photo of the week 3: i scream, you scream…

I must be a long-lost member of the Munster clan.  A little dark cloud perpetually hovers over me, following me wherever I go.  I thrive in the cool and overcast corners of the world.  Seattle, San Francisco, and London – in their foggier months – beckon.  Sweaters, thunderstorms, snow, and air conditioning are my friends.

Summer – particularly this one – is my enemy.  I pray for eternal not-summer.

Tragically, I was separated at birth and set adrift in a sea of sunny people, Apollonian fools who crave heat and humidity. They love to sweat and waste time at the beach or on a pool deck, slowly broiling themselves to blistering cinders. They get a kick from searing their cheeks on leather, and peeling them off, sticky and red. Bug spray is their fragrance of choice.

This is simply no way to live.

Without peaches, watermelons, tomatoes, and sweet corn, I would despise summer with no remorse. Not even ice cream, which is a perennial food group for me, eases my suffering.

Despite this, I’d be terribly remiss to deny ice cream its rightful place among the joys of my summer experiences.  It was, after all, in the summers of my youth, that I earned my first status as a regular at an ice cream parlor.

My parents took turns picking me up from Montessori preschool after work. In the summer, I especially looked forward to the days when dad would come because, as it often happened, we would make a clandestine detour for ice cream on the way home.

Given that this kind of pre-dinner “snacking” was a gross violation of mom’s S.O.P., dad and I had a mutual understanding to keep these trips between the two of us.

This ice cream parlor really wasn’t a parlor in the old-fashioned sense. Calvin Trillin, not Norman Rockwell would have wanted to paint this scene.

This was more like a simple diner with a gigantic ice cream selection. You could get burgers and fries in a basket here. And I think you could get hot dogs too. But we never ordered food.  Like most people, we went straight for the ice cream.

There must have been at least forty flavors in that seemingly endless row of colors. Dad always got the same thing (still does) – black walnut on a sugar cone.

I, on the other hand, ate my way down the line*, quickly discovering an affinity to fruit, coffee and chocolate flavors, an ambivalence for mint, and an aversion to anything swirled, nutted, glowing, or containing candy that otherwise belonged in packages. In those two summers before big-kid school started, and for the two summers after, I tested, retested, and confirmed my preferences.

The same waitress always dipped my ice cream, a skinny older woman with a do rag and a cackle, raspy from decades of chain smoking.  She thought I was the most adorable thing since the banana split and would often give me extra large scoops, ensuring that my chubby cheeks and tummy would return.

Dad and I rarely sat at the counter – the stools were a too high for me.  Creatures of habit, we always slid into the same booth – the no-nonsense, unforgivingly hard, D.Q. kind with white laminent tabletops speckled with gold flecks – the third one from the door.  The do rag would follow us with two small glasses, brimming with more crushed ice than water, in her chicken-claw hands.  To this day, every time I taste freezer-stale ice, I think of those glasses of water.

One of the best features of this ice cream parlor was the air conditioning that faithfully blasted at full-bore. By the time I finished my scoop, chased with a glass of crushed ice, I was blissfully numb and cold.

And then I’d have to go outside and climb into that oven on four tires. My annoyance was an early indication that I was seasonally misplaced.

I hate summer.

But in honor of my favorite sweet treat, which was celebrated this past Sunday on National Ice Cream Day, I give you happy sunshine folks a seasonally appropriate “photo of the week,” which was taken at an antique car rally last year in Kansas City.

For me, the magic of ice cream is rooted in nostalgia and I think this photo captures it.

i scream, you scream...

Sadly, my ice cream parlor no longer exists. It was converted to a comic store years ago. Recently, the building was was bull-dozed to accommodate the ever-expanding appetite for strip malls.

~ by ulterior epicure on July 20, 2010.

8 Responses to “photo of the week 3: i scream, you scream…”

  1. thanks for writing this. i use to make ice cream for a living, hopefully continuing to do so, and i use to ask people their first memories of eating it. they aren’t exactly the same but similar to yours. but they usually are the best memories. thanks.

  2. @Alex: Thanks for dropping by. And thanks for making ice cream. You are doing God’s work. Childhood food memories are usually the best ones, aren’t they?

  3. The photo captures the nostalgia perfectly! Great shot! Kind of sad story, though. I hate to see those pieces of history turned into strip malls.

  4. Excellent post – and I entirely agree on the seasons. If you should ever find yourself in Columbus Ohio, you need to try Jeni’s. It is part of the reason many have dubbed Ohio the Ice Cream capitol of America.

  5. @ photographyfree4all: Thanks!

    @ uhockey: I didn’t know that (about Ohio). Jeni’s is on my list now. Thanks!

  6. An evocative & ‘delicious’ narrative

  7. Great post! A refreshing read indeed. UE, just wondering if you’re planning on hitting Japan sometime this year?

  8. @ Will: Thanks! Unfortunately, no Japan this year. Perhaps in the year to come.

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