Tag Archives: family

Dirty Hands and Cool Old Dudes

We had to have our boiler serviced yesterday and today. One of the pumps that pushes the hot water through our radiators had failed and was blowing a fuse and shutting down the burner. We were without heat Monday night but it was thankfully a mild evening and we fired up our wood stove and kept cozy. A new pump and five hundred plus dollars later and we are all fixed up, hopefully until next year’s annual service call.

Larry, our service guy is an old-timer, sixty-eight years old with white hair and beard and a thin, wiry build. I honestly can’t say whether he has a full head of hair, for as long as I can remember, he has always worn a baseball hat, khaki with little structure or style and decorated with some unmemorable logo. His worn and wrinkled hands are permanently stained with black and the pungent smell of oil on his clothes wafts through the air when he moves. He has driven the same white van, trimmed in rust and unadorned with any advertising, for the twenty years he has been working with us and probably longer. On cold days he wears a khaki barn-style jacket, old and dirty and frayed around the seams and pockets. He doesn’t own a cell phone and still uses his land line phone to contact his accounts.

But he is a skilled serviceman from an era when more men knew how to fix shit. An era when more men knew how to work with their hands and understood machinery and weren’t afraid to bust up their knuckles cranking a fused nut off a rusty old bolt. As a guy who has become only moderately skilled at these kinds of tasks, primarily because I’m too cheap to hire most repairs out, I envy the talents of guys who can fix shit.

Larry told me at the most recent annual service call a few months back, that he had semi-retired but was keeping a small number of accounts that he enjoyed working and that he would continue to service our boiler as long as he could. He moves slower than he used to and his handwritten invoices, sloppy and difficult to read twenty years ago, have become even more and more illegible. My guess is, his decision to continue servicing our house has more to do with the fact that most heating and cooling equipment these days probably requires a Ph.D. in Computer Science, and that ours is still a piece of machinery he understands.

Someday Larry will have to retire completely but until then, he is honest and trustworthy and reliable and friendly and quite frankly just a cool old dude. I’ll call on someone like that any day of the week.

************************

A close friend of ours passed away somewhat suddenly last week. Another shining light in this world that for whatever reason, had to burn out too soon.

Mike was not someone we saw regularly, just several times a year and certainly not enough, but we’ve known he and his wife for close to eighteen years, ever since our two daughters had ended up at the same day care center back when we were all brand new parents struggling along without an instruction manual. He was an honorable man, genuine and friendly and loving and very funny and the most wonderful husband and father a family could ask for.

He could tell a story and make people laugh like nobody’s business.

And he could fix shit.

Mike had made his living as a highly skilled Ford auto mechanic until debilitating back pain, likely from years of lifting and bending over car engines, took its toll and he had to stop working full time. In the years after, he continued repairing cars and other small engine machines in his home-garage, as the pain permitted and he often did work for us on our cars when repairs were necessary. His invoices were handwritten on grease coated scraps of note paper with more detail than any modern day auto shop would ever provide.

As our kids grew into teenagers, for both of our families, schedules became more and more hectic and those repair visits became some of the few times each year that we would see each other. Yet, as close friends are able to do, when we would get together even after a long span of time, conversations happened, jokes were told, stories were shared, time was spent, as if it had only been days since our last visit. Those are memories that my wife Kim and I will hang onto and cherish.

************************

As I spoke to Larry today, I thought about how similar he and Mike were, old-school guys, educated not at some prissy, rich-kid liberal-arts college like myself, but at the school of hard-knocks, where the admission requirements were a commitment to learn your craft, work hard and live a productive, honest and meaningful life. Where baseball hats and flannel shirts, worn leather work boots and black-stained hands took the place of preppy sweaters and letter jackets and polo shirts. That’s a school that’s just as hard to get accepted into and an education as equally relevant as any.

If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that Mike is no longer dealing with the devastating pain that plagued his life for the last several years and with that, his close friends and family, including Kim and I, are able to find some solace. But as when anyone close to you passes away, its hard not to dwell on what the future would have held for him; to be able to watch an incredibly bright and talented daughter going off to college, perhaps some grandchildren, peaceful days in rocking chairs with his wife on their front porch… and that quite frankly he would have been just a cool old dude.

As the clichés say, “the world works in mysterious ways” and “only the good die young.” As difficult as these days are for so many, life will keep moving forward, though just a little less brightly than it was several days ago. Like an old Ford driving down a dark highway with one headlamp burned out.

But as Mike would want it, with the dawn of a bright, sunny new day just over the horizon.

24 Comments

Filed under family, writing

Happy Anniversary Old House

house

We recently passed the twenty-year anniversary of living in our old house on Brown Road. My wife and I moved into this house around mid-December 1995, young and just a few years married and child-free with the world at our fingertips. One of our very first adventures as new, first-time home owners was to take a drive to the Christmas tree farm a few country blocks away and buy an overpriced Frasier fir tree that we promptly set up amongst our few pieces of furniture and still unpacked boxes, and decorated with twinkling white lights and a smattering of ornaments we had accumulated.

There were no celebratory parties, champagne toasts or blessings made on this twentieth anniversary. The day… I don’t even remember the exact date… just passed by in the hectic rush towards another Christmas holiday and the beginning of another year with its resolutions and promises to “change this” and “improve that.” A house doesn’t get that kind of recognition, no participation trophies just for showing up. It just does its job faithfully, day after day, year after year, stoically providing shelter and heat and comfort to its residents with no motivation but the occasional reward of a fresh coat of paint or a new roof or to be filled with the laughter of family and friends.

Our house was built in the early 1890’s and has been the home to countless families over the years, all caretakers of a special place that has now been the idyllic backdrop to my family memories for two decades. Throughout 120 plus years, children have been born, people have died, birthdays have been celebrated, jobs have changed, family meetings have been convened, renovations and repairs have been tackled, history has been lived. A man named Ralph Brown and his wife owned the property for a long time and like many of the families in this area got the road named after him. He and his wife are buried and share a gravestone in the small cemetery about a half mile up the road along with several other previous residents. Now we are the caretakers of this place and it’s a job we accept proudly.

A couple nights ago my daughter and I were eating a late-night dinner at the small counter-top island that juts out into the center of our kitchen. It was a bitter cold night as winter’s wrath had finally begun to strengthen its grip on the Midwest and we sat bundled in warm clothes and wool socks. The old oil furnace in the basement would cough and choke, like a three pack-a-day smoker, every ten or fifteen minutes as it fired up its burner to heat more water. The industrial water pumps attached to it like appendages on a modern-day Transformer, would hum as they forced hot water upwards through cast-iron radiators. It’s an epic battle that the old soldier fights every winter against its nemesis; leaky windows and old house cracks and crevices.

This kitchen island is not a place we will typically sit and eat but on this night it seemed right. As we chatted, I had a Pandora radio station of old-time Irish and acoustic roots music playing in the background and my daughter doodled with colored pencils on a scrap piece of printer paper. It occurred to me that even when my kids were bossy little pre-teens, they never commented on or were critical of my sometimes eclectic tastes in music. So we sat and enjoyed each other’s company and it was a rare moment, unencumbered by the usual hectic schedules and electronic devices that often control our lives.

Like conversations do, ours evolved in slow Darwinian fashion from discussion of college next year, to family and school, to her job at the movie theater, to our old house and some of its history and age. She joked at one point and asked if she were to help contribute some money, would we be willing to turn the heat up and I resisted the urge to pull out a recent oil delivery bill or suggest putting a heavy jacket over the sweatshirt she already had on. But that’s old house living, cold winters wrapped in sweaters and blankets and hot summers with nothing but the night breeze and a cheap window fan to cool off the rooms.

Next fall my daughter will be off to college and my son will be in tenth grade and whereas when I was their ages, I had already lived in several homes, they have always lived in this old house on Brown Road. As I look back on being a kid, I never really thought too much about where I lived or what my house was like. I grew up mostly in suburban neighborhoods and modern homes, places with not much character but with doors that closed properly, windows that sealed up tightly, heating and cooling that kept the climate at whatever precise temperature the thermostat was set. And admittedly, fond memories.

But I’ll keep my old house with its quirks and drafts.

My kids probably don’t really think about what their house is like either… it just is what it is… and as a kid you have more important things to worry about, like school and sports, boyfriends and girlfriends, clothes and cars and what’s happening on social media. And just plain old growing up. But somewhere inside them the seeds have been planted and the roots are growing deeper and someday whether they live around the corner or across the country, they will talk with pride about this place as their childhood home.

Unless something drastic changes, my wife and I will hopefully still be here, caretakers of our old house on Brown Road.  Anniversary or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

29 Comments

Filed under family, Uncategorized, writing

64 fl. oz. Miracle Bubbles

The weather in Michigan this weekend was spectacular, warm but not too hot, cool but not too cold. I spent as much time outside as I could, doing manly things that involved an array of outdoor tools; shovels and rakes and brooms and axes, all the while sporting several days of unshaven stubble, old dirty jeans and a t-shirt, broken down leather work boots and gloves. A heavy flannel shirt was added in the evenings when the newly found Spring temperatures gave way to pleasant cool air that felt more like Fall. The peepers and other critters in the swamp behind our property sang spiritedly the whole weekend.

Part of Saturday’s workload, was cleaning out one of my barns, the one filled mostly with lawn equipment and outdoor tools and a diverse assortment of everything else you could imagine that needs a place to be stored. It was dirty work and over the recent long, cold Michigan winter, it had become a disorganized mess of shit piled everywhere that I could barely walk through without risking a certain trip to the emergency room.

It felt good to clean it out, to make space, to put tools back where they belonged, to throw stuff away. That’s probably the closest place I have to a man-cave, although there’s no television, no couch, no sports memorabilia, no cooler full of beer. But it is a place where I can go and tinker around and have a little solitude. The extent of the decorations dressing up the few rustic timbers that aren’t covered with tools hanging from rusty, bent nails; a dirty, old, yet still proud American flag that once flew from our house, a wall of our old Michigan and Massachusetts license plates, a stop sign that I picked up some time ago, and a KIMBERLY TERRACE street sign that my wife was given back when she was a teenager… acquired, I’m sure legally, of course!

I worked through the clutter, throwing away old spark plug packages, empty oil containers, cans of dried paint, pieces and parts of stuff that I didn’t recognize and figured if I have no idea what it is or where it came from, it must not be that important. Tools were sorted into tool boxes, screws and nails and bolts and nuts and washers were relegated to a recycled coffee can to be reused at another time. I learned long ago to never toss away a perfectly good fastener. The floor was swept of dirt and grime and oil and hay. I pulled a couple of old mowers out, stripped of their parts like abandoned cars on an urban freeway, and dragged them to the road along with a FREE FOR PARTS OR SCRAP sign, handwritten in black marker on a scrap piece of board.

Then I came across this:

bubblesIt was dirty and covered in spider webs and had been sitting in this same spot for who knows how many years. I picked the jug up secretly hoping it was empty so I could quickly toss it into the ever-growing trash bag. It felt full and I unscrewed the cap and looked inside to see about 2/3 of the container was still filled with the soapy bubble mixture that has given kids endless delight for decades. Without giving it a second thought, I started carrying the jug to the far back part of our property where I could dump out its contents, then dispose of the packaging in the trash.

But as I walked, I felt this profound pang of a loss of innocence… and frankly, more than a little sadness. Shovels and axes and several days of unshaven stubble and old dirty jeans and a t-shirt and broken down leather work boots and gloves… had been instantly trumped by a container of dish soap disguised as MIRACLE BUBBLES!

I thought of my two kids, surely who we had purchased this giant 64 fl. oz. jug of MIRACLE BUBBLES for many years ago. Neither of whom, I surmised, now grown up, knew or cared that it existed anymore. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, and my son a freshman, the first time since elementary school that they’ll be in the same school again. I stopped for a minute, unscrewed the cap again, pulled out the MIRACLE WAND and watched as the warm spring breeze sent oily, rainbow tinted bubbles flying through the air. I dipped the wand three of four more times and watched as more bubbles soared through the air only to disappear in the blink of an eye the moment they landed on the grass or a log pile or the branch of a tree.

I questioned my decision to dump out the container.

Then it occurred to me that experts often recommend using dish soap if you are trying to get a new tire to seal to a rim while filling it with air. I dropped the wand back into the container, screwed the cap back on and turned around and headed back towards the barn where I set the jug back down where I had found it, still covered in dirt and grime and spider webs.

Because I learned long ago to always be prepared and who knows the next time I’ll need to seal a new tire to the rim of my mower or lawn tractor.

That’s why I kept the bubbles…

Really…

Okay, maybe not…

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Slicing bananas like a Fucking Ninja

My grandmother could slice up a banana over a bowl of cereal like a fucking ninja!

As kids, my two older brothers and I would be sitting at her large dining room table. The same table that now sits in my dining room. We’d pour the Rice Krispies from the box. We’d pour the milk from an old ceramic pitcher.

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP, CRACKLE, SNAP, POP, SNAP, POP, CRACKLE, POP…

Then my grandmother would walk in dressed in a 1960’s house-dress, uncomfortable shoes, panty-hose rolled down to just under her knees, a helmet full of bobbie-pins, a razor-sharp knife in one hand and a bunch of bananas in the other.

She’d walk up and stand next to you, pull out a banana… you didn’t have a fucking choice… you didn’t want a banana on your cereal? TOUGH SHIT… you were getting a banana on your cereal.

Then all you saw were flashes of silver blade and flying disks of perfectly sliced bananas and within a few bananoseconds you had a bowl full of Rice Krispies covered in bananas.

This story doesn’t really have anything to do with bananas.

Or Ninjas.

But it does have to do with peeling potatoes.

The other night I walked into the kitchen and my wife was peeling potatoes to make mashed potatoes for dinner. I watched carefully as she held the potato, her thumb on the top side, then she’d… GASP… DRAW THE BLADE TOWARDS HER BODY!!

scream

Granted she was using a vegetable peeler with a large rubber safety grip handle and covered by a few dozen OSHA regulations… but you can never be too cautious.

I quickly programmed 911 into my speed dial and waited for that catastrophic moment when she might slip and slice open her entire forearm or possibly slice off her hand or accidentally slip and jam the potato peeler into her heart.

I questioned her methodology of drawing the blade toward her body rather than away from herself as I had learned from all my hunter-gatherer friends that had trained me in my limited outdoor skills and blade-wielding techniques. While I pontificated, she continued peeling the potatoes. Rather eloquently I might add, with each piece of peel landing in a nice little organized pile in the sink.

I asked my daughter, who was standing nearby, how she peeled potatoes. “Do you pull the blade toward you or push it away from you?”

“I usually pull it towards me” she said, “but I do it both ways, I guess.”

Whoa…….

I’ve peeled more potatoes in my life than a boot-camp marine. But I peel potatoes like an elementary school age Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp, who has just earned his right to carry a pocket knife. Give that kid a knife and within an hour or two of slicing and dicing and little shards of flying wood, he will have carved a few dozen sticks into pencil shapes and a few logs into spears.

With any luck you’ll have only gone through a few band aids and no trips to the emergency room.

That’s how I peel a potato… like a Cub Scout on the first day of summer camp!

Pick up the potato, hold it out in front of you, and start swiping the peeler AWAY FROM YOU. Hunks of peel fly off the potato in all directions, similar to when you are cutting your fingernails in a hotel room.

Gross… I don’t really do that.

But that’s how I peel a potato. I’d never think of drawing the blade TOWARD ME.

That must be how the pros do it. Or how women do it. Or how professional chefs do it. Or how Ninjas do it.

Come to think it of it, that’s how my grandmother used to slice the bananas.

Like a fucking ninja!

Maybe this post really was about bananas.

33 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Scenes from a McDonald’s Restaurant

The woman was probably about my age, late forties, early fifties and the man I guessed probably in his sixties. They both appeared weathered and rough around the edges as they stood smoking outside of a McDonald’s that I was headed into around lunch time to get a cup of coffee. My brain dug down deep into the filing cabinet of its synapses and pulled out the file of poorly thought out, judgmental perceptions about people’s appearances, education levels, lifestyles.

As I walked towards the building, the women spoke to me.

“How are you doing today sir?”

For some reason, rather than just answering the question with some vague, small-talk answer and moving on, I turned to the right a bit and approached them.

“I’m doing fine” I answered as I walked up and joined them on the sidewalk where they were standing. “How are you?”

She said something about the weather and how pleasant it was outside.

I could tell they were both employees from the uniforms they were wearing. The man was missing most of the top front row of his teeth and they both continued smoking as we talked. The woman went on about the weather and the three of us stood there and chatted about how nice it was to finally have a few warmer days, and how so much of the snow had melted and whether Spring was really here or if this last few days of 45-50 degree temperatures was just an anomaly in the middle of March in Michigan.

The man mentioned that it was still cold compared to where he was originally from.

“Where’s that?” I asked as the woman excused herself and went back inside.

It turned out to be Brooklyn and although I didn’t second-guess him, I thought about how it probably wasn’t very warm there this year. I asked him if he knew where Smithtown was on Long Island, where I grew up and he did. He told me he still had three daughters living in Brooklyn and that he had been relocated to manage this McDonald’s eleven years ago, but after getting tired of “babysitting the business” he had chosen instead to just be the maintenance manager. I told him I had run a small business before and knew where he was coming from. He seemed to be happy to have someone to talk to for a little while other than his colleagues inside.

It was one of those seemingly inconsequential, yet impactful conversations with a complete stranger that make me feel a little more connected to the world.

Then we went our separate ways, him back to work and me inside to buy a coffee.

“Will this be for here or to go?” the cashier asked as I approached the counter, no one else in line.

“Here… actually I’d just like a large coffee with two creams, please.”

She punched a few buttons on the screen.

“$1.69” she said.

I pulled out my wallet and fumbled around for my credit card before grabbing the two loose dollar bills that were folded in half in one of the inside pockets. I handed the money to the cashier and she handed me back the $0.31 in change which I stuffed down into my pants pocket.

A moment later the woman from outside, with a big smile on her face, handed me the cup of coffee.

I said “thanks”, walked to a table and sat down.  I looked around and felt like I was in Anywhere, USA. These restaurants all kind of look the same, even when they don’t. They smell the same even when they don’t and they’re all filled with the same people even when they’re not. I pulled off the top to the coffee cup and watched the hot steam evaporate into the air, then picked up my phone and started reading e-mails.

“Sir do you………………..” someone mumbled.

I looked up to see a young African-American kid standing next to my table.

“Excuse me?” I asked

“Do you have a…………………” he mumbled again and I still couldn’t get the whole sentence although I assumed he was asking for money. He seemed a little nervous and my brain starting frantically pawing through the same file of poorly thought out, judgmental perceptions of people and although it’s been awhile, I immediately put up the walls built from many years of being a suburban kid, living near big cities where pan handlers would ask for money as you walked down a sidewalk.

I felt the instinctual word “no” coming out of my mouth, then I paused and looked at this kid again. He wasn’t a panhandler and he didn’t appear to be poor or a street person. He was just a kid, probably in middle school or early high school, likely my son’s age.

Just a kid.

I politely asked him to repeat the question.

This time he elaborated and spoke more clearly.

“Do you have a quarter so I can get something to eat? I have a dollar but I don’t have the money to pay the tax.”

The walls faded away.

“What are you going to get?” I asked.

“Probably a hamburger or a cheeseburger” he answered. They’re $0.99 but I don’t have the money to pay the tax.”

It crossed my mind that if this kid was brave enough to approach me and ask for nothing but a quarter and specifically state that it was for the sales tax, that maybe he’d become a good salesperson someday and I should offer to buy him a Quarter Pounder meal or a Chocolate Shake. But instead, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the change that the cashier had just given me, a quarter, a nickel and a shiny new penny. I grabbed the quarter and held it up.

“I’ll tell you what” I said. “I’ll give you this quarter but you have to do something nice for someone today.” I handed him the coin.

He said okay and took the quarter, thanked me and walked away.

I went back to my phone, reading and typing and answering customer questions. About ten minutes later I had covered what I needed to cover so I got up and started walking towards the exit. I saw the kid sitting in a booth with a friend, talking and eating a hamburger.

This evening as I write this story, I wonder if that kid did something nice for someone today. Maybe for his Mom or a neighbor or a stranger he met and had a seemingly inconsequential, yet impactful conversation with. Or maybe not, I think to myself. After all, it was just a quarter and he was just a kid and we were just in a McDonald’s in Anywhere, USA.

But I hope he did.

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Going Home

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

Assuming the weather cooperates.

I’ve been on the road for five days. If all goes well I’ll get home late tomorrow evening.

Five days is probably peanuts to a lot of the “road warriors” out there that travel for their jobs, but I’m ready to go home. I drove to tonight’s stop for 2.5 hours through a mixture of blinding, white-out snow fall and slick dangerous roads, to short periods of sunny skies and clear roads. It would switch from one to the other about every couple miles, typical of Michigan or probably any other place in North America in the winter these days.

I’m in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for the night. My knuckles are still white from the two hour grip on the steering wheel as I tried to avoid sliding off icy roads. For dinner I ate a McDonald’s Southwest Salad and I’m drinking a cheap bottle of wine scored at the local Wal-Mart a ½ mile away. ( I suddenly wonder how often the word “wine” appears in my posts?!?)

‘Cause remember, work travel is a romantic and sophisticated thing!

The blood is slowly flowing back into my knuckles.

Not to get back on the local motel thing, but I’m in the most adorable little local motel I’ve ever stayed in. I may have to get on Trip Advisor and leave a five star review. Outside there is an epic snowstorm, crazy, blinding, accumulating snow… at least the last time I looked. In the back of my mind I’m thinking if there were anywhere to be stranded for an extra day this would be a fine place.

But I’m ready to go home.

I’m seriously ready to go home.

I want to sleep in my bed. I want to hug my wife. I want to see my kids. I want to see my goats.

In a few days I’ll have forgotten anything about this trip like so many before. The next one will be on the horizon to prepare for. This was a successful trip and the next one will be too.

That’s what I do.

The hardest part for me is the leaving, the walking out the door.

Sometimes I have to talk myself up, like Stuart Smalley.

“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.”

Once I’m on the road though, literally five minute later, driving down the road, the salesman shows his big handsome face and I’m like “YEAH BUDDY LET’S GET THIS SHIT DONE!”

So I get it done.

Can you say “Jeckyl and Hyde?!?”

A loud dose of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” through the car stereo helps. There isn’t a set of car speakers out there capable of playing this song at an adequate volume.

When I’m gone, I don’t think it’s easy at home. My wife definitely notices, suddenly a single parent for several days. My kids? With their crazy teenage lifestyles, sometimes I seriously wonder if they know I’m gone.

I hope they do. I really do.

But when the time comes I’m always ready to come home.

To sleep in my bed. To hug my wife. To see my kids. To see my goats.

I get to go home tomorrow.

Hopefully.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Remember that time I was Freshly Pressed?

I’m sitting here in an old school motel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, near the Northern shores of Lake Michigan. My eyes dart from the words on the computer screen that I slowly type on my old laptop to long periods of staring out the window of my room as ghostly apparitions of blowing snow race across the empty parking lot. My toes are cold and I can’t seem to get them to warm up even though they’re wrapped tightly in heavy wool socks. The desk where I am sitting is next to the window that faces out to the parking lot and I can see my car parked in front of the door to my room, some parking lot lights and the brightly lit motel sign. At the bottom of the sign in bright red neon, the word VACANCY calls out to the few passing cars though no one seems to heed the call.

I have the blinds wide open but I’m not worried about privacy because I think I might be the only guest here tonight. I have no concerns about someone walking by and staring in my window. What is likely a thriving little motel during the summer and fall tourist months is pretty much a ghost town on this frigid cold February night.

The old couple that owns this particular motel where I will rest my head tonight have to be in their 80’s. They live on site and the place is spotlessly clean. This is the third year in a row I have stayed here and each year I walk in and wonder if the old women who checks me in will remember me. But she doesn’t and I’m not really surprised considering the number of people she sees every year. But as always, as I signed the credit card receipts and passed them back to her she asked me:

“Do you drink coffee? I’ll have coffee made in the morning.”

“I sure do you” I replied, then added, “I know, I come up here every February on my way to Houghton and I always stay here.”

She glanced up at me with proud eyes that sparkled like the bitter cold snow outside and with the brightest smile she said “thank you.”

I added, “I really like this place, please don’t ever close it down!”

“We won’t, as long as we’re around” she offered.

I took my key and settled in to room 17.

 ******************

I stay in small motels like this all the time when I travel for work. I’m self employed, no company credit cards, no expense accounts, no perks. Every dollar I spend on accommodations or meals or gas for my car comes right off the top. So I do my research and I find the places that are clean and well kept and affordable.

But there’s more than that.

Yes, these motels are unquestionably no-frills, and I’ve had a few objectionable nights over the last few years where I wished I had chosen the local chain hotel.

But the homey, small town places that I find, that I consistently come back to are all privately owned businesses that the owners take pride in and work hard to keep their guests happy. As someone who spent almost 20 years working in a family business I respect that to no end and will do what I can to support that work ethic.

Plus the people are interesting!

There’s the 80’s something couple where I stay tonight.

There’s the Vietnam era veteran with the US Marines baseball cap who always says “I’d put my rooms up against any place in town!”

There’s the lesbian couple who own a place called the “Triangle Motel.”

There’s the macho guy who is a retired police chief and who always has his little dog with him.

There’s the guy who is always drinking from a can of “Miller Lite” while checking in guests.

These places are remnants from a bygone era, like the old Route 66 motels that families stayed in while driving across the country many decades ago. Sadly, these days, for every thriving motel you find that is worth the $50 room rate, there are two or three more that are sitting abandoned along rural routes that folks no longer choose to drive along.

So… what does this have to do with being Freshly Pressed?

Two years ago in February, 2013 my post Old Barn Coat was featured on the WordPress Freshly Pressed page. It happened during this same road trip that I am on now. I started writing the post while I was at home, but I finished it while sitting in the same motel that I sit in now, while sucking down a bottle of wine, on a similar, bitter cold Saturday February night.

I posted it the following Sunday.

It was a great post and I knew it at the time. It wasn’t my usual sarcastic, silly, juvenile humor. I remember struggling to figure out where and how I was going to tie everything together, but when the last line, the culmination, finally appeared to me, I knew I had come up with something good. I don’t remember thinking about the post being “pressed” but I knew it was something special regardless of the number of likes and comments.

Freshly Pressed is the closest most of us will ever get to something we write being “published”. Sure, no one is paying you for what you wrote but it is an example of someone who you don’t know, someone who doesn’t follow your blog, someone who isn’t your friend , either face to face or “electronically”, noticing something you’ve written and deciding it’s good enough that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people should see it. That’s an honor none of us should take for granted.

 **************************

The words are flowing out now like an open tap. It’s funny how that works, one minute you can’t think of anything to say, but a few struggling, forced paragraphs later, you’ve lost track of time and you have to force yourself to stop typing.

I’ve glanced up from the screen and noticed some of the parking lot lights are off and although the VACANCY light still screams out to passing cars, I know that motel office hours are only until 11:00 and there won’t be much traffic tonight. Blowing snow still dances across the parking lot and I’m glad I’m in a warm room.

Tomorrow morning I will go say hello to the old lady at the front desk. I will turn in my key and share some of the coffee she has made. We will likely talk about the weather and life and why I’m visiting the area and I trust her eyes will sparkle as much as they did tonight when I told her I was a repeat guest.

The coffee will taste better than any cup of Starbucks Coffee bought on any corner of Main Street USA.

Because it’s not about the coffee, its about the people you share it with.

Freshly Pressed or not.

31 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized