The spirited provocation of youth is undeniable! So is the attraction of reposing by the fire in an armchair. During our evening on St Armands Circle over dinner we spanned the resources of the two seductions. First though we had to find a place to park. Round we drove in search of a spot, through a bank parking lot and round again repeating our exploration, then at last discovering the perfect location – between two driveways suitable for one car only. The night was off to a fortuitous start! We walked noiselessly in the blue evening air along the boulevard, ducking the pendulous viridescent ferns folded against the towering white gates, allowing the enthusiastic young families to pass. It was still only 6:18 pm; we may have arrived ahead of our dining companions. But no! From the front desk of the restaurant we spotted them – looking resplendent – at a corner table! The youngest of the gaggle was quick to approach. She was was sylph-like, the colour of fine porcelain and had the unspoken generosity of her parents. We embraced, hugged and kissed the others, gripped a handshake with the paternal member and the evening was off in a swirl of animation!
Earlier in the day we began to prepare ourselves for the rendezvous. What would we wear? A sweater over top or not? What was the weather expected to be? Was there rain in forecast? Would the temperature plunge in the evening? Jewellery, how much, how little, if any indeed? Should I wear a watch? When would we have to leave to get there on time? How far is it to get there, just moments, or what about the traffic? Was everything expected to be congested? Does it matter it is Sunday; or will it form part of the Christmas holidays, one day so much like the other?
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.
Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales
At last following the polite reciprocities of employment and places to visit the real investigations emerged. What was your favourite age? Do you fear getting old? Is there only the present – but no past and no future? And, yes, order another bottle of wine! Then the deepest enquiry of them all, “Who are the gentlemen in your lives?” About whom will you confess your interest, your solicitude, your camaraderie, your affinity and mutual support? Oh, how soon it all transpires; how fearfully fast it ends! Are we going too quickly! Do we accelerate the stars and whirl about the heavens! I’m so pleased that we have met!
This heady conversation gave way to an unexpected focus – automobiles, having further the dignity of antiquarianism, specifically the iconic, personal luxury vehicle Ford Thunderbird. Suddenly we were talking my language! I had garnered an unforeseen confidante among our number! The appetite wasn’t long in overtaking us – coincidentally having by now exhausted those of the festive table. Then to my unparalleled delight we waged upon a scheme for its acquisition! It was admittedly more suggestive than constructive – but the intent was there even if the determination were not.
After a five year hiatus, Ford introduced a new Thunderbird for 2002. Returning to the original formula for the Thunderbird, the latest version had a two-seat coupe or convertible layout like the first-generation Thunderbird and retrofuturistic styling to match. The eleventh generation Thunderbird was built at Ford’s Wixom Assembly Plant and was based on the company’s DEW98 platform, which was shared with the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type. Though the Thunderbird’s exterior styling was unique relative to its platform mates, the instrument panel, steering wheel and other trim pieces were borrowed from Lincoln LS. The sole engine of the Thunderbird was a Jaguar-designed AJ-30 3.9 L DOHC V8, a short-stroke (85mm) variant of the Jaguar AJ-26 4.0 L V8, making 252 horsepower (188 kW) and 267 lb⋅ft (362 N⋅m) of torque. The engine was mated to Ford’s 5R55N 5-speed automatic transmission. The AJ-30 V8 was replaced by the AJ-35 in 2003 and later Thunderbirds, bringing with it variable vale timing (VVT) and electronic throttle control (ETC) as well as 280 horsepower (210 kW) and 286 lb⋅ft (388 N⋅m) of torque. Complementing the extra power and torque provided by the AJ-35 V8, a manual shift feature for the 5-speed automatic called SelectShift was available as an option in 2003 and later Thunderbirds. With sales dropping off significantly after its first model year, Ford decided to make the 2005 model year the Thunderbird’s last with no scheduled successor. The last one rolled off the assembly line on July 1, 2005.
Outside the restaurant, cluttered with the burgeoning crowds, oblivious of our interruption of the sidewalk agenda, we continued our penultimate dialogue. One of the young ladies wanted ice cream; the other talked of going to bed. We said our goodnights and melted into the darkness that so beautifully characterizes seaside living.