The King Of Commerce
Like many small towns, Commerce, Oklahoma, has a backstory. It started out humbly as a base mining camp, named Hattonville, after Amos Hatton, the developer of the Emma Gordon Lead and Zinc mine, in 1906. Between the years 1913 and 1914, the first post office in the area was built and named North Miami. Hattonville eventually merged with Tar River, another mining camp, and by June 1914, the post office designated the area as Commerce, named for the Commerce Mining and Royalty Company, which had bought the entire mining camp. The mining town thrived, the economy and population boomed enjoying two newspapers, theatres, banks, and plenty of business to go around.
The Blue Swallow Motel—Legend
The city of Tucumcari, New Mexico, is a nexus of ideas; it is where the land of the Comanche, mythology, and American pop culture come together to invite travelers on Route 66 to bed down in “Tucumcari Tonite!” It is the largest city on Route 66 between Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, once home to 2,000 motel rooms, then 1,200, now less than 1000. But that nexus is still alive with neon current and loyal stewards, housed in one of the most fabled motels of Route 66, the Blue Swallow Motel, a place of hope, legends, and comfort.
About Facing Freedom With A Little Fear
Warren was sitting in the house he’d come to know so well the previous summer. Matt’s parents were hoarders. Junk mail for Sam, Matt’s older brother, sat piling up on a dinner table with cereal boxes, computer monitors, and the cores of empty paper towel rolls. Shopping bags from the local Giant supermarket formed a taupe plastic mountain in front of a sliding glass door to the outside that no one could possibly ever open again. Warren shifted his eyes between the table and Mount Plastic as he sat on the couch that was torn, tufts of white polyester stuffing bled out of the back cushions. Warren was waiting for Sam to come down from upstairs.
Corroded Cotton Vines
Don’t ever let anyone tell you the 80s were good—they weren’t. Even when I was seventeen I was savvy enough to know this was the Greed Decade, The Me Decade, the decade of Baby Boomers who married far too young to get out of their homes where their fathers hid the nightmares of WWII in booze and infidelity. Then those Boomers were divorcing at Brenda and Eddie pace, knowing the king and the queen of the green could never go back there again. They left their kids at home and brought different women or men home every night. They worked out to Jane Fonda and cocaine was the party drug of choice. And all of us were domed by a fear that not even the President mentioned at the time—AIDS.
A Phenomenon Of No Natural Process
Flint Hill Review
Charlie Lowell opened the birthday present waiting for him on the table in the dining room. His father, Charles, had to be at Philadelphia city hall by 5 a.m. to give Mayor Moore his breakfast briefing on Boss Vare’s dealings with the shipyard. Charlie was used to seeing his father only on special political occasions, the once-a-blue-moon family affair that brought the extended Lowells together, and evenings when Charlie needed someone to be sure he wasn’t reading past his bedtime. Charlie’s mother died during his delivery, and on this his fourteenth birthday Charlie knew his father used the occasion less as an excuse to celebrate his son’s birth, and more of an excuse to not remember his wife. Charles was a father, never a dad, and most certainly not a Pop.
From The Cathedral of Denny’s
Following Route 66 west towards California in July of 2001, my cross-country travel partner, Kyle Borowski, and I are taking a trip back in time on the Mother Road. We stop in Kingman, Arizona, a typical large town along 66 that built itself up from the desert as the railroad was working its way to the Pacific Ocean. We gas up our van and spend very little energy finding a place to eat—the first place we see, Denny’s, claims our appetite.
The Wheat And Chaff Of Clyde
Palo Alto Review
I’m in Clyde, again, by myself. It’s June 2005. The last time I was here, downtown was being encroached by strip malls, but the center of town, Main Street, was holding on and doing well. There are a series of new roads, new bridges, and plenty of roadside construction items scattered around—orange cones, jersey barriers, Men At Work signs and flashing amber lights forming arrows pushing me left and right.
The Palo Alto Review was published by Palo Alto College.
Curing Acrophobia in the Twilight Zone
The Jackrabbit Trading Post is one of the most famous Route 66 icons whose mascot, a black silhouetted jackrabbit resting on a yellow background, sits on a decaying wood-plank billboard in front of the store with the words “Here It Is” in red Helvetica. My road trip partner Kyle Borowski and I arrive a little before nine in the morning. We’re heading west to California and learning that the Mother Road has experienced a lot of loss. The doors to the Jackrabbit Trading Post aren’t open yet, which is fine. I have plenty of time to take photos of the American Indian images painted on the building to hang in my living room back in Philly while Kyle sits in our very-used Astrovan and figures out how to get us to the Grand Canyon.
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Edna went into Blondie’s bedroom around six in the morning and found him on the floor as if he’d been crawling on his belly to a foxhole. His breathing was labored and his black pants were soaked with urine. Edna called an ambulance and they rushed him to Hartford Hospital where they did all they could, which wasn’t much considering Edna found him three hours after a stroke. Blondie spent a week and a half in the hospital and was then sent to a nursing home just outside of Wethersfield.
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In Clyde, Where The Wheat Was
Clyde, the inspiration for Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, offers the same cluttered feel Anderson dished out in his thinly-veiled-names tell-all novel. Main Street is empty. Sidewalks roll up by five o’clock on Saturday, with the only busy place — a bar, marked with a neon sign that says LIQUOR. Two mid-1980s cars are parked on the street. This is still Anderson’s Winesburg. The Clyde Enterprise building is closed. The small newspaper was once the place of employment for Anderson, nicknamed Jobby because of his need to work to support his large family while his father told tall tales of the Civil War at the local hardware store.
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The Hu Ke Lau Break-Up
The Vermont Literary Review
Dan Bulbo, a thirty-five-year-old tool and die man was sitting at the bar in the Hu Ke Lau Polynesian restaurant in Chicopee, Massachusetts on a Saturday night in July waiting for the bus to take him home. He didn’t want to drive to the Jai Alai game from Southington, Connecticut, but he did want to lay down some trifecta bets and get the hell out of his home. His girlfriend, Mary Cohen, twelve years his junior, booked the bus trip for the two of them, and a few Smirnoff and Cokes were going to cap the night.
The Ruins Between the Gates of Time
Concho River Review
Heading down Route 66 in July 2001, my road-trip partner Kyle Borowski drives west, and we’re being taunted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They’re looking for a reason to stop us. They trail us to see if the tags are stolen. They pass us on the left staring through the windows hoping to catch a seat-belt violation. I lean forward to look at them through the driver’s window and lock eyes with a female cop. I smile, and their car bleeds back into traffic. Kyle turns off the highway and takes a route past rows of strip malls into Oklahoma City’s downtown. There’s so much open space, and it seems things are placed in the most awkward places just to fill up that space — bronze statues of buffalo on the move under a highway overpass, a building site with a lot of dirt moved around but no wood, pipes or construction vehicles… TO PURCHASE A COPY CLICK HERE
American Road Magazine
Grocery deliveryman Charles Williams thought nothing of his routine delivery, until he found a dead body lying in the grass against a stone wall on the Ashton Estate in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Willie Lanzetti’s body lay in the underbrush a few feet away from the busy Sunday traffic on the Lincoln Highway on July 2, 1939. Willie Lanzetti’s body was wrapped in two burlap potato sacks bound with wire, his head wrapped in a turban of bloody canvas. He was the third oldest brother of Philadelphia’s most famous crime family and his death signaled the end of their reign as Philly’s first gangsters. TO SUBSCRIBE CLICK HERE.
Purgatory in the Tropics
In Lincoln, Illinois, at the junction of Routes 121, 10 and the former Route 66, I take lodging. The Redwood Motel is a visual echo of every fleabag motel you’ve seen in a horror flick. I walk to the front office protected by a sturdy wood door with the words “WALK IN” printed on yellow paper in dot matrix from a computer and taped just beneath the square window. The screen door squeaks and I grab a quick look and laugh to myself about the green plastic garbage can next to the front office that says “This is not trash” that has trash pouring out of the top (half-eaten hot dog buns, empty potato chip bags and three empty plastic bottles of Coke).
Ohio, 2001: The Wait at the Reed House
The Evansville Review
Kyle and I are greeted with signs — Ohio Welcomes you. Entering Columbiana County. Wholesale fireworks. Fireworks. On every side of us are rolling fields planted with green soybeans. We turn down Anderson Road and all of a sudden I am again caught with that North By Northwest Fear. Everywhere you look there is nothing but open field, the buzzing of insects and the occasional cicada rattle. The dips in the roads are deep and if it weren’t for the white noise of the van, the only other sound to hear is the fictitious impending doom. Heading up hill Kyle and I stop the van. Standing too tall on the edge of a field, by the road, are three wooden crosses, sentinels waiting for the damned.
The Dead of Winesburg
When you grow up in New England you are used to shifting terrains — hills level to occasional flat land, roads follow the awkward curves of rivers cutting over mountains. A trip across Route 4 from Farmington, Connecticut to Sharon, Connecticut can show you the damage of the Earth’s last great ice age. But in Ohio, God has firmly put his foot down and made flat land so the horizon seems like a painted backdrop to a 1950’s Technicolor movie. You are surrounded by blue sky, apple orchards and fields growing wheat or soy, and in Clyde, Ohio, on the edges of Route 20 (The Oregon Trail), those fields are separated by various buildings owned by the Whirlpool Company.
Conelrad in the Wigwam
Lost on Route 66
My Route 66 travel partner, Kyle Borowski, and I arrive at the Wigwam Motel of Holbrook, Arizona, July, 2001. This is one of three Wigwam Villages remaining in the United States. The first Wigwam Village was built in Horse Cave, Kentucky by Frank A. Redford, which featured one large central teepee building surrounded by six smaller teepee guestrooms. Four years later, Redford built another in Cave City, Kentucky, this time with a larger central teepee housing a restaurant and gift shop surrounded by fifteen smaller teepee guestrooms. In 1940, two more popped up, one in Bessemer, Alabama, with fifteen guestroom teepees and the other in Orlando, Florida, double the size of previous Wigwam Villages, thirty-one guestroom teepees. Our Wigwam Village is No. 6, Holbrook, built by a local motellier. Chester E. Lewis, in 1950. (The seventh one was built in Rialto, California around 1949, also by Redford, for himself.)…
Route 66 in the Land of Lincoln
The Rockford Review
In Lincoln, Illinois, July, 2001, at the junction of Routes 121, 10 and the former Route 66, my travel partner Kyle Borowski and I take lodging. The Redwood Motel, not listed in any of our guides, is a visual echo of all the other mom-and-pop motels scattered on the forgotten routes of the United States, but Kyle and I are in the mood to risk it since our decent digs in the Chicago Days Inn last night, so we park the van and let her tick. We walk to the front office guarded by a sturdy wood door with the words “WALK IN” printed on yellow paper in dot matrix from a computer and taped beneath the square window.
There’s a desk about four feet from the entrance. To the left is a living room with mid-70’s furniture. The TV airs local news. Next to the desk, propped against the wall, is a shotgun. A man with black almond eyes and a dark complexion walks out from a doorway behind the desk to the left.
He asks, “You want a room?”
He makes me fill out a card — name, address, phone number — and asks for $40. He hands me the key to room six and walks back through the doorway to his kitchen or bathroom. I grab a few technicolor postcards in a holder on the wall above the desk, real old-school souvenirs.
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The Berkeley Fiction Review
I was feeling sick myself at that point and concentrated on my mail pile. I wanted to vomit sushi all over Cadence. Nothing worse than a woman married to her job and using it as a dating agency. She tried to get a date with me the second week after I was hired. I declined five dates and then she started talking to me like I was the lowly floor mail boy. Whatever.
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