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Cruisin Central

©2003, by Charlotte Webb.
Bring my baby, oh my baby back to me
There's a deep blue that comes into the sky at sunset on the Sonoran Desert and calls you outside to be part of it. Maybe it's the orange blossom perfume in the air, or the warmth without the blinding sunlight; maybe it's only an illusion

I'm gonna see my baby tonight
It's early evening in Phoenix. Watson parks in front of your house and you both sit on the hood of his car and talk and watch the Arizona sun set, and pretty soon Berling and Angelo come by, and the four of you go get Suzi and Bunny, and then you go to Bob's Big Boy Drive-In for a cherry Coke, or maybe stop by Caslon's to see if he's gonna enter his car in the drags next Saturday, or maybe go down to the Metropolitan Life parking lot at Central and McDowell and shoot the breeze with the sports car guys

I see the party lights
The first thing you notice about Central Avenue at night is the light, bumper-to-bumper cars moving along at fifteen miles per hour in the near-daylight of the most brilliantly lit traffic artery in the nation

C'mon, let me show you where it's at
Central Avenue, so subtle in its discrimination, is a social order all its own

All over La Jolla or down Doheny way
It was two years before the Beach Boys invented California, even before Waylon Jennings sang for free in the Riverbottom Room, back when McDonald's had sold almost a million hamburgers

Let's get it while the gettin is good
Central Avenue, above Camelback Road, belonged to North Mountain High. Our territory was from Camelback Road to Thomas. Thomas Road to Roosevelt was Sunset High's. Roosevelt Street was the South Town boundary where Phoenix Union's territory began. The sports car guys hung around at the Metropolitan Life parking lot across Central from the public library. Everybody went to Bob's Big Boy, but McDonald's and Firestone were ours. Uptown Plaza belonged to some kids from North Mountain. Park Central's mammoth lot was big enough for several factions, and it belonged to the ones who got there first on any given evening, usually the Maryvale punks. It was also a favorite lurking spot for the heat

Move on out, movin and cruisin along
If you weren't in with one of those crowds, you kept moving all night; or you'd go to the midnight drag races on Saturday night out on the desert at 35th Avenue and Bell Road, an impromptu one-night-stand of miscellaneous outsiders. And if you were an outsider, you probably didn't know it

Trying hard to bum a ride
The hardest part about Central Avenue was that you had to have grown up in the right crowd

Now he lives in Cell Block Two
When the other kids cruised, believing all the Sunday newspaper hype about Today's Restless Youth, they usually got into a lot of trouble because they didn't know the score. They did things like put laundry soap into the fountain at Osborn Plaza, and moon unmarked police cars; or they'd get arrested when the Hell's Angels were in town

Rock cool daddy, in the honky-tonky alley
Then there was the old bunch who remembered when there wasn't any Cinnabar High, back when Wildcat was the roughest cat in Phoenix, and his brother, Chuy, was the second-roughest, back before the No Trespassing sign was posted on the vacant lot across from McDonald's. For them, Bob's was the only place to go, but they were mostly gone by the time we got to Central

I looked at my watch, it was nine-twenty-one
It was bad news if you were still on Central at ten PM on Friday or Saturday night. Party time was nine-thirty to midnight. But after midnight it was okay to go to Bob's or Big Tim's

Along about ten, I'll be flyin high
We always ended up at a party by ten PM. The others were never invited. And if one of them invited us to a party, he'd probably lose a few 45s to Petey, who was the biggest record thief in town

Doncha know that I danced till a quarter to three
If you ran with us, Central was your home, and Petey left your record collection intact

Got a hot-rod Ford and you ought to see it run
Berling named his car but no one else did. We didn't have a name for our gang, and neither did the Maryvale punks or the sports car guys. We knew each other on sight, anyway

Just a little deuce coupe with a flathead mill
It was mainly the car clubs that hung around Beeline Dragway. Once in awhile, Jim Berling would show up in his old Tahiti Coral-on-Dover White 1956 Buick Roadmaster named The Honeydripper. Berling drove an Aquamarine Blue 1956 Porsche 356A flat-four to school, but the Buick was the car you remembered. The Buick shut everybody down. Only a few of us knew that he had a small airplane engine under the hood

High sher'ff and po-lice riding after me
One night Angelo bet Berling a Big Boy that he couldn't drive the Buick down Central without getting a ticket. Jim took the bet and invited us to go along. We'd only gotten to the canal when a cop stopped us. But when he saw Berling's driver's license he said, "Go on home, boy. Your car's too loud. Next time, I'll hafta give you a faulty equipment ticket." We went to Bob's, and Berling collected his hamburger before he took The Honeydripper home

Nothin outrun my V-8 Ford
Central Avenue was a one-way street and smart cops figured that out real quick. Berling's father was a district judge

Shake it up, bay-bay
The street dance at the library. It all started when someone's transistor radio picked up the Wild Child on KPHO, and "Twist and Shout" came across loud and clear. Bunny and I were hanging around with the sports car guys at Metropolitan Life, and we started doing the twist. Some other boys at the stoplight saw us and jumped out of their car, and ran over to where we were, and started twisting too. So we stopped dancing and left for Bob's with Berling and Angelo. Within twenty minutes, traffic was backed up to Camelback Road and down to Washington Street. Then Suzi and Watson came into Bob's and said there was a street dance at the library and people were being arrested and something about a cherry bomb being tossed into the crowd. So we sat in Bob's drinking cherry phosphates and waiting for the traffic to clear up. The next day at school, everybody was jabbering about the street dance, but we just ignored them

How low can you go
Crillee was murdered at Jenson's party, and no one knows who did it, but the Maryvale punks hated Freddy and they testified so they could get their names in the papers, and lied about being there and about who had guns, and Judge Berling didn't care because he hated Freddy too; so their perjury got Freddy ten years in Florence

Gone to graveyards, every one
After Freddy's trial, while we were lyin low, the Maryvale punks took over, and a whole new order was born, so we moved on. We'd had fun, but it was time to go

Gotta take that one last ride
Past Uptown Plaza and the Indian School. Past Compton's Car Wash and McDonald's, Firestone and Bob's. Everything is just as we left it. Only the cars have changed

Oh what a night it was, it really was
Down Central Avenue, layin rubber at every stoplight, the Wild Child on KPHO turned up full blast, playin them old Frantic Atlantic records for all the fender-benders and bumper-jumpers. Such a night it was. Rhythm 'n' Blues was music for cruisin Central.

Cruisin Central © 2003, by Charlotte Webb. All rights reserved.

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