When I commenced doing shows on my own I was not as young as the youngsters and didn’t have access to twice the muscle power of couples exhibiting at shows. So, I streamlined my act to the shortest time between zipping down my tent and going to bed.
I’ve never been a fan of making a meal. I enjoy a good meal, but wouldn’t go out of my way for one. I settled into a routine of cheese sammies and cooking a simple meal in the motel room. This was great when I was on the road with Lucy. She valued a good night’s sleep before tomorrow as much as I did.
At my kitchen counter one night before leaving early the next morning, I was two slices of cheese over for my cheese sammies. Brownberry had reduced the size of a loaf by two slices, but the price was still the same. The dirty rats. I put two slices of cheese back in the cheddar container and made do with two less sammies. Fixed them.
Being on the road with Ann was as easy as with Lucy. Ann knew how to set up a show and work a booth long before she came into my life; her father conscripted her for his trade show booths when she was a child. We only went to a restaurant for dinner if there was no good alternative on the way back to the motel. I remember a great summer when we went straight to Ben & Jerry’s Full Vermonte in the grocery stores.
Beth hopped on the bus with me from time to time. She was a harder sell. She travelled the country round for her company and was an expert in nosing out good and interesting restaurants. She had become accustomed to good dining on the road. I do recall a Thai restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland where our fellow exhibitors filled their tea cups from brown paper bags under the table. A brand new Irish pub in Louisville. Another one in Baltimore with a rollicking Irish group singing. Fortunately we walked from the hotel.
Then there is Linda. Every Italian restaurant in most cities know her by name. Every sports bar in the rest of the cities. She always wanted to go into a biker bar, but, as a former biker, I drew the line. One time we both got in pretty late for set up at the Corn Hill Art Festival in Rochester. It was dusk when we gave it up for the night and still needed to go on to her nephew’s, half an hour away, where we were bunking down. I was starved. I was dirty. I was tired. Linda was ready to find a restaurant. I walked to the corner and found a pizza shop. Closing for the night. I literally had my foot wedged in the door. To get rid of me the proprietor gave me the rest of the pizza in the warming tray and sold us enough beer to wash it down. “Now what,” Linda asked. I sat on the curb, beer between my feet, and invited her to take a seat. Good supper.
There’s one weekend’s eating Linda will never forget. The year after I retired I went with Linda to the Quail Hollow New Paltz Art Show in New Paltz, New York. I exhibited there for probably fifteen years and knew every inch of New Paltz. Linda hadn’t done the show, so she took my word for it. Beautiful town, packed with seasonals. Don’t expect to find a place to park an extended van in town and don’t expect less than a two hour wait to get into a restaurant. But, there’s a great organic grocery on the way out of town, great deli, we’ll get something there.
We set up her booth at the fairground and were the appropriate tired, dirty and hungry. Two tired, dirty, definitely past retirement age women. I was the roadie that trip, and didn’t want to add to Linda’s expense any more than necessary. So, at the deli counter of the organic I started ordering up sandwiches while Linda investigated the really delightful store. The young girl asked if I wanted this cheese or that? “Does it cost more?” “No.” Linda came around the corner, loaded with stuff we’d only find in a post hippie town in upstate. “Linda, we really don’t need any of that. You should put it back.”
“What kind of vegetables do you want?” “Do they cost more?” “No.” Linda came back with just a few items. “We really don’t need anything extra, Linda.” To whatever the young girl had asked, “Does it cost more?” Linda went away. I turned back to the counter. On top of the first layer of meat, cheese and vegetables was a new layer of meat, cheese and vegetables. Then another layer of meat, cheese and vegetables. Each sandwich would have weighed in over five pounds. She wrapped them up in white paper, wrote $4.50 on each paper and handed the two old bag ladies enough food for three days. As it turned out.
This post is for Linda, so she won’t forget why she’s retiring after next year. And for Ann and Beth and Lucy and Jan and Mom and everyone who helped me down the road.