05 November 2006

Musings from the Warrior River Motel

LYNN'S PARK, Alabama — For starters, it’s kinda ironic that I’m writing this blog entry on a laptop while immersed in nostalgia ... ranging from the kind of music I’ve been listening to (mainly pop standards / middle-of-the-road), to all I’ve been doing today - visiting some amazing people and seeing some old sights, right down to the classic motel where I’m staying. The Warrior River Motel is a 1955-vintage property on US 78 nearby Jasper in east Walker County, Alabama.

It’s a spartan room which definitely shows its age. The bathroom fixtures are the original 1955 beauties, right down to the faucet handles. There’s still a hole where the original “third tap” used to be ... from which you could draw “circulating ice water”, an amenity advertised on the WRM’s original neon sign. The sign was discarded some time in the ‘80s in favor of a more sedate, backlit roadside herald. But the ice water, I’m certain, stopped circulating long before that.

The shower is the size of a phone booth. There’s no wireless internet here. (I’m typing this in WordPerfect to paste into the blog tomorrow when I’m at a wi-fi spot and can access the ‘net). And the TV gets fewer than 20 channels ... heck, it doesn’t even have what my son used to call “color codes” — the A/V inputs one sees nowadays on most sets.

Am I complaining? Hell, no!! First of all, the rooms are a nicely economical $29.00 a night. Second, I’m enjoying this “technology holiday” (he says as he types on a freakin’ LAPTOP!!) The bathroom is decked out in beautiful shiny 1955-vintage black and white tile. And, like a wistful cherry atop a nostalgic sundae, the floor pattern is identical to the upstairs bathroom at my late grandparents’ house in Homewood. Identical, at least, in tile pattern; theirs was a purplish blue and white while it’s black and white here at the WRM. Who cares ... my eyes just “discarded color information” (lordy, I’ve been using waaaay too much “PhotoShop”!) and enjoyed looking downward as if it were an unassuming mouvement d'bowel taken anywhere between potty-training age (ca. 1967-68) and 2002.

Last night I saw a sight that pretty much set the tone for this entire trip: the Homewood star. It hangs over a hill overlooking “the curve” in downtown Homewood. It’s right next to Sike’s Shoes, where all my early childhood Buster Browns came from. It’s another great memory of my growing up years, memories of Christmastime visits to Birmingham. And I was looking at it again, as beautiful in 2006 as it was in 1971. In a world where everything is changing, and not always for the better, seeing things like lit stars unchanged from 35+ years ago is to my nostalgic heart as beautiful a sight as my wife.

I got to the motel, and checked into Room 11 – the same place I’ve laid my head on two of my three previous visits here. Then I went into Jasper to find some supper ... ah, more retro for Mr. Gleck: I went back-back-back to Jack-Jack-Jack’s for more-more-more. Never mind that “big bacon” was NOT on the 1968 Jack’s menu, I had one. Although were it 1968, I would’ve gone for a Fish-On-Bun and a thick vanilla shake. Then hurried back to the motel along two-lane 78, where I could catch the 10:00 news on channel 6 on the Admiral B/W telly. Joe Langston, Harry Mabry and Pat Gray giving me more info in 15 minutes than most so-called anchors today could give me in 60 with color.

I sit here listening to music on an MP3 player and typing on a laptop computer ... while at the same time imagining if these Warrior River Motel walls could talk. Wondering about all the conversations taking place in this room 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago. The travelers my grandparents’ age. Wondering where their travels were taking them. Wondering if they had a good meal next door to the motel, where Saxon’s (an Alabama-based candy store/restaurant chain similar in feel to Stuckey’s) had a store. At 41, I’m barely old enough to be riding over the old iron bridge across the Mulberry branch of the Black Warrior River to be greeted by that tall candy cane sign Saxon’s used for most of its locations. And looking over to see the dignified, sprawling one-story Warrior River Motel.

Yes, Virginia, there’s a reason I love staying here. The bridge was replaced about five years ago. Saxon’s, long gone, is an empty junk-filled building. But the WRM — God bless all 25 of her $29.00 rooms — is still hanging in, offering an inexpensive room to anyone open-minded enough to dispense with the crazy notions of wireless internet, in-room coffee, 57 channels (nothin’ on), and a “Hampton Bed.”

A clean and decently comfortable bed, although too big without my Seraphim next to me, clean towels and a clean - if old - room. Clean is the operative word here, friends. I like it. Very much.


Yesterday I also made a side trip to Cordova, located about 7 miles off highway 78. It’s a town of amazing size (roughly 2,500) considering not a single U.S. or state route goes through it. Just three county roads visit Cordova, period. I also find it surprising that a lot of folks still live here because downtown Cordova is the most depressing sight I think I’ve ever seen. Six blocks of near-total emptiness. There’s a high school (Blue Devils) and a couple of convenience stores on her outskirts. Downtown there’s a meat-and-three café hugging the hill where the old Frisco railroad still passes through, and a small Piggly Wiggly operates on Cordova’s commercial perimeter. That’s it, folks.

The most heartbreaking thing I see is an empty storefront for the old Western Auto store, for many years a staple in every small town (there’s still one in my domicile of Rincon, Ga.). The backlit white sign with faded red letters remains. My mind wonders how many toy displays once graced its two front windows, Cordova kids entranced by all their potential booty and counting the days until Christmas.

There was probably even a Ford and a Chevy dealership once upon a time, too. Every small town had ‘em.

Were I five years younger ... or, like my younger brother, not really observant of roadside ephemera, Cordova today wouldn’t faze me. Alas, I’m older. And observant. Very, very observant. I remember the 1970s, when Cordova was still a thriving little Mayberry-like hamlet. Several traffic lights, too — the OOOLD style, without yellow! Just red and green. That’s what I remember the most about old Cordova.

While pondering this civic void, I cannot let go of a profound thought: that of Cordova being a metaphor for all that is dying around me. The aunts and uncles who used to be big presences in my life are, one by one, all dying off. I have no grandparents left. I have one aunt on my Mom’s side who still lives in Birmingham, and – like the café – hangs in stubbornly. But all that’s left ... a meaningless Dollar General located several miles outside the heart of Cordova, and two convenience stores ... I compare with what’s left of my family: a lot of cousins, most of who - I have to say - I have little contact with, and have never been terribly close to.

My Mom and Dad and brother? That’s easy. They’re the four-lane US 78, speeding through seven miles to the north, completely oblivious to any nostalgic value of a small town. "65 MPH, and y’better have a bladder as big as mine because we ain’t stoppin’ till Memphis!"

Where the hell am I going with this?? I don’t know. It’s now 10:00 Central time, and this is when my various mental states come at one another in a high-stakes game of ‘chicken.’ I enjoy the mental defragging these solo visits provide. The day I spent today with a friend of mine from nearby Dora, yet another ghost town in Walker County. However, as I sit here, the nostalgic locusts are swarming amidst this 1955 motel room. The free-range my mind is given comes back with all sorts of memories and remembrances. I miss so many things. I miss all the sights and sounds and smells and stores and roadsides of my childhood so much now. Can I go back to Cordova and look at a two-color traffic light again, after walking the aisles of Western Auto with Big John? Just for an hour? Please?

I also miss the arms of Seraphim. She doesn’t accompany me on these trips partly because, honestly, she’d be bored. She knows it and I know it. Plus, I sometimes enjoy flying solo. Sometimes. Even the best marriages need that ‘alone time.’ The difference, of course, is 10 years ago I would dread the end of the solo time because that would mean returning to the cold and distant arms of Josiebelle. Tuesday I’ll be returning to Rincon, and fully ready to share my space again. And Seraphim’s arms will be as warm as Main Street in Cordova, circa 1973.

Oh well, it’s time for bed, and dreams. Maybe I can go back to these places tonight. The sandman, Big John and Western Auto await.........

Ciao for niao.

–Talmadge “County Road 22” Gleck

20 October 2006

How to have a deep conversation in 1.2 miles

That's the distance from Movie Gallery to our house. After emerging with two videos (Mothman Prophecies -- which we've been wanting to see since our pit stop in Point Pleasant W.Va. recently -- and Click), and getting into the car, Seraphim asked me a question about the lyrics to KISS' hit song "Rock and Roll All Nite": Is it "I wanna rock and roll all nite / and part of every day", or is it "...party every day."

After assuring my dearest love of my life that it indeed is "PARTY every day", she then wondered why it isn't "part of every day", since a human being does need sleep -- and if you're rock and rolling all night, it can be ass/u/me'd that you slice off some Zs during daylight.

I then rebutted something to the effect of, what if they're rock and rolling all night WHILE sleeping part of the time (e.g. the radio playing a classic rock station while asleep) and, perhaps, get tired of listening to just one thing ... and for the remaining "part of every day" they listen to, say, easy listening ... country ... hip hop ... or, maybe, classical. How about polka?

Or, maybe, "rock and roll" doesn't necessarily refer to the genre of music bearing that name, and instead implies its original meaning, drawing from early 20th century black slang: to passionately make love like two crazed weasels in a Cuisinart. And you don't have to listen to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or - gawd forbid - KISS in order to make the bed squeak. People HAVE been known to consummate affairs while listening to The Carpenters. Maybe half-awake, but still trying.

Whoops, kill that. After a nice spin in the Cuisinart, you'll probably be all nice and worn out, so you'll sleep at least "part of every day."

So, we're back to square one. Rock and roll all night, fine. But partying every day on top of that would suggest a person either A) has an incredible superhuman ability to need zero sleep, or B) is so doped up on "No-Doz" that he/she/it would present a danger to other drivers if behind the wheel.

But maybe a person rocks and rolls while sleeping. Okay. What about the part of every day? Is that roughly 12 hours spent listening to stupid and pointless right-wing talk radio?

And by that time Seraphim and I were already in our driveway.

Y'know, maybe "Beth" was better off with the boys playing all night.

Eh, screw this. I'm gonna go watch a movie.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "4-F deferment from KISS Army" Gleck

03 October 2006

Subterranean Freeway Blues

We're home.

Monday at exactly 950 PM, Talmadge and Seraphim arrived back in Rincon, Georgia, completing their fun-filled little junket to Pittsburgh.

Sunday, October 1, my former colleague Deb took me on a "dime tour" of Pittsburgh, truly a one-of-a-kind city. I don't think I've seen that many bridges in a single line of sight in my entire life! Downtown sits at the fork of two rivers - well, actually three; the Alleghany and the Monongahela merge to form the Ohio River. Deb showed me her beloved city in a way no "Gray Line" hack could ever match.

Oh, and she treated me to lunch at a Pittsburgh institution called Primanti Brothers. I don't think I've ever had a sandwich that has the fries IN it, not on the side as is usual. The perfect food if you're in a hurry -- jam it all between two toasted slices of thick bread, and eat. There's a mural along one of the walls where caricatures of notable Pittsburgh natives are shown: Andy Warhol, Andrew Carnegie, Stephen Foster (y'learn something new every day....), and of course, the immortal Fred Rogers.

Can you say "fun"?

From there it was downtown, where I was given the grand tour of where she works. I imagine Deb was stifling many rolled eyes off to the side as this radio geek was damn near starry-eyed. For, you see, I was in the master control room of KDKA, just the oldest radio station in the history of western civilization, that's all.

And then I was taken on one of the 'incline trains' (the city has two). Gotta tell you, folks - the one at Chattanooga doesn't hold a candle.

A nickname I heard used for Pittsburgh was "Iron City" -- talk about a heavy sense of deja vu! Birmingham, Ala. -- which made its name for its steel industry in the early 20th century -- has also been referred to by that nickname. Among its many other affectionate names is "Pittsburgh of the South." After Sunday, I could see why.

Both cities' former industries weren't the only similiarity; driving around parts of the city on Saturday, and riding with Deb on Sunday, a lot of what I saw - from 40% incline residental streets to house architecture to the basic feel of the smaller neighborhoods, to their love of sports, even to such ephemera as the style of road signs and signals, reminded me so much of parts of the 'Ham. In short, Pittsburgh struck me as a bigger version of my native city.


However, Pittsburgh has one huge feature to its infrastructure that Birmingham doesn't: TUNNELS. One in particular is the Fort Pitt. Deb took me through that one; when you emerge from the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the whole skyline of Pittsburgh suddenly jumps out at you. Truly awe-inspiring.

About the closest thing Birmingham has to anything tunnel-esque is that quasi bridge/tunnel like thing on Red Mountain Expressway. Or that man-made "tunnel" at the Palisades shopping center. Of course, Alabanana doesn't have mountains too high or challenging to cut through. The only real tunnels the state has are both in Mobile. The George C. Wallace tunnel and older Bankhead Tunnel burrow underneath the Mobile River, the shipping lane into the city's port facilities.

I love tunnels. I've always been fascinated by 'em, and this trip gave me a "tunnel overload" I won't soon forget. We drove the Chesapeke Bay Bridge/Tunnel back in '03, we did the I-540 tunnel between Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark. earlier this year, but there ain't nothing like the tubes that allow you to pass through some of the more rugged mountains of Appalachia.


After Seraphim finished with her last session on Sunday, we hit the turnpike and headed south into the beautiful state of West Virginia, the fifth time we entered the state on our trip. Our destination was Fairmont, W.Va., where its Red Roof Inn was a beacon atop a hill overlooking the hustle and bustle of I-79.

After three nights of glorious luxury at the Hampton Inn (farm fresh "eggs" notwithstanding), it was hard getting used to the very spartan surroundings of our Red Roof Room. That room was barely large enough to hold the king size bed. There was no Wi-Fi available. But the room was clean, there was a functioning TV (with a good movie on HBO at the time - Walk the Line), and the motel staff was as friendly as could be. Who could pick nits? The room was $42.99 .... compared to the Hampton room setting us back $119.00 a night! The Red Roof had no breakfast, "farm fresh" or otherwise. Just a single coffee machine and some cups in the lobby. And on that particular morning, their Mr. Coffee was all tore-up.

Again, we didn't complain. There was a Hardee's just down the way, so we grabbed some breakfast biscuits and drinks and hit I-79 southbound. Rincon, Georgia wasn't exactly down the street, ya know.

We stopped at the New River Gorge visitor center before crossing the New River Gorge bridge, the world's second longest single-arch bridge. We exercised off our Hardee's vittles as we plodded down the boardwalk to the lower platform, where we viewed the bridge and surrounding beauty in its awesome splendor.

US-19 linked up with I-77 and the West Virginia Turnpike, and the Mountain State gave us an unforgettable farewell token by presenting us with the East River Mountain Tunnel. What's really cool about this one is that it crosses the line between W.Va. and Virginia. You go in one state, and come out another.

One more tunnel (Big Walker Mountain) awaited us, and soon after we crossed into North Carolina, the beautiful Appalachian mountains became mere rolling hills before transitioning into the familiar coastal plains of home as I-77 terminated in Columbia, S.C., about two miles from what is positively the best barbecue in the world: Maurice's. Love him or hate him, the man has a way with pigs. Since having my first experience in 2005, all I had learned about 'cue in Alabama went flying out the window. I am now a devotee of mustard-based BBQ sauce.

I don't think you'll have any trouble guessing just where we ate supper.

The remaining ~150 miles were largely anti-climactic. I-26 to I-95 to Ga. 21 to home.

And on that note, I'm going to bed. Some further comments will have to wait for another time. It's late, and this thing is long enough already.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Tunnel Vision" Gleck

01 October 2006

The incredibly inedible "egg"

It's morning on day #3 of our pleasurably pusillanimous Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania powder.

Seraphim is finishing up her Cake Summit next door at the Holiday Inn, and everything (exceptin' for the laptop, duhhhh) is packed and ready to go. Check-out time is 12 noon.

Deb's picking me up at noon and will be taking me on "the grand tour" of Pittsburgh, to while away the afternoon before my wife is finished up at 530.

Meanwhile I'm left pondering a deep subject: Chicken embryos. You know, those things many of us are fond of consuming for the breakfast meal (or on a late weekend night at IHOP. If only we could get one of those @#$%ing things close to Rincon....).

And the thought of the almighty egg gets me thinking about one of the well-known perks of Hampton Inn, and that's their hot breakfast. Now most of your motels tend to offer a bare-bones free breakfast, ranging from the classic "continental breakfast" to something a little more upscale, such as doughnuts or bagels or cereal - usually stale from being in those dispensers.

In any case, playing the lead role in the hot breakfast downstairs at this Hampton is something they call FARM FRESH EGGS. Okay, I wish they had bacon on the menu, but eggs I could live with.

I open the cover of the hot dish, only to find .... well, it looks like a fried egg. I mean, it has the yellow in the middle and it's surrounded by white. But it's perfectly circular, about 1/4 inch high, and there's no convex, bubble-like middle where the yolk is supposed to be. Jeezuz Cripes, this is what I'd expect to find served at McDonald's. This isn't real egg, it's ... it's ... pre-fabricated, processed, fried egg-like product.

If this is "farm fresh", I wanna know which farm these things came from, so I can avoid it. I'll bet the hogs they slaughter yield massive amounts of Spam (the "lunch meat", not that other kind).

Seraphim liked 'em okay. She can do so for both of us. Yeccccccch. I partook of what the menu described as HOT, FLUFFY BISCUITS.

Biscuits? Yup.
Hot? No, lukewarm.
Fluffy? As Calista Flockhart.

But at least the orange juice was good and pulp-free. It beats nothing.

This is why I never consider the free breakfast amenity in a motel. If it's just myself, I don't even think about 'em. I scan the lobby - if there's something good, I eat it. If not, nothing lost.

After all, it's why God invented the International House of Pancakes anyway.

Which leads me to my closing point. I'll bet those "farm-fresh 'eggs'" are virgins.

They don't get laid.


Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I want some bacon. Real, please." Gleck

30 September 2006

For whom we pay tolls

Day #2 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Talmadge almost gets lost, eats a middling lunch, and scores a handful of vinyl reckids.

But first, let's back up to day #1. After dropping off Seraphim at her Wilton Cake Summit, I was on my own to create all sorts of mirth, mayhem and moral breakdown in Allegheny County. What did I do? I went back to the hotel and took a small nap. Yeah, boy.

After waking up, I called a friend of mine who works in radio here. She used to be my boss, and is the lady who rescued me from a cesspool known as Troy, Alabama. For that noble deed, she will forever have a place in my professional heart. I love Deb. SHE is the reason I was able to create a new life for myself, marry Seraphim, and leave an ugly past behind.

Well, anyhoo, she and I made plans for the three of us to have dinner. Which then left me free and clear 'till 530, when I'd have to be back to fetch the missus.

What to do? Good thing I did my homework. I fired up the Sonata, and took a small roadtrip to a nearby town, Greensburg, which had a specimen of a restaurant chain I truly miss. The fried chicken at this Old Country Buffet was good as it ever was. OCB's fried chicken just might be my favorite ever. And best of all, they were having a lunch special: $5.99 ... and that also includes drink!

I can't bitch.

To get to Greensburg from Monroeville involved taking The Pennsylvania Turnpike. Traversing the portion to get me there would set me back all of $1.25 ..... okay, no big thing. I entered the 'pike (I just love those big green signs they have at the entrance!!), thinking this was just another toll road, such as the Florida Turnpike or "Georgia 400" in Atlanta.

Boy, was I wrong. Where do I start? Narrow medians, narrow shoulders, crazy curves, and, after the middle interchange on my route (which I later found was the west terminus of the original route), a couple of beautiful overpasses. These were o-l-d suckers, a single archway over the road, without a center support. Many of the roadsides had curbs, too. Holy crap, this was like a timewarp.

The "service plaza" I passed, a Mickey D's and Sunoco gas station, was housed in the original stone structure ... originally built to house the restaurant contracted to operate all the service plazas along the turnpike: Howard Johnson's. As I passed it, my mind's eye morphed the building into its original orange roof, small palladium, and ESSO gas pumps out front. Those were the times I wish I were driving a '55 Studebaker and listening to Arthur Godfrey on the radio, as I pull in for a pit stop -- some HoJo's for the tummy and a 29-cent-a-gallon tiger for the tank.

After eating said $5.99 lunch, I returned to the room, where I fired up the laptop and immediately began Google'ing for historical info on the Pa. Turnpike. What I found out just blew my mind: I was driving on a portion of the first ever "superhighway" to be built in the United States. The Greensburg to Harrisburg section of the turnpike opened in ... 1940! Can you believe that? Somehow the idea of listening to Jack Benny, Inner Sanctum, or Edward R. Murrow's news reports from London while speeding on a proto-interstate at 70+ MPH just seems a bit too weird to ponder. But folks did.

And the other portion of the turnpike, that which I can look to my left and see right this very moment? That's the newest section to open. It was completed in 1951.

I still cannot get those overpasses out of my mind, though.

Anyhoo, Deb came over to the hotel that night, and we had supper at the adjoining Outback Steakhouse. The company couldn't be beat. The conversation was wonderful. The food, alas, was a bit middling. Oh well...


Today, I started looking for something a little less 'weird' than old highways: the ever-lovin' used record store! I found two ... one of them in a little suburb called Squirrel Hill, where I got more than a little turned around a couple of times. Not lost, just ... turned around. I found my beaten path, and headed back toward Monroeville. Had lunch today at A&W just down the way from the room. A&W, in case you may not be aware, stands for (A)mburgers (&) (W)oot Beer.

The burger? See "middling" comment above. I've had worse, but I've had much better. Sharing space with this A&W was a Long John Silver's. Ecch. Their fish is much like you'd have imagined Captain Hook's Fish-N-Chips (of Fast Times fame) to taste. Heck, it makes Captain D's look like a fine seafood restaurant.

Annnnnnnnnnnnyway, supper tonight saw Seraphim and me heading back to Greensburg and the Old Country Buffet, where I ate fried chicken, and my wife had a great salad (she's a fan of the OCB salad bar -- so eating there isn't a big burden for her to bear, unlike rolling tape on the Turnpike, capturing some of that great '40s roadside motif, heh heh).

As I sit here thinking about all this history, a big thought occurs to me. Today is September 30 ... my grandfather's birthday. Big John would have been 90 today. Suddenly my fun nostalgic mood becomes dark and melancholy. These are the times I so wish my grandfather were here, so I could ask him if he'd ever traveled any part of the Pa. Turnpike (it wouldn't have surprised me; the man loved roadtrips and took many in his day), and if so what it was like.

I'm so glad I could've traveled such an old, historic road on his birthday.

Right now I'd give anything short of my wife or son to go back to 1955 and enjoy all that glory in its prime. Or at least to have traveled that roadway much later with Big John.


All in all, a nice time so far. Tomorrow is our last day up here, and while Seraphim is wrapping up her seminar, I'll be Deb's guest as she takes me on a tour of Pittsburgh. Promises to be fun.
As soon as possible after 530, we'll be bound back for the wilds of coastal Georgia, stopping for the night in West Virginia (the fifth time we'll have entered the state), before getting home late Monday.

Good night, and Happy Birthday, Big John. You look great up there.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Exact Change" Gleck

28 September 2006

A room with a view!

(Or: "Gee, I wonder if there's a Bob Evans restaurant around here somewhere!")

Hola, and greetings from the plush environs of our sixth floor room at the Hampton Inn of Monroeville, Pennsylania. (it's just east of Pittsburgh, right on the turnpike).

Want proof? Check out this marvelous, scenic view from our window! What an old, decrepit sign ... the shield is faded, and the whole thing is of the old-style with reflector dots embedded in the letters and borders. They even have a name: "button copy." They don't make those anymore, so it's like retro eye-candy to "road geek" freaks like myself.

We left Rincon, Georgia yesterday morning, and spent the night in Ashland, Kentucky. One could not have asked for a more perfect day for driving. Lunch was spent in Greenville, S.C., where we broke bread (and plenty of BBQ pork therein) with Nettiemac. Filled with a fantastic lunch (what is about South Carolina and awesome barbecue??), we started north ... topping off our tank at the Wal-Mart Supercenter just north of Greenville in - I love this name - Travelers Rest. How could we not; we were so mesmerized by what the price sign read: $1.87/9! Maaaaaan.

The Hyundai Sonata we rented for this trip has driven very beautifully. Gas mileage wasn't what I'd hoped (average: 25), but it's better than what we get in our '04 Element.

We ate supper at the Bob Evans restaurant adjacent to our motel in Ashland. Bob Evans has a special significance in our lives, because our first meal as a married couple was at a Bob Evans in Lake City, Fla.

This morning, however, wasn't so good. What was giveth yesterday was taketh away -- it rained buckets this morning. Lucky for us, the worst of it was while putting away breakfast at IHOP. Still, it was very wet, dank and yucky for the first half of our day's driving.

Things got gradually better by the afternoon as the cold front passed through, and then the temperature started to drop. By 3:00 it was in the mid 50s outside. Yeah, baby.

Found some more starts-with-a-"1" petrol at a place on I-70 in Ohio, just west of Wheeling, W.Va. Barely, at that ($1.99/9), but who's beeyotchin'.....

We got here at about 9:00, and then started finding a place to eat supper. We ended up dining at a 'retro' themed eatery called the Park Diner. Lots of chrome, '50s-style fonts, and classic '50s & '60s music playing in the background. Our server's name was - I swear on a stack of 45s - Peggy Sue, and she whipped up some awesome homemade milkshakes for Seraphim and me.

We'll be here until Sunday afternoon ... in the meantime, I'll leave you with some random thoughts gleaned thus far from this trip:

  • The states of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania have all perfectly synchronized the placement of Bob Evans restaurants along their interstates. I came up with an average of one every 1.32 exits along I-64, I-77 and I-70 alone.
  • I tried the legendary Kentucky soft drink Ale-8-1. Both Seraphim and I had the same opinion: it tasted like watered down ginger ale. I was especially disappointed, because I was expecting something with some real 'bite' to it, like Buffalo Rock (a dark ginger-ale indigenous to my native Alabama). Oh well.
  • I had two hard-to-find drinks flowing through my patience-of-Job kidneys today: DOUBLE COLA, and my most favoritest drink in the world, SQUIRT.
  • We crossed the Ohio River four (4) times today.
  • I wish West Virginia or Pennsylvania would consider giving us just one of their Bob Evans restaurants. We could use a good breakfast place nearby where we live.
More news as it happens. When news breaks out, Gleck breaks in. News at :55, bulletins at any time.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Keystone Krackpot" Gleck

26 September 2006

Sonata in B-sharp

Or, Talmadge and Seraphim have their hot little rental car all ready for The Great Cake Junket to Pittsburgh, Pa. Your blog host and spouse will be driving a silver* '07 Hyundai Sonata ... with what my wife calls a "Mafia trunk" (read: I don't think we'll have problems fitting all her cake paraphernalia, the laptop, portable DVD player and .... anything else I forg--? Oh yeah, clothes!)
* = It's SILVER, dear. SIL-VER. Not "Lunar Mist" or any of those other weird quasi-colors car makers like to use. It says "SILVER" on the Hertz keytag, so it must be true.

And there appears to be enough room to hold the digital camera and cap a certain weekend visitor left behind. We'll be passing through Nettiemac's neighborhood, and we'll be eating lunch at a BBQ place in Greenville, S.C. -- looking very forward to it. Geez, I haven't seen her in ... how many hours? ;-)

Watch this space for updates. Seraphim has a laptop, so we'll be taking advantage of free wi-fi at the hotels where we'll be staying.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Next stop, northeast Kentucky!" Gleck

9-1/2 for Victorrrrrrr!!!

NOTE: If you have not seen the 1982 film The Last American Virgin, do not read any further because this post is full of spoilers. Of course, if you have no desire to see this movie, then go ahead and read on. Or don't. See if I care. -TG
Over the previous weekend, Seraphim and I were host to two of the coolest people trodding this Earth: Bolivar and Nettiemac. We didn't get to do the music trivia game we had hoped, but that's why God invented a little thing called "future visits."

One thing we DID do is watch movies. Quite a few, in fact. One of 'em was a truly underrated film, The Last American Virgin. Not to be confused with the more recent Steve Carell hit movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin (yes, we watched that one too).

Anyone who graduated high school in the 1980s (myself = 1983; Seraphim = 1987 - ditto for Nettiemac; Bolivar = 1986) can relate to the whole feel of the movie ... this puppy is chock full of memorable early '80s pop hits, like the Quincy Jones song "Just Once" .... not to mention Journey's "Open Arms", U2's first single "I Will Follow", "I Know What Boys Like" by The Waitresses (a song that just oozes 1980s) ... and much, much more.

Synopsis: Gary is the aforementioned "last American virgin." Not shy in a nerdy sense, mind you; he wasn't the target of ridicule or taunting. Lawrence Monoson played the role of Gary in such a way as to evoke a very disturbing sense of familiarity in a lot of us with a Y chromosome. Gary's two best friends -- David (the fat one) and Rick (the stud) -- form a threesome who, for much of the first half of this movie, are in an endless quest for sex ... from picking up three girls at the fast-food hangout, to patronizing a "lady of the night", to getting it on with a Charo-like nympho.

Complicating matters is a new student, Karen (played by Diane Franklin -- who was best-known for her role as Monique in the movie Better Off Dead). Gary falls for her. And I mean falls. But he's too shy and awkward to make a good impression. Unfortunately, Rick swoops in and takes her. They hit it off, which makes Gary apoplectic. A triangle is formed. Things get interesting.

Meanwhile, Gary tries to get laid. His virginity was erased by a prostitute ... a viciously mean one, at that. After an episode like that, it's a wonder he would ever want to make a bed squeak again.

What sets TLAV apart, though, is the big picture. Toward the middle, the film changes gears in a big way -- it goes from your typical "American Pie"-type teens-getting-laid flick, to a starkly dramatic turn of events which allow the characters to really develop. Gary wants sex, but deep inside you know he's seeking out more. He wants love. He wants Karen. Rick is your typical "male jerk" -- the typical wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of guy.

In the middle is plump, fun-loving David (who maintains a detailed track of all his expenses -- a funny side-note involves his keeping a running 'tab' on his friends). David is something of the comic relief in this movie. Some of his lines are the funniest -- "Money -- now we're talking! Everybody put in a dollar ... the one with the biggest tool, he's the one who wins the pool!"

Basically, Rick deflowers Karen (in their school's football pressbox, of all places), knocks her up, and Rick dumps her. Gary to the rescue. Gary pawns his stereo (HORRORS!!), borrows money from his boss, raids the petty-cash pot at his late grandmother's house, and cobbles together enough money to cover Karen's abortion (this came out BEFORE Fast Times, mind you).

Karen expresses her sincerest appreciation to Gary. Gary professes his love for Karen. Karen invites Gary to her birthday party. Gary goes to a jewelry store to buy Karen a present: a locket inscribed with a message of love (how he had enough $ to buy this after liquidating much of his worldly possessions is a big mystery).

Gary shows up at Karen's house, where the party is going full-tilt. Gary finds Karen. She's in the kitchen .....

.....and Karen runs toward Gary, embracing him, where they exchange passionate "I love yous." Gary finally gets the brass ring. Both are happy, and settle in for what will be a long, serious relationship.

No, sorry. You were expecting the typical Hollywood ending? You won't find it here, I'm afraid.

What happens is, Gary shows up at Karen's house, where the party is going full-tilt. Gary finds Karen. She's in the kitchen ..... with RICK, and they're smooching. Both turn and look at Gary, who is very shocked, his smile having instantly evaporated. Rick's look says "Ha ha, sucker ... thanks for cleaning up behind me!" And "sweet" Karen? She's clearly embarrassed, but stays embraced with Rick. A tear falls down her cheek. But she says nothing.

Gary bolts out of the house, while "Just Once" plays ... gets into his station wagon (more on that in a second), and drives off. Gary starts crying. The music gets louder. The credits begin rolling. End of movie.

Back when I first saw this movie, I hated this ending. Hated it. I wanted Gary to get the girl. However, as I became an adult, and logged a lot of 40-mile stretches of bad road, I began seeing this ending for what it is: REALITY.

I like this movie more for the nostalgia factor than anything else. But also for the powerful lessons it conveys. To name several:

1) For starters, the obvious ... NICE GUYS FINISH LAST. Guys like Rick usually end up with the girl. Girls seem to like the jerks much more than the nice guys. I know that's a sweeping generalization, but that's what my own experience showed. I got lucky when I found Seraphim, but it took forever for that to happen.

2) Guys who drive their bosses' vehicles around, especially when they're pink station wagons with a his employer's logo on top (The Pink Pizza), should expect to have trouble getting any action. Which begs the question, why come Gary's parking this pizza delivery vehicle, logo plain as day, in front of the fast-food hangout ... which, arguably, represents competition???

3) This movie should've done for prostitutes what you'd think Fatal Attraction would've done for males dabbling with adultery on the side. "Ruby" was played with such ugliness by Nancy Brock. (I loved her response to David's awkward small-talk: "Are you here to interview me, or to f*ck me???")

4) Getting crabs from Ruby really sucked. There's a big moral somewhere in that one, eh? (Another favorite line: when David, Rick and Gary are trying - awkwardly - to convey their little 'problem' to the local druggist, he figures it out, leans toward 'em and asks, softly, "Your BALLS itch??!!")


We also watched another favorite of mine, the 1999 movie Election. Good stuff, although very disturbing with its realistic portrayal of teachers having sex with students, betraying trust students place in them, and the consequences of same.

What else? Oh yeah, Pass The Ammo - a very hard-to-find 1987 flick filmed in the Arkansas city of Eureka Springs ... the infamous Napoleon Dynamite ... and more.

Movies are great things. Even better when shared among friends.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "A Warner Brothers First National Picture" Gleck

14 June 2006

...and here's YOUR credit card, little lady.

Found while looking through my old gas station road map collection for information about a long-gone roadside chain:
SKELLY was the name of a regional gasoline brand which marketed in the Midwest states (I vaguely remember seeing some in Missouri and Arkansas once upon a time). Like most other "earl" companies, Skelly also had its own credit card program, which it pitched on the back of their road maps (oh, for the days when gas stations gave those things out for free).

[Side thought: I wonder if Skelly had a grudge against Michigan and Ohio ... they seem to be missing from the U.S. image above.]

Skelly, though, had to be different. Unlike Shell, Texaco, Chevron, et petrolius al, Skelly issued not just one credit card. No, siree. Our Fine Skelsters had two of 'em up their corporate sleeve! First was their "regular" card, but evidently that one was available only upon proof of a functioning penis.

But what if you weren't talliwackily equipped? Fear not, Miz Running-On-Empty! Should this have been the case, Skelly would bestow the other card on you. It was called, as you can see above, the Ladies' Credit Card. It even appeared in a faux-elegant script style font, too. How ... feminine?

My question is, WHY? Were the Skelly people sexist little oinks? Or were they forerunners of the current-day Southern Baptist Convention ("Women, be graciously submissive to your husbands.") Heck, it makes me wonder if Skelly didn't also issue a Skelly Colored Peoples' Card back in the '50s? "Honored only if The Man lets you use it."

What if a lady drove over the ding-ding hose out front in her '71 Plymouth Fury Station Wagon, the attendant came out and pumped 15 gallons of Skelly Premium into her car, and - upon time to settle up - she whipped out .... the REGULAR Skelly card? *GASP!!!*

Would the entire gas station fall more silent than an E.F. Hutton commercial? Whispers aplenty --- "she used a MAN'S card." "What a dyke." "What kind of man is her husband? He oughta set her straight!" "How DARE she?" "Next thing you know, the dame's gonna want to vote."

I wonder if the interest rate was higher or lower on the Ladies' Credit Card? (Probably higher. Much higher. This was the early '70s, after all. I don't think women were even allowed to be out after 5:00 p.m. yet) Did all the bills go to the Family Patriarch to scrutinize?

"Hey, June, explain this one - $4.72 on March 4th. Almost FIVE DOLLARS!!"
"Ward, I let The Beaver, Larry and Whitey each have a Coke when I stopped for gas."
"Not on the Ladies' Credit Card. Don't let that happen again, you understand?"
"Yes, sir."
"Now go put on your pearls and chiffon dress and fix me some supper."

"Gee, Dad, you were a little hard on the Mom, weren't you?"
"SHUT UP, Wally."


"DONALD! My very own Skelly Ladies' Credit Card."
"Yes, Ann. Now don't go gassing up in one place."
"I promise, Donald. I don't even own a car."


"Aw, cheez, Edit' ... stifle yourself and go get gas in the '62 Dart."
"But Ah-chee ... you have the Skelly card."
"Why can't she have a card of her own, Archie??"
"Because women can't handle real credit cards, Meathead!"
"Now little girl, you give the dames real cards, then it doesn't stop there. Next, they'll be voting for McGovern. Burning their bras. Practicing lesbianism, witchcraft and leaving their husbands. All because they couldn't take their Ladies' Credit Card and stay in the kitchen."


Today, on The 700 Club ... Pat Robertson traces the downfall of American civilization to the day Skelly discontinued the Ladies' Credit Card. It was the reason Skelly disappeared from the roadside. And it's the reason women have become 'uppity.'


In all seriousness, I have a feeling my best friend, soulmate and sweet wifely one Seraphim would gladly accept a "Ladies' Credit Card" if it would mean she could gas up at 1972 prices. 12 gallons to fill up the Element at 32.9¢ a gallon .... $3.94! If only!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Don't forget my S&H Green Stamps and candy box with fill-up!" Gleck