Only Once A Lifetime, In Every Lifetime

Right now it’s snowing in Chicago, but as it starts to melt there will soon be a green nougat of spring hiding beneath. When old men think spring, we think first loves. Don’t deny it, because somewhere in your own cobwebby memory banks there also resides a Bonnie. Okay, so it may be a Mary or an Eileen, but as the snow melts, let your heart do the same. Let it remember her along with me.

As I remember that late spring, the universe was perfectly in pitch for this extraordinary moment. Bonnie was sweet 16, I was a ripening 17, President Truman was 3 years into his term predictably despised by more than 70% of our country’s permanently despising voters. Exactly how all these disconnected facts exquisitely explain this event is hard for me to prove; but easy for me to believe.

Old men like us will always find such things easy to believe.

The Chicago Theater downtown was featuring a Bing Crosby movie plus the usual live stage shows that came with movies in those pre-television years. Can’t remember the movie, the stage show, or the buzzing crowd in that golden Baroque setting. However, you must understand that all these were simply well coordinated steps leading up my planned denouement at nearby North Avenue Beach.

It’s only a short cab ride from the theater to the beach. Besides, I’d seen Cary Grant do this with Katherine Hepburn, and it worked splendidly. [For any financial skeptics, recall cab fares in the Forties started at 25cents for the first quarter mile plus an honest-to-god smile from the driver!]. As we pulled up, a creamy half-moon lingered over Lake Michigan. Its beachline stretched out north and south in luxuriously sweeping curves. And — exactly as planned — not a body or a soul in sight.

My 17-year-old mind had fevered with the anticipated scenario and dialog tat would follow. There was Bonnie, five-foot-two portrait of unblemished Celtic beauty. Here was Jack, 6-foot specimen from a recent Charles Alas building-a-better-body-course-by-mail. And there…wait just a damn minute. There was this unexpectedly arrogant sign: “Beach Closed Till April 1.” Talk about too much government.

Oh what the hell! Cary never had to negotiate with such absurdities. Nor should I. I was about to leap that insolent fence when…when I remembered my Charles Atlas course had provided no fence-leaping-lessons. Wiser not to risk in front of one’s true love. I settled for buying Bonnie a hot dog…

…out there with a damn-sight-more strolling Chicagoans than my exquisite plot had planned for.

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  • So Atlas shrugged.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    All too true...! You're 17 only once!

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