November 25, 2015: Road Trip - Day 2

Larry, my town tour guide
Day two of our Thanksgiving road trip lacked roads and travel. This was our 'packing and preparing' day. We stayed stationary, enjoying the ambiance of small town living.

The setting was Monterey, Indiana. I am told the current population is 125. But in it's heyday, the count topped 250. Much has changed in these thirty years from it's peak, I've been told. The grocery store and butcher are gone, but the corner bar and post office remain.

My day started with a 6 am wake up call from my father-in-law, Larry. I had promised to join him for his morning coffee at the local tavern. This was his daily routine and I gladly tagged along. The promise of freshly brewed coffee at a bar was both alluring and inviting.

Corner Tavern at far right, end corner
As we walked through the streets of Monterey, Larry updated me on the buildings still in use and those long gone. The latest casualty, following the migration out of Monterey to neighboring cities, was the town's grade school. But the library and bank remained opened for business and per Larry's assessment, both have continued their fine level of service since the town's heyday.

Darlene is the proprietor of The Corner Tavern. She greeted us at the end of the long bar, along with her other morning patrons. Dark coffee simmered on dual pots with area news blaring on the bolted TV screen. The place was churning with early morning activity.

The quiet walk through the town and meeting the usual suspects sipping coffee had my brain churning with memories. I couldn't quite discern whether I felt like I was visiting Mayberry or was part of a film segment out of movie, Fargo.

And then I just took it all in. People cycled in and out the front and side doors over the course of the
The morning crowd
next hour and a half. Larry later told me that although unspoken, the seats were designated. When I inquired on whose seat I occupied, Larry explained that Karl had recently passed away. Larry had taken over Karl's spot, leaving the open seat for me.

The circle of life even exists in a small town bar.

Each person pouring their first cup would immediately do the rounds, filling the cups of others. And each coffee drinker had a story. It is amazing what you learn over coffee conversations. With every new face, Larry would provide an introduction, including their name and where their home was located in relation to his.

There was the RN filling her to-go cup as she ran out the door. Then there was Don, sitting directly across from me. He and Larry went to grade school together. They laughed about Don's tardiness to school back in the day. He had chores to do. And Larry was quick to point out that there was evidence left on his boots when he did arrive at school. Purportedly the principal didn't care.

Everyone knew that Larry had a road trip planned with his son from Denver. Many helped him load equipment out of his garage the day prior.

During that hour and a half, I never gave a thought to my cell phone link to the outside world. My typical top-of-the-morning routine. Instead I just sat back and took it all in. A cup of brewed coffee steaming out of a traditional restaurant ceramic cup. No green lady embellishing a white disposable cup with my name written on the outside. Not today. Not in Mayberry.

With refills abound, there was lots of talk on Notre Dame football, Indiana basketball, and the fate of the collapsed building across the street. We all just shared life for a while.

It made me miss my own parents and my deceased grandparents. Of those days in the past when adults took coffee breaks and the best conversations were face to face. It made me miss my own hometown and piece of small town charm. But most importantly, it reminded me of how life is all about human connections. Everyone has a journey and a story. You just have to take the time to stop and listen.

Our walk home. Library to the right.


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