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Lido Lavender

Buick 1959 in Lido Lavender.  Fair Use of picture.
Lido Lavender
by Susan B

My grandfather was a sociable Chicago gentleman.  In the late 1950s and 1960s, he and my grandmother lived on the South side of Chicago.  Grandpa was friends with the owners of two of Chicago's famous historic South side record labels.  Grandpa was a long-time Chicago real estate investor, and I think he was involved with finding or financing real estate for these record labels.

 One of the labels was Vee-Jay Records, which was one of the first Black-owned record labels.  Vee-Jay Records was famous for having a lot of the most successful rhythm and blues acts.  Vee-Jay also distributed records by white acts such as The Four Seasons, and then later, The Beatles.  Vee-Jay Records was the first U.S. record label to distribute The Beatles' early records. Later, Vee-Jay Records became home to Jimi Hendrix and Billy Preston.

Grandpa was also friends with Leonard and Phil Chess, the two Polish-Jewish brothers who owned Chess Records.  Chess Records released, on numerous record labels and imprints, a lot of the blues,  rhythm and blues, and soul music acts that went on to become famous.  In 1964, while Vee-Jay Records was selling The Beatles' first songs, Chess Records was recording The Rolling Stones.

Both the Chess brothers and the folks at Vee-Jay often gave Grandpa promotional copies of their new records.  They seemed to value his opinion.  In turn, he sometimes gave 45 rpm records to our family to see how "the kids" liked certain songs.  (45 rpms were small vinyl records that had one song on each side.  They were played on a record player or phonograph using a needle.)  My parents listened to music by the likes of Perry Como and Doris Day.  By contrast, the Chess and Vee-Jay Records were ushering in the rock and roll era.  In 1960, Chubby Checker released his version of the song, "The Twist," setting off a new dance craze that changed the way couples danced with each other.

My parents had a sedan style car, but they needed a bigger car to hold the kids.  Today, families get SUVs and mini-vans.  Back then, those kind of cars did not exist.  Families then had station wagons, also called estate wagons.  Station wagons had a front seat, a back seat, and then a rear compartment to carry stuff in, or to let kids sit in.  Some station wagons had seats that folded up in the back.  Those seats held only small, skinny children.  Back then, there were no seatbelts or child car seats. There was the general belief that a car could fit however many people you could stuff into it.  There was no sense that cars should be safe; that came later in 1965 when Ralph Nader wrote a book about car safety (or lack thereof) and kicked off the movement to make cars less of a rolling death trap.

Back then, people went to a car dealer and ordered a car and chose the color and the various extra features.  The customer would choose the color of their car from a chart with paint chips. Each year, the car companies had a new color chart with that year's stylish new colors.  Then, the car order would be sent to the car company's plant in Detroit, where it would be custom made specially for that buyer.  Then, the car was shipped to the dealer, who would call in the buyer to come pick up their brand new car.

My parents were looking to buy a station wagon, but were on a tight budget.  One day, Grandpa called my father to say that one of his record label friends had ordered a new car, a luxury model Buick station wagon, but that when it arrived, it was the wrong color, and he told the car dealer he was not buying it.  The car was brand new and perfectly good, just an odd color.  The dealer felt the color was so odd that he was willing to sell the station wagon at a very good price.  Grandpa had the car on hold at the dealer for my father to have first dibs to buy it at the good price.  My parents had to make up their minds fast, and say they wanted the car, or else lose the opportunity to buy it.

The color of the car was called Lido Lavender.  As it turned out, the Buick paint chips showed Lido Lavender as a greyish lavender, very subtle.  Some of the cars ordered in Lido Lavender were arriving at the dealers in that subtle color.  Other cars ordered in Lido Lavender were arriving at the dealers in a loud shiny purplish color.  The station wagon ordered by the record label folks arrived at the dealer in a stunning, shiny purplish-pink color.  The folks at the record label thought a shiny purple station wagon was too outrageous of a vehicle, even for people shuttling around the likes of Howlin' Wolf and later, The Beatles.  Back then, most cars on the road were black or white or a sedate green.

Grandpa insisted that my parents should buy the car.  It was a luxury car, he said, and the dealer was cutting the price drastically because of the color mix-up.  My parents agreed to buy the purple station wagon.  The car had real leather seats and a fancy radio.  It had fins in the back and whitewall tires.  It was the flashiest, jazziest, craziest station wagon anyone back then had ever seen.  And our family was riding around in it.

Everywhere we went, people commented on the car.  "Wow, your car is really somethin'," people would say.  Sometimes people would pose for a picture with our car.  "Never seen anything like it," they'd say.  People would honk at us on the highway, and point at our car, giving a thumbs-up. 

In 1964, when The Beatles were going to be on television on the Ed Sullivan Show, Grandpa insisted that we had to come over to their house to watch it with him and Grandma.  Grandpa was so excited that his friends' record label had an act about to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, which at the time, was the most famous show, and everyone watched it.

My parents had no idea who The Beatles were, but they were taken in by our grandfather's insistence and excitement.  If the Lido Lavender paint had been mixed right, it would have been The Beatles being shuttled in the car to the Ed Sullivan show.  The Lido Lavender was too purplish, so it was our family in the shiny purple station wagon. 

When we got to our grandparents, we each got a dish of ice cream.  Then, we gathered around the television set to watch Ed Sullivan announce his special guests, The Beatles.  The four lads from Liverpool sang the very same songs that were on the 45 rpms that Grandpa had given us to test whether we liked the songs.  As the Beatles sang, I already knew every word.  My little sister stood up and danced The Twist, just as we had been practicing at home.  Grandma told her to sit down and stop blocking the view.  The British Invasion had just begun.

Everything You Need to Know About Baby Boomers

Everything You Need to Know About Baby Boomers
by Susan B

Everything you need to know about baby boomers is summed up by the picture above.  This is a piece of actual playground equipment that was present in nearly all playgrounds during the years when baby boomers were kids.  Kids sat on the benches while other kids held the railings and ran around in circles to get the ride going fast.  If you fell off, you were going to crack your head or break some bones, so the danger was real.  

You could squeal about being dizzy, but that did not matter and no one was going to stop the ride for you to get off.  You were dizzy and no one cared about your complaints and you better hold on or you were going to be flung off the ride like a projectile onto the ragged concrete.  In fact, if you cried about being dizzy or about losing your grip, the big kids would probably run faster and make the thing spin harder and harder. Every playground had big, mean, older boys who commandeered the playground equipment, intentionally making it a challenge for the timid or weak.  There would be a daredevil or two who would hop up and balance atop the handrails to prove they could endure that risk, while laughing at everyone else having trouble merely sitting on the seats.

Another version of the same ride had no platform -- just benches and an open bottom.  If you fell off that, you were going to crack your skull and get hit repeatedly by the benches as they twirled around.  

Now, how often did these dastardly "accidents" occur? Rarely, and when an accident did happen, it became the stuff of legend and gossip that spread and lived on for many years.  "Hold on tight.  You don't want to end out brain-damaged with a giant melon head like Jimmy Shnitzley.  Yeah, well, he got that from falling off this very ride."  Parents of Boomers never denied them the opportunity to get their skulls scraped open on asphalt -- they simply issued warnings of the end result.  

Playgrounds in the Boomer days also had swings made of thick wooden slabs. If a kid walked in front of the swings, because the kid "forgot" or "wasn't paying attention," that child would get mowed down by another child's legs and then whacked in the head with a solid block of wood.  That would teach them what happens to those whose attention wanders off.  

Back in the olden days, it never occurred to anyone that playgrounds should be safe.  The idea of using wood chips or rubber mats as a soft surface never entered anyone's minds till the mid-1970s.  And that, of course, led to the downfall of mankind and all the problems we have today with kids growing up all fragile and frightened and allergic to gluten.  

Back in the olden days, playgrounds were practice for the real world, and the real world was not safe.  It was jump on and hang tight, or fall off and be scraped bloody.  And this is how Baby Boomers ended out how they are - self-reliant, cautious, skeptical, and with strong hand grip muscles.  If a Boomer is holding on to something, you could never take it from their hands, because they were trained young to hold on tight.

Balloon Morning

Balloon Morning
by Susan B

 Today, I saw something magical. This bunch of mylar balloons, about 5 balloons in blue and silver, came running down the street. You know how they tie long ribbons to those balloons and then tie the whole bunch to a little weight? The little weight was skimming right down the street in the wind, as fast as a skateboarder or bicycle, running this bunch of balloons down the middle of the street. I wish I had gotten video of it, but it moved so fast, all I could do was watch.

 It was around 6:30 am, so there were some cars, but not too many. Drivers honked at the balloon bunch, as if it would know to get out of the street. They swerved their cars to avoid hitting the balloons. One driver actually yelled, "Get outta the street!" - to a bunch of balloons!! 

And the balloons did get out of the street eventually. The balloons blew up onto someone's stairs and were by their front door. I think how cool if that lady opened her door and took the balloons, because I know she is a sick older lady.

The Great Fondue

The Great Fondue
by Susan B

When I was in law and graduate school, I lived near a wildlife refuge that had a very big lake.  Almost every day in the nicer weather, my friend, Sandra*, and I would go to the lake to go swimming.  
* Her name is not really Sandra, but the name "Sandra" seems to connote a woman who is smart, old-fashioned, and sensible -- all of which describes my friend.

Sandra would drive us out to the lake.  We'd park in a parking lot, always the only car and only people there.  The nicely-paved parking lot, with spaces for about 30 cars, seemed like someone must have been expecting something to happen at the wildlife refuge, but nothing ever did. That was fine by us, because we enjoyed the solitude of nature.  From the parking lot, we'd hike about a half mile down a narrow, sandy path with dense vegetation obscuring any view, till we spotted "the tree."  "The tree" stood alone on a little rise, and had a distinctive look of having outstretched, welcoming arms.  The tree was our marker for the beach.  We'd climb up the rise, and look down at a glorious paradisiacal beach.  We once tried finding this beach by getting into the woods from a different spot, and never found the tree.  We had to do it just this way to be able to find this beach.  Sandra had first shown me this beach, and someone had shown her.  Knowledge of the beach was a closely-guarded secret passed down only to trusted people.  

The beach was sandy and in an alcove of the lake such that it could not be viewed from the water unless one were directly in front of it.  It was surrounded by tall trees.  There were eagles, egrets, and great blue herons.  There were snakes in the water.  I learned the trick to sharing a lake with snakes was to quickly wade out to deeper water and swim there.  The snakes kept closer to the shore.  Every now and then, an eagle would swoop out of a tree and dive down and grab a snake from the water, then carry it off to a treetop to eat it. Things like this made it seem like we were in a National Geographic nature show. 

Sandra knew nature.  She had several advanced degrees that were about nature.  For years, she had managed the biggest natural land resource in the state -- a huge, state-owned hunting refuge.  She knew the names of all the trees and wildflowers and birds.  When she heard a frog croak, she knew what kind of frog it was.  She said she learned this from a record of frog croaks.  She listened to the record over and over, until she knew all the croaks and which type of frogs each croak belonged to.  Every now and then, she would go back and review, to brush up and be sure she was not mistaking any croaks.  In the years when I had been listening to the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, Sandra was listening to frog croaks.  Sandra said her older sister had given her the frog croak record as a birthday gift when she turned sixteen. Sandra said she had been filled with tears at the kindness of her sister recognizing her love of nature and her plans to build a career in it.  Her sister had sent away to a nature organization for the record and had kept it hidden for months till Sandra's big birthday, and then wrapped it all special with a big bow and a card with a picture of a frog on it.  "No one had ever done anything so kind for me before that," Sandra said, choking up.  When we were out walking near water at dusk, when there was a frog croak, Sandra would identify it.  "Crawfish frog," or "Southern leopard," she'd announce.  I had no idea if she was right or wrong and in fact, until I met Sandra, I didn't even know frogs made any sound and thought those loud sounds near water were some kind of bird or small animal or maybe even the wooden pylons on a pier creaking.

I like to swim distances in open water.  At the beach, I would put my blanket on the sand and sit down for a while, getting mentally ready for the big sprint.  When I felt ready, I would dash into the water and past what I called the snake line -- the shallow area where snakes tended to swim back and forth.  Once I was out in the deeper open water, I would swim back and forth for an hour or more.  Sandra would stay in the shallower water, walking back and forth, sometimes yelping about a snake or a fish touching her.  I would often try to coax her into coming out to the deeper water, but she'd say no, she liked what she was doing.  The view was just so incredibly gorgeous, and I think she loved looking at it while getting some exercise.  

One day when we were done swimming, Sandra said she wanted to go over to the other side of the lake where there was a marina and boat dock, and snoop around.  I loved snooping adventures, so I was all for this plan.  We drove to the far side of the lake and parked in a different parking lot, which had other cars parked in it.  Sandra wanted to get into the marina and look at the boats.  Someone told her that there were boats for sale and that they posted the "For Sale" signs right on the boats.  The marina had a tall fence around it, with a locked gate with a keyboard buzzer entry.  We hung around the gate until we could walk in as someone was walking out.  People talk about things like white privilege and middle class privilege, and I am sure being allowed into a marina gate, no questions asked, is an example of that.  We looked like middle class white women who belonged near boats.

Sandra and I walked around the piers, looking for "For Sale" signs on boats.  I was the secretary with a pad of paper and pen.  I would jot down Sandra's observations, as well as the phone number.  "Huge double decker boat, gives no price, probably too expensive."  "Party type boat, probably rented to frat boys."  "Houseboat needs work, but low price, wonder if it is seaworthy."  Sandra said she wanted to call that one. 

 I was definitely just a looky-loo, but Sandra seemed to actually want to buy a boat.  She was vague about why she would want a boat, but it sounded sort of like she thought she would want to live on a boat on the weekends.  It also sounded like she thought her boyfriend would enjoy staying on the boat and working on it and fixing it up.  Sandra's fantasies about her boyfriend being a cheerful fix-it guy were not based in reality.  He was the kind of man with few practical skills and almost no self-motivation to fix or maintain anything.  But, in Sandra's fantasies, he would be happy to be sun-soaked and scraping barnacles from the bilge, or whatever it is that people do on boats.  In reality, he was the kind of man who had to be nagged to take out the trash and who probably did not even own a screwdriver set.

We found a boat that seemed promising.  It looked like a 2-story floating house with a walkway all around and a deck out back.  There were lots of windows.  The boat looked older, but in decent condition.  The stated price was very affordable.  Sandra wanted to call the phone number, but she did not want to do that while in the marina, because she did not want to seem too nearby.  She insisted we had to go out the marina gate and walk back toward the parking lot and make the call from there.  She also insisted I had to make the call, and she would tell me what to say.  That was because she sometimes got wishy-washy on the phone and she was afraid she would not be able to get the answers she needed or would agree to go see the boat even if she did not want to.  So, we stood in the parking lot, pretending we were far away, and I called to inquire about the boat.   

A woman answered the call.  She said the boat was for sale because she had several boats and this one wasn't being used.  She lived year-round on a boat in the marina and bought up other peoples' boats as they came up for sale.  The boat we were talking about was in good condition, she said.  We should come see it, she said.  I had been instructed by Sandra to ask, "Is the boat seaworthy?"  The boat lady answered, "What?! Come and you will see if you think it is worthy."  I had the call on speakerphone so Sandra could hear.  Sandra started whispering instructions to me of what I should say to the boat lady.  "I mean, does the boat run?  Can it go out on the water?"  The boat lady replied that the boat was on the water right now and we should come and take a look at it.  I asked her if we could come by and see it, that we could get there in 10 minutes, would that be okay?  The boat lady said yes.  Little did she know we were right outside the marina gate and had been right outside the boat mere minutes ago.  The boat lady said to call her again when we got to the marina gate and she would walk on out and let us in.  

Sandra and I hung out in the parking lot for 10 minutes.  We spent that time reading the bulletin board for boat owners. There were notices from the management, some that seemed to date back years, based on the yellowing of the paper.  One notice said not to shoot off fireworks from a boat while parked in the marina, that if you want to shoot off fireworks to take your boat out onto the lake.  Another notice warned not to play loud music on the marina and if you are renting your boat for fraternity parties and they act wild, your boat might get kicked out of the marina.  Another notice was from a boat owner looking to pool with others and have bottled drinking water delivered to a lot of them at once.  Someone had a bilge pump for sale.  Someone else was offering handmade deck chairs with seat cushions in bright stripes.  Someone posted a picture of a lost parrot. 

After 10 minutes, Sandra and I stood by the marina gate and called the boat lady on the phone.  After a few minutes, the boat lady came walking over to us, followed by her big dog.   "You got here fast!" she said.  She seemed to be checking us out, then opened the gate.  We were checking her out, too, and I was instantly a bit wary.  She was wearing a tube top, and to me, that said just about everything I needed to know.  Pardon my prejudices, but in my mind, wearing a tube top comes with all sorts of connotations, none of which are favorable.  I imagine the girlfriends of serial killers from warm climates would wear tube tops, maybe even have a whole collection of them. 

We all walked along the pier toward the boat.  The boat lady was not walking toward the boat we expected, so Sandra said, "Wait -- isn't it this way?"  The lady was confused.  Sandra said, "We saw the sign on that boat over there."  The boat lady said, "I just have a sign up on that one, but it is really this other boat that I am selling."  Aaahh, the old bait and switch, I thought.  Sandra and I looked at each other, asking with our eyes whether we were being set up.  The boat lady sensed our hesitance and started talking too much and explaining.  "A lot of people walk past my boat where I live, so's I put the sign there so they can stop and talk to me about it.  But it's really this other boat over here I am selling.  I don't put a sign up on it because I am not there to watch the boat and don't want anyone doing anything."  This explanation seemed to make sense, somewhat, more or less.  

The boat lady walked us back to the boat that was actually for sale.  It was also a 2-story that looked like a house, but smaller than the other one.  This one had dead, dried plants in pots on the back deck and a railing that needed repairs.  This boat looked like it had been repainted throughout the years, and now had several colors of paint showing through.  Overall, the boat looked cute, rustic, like it needed a good dose of TLC.  It looked like the kind of boat where people would spend the day smoking weed and drinking cold wine and barbecuing on a hibachi grill.

The boat lady first took us to the top floor, and showed us how nice the view was.  There was a spot near the shore where a lot of big birds hung out -- great blue herons and egrets. There was an upper sun deck with more dead plants and a dilapidated hammock.  Sandra had gotten a look on her face, the kind of look one might have after biting into a sour plum.  Trying to recapture the upbeat mood, I started praising the old hammock.  "Wow, I bet this was a great place to take a nap!" I said with enough perkiness for all of us.  The boat lady said, "The boat comes with a great fondue and you will love it."

"Fondue?" Sandra asked, all sour plum face.  "I don't think we need any fondue."

The boat lady looked slightly miffed. "You will love it. Everyone loves it."  Sandra and I sent eyeball messages to each other.  The main message we sent each other was that neither one of us was going to eat anything offered by the boat lady, let alone dip anything into a sizzling pot of who knows what.  

The boat lady asked if we had any questions about the upper deck and then led us down the narrow side steps, "Come on down this way.  You are gonna love the fondue!"  

We got to the lower deck.  There was a big open back sun deck, with more sun-bleached chairs.  There was an alcove with a really big built-in bed with a thin cushion mattress.  The bed was big enough for 4 people, a lake orgy bed, I supposed.  The boat lady gestured at the bed, like a game show prize lady, and said, "Here she is, the fondue! Now tell me you don't love this!"

I could not help myself.  "I think you mean futon. It's called a futon, not a fondue."  I tried to sound nice and informative, but surely sounded like a bossy librarian.  

The boat lady looked puzzled, then surprised, then resolute, then smiling and condescending.  "Well, we call it a fondue."  The boat lady thought we were idiots to not recognize a fondue when we saw one. 

I tried to go with the flow.  "It sure is fantastic!  What a great place to .. sleep."

The boat lady wanted to get into details.  "You bet it is.  You can fit you and all your friends on the fondue.  It don't rock or nothing.  You can be banging all around back there and the boat stays steady.  It fits regular king-size bedsheets, too!"

Sandra had long decided it was hopeless to ask if the boat was seaworthy.  Instead, she asked simple questions such as if the boat had ever leaked or taken on water.  The boat lady said she did not know, but said someone told her the boat needed a new bilge pump.  I swear to god, she pronounced it "bitch pum."  Sandra repeated this pronunciation while discussing with the boat lady, I guess to seem nice and approachable.  "Do you happen to know how much a bitch pum would cost?" Sandra asked, kindly.  The boat lady said sometimes people post on the bulletin board when they have a bitch pum for sale, but then, she went on, she didn't know why would they be selling a bitch pum if it works.  I agreed aloud that she was right, she was so smart.  Boat lady smiled and liked us now. 

Finally, we thanked the boat lady profusely, praised her wonderful boat, told her we loved the fondue, and said goodbye.  The boat lady told Sandra, "You all think about it, but don't wait too long because this baby is going first come, first served."  Sandra said she needed to discuss it with her boyfriend.  I knew that was a fancy way of saying, "No way."

The boat lady walked us to the marina gate and made sure it locked after us.  That was her way of saying "Goodbye and good riddance, you two who don't like my fondue." Sandra and I got in her car.  She turned on the air conditioning.  We both started laughing.