Monthly Archives: June 2018

Soda Fountain Magic

Entering Zaharakos Soda Fountain as a preschooler, I knew magic was for real.

I spotted curlicue iron tables and chairs my size. Glass cases held hundreds of chocolates, hard candies and jelly beans. Had I reached heaven early? The adult friend who brought me confirmed this with ice cream I didn’t have to share.

Tired of the rock-hard chair, I pattered across the gleaming black-and-white floor to the counter’s red stools. They turned round and round! My friend’s objection didn’t surprise me. Even if a stool was designed to twirl, grown-ups always said you shouldn’t.

An enormous 1908 orchestrion — a self-playing pipe organ with drums, cymbals and triangles — fascinated me. Did jolly ghosts fill the high-ceilinged room with music?

Occasionally, Mama took us to Zaharakos. How I longed to dig into that pile of roasted cashews! But even a small packet cost too much.

My mother’s generation had frequented the place during their teens, so we cool adolescents of the 1960s avoided the fountain as if it radiated fallout. Still, celebrating my first job, I treated my little sister at Zaharakos.

I said grandly, “Order whatever you want.”

We ate huge sundaes. I played the orchestrion and bought cashews, toasty and delicious beyond belief.

Later, newly engaged, I chose fabulous Zaharakos candies for my future in-laws’ Christmas gift.

Fast-forward a few years to a visit by my mother. Adulting had drained away my coolness, so we visited Zaharakos. The mirrors gleamed, but the near-empty soda fountain’s stained counter, dull woodwork and damaged tin-patterned ceiling didn’t brighten our day.

“Everyone came here after school. ‘Meet you at the Greek’s!’ we’d say.” Mom gazed at the broken orchestrion. “The fountain’s dated now. I guess I am, too.”

Decades later, I shared a similar feeling when visiting the area. I stopped for a treat, but Zaharakos, a landmark since 1900, had closed. The orchestrion? Sold to a California collector.

Not long ago, though, as I traveled past my childhood hometown, something sent me off the interstate.

Miracles do happen.

Inside Zaharakos, red stools flanked gleaming, marble counters, and mirrors glimmered amid rich woodwork. Pint-sized curlicue tables and chairs again held little diners. The original orchestrion played, grand as ever.

I sent yummy birthday chocolates to my mother.

She no longer remembered events of five minutes ago, but she recalled Zaharakos.

The soda fountain had worked its sweet magic once again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite soda fountain treat?

Want to travel back in time? Visit Zaharakos on the Web or plan a trip to experience the magic of their old-fashioned soda fountain: http://www.zaharakos.com/

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

Dad clowns with his 98-year-old sister and his niece.

O my God, You are the powerful Lord of the universe. Yet, OMG, You also are the Lord of laughter! Thank You for my 90-year-old earthly father who, with every phone call, every visit, never lets me–or anyone else–forget that.

Summer Driving: Going Crazy

Is road construction a good thing?

During my pre-driving days, I liked it, especially on long family trips. Bright-colored signs, flags, cones and barricades broke up eternal stretches of highway. Huge trucks, bulldozers, and graders growled and spouted smoke. Burly men (there were no women road construction workers then) drove the heavy equipment. Jackhammers appeared to enjoy breaking up Planet Earth. Lines of traffic snaked along roads, semitrailers’ air brakes whooshed and horns honked — all very exciting.

Road construction kept Dad and Mom occupied. Flapping maps, they forgot to monitor my siblings and me. When who-was-looking-at-whom crises arose, we kicked each other freely.

Dad’s mutterings soon graduated to addressing aloud the sins of fellow drivers and construction workers. A pastor, he did not swear. Instead, he called them Zeke, Pete, Cedric and Mephibosheth:

“Zeke and Cedric, are you going to yak all day? Or actually work?”

“Look out, Mephibosheth! Somebody else, take the wheel!”

He addressed irritating women drivers as Gertrude. Unless he was really mad. Then they became Sister Shumpett.

“Sister Shumpett, are you trying to send us to Jesus?!”

We kids loved the drama.

As an adult, I’m not so thrilled. Traveling anywhere during summer, I go crazy. Hostile plastic barrels target my car. I drive in reduced lanes that can’t accommodate a skateboard, let alone semis rocking around me.

Other drivers go crazy, too. Construction zones become existential: “I drive. Therefore, I am.”

Our Visa bills for gas support that mantra. But that’s all we know in construction areas, as highway signs become mere mirages. Drivers rocket past at warp speed. Others meander across skinny lanes as if they are middle-schoolers riding bikes on a summer afternoon. Pete, Cedric, Mephibosheth, Gertrude and Sister Shumpett are alive and well on summer highways in this millennium, too.

So how can I ask a stupid question like, “Is road construction good?”

Before you add my name to the above list, consider this: The only thing worse than road construction is no road construction. In the Bahamas, Hubby and I nearly drove into the sea because no one had bothered to barricade a washed-out road, let alone, fix it. In Ecuador, we smacked our skulls repeatedly on a bouncing truck’s ceiling, following la calle para burros (the road made for burros).

We’ve also driven in Michigan, a state whose annual highway repair budget is $15.83.

Unfortunately, for family reasons, we continue to drive in Michigan. I may soon pull our pop-up camper, as Hubby insists I learn to spell him.

Look out, Zeke, Pete, Cedric, Gertrude, and Sister Shumpett!

And you thought you already were going crazy.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: So … is road construction a good thing?

This Old Thing

For antique buffs, the past is sacred. They bypass brand-new merchandise. Instead, their eyes light up when encountering objects covered with dust, rust and mildew. “This old thing” comprises a compliment, not a deprecation.

Me? I don’t intentionally collect antiques. It just sort of happens.

Psst. Don’t tell anyone, but I own a VCR. And boom boxes with cassette tape players. I even own a turntable. Our ’70s vinyl records sound scratchy — and the singers somewhat constipated when we forget to flip the speed from 33 rpm to 45 — but the low technology still works, and the music’s awesome. Why relegate these to a garage sale so a stranger can buy them for a quarter, have them appraised a decade later, and sell them for $500?

Such a prospect also inspires me to inventory my kitchen utensils. No doubt, some will decorate a trendy person’s walls.

Think about it: Lunchables packages and Pringles® canisters we toss into recycling bins will someday fetch exorbitant prices. A coffee table may display your Crock-Pot® or the toaster that shoots users on sight. Why? To give a living room “that certain ambiance.”

Other decorators might prefer fan-shaped groupings of power tools or venerable weed whackers. Such future interior design is not unthinkable. Current homeowners display scythes, wagon wheels and horse collars over their fireplaces. Perhaps their descendants will hang milking machines from lighting fixtures to capture a “simpler time.”

For the ultimate feng shui, they will find an honored place for an ancient riding lawn mower.

So, hold onto those valuable future antiques. My heart breaks, remembering a certain yellow polyester dress. My babies applied numerous bodily fluids to its sunshiny folds. As children, they rubbed green Jell-O, snotty noses and Happy Meals (with extra ketchup) into it. Still, the dress survived. I finally dispatched it to The Salvation Army. Like a too-cheerful relative who calls at 6 a.m., it probably will live forever. Some archaeologist will dig up that dress 2,000 years hence, value it at several million, and hang it in a climate-controlled environment far from Happy Meals.

I should have kept it. And a gazillion other valuable items.

Sure, these future antiques we amass make a mess. But consider the legacy we leave our children: pieces of history to cherish. Opportunities to relive the grandeur of the past.

To put everything into a garage sale for a quarter.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which of your present possessions will someday wow an antique buff?