Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Serendipity 2

Back in 2008, I wrote about how Jeannine and I came across a vintage Japanese motorcycle show, completely by accident, while riding bicycles in Northampton's Look Park. I used the word "serendipity" to describe the experience, and noted it is defined by Merriam-Wedster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".

On our trip to Vermont last week, we had two such experiences. One was the unexpected discovery of an A&W roadside drive-in restaurant, complete with young women on roller skates ("car hops", I think they're called) to bring your food order to your car, and set it on a tray hung on your partially rolled-up window. It was also a remarkable coincidence, as just the previous week I had been bemoaning to Jeannine the loss of these very places, and how I had not seen an A&W restaurant in at least the last five years.



(photo by Jeannine)

I had to pull over, of course, and even though it was mid-afternoon and I'd already had lunch, I ordered a hot dog and one of those wonderful root beers A&W is renowned for. The girl who took my order told us that this restaurant was the last of its type in New England.

But before that tasty discovery, we'd had an even more serendipitous experience. On the scenic drive up to Shelburne from Manchester, VT, we'd consulted a touristy map of the area and saw that there were two museums not too far off Route 7 -- the Maple Museum and the Marble Museum. (I later quipped to Jeannine that if there was a type of marble called "maple", that would be a real home run for Vermont.) She wasn't too interested in the Maple Museum, but the Marble Museum sounded kind of intriguing… and, as we were in no hurry, it was not a big deal to get off Route 7 in Rutland and head over on Route 3 to Proctor, VT.




There we found the Maple Museum, a large mill-type building with an imposing stack of marble blocks outside its doors.




Inside, there were many examples of things made from marble -- statuary, furniture, and the like -- and a room with large slabs of marble showing all the different types that Vermont is famous for.

Now here's the serendipity part: There was one room with displays geared mostly towards kids, explaining things like how the geological processes of the Earth produce marble and other rock. And in that room, on the floor behind a simple wooden rail, was this:



I don't recall all the details about this specimen, but I believe it is one of the few articulated (in this case meaning all of the bones were found together and in the proper arrangement) fossil skeletons of a Triceratops ever found. And here it is, on the floor of the Marble Museum in Proctor, VT!



It reminded me very much of another bit of fondly-remembered serendipity from those heady early days of dating Jeannine, when we'd made a plan to drive out to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. She'd read that an exhibit of masks was on display there and wanted to see them. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, that exhibit had moved on. Since we were already there, we decided we should walk through the museum (which, coincidentally, I'd never been in before, even though I'd lived my entire twenty-eight years at that time not more than an hour's drive away) and see what it had on display.

I walked around one corner and was stunned to see a juvenile Triceratops staring back at me. Or, to be more accurate, a model of a juvenile Triceratops… and right behind it, models of the same beast at earlier stages of its life. That would have been cool enough, but I was even more surprised to read the tags and learn that these were models made for use in an early 1960's adaptation for television of one of my all-time favorite books from my childhood, Oliver Butterworth's "The Enormous Egg". And these things had been in this museum pretty much for my entire life, and I'd never known about them. I was sorry that the mask exhibit that Jeannine wanted to see was no longer there, but I confess that finding those Triceratopses made that day for me.

Well, that, and spending some wonderful time with my lovely wife-to-be. -- PL

19 comments:

Jeff M said...

It's a shame things like car-hop restaurants and drive-in theaters aren't really around anymore. I feel very lucky to live in a town that still has both. Well, it still has them for now anyway... who knows what the future will bring.

Adam Riches said...

Interesting post, I love having serendipitous occasions such as the ones you describe. For example, last month I made a wrong turn in a rather desolate area and much to my surprise stumbled upon a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner rotting away in front of an old auto garage (a '70 RR is one of my all time dream cars, thus the surprise).

It's neat how much things can differ regionally, in Florida we have multiple A&Ws but I've never seen one with a car hop before. We do have a similar chain though called Sonic that has them, not sure if you have those in your neck of the woods.

Brookslyn said...

Pete,

A&W! Wow. I never knew they had those restaurants in MA. If you go to Canada A&W burger places have the "burger family" menu. They also have FRIED Apple pies which are rolled in cinnamon and sugar! Who are we kidding in America that offering baked apple pies in McDonalds is going to make any sort or health difference. Bring back the FRIED AMERICAN APPLE PIE... like the rest of the world gets!

Tyr Germanic said...

coool.sounds like good times.

um,nobody else noticed?really?
You titled this not Serendipity,but serendi-tity.
like what girls got!typo or not hahah

I wonder what that Triceratops was like.Was he a strong badass or something,i mean think if you were one of few humans whos bones
lasted that far.what an accomplished dino.

I think they eliminated those resturaunts just because of the rollerskating part,its pretty irrelevant if you think about it.those pesky misanthropic
lawyers are probably to blame too.But i agree about A&W,its up there with In n Out and Fudrukcer's.(its a southwest-reigional thing.Giant Burgers)

wheres a triceraton mini-series?The story in grunts was great,also ive heard of real stories like that and done that in Call of Duty vs. my friend.

bluemagewadabou said...

Hey Peter I was wondering,

Im assuming you mostly go undetected as the Co-Creator of TMNT. But I was just thinking as I was reading this; what would the Waitress think if you told her who you were.

So my question is; how often do you reveal your secret identity, and what do most people say?

PL said...

"It's neat how much things can differ regionally, in Florida we have multiple A&Ws but I've never seen one with a car hop before. We do have a similar chain though called Sonic that has them, not sure if you have those in your neck of the woods."

The only Sonic restaurants I've ever encountered were ones I've seen on car trips down south -- I don't think they've gotten up to this neck of the woods yet. -- PL

PL said...

"bluemagewadabou said...

Hey Peter I was wondering,

Im assuming you mostly go undetected as the Co-Creator of TMNT. But I was just thinking as I was reading this; what would the Waitress think if you told her who you were.

So my question is; how often do you reveal your secret identity, and what do most people say?"

The answer to your question is "Rarely."

The only times it happens, really, is if I engage in a conversation with someone in which they ask me what I do. Actually, that was more true back when I owned the TMNT and was actively working on TMNT projects -- these days, I mostly just say something like "I'm a semi-retired illustrator." And if the conversation continues, usually the TMNT connection comes up. But I don't lead with that comment... never have, really. -- PL

twopinacoladas said...

Cool stuff =)

Brookslyn said...

Im assuming you mostly go undetected as the Co-Creator of TMNT. But I was just thinking as I was reading this; what would the Waitress think if you told her who you were.

So my question is; how often do you reveal your secret identity, and what do most people say?


I'm sure Pete can think of a better pick up line! Just kidding... though on a recent search of for comics on craigslist I must have selected some weird category because the search came up with "young woman looking for comic book artist RIGHT NOW, no strings attached!". So maybe it would work in LA! Pete, no offense to your wife, I just thought the original question was worded suggestively.

mikeandraph87 said...

Wow,I really would have thought you more well known. I guess its the impact you've had on my life that made me think that Thats a good thing I suppose as one would want to not have the celebrity problem of not being able to go anywhere without being called out and constantly intterupted.



According to a web search Sonic Drive-In covers 44 of the 50 states and just moved into the Northeast in '08. There is typically one per city in my area.

PL said...

"Wow,I really would have thought you more well known."

When you say "well known", do you really mean "recognizable"? I don't think there are very many cartoonists (or artists or writers or creative types in general) who get as much exposure as performers (TV and movie stars, musicians, etc.) do.

I've never regretted the fact that it is the Turtles, not me, that are instantly recognizable. -- PL

Greg said...

"The only Sonic restaurants I've ever encountered were ones I've seen on car trips down south -- I don't think they've gotten up to this neck of the woods yet. -- PL"

There is a Sonic that recently opened in Peabody, MA, though that is the only one I know of in the area.

mikeandraph87 said...

I guess I thought you would be more recognizable face with the TMNT success. You know like people see Stan Lee and know who is.I've
at least known your name and face since I was in elementary school. :)

Matt said...

Man, why is New England so cool? If I randomly drove around the countryside here in North Florida I would only expect to see pig races and redneck rallies.

B.Thomas said...

It seems like you had a blast Pete. I didn't even know that A&W drive-in restaurants even existed before reading your post.

Adam Riches said...

Just a side note to chime in on some of the conversation, but personally speaking I think the anonymity of being an illustatrator is one of the best aspects of the job.

You have access to your fan base if you want it (conventions, etc.) and are able to have personal communication with them via the web, like this very blog. Yet at the same time if you don't want to be bothered you can just as easily cut off the communication and resume normal life for the most part. Even if a movie/TV actor wanted to have that kind of relationship with their fans it would be a near impossibility because of their recognizability, getting recognizably famous essentially ruins the ability to have a private life, from what I can best tell. Given the two options I'd much rather be famous in name only, and have my work be what receives the recognitition.

PL said...

"B.Thomas said...
It seems like you had a blast Pete. I didn't even know that A&W drive-in restaurants even existed before reading your post."

I suspect like many things I have over the years taken for granted as being known nationwide -- like our Friendlys restaurants -- there are probably a lot of small chains which have a significant local presence, but which never grow much beyond their region.

Growing up, the next town over from North Adams, WIlliamstown, had one of these A&W drive-ins. I remember that the coolest thing about going (literally) was that they kept the glass mugs for the root beer chilled to a pretty low temperature, so that when the root beer was poured into them, some of it instantly froze and formed this delicious root beer-flavored slush on the inside of the glass. Yummy! -- PL

Brookslyn said...

Ah. In Canada they still froze the glasses at A&W. Do they still do that in the North East?

From Mary's Pen said...

I'm quite late coming in to remark upon this, but... we have an A&W restaurant in upstate NY. If you're ever passing through, drive up the Vestal Parkway in Vestal, NY, and you can't miss it.

I think your name is better-known, at least among fans, than you think, thanks to the two bumbling cops and the street signs from the 2k3 cartoons.

Of course it's entirely possible I'm more of a die-hard geek than I think I am, and it's your perception that's accurate. ;-)

It's neat to see you traveling and enjoying your time "off".
Congrats on the serendipity!

Rejoicing in the day,
-Mary