It is a cold night, maybe December or late November. I’m walking from the parked ’51 Chevy to the bright lights of the store, trying to catch up with my father who seems to have forgotten I’m walking behind him, that I’ve come along with him to pick up another six-pak of Hamms.

It’s windy, I’m certain of that. My thin blond hair blows into my eyes as pulsing light, on-off-on-off, draws my head to the sky. “Time To Buy – Liquor” I read the words spelled out as the stars run around the clock face in bright neon. That’s what we’re doing–buying liquor. Funny, and sad too, that everyone knows why we’re here.

I look down Ventura Boulevard, which is almost a country street in these 1950s, dark along the edges except where an ocassional store sign like this neon clock becomes a candle-flame in the shadows.

“Come on,” my dad yells as the shop door swings closed behind him.

I tip my head skyward once more. The neon stars race on….Time To Buy, Time To Buy – Liquor. I hurry after him through the glass doors.

I hadn’t thought of that evening nor that sign for more than fifty years. It was quite by accident that I was driving down Ventura Boulevard, now a busy city thoroughfare, a few days ago. What was I doing here? Perhaps the Ventura Freeway was jammed, maybe I was lost looking for a vaccuum repair shop. Yes, that seems to be what brought me here. I looked up and saw it, an outpost of my youth in the San Fernando Valley.

Click for detail

I had my camera with me. I snapped a couple of shots, then went inside to talk to the clerk.

“That neon sign above your store, the clock,” I started in mid-thought, “Is that the original Time To Buy sign from 50 years ago?”

“What sign?” the young Indian man said.

I thought he was joking.

“The big red sign above your store,” I played along.

“No idea,” he said flatly.

“No idea if it’s the original or no idea there’s a neon clock on your roof?”

“No idea,” he said firmly.

“Okay,” I tried to laugh. “Well, there’s a big sign up there. I’m guessing it’s the original neon that I remember as a kid. They’re rare, these neons. I’m glad it’s still here. How long have you had the store?” I can talk a lot when I want.

He stared at me, staying quiet, suscpicious. What was I up to?

“Sorry, but are you the owner?” I was determined.

The stare continued; we were locked in it. Then finally, he managed a slight nod, “a year nearly,” he said with a tone that dripped finality.

I nodded back to him. I was done talking, too. I turned around and walked out.

Click for detail

Heading back to my car, I took one final look. It had lost some glory in the years gone by, sure, but it still looked pretty commanding up there against the blue, blue sky.

I’ll have to come back at night, I thought to myself, to get the full effect.









3 Responses to Time To Buy – Liquor

  1. Ursula says:

    As always, I love your postings. But now.especially since I am laid up (or down as the case may be) with a broken ankle in Ann Arbor and totally immobile for the next 7 weeks.
    Two enormous metal plates and innumerable screws later, I wonder what the security procedure will be like at the airport when I return to Palm Beach next week.
    love, Ursula

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have noticed that sign for years, ever since I was a kid, and the funny thing is -that clock has never worked!—I guess the new owner has never noticed it! Wow!!
    Keep your posts coming-we love um! ME

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