Chapter 12 A Bed of Roses

Local Drizzle in the Valley

The sister of an old high school friend was living in another town a few miles away and she invited her brother and me and a couple of other folks to a party. This was an all-day affair with beer and a band. At one point in the afternoon a fellow nearly indistinguishable from Bozo the clown came flying over a jump in the motorcycle track riding a Volkswagen-powered trike and landed with a thud and a stalled motor near the beer keg. The track and trike belonged to the owner of Koontze’s Rejuvenation Joint, a local garage of some renown. Bowler hat, bib-overalls and flaming red hair, Bozo was actually one of the many folk musicians in the area. He was known to play the jug in a local washboard band, not to mention a mean lead guitar but the nickname Jug stuck and so he was known till his dying day.

As the trike landed, Jug dismounted walked over to the keg and poured a cup of beer. From there he joined the band already mounted on flatbed truck, picked up a guitar, someone counted off the beat and launched into a rendition of the Grateful Dead’s Sugar Magnolia. I was hooked. I had found my new home. First impressions are important but they aren’t everything.

When the feed company’s hay barn was full in late summer, I drew my pay, turned in my hay hooks and loaded my motorcycle in the pickup. My first stop was the colorful hippie restaurant on Main Street of the town near the party. It had no phone but I noted the phone booth out front was in almost constant use. I’d heard about the hamburgers and ordered one along with a chocolate shake.

The owner was a young woman and a force to be reckoned with. While I was eating, the night maintenance man came in for his paycheck. He and the owner argued about cleaning the mops and she fired him on the spot. As he stormed out the door she turned to me and said, “Ya want a job? Night maintenance and salad prep.”

“I never worked in a restaurant,” I said.

“I see ya been in the Army, ya musta pulled KP. That’s close enough. Pays two bucks an hour and free meals.”

It was a chilly September day and I hadn’t remembered to take off my Army field jacket before I got out of the pickup. Busted! I thought about the job for a moment, wondering if that might be a way to meet some of the locals.

“Well?” She said. “Take it or leave it. There’s another hippie behind you that’ll do it if you won’t.”

“I’ll take it.”

“Good. You can start as soon as you finish lunch. Make sure you clean the mops reeeal good when you’re done.”

Looking at the old building from the street side there didn’t appear to be a level spot anywhere. The tongue-and-groove floor inside was no different. Before the hippies took it over thousands of logger’s heavy-booted feet had grooved the floor under the tables. There was a still a sign next to the front door that said “No Corks,” a reference to the sharp-soled boots loggers wore in the woods. The false front was painted barn red with a huge hamburger in R. Crumb style and surrounded by blue stars floating around it. On the sun shade over the front windows was painted a twenty-foot silver-blue spoon flanked by the words “Shakes” and “Fries.”

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