Good Enough

Pop

I read the daily Catholic bible readings to keep myself mindful of the bible. I’ve been reading the book since I was nine years old when it was thrown into my lap, “Here, boy! Figure it out!” After the age of ten my bible reading intensified when I made the mistake responding to my father with, “Well, Pastor said…” to support what I thought of the pastor’s sermon. My father bellowed as he pounded the table and the walls shook with each howling vowel, “Goddamn it, boy! God gave you a fuckin’ brain! You take that fuckin’ bible and read it for your goddamned self because no man in a suit with a title behind the pulpit is going to tell you how to fucking think!” To avoid another ear breaking rebuke, I read the bible—I read everything—to be ready to defend myself in a debate with my father. He never cared when I disagreed with him, but he did care if I read books, chewed on the ideas, and made my own conclusions. I am unable to recall how many times I have read the bible cover to cover between the ages of ten and twenty-two, but I know between twenty-two and now (forty-three), I have read the bible fourteen times, different translations,  and different versions such as NASB, KJV, NKJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT, ESV, and CEB. I also devoured church history, read the Church Fathers and Doctors, and Protestant theologians and thinkers. This list isn’t to impress anyone but to illustrate how much effort I put in to my intellectual survival at home. My father did not suffer fools kindly. Especially in his own home.

Two of my father’s favorite verses were Acts 17:11,”These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures everyday to see whether these things were so (NRSV),” and 1 Peter 3:15, “[B]ut in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you (NRSV).” For my father faith wasn’t an emotional longing resembling a child’s longing for a blanket—though, faith can have that beginning—but faith also had an intellectual component to the practice. Faith wasn’t to be accepted blindly and without question, but to be constantly challenged and critiqued. My father was never afraid where his questions and criticisms took him, but would approach his faith from a different perspective when life took him to unfamiliar territory. He faced the theological struggles with the racism of his hometown and his family, homosexuality within the church, and the goodness of God in light of his own cancer.

My father, Delman Earl Smith, was born and raised in Cambridge City, IN about an hour east of Indianapolis off I-70, and close to the Ohio state line. It’s a quaint town with old style brick buildings on the strip, and has a coffee shop, Main Street Sweets Café. The café has real hard wood floors, homemade candy and pastries, and an eclectic coffee and tea selection. For the most part, people are friendly, but there is an undercurrent of tension. Pull away the cover, and Cambridge City is unwelcoming to people who are different in their skin color, sexuality, or religion. That difference of religion can be outside Christianity or that difference can be a Christianity outside of Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity. Ronnie and I would go to Cambridge City because that was the closest location of US Bank. Before the election, Trump signs and Confederate Flags decorated the lawns and houses around town. Driving through there I would be slightly apprehensive because my Buddhist Prayer Flags were visible in the rear window. This was Autumn of 2016, and not much has changed since my father grew up there in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I don’t think he adopted the culture. After he married my mother in the 70s they moved to the Irvington neighborhood on Indy’s East side because that is where my mother’s family lived. My father adapted quickly to the culture, and if you talked to him you would never know he had a rural background.

In the first few months of living in Indy, my father experienced culture shock because he had never been around so many people of color. The only people of color he saw were the migrant workers who came from Mexico and worked near his farm. He would tell me he never got a chance to know the migrant workers because they kept to themselves. How my father described his family and the people in Cambridge City, I think the workers kept to themselves for safety. My father’s family had low, but firm, opinions about any person who wasn’t white and didn’t speak English. Such a vulgar irony because, in the 1880s, my father’s great grandparents came to Lebanon, IN from County Cork, Ireland, and they were told they could be Catholic or they could eat—Hoosier hospitality at its finest.

One Sunday afternoon, after church, my father and I sat in his truck waiting for my mother and brother. On the side of the building a door opened, and out came an interracial couple—a black man holding the hand of his very pregnant, white wife. My father knew his family’s opinions on such relationships, but he never met, let alone saw, an interracial couple. He nudged me, and nodded in their direction, “Hey, boy what do you think of that?” I looked over, and I remembered the story I read in Genesis about Abraham looking for a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham didn’t want his son to marry any of the women in the land they occupied because they did not follow YHWH so he went to the people of his home country. My ten year old mind reasoned, “They’re both Christians so it’s ok.” My father, satisfied with my answer, nodded, “That’s good enough for me.”

In the early 2000s a new church was started near Broad Ripple on 56th & Keystone called Jesus Metropolitan Church. This was not only affirming, but it was a church for the LGBT community. They welcomed everyone. Nowadays they are called Life Journey. When the church first appeared they advertised in signs and flyers, “Would Jesus Discriminate?” The church also rented billboards throughout the city citing verses depicting homosexuality in the bible. The signs briefly unpacked the cultural idioms to support their claim, and also cited scholarship countering the stringent interpretations of Leviticus, the epistles of Paul, and the epistles written in the name of Paul. Jesus Metropolitan was met with hate, and there were people who made the effort to paint slurs on the billboards. The billboards near our home on 30th & Franklin and near my father’s work at 54th & Keystone were no exception. Both the signs and the slurs bothered my father. One Saturday afternoon, I was visiting with him, and he asked me what I thought of the signs. I told him that if the church had done its job loving and accepting people as Jesus did there wouldn’t be a need for a church such as Jesus Metropolitan. “Alright, that’s good enough for me.”

With all his flaws and issues, my father wanted to be like Jesus. For him, Jesus was the end of the disputes over doctrine and interpretation. That being said, how would he have responded to me coming out as a bisexual who favored men over women? I know it wouldn’t be easy for him concerning the love he had for his son and the love he had for scripture. It’s one thing for him to accept Jesus Metropolitan Church as brothers and sisters in the faith, but the issue would be at his table eyeball to eyeball when I visited. I think the process would be similar to the debates we had when I started getting tattoos. He and I would debate the bible, we would swear and roar our scholarship because that is our thing, we would take a break, he would research my position and I would research his position, and we would finally come to an agreement. But I chose to get tattoos. In the end, it’s all about Jesus. If Jesus would never reject me, then neither would he.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer it was too late. The cancer began in the prostate and went to the bones. When the doctors caught it, the cancer was already at stage four and metastasized in his legs, lower back, ribs, and the back of his skull. His belief and faith had been knocked to the flow now that he faced a painful death. He began to question if he ever truly believed or if God was simply an accessory to make life a little tolerable. My father decided he needed to time to think. He put away his bibles and stopped going to church. He wanted to make sure what believed was real, and if he gave my brother and I something real—and he didn’t want any distractions. He didn’t set any time limit. He knew his time was extremely short, but, if necessary, he would go to the grave questioning. He knew if he saw God or if there were nothing, he would have his answer. This period lasted three months, and he walked away from that period with a faith that had substance and was his alone. I thought there was something commendable in what he did. During a crisis such as cancer people will run to religious belief because of the fear of death, the fear of annihilation. There is nothing lesser or greater in running to something out of fear. It’s human. We all do that. My father wrestled with the idea of never again existing, but the thought never discouraged him. Regardless, if he saw God or ceased to be, my father would leave this life honest.

During his final months we had some real discussions that would start with my questions. One particular question I had pulled no punches. I sat on his side of the bed while he put away his clothes in the closet. “Hey, Pop. Are you afraid to die?” I heard the click of the hanger as it rested on the bar. My father exhaled, “Well, I don’t want to leave you kids behind.” I chuckled. We’re in our thirties, and he still called us kids. “I get that, but I want to know if you’re afraid to die.”
“Ah, well, no, I’m not.” He went back to hanging up his clothes, and I wondered when my time comes if I would have the same level of courage.

I have been on and off the road since I was nineteen, and I met many different people all over the United States, but I have not met anyone who comes close to the same level of integrity, faith, and resolution as my father—and I’ve met some good people. We had a rocky relationship most of my life, but reparation began in my late twenties when I began to see my father as a person full of complexities and nuances, and the last three years of his life our relationship was good. Talking to so many people all over the country, I realized how lucky I was to have Delman Earl Smith as a father, and on December 9, 2009 the world felt the loss I still carry.

 

Advertisements

Mass

Kerouac Traveling

I would not consider myself a Kerouac scholar, but neither would I say that my knowledge is based in fandom. I came across Jack Kerouac in my early thirties when I discovered the Buddhist teacher, Noah Levine who mentioned his affinity for Kerouac’s spiritual adventures. His book’s title, Dharma Punx was inspired by Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. Because of his life and search, I found in Levine a teacher I could relate to and could translate spiritual teaching in a way I could apply to my own life. When he mentioned Kerouac, I decided to read On the Road, Dharma Bums, and The Subterraneans in one weekend, and I discovered another kindred spirit.

I have been on and off the road since my early twenties. Before I drove back and forth across the country, most of my traveling had circulated around the Midwest: Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois. I had a good friend Pete whom I considered closer than a brother. He lived in Belleville, IL, and moved his family to Vandalia, IL, but worked in Effingham, IL. Whenever, I became weary with Indiana, I would go out to him for a few months for a change of scenery. The people, I did not care for because I found them narrow in their view and wildly bigoted. Everything had to be white and shallow including their faith, and they called me “city boy” as if that were insulting to me. Yeah, I grew up in a city with diverse groups of people and religions, and I went into other places like St. Louis and Chicago to experience their culture. I’ve a broader view of people, but I can see how I’m beneath small town Illinois where the residents barely graduated high school let alone touched a college application.

Before Pete got married we had an apartment in Belleville, IL about a mile from East St. Louis. In the early to mid 1990s East St. Louis was more dangerous than it is now. If you were white, and found yourself on State St after 6:00 pm, you would be shot. Pete went to St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church when he was in high school, and the church had a bus driver who made that mistake. He drove the church bus, and the words “St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church” were a bold red against a white bus. You can’t miss it, especially at six in the evening. The bus driver was on State St., and just as the bus lurched there was a shotgun blast shattering the window behind him. Similar violence spilled over into the parking lot of our apartment. Drug deals would go so bad so often that the gunshots were part of the evening air as crickets. No one ever bothered us, and the way our apartment was set up a stray bullet wouldn’t hit us. The times we had off work we would go to this place called Fultz just outside Millstadt with our three friends, Ashton, John, and Steve.

One evening at 11:00, Steve, Ashton, and John stop by to see Pete and myself. They wanted to go to Fultz. Pete and I didn’t know what they were talking about, but an evening ride to climb a steep hill sounded like fun, so we went. We arrive at Fultz close to 11:30. We had to park off the side of the road and climb a steep hill to get to the foot of the bluff. By the light of Steve’s flashlight, we could see trees and low branches.  We used the thick, medium-sized trees to hoist ourselves each step. On my back I wore a backpack holding a Bible, Hawaiian bread, grape juice, plastic cups, and two packs of Camel Wides cigarettes which caused a slight, yet manageable imbalance. I looked to my right, and I see Ashton holding a tree with his right hand and a cigarette in his left hand. He began hacking and complaining about being out of breath. “What do you expect genius? What kind of idiot lights up a cigarette while climbing?!” In between hard breaths he says, “Up yours, Ron! I wanted to smoke!” The other guys started taking jabs at Ashton.  Ashton fired his sarcasm through seemingly-incessant coughing. The jabs and laughs continued until we got to the foot of the bluff, but our climb was not yet finished.

Between us and the top of the bluff, there lied a cave with its entrance six feet above us. Steve told us we need to climb. There was a four foot wide crevice where we had to push our backs against one side and our feet against the other using the grooves in the rock to craw up to the cave’s entrance like deformed spiders. Steve and Pete were the most limber and were the first to climb to offer a stable hand to the rest of us. I tossed my backpack to them and made the climb followed by John and Ashton. When we were all standing in the cave, Steve told us to follow him while keeping our backs against the wall. The path was a semicircle, four feet wide and slippery from the dripping water. Steve kept his flashlight on so we could mind our steps, and keep from falling.

Once we were out of the cave, we took a small path to the top of the bluff. The path was dusty and had pebbles and patches of grass which helped give our steps traction. We found a flat place overlooking the trees and open field, and a train in the distance moved quietly with the breeze. Under the stars I unpacked the bread, grape juice, cups, Bible, and cigarettes. I lit up a smoke and passed the pack and lighter to everyone. Ashton unwrapped the bread, tore a piece and handed the bread to the others. Pete did the same with the cups and grape juice. We were lost in smoke and conversation when Steve opens my Bible and reads Psalm 8: “What is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man that you care for him? For you have made man a little lower than the angels.”

In the vastness of nature, we felt the weight of the words, and inhaled the tobacco in silence. We were miles away from any place resembling a city. The moon was full and its light gave our skin a bluish white tint glowing like somber candles in an empty church. The sounds we heard in the silence were a mix of chirping crickets, howling dogs, and yipping coyotes meshed together as if all three were having a secret conversation. The air was heavy with silent reverence, and our makeshift camp thickened with an unknown presence. We felt no dread, and took turns reading the Psalms by flashlight to honor what had come into our circle. After an hour of our own communion we make the descent, and arrive at the apartment at 3:00 in the morning. We were still in a state of quiet awe. We did not know what to expect going to Fultz, but we met something on the bluff. Call it God, call it the universe, call it whatever you want. In the presence of nature and each other we encountered something beyond ourselves that allowed us to see ourselves in the world and with each other. Fultz became synonymous for the unknown, a hidden self, made sacred with a name lost in the night’s translation, and after reading On the Road, I look back at Fultz and realize I had touched Dean Moriarity’s “IT.”

 

A State of Denial

18051623_10211545819574900_1522813429_n

Indiana is a state that works…for some, but not all.

I was laid off my position at the help desk at Fastenal. Fastenal is a company that specializes in selling various tools and parts for any mechanical need. The corporate headquarters are in Winona, Minnesota, but the main delivery hub is located in Indianapolis’ northwest side. The function of the main hub is a transfer point between hubs across the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, and Southeast Asia. What that means is that a Fastenal site in Singapore needs a part delivered, but the only location of the desired part is located in Texas. The order is placed, and the hub in Texas delivers by truck to Indianapolis where the Indianapolis hub processes the order, then ships out the product to Modesto, CA. Afterwards the part is placed on a ship or plane and delivered to Singapore. Depending on customs and maintenance issues on the trucks driving across the country, the order can take up to two weeks to deliver; but that’s if everything goes smoothly. Many times along the way a part is misplaced because it will fall off the pallet or someone put on the wrong shipping information. Through messages, searches in the hub, and pinpointing where the mistake occurred, responsibility is assigned, a hub pays for the mistake, and a new part is quickly processed and sent on the next truck. This is a general operation, but the actual job is quite tedious. My position on the help desk requires intense training because there are intricacies to the position that a person off the street cannot pick up by simply doing the job. I made costly mistakes often, and I made use of information given to me, but I wasn’t making a connection. I was told that I’m not a good fit and shown the door.

That’s something I heard throughout my life in the various positions I have held, and it’s something I hear now as I send out my resume and go to interviews. I’ve also heard that I’m not a good fit for any company as I traveled across the country, and the deeper implication is that I am not fit to exist, but should feel grateful to get a front row seat to watch life.

 

Oh my god! Thank you Jesus! Pennies from Heaven! I’m sure you can feel my eyes go to the back of my skull, fall down my sinus cavity, and empty out my mouth in a disgusted sigh.

There are various reasons for why I don’t fit, but the infuriating one concerns my academic background. Employers take one look at my B.A., and tell me they have nothing for someone who majored in literature and religion because they do not have a place for such a person in their office. What that tells me is they never went to college, or if they did they wasted their time on a business degree or a specialized degree in the sciences. My degree is a humanities degree, and is universally applicable because of the work I put into earning that degree—not to mention I had been on the Dean’s List for half my academic career and graduated with a 3.415 GPA. I had scheduled bimonthly meetings with my adviser and department chair concerning my senior thesis on Jack Kerouac, and many impromptu meetings in between when I ran into some difficulty in the research and lost the will to live. I had to revise those thirty-six pages throughout my senior year. In addition to my thesis, I still had to turn in quality papers in my religion and literature classes, and those were five to ten page papers, two to three times a week; and I was not permitted to slack. During my research, I had to verify the quality of what I read to substantiate the claim of my thesis. Those skills I learned during my time in school can be extrapolated into any environment unlike a business or science degree where my options would be limited. This post, however, is not about me begging for a job, but dealing with what seems like a never ending search of finding a place where I am a good fit; but that fit is not limited to a professional position.

I don’t need much in this life to be happy. If I have a small A-frame house in the Pacific Northwest in a remote area surrounded by trees and mountains with a short distance from the ocean, I would be good. A quiet place to meditate and write poetry away from people and systems distracting me with what they think I should be doing. I do not care about the goals of Corporate American culture nor its values, and the buzzwords of synergy and positive thinking receive an eye roll from me. These employers telling me I am not a good fit for their culture is a compliment, but I do have to eat and pay bills while I find my place. I could be rattled with worry, and forcing myself into an idea of what I need to do according to some arbitrary social expectations, but I’m busy looking into unconventional angles. What other alternative is there, honestly? I have tried to navigate through life according to what is considered usual, and I have experienced failure; but when I failed in unconventional means I was still able to eat and be relatively happy.

When I say “happy,” I’m not talking about the pleasure rising up and down your body beginning as a flood at the top of your head and tingling in your toenails like an orgasm when things are going the way you want them to; although, having that consistent experience for about a month would be a nice change. Happiness, as I’ve come to understand it, is a contentment resting in your core and stabilizing your entire being with balance and gratitude even as things are going terribly wrong. I’ve worked in corporate settings because I felt I had to for the sake of being married, buying a house, a new car, etc., but I never lasted long due to an overwhelming misery. Returning to school, and backpacking throughout the United States, I regained something that I thought I’d lost: a fresh insight into what it is I really want, and, by default, what I don’t want. I don’t care about the house/condo, I don’t care about the big paychecks, I don’t care about the newest car, I don’t care about making money for a corporation, and I don’t want to buy into the lie of denying myself until my mid-sixties to really start living. I want what I have in this moment. In this moment, I have my writing, I have my books, I have a love of sitting down with people and listening to their interesting stories, I love traveling with all the things I need in a rucksack, and I have my friends and a spouse who enjoy me and the things I write. I also have the opportunity to network with local literary people, and learn from them how to keep improving my art and broaden my audience.

My not being a good fit for one part of the world does not mean I am not a good fit for the entire world. I’m here. I exist. I have to say something. I have to contribute. Otherwise, what is the point of me getting out of bed in the morning? Yes, my statements are quite literal because you are reading these words I feel compelled to write, but people say something every day as they walk out the door to their respective jobs and vocations. Could I draw a paycheck from my words so I can pay the rent and eat something besides lentils? Yes, but my quality of life does not rest on whether or not a paycheck happens. As I continue my search for a job, I can still write, but I can also do some volunteer work until such a time I am employed and have to rearrange my schedule. I could easily get lost in my head and choke on the stale air because I don’t have a life similar life as my friends, or the lives I observe as I walk about downtown; but comparisons are odious, and I need to get out from time to time and engage the world I observe. I am a part of this world because I am alive, and I am interconnected to all sentient beings as I take a breath. Besides limiting my energy in building up the quality of my own life, how I am improving the quality of life for all living beings?

The Smiths On the Road: Nebraska

IMG_2300

(The Platte River, I-80 in between Lincoln, NE and Omaha, NE)

 

Until 2015, I had never ventured west in the United States beyond Missouri; but not for lack of trying. I had a car, and I spent many times in the year making the four hour trip from Indy to St. Louis on I-70 to visit friends who lived in the area. There were talks of continuing west to California, but nothing materialized as money became tight, and friends started families. As the years passed, I lost my car because of expensive repairs, and I lost to my fiancé’s car after she ended our relationship. I returned to school at Ivy Tech in downtown Indianapolis by using the bus or my bike, and after two years there, I transferred to Blackburn College in Central Illinois. How I got to Blackburn with no car was a mixture of luck and a friend who happened to be generous with his time and money. He made the round trip from St. Louis to Indy, picking me up, taking me to Carlinville, and after I unloaded, he returned home. I focused on school, and I burned the lean tissue as I maintained a 3.5 GPA on my remaining three years. I met Ronnie during that time, and we started attending Federated Church in Carlinville where we found a spiritual home. It was such a home that the congregation did our wedding and reception, and donated quite a bit of money for us to go out west. One week after our wedding we were on the road.

We left Carlinville a few minutes after nine in the evening, and our first stop was Lincoln, NE—a seven hour trip without stops; but the drive took nine hours so we could stretch our legs and back. I’ve never traveled through northern Missouri, and as we drove closer to I-29 we saw quite a few blood stains on the road where semi-trailers hit deer. Travelling throughout Indiana, I saw my fair share of deer blood and remains on interstates and highways, but nowhere near the frequency I saw in Missouri that night. My wife and I were anxious, and we were on high deer alert. Except for the lights from the truck drivers making their run, we had nothing to check for roaming deer. Our nerves were frayed, and the shredded ends were as velcro keeping our eyelids open. Not until we saw the lamp posts of Highway 2 outside of Lincoln did we start to breathe easier; and we finally arrived to our hotel as the sun began to rise. We fell into our beds hollow, but grateful that we ended the first leg of our trip unharmed.

Lincoln, NE is a small city with over 200,000 people, and the streets are laid out as a grid so it’s next to impossible to get lost. Because of the size and layout most of the driving is in town, and access to I-80 becomes a slight hassle especially when there is construction. Ronnie and I woke up and ate a little food before we checked out of the hotel to begin the next leg of our trip to Riverton, WY—a ten and a half hour trip across the plains. After navigating out of the construction on 56th St, we got on I-80. Nebraska, outside of Lincoln, is quite flat, and the sky is overwhelming. There are hardly any trees to cover anyone from the watchful clouds and they silently move across the plains, and in the distance, sky and earth touch; however, as we drove further into Nebraska the landscape wasn’t so flat and eternal. Ronnie drove for the first couple hours, and we noticed the hills were rolling with green waves of crops and country houses. Watching the land from our speeding car, America seemed to unfold, flowing to the Pacific; but we were in the plains, and it was tornado season.

The sky before us was a bluish white with little clouds speckled throughout the horizon, but to our left, on I-80 East, the sky was dark and menacing. We saw white lightning streaking across the sky and ripping the air with its charge. We felt the wind pick up, rocking our rented SUV, and for the first time of my road-going, I felt fear. I’ve only read about tornadoes on the plains and looked at pictures of shattered houses and gutted farms. Living in Indiana, I’ve witnessed a few tornadoes, and living in Indy, there were plenty of places to take shelter. Ronnie experienced the same thing living in Bolingbrook, IL. She and her family were not far from Plainfield, and that area had been dubbed “Tornado Alley.” She lived in a suburb of Chicago, and, like me, had plenty of places to hide; but this was Nebraska. The only urban areas in that state are Omaha and Lincoln. There was no place to take shelter—not even a ditch, and the closest house was a mile away off the interstate. We had no idea what to do but keep driving and watch the sky. Thankfully, no funnel clouds formed and we let out a sigh of relief with all of Nebraska.

The drive from Lincoln, NE across the state to the Wyoming border is a five hour drive, and the drive is across Middle America. Until I went through Nebraska the longest, boring state I have driven through is Pennsylvania. The state is a straight, flat line of nothing until you get to the mountains separating you from the New York state border—a drawn out, uneventful bridge between the Midwest and the eastern seaboard.  The Midwest is as equally boring, but there is the added variety of going through different states in a couple hours. Driving from Indiana through Illinois on I-74 can be a dull drive, but the cities from Danville, IL to Peoria are forty-five minutes apart, and intervals of stopping and snacking soothes the numbed mind. Not so with I-70. The drive from Indy to Terre Haute is a little over an hour depending on the presence of the state police, but once you pass the Wabash River, Illinois becomes a dreary, three hour trek to St. Louis. Nebraska, though, is a different story.

After four hours of driving through nothing, Ronnie and I were hungry. Ronnie looked on the GPS to find any local places to eat, and discovered a Perkins in Sidney, NE. Perkins is familiar, and sitting down in a place Ronnie and I frequented in our respective cities took our mind off the road—we still had another six hours of driving. There isn’t much to Sidney except for a few restaurants and a Walmart, and the roads are in disrepair along with potholes in the parking lot; however, people were kind and not at all aloof towards us. As we were seated, Ronnie and I saw this Perkins had potato pancakes. She never had them, but I haven’t had any in years. My great-grandmother would cook them all the time when I lived in her home, and she had the recipe from her German in laws. I was given the option of ketchup or applesauce to put on my pancake, and I opted for the applesauce. Ketchup on a pancake did not appeal to me; but I love a good cake, and I insisted Ronnie should try them. “If you don’t like them, I’ll eat them, and you can order something else.” The cakes came out with the right balance of firm and fluffy, and I assumed the cooks came from some old school, German stock. We took a bite, and it took me back. The cakes were just like my great grandmother’s, and Ronnie liked hers as well. I prattled on to Ronnie about those warm childhood memories, and I told our waitress to praise the cooks because they knew their way around a proper potato pancake. We lingered for a bit longer, and after we paid for our food, Ronnie and I walked around with our cat before we got into the car. We were an hour from the Wyoming border, and sky was a ruddy purple as the sun began to set.