As you go about your everyday life, you will meet a handful of strangers. Some of them you’ll get to know better. Some others, will remain strangers that you’ll probably never see again. And then there are those few select individuals, all strangers just the same, yet they will have an impact on you that will never go away. Years will go by, and you’ll find yourselves talking about them and the good old days, as if it was only yesterday. One such character was John Castle.
John Castle was a figure from our High School days, and if there’s anything that can be said about him, it was that he was an enigma. We didn’t know anything much about him. Truth be told, I could no longer remember what he looked like, or what his voice sounded like when he spoked. But ask anyone, and their heads would nod in recognition at the mention of his name. He was sort of a celebrity during our time, and he was quite popular with the students, especially during the end of a school day. While others hurried home, some of us would go to John’s stall and wait for our orders. Like peasants waiting for bounty outside the King’s castle, we waited there patiently, for we were about to enjoy a delicious hamburger.
The funny thing about John Castle was that we didn’t actually know his name. He had a sign on his cart with the words “Jhun Pedestrian” written on it, but for some reason we still kept addressing him as Mang John (Mister John). There aren’t that many places near our school where you could go for snacks, and even if you had the largest sweet tooth, you probably won’t be considering the Candy Man to provide you a sumptuous meal. But just because the more popular burger joints were a bit far, it never meant that we just settled for the nearest available option. No, John’s burgers were different. They weren’t dry like the rest, or bland for that matter. As we took a bite of that juicy, sizzling burger, each one of us understood the meaning of the word, serenity.
Life was simple back then, and like that burger, we wanted to stay and enjoy it for as long as we could. But then, like any other story rooted in reality, things changed. We graduated from High School, and went to separate colleges, to pursue our dreams and work on achieving our goals. A lot has changed with our old campus, and with some of the usual places as well. One of us was still able to eat at John’s one day while he was at college. He went back to that corner between the bookstore and the barber shop, and had himself a double deck cheese burger. Even back then, he knew that things were changing. There were significantly fewer people waiting on their orders unlike before, and the prices seem to have increased from when we last had our meals there. But even though things seemed to look bad for John Castle and his little pedestrian stand, his burgers still had the same effect to those of us who were fortunate enough to have one more taste. One last taste of serenity, and then it was gone.
Today, there is a popular song wherein one of the lines is about Amelia Earhart, and how the singer wonders whatever happened to her since she went missing from her aviation trip. Though we never went as far as writing a song about it, my friends and I still wonder from time to time: Whatever happened to John Castle? Whatever happened to that memory from long ago, when everything was peaceful and so much simpler? We were looking for a relic from our past, and though we didn’t know where to start, we knew we had to look somewhere. And thus it was decided, that we would go out on a trip to reclaim what we had once lost. A journey. A pilgrimage. A quest.
The Quest for the Perfect Burger.
John Castle may be gone, but his legacy lives on in us. With every bite, with every new flavor tasted, we will seek more than just digestive satisfaction. We seek that which others so foolishly take for granted– serenity.
It’s time to put hard times behind
Get all the bad things off your mind
He’s feeling good, she’s feeling good
We’re feeling good, yeah
-Less Than Jake, We’re All Dudes
PS. You can read more about The Quest from this link (although right now, it’s still a blog in progress). We may not find John Castle this year, but we will never stop searching. Perhaps when we finally get to see him, I’ll ask him for his real name. Yes, that would probably be a priority.