As the springtime magnificence of Lombard’s Lilac Time fades from the memories of village residents, the weekly summer tradition of Saturday night Cruise Night takes over as the calendar turns to June. Makes sleepy Lombard sound like the Hamptons, eh? They need to hire me over at The Chamber of Commerce for the Events Committee or Tourism Board. I’ll have every hotel room in a 50-mile radius booked all summer.
For the uninformed, on Cruise Night the parking spots along our street are reserved for guys that can’t stand their wives and spend all their time in the garage fixing up hot rods to show off to other guys that can’t stand their wives and share the same hobby. Some of them may share wives but that part isn’t sanctioned by the village. It officially starts at 6 p.m., but the guys that really, really can’t stand their wives start staking out their spot around 3 p.m. The process involves parking your hot rod, placing a “Do Not Touch” sign on it, and then pulling out your chair in a bag to watch people admire your handiwork.
The event covers approximately three blocks and an overflow area in the bank parking lot. In the middle, it also spread eagles into a side street with either a DJ spinning oldies or a cover band, as well as a couple vendors selling pizza and a mysterious table set up by the Citizens on Patrol Alumni Association that everyone justifiably seems afraid to approach for some non-specific but very real reason.
The sidewalks get pretty crowded since the village planted trees on the sidewalks in the downtown area as part of the recent revitalization attempt. This wouldn’t be bad, except the trees are not mature (and constantly making fart jokes) so instead of just walking around a tree trunk you have to avoid a plethora of low hanging branches, and machete use is discouraged during these events. And by discouraged I mean the police don’t think it’s funny even if you do it dressed only in a loin cloth.
Most of the punk-ass kids in the town hang out at the 7-11 on the border of the Cruise Night festivities, but every once in a while a litter of six teenage girls (and it’s always six) will cross into the demilitarized zone led by the alpha female as determined by the loudest and most annoying of the bunch. Their collective screeches and cackles make one want to tear out the antenna of a nearby GTO and skewer ones own eardrums to lessen the pain. Eventually one learns to duck and cover and they will quickly pass. The teenage guys generally stay clear since the crowds make sick board tricks prohibitive.
The quality of the performing cover bands can vary. The first one of the year (First Avenue) was so bad I longed for the screeches and cackles of the teenage girls to help drown out the noise. The band was about as tight as a retired porn star and looked as if they had just finished up a tour of duty as roadies for a Foghat reunion tour. I’ve invented a scale to score the popularity of a band – it’s called the “Chair in a Bag” (CIB) factor. The more people that actually bring their chair in a bag and plant it in front of the stage, generally the more popular and better the band. Fifth Avenue had approximately four such hearing-impaired folks. This week, a pretty good group called The Renditions put on a decent show and had an estimated CIB factor of 30. The matching shirts were a nice touch as well (I’m talking about the band, not me and the Mrs., although our “Keep On Truckin’” tees are always a big hit with the crowd). To close out the summer they usually invite American English, one of those Beatle tribute acts that even try to dress and look like the Fab Four. I usually hire a girl with a fake leg to dress up as a Heather Mills look-a-like and then we go taunt the Paul look-a-like. I consider it performance art. Laurie Anderson, eat your heart out. We also make fun of the fake Ringo because, hey, he actually chose to be the fake Ringo. They draw a pretty big crowd and are off the charts on the CIB scale. [Oh, and doesn’t that new iTunes commercial want to make you punch that bloke Paul in the nose and smash that damn mandolin into pieces like Belushi did in Animal House?]
Ah, yes, the cars. Despite all the above entertainment, the cars are what actually motivate me to put on pants and leave my couch. There’s the usual collection of old school Mustangs, as well as GTO’s, Novas, Chevelles, Camaros and most others you would expect. I say that because I’m not a car geek and pretty clueless as to what I’m looking at, although it is great fun to stare intently under the hood of the ’68 Mustang and point out the 302 engine. The engine compartments on most of these are pristine and with my new glasses I can easily read the writing off the air filter holder thingy and nod faux-knowingly. There are also some great enormous cars from the 60’s that are nearly a block long with soaring fins, blinding white interiors, and steering wheels that could steer a boat. These are our favorites and the Mrs. has her eye out for a 1965 Cadillac DeVille Convertible, so let me know if you happen to have one sitting around your garage that you aren’t using. We have some bicycles and a George Foreman grill to barter.
Oh, and note to the dudes showing late-model Corvettes out there: Serious? Yes, your good credit impresses me. Now beat it.
In fact, new rule: Anything newer than a third generation Monte Carlo (so that puts us around 1980) is disallowed. I’ll allow a one-week grace period before unleashing the gravy bombs from my balcony.