The Sonic Drive-in on the edge of my hometown is undergoing a facelift, a transformation of sorts, to modernize the old establishment and make it perhaps bit more..Sonicy. The place where I spent most of my youth is now suppose to change, suppose to change and become something different, yet somehow remain the same and serve the same things it served when it wasn’t modern. Change is necessary I understand, and progress a part of the way the world works, but for the Sonic Drive-in, no amount of change it puts on the exterior can change the memories it has created for me and the people I call friends.
I am 16 years old and my brother (the twin one you have heard so much about already) and I have just finished our fight about who gets to drive first tonight. The problem with having a twin as a sibling is we both want the same things, and those things seem to occur at the same time. We shared a room, we shared clothes, and at 16, we shared a 1982 red and white chevy long-bed pickup truck that proudly displayed a “Brown Bros” license plate on the front of it. The odometer, speedometer and the gas gage didn’t work, which probably answers the question of why the purchase price was ridiculously cheap. We we were basically flying blind, and for young hormonal teenagers, this was either a parental nightmare, or an act of pure genius, but after I got my first speeding warning (one that I am pretty sure my mom is still yet to know about), I learned the genius portion was well in effect and my guardian angel could breathe a bit easier.
The highlight of any newly minted driver is the ability to drive, and that is exactly what we did. Like Batman and Robin, we darted down old dirt roads that lead to nowhere, and back and forth to McAlester for no good reason other than to just see if we could catch glimpse of any of our friends there. But the greatest thing, in all the world was the one mile loop between the Sonic drive-in on one side of my universe and the Flash-N-Dash gas station on the other. In between those two points lived my life, my high school existence and my hometown. Hartshorne is defined by the Lindley’s Grocery Store on the West side of town and the old VFW on the east, but the meat of town, the part we sunk our teeth in to on weekend nights, was between the place you got food and the place where you got gas, and those two borders were the poles in which my life existed.
The cruise was life, and life is good when you are 16, or at least you were too cocky to know any better. We were giants back then, and our small town in the middle of nowhere meant something to us, the astronauts that chose to orbit the town on those nights forever ago, looking up at the stars and dreaming bigger dreams in the nighttime than we did during the day. We boarded our ships and made our pre-flight checklists. Gas-check, Music-check, Hormones-check check. The travel and the tales that came after that flight launched would make me the person I am today, and comfort me at times when I feel the world has gone a little too crazy. I look back and smile at memories of my time on the cruise and grateful for all of those who helped me create them.
To this day, the smell of Drakkar makes me want to gas up and hit the strip, get me a number two hamburger with cheese and tater tots, with a large orange slushy to wash it all down. That stuff was magic in a bottle, the AXE body spray of its time, and quite possibly the only reason I may have ever had a girlfriend in high school. Why Drakkar is still not the top selling men’s cologne in the United States is beyond me. With the resurgence of old and nostalgic, you would think a lady would get a good wif of that beautiful smell and start salivating of the memory of her old high school boyfriend, and the need to make out in the backseat of a car would instantly make her want to date the next available chap that strolls along. Ladies, why you be hating these days? !Drakkar para simpere!
No one had cell phones back then, so the exact time in which “the cruise” was to begin basically depended on the randomness of the participants that showed up. You show up too early, you got bored and went to someone’s house. You show up too late, you may have missed out on Kevin and Jill’s big fight and breakup, and then the fact that Jill jumped in the truck with Chris from McAlester, who was in town because he likes Jill’s friend Mary, but Mary was playing coy, so now Jill is with Chris, whom Kevin hates because they play baseball against each other. The story of this hits the other side of town at the speed of light because Joe has his CB radio and is calling the rest of the baseball team, because the whole team hates Chris now for stealing their buddy’s girl, but also because he probably is going to be the starting pitcher when Hartshorne plays McAlester next week. Did I mention that I dated one of Chris’s ex girlfriend’s, thanks again due to Drakkar, so he already hates me, but it doesn’t matter, because during the game, my brother will break the nose of the second baseman while sliding into base. Sharks and Jets shit for sure….stay cool, man.
My cousin Nick worked for Pioneer at the time, so he hooked my brother and me up with the sweetest, most badass brand new Pioneer radio and two removable 10in woofer speakers for behind our bench seat. I am, and will forever be eternally grateful for him for providing the soundtrack of my youth, and like Drakkar, probably allowing me to get a girlfriend. In case you didn’t know, in those days a person had two songs that you played to test the effectiveness of new speakers. “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys was the song of choose to rate the quality of the woofers, and the unforgettable “Summergirls” by Dino, did nicely to check the tweeters. Check Check. We were ready to roll, but after one more look in the mirror and one more spray of the cologne.
Now, don’t get me wrong, music was merely the background noise to the counseling sessions and flirting that were actually occurring in the cab of the vehicles in orbit, but they did set the tone. I personally was a big fan of the Bobby Brown “Don’t Be Cruel” album, and the unforgettable sounds of Color Me Badd and the Beastie Boys. Some of my fellow classmates stuck strictly to their country roots of which we were raised. Country was nice, but it was also standard and pretty boring most times. I loved me a little George Straight, but I preferred George as a co-pilot for country roads, not asphalt ones. Country was fine if I am with the boys, but cruising wasn’t about your boys, it was about the girls, and most girls wanted to dance in the cab of the truck, singing at the top of their lungs! Sure, a country two steppin’ session was nice out in the woods once you found you a girlfriend, but this was Saturday night, the girls were ready to sing. Sorry George.
We would cruise and talk, and then we would park and talk even more. We were youth on the brink of adulthood, and we were all part of the wonder that makes small towns special. We all knew each others business, and we all knew each others problems. We got along because we all had the same problems, just in different aspects of our lives. We were all flawed, but we were collectively better than who we thought we were, and we all knew we needed each other. The cruise was our way of coming to group therapy, our way of telling each other that it would all be alright, because no matter what, you always had a friend willing to ride shotgun with you.
I am not sure when the Sonic is going to re-open, when the lights in the sign will turn back on and become the navigational beacon to the west. All I know, and all I wish for is this, when the tater tots and slushees start flowing again, and the car hops are back to delivering memories, that it will be on a Saturday night. I hope that the town will have a cruise night planned to help champion in a new generation of memories to be made and parents will show their kids what it was like, a lifetime ago, to orbit the stars and dream of big dreams, even if you are living in a small town. Oh, and don’t forget the Bobby Brown cassette and Drakkar, just in case you happen to meet someone cute.