I stood at the counter in a mini-mart in Watkins Glen with a $1.49, 20-oz. can of Busch Light beer in my hand. It was part of a ritual that started years ago when I first attended the annual vintage old sport car festival, where those old beauties are on display and running through the village, following the original Grand Prix route.
The clerk said, “License!” “What” I questioned. “Let me see your driver’s license or I can’t sell you that beer,” he swiftly replied. I chuckled to myself (getting proofed at my age) and opened my wallet so he could see my license.
“Take it out of the holder so I can scan the bar code on the back,” he impatiently ordered. I did. He scanned. I walked out with my beer, ready to get on with my almost annual fall ritual.
The village officials close the main street (Franklin), and a legion of old geezers like me flock there with a regularity that matches that of the swallow’s annual return to Capistrano (though this year they were late).
Austin-Healey’s Porsches, Jaguars, MG’s, Triumph’s, and the like, take over the town. It had been four years since I was there, due to circumstances beyond my control. I was excited, in spite of the bureaucratic inquisition I’d undergone in the mini-mart. This was a day of freedom. In cheapskate fashion. Beer was available all along the street, but the cost was four to six dollars for a small plastic glass. Nothing like my 20-ounce, ice cold, $1.49 bargain.
It felt like civil disobedience, walking through town sipping a beer, although only on the surface. The open container law had been suspended for the event. Still, it was a delight to pass by friendly Watkins Glen police officers, violating a law that was in effect in every other town in New York State. Not there! Not on that day!
My wife and I sat in bag chairs along the road, sipping beer, eating hot dogs, and watching the vintage sport cars race by. We also gawked at cars on display around town, including those in the “For Sale” lot. I’d promised not to get bewitched and purchase one, like I once did. I was happy just to look at them and be unencumbered by the open container law.
It was a delightful day; the cars were beautiful; everyone was friendly; it was one of those rare moments in time when all is well with the world. It takes place every year on the Friday following Labor Day. Maybe I’ll see you there in 2022. You’re going to love it!
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