McHistory in the making

Last Saturday’s Freeport Boulevard McDonald’s event drew a healthy crowd, which is to say a sizable crowd. Over the course of that mild and sunny afternoon, hundreds of faces were getting stuffed.

“Once in a while, we get called for grand openings,” McClatchy High School assistant band director Ben Duncan was explaining in the parking lot. “Occasional community parades. With this, we’re just down the street.” Like many American high schools, McClatchy has the good fortune of a McDonald’s five minutes away by foot.

Behind Duncan, a herd of musicians in matching McClatchy T-shirts gorged on McNuggets and Quarter Pounders. Their instruments lay littered all around them. “And they like free burgers,” Duncan added. After playing, the band hung out in the parking lot, because that’s what bands do, and because the restaurant and its patio were full.

Even City Council members Rob Fong and Lauren Hammond had shown up, convivially busting moves to “Land of a Thousand Dances” and “Louie Louie.”

“It was really Mayor McCheese, and others, who inspired me to get into public service,” Fong later said. “We’re just thrilled to be here, and I can’t wait to get, like, nine Big Macs.” As the citizens of District 4 already knew, Rob Fong says what we all think.

The occasion was the official reopening of Sacramento’s oldest McDonald’s. Before recently being rebuilt from scratch in Craftsman-style swank, this outpost of trans-fatty neighborhood unity had a Land Park legacy of 44 whole years.

If that doesn’t seem like much, you’re probably stuck in some unshiftable slow-food paradigm. Einstein reminds us: As a deep-fried gristly object approaches the assembly line, time speeds up. You saw what happened to Morgan Super Size Me Spurlock after his McDonald’s month. Imagine if he’d begun his project at the one on Freeport right when it first opened and didn’t finish until just last weekend. They’d be stuffing Big N’ Tasties with Cheese into a bloated, long-departed (if eerily preserved) corpse. In McDonaldian space-time—the whole company’s only just now going on 68; think of the billions and billions served—it’s safe to label 44 years an epoch.

The air thickened with greasy smells and parental obligation.

“You know what time the drawing is?” a middle-aged man inquired of a McDonald’s manager at around noon.

“Two o’clock,” the manager said.

“Two for sure?”

“Yep,” chirped the manager.

The man made a sound like a leaky tire. “What a dad will do for his son!” he muttered, then laughed and returned to his Day of Reckoning paperback. His boy arranged rows of raffle tickets in crisp formation.

Before the raffle, Ronald McDonald worked the crowd. But it was the McClatchy band, now departing, that had warmed it up.

“I’ve been to this McDonald’s before,” Duncan said purposefully on his way out, as if inventorying his own stock of private McMemories. “I get the Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait. Usually.”