It was a gloriously gloomy summer day in 1967. Good news for me. Since it had rained that morning, that meant only one thing: no lawns to mow! I was willing, but nobody wanted their lawn mowed when it was wet. I had quite a few regular lawn jobs by then, and at two bucks a pop I was rolling in the dough.
The weather was stifling hot, and even though it was a cloudy day, you could break into a sweat just being outside. What to do? There was a whole range of choices. Too early to go to the public library to enjoy their polar water-cooled air conditioner unit. There was the cool inviting green-walled basement, but then I'd have my little brother hanging around, and Mom might think up a household chore that needed doing. Same with Grandma's basement - except at Grandma's chores were a certainty. And she'd invite me for lunch, which would involve a trip to the store, and doing dishes afterwards. She would have prospered in the age of slavery.
So I made the logical choice. I got on my 26" Sears two-wheeler, with the metal saddle baskets in the back, and headed for 2nd Street, to the A&P supermarket. I could walk around for hours in the A&P, enjoying air conditioning that was cold enough to keep produce fresh without refrigeration. Your whole body just exhaled when you walked in there. It felt especially good to walk in there sweat-soaked, more for your money, as it were.
But that day I was finally going to take the plunge and make a life-changing purchase. Enough of looking and window shopping. This time I was going to buy it. And A&P' had the best price. I had shopped this purchase around for weeks, and finally I was going to take the plunge. It had been on the shelf for over a month, and today was the day.
I picked it off the shelf, took one last thorough look at it, and decided, yes, it was worth the four-dollar price. I took it to the checkout, hoping the lady wouldn't question me about it. They can sometimes ask kids the most embarrassing questions. Especially in a small town where everybody knew my parents. Imagine the mortification: "Does your mother know you're buying this?" But the questions never came, this time. She just bagged it up, in a plain brown bag, and took my four sweaty dollars.
And it was mine. I pedaled home, and snuck it into my bedroom, and peeled off the cellophane. I took it to the corner table, and put it on. My monophonic copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the Beatles. I have that phonograph record to this day.
Thanks to Jude Kinnear for the inspiring first line:
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