Dear Iowa, All You Have To Do Is Vote

I can’t remember the first family vacation my parents took me on. It was summer and there’s a photo recording the event. Standing in front of a whale with a wide open mouth, I am wearing a little sundress, a diaper, and those shoe polish white shoes babies wore when they first learned to walk. It is the summer of 1958, I am sixteen months old, and I think I was supposed to walk into the whale’s mouth but I’m frowning and look skeptical.

When I asked my Dad about this photo, he said it was most likely taken in upstate New York where we also visited Fort Ticonderoga. Of course we did. My dad was a U.S. History teacher and over the next seventeen years I traveled every summer to lakes and theme parks, cities and small towns, from Maine to Michigan, and Old Orchard Beach to Daytona Beach. By the time I was seven, my two sisters and brother had joined me.

There were always backseat arguments, some started over rowdy singing of songs like 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall – all of us in the back of the station wagon, not one of us wearing a seatbelt. Someone would inevitably get carsick, often before we had even crossed the border leaving the small state of Rhode Island behind us as we set off on our summer adventure.

One thing was constant on those trips. A history lesson was always involved. U.S History, the subject my father taught for thirty two years at the high school we all attended. The places he brought me – Valley Forge, Hyde Park, Mount Vernon, Thomas Edison’s home, Monticello, Washington D.C. so many times I’ve lost count – and the lessons these places taught me made a very large impression on how I see America. How I define democracy. What freedom for all means to me.

Flash forward to western Connecticut to the Inn where I live and work in the valley of the Berkshire Mountains. Last night we had only one guest staying with us, a young man from Chicago traveling on his first ever business trip, a philosophy major/former waiter turned bookseller. The books he sells are overstocks, over ordered under sold books printed in the days before self-publishing and books on demand, although I can imagine a few copies of mine ending up in his hands some day.

With no clear idea of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he was waiting tables to pay his school loans and spending a lot of time at a small local bookstore drinking coffee and reading esoteric, obscure books on thought and philosophy, history and art. The owner eventually got to know him rather well, hired him as a salesman, and sent him off on his first road trip.

Landing in D.C. for the very first time, he checked out some of the sights in his free time. Traveling north he avoided the highways. He took a scenic route to the inn, passing through the small towns north of here on his drive from Boston. I could see it in his face, the love of the open road. He was bitten by the bug. Driving around this amazing, diverse land can do that to you.

We sent him off to dinner at the pub down the road with the promise of a blazing fire and a glass of wine when he returned. Late into the evening, having traveled many an American mile ourselves, we shared our stories and he shared his. Somewhere along the route we passed through Iowa and there was a pause in the conversation.

We are innkeepers. We are here to please, to make your stay enjoyable. At the Inn I keep my opinions to myself, unless someone opens the door and agrees with me. If they don’t, I politely smile and nod my head. It happens a lot. People are anxious, people are concerned about the future, but there’s so much division they’re almost afraid to speak, at least at an Inn on vacation where they are spending their hard earned money and trying to forget all that.

There have been a few discussions, most recently with a retired teacher and his wife who works in the HR department of a company where let’s just say she’s seen a lot of changes over the years, not all in favor of the human resources.

We were chatting about what we would do in retirement for they were only a few years older than us. The husband hesitated. He got that look on his face. Dare I Bring Up The Subject of Politics look, and then he said, “I think I’m voting for Bernie.” A huge sigh of relief swept through the room. The Okay We Can Talk kind of relief, so there we went, agreeing and dreaming and talking about the possibility of What If.

It happened again last night. During a quiet pause our young guest looked from Rich to me as if sizing us up. He’d heard our stories of job changes, travels, and rock concerts. He smiled and said, “I really like Bernie.”

“I do, too,” I almost shouted. My husband, who does not often get lost in a political discussion, simply nodded his head and off we all went dreaming about the possibility of What If.

This morning we wished the young man safe travels and good luck at his sales call. As he stepped out the door, he said, “Go Bernie” and I gave him a thumbs up.

I am trying to stay away from the TV today. I caught some Morning Joe and saw Bernie is leading by a very small margin in the latest Quinnipiac poll. With that bit of optimism I shut the TV off. It is all just speculation anyway, not a single vote has yet been cast. I have a room to clean, laundry to do, a tax return to finish so I can file a FAFSA form by February fifteenth.

Don’t ask me how my mind works, how it leaps from summer vacations to U.S. History to the caucus in Iowa as I unfurl a clean white sheet across the bed. It’s a connected jumble of life lessons, history learned, places I’ve traveled, and people I’ve met leading me to think about last night when I found myself telling the story of the noble train of artillery. A tale from American history set in the winter of 1775-76 when the Continental Army moved captured artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, crossing the Berkshire mountains not far from here.

Pulling sixty tons of cannon during a brutal winter season with only ox-drawn sleds, horses, and brute manpower the Continental Army, led by Henry Knox, pulled off what the historian Victor Brooks called “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics of the entire American Revolutionary War.”

Sitting by the warm fire during the winter of 2016, our young guest said this, “Imagine that. Nowadays all we have to do is vote.”

Today the good people of Iowa will exercise the only bit of power they have by voting for the candidate of their choice. It is a small drop of water in a large sea of power and money. A single voice but when joined with the voices of others it can be more powerful than a tsunami. More powerful than a very large check written by a billionaire hedge fund guy trying to buy what he wants.

To the good people of Iowa I would like to say this. You get to start this noble train ride. The blizzard in Iowa won’t arrive until late tonight. Bundle up and get out there and take ownership. All you have to do is vote.

Something about Bernie Sanders I have noticed is when asked what he thinks HIS chances of winning are, he always replies “I think WE can win this.” You may call me a dreamer but that’s okay, I’ve been called worse. I believe WE can do this. I believe WE can win. All WE have to do is vote.

Godspeed, Senator Sanders. Tonight let’s do this thing called democracy. #GetOutAndVote

Summer Weddings: An Innkeeper’s Journal

JULY 2015

A groom and his ushers are staying with us for the weekend. They met in college on crew team and rise early the day of the wedding to row on a nearby lake, returning in the afternoon with cases of Corona and India Pale Ales. All tall and handsome, they claim to have gotten into their Ivy League School on athletic skills alone but many of them are engineers and their conversations concerning nuclear power plants and natural gas sound like a foreign language.

As the countdown to the wedding ceremony begins I hear them up on the second floor making their way to the groom’s room where the pre-nuptial celebration is about to begin.

“Hey, what are you still doing in your boxer shorts? You need to be suited up in your tux and pounding beers in the groom’s room. A-SAP,” shouts the best man.

Shortly after they leave for the ceremony the rain comes pouring down. It is an outdoor wedding, three tents in the backyard of an old summer home set high on a hill. I remember an old expression that may or may not be true, “Rain on your wedding day, sunshine the rest of your life.”

I myself was married on a cold sunny day in Lake Louise, Canada. We eloped with a few friends. My guy skied before the wedding. I took a hot tub with a friend.

On another wedding weekend we have a guest who sounds exactly like one of Chandler’s girlfriends on the TV show Friends. The character’s name was Janice. She had long dark hair, a high-pitched nasally voice, and said “Oh. MY. God.” quite frequently.

Our guest the Janice sound-a-like originally called to cancel. She had just gotten married two weeks ago, honeymooned in Hawaii, and “can’t even think about going back to work after this weekend’s wedding. I just can’t make it.”

Before I can process the cancellation she calls me back and says, “Forget I ever called.”

Running late on the day of the wedding she calls again to let me know she has to change into her wedding clothes and might miss the bus that is coming to pick up the guests staying at the Inn. I tell her Rich will drive them over as apparently there is limited parking at the venue. As she gets closer she calls to tell me she might not miss the bus after all. “I’m not telling my family, but I’ll tell you. I changed in the car.” Oh. MY. God.

Another weekend it is the bride, her maid of honor, and two bridesmaids who are staying at the Inn. She has requested an eleven a.m. check-in because she is getting dressed here and of course that entails pre-wedding photos. Checkout is at eleven and we have rooms to clean. Luckily no one was in the bride’s room the night before.

By noon friends of the bride begin to show up. The mother of the bride and a few aunts join them. All three of us, Rich, me, and our daughter Michelle, pitch in cleaning rooms. I also deliver champagne flutes, ice buckets, and chocolate strawberries to the bridal party.

Another early arrival shows up at one, guests not involved with the wedding, and when I show them to their room we find a bridesmaid getting dressed in there.

The maid of honor and her boyfriend checked in the night before and he is hungover from the rehearsal dinner. She tells us we don’t need to fluff their room but asks if she can bring his omelet upstairs. She has been a big help, bringing down empty champagne glasses, getting coffee for the non-drinkers, and arranging flowers.

The florist and the photographer show up. The bride looks lovely.

The next morning at breakfast we hear the day was a huge success. The maid of honor’s boyfriend has another hangover. This time he requests only coffee which the maid of honor delivers to him. Michelle and I have started referring to him as the bad boyfriend.

The bride and groom are honeymooning in Vietnam but not until the fall. They are just going to rest and hang out this week. We too rest and hang out after everyone leaves. No one is coming until Wednesday. We make bloody Marys and Rich watches golf. We have Monday and Tuesday to clean the rooms, do laundry, and recover from the wedding whirlwind.

On Wednesday an older couple checks in. When they leave I discover she left her book, Dating the Divorced Man, on the bedside table. She’d read only to Chapter Two where a restaurant receipt marked the page. I noticed she was a bit cranky, sitting by herself in the library while her divorcee watched TV in the small lounge. She never called to ask me to mail her the book. I’m assuming she decided she didn’t need to finish it.

Flowers by the Sink

 

Sheila’s Floor: An Innkeeper’s Journal

Many people don’t travel far for a getaway. Fifty percent of our guests live in Connecticut. I begin to recognize the value in a quiet escape from the hectic lives we lead. A picnic by a river, a good live music show, a trip to a local art museum, a mountain hike. Sleeping late in a large four poster bed or reading a book by the fireplace. Although I will always love visiting new places, there is something to be said for a quiet, stress free trip a short drive from home but miles from everyday life.

A memorial service is being held at the inn today. It was booked before we started the job and we do not have to work it. The former innkeeper and the caterers arrive just as we finish cleaning up from breakfast. A doyenne of the town makes her way into the kitchen, asking for one percent milk as opposed to half and half.

I am mortified.

I have scrubbed the baseboards, the chair rails, the shelves in the pantry, and the black spots on the kitchen cabinets that I thought were knots in the wood but instead were grease. Rich washed the floor five times, turning buckets of soapy water black. I know how clean this kitchen now is but the fake brick linoleum floor is worn in spots. The cabinet doors don’t shut properly, the paint is no longer fresh. I am extremely uncomfortable with guests wandering in here.

“Didn’t she see the Private sign on the pantry door? What if she notices the floor?”

Rich shrugs. “It’s not my floor.”

But like the folks who believe the Iraq war is now President Obama’s war, the Inn’s floor is now our floor. Years of dirt and grease now belong to us. Or maybe it’s me. As the female of the species, I know these household inadequacies belong to me. When would anyone ask, “Did you see that guy’s kitchen? What a slob.”

When my parents first met my mother-in-law, the women got to talking about housekeeping. My housekeeping. I have always worked full time. Rich and I lived in an old house built in 1728. We had wood stoves. Dust was a constant battle. Rich never noticed the trail of wood chips from the kitchen door to the hearth, or the dust this source of heat creates.

They both agreed housekeeping was not my forte, but somehow my mother also had to add, “Well, she didn’t get it from me.”

She took my mediocre housekeeping skills as a statement on the way she might have raised me or on her own housekeeping skills, which wasn’t true at all because my mother’s housecleaning bordered on obsessive compulsive. Nonetheless, she felt the need to defend herself.

Rich wasn’t phased by the doyenne in the kitchen. He didn’t need to be. This was Sheila’s kitchen floor.

A former innkeeper must have had a problem with finding the trash barrel. The drawers are filled with empty battery packages, chargers for non-existent items, warranties and instruction manuals for ancient appliances, empty light bulb boxes. Who keeps these things? Who puts them back in the drawer? I find price tags and those little plastic things that hold them to the dress or the shirt or whatever they were attached to. Dead cigarette lighters. Old, dirty half melted candles. If I do find a lightbulb in a box I shake it to my ear to check if it’s broken. Fifty percent of the time it is.

I suppose these are now Sheila’s drawers. But Sheila knows where the trash barrel is. She drags it into the pantry and starts emptying the drawers of trash.

I fill a pitcher with water, lift it from the sink, and the bottom spills out soaking my jeans.

My daughter and I find a large water dispenser. We come up with the brilliant idea of serving flavored water like they do at fancy hotels and health spas. I slice limes while she goes out to the garden to snip spearmint. We load the dispenser with ice and cold water and bring it out to the main room. An hour later the table is soaked. The water dispenser has a slow leak.

A few days later we find water dispensers on sale at BJ’s. The following weekend we make orange strawberry water. I post a picture on Facebook, introducing Michelle’s flavored water. From my ankles to my floors to just about everything else, the tune of Bob Dylan’s song returns: everything is broken. It might be safer giving someone else credit for the improvements.

Flavored water

 

 

DRIVEN: An Innkeeper’s Journal

A masterful guitarist plays in a small theater in the foothills of the Berkshires on a cold, foggy winter night, a singer songwriter performs in a church in a small town in Maine, and a little known writer finds inspiration in their music, words, dedication to craft, and drive.

Some days it’s hard to come by, this desire to sit down and fill the blank page with words. I feel I am writing in obscurity. Who really cares? It’s not easy finding readers when you don’t have a big time New York publisher selling your books. Every sale is hard earned. Most of the time I have only myself to lean on.

Two weeks ago a reader sent an email to say she finished The Reverse Commute and really enjoyed it. I thanked her and mentioned the other books. She replied, “I do plan on reading your other books, just reading a HORRIBLE and LONG book club book right now.” I suggested she recommend Life Is All This at her next meeting and asked if she would write an Amazon review, they are so hard to come by. I hate begging but she kindly wrote the review and it’s sweet and honest.

Last week the innkeepers took a vacation. We went to Maine to visit Bob Whear, a fellow innkeeper and friend of Adam Ezra. We first met Bob and his wife Sherry when they visited our inn the night Adam played at Infinity Hall. Now Adam was visiting  Bob’s inn and playing in Damariscotta at a church down the road.

On a dark street under a sky filled with stars, Orion led the way to the church that is now the home and art studio of George Mason. His large relief tapestries hang on the walls where people once worshiped. Tables were set for a community dinner of lasagna, salad, and brownie sundaes and Adam took the stage in front of one of George’s tapestries.

Church stage

Adam is amazing and I have written about him before. Tonight he was playing solo, getting folked as he calls these house tours he has embarked on. Each song began with a story. An unheated basement he lived in rent free, Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family in Nebraska. The drive to make music for a living even though he was making little money doing it was stronger than material possessions and swank living quarters. He’s real and honest and his passion for writing and playing music touched everyone in the room that night, many of whom were seeing him for the very first time.

Last night we were back at Infinity Hall to enjoy the music of Johnny A playing some amazing guitar on his hollow bodied Gibson. This guy is so good at what he does the Gibson Custom Guitar company designed a guitar in his name and it is one of the company’s most successful signature models.

Rick Gembar, the senior VP of Gibson Guitars said this about Johnny A: “Creating an artist signature model guitar is not something we take lightly. But sometimes a player comes along who is not only a musical innovator and artist of the highest-caliber, but has innovative ideas about designing a totally new instrument. And that’s Johnny, who just knocked us off our feet.”

The theater was half full on a cold, dreary night in January but Johnny and his band knocked us off our feet, playing with the heart and soul of a band that could fill a football stadium, maybe even more so. I was reminded once again of the magical effect music has always had on me and the drive that keeps you going when you’re doing something you feel passionate about. Something you have to do.

At the end of the evening Johnny threw his guitar pick into the audience and I felt something hit my shoulder. The lights went up and I lifted my seat to see if indeed that pick had truly taken aim at me, and there it was on the floor at my feet. A shooting star, a lightening bolt, a cryptic message. Driven. It felt like an omen.

Driven guitar pick

The Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford once shared these words of encouragement with his students: “Writers are all doing the same thing. You are doing what Chekov did.”

Heady words indeed. But encouraging, oh so encouraging. It would be nice to make a bestseller list. To reach that many readers would be amazing. It would be even nicer to make a living writing books. I am writing this blog on a Sunday morning before our guests awake. I make my living nowadays as an innkeeper and we have a house full of people who were here to listen to the music of Johnny Cash last night at Infinity Hall. The smell of apple smoked bacon drifts up the stairs to our second floor bedroom. I have fifteen more minutes before I join Rich downstairs and help slice the fruit, serve the guests, keep the coffee coming, clear the tables, and clean the kitchen. Later we will make beds and clean bathrooms. I will conquer the mountain of laundry. I have a newsletter to write and send later this afternoon. We are offering winter promotions. It’s a slow time of year and we’re working on increasing business in the dead of winter.

This innkeeping gig suits me better than my years of accounting, a prosaic job that paid the bills and provided health insurance, some of the time. It never did feed my soul.

I remind myself of the email I received and the review my reader wrote: Very true to life especially for me in my life in comparison with the one female character with frustrations with work/income never enough and wanting to enjoy life now that the kids are grown. And then there was this review for Life Is All This: A book to sink into – I was reminded of Richard Ford’s writing as I read this: reflective, not rushed, pulling together life experiences in order to understand the current occupied space.

I am writing about the world as I see it, the human struggle in difficult times when the middle class is getting squeezed and the world we once knew seems to have been replaced with loud voices of anger and frustration. It is not us against them, we share more than we realize, and when I touch a nerve with someone who is also struggling it reminds me why I’m writing. I am seeking to understand my occupied space and hoping in the process it helps others. I am sharing hope and optimism.

At some point later today, when the beds are made, the dishwasher is empty, and the sheets and towels are folded, I will return to the fourth novel I am working on. I will open the blank page and fill it with words. This is a desire I cannot explain. I am driven to write.

 

 

 

That Cold, Cold Wet Day: An Innkeeper’s Journal

Cold, Wet Day

JUNE 2015:

DAY ONE: We are alone in the Inn. No overnight guests, no breakfast to make. We think about tackling our living quarters. There are floors that still need washing, boxes to unpack, our daughter’s room to get ready, a doggy smelling carpet to shampoo. But it is raw and cold outside and the bed is warm, and so is the coffee Rich brewed and delivered to me, so we stay in bed watching a Netflix documentary on Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead on my laptop set up on a breakfast-in-bed tray nestled between us.

By late afternoon, Rich gets motivated and brings home subs from a small Italian pizza place in town where the new owner gives him a free bowl of pasta fagioli while he waits. I had already made lentil soup. Soup and more soup still can’t warm my bones so we go back upstairs to take a nap then watch a Jimi Hendrix documentary.

“The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye…” ~ Jimi Hendrix

DAY TWO: Another cold, chilly morning. It is also the first day we meet Winter. Bundled up in a sweater and fleece jacket, I sit at the desk in the kitchen and place an order for maple syrup. Winter Mead is all gruff Yankee on the phone. A man who doesn’t waste words.

When I ask, “Do I just write you a check or do we have an account?”, he replies, “Theeeey always wrote a check.”

Rich has a completely different experience out in the driveway when an hour later Winter delivers three gallon jugs of maple syrup. They spend a half hour discussing sugaring. Winter tells stories of snowshoeing through three feet of snow to drill taps and hang buckets.

“It’s a hard way to make a living the older you get,” Winter says. They move on to comparing fly fishing on the Housatonic versus ice fishing on the Squamscott and digging for oysters on Great Bay. “I don’t like the oysters,” Winter says.

Rich tells him about working at a fish hatchery his senior year in high school. “Those guys who fill the ponds, they fuck everything up,“ Winter says.

Just like the season he is named for he is terse and to the point, but a fire burns inside and once his interest is sparked he warms to the conversation.

DAY THREE: The smell of apple smoked bacon that we buy from a smokehouse in Torrington fills the bedroom when Rich opens the door to deliver my morning cup of joe. I am supposed to stay in bed today because I seem to have experienced a set back. My feet are killing me, probably because I am on them too much throughout the day. But how can I not be?

“Companionship is the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes” ~ Rilke

DAY FOUR: Another rainy morning in bed when no one is here requiring omelets or pancakes. I can’t remember sunshine, warmth, sweat.

The Internet is spotty. The first few days we were here, when I couldn’t connect, in those first minutes and hours when I was unable to Instagram or check email or Tweet or post what was on my mind, I became agitated and angry but it quickly passed. So quickly I was amazed.

Rich is also agitated and it isn’t passing quickly. He needs TV.

“I haven’t watched golf in a month. I used to watch it every day.”

He takes to reading the Hartford Courant each morning but it doesn’t fill his needs.

Driving through a tunnel of trees on the road from Goshen to Canaan feels claustrophobic after Florida. A white church steeple rises against a backdrop of gray sky and soft rolling hills. Hundreds of cows in a long, well-lit barn get ready for bed. Each stall creates a photograph in the dark night. I do not make Rich stop so I can snap the photo and put it on Instagram.

Despite the long hours, there is a serenity to our days, but then suddenly I am overwhelmed and anxious. There are so many things to do and with two broken feet I can’t do even half of them. The tears well up.

It started when my daughter missed her flight in Denver. She is coming to spend the summer with us. I am moving from room to room to find the hot spot where the Internet works on my laptop. Painfully I make my way to the screened-in porch where the cell phone gets reception so I can coach her through her airport negotiations. How can everything, absolutely everything in this Inn be fucked up??

I am ragged in my bones. I want to get in the car and drive to the coast. A front porch, a rocking chair, an endless vista, a mimosa. I want to be the one on vacation.

A memory pops into my mind of the rings at Santa Monica Beach. My oldest daughter was eight or nine. I can see her swinging from ring to ring, her hands blistering, back and forth, gracefully making the turn three times until she dropped in the sand. A group of athletic young men stood up and clapped. I asked how she mastered it. “You need to build momentum,” she said.

White feathery puff balls float across the backyard, drifting on thermals. We don’t know where they come from. They look like dandelions but there are no dandelions in the yard. Some stick to the screen on the porch before a breeze lifts them up and they rise above the lawn, floating up and away.

Optimism is not a steady burning candle. It flickers and sometimes the winds of the day blow out the flame. I am worn out. I have lost my momentum. I close my eyes and sink. Today I cannot rise with the thermals.

Locksmiths: An Innkeeper’s Journal

JUNE 2015: Today a couple from Queens set off from the Inn to take a long walk. They called an hour later to say they had bit off more than they could chew and asked if Rich could drive up Lovers Lane to pick them up. When they returned we sat in the living room and they shared their stories.

Locksmiths by trade, they inherited the business from the wife’s father.

“My Dad taught me how to pick a lock when I was four,” the wife tells us.

It appears to be a very profitable business because as you can imagine, there are lots of locks in New York City and apartments are constantly changing tenants. Their largest business expense is parking tickets. Their van is a mobile machine shop and they need to park close by, so it’s one of the costs of doing business in the city.

Their son is walking across America to raise money for Crohn’s disease. He has been on the road since February and is now in Oklahoma. He had been traveling with a guy from Germany who was much taller and they split up somewhere in Texas, the German’s longer stride carrying him further each day. He was tired of the slow pace. The locksmith sends her son weekly packages via General Delivery and sometime flies out to deliver in person.

“But I told him I didn’t need to visit Oklahoma.”

We told her about the night we were traveling cross-country and got caught in a hail storm in El Reno, Oklahoma. We passed on the camping that night and checked into a motel room where we set up our little cook stove just outside the door and grilled Fred Flintstone size T-Bones as the sky cleared. A blazing red sunset filled the flat prairie landscape as far as the eye could see.

Our lady locksmith was also a professional clown for twenty years and sang with Billy Joel at the 92nd Street YMCA in Brooklyn. He was giving a talk on the things he had learned throughout his life and invited the audience to ask him anything they wanted to ask. The locksmith asked, “Can I sing with you?” and Billy Joel said yes.

Her husband recently hiked Machu Picchu, plays basketball daily, and enjoys all sorts of sports. He made a point of telling of us he was not the one who bit off more than he could chew on the walk up Lover’s Lane.

He is planning for his retirement and is need of new challenges. They thought they might like to run a bed and breakfast so they attended a convention somewhere in Ohio.

“After a full weekend of learning about B&B’s we decided we didn’t really want to run a B&B, but we like staying in them so now we just support the industry.”

It appears they also like attending conventions. A few months ago she suggested they attend a whistling convention in North Carolina.

“My husband’s a great whistler. He’s always whistling in the shower and he’s really good.”

Whistlers from all over the world attend this annual event. “Australians are good, but the Japanese are the best,” the husband told us. “They can do strange things with their tongues. I’m a decent enough whistler but when I got there and heard the other whistlers I decided I wasn’t good enough to compete.”

I tell them they should write a book, and if they don’t, I am going to create at least five characters from their stories. They wrote a page long thank you in our guest book and left a forty dollar tip on the night table in their room.

So far, they are our favorite guests.

Locksmiths

Can We Talk About Dogs?: An Innkeeper’s Journal

JUNE 2015: As we fold never-ending freshly laundered sheets we begin a Pink Panther dialogue. Rich starts.

Do you have a rrroom?
I don’t know what a rrrrrrroom is.
A rrrrooom.
A rrrrroom?
That is what I have been saying, you idiot.
Do you have a reservation?
I am Inspector Clouseau. I don’t need no stinking reservation.

Does your dog bite?
No, my dog does not bite.
Your dog just bit me.
That is not my dog.

I pull together a picnic basket with tablecloth, silverware, and plastic wine glasses Rich bought at Stop & Shop last night. More like large goblets, they are not what I would have bought but a lot of things are going that way these days. I don’t get exactly what I want because I can’t get it myself and I am weary of relying on Rich all the time. Luckily, I don’t need to make the picnic food. I suggest the Saturday Farmer’s Market down the street and the couple love the idea.

At two o’clock Rich runs out to the hardware store to get a shower head for the room that has the problem with shooting water. Ten minutes later a family with bikes on the roof of their jeep pull in. A father, mother, and college age daughter. They arrive fifty minutes before check-in, have the look of old money, and wear expensive but well worn clothing. Soft sweaters, slightly rumpled soft cotton shirts, nice shoes. The mother is soft-spoken and moves slowly, with an ease that lets you think she is comfortable in her own skin. She never stops smiling her closed mouth smile which makes her tranquility appear practiced. I assume she has lived a certain kind of life, never worrying about the bills that need to be paid, spending her days decorating her home, arranging flowers, and meeting friends for lunch. She would know how to write thank you notes, plan dinner parties, garden, and take care of dogs.

Her large poodle walks close beside her but when he spots me trying to navigate the large step from the dining room to the living room, the step with the metal runner where a pocket door slides across the floor, this obstacle that I need to avoid stepping on or a sharp pain will pierce the sole of my left foot with the torn metatarsal, the poodle runs toward me. I reach for the wall, setting off the chimes hanging from the clock, and shout, “I have two broken feet.”

Another woman called two nights ago to book a room. She asked if she could bring her dog. I said I wasn’t sure and I would get back to her. I called the former managers but they weren’t around so I checked the website and saw the No Dog policy. When I called the woman back she took the news well enough. She had a friend in town who could watch the dog, although she mentioned she didn’t sleep well without her dog by her side.

I now find myself in hot water, clinging to the chimes for dear life and wondering what to do about this dog who is apparently visiting my Inn and staying for the night.

I did not book the lady with the perpetual smile. When the former innkeeper called me back later that evening she said despite the No Dog policy she often allowed dogs. I have a full house tonight and a guest who is allergic to feathers. He could also be allergic to dogs but didn’t mention that because he must have seen the No Dog policy on the website. My husband is also allergic to dogs.

How do I de-dog a room after the pet owner leaves? Should they pay extra for the additional cleaning? Is there a set of standards the hotel industry has for cleaning rooms pets have visited? Do those apply to a nine room bed and breakfast?

Friends would bring their dogs to our house in New Hampshire without even asking. The dogs would scare the hell out of my cat, Jenny, who would run in the barn and hide, sleeping out there all night. This was my house and Jenny’s house too. It seems a lot of people work on the premise of bringing the dog along with the intention of asking for forgiveness after the fact instead of asking for permission and having to deal with the possibility of no.

I gave my character Sam, in Life Is All This, this character trait, or if you’re a dog lover you might see it as a flaw. He’s a guy who doesn’t understand the deep need to own a dog and the expectation that everyone else is going to love your dog. I worry sometimes that readers will judge Sam because of his opinion on dogs. There are certain readers who don’t like characters with opinions. That’s their problem, not mine.

But now I am worried about this situation I inadvertently find myself dealing with. The lady who was told by me she couldn’t bring her dog is most likely going to run into Our Lady of the Perpetual Smile’s dog and I will be in deep shit.

Over the course of the weekend, we discover the family with the dog is visiting their youngest daughter who is in a rehab house nearby. What type of rehabilitation she is receiving is never mentioned but this news makes me rethink the forced smile.

We also find out the woman who couldn’t sleep without her dog spent the night at her friend’s house. Her husband, who slept alone in the room at the Inn with the king size bed and fireplace jokingly told Rich she is “nuts about that dog”.

The man who has a feather allergy is also allergic to dogs. He and his wife thanked us for a lovely anniversary weekend and I am assuming they never ran into our four legged guest.

By the end of the weekend I do not know if the two dog ladies ever met. The poodle came to breakfast, but not at the same time as the woman whose dog was exiled to a friend’s house.

After the poodle’s family loaded their bikes back onto their SUV, Rich explained that although the former innkeeper allowed them to bring their dog, the Inn does have a No Dog policy and we are the new sheriffs in town so we will be honoring the policy going forward. Well, he actually didn’t call us the new sheriffs but you get the drift.

The husband replied, “Well then, we won’t be coming back.” A few minutes later, leaving through the front door, he shouted again, “We won’t be coming back.”

I remind myself you can’t please all the people all the time, and if you are, you’re doing something wrong but you may never know what is right.

 

Zen cat

Our resident backyard cat admiring the garden.