BACKSTORIES.

Many of the images and some of the language on the site mean something to Steve, the chief emptynester. Posts might describe most of them but in the absence of a post, and if you are interested, here are some backstories. 

The Shack.

     

 

 

Leslie's Chicken Shack was once a small chain of fried chicken restaurants with a location in Waco.  "The Shack" became the go-to Sunday night meal of choice for Penland Hall's 1979-1980 west wing, 2nd floor residents, including yours truly.  As our academic careers progressed, we shared the Shack with our fraternity brothers and dates who might be "Shack worthy." 

The chicken was down south perfect, Sunday-after-church style.  Moist but with a deliciously crispy skin.  But as good as the chicken was, the rolls were better.  Each roll a two square-inch affirmation of a superior being. Beyond description. And apparently beyond duplication. 

The whole chain eventually folded while I was in Germany winning the Cold War.  But a few years ago M'Lissa and I were in Corpus Christi and lo and behold, there was a Shack, iconic sign and all. (www.thechickenshackcorpuschristi.com). Not even feigning resistance (M'Lissa was always a Shack worthy girl) we had a meal and spoke to the proprietor's wife.  It turns out he had worked at the Corpus Christi location as a teenager. He took an early buyout from an oil company, tracked down the former owners, obtained the rights and recipes and set up shop.

The chicken was pretty dead on but no rolls.  I asked the wife about it and she had tried mightily to reproduce them but for some unknown reason she could not get it just right.  Rather than disappoint fanatics like me she kept them off the menu.  While the absence of the rolls was initially a staggering blow, we had to respect that sort of loyalty.  It was not in Waco and there were no rolls but for an hour we had time traveled to one of our favorite places in the space-time continuum. Without a flux capacitor even.

"I Love It When Guys Peel Out."

The site title has quotes from three of my favorite films. I am a sucker for films that take you to a time and place; directors who can put you "there."  Even more so when the film relies on cars, music and a nostalgic sense of youthful innocence to achieve that result.  American Graffiti, Used Cars and Diner all hit the trifecta.  I have been compared to Steve Bolander more than a few times in my life but the story of Toad and Debbie speaks to me.  Toad was an optimist despite all evidence pointing the other direction for him.  Debbie, who liked it when guys peeled out, was superficial but ultimately kind and good.  If one could use movie clips as dictionary definitions,  Webster's should make use of the clip above to explain "wistful."

American Graffiti did not describe "my time."  But it launched a wave of 50's nostalgia that  informed some of my high school experience.  We saw Steve Bolander become Richie Cunningham on HappyDays and Laurie Henderson become Shirley of Laverne & Shirley.  We spent many a Saturday Night at "sock hops" trying to create the world that American Graffiti depicted.  So somehow, those high school kids became part of my high school memories, fond ones to say the least.

Where Do You Want Him To Go, Aspen?

I am not sure where I was when I first saw American Graffiti but I have a very specific recollection of Used Cars.  Finished with my freshman year at Baylor, I spent the summer of 1980 lifeguarding, not a bad gig.  My high school friends all managed to find gainful employment of some type so we felt on top of the world.   Truth be told we spent plenty of nights still playing poker and talking about girls but now we could at least BS each other with our college man experiences.  By the end of the summer boredom had set in. About a week before we returned to school, Scott Holland suggested a movie.  About 6 or 7 of us went and laughed our butts off at Rudy Russo and his comrades as they did battle with the mega-lot across the street.

The clip above is a little blue but an absolute classic.  In retrospect the movie was maybe not quite that hilarious. But as "men of the world" we identified with the street smart hucksters who ran the New Deal car lot.  Thirty-five years later and I am more likely to be customer/target for these guys, or more sophisticated versions of them, and the joke is on me.  Still, every time I see Used Cars I laugh like I am in the know.

Definitely The Smile Of The Week.

And the piece de resistance, the ultimate guy talk flick--Diner.  In the summer of 1982 one of my best friends was getting married, albeit with very cold feet. Almost frozen feet actually.  He happened on the movie and insisted we all watch it.  It was like watching ourselves if we had been born 25 years earlier. Our dialogue was probably not quite that sharp but we could easily recognize the barely hidden insecurities that this tight knit group had to face down as they moved into true adulthood. More to the point was the fact that triumphing over the insecurity was more easily done with a posse at your side.

Diner launched Barry Levinson's career and turned its ensemble cast into stars. The film turned out to be hugely influential--Scorcese says he patterned the dialogue in Good fellas after it.  Call it a classic, a cult film or whatever you want, but Diner speaks directly to a generation of guys in a way few films have.  

I love the fact that by the end the movie predicts a pretty good life for all these guys. You have a sense that their bonds will always be there.  And that is the way it worked out. Even for the guy with the frozen feet.