A couple of weeks ago, I was seriously contemplating the wisdom of my decision to move back to the Midwest in the mid-Aughts from warm, sunny Florida. As much as I love Chicago and often wax poetic about it in my musings here at Curbside Classic, as novel as snow on Halloween had seemed this year, the Arctic blast from two Mondays ago left me feeling downright salty for much of the week. Not only did the snow fall yet again (making many, if not most, of the pretty, autumn leaves drift to the ground almost instantaneously), but it stayed for several days, accompanied by temperatures under the freezing point.
The early darkness that now fully arrives by evening rush hour with the end of daylight savings time a few weeks ago has been enough of an issue for me to deal with. Walking to work with faux-January prematurely blowing merciless gusts of wind and snow in my face weeks before Thanksgiving just made me angry. As the late, great Whitney Houston once sang, it’s not right…but it’s okay.
I spotted our featured ’64 Impala SS on Christmas Day, seven years ago, on the sunny, picturesque island of Sanibel in southwestern Florida. Neither Christmas (which I celebrate, and which I also recognize some don’t) nor the holidays, in general, ever really felt like “the holidays” during my years spent in Florida. I’m sorry, and no offense to our readership in that part of the country, but to this Michigan-born-and-raised guy, but I don’t care how many Christmas lights you’ve strung up onto the areca palms lining your screened-in front porch, or how many inflatable, light-up, polyester snowmen you have in your front lawn.
I’m probably going to be no more festive after seeing the fruits of your decorative labor than if you had handed me a plate of Tofurkey and some sugar- and gluten-free gingerbread cookies. (My poor father was diabetic and always gamely ate a few of the really nasty Christmas cookies he was allowed to, while the rest of us pigged out on my maternal grandmother’s truly delectable baked goods, which were loaded with butter and sugar.)
And so, you see my conundrum. “Oooo… this porridge is too cold! This porridge is too hot!” Woe is me, and cue the violins for me having moved back to the Midwest, to the third-largest (and most awesome) city in the United States which is also notorious for its cold, unforgiving temperatures and strong gusts of wind. This, with me having relocated here from a part of the country where wild lizards and snakes seem to far outnumber the squirrels, and a low of fifty degrees Fahrenheit (ten degrees Celsius) often sends Floridians scrounging around in their attics to find the one winter coat they had saved from “the North” or had purchased for a trip.
That’s when and where (December in Florida) seeing a car like this Impala valiantly saves the day. I’ve mentioned before in previous posts how I’m a fan of the “Peanuts” holiday specials featuring Charlie Brown and his friends, especially “A Charlie Brown Christmas” from 1965. That enduringly charming, animated special made its debut on the CBS television network just one year after our featured car was new. I was really into “oldies” music radio when I first moved to Florida in my late-teens. I suppose this is fitting, with many mid-century buildings still standing, and many, rust-free classic cars (like this Impala) on the roads in this part of the United States.
Perhaps part of what this ’64 Impala had restored to my experience of Christmas on Sanibel Island was the sense of continuity it provided between the holidays I had experienced through some of my formative years, and the then-current reality of sweating in shorts and a t-shirt as loudly squawking seagulls flew overhead. I do recognize that it could have been more surreal if I was doing seasonal work as one of those “Santas-for-hire” that stand next to hot, loud, busy, four-lane U.S. Highway 41 (also known as Cleveland Avenue) in nearby Fort Myers, holding up a sign and trying to entice passing cars to risk making a right (or left) turn into the entrance way of some business without getting hit.
It’s true that while many ’64 Impalas in my home state of Michigan had rusted to smithereens by the time I was of an age that I could recognize them as old Chevrolets, I did see the occasional example at car shows or on the roads in summer months in Flint, which was (once) a very Chevy-centric city thanks to the presence of multiple, major GM factories in and around the area. Coincidentally, the ’64 Impala SS, particularly the V8 “Sport” hardtop variant, was a somewhat popular car that year (for a niche-market variant), with close to 98,000 units sold. Perhaps in my mind as I was taking these pictures, I was thinking to myself that this was Santa’s real daily driver, and that Mrs. Claus was only gassing it up for him for when he had sufficiently napped after having flown all around the world on the one day and night of the year (he really does have only one job) that he has to actually do something.
Santa Claus, if you’re reading this, here’s what I want for Christmas, and it’s not a car like this Impala (though that would be nice). I would just like to keep my extremities intact from frostbite this year, so when you do call back to the North Pole on your cell and speak with the “Elf Team Leader” (or whatever title he or she holds), would you tell whoever is in charge of this disgusting, November chill to do just that? Please, and thank you. Oh, and I’ve been mostly good this year.
Sanibel Island, Florida.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012.