Clark Griswold: Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes ... or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?
- National Lampoon’s Family Vacation
It was 1971, the year that Bill Withers was singing “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Alice Cooper was trying to convince everyone he was eighteen.
It was the year they stopped advertising cigarettes on TV and the Jeffersons were moving in next door to Archie and Edith Bunker.
My family left Little Rock that summer with six weeks of travel in front of us. We were heading west, to places not yet seen – Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Juarez, Mexico, just to name a few. You don’t want to go to that last one anymore, I hear.
You learn a lot about people when you travel thousands of miles with them by automobile. And that was the family vacation when I first heard my father shout out the mother of all curse words.
We were driving down Highway 101 between Santa Rosa and San Francisco, where for miles, both sides of the road were lined with hippies, while the three boys in a Vista Cruiser were going a little crazy. It was a primal scream that carried that word from my old man back to us, shutting us up for at least a few miles.
Later that night I thought of those hippies again when I heard the news that Jim Morrison had been found dead in a Paris hotel. It was the end.
Days later, things were calmer as we were driving through the desert, and into the resort city of Palm Springs, where the average summer temp is 108.
Dad had heard that you could actually fry an egg on the sidewalks of Palm Springs, and decided that he wanted to see this phenomenon for himself. And of course the rest of the males in the car were all for the idea. Poor mom. She’s the one who probably should have been screaming bad words. We stopped at a local grocery store and purchased a half-dozen farm fresh large eggs, and went looking for a good hot spot.
We had soon stopped and were out of the station wagon watching the old man crack open his egg before gently pouring it onto the concrete. He looked the same as he did when he cooked for us back home.
We surrounded the defenseless little yoke and waited – dad, mom, my two little brothers, and me.
After five minutes or less, and no action from our sidewalk skillet below, my mom moved quietly away from the group in the direction of a nearby Saks. My brothers also chose to bail on the experiment, and followed her. So it was only I who remained there with my father.
I heard him sigh and looked up at his face, waiting (and probably hoping) to hear that word again that had stayed with me since the streets of San Francisco. But what I got was better. He put his hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “Well at least we tried.”
That was my father. He was never afraid to try anything. Even like frying an egg on a sidewalk in one of the richest cities in the world. It is a good memory for me – but more like a Griswold moment than a Hallmark moment. All we needed was a beer to share.
If any of you have ever had success with cooking on concrete please let me know. It would serve as a little vindication in my mind to my dearly departed dad. It doesn’t have to be an egg – a grilled cheese, can of soup, or even a Pop Tart would probably make him smile.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.