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31 July 2009 @ 12:44 pm
Chapter 2, November 20, 1968: Cursed  
Here is my contribution to the second day of this year's 42 day countdown to the Supernatural season five premiere; a look at 1968 through the Impala's radio.

The Impala Chronicles (Forty-some Years In A Life), Chapter 2
November 20, 1968 – Cursed

Twice that year, he nearly ran the Impala off the road.

The problem was listening to the radio while driving. That was pretty much his only time to listen to the news, given the irregularity of his hours, because everything hinged on launch and mission times and follow-up. Rosa could always watch Huntley-Brinkley with the kids, but in every run-up to a launch Clarence lost any semblance of a normal schedule. And when there were problems, things just got worse.

The April 4 launch of Apollo 6, the last unmanned qualification flight of the Saturn V moon rocket, hadn’t gone as planned. The early post-mortem on the pogo oscillations and second and third-stage engine failures meant he was late driving home and was just minutes out of the Marshall parking lot when the DJ interrupted Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues to broadcast Robert Kennedy’s speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King. Like a bad sequel, he was in the car again on the very same stretch of road two months later on June 5 in the obscenely early morning to hear the news that Kennedy himself had been shot.

The insistent pulse of Iron Butterfly’s In A Gadda Da Vida started up on the radio, the relentless beat a reminder that every month had brought more news feeding that same grief, disbelief, and anger. The Glenville Shootout race riot in Cleveland in July. The violence flaring around anti-war protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. Hell, even the Warsaw Pact troops invading Czechoslovakia and crushing the Prague Spring, the news of Hussein’s coup in Iran, and then the report of U.S. bombing in Laos just days after Johnson’s Halloween announcement that the artillery bombardment of North Viet Nam had stopped because of progress at the Paris peace talks. Some peace. He’d heard about all of them in the car on that road.

It was almost enough to make him think the road was cursed.

He pulled his mind out of the melancholy gutter by main force. The launch preparations for Apollo 8 were going perfectly, and since the first manned Saturn V mission had been changed from just an Earth orbit – a rerun of Apollo 7, but with his launch vehicle – to the first ever circumlunar one, spirits had bounced high despite the added pressure of the amped-up schedule that had him driving in to work in the predawn darkness of 6:00 AM. All the kids – Alice as well as the boys – were starting to play astronaut. And the twins’ birthday party today promised to be a resounding success because of his personal mission triumph yesterday. Those new little “Hot Wheels” cars were all the rage and hard to find, but he’d gotten lucky enough to get two for each of them. He wasn’t fool enough to think balance would be enough to ensure domestic peace, but he was confident that it would make the party itself a happy one, even if none of the little model cars were Impalas.

Like his thoughts, the radio shifted gears, this time to the gentle autumn melancholy of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends. He sang along half under his breath, the song suiting his mixed mood. Time it was, and what was a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences. Long ago it must be, I have a photograph: preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you. He hoped and prayed he’d have more than that.

“We have breaking news out of West Virginia.” The DJ’s voice broke the peace after the song with foreboding, and Clarence’s fingers clenched on the steering wheel. “At about 5:30 this morning, there was a massive explosion in the Consolidation Coal mine near Farmington. The blast was felt over twelve miles away and the mine is on fire, with flames reported to reach 150 feet in the air. Reports are still confused, but authorities say there were 99 men in the mine at the time of the blast, and most of them are apparently trapped. We’ll keep you updated as new information comes in, but all indications are this may be the worst mine disaster in West Virginia since the Monongah explosion in 1907.”

He turned off the radio and listened instead to the rumble of the tires on the asphalt. He had to find a different way to and from work. This road just had to be cursed.

Author’s Note: I remember 1968 as a really hard year, with a lot more bad news than good. I think that’s partially why Apollo 8 had such a profound impact not just on me, but on many others, when for the first time on Christmas Eve we saw the Earth rise over the lunar landscape and heard the astronauts reciting the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis from the King James Version of the Bible. It was a gift of hope at the end of a year that had precious little of it.
Current Mood: melancholymelancholy
Current Music: "Bookends" by Simon and Garfunkel
originalcindyroriginalcindyr on July 31st, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
*catches breath*

Oh, Professor!! What a profound peek into history you have given us through our beloved Impala! As I was reading, I was remembering. The events themselves blurred for me as a child, not catching all of their significance. What I do remember are the feelings from my parents ... that was such a year for us personally ... transitioning from New Jersey to Texas and I remember the cadences of my parents voices as they discussed things during and after the news - either from the radio in the car or the television in our new house.

Thank you so much for these glimpses ... I knew that Dean's girl was special ... I just never realized how incredibly special till viewed through your time capsule. She has seen some incredible history, hasn't she?

Looking forward to tomorrow. *hugs* Bless you, dear friend!
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on July 31st, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Keeper!

I turned 12 in 1968. I remember the assassinations, some of Vietnam (which was only then starting to be one word rather than two, a transformation I always thought odd), and a lot of Apollo because I was space-crazy and wanted to be an astronaut as well as a writer, archaeologist, anthropologist, and everything else. Doing these stories is really putting me back in the moment!
raputathebutaraputathebuta on July 31st, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
I love how you worked in all those historic occurrences, Mary!

These was before my time, but I remember learning about them in school.

Also? but he was confident that it would make the party itself a happy one, even if none of the little model cars were Impalas. You know, they still haven't managed to rectify this to my liking!!!!!!
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 1st, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
Ah, but at least we have the little SS two-door hardtop that came with the Best Buy seaon three release last year!

Now you're making me feel old ... *grin* (Not really!)
(Deleted comment)
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 1st, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
Figuring out which songs to put in is one of the hardest things; I always want to put in more than I can make fit!

I'm glad I grew up when I did ... grin*
fannishliss: my old '69 camarofannishliss on August 1st, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
I was born in '68, so I have a strange affinity for it without really knowing anything much about it.

I really love your stories so far!
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 4th, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying them, and welcome to my memories of history!

I always laugh that I come by my love of '67 Chevys honestly, given that my Dad's pride and joy was that 1967 Chevy Bel Air station wagon. And the front ends of the Bel Airs and the Impalas look an awful lot alike ... *grin*
fannishlissfannishliss on August 4th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
I saw a beautiful red Bel Air just the other day!! It wasn't a wagon though. I have classic car sickness.
morgansladymorganslady on August 1st, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
wonderful. I love Clarence thinking the road is cursed. The poor Impala has seen so much sorrow.
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 4th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
Thanks! In writing these, the resonances across time never fail to surprise me. The sense of the road being cursed just came out of nowhere.
ErinRua: Impalaerinrua on August 1st, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, a look back in time before the Winchesters, before the Impala was anything but a shiny new family car. I was too young to know much - 6 years old, lol - but this evokes so much about the era, and that year in history. (Plus nice use of a "cursed" motif, before the Impala entered a world where curses are real.)

Very well done!

LOL, and are you writing from your laptop in a hotel, or is your house semi-livable yet? ;-)
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 4th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
Thank you! I didn't really even think deliberately about the curse thing; it just slipped in, and from there, it ran the story.

This one came from a hotel ... *grin*
zofia27zofia27 on August 3rd, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Very cool Professor! Love all the historical references and the songs!
bardicvoice: Twilight Metallicar by <lj user=Cakeholebardicvoice on August 4th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
Thanks, Zofia! I'm glad you're enjoying them!