The other day I was sitting with some company out in the front yard reclining in an Adirondack chair. It was a perfect warm spring evening and it was quiet in the neighborhood. We had the radio playing softly in the background. I was just having pleasant conversation enjoying “an adult beverage” (Henry’s Orange Hard Soda – note: Grape is even better) and watching the world go by. It was about as close to an idyllic evening as it gets for me. It hit me that even though this was a very simple thing that I was enjoying it tremendously. I was reminded that most of the time in life it’s the simplest things that are the best.
This caused me to reflect back and remember as a kid how my Father used to take me to a Service Station (Orey’s Amoco) where he hung out and talked with his buddies. This was in the days when gas stations did oil changes, mechanical work, sold and put on tires and other mechanical work. The employees would check your car’s oil and tire pressure and even wash the windshield. I would sit there drinking my Mountain Dew out of the green bottle (with the picture of the moonshiner on the side and the slogan” It’ll tickle your innards”, often while eating a pecan pie. I would listen to these characters tell jokes, discuss community events, people’s health and swap stories about hunting, fishing, cars and other guy stuff. This was back in the day when in polite conversation you did not use profanity. I never heard any of these guys curse. I can still remember the pssst pssst sound of the lift when they were raising a car for an oil change or to put on tires. I can distinctly recall the ding ding of the bell when a car rolled over the tube by the pumps announcing a customer was there. Simple times and simple things. Sadly I will never see those days again.
Talking about childhood simple pleasures I remember as a child when my Fathers’ side of the family got together. This was usually at my Grandparents’ house. We would often go to Dooley’s Ice Cream shop in Cleveland and get grape ice cream. It came in a large round cardboard looking container like you’ll see ice cream in at ice cream stores now. I don’t know how much was in it but it was a lot. I never saw the container not get cleaned out however. The Haskins are known for their sweet eating ability. I won’t even get into their banana pudding eating. That was the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten and some of the best times I ever had. It was really good but the company in which it was shared made it the great.
I had some great times at get-togethers on my Mothers’ side of the family at fish fries, holidays and birthdays. That side did homemade ice cream with Nehi grape soda. Those were simple but great times.
Speaking of simple childhood family experiences. When I’m out riding my motorcycle I occasionally see large concrete picnic tables at roadside pull-offs. These are often near scenic overlooks. I wistfully remember back when I was a kid and my family would have picnics at locations like those. I thought that was so cool. I enjoyed those meals and never realized how special they would seem to me later in life. I never see anybody eating at these tables. It makes me wonder why nobody s using them. I guess families don’t eat together as much. Maybe roadside family picnics aren’t cool anymore. I think it’s kind of sad.
Another simple childhood pleasure I remember was going to the Star-Vue Drive-In Movie Theater in Cleveland, TN. My parents would park the car and my brother and I would head for the playground that was located at the front of the huge lot at the base of the movie screen. We would give the playground equipment a workout while enjoying the delicious smells of cooking burgers, hot dogs and popcorn wafting from the snack bar there. When the movie started we’d head back to the car and eat popcorn Mom made at home and brought. Nobody worried about kids getting snatched by child molesters back then. Those were simpler and I think better times.
There are things I do now that are simple but are really good or enjoyable. Just the other day I asked somebody where they wanted to go eat. We decided on ‘hot dogs and hot fudge cake’. We headed to Kay’s Kastle in Soddy-Daisy. It was an excellent choice. A very simple meal in a very simple restaurant but it was just right.
About two years ago a friend came over to my house. I was sitting in a recliner while we talked. He commented on my dog Fido laying on the floor with his head resting on my feet. I hadn’t even noticed Fido doing that – just a simple loving act by my dog. Learn to treasure and savor such moments. This was about two weeks before Fido was diagnosed with cancer. He was gone in a month.
I really enjoy walking my remaining dogs. I like how much pleasure a walk gives them. They have a large fenced in back yard to run in but they really like it when we walk the neighborhood. They like the new sights and smells. It gives me time to think and get some fresh air. The dogs and I all get satisfaction from our walk… the simple things can be the best for man and animal.
Sometimes I’ll just jump on my motorcycle and take a short ride. It’s a simple thing but it clears the mental cobwebs. Long rides are better and with friends even better.
If you’ve never walked the Walnut Street Bridge I highly recommend it especially in the Spring and Fall. You can leisurely walk along and look down at the Tennessee River with boat traffic, people paddle boarding, rowing and engaging in other water activities. There are walkers, runners, dog walkers, tourists and all kinds of people to watch up on the bridge. It’s a simple thing with no cost. Again aren’t those often the best?
I got up this morning and had a frosted blueberry Pop-tart and a Diet Pepsi. I was instantly reminded of simple mornings I used to spend in a friend’s kitchen in Montana. Their young daughter Kylie and I would get up before everyone else. The house would be quiet and still. You could look out the front window and see a vista of snow capped mountains and usually deer and antelope in the fields nearby. Kylie would cuddle up sitting on the heater vent by the stove sometimes snuggling with her dog Sally. We’d hang out prior to everybody getting up and getting ready to go to work and her to school.
Simple things and simple times. They were the best. Really aren’t they always?
– Mark Haskins
Background music: “Home Movies” The best of Everything But The Girl, Robert Miles ”Dreamland”
PS: Happy Belated Birthday to Rocco
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