Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happiness on a Stick

I see the ice cream truck cruise by the park and feel a tingle at the back of my neck. It isn't the rush of joy I felt as a child, but the overwhelmingly creepy sensation that something is just not right.

The ice cream trucks of my childhood glistened in the desert summer sun, the colorful graffiti of choices plastered on the side as we crowded and jostled each other. Was there anything new? Would I get a push-up? Had anyone's mother given them enough money to buy the Holy Grail of the Popsicles: that beautiful red, white and blue rocket-shaped wonder?

We would oooh and aaah in appropriate levels of admiration. We were respectfully jealous of the kid who got both a popsicle and a pack of gum. We envied the stuck-up girl whose mother always gave her enough money to buy whatever she wanted. We were all secretly glad when the sun finished the popsicle first.

Somewhere in the shimmer between childhood and our current selves we watched too many movies. Courtesy of unsolved crime shows, the ice cream man crossed the threshold from summer hero to suspected pedophile. Was it always so? Did our moms watch from behind the curtains, keeping one eye on us and one the truck? The careless abandon we had as children has been left behind for the higher planes of cynicism and doubt.

The ice cream trucks I see today are run-down. Dirty. In desperate need of a paint job. The music isn't a cheerful tinkling, but some oddly distorted Doppler effect with a touch of injured cat. Perhaps it is a regional thing. The ice cream trucks of the West coast having their own distinct dialect from that of their more easterly cousins.

I see the children at the park chase the ice cream truck, Their faces beam as I know mine once did, and they stand in line participating in a childhood rite of passage I want to last forever. I hope in their eyes the truck is just as white, the colors just as bright, and the driver a friendly man selling happiness on a stick.


Irrational Dad said...

Our ice cream man stops at the neighbor's house EVERY F***ING DAY! Sarah got fed up before I did and chewed him out for not turning his music down as he sat there for 10 minutes while we had a baby trying to sleep (yeah, this is 8 in the evening).

I hate him.

But at least he squelches the music now.

Plus, $5 for a popsicle? Unfortunately, Tyler will not be experiencing the awesome factor of buying an ice cream cone from a yellow van playing obnoxious music. Not for those prices.

Mirth said...

We gave in and bought ice cream sandwiches off an ice cream truck last summer. They were expensive, but they were also huge compared to what you get in the grocery store today.
In a neighborhood we used to live in though, we always thought it odd that the guy never came through before dark. It creeped me out.

Rassles said...

Why do I feel like our ice cream bars cost like a buck twenty five? Always got the neopolitan ice cream sandwich or the chocolate eclair ice cream bar. In fact, I think I know exactly what I'm going to have for lunch today...

And I'm with you. When the fuck did EVERYONE become a pedophile?

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

You know, I feel the same way. Exactly the same. The truck creeps me out but I want so badly to trust and let the kids partake.

A Free Man said...

Do you think that maybe they were always dingy and clamourous? And we just saw it through the filter of childhood?

I think we wrap our kids in cotton wool. There are no more pedophiles today than there were 30 years ago. We're just a fucking paranoid society.

Sid said...

Selling happiness on a stick??? That just sounds sooo wrong.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog via IndieInk and was delighted to find more, here! Thanks for telling it like-it-is...gotta go pour an enormous cup of coffee and get to reading more of your writing. :)

Anonymous said...

I see our ice cream truck and wonder how my kids sleep at night . . .

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Joe: 8pm? Seriously? That is just wrong. And worrisome.

@Mirth: That would creep me out, too.

@Rassles: I seem to remember them being like 50 cents or so. I am sure you practically need a credit card nowadays.

@CMGD: I guess if you stand there and give the driver the stink-eye it might go okay. :)

@AFM: You know, even writing the post I really wrestled with that one. Maybe the trucks really were new back in the early 70s and they are using the same ones now? Or perhaps as I kid I just didn't notice. I might have to ask my parents.

@Sid: Only if you have a good sense of humor.

@Titanium: Welcome! I'm glad to have you, and I hope you find more that you enjoy!

@CheekofGod: That scary, eh?

Patois42 said...

They lurk outside the schools each day. None of them drive around any neighborhoods, as far as I can tell. Understandable because they are all a scary lot.

Blues said...

You're good, you know that?

I kind of agree with Free Man, that maybe when we're kids we're so blinded by the prospect of ice cream that we don't notice the rusty, junky looking truck with the scary dude driving it.