The old "R and R"

I have always hated the Rock and Roll McDonald’s.

I hate it for two reasons. One, because it’s a McDonald’s, and two, because it turned out to be my lover’s favorite romantic hangout, even though for some reason he didn’t seem to like hanging out there with me.

Now, maybe it’s not fair to dislike the place just because it’s a McDonald’s. I admit I loved McDonald’s as a child. It was a rare treat for our family of five to go out to eat, and I was never so happy as when I sat in the back seat of the old Plymouth with my hamburger and small fries, and, if I was really lucky, a small Coke too. Back in those days, the burger came wrapped in milky white paper with “HAMBURGER” emblazoned across it in blue and the fries had their own little paper hat as well and devouring them became a childhood ritual my cells have never quite forgotten. In fact, a part of me still swoons over the onion fumes poking their crooky little fingers out into the atmosphere from any of the twenty or so McDonald’s burger joints scattered around town. Occasionally, their siren smell lures me in, but most days, I just put my head down and keep driving.

I’ll also go so far as to say that the idea of a “Rock and Roll McDonald’s” held a lot of promise when I first heard about it twenty years ago. I could just imagine it: a fun, nostalgic throwback to my mother’s teenage years, and my own penchant for old 1950’s TV shows really had me looking forward to jukeboxes at the tables, shiny red leather stools at the bar, and chocolate milkshakes for two drunk through paper straws while the college kids gazed lovingly into each others eyes. It seemed like the perfect place for lovers to meet and lose themselves for an hour or two.

But I rarely ever got the chance to go to the “R and R” because, for some reason, my lover just didn’t like to take me there. I didn’t understand it, but I accepted it and just sort of wiped it off my radar screen. What I did not know then was that he spent a lot of time in this particular burger joint wooing his other girlfriend, trying to convince her that I didn’t matter to him, that she was the only thing he really ever wanted, that I had tricked him and trapped into a life he didn’t want….so it’s really easy to see how I could eventually develop an aversion to the place. They would go there together and sit on my red leather stools and drink my milkshake from the paper straw, they would sit there for a beautiful moment in time and pretend I didn’t really exist and that I really wasn’t in their way. After all, a baby changes everything, doesn’t it? And just who in the hell told them it was okay to bring my baby here to participate in their little “happily ever after” family fantasy, anyway?

So. You can just imagine my surprise and dark delight when I drove past the old “R and R” one day last month and saw it scheduled for demolition. My timing was perfect, for at that very moment, a big wrecking ball was poised to bash a huge hole in the side of the building. “CLOSED” was written across the big marquee and cheery bright yellow caution tape surrounded the entire place. My smile was one of genuine joy and unabashed glee as I maneuvered my car around and pulled out my camera: I had a front row seat to this blessed event and I wasn’t about to waste it. To witness the final moments of the Rock and Roll McDonald’s was this grudge holder’s dream come true.

It’s hard to describe the mix of emotions I felt as I watched the wrecking ball begin its first swing….a dark and glorious satisfaction at the somewhat faulty idea that they could never again be together now that they had no place to go….the ball slammed into one side of the building and chunks of concrete gave way…..bricks flew and glass shattered…..I imagined booths and stools and jukeboxes and milkshake machines flying around inside as concrete dust and glass splinters covered everything until finally the walls crumbled and the ceiling fell and the sun shone through the haze.

Eventually their love affair imploded in much the same way as the old “R and R” did, it was brutal and ugly and oh, so gratifying, and just because I lacked the imagination to do it differently when I realized what he had done to me didn’t mean that the Universe was always going to let him get away with it.

And now, I stood liberated in the rubble, snapping photos like a wild woman, feeding my psyche with visual proof, a photographic pilgrimage to remind myself of what was real and what was not. Hating them and the people, places and things associated with them had become an adult ritual my cells had never quite forgotten, either, but now I felt capable of letting all that go. If it took the demolition of the old “R and R” to finally realize that, well, I would gladly pay the price.

The old "R and R"


Joined March 2008

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