I’m looking forward, my Sweet Al’s looking backward

PREVIEW columnist

I explained to my Sweet Al, “We need to learn our neighbor’s phone number in case we ever have an emergency. We never know when we might have to call them. They’ve offered to help us.”

I said to Al, this is how you can remember their phone number. It starts with 57. Remember, 1957 is the year you graduated. You won’t forget that, will you? Think of Heinz 57. In fact, think of the ‘57 Chevy.

Al said to me, “The ‘57 Chevy was fast, but it was the ‘55 Chevy that they put in the first V-8 engine. We used to drag race on Eubank in Albuquerque. There were about 20 of us. We’d take our girlfriends out there.

“The police didn’t bother us. Every once in a while we’d see one light coming, and we knew it was the police, they drove motorcycles. They’d say, ‘We know you’re out here, and we know you’re having fun, but be careful. You can stay on two conditions, no drinking and the flag man cannot stand between the two cars.’

“Okay, Rebel Without a Cause, I’m trying to teach you how to remember the neighbor’s phone number.”

Al continued, “Mr. Miller, Ronnie’s father, had a red ‘57 Chevy, he’d come out there and beat us all. I had a ‘58 Plymouth and after I put on dual carburetors, I could beat him.”

“I need you to focus. Can you remember the neighbor’s phone number?”

“What is it?”

It starts with 264-57.

“I forgot. The Ford came out in 1932 with the first V-8 flathead motor, and Chevy didn’t come out until 1955.”

Al ran to his stash of magazines, “Look here.” Al flipped the pages of the Hot Rod Magazine to an article showing a ‘57 Chevy and an article about drag racing. “I remember when they shut down the drag strip in Albuquerque. It was about 1959.”

This is crazy, I’m trying to teach him how to remember a phone number and I get a long lesson on drag strips and racing. He remembers every boy in high school, what they drove, color of their car, what was under the hood, how fast they could go and who wore a red James Dean jacket.

“Where’s my James Dean jacket? Did you throw it away? You always throw away everything.”

“Your jacket is still in the upstairs closet. Do you realize I’ve kept it for you for 57 years?”

“Well, don’t throw it away.”

Apparently remembering those days is more important to Al than remembering a phone number. I’ll write it down on the Pagosa Fire Protection District burn permit. He knows where that is.

I guess if he has an emergency and I’m not home, he can holler out the front door and hopefully the neighbors will hear him.

Final brushstroke:

I’m trying to be wise and remember our age. Al remembers Mr. Miller looking in his rear-view mirror from a 1957 Chevy. I don’t believe it. My Rebel without a Cause is calling the wrecking yard to verify the date of the first V-8 engine in the Ford. “Honey, I was right, it was a ‘32 Ford.” God, help us all!

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This story was posted on January 16, 2014.