What do you want to do with your life? | All replicas of the Liberty Bell (2023)

{time to read: 13 Protocol}

April 26, 1988: I'm in second grade math at Father Judge, a boys' Catholic school in Northeast Philadelphia.

I sit sideways at my desk, doodling in my notebook and don't understand algebra. I'm speaking to Jon Shookowsky, one of my twin best friends. Together we are the rhythm section of Attix, a hard rock band, mostly covers. We played our first show at the Philly Cookbook a few weeks ago. (Don't look for it, it's gone.) We're planning the next Attix show and subsequent world domination.

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Since I'm not paying attention in class, I don't notice Mr. Caldwell. Caldwell is a grey-haired, broad-chested, short-haired math master sergeant.

Mr. Caldwell: Get up, Campbell.

I will stay.

Mr. Caldwell: What would you like to do with your life?

Mi: …

Jon: (screams softly) Say it. says! Says!

Mi: …

I froze in silence. Frozen with fear. Frozen with doubt. Frozen by two dozen eyes that now focus on me, wondering if they're about to witness his first murder.

If I had a time machine, I wouldn't go back to Independence Hall in 1776 or Red Rocks in 1983. I would go back to that moment and say what Jon wanted me to say, what every cell in my body wanted to say:

Caldwell: What do you want to do with your life?

Me: I want to rock.

Mr. Caldwell has just given me a unique opportunity to imitate the art I love. And in 1988 I love no artist more thanbad sister, the furry, fluorescent-clad heavy metal band. In prelude to yoursI wanna RockMusic video, a screaming psychotic teacher played by Mark Metcalf, best known in the film as ROTC officer Douglas C. Neidermeyerpet house- scolds a fat, dark-skinned metalhead for desecrating a defenseless book.

The performance was a reprise of Metcalf's role in the band's video forWe're not Gonna Take Itwhere he plays a psychotic father who yells and berates his son for touching an electric vibrator.

The opening sketches for each video end with Metcalf asking the same question and getting the same answer:

"What do you want to do with your life?"

"I wanna Rock."

If I had the guts to tell Mr. Caldwell what I wanted to do with my life before he could strangle me with one hand, I would be the lead singer of Twisted, Dee Snider, and my classmates on the rest of the sisters. . Then we were paraded across campus while Neidermeyer, our roadrunner Wile E. Coyote, tried in vain to kill us.

This was my only chance. My only chance to swear allegiance to Heavy Metal. My only chance to be transported through a twisted portal to a world where I've only rocked. I just had to explain to my buddies how badly I wanted this, how badly I wanted to rock.

And I messed it up.

TheEraswill I start my life?

Beaten but not broken, I vowed to myself if I had another chance to live a rock song, whether it was walking down Bedford Stey alone, kissing a pig at sunset, or seeing a commotion in my hedgerow, I would take that chance do not miss .

Fast forward 24 years. It's July 24, 2012. Dawn and I are at the Denver airport, en route to Delaware to visit my mom in Millsboro, spend some time at nearby Rehoboth Beach, and see what else the state has to offer has to offer.

Dawn: You know what's up in Delaware?

Mi: …

Dawn: The tasty frost.

Me: Let's do this.

Although I grew up 25 miles away, I was in Delaware once before my mom and stepdad retired there. At a gas station. On the way to Virginia.

It is our third trip to First Estate and we are in love with this place. Delaware is small and difficult to define. It's as if Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia have carved out some of their hard edges and combined them to form an entirely different, if oddly familiar, state. It's beautiful and sandy, agricultural and industrial.

Our flight lands in Baltimore early Wednesday morning. We popped a few bucks into an airport machine, grabbed a grape drink, and hit the road in our compact rental car.

Our two-hour drive takes us southAnnapolis, Maryland, across the harrowing Chesapeake Bay Bridge (not to be confused with thefrighteningChesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel), then east through rural Maryland to Lower Delaware.

Of my many irrational fears, driving across large open waters tops the list. So I'm pretty exhausted when we get to Kent Island, Maryland. We ran out of grape soda a long time ago and are getting hungry.

Dawn has been fiddling with her phone for the past few miles and now I know what she's up to. "Turn here," she says.

We exit Hwy 50 onto a country road with tall green forests on our left, open fields and a small city airport on our right. Eight minutes later we turn onto an even smaller road and see where we will spend the next hour and a half. We're not in Delaware yet, but we're in the Delmarva Peninsula and the holidays have officially begun.

ÖKentmorr-Restauranthas been serving fresh crab to locals and tourists since 1954. Kentmorr offers indoor dining, outdoor picnic tables and something calledDirty Daves Island Tiki Bar, a man-made beach with hammocks, umbrellas and stunning views of the east shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Our shoes have laces and our pants have legs, so we're a little over the top for Dirty Dave. We chose a table on the terrace overlooking the bay.

As a nod to our respective homelands, I'll start with Crabby Pretzel, Dawn with Crabby Tots. Each one is cheesy and crunchy and generously loaded with crab bits. The most fascinating thing on the menu isExcrabaganza: A bowl of red crab soup with unlimited fresh whole crab and corn, cooked for two hours. Any time-limited meal should be worth the price.

We opted for a less convenient appetizer and each ordered the grilled crab cakes. They are fresh, crunchy and delicious. They taste like the smell of the air. They taste like the beach. You know how to wear your bathing suit all day long.

Things are slowing down fast.

We changed the name from Kentmorr toExcrabaganzaand promises to come back

The rest of our route to Millsboro is on dual carriageways that meander through small towns and large farms. Every few miles, roadside food stands line our driveway.

There is no geographic demarcation when Maryland becomes Delaware, but you must keep your headlights on at all times on Maryland's dual carriageways. You can do whatever you want in Delaware. I turn off the headlights and try to remain unnoticed.

Delaware is the sixth least populated state and the sixth most densely populated state. We spend our time in Sussex County, the lowest, slowest and southernmost of the state's three counties.

It is early afternoon when we entergrid for pots, one of a growing number of landowning communities in the area. The land tenure option keeps the dream of “beach retirement” alive for the working-class generation of my parents. Retirees and vacationers can purchase well-built homes well below market value. Residents own their homes and lease the land for as long as they live there.

We are now in the heart of what locals call Slower Lower Delaware. Millsboro and the surrounding communities sit on fertile coastal farmland that is constantly giving way to vacation homes and retirement homes. The city's name conveys its history, which was formed after Elisha Dickerson built a lumber mill along the Indian River in 1792. In the early 1800's there were fifteen sawmills within a four mile radius. For two hundred years, since settlers displaced the residents of Nanticoke, the region thrived on the production of timber and poultry, particularly broilers. farming yethas a good leadon tourism as Sussex County's main industry.

We spent a nice quiet night talking to my parents. We'll sleep in tomorrow and have a few hours of decaffeinated coffee on the screened in porch. Our lunch destination is only 16 miles away and a lifetime in the making.

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John PumaJack and Dianaspent four weeks at number one in the fall of 1982. Applause in four minutesclosed batteryand unfiltered Midwestern angst, the song paints a hauntingly beautiful portrait of two teenagers growing up in America's heartland.

I was ten years old at the time and took everything literally. Subtlety, symbolism and metaphor were friends I hadn't met. The more authoritatively something was presented, the more I believed that it was the pure truth of God. And in 1982, nobody was more honest than John Cougar.

Cougar taught me that being a teenager sucks and that things were so bad in Heartland that your only hope of salvation was to move to the Bible Belt.

What scared me the most, however, was the fact that I had six short years to recover before the thrills of life wore off. Lost. I had to bend down and get to work.

case to letter datedjack and dianethey don't hold as valuable a place in your long-term memory as they do in mine, here is the piece of poetry that takes us to Laurel, Delaware on this hot July afternoon:

Chupando Chili Dogs afuera de Tastee Freez

Diane sits next to Jacky

Have your hands between your knees

jack, dice:

“Hey Diane, let's run behind a big tree.

Drop these Bobby Brooks pants

and i do what i like.

The ten year old me captures all of the fear and impending doom that the track presents, but other parts are harder to comprehend.

Tastee Freez is amazing, that's for sure. We don't have it where I live, so in fifth grade I plan to learn to work hard and buy a car so I can go to a state that has one. Diane seems quite nice, but I don't understand why she sits on Jack's lap while they eat hot dogs. That seems confusing.

I totally understand why Jack would want to run into the woods to take care of his itchy dog ​​in peace, but taking Diane's pants off seems like a comical joke. I probably wouldn't see it coming. Maybe that was the point.

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I hope this Tastee Freez, and all Tastee Freez, fully explores their role in the Cougarian mythos like they did in the time we went toTom Esserand all plates were signed by Suzanne Vega or asWinslow, Arizonahe did it himself.

My plan is to just play it. I will not pose with the full size Cougar cardboard cutout. I will ignore any tourists who do thisjack and dianeThings. I won't pay moreHurt so gut Tater Totsor theCheese curds from the small town. I'll look at the menu and see what I like.

Tastee Freez was founded in 1950, the same year as the US Treasury Department's replica Liberty Bell. It's the classic American success story, the perfect partnership between inventor and entrepreneur.

Leo Moranz patented a revolutionary freezer and pump combination that produced better-tasting ice cream faster.

Harry Axene, a former Dairy Queen executive, was hailed in DQ history as the father of the franchise, selling land rights, collecting royalties and growing the DQ empire from 17 to 19 in the four years between the end of World War II and 1950 almost 1,400 shops .

At the 1949 Dairy Queen Convention, Axene pitched the idea of ​​the Moranz automatic continuous freezer to the DQ franchisees. When his proposal was rejected, he left the company to form rival Tastee Freez with Moranz.

Moranz and Axene licensed the Tastee Freez name to independent servicers who rented their machine, the same machine Dairy Queen refused. They later entered into more structured franchise agreements, expanded store offerings, and invented a point that creates the five-pointed star shape we all know and love today.

By 1952 there were 315 Tastee Freez locations. By 1957, the upstart, with 1,800 stores nationwide, was a serious contender for America's soft serve crown.

1982 asjack and dianepeaked, as did Tastee Freez. That year, Denovo Corporation, owner of several root beer-themed drive-in franchises, bought the company. Other Devono brands gradually consumed the Tastee Freez brand, and by 1992 there were only 340 stores left. Today only 22 independent Tastee Freez locations remain.

Ultimately, Dairy Queen would keep his crown. Berkshire Hathaway acquired the brand in 1998. Today there are 6,400 locations worldwide.

But on this hot summer day in Laurel, Delaware, it's 1952, it's 1982 and it's 2012. Time and the tide have yet to wash away this special thrill of life.

"Welcome to Tastee Freez, what can I do for you?" asks the woman behind the Plexiglas. She is significantly older and more educated than I expected.

I pause for a long time and breathe in the heaviness of the moment. "I'd like some iced tea and...um...a chili dog, please."

"Okay, a chili hot dog. Anything else?"

These will work.

"Okay, that's two hot dogs and two iced teas. Anything else?"

"No, we're fine."

At Tastee Freez, the two dining options are outdoors and in your car. We decided against it.

Served simply in a red and white checkered cardboard sleeve, our Chili Dogs fit remarkably perfectly. They are not spicy or complex or in any way unique to the region.

We are the only people sitting along the path and eating our meals. Nobody does the John Cougar thing. Nobody watching us do the John Cougar thing. Only Tom and Dawn eat hot dogs in front of Tastee Freez.

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We returned to Millsboro with no plans for the remainder of our visit. The next day we slept in, had breakfast until noon and set offAssatague, the strange island of the little horses. Twenty-seven miles south of Millsboro, on the eastern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, the barrier island is two-thirds Maryland, one-third Virginia, and one hundred percent walnut.

Three hundred little wild horses roam the beaches, oblivious to the thousands of tourists who are there to gawk at them. They're like jaded celebrities who have given up running from the paparazzi. "Take my picture, it's okay. Smile? No way. Stand in my way and I'll knock you out.

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We spent the next day inPlaya de Rehoboth, a classic East Coast boardwalk town best known for being LGBTQ-friendly, was an economic development strategy.

Delaware has something of a cultural hangover, the deeper you go the more you get sucked in.

A perfect example of how Delaware's history gets richer the deeper you go is the history of the state-owned Liberty Bell.

In 1950, the US Treasury Department ordered at least 57 life-size, working replicas of the Liberty BellPaccard Bell Foundryin France. The bells were paraded through 48 states and five territories this summer and used as a promotional tool for a savings bond campaign. At the end of the journey, the Treasury delivered the bells to the respective regions.

Not all bells have found a worthy home. Some have been in storage for decades, onemiss, and quite a few went further into retirement.

The Delaware Liberty Bell has one of the dirtiest histories. Unlike the real deal, it has no crack. But a significant chunk is missing, and if you believe the bells have feelings, some emotional scars.

By the time the savings bond campaign of 1950 ended, Delaware had reached its $302,000 quota. But the First Estate wasn't sure what to do with its prize.

On Independence Day 1950, the future looked bright for the Delaware Liberty Bell. Governor Elbert N. Carvel accepted the bell in a ceremony at the Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington.

The bell was then unceremoniously left in Lookerman Street Plaza in front of Dover Town Hall, covered with a heavy tarpaulin. Originally it was planned to place the bell in the historical buildingdover green, but citizens complained that the area was already littered with statues and monuments.

The State determined that no space was available on the Statehouse site and placed responsibility on the City of Dover.

The bell remained in Lockerman Street Plaza until May 30, 1951, when it was moved to what became known as the "facelift lot", a small strip of land at the fork of Governors Avenue Boulevard and North State Street south of Silver Lake. highway bridge. Rights to the land were granted by the Richardson family, who stipulated that the city would not remove trees or add buildings. The Daughters of the American Revolution decorated the area with flowers and shrubs.

Within a few months, the bell was moving again. On November 17, 1951, he landed at the southwest corner of Division Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. At Lamia Place, a small plot of a village named after Dover's twin town in Greece, the bell stood beneath a giant dogwood that was nearly a century old.

But Lamia Place also proved problematic. The local kids had taken over the little lawn under the giant dogwood and weren't about to lose their playground for a piece of bronze without a fight. The children submitted a protest to the town hall and demanded that the playground be returned. Dover did what most towns would do when confronted with precocious children practicing democracy: they capitulated and agreed to re-lay the Deleware Liberty Bell.

This time, the Delaware State Highway Department came to the rescue. On July 3, 1952 they moved the bell to a newly built median in the middle of the DuPont Parkway opposite Dover Downs.

Before the bell could be established in its third permanent home, the Highways Department decided to widen the entrance from Dover Downs. They moved the bell down the street in front of State Police Headquarters.

At one of those two locations, the doorbell was hit by a car, tearing off a small piece.

The bell stood outside State Police Headquarters until 1976, when the United States Bicentennial sparked renewed patriotic enthusiasm across the country. The Delaware Liberty Bell has been restored to the scar of the car accident and relocated to the newly opened bell-shaped Bicentennial Memorial Park on Federal Street, just between the Capitol and the Old State House. There it was flanked by box trees planted to form the numbers 1776 when viewed from above.

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Delaware life goes on on the Capitol grounds and beaches, roadside farmers markets and the International Highway. The Delaware Liberty Bell boxwoods have matured. when you look at herGoogle EarthThey just look beautiful like trees.

Tastee Freez in Laurel closed a few years ago and was replaced by something called Smash N' Dash Burgery.

As for me, I ended up doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I went to art school and became a graphic designer. Now I doodle in my notebook and tell stories to make a living. In Dawn I found my work and life partner and the quest for the Liberty Bell. I still can't understand algebra, and I kill at every opportunity.

John Cougar, known as John Mellencamp since 1991, is currently working on oneBroadway-Musicalsbased on the mythical lives of his teenage muses Jack and Diane. But don't expect happy rockers like Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, American Idiot, We Will Rock You, Dreamgirls, Ain't Too Proud, You've Got a Friend or Beautiful.

Mellencamp quickly dashed the hope that the theatergoers would happily belt out their songs on the way to the subway after the show: “This is not a jukebox musical. My ambitions are very high, with these two children as close as possible to Steinbeck in today's world.

Whether the Chili Dogs will be served in the theater remains to be seen.

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