The month of April has traditionally brought the first consecutive days of the year in which I’ve been able to leave my windows at home cracked open. Over the past fifteen-plus years that I’ve lived in Chicago, the weather here has proven to be more unpredictable than any of the other four places I’ve lived for any significant amount of time. There have been stand-alone, individual days earlier in the year over that period that were outliers from the norm. For example, on January 5th of last year (2019), which was a Saturday, the high here had reached the mid-50s (Fahrenheit) before plunging this city into (literally) sub-Antarctic temperatures mere weeks later. It was almost as if Mother Nature had said, “Juuuuke!” right as we had we Chicagoans had gotten our hopes up for a mild winter.
The dawn of spring is usually when I start gauging the outside temperature against what I might wear to spend any extended amount of time outdoors. Now that the nationwide shelter-in-place order in the United States has been extended through the end of this month in an effort to “flatten the curve” against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, any connection to the world outside of my home has become increasingly welcome.
With my windows open, I can hear ambient sounds like the wind through the trees, the faint drone of planes passing far above, the occasional barking dog, and the periodic whoosh and click-clack of a passing “L” train. I now also wake up to a choir of birds, and have learned recognize cardinals and robins by their songs. Along with the cool morning air on my face, all of these things combine to form a comforting connection to life “out there”.
Another coping strategy with this (important and necessary) physical self-isolation has been to embark on a few projects involving the selection and installation of some of my photography in my home. While I’m going to be stuck here but for the absolutely necessary, local foot-trek for essential supplies, I might as well be able to glance around and look at images of places I’ve been and vistas I’ve seen. My memory of this ’69 GTO convertible spotted in my neighborhood was spurred by taking a little virtual trip through my neighborhood of Edgewater as revisited through various pictures I had taken over the years.
Pretty much everything captured in these pixels is off limits to me right now. At the end of this initial seven-day stretch of April, while it’s now warm enough to let a little cool air inside on a regular basis, it’s not quite warm enough for outdoor seating. Social distancing practices would dictate that CTA riders on the Bryn Mawr Red Line platform in the background of the top shot would be standing further apart from each other. I would not have been sitting outside to dine (like when I took these pictures), as the restaurants and eating establishments in the area that are offering any kind of continued service do so only on a take-out and/or delivery basis. Lastly, the driver of this GTO, if he still dared to drive with the top down with COVID floating around in the air, would likely be wearing a face mask. (Perhaps in a nice azure blue, to match his Pontiac.)
Speaking of which, there were only about 7,400 GTO convertibles produced for ’69, against almost 65,000 coupes. In present day, this kind of combined volume for any two-door sounds insanely high, let alone for a specialized model like the high-performance GTO. Shockingly, even with sales numbers this high, the GTO wasn’t even the top-selling muscle car that year, with Plymouth’s budget-minded Road Runner taking that honor, finding close to 84,400 buyers over its three bodystyles.
The Road Runner, either as a hardtop or convertible, wasn’t even that less expensive in base form than a comparable GTO (there was no “post” / pillared GTO that year), with prices starting roughly 2% lower. The GTO came standard with a 400-cubic inch V8 that was offered in different variations yielding horsepower ratings ranging from 265 (in two-barrel form) to 370 (for the Ram Air IV). I’m not the “tech guy”, as many of you readers know, but we can all agree that our featured, 3,600-pound ’69 GTO convertible has plenty of scoot, whether equipped with a 3- or 4-speed manual, or the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission.
Tooling around Chicago with the soft-top down, in a classic Pontiac convertible in this rich shade of blue would seem like such a faraway dream to me now, and not just because I don’t own a car. I still have my fingers crossed that 2020 will allow many of us to have even just a little sliver of summer as we have become accustomed to it. Needless to say, if that happens, I won’t be taking it for granted. In the meantime, I have my pictures to look at and the ability to mentally project myself behind the wheel of this GTO, even if only for four frames, or so.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, June 24, 2017.