In 1965 I was 13 years old. My Dad operated several dry cleaning plants in South Jersey and sometimes I would ride with him as he went to check on the various operations.
On this particular day we were in Bridgeton, our New Jersey hometown. We stopped for lunch at an eatery called Mr. Bill’s. Now Mr. Bill’s was like many small town eateries before the takeover of fast-food franchises – a small, somewhat dark place with a few booths and a long counter located on a main downtown street.
My Dad was always a counter person (I think it was so he could chat more with the waitresses, cooks, and everyone in the restaurant) and so we were sitting there. My Dad had been born in Texas and always favored southern food when he could get it. One of Capt. Bill’s specialities was french fries with gravy. So both my Dad and I ordered a plate.
As were eating, “Michelle” by the Beatles came on the jukebox. I had heard the song before, but for some inexplicable reason this playing found its way into the recesses of my mind and permanently lodged itself there.
It wasn’t as if anything momentous was happening. I can’t recall a thing that was said. It was just a boy and his Dad in a local restaurant eating french fries in brown gravy with some southern hot sauce mixed in.
Now more than five decades later, my Dad, Capt. Bill’s and the Beatles are long gone. I’m older now than my Dad was then. But wherever I am when I hear “Michelle” (which, ironically is one of my least favorite Beatles’ songs), I’m actually at two places at once.
Of course, I’m where I am. But I’m also back in Bridgeton, just a 13-year-old boy in a small town eatery sharing french fires and gravy with his Dad.