Last night our community hosted a Block Party that included a classic car show. My job as a volunteer was to assist the fellow who organizes the show. As a good volunteer should, I arrived early and introduced myself. He was classically unimpressed. There I stood in my light khaki shorts and blue polo shirt with little bikes on it. On top of my head was a dapper straw cap and on my feet were a pair of Sperry boat shoes that honestly have made my summer a ton more fun.
Summer gear needs to be easy-on, easy-off. It needs to breathe and go with just about anything else you put on your body.
However, the Car Show Guy was dressed in a sagging tee-shirt and equally sagging jeans. His shoes were worn on both sides and he walked with the ambling gait of a man who needs to get places in a hurry but can’t seem to so so.
Clearly, we came from different cultures in life. I’m a Bike Guy. He’s a Car Guy. But it was my job to become a car guy for a while and make myself useful. It was not for me to change a thing he liked to do, or how to do it. Follow orders. Be nice. Make yourself useful.
Car Buy took a few tries to trust me. I got to a spot where it made sense helping him guide the long line of classic cars into place. That’s where a bit of diplomacy started to enter the picture. Some of the classic car drivers were concerned about their vehicles overheating while waiting in line. They were all “early” according to Car Guy, who insisted against reason that they should have all shown up at 4:00 rather than 2:30.
But the classic car drivers all knew better. They had just come from another show in another town managed by Car Guy, so they knew that to get the better spots for the show, they had better be early.
So we had cars pull up and then back into their places on Batavia’s South River Street, which is paved with brick these days and lined with key retail and restaurant businesses around which our city is planning its future. There’s just one problem with the very near future. A Big Developer has come forward with plans to construct a major new residential and retail project that will likely force the beautifully landscaped River Street to close down at times. Businesses are scared. Residents are wary. But the planning to make it all go smoothly is moving ahead.
Such are the needs of the Post-Modern downtown. Upriver there are two communities, St. Charles and Geneva, that have undergone similar growing pains amidst degrees of community resistance. Both towns are ultimately changed for the better. The parking accessibility and mix of businesses is healthier. Bike trails connect all our communities, bringing destination diners and shoppers. Batavia has indeed been declared a “bike friendly” community. There is even a bike repair stand on the trail.
Events such as the Block Party are designed to make the whole downtown feel like a friendlier place. And it’s working. Thousands of people came to the Block Party with their families in tow.
Attractions such as the car show bring people from other communities. To its credit, and to the credit of Car Guy, the collection of classic vehicles was truly impressive. They all sat with their hoods up and their engines gleaming. All except for one ancient Corvette, a 1960s-era bomb with oxidized paint and a cracked emblem on the front. But it ran. And the guy who purchased it in 1973 said he’s kept it in his garage all these years and it was time to bring it out. “I don’t even know why I bought it,” he laughed.
That was clearly not the case with the coral-tone Thunderbird that rolled in late for the show. That stunner was sexier than a Playboy centerfold, but likely just as airbrushed. She (the car had to be a she, it had too much class…) eased down the hill with my guidance and I swore there was a whiff of Miami breeze following it along.
There were black-and-yellow Plymouth Dusters and Hot Rods gleaming with paint jobs that looked like candy. Trans Ams and Mustangs. A 68 Buick Wildcat and a 67 Buick LeSabre. My father owned each of those cars. I learned to drive in the Wildcat. A tinge of nostalgia got me as they both pulled in together.
So I did my job talking with the drivers as they arrived and thanked them for coming. Gave each of them a compliment of some sort on their car. And some laughed at the fact that Car Guy was nowhere to be seen. They were used to dealing with his select form of chaos.
The main booth at the center of the show pumped out 50s-era tunes by Elvis and the like. Apparently, that’s the psychology of most Car Shows. Old tunes to set the mood. Yet the crowds walking through the show were people young and old, and of a healthy diversity. All sorts of people like classic old cars.
“Please walk your bikes through the show,”Car Guy barked through his portable microphone. “Some of these paint jobs cost $20,000. You don’t want to crash into them.”
So time stood still on River Street last night. The cars posed just like dogs in one of those Best In Show competitions. They all looked a little different. Some of those engines even seemed to bark a bit as they ran slowly to their places along the street.
When it came time for my shift to end, this Bike Guy hopped on my silver edition Specialized Rockhopper and pedaled home. I had an Arizona lemon tea in my bottle cage and a melted Snickers Bar in my pocket. It felt good to help out. Car Guy seemed to be happy with my service. He even smiled at me once before I left.
Then he went back to barking into his microphone about the fact that the 50/50 drawing for car owners was $700 last year and this year they only had$20. “You’re not going to win much that way!” he warned.
And that’s how Car Guy rolls. Hawking a bygone era that people seem to enjoy under the stars and lights of an American city. Even if we can’t make time stand still, some people enjoy trying.