Today my hot rods would be classified "rat rods." Now it's a badge of honor to have funky, primed accessories instead of expensive chrome hardware. With me and the few other weirdos around Tampa with old coupes and roadsters in those days it was all economics. One thing that I always longed for, however, was flames. Yeah, they were long out of style by then but so were hot rods fercrissakes.
About twenty two years ago I made up for it. No, I didn't get another hot rod. I could never afford another hot rod. I was buying a house and in the kitchen that was being remodeled stood a perfectly boring, white GE refrigerator.
Now it always took some doing to stir my friend, Ed Brown, to do any kind of work at all, especially if art was involved. Ed was a genius. I don't know how many times he told me. Decades of disrespect and abuse at the hands of newspaper editors who Ed considered his inferiors had rendered him impotent as a working artist. I should tell you that if he were still with us he would deny this. Except for the genius part.
Somehow I managed to convince Ed to paint flames on my refrigerator. Not just any flames. The good ones. Bright tomato red with a hint of royal blue at the base. Yellow, shaded to orange at the tips and outlined in neon green. It was the finest refrigerator ever. Anywhere.
Well, you're gonna have a hard time believing the end of this story. At two or three a.m. some ten years later I was scared out of a deep sleep by the sound of the dreaded smoke detector. Following the sound and the smell and the smoke into the kitchen, we found the refrigerator engulfed in more realistic, if less stylistic, flames. Most of the wall behind it were on fire, too.
By the time that we had pried the old icebox away from the wall with brooms and mops and had the little extinguisher blasting, the fire department was on the scene. They finished up the chore with little damage other than the charred remains of the GE. The painted flames could still be detected on the smoking hulk.
All of the firemen were fascinated. Let me say that they were all somewhat brighter than I was, too. There was brilliant conversation about the irony. Flames, the symbol of speed for a streamlined rocket painted on a stationary, bulky box. Fire, decorating a utilitarian device designed for keeping things cold. Best of all, the whole damned thing ablaze!
Well, sir, the insurance company bought us a shiny, new, stainless steel refrigerator. Not only was it boring but after the $1500 deductible and the $1800 annual bill it was hardly a bargain, either. I suppose that the good luck is that the house didn't burn down.
Ed Brown's finest art, up in smoke and lost to mankind.