Sunday, 6 July 2008

DOWN DRINKING AT THE BAR - 336 MILES

Woke up fairly early again and it was a beautiful morning as I headed down to the ferry. It’s a 12 minute journey across Lake Champlain to Grand Isle Vermont. As I was buying my ticket I noticed a yellow sign with a "1" on it. I asked the clerk what that was: "It’s our security alert the Government make us put it up.” "Is that high?" I enquired. "No don't think so”, was the reply.

I had a quick internet check and apparently there are 5 levels. However it never goes below yellow so it’s, err more a 3 level system. He seemed unconcerned by it all and rather shrugged it off. It reminded me that I have my UK Government ‘Duck and cover’ envelope attached by a magnet to my fridge door at home. Do you still have yours? Do you know where it is???

Flat calm across the lake and then off I went again. Vermont is absolutely beautiful – miles of hills, mountains and trees. I got onto highway 2 and stayed on it practically all day. At one point deep in the forest there were major roadworks although they’d stopped for the holiday. The end result was that the entire road surface had been removed and for 2 miles I followed a cloud of dust that was the vehicle in front, expecting any moment to burst a tyre.

After spending months seemingly in Texas and quite a while in Michigan and also New York, Vermont came and went as did New Hampshire until I reached Bangor Maine. I did the usual trick of heading downtown and, like Kansas City and Buffalo, I was thwarted by the lack of hotels. I headed out of town and found a motel. Would everything be booked up for the holiday as I’d been warned? "Got a room?", "Yup”, so I booked into ‘The White House’. Remember we are heading close to Kennedy country here. You get a lot of motel for your money. I turned my nose up at a perfectly adequate outdoor pool and examined my room carefully.

Huge bed CHECK. Enormous TV CHECK. Air conditioning unit CHECK. Internet CHECK. CD player CHECK. CD about the life of JFK CHECK. Relaxation CD's (2) CHECK. CHECK. Vibrating massage chair CHECK. I sat in it and it pummelled me and massaged my calves it was actually quite painful but it did make me laugh at lot. No idea how these things work, but my best guess is there’s a dwarf hiding inside.

There was a truck stop over the road so I went over and had a plate of broiled chicken, parmesan and spaghetti. No pudding for you tonight my lad. Thought I would have a quick drink in the basement bar of the hotel then go to bed - after all it was nearly 8pm.

Biiig mistaaaake! When I arrived, there were just a couple of guys there and the barmaid, who I later found out was called Robyn. I got a beer and she thrust a huge basket of salted popcorn under my nose. We started chatting and suddenly there was a commotion as one of the guys started dancing loudly to the jukebox with lots of thigh slapping and stamping. He was an oldish looking dude with a red face and a long white beard. After flailing away for a couple of minutes he sat down and started chatting with his friend.

Robyn told me she lived way up in the woods and had 35 acres to her name. She showed me a picture of a gushing stream that ran through her property and told me that she was going to turn about 4 acres into growing fruit. Suddenly the dancing and the slapping started again. We gave each other a look. This guy was a regular.

Being nosey I tried to keep one ear on his conversation but it was very hard to follow as he seemed to be speaking in tongues. After one more outbreak of frenzied dancing he sat down and talked to me.....I gleaned his name was Larry. What else he said I have no idea. He bought me a drink. In fact he bought a drink for "the whole dang place" (Check the bottom of the page lyric fans). Then his frenzied dancing started again. I was sufficiently in with Robyn by this time to suggest he reminded me of the incomprehensible character ‘Boomhauer’ from the cartoon show ‘King of the Hill’. She laughed and agreed.

Larry sat down again. As time went on I gleaned that he was Acadian. He was either from New Brunswick Canada or from Louisiana. Either way this is where Acadian's or "Cajuns" come from. What he was speaking was a form of heavily accented French - well not just French he was also talking American English as well. He admitted that due to the booze and all the LSD he’d done in his youth, he only effectively had half of each language so had to swap between the two, midway through a sentence. His friend seemed to understand him well enough though. The actual timbre of his voice made him sound a bit like ‘Compo’ from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. It was absolutely baffling but he was such a nice guy. Other people drifted in and out and Larry bought them all drinks while he danced away, stopping every so often to feed the jukebox.

He was such a catalyst that soon everyone was talking to each other. At this point I stopped remembering names. I talked to one guy who in his 48 years had owned 66 motorcycles. He admitted he was a fool for driving 140 mph down a country road without a crash helmet.

Another man didn't say anything at all because he had a terrible stammer but sat and beamed as Larry did another dance. A couple of retirees came in for a drink before heading off to bed as they were on a fishing trip. The older of the two suggesting that he was amazed he was still alive at his age. However both elderly men perked up when Robyn sashayed up to them in her skimpy shorts. Naturally for dramatic purposes the TV was showing a Viagra ad as I recount this tale. She’d had 4 children and was now divorced.....at that moment Larry started dancing again and ordered another round of drinks for everyone.

I helped out too. I remember putting Stevie Ray Vaughan on the jukebox. I must have eaten all the popcorn too. I do remember Larry insisting on buying "shots" for everyone.

Robyn was very disparaging about the President and the current state of the US and its standing in the world. She seemed pretty liberal and it was good to hear an opposing view for a change. Suddenly it was one o'clock in the morning and we all drifted off to bed. Well I bounced off the walls as I made my way along the corridor to my room. It was lined with pictures of all the US presidents. Each had a small paragraph attached and I vaguely remember Abraham Lincoln – ‘First President to wear a beard and the first one to be assassinated’. Some comfort no doubt as he lay on the floor of his box at Ford's Theatre having been shot in the head at point blank range.

In the morning I woke up with a slight headache and one fact in my mind from the night before. The energetic, mad dancing Larry with the red face and the long white beard was actually one year older than me!!

Song reference: Tracey Byrd "Ten rounds with Jose Cuervo".

1 comment:

Chris said...

Yup, you WERE in a sleazy bar, good. (Do you get expenses on this trip?) ~ CW