectrum of race relations to its fullest in the South, from warm racial relations in communities once torn apart by the struggle over segregation . . . to communities in which racist rhetoric and Klan activity are either openly practiced or given a veneer of "respectability" under the banner of the local Republican party. Thankfully, words like "colored" - and worse - which I heard regularly as a child have largely disappeared from the southern lexicon.
7. Religion . . . From our seemingly ubiquitous TV preachers (Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Baaker, and Jimmy Swaggert), Billy Graham, the Southern Baptist Church, to numerous Pentecostal, Revivalist, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, New Life, Born-Again, Bible-Believing congregations, the South is a peculiarly religion-obsessed region. This subject deserves an entirely separate blog entry.
8. Food. Don't get me started. It goes on and on and on. And food usually goes hand-in-hand with religion. Think covered-dish suppers, wedding receptions, and post-funeral dinners. So it's no surprise that a recent National Geographic map showed the South with the highest numbers for heart disease in the U.S. The South also has the "fattest" counties in the country.
9. Speech . . . People from other parts of the U.S. love to make fun of southern accents. And there are so many variations. My own is very subtle, retaining a bit of the Tidewater drawl. When I first moved to east Tennessee in 1988 I was stunned by the accent. I could barely understand some of the residents. I'll never forget a waitress asking me and my family, "What'll you'uns have today?" There's the Georgia drawl, the distinctive New Orleans speech, that Texas drawl which is immediately recognizable, and countless local variations. Some sociologists will note that more distinctive examples of the southern patois are disappearing thanks to the influence of television and the influx of non-southern residents. If it means losing the term "you'uns" I'm all for it!
10. Conservatism . . . How to explain this one . . . it's a complex force, wrapped up in religion, history, provincialism, economic hardship, agrarianism. Addressing this force in southern society is like opening a Pandora's Box. Let's just say that the region's conservatism is one of the reasons I would find it hard to live again in the South. Spending 10 years in East Tennessee, I encountered a level of conservatism that very nearly resembled a celebration of ignorance, and in its ugliest moments seemed reminiscent of thinly disguised fascism.
To be continued . . .
Friday, January 26, 2007
We've moved westward, often into frontier areas, lured by myriad variables: gold, silver, copper, free land under the Homestead Act, and more recently, the promise of work in factories spawned by World War II. Mormons found protection in the isolation of Deseret. Even as late as the last 50 years prior to the Great Depression, eastern and midwestern farmers saw promise in the last bits of unplowed prairie in the Texas Panhandle and "No-Man's-Land" of Oklahoma. John Steinbeck's Dust Bowl refugees looked to California as an agricultural promised land. Latter-day victims of gold fever ran away to Alaska and more recently flocked to that region for the promise of high wages during construction of the Alaska Pipeline. The West - or the frontier - has promised many things to many people.
(As an aside . . . many parts of the trans-Mississippi West are experiencing a significant depopulation, particularly the Plains states. Articles in the New York Times and National Geographic point out that some counties have populations lower than figures reported a century ago. In some cases, the population density in parts of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas is low enough to fall under the old definition of "frontier." Parts of Alaska have higher population densities than much of Wyoming and Montana. Scores of towns sit isolated -bypassed by the interstates 50 years ago and bypassed by the digital age today - defined as communities only by the few remaining elderly residents. An equal number of communities already sit deserted, ghost towns without the romantic veneer of cowboys and saloons.
Although economic opportunity seems the constant in much of this attraction, the reasons people migrated are much more complex, varying according to individual circumstances. My own family, oddly enough, seems to have been largely immune to the pull of the West. My father's family has been rooted in Virginia since the 1630s, while my Mom's family has been planting tobacco in south-central Virginia since about 1700. Sure, there were the odd rogue characters in both families who fled the East for the promise of greener pastures or quick fortunes. But by and large the family has played it safe and held onto their little plots of exhausted soil, eschewing the speculative uncertainty of a westward migration. It's as if these people, having made the trans-Atlantic jump from England and France, exhausted their genetic stock of "let's take a chance on a new homeland."
For a long time I considered myself equally immune to the magnetic charm of the West. Why pull up roots when family was here, settled in an area in which they had a tangible history. Parents and grandparents could take me to see the homesteads and headstones of long-deceased generations. We had veterans of the Revolution. Officers and soldiers for the Confederacy. Even a member of the Confederate Congress. There were Methodist-Episcopal ministers, teachers, carpenters, watermen, tobacco farmers. There was always a palpable connection to the land.
Yet more recently I've started to hear the siren song of the West. However, it seems to be a slightly different tune, at least in the economic sense. As I mature as a painter and photographer, I look to that region, particularly New Mexico and Arizona, as a place to start over and realize my potential. (Already, I've been something of a family apostate, having moved north of the Mason-Dixon Line. To hear some relatives talk, one would think I had moved to Mars . . . or the outback. New York City seems that alien to them.) As I read this book about the Dust Bowl, I want to go see what attracted these farmers in the first place. I want to experience the West well beyond what one sees from I-40 and its rest areas.
During the era of the California Gold Rush and Oregon Trail, adventurers and settlers wrote of "seeing the elephant," a term borne of an age in which seeing an elephant as part of a traveling animal show or circus was indeed an exotic occurrence. (Some disappointed westward travelers returned, noting that they had "seen the elephant's trunk" or "seen the elephant's tail" and that view had proved sufficient.) Although I don't see it happening any time soon, I'm certainly ready to "see the elephant," even if it's just as a tourist and not as a permanent resident.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Watched Masterpiece Theatre's production of Jane Eyre last night and it was magnificent . . . definitely worthy of the PBS costume drama tradition. Isn't it amazing that 160+ years later these novels - as well as those by late-Georgian/Regency era Jane Austen - continue to fascinate and garner the attention of film producers? Obviously they form the foundation for the English literary canon . . . altho' I suspect they're likely considered the bane of many high school or college lit students.
It's hard to explain, but this early Victorian period is particularly appealing to me. Sure, as a historian I studied the U.S. experience during this period ad nauseum. And even in an American context, this is an exciting era, punctuated by industrial revolution, intellectual ferment, political maturation, and a growing evangelical/reformist impulse. Yet there's something peculiarly attractive about the world as depicted in the Bronte works.
Although when she wrote Jane Eyre England was already well into its own Industrial Revolution, the world Charlotte Bronte portrays still seems pre-industrial and comfortably agrarian. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, railroads, workhouses, textile mills and the spoils of empire seem hazily distant. It's a literary world obviously borne of the Romantic impulse and relatively free of the appalling conditions detailed by Dickens just a few years later. And like Austen's characters, these are country people, inhabiting a society in which London is a distant, otherworldly place rarely, if ever, glimpsed.
Yes, I'm a fan of the Romantic writers! Yes, I'm ignoring the socio-economic inequities which defined English society during this period. Yes, I find novels of this ilk wonderfully escapist fare. (My wife jokes that one of the reasons I like this period and the projection of its manners and mores in novels is that women were obviously subordinated to the power - economic and political - of men. And absolutely . . . that's the reality of life in Victorian England. But I always remind her that when I read Bronte or Austen and their contemporaries, it's the strong women whom I adore. I'm always a sucker for Elizabeth Bennett, for example. And like Rochester, I would have been far more attracted to Jane than the shallow vessels who inhabit the world of his house party.) As a student of 19th century history I'm well aware of the brutal realities that defined life at every level of society. Even in the world of Bronte and Austen, death is a regular house guest. Sometimes, however, it's nice to step away from that reality and embrace the purely romantic, with all of the angst, family conflict, plot twists and histrionics these authors can throw at us. We can always come back to the Corn Laws, Great Reform Bill and Parliamentary shenanigans later.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Now, if I just had the snow and the friend with whom to sit, I'd be in a happy place indeed.
Monday, January 15, 2007
At this point, I'm wishing for a bit of snow . . . and we've usually had some by now! Alas, I'll post a photo I took a couple of years ago, and remember the beauty of Central Park in early morning snow, before the pedestrians and cleaning crews, and dogs have turned it into a mess.
The Weather Channel is predicting colder temperatures - finally - for New York City over the next couple of weeks! Perhaps it will snow.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The first two comments offered here display the typically polarized debate over the severity - or existence - of climate change. Unfortunately, much of the debate in the last two decades - the period in which climate change alarms were first sounded and heard beyond the scientific community - has been shaped by a triumvirate of ignorance: a monolithic corporate system in which profits trump responsibility; conservative politicians who are little more than sharecroppers in the corporate fields; and evangelical Christians who alternate between preaching a "why bother" attitude with the imminence of the Second Coming, and emphasizing God's gift to mankind of "dominion" over the earth. What "fundamentalist" Christians often ignore in their interpretation of scripture is its emphasis on "stewardship" within that theme of "dominion." (As an aside, it's important to note that an increasingly vocal splinter group of conservative Christians has abandoned their bloc's anti-environmental stance and begun sounding the environmental trumpet - albeit to the tune of "stewardship of God's resources." If it brings them to the table, I'm not going to argue with their motivation.)
Since Plato's idea of philosopher-kings seems an unlikely course for our hedonistic, reality show society, we'll have to find an alternative to address the global issue of climate change and its impact, because it IS, ultimately, a global issue that requires global solutions. The United States acting alone will not solve the problem. Perhaps we can foster development of a more enlightened triumvirate that a) unites scientifically aware governments populated by politicians possessing an intact ethical DNA, b) a global corporate system that recognizes the deleterious effects unallayed climate change can have on the bottom line, and c) grassroots mobilization/education to create a groundswell of public opinion that will influence positively the first two elements in this list. (Realize that this goal will no doubt prove tantamount to dragging some of Plato's cavedwellers into the light. They will prefer the alternate reality of shadows cast on the wall. Let's just hope they, including Ben Hanley, notice when the cave becomes unbearably hot and unlivable.)
Upon reflection, the most important element in this group may be the shapers of public opinion. Because if there are enough Al Gores and Tom Glendenings (the author of the op-ed piece), public opinion - and consumer behavior - can tilt the monoliths of government and business into action.
A footnote: as a historian and artist, I tend to take the long view on most issues, realizing that if one looks closely enough, there are potent lessons to be learned from the collected data of our cultural histories. Take for example, the works of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, a 16h century Flemish painter. Many of his beautifully rendered images depict a northern Europe that is cold, snow-covered, and ice-bound. This was Brueghel's reality, not merely an artist's fantasy world. Average yearly temperatures during that period were only a few degrees cooler than today - causing scholars to refer to this period (varyingly estimated from 1550 to 1850) as Europe's "Little Ice Age." I won't go into the science that explains this period . . . nor will I address the manifold consequences vis-a-vis economics, health, politics, etc. Just understand that this period was caused by a seemingly miniscule shift in average yearly temperatures. The current threat - with effects potentially magnified by anthropogenic variables - appears much more dire . . . and will likely not inspire a latter-day Brueghel to leave behind paintings of bucolic community life or winter wonderlands.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Monday, January 8, 2007
Today I wanted to stay in bed, which is a fairly typical sentiment for most Americans on Monday mornings. My problem is that I want to stay in bed every morning and make it last until early afternoon. But spouse and children rarely allow that to happen. Indeed, most mornings - weekend or weekday - we're awake by 7 a.m. ready - albeit often unwillingly - for school or soccer or basketball or whatever new activity awaits. (I don't know what I would do if one of my kids decided to be a top ice skater and had to make those 5 or 6 a.m. practices!)
Today is a day when the antidepressants don't seem to have much of an "anti" effect. Thankfully the office is quiet, nearly deserted, and I can plug the ipod into the speaker system and crank up Gorecki's Symphony #3 - the first movement - which is equally depressing and uplifting. It's one of my father's favorite pieces of music, altho' my Mom has declared it one of the most depressing pieces she has EVER heard. Yes, it can be dirge-like and each of the three movements is based on rather "downer" texts: a traditional Polish song about a grieving mother . . . one them I can't remember . . . and one drawn from a message scrawled by a prisoner being held by the Nazi SS during the 2nd World War. It's sometimes referred to as Gorecki's "War Symphony" and has been played at a number of Holocaust remembrance ceremonies. (The best known recording features Dawn Upshaw handling the solo vocals that punctuate each movement. However, there are a couple of other recordings that I prefer over Ms. Upshaw's interpretation.)
The bottom line: This is great music for a rainy Monday in New York City. To say it is "depressing" misses the incredible complexity of the work . . . but my mom, a very intelligent woman AND the queen of Harlequin Romances, rarely challenges herself when it comes to art.
As I think I've noted before in these posts - life demands a soundtrack - and Gorecki just happens to be today's score. With the return of sun and brisk temperatures tomorrow, the soundtrack could change to Gershwin . . . or My Chemical Romance . . . or the Arctic Monkeys. Who knows!
Thursday, January 4, 2007
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Eating out in the early 70s for my family was a rare treat, usually enjoyed only on Sundays after church or during vacations. Instead, we would eat at home, enjoying my mom's pot roast (seasoned with one packet of Lipton Onion Soup), fried chicken (skinless!), or [insert your favorite southern Sunday meal here]. If it could be breaded and cooked in the Mirro electric skillet - a wedding gift, circa 1961 - or dropped into the pressure cooker for "faster" cooking, my mom would try it. I stood for hours - at a respectable distance, lest schrapnel from an exploding Revere pressure cooker end my life - watching the pressure cooker steam away, the safety valve on top hissing and dancing, as a chicken, potatos and carrots heated. (On weeknights the fare was a bit simpler, primarily because my mom worked. Easy preparation was key. Today we have Rachael Ray; in 1973 we had Betty Crocker's Easy Meals and Spam Hawaiian Style - slices of spam grilled in the electric skillet, served with canned pineapple slices and cinnamon. Yum-O.)
Eating out, therefore, was an adventure. There was a McDonald's nearby, one of the old ones that had the twin golden arches impaling the building, left and right, in a statement of space age architectural hedonism. But my father refused to eat at McDonald's. To him it was too noisy and too greasy. It also violated his rule about tablecloths and restaurants. If a place didn't have tablecloths, we didn't go there. For several years our only other option was Shoney's Big Boy, which had tablecloths, and damn good iced tea, thus keeping my father happy.
I'll always remember the sign on the door - a little decal placed by the American Restaurant Association - proclaiming "Eat Out Often." To me, ever lamenting the infrequency of our dining excursions, this was a cautionary phrase. I thought, "Hey, Mom and Dad, we need to eat out more often; it's good for the economy." "Eating out helps defeat the Commies." "Eating out bolsters the capitalist state, keeps these people employed, and staves off the dictatorship of the proletariat." This was the retail equivalent of the Bible's shortest verse: "Jesus wept." "Eat Out Often." And there was the chubby Big Boy statue out front, sporting the trademark red and white checked overalls and lifting a hamburger over his head . . . a diner's "statue of liberty" proclaiming a mom's freedom from kitchen drudgery. (And hey Mom, it saves wear and tear on that KitchenAid dishwasher!) My dad could feed our family of four for about $5 and have us home - courtesy of the 1972 Ford Gran Torino station wagon - by 1:15 on a typical Sunday. Why, we'd just barely begin tucking into the roast or chicken had we skipped Shoney's.
By 1976 and the Bicentennial, however, the novelty of eating out had dimished a little with a proliferation of nearby dining choices, including a Pizza Hut, Burger King, another McDonald's, KFC (with the spinning bucket atop the sign), and Shakey's. Not that my father ever deigned to eat at any of these fine franchises . . . we were still dining at Shoney's.