Here's how it goes, if you're wondering. A long, long time ago--way back in 1917--a couple of guys from Bartlesville, OK, the Phillips boys, got rich with oil. That, of course, is no man-bites-dog story: Oklahoma. Turn of the century. Black gold. . .what else is new?
Anyway, the Phillips boys tried out their new gasoline on Route 66--yes, that Route 66--where it crosses Oklahoma on its long, sweet swoop down from Chicago to the West coast. Apparently, the Phillips' new brand of petrol worked just fine because the automobile it was empowering way back in the roaring 20s ate up the miles at a rate that was breathtaking--you guessed it, 66 miles per hour. Hence the name and the gas.
Just thought I'd mention it, because the other association for the number 66, the one that leaps biblically into mind is far less inspiring--"666," the mark of the beast, which gives me the shivvers this a.m., not that I'm all that into the Bible's hard-core black magic.
Still, our new house number is 103; if it were 666, I'd change it, as would most the English-speaking world. Satanic cue or not, who wants to be number 666? Okay, a rock band.
66 isn't quite as scary as 666, but neither is it a comfort. 65 was an almost darling novelty, like becoming 21, the starting gate of a whole new life. It was--the times are changing, of course--the ticket to ride, the advent of retirement. 65 still fells like freedom. 66 feels just a shade too beastly, biblical or not.
But then there is the highway. Most of the country breaks into song at any mention of the old Route 66, a highway to heaven that still carries the connotations it did for decades--the dream of escape and opportunity to a land flowing with milk and honey, if it wouldn't be for crippling drought.
"If we had eggs, we could have bacon and eggs," an old friend used to say, "if we had bacon." Fits my mood this morning especially, the morning of my 66th birthday.
This old steel bridge sits out in New Mexico, along I-40, very much abandoned, a memorial to old 66 that once ran through it, along with all those adventurers. The traffic has moved a couple hundred yards south, over to the interstate; and just down the road sits a sprawling casino, one of two virtual cities on what is otherwise mostly wide-open New Mexico desert. Who cares about an old bridge when you can still break the bank down the road?
Look at it, poor old abandoned thing. Very sad.
The sign up front, should you care to leave the interstate and ride up, then walk over to read it says
It's called a "Parker through truss," because the patent belonged to Charles A. Parker, who, back in 1870, was the first to create that interesting curved top you see, and utilize, I'm told, the polygonal structures throughout. Generally "Parker through trusses" were used when a bridge needed to be 200 feet or more.
And so, this morning, at 66 years old, I've become a blubbering old fool, jabbering on and on over stuff so incidental that it should be a crime to let me loose on the public, as old hat as some Parker through truss, errant facial hairs sprouting like weeds from cracked cement.
At least I'm not a beast.