A Seeker Of Beauty Am I: Art On Wheels, Part Two

I’d have to examine this blog’s archives, an activity worth doing on only the rainiest of days, to discover whether or not I’ve ever done a part two for a story before. Off the top of my head I’d say no, but the top of my head frequently is not reliable. Nor are the middle or bottom sections of my head, come to think of it. Not much I can do about any of that though. I was born that way.

The first good-looking truck I saw last week

In any event, soon after I completed my article about artistically-adorned motor vehicles (click here to read it), I was pretty certain that I would revisit the topic. I mean, I’d had fun driving around, keeping my eyes open for good-looking and creative designs painted on the sides of trucks and vans. And taking photographs of them. Three months later the itch to do so again became strong. Itches need to be scratched, as everybody knows. And so, last week, seeking beauty, I took to the roads and to the shopping centers in my suburban Philadelphia area. And beauty I did find.

Now, eye-catching trucks and vans and buses are not uncommon, comprising maybe 15% of the commercial and public vehicle population, I’d estimate. Driving along, you see plenty of them on the road. But, unless you have a death wish, you’d do well not to attempt to photograph them from a moving vehicle. I was tempted to on many occasions, but I kind of enjoy breathing. So I didn’t.

Which is why I hunted my prey in shopping centers and strip malls, where I was able to drive slowly, scouting out the parking areas and store delivery sections. I set off early on Wednesday morn and kept at it for three hours, a lot of time to devote to an admittedly loony quest. I drove all over the local map, visiting shopping places that I’d been to often over the years, and some I’d never ventured to, despite their being not much beyond spitting distance of my home. And, much to my delight, I snapped a photo while on the road of a snazzy waste disposal truck, its sides a vision in yellow and cool shapes, while beside it as we both waited for the traffic light to turn green.

It was a hit-or-miss operation, a question of being in the right place at the right time. As is much of life. And I was in the wrong place more often than not. I couldn’t believe how I kept coming up empty while trolling the huge receiving docks sections of the types of stores that, in some sense, have come to rule sizeable chunks of the world: Target, Lowe’s, Walmart, Staples. What the f*ck? Not only were there no gorgeous trucks there, for the most part there were no trucks at all!

But hey, just when I was giving up hope during various intervals of my expedition, something fine came my way. Such as the image of a sun-drenched wheat field decorating a Schmidt Baking Company truck. I encountered the vehicle in the supermarket where my wife Sandy and I do most of our grocery shopping.

Even better was what I saw in the desolate rear of a Wegmans supermarket, seven miles from my house. Fresh off the strikeouts at Lowe’s, Walmart, etc., I was expecting to uncover nothing there. But lo and behold, what was that in the distance? I drove closer and grinned. Why, it was a masterpiece, my favorite canvas of all I was to see that day. Luscious, exploding with color, the Wegmans veggie painting made me shout “yo, stop the presses! I’m going to become a vegetarian, and maybe even a vegan!” Luckily there was nobody around to hear my outburst. A nanosecond later I reconsidered what I’d said and tossed the idea in my ancient Honda Civic’s ashtray. But I will say this: The Wegmans truck artist sure as hell knows how to make a humble trailer look exquisite. I drove away with all kinds of warm and wholesome feelings in my heart.

A few days after completing my photographic mission a number of things occurred to me. For one, it seems as though you don’t see a whole lot of dazzling trucks or vans with black as their base color. Strange, considering that a hefty percentage of the cars and SUVs on the road are painted black, and that black is a staple in hip fashion. I came across but two fine black-based commercial vehicles: The Shred truck pictured a few paragraphs above, and Air Purity Experts’ van. Both shone like gems.

The truck behind Wawa store

The Air Purity van was parked behind a Wawa convenience store, around one of the building’s corners from a Coca-Cola truck. That truck was the second Coca-Cola deliverer I went eyeball-to-eyeball with that day. The designs on the sides of the Coke vehicles were different yet sublimely similar. And both are timeless. Coca-Cola trucks absolutely flaunt their red, and have for ages. The oceans of red grab the eye, entice, seduce. You want a Coke right now? I wouldn’t mind one at all. That’s an example of the kind of power that good art sometimes has over me.

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My Coca-Cola Relapse

How much cola have I consumed in my life? Thousands of gallons I’d guess. Not to mention the huge quantities of other soda varieties that have passed through my body. But cola always was my favorite. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, RC Cola, store brands – I proudly and happily drank them all. Over time, Coke became my top cola choice.

My cola habit was strong in my teens and went up some notches in my early 20s. But it ended in my mid-40s when I gave up cola and other sodas. All of that sugar for so many years, combined with sad dental hygiene, had made a mess of my teeth and gums. I needed to stop drinking the stuff, and it’s a good thing that my willpower was strong enough to follow through. I didn’t switch to diet sodas because I’ve never liked the taste of artificial sweeteners.

The scene of my relapse
The scene of my relapse

But cola is back in my life. Coca-Cola, to be precise. Its return began not long ago at a pizza place I’ve been going to for a couple of years, Tony Roni’s. Roni’s resides at a remarkably congested and dangerous road intersection in Willow Grove, PA, not far from Philadelphia. Customers might somewhat put their lives in jeopardy to visit Roni’s, but that doesn’t keep them away. And that includes me.

I love pizza, especially the more traditional and unadulterated types, but I can’t find many by-the-slice places that make it the way I prefer: crisp charred crust, sweet tomato sauce, good quality cheese and not an overload of it nor of oil. Tony Roni’s traditional pies seem to vary in quality from visit to visit. They are not too bad overall, but in a better world they consistently would be less floppy and oily. So, a bit frustrated, last year I started ordering slices of Roni’s tomato pie instead. It’s a pizza variety I had rarely had before. They do a nice job with tomato pie, its underside heat-darkened, the crushed tomatoes ripe with good flavor, very little oil, a dusting of cheese. The crust could be better, but what the heck.

Initially I drove to Tony Roni’s once every two or three weeks and, for various reasons, most frequently on Wednesdays. Wednesday is the one day when they offer a free fountain soda to anyone who buys two pizza slices. For a long time I rejected the free drink. After much cavity filling and periodontal work, my teeth and gums have been pretty good for quite awhile now, so why press my luck? But the lure of Tony Roni’s free soda must have been nibbling at my subconscious. Earlier this year my resistence grew thin. Paying for two slices on a January Wednesday I said “oh well” to myself and accepted the cashier’s proferred paper soda cup. Off I went to the soda dispenser and allowed six or so ounces of Coca-Cola to descend. I took a seat, took a sip, and was in heaven. Coke is heaven. I knew that all along.

Since then, my trips to Tony Roni’s have been almost weekly, and exclusive to Wednesdays. Each time I buy two slices of pie, usually tomato pie, and savor about six ounces of free Coke. I try very hard not to drink more Coke than that. So far I’ve been successful. And when I get home from my pizza and soda outings I brush my teeth. Coke is delicious. Dental work isn’t.