Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights; Of Cloudless and Carefree American Daysby Bob Greene
No writer in America has a better feel for the country's rythms, richness, and rewards than bestselling author and syndicated columnist Bob Greene. With the color and depth of a novel, this treasury of best-loved columns captures America's small triumphs and all-too-human tragedies as Greene travels across the country to tell the stories that don't make the
No writer in America has a better feel for the country's rythms, richness, and rewards than bestselling author and syndicated columnist Bob Greene. With the color and depth of a novel, this treasury of best-loved columns captures America's small triumphs and all-too-human tragedies as Greene travels across the country to tell the stories that don't make the headlines. A small-town cop saves a child's life by double-checking, on a hunch, a closed case of suspected abuse. Frank Sinatra, on his last concert tour, shares off-the-cuff wisdom about fame, craft, and shifting fortunes. An impoverished father gives his son the best trip he can on the free trains out to the Atlanta airport's boarding gates. Funny, gripping, heartrending, and exhilarating, these unforgettable stories are guaranteed to lift the spirit and stir the soul.
Read an Excerpt
It was just after seven-thirty on a Sunday morning, and the streets were silent. Jack and I walked past the elementary school building and Jack noticed a pile of furniture stacked by the side, where the bike racks used to be.
"Look at those chairs," Jack said. "The little ones."
We veered off the sidewalk to approach the pile.
"Do you think they could be ours?" Jack said.
"If they are, they're at least forty years old," I said, picking up a chair and holding it in one hand.
The chair was wooden. The style was old-fashioned. The chair was so small that it could not comfortably hold a person much older than seven or eight.
"I'll bet you these are the same chairs that were used when we went to school here," Jack said. "They're pretty sturdy. They could have lasted all this time."
The elementary school was being remodeled. On this August Sunday morning, the little wooden chairs awaited Monday pickup by a salvage crew. Jack and I, best friends all our lives, both of us half-a-century old now, were walking the streets of the town where we grew up. Neither of us lives there now. We had flown in with nothing much more important in mind than to do just this: walk around and see things.
To us, the pile of elementary school furniture was like a prized find at an archeological dig. Soon enough the streets would be filling with people on their way to church, but we were still pretty much alone as we left the furniture and headed toward Main Street. A police officer, cruising, waved, and we waved back. In a town of 15,000, that kind of thing can happen.
On the other side ofMain Street was Paul's Food Shoppe. "I wonder if it still has the wooden floors," Jack said. In the middle of a block we crossed without a traffic light because there was no traffic. The store was closed, but through the front windows we could see that the floor was still made of well-worn wood, the nailheads visible.
"It was always so much smaller than the Kroger's across the street," I said. "But it always did good business."
"People liked the service," Jack said. "Paul's gave personal service. You could call Paul's with your grocery list and they'd deliver to your house."
Across the street, the Kroger's supermarket was gone, a chain pharmacy in its place. Paul's remained. We saw the food on the shelves, and Jack, who knows about the twists and vagaries of business now, mentioned the name of a giant national food manufacturer that he noticed on one label through the window and said, "They're such a slimy outfit," and began to explain to me about the national conglomerate's low business practices.
But I didn't want to hear it. I'm willing to listen to just about anything Jack wants to talk about, always have been, but a silent Sunday morning in front of Paul's grocery windows was not the time to remind ourselves that we now knew secrets and shames of the real world. "Paul's really did have good service," I said, cutting him off. "My grandmother had them deliver her groceries all the time."
The record shop where Jack and I each bought copies of Meet the Beatles the day it arrived in our town is now a store that sells sheets and towels; we looked in that window, too. Connell's Flowers is bigger than we remembered; Seckel's 5 & 10 is gone. We took a right and passed the house where my mother used to live when she was a girl. We stopped on street comers and debated which way to turn next.
Each of us had been back here many times before; each of us has thought, more times than we can tell, about what the streets and buildings mean to us. We hadn't done it together, though, not like this, and the Sunday morning grew later and the streets began to fill.
In the nicer sections of town the homes were still lovely, but very few had the names of their owners displayed on address signs in front, the way they used to. Instead, the signs on the lawns bore the names of security firms, announcing to would-be burglars that the homes were wired and connected to the police station. It's like this everywhere now, all over America, in our new age of fear and discretion. Don't let strangers know your name; just tell them you are wary and well-protected. Security on those streets we walked was once something that was taken for granted, and the security was of a sort that people did not have to order from a company and pay for once a month.
"Do you think they're just going to haul those little wooden chairs away?" Jack said.
"My mom's old house was really beautiful," I said, looking in the sky for Sunday-morning rain clouds.Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queens Nights. Copyright © by Bob Greene. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Award-winning journalist Bob Greene is the author of six New York Times bestsellers and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Op-Ed page.
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