After one long night of camping we stayed two nights at a motel called The Virginian Lodge. It was an enormous rectangular complex, brown with white trim, old, with one layer of rooms facing the inside courtyard and another layer facing out. Behind it was an RV park, all part of the same Virginian mini-metropolis. “The pool is open, but it’s cold,” they told us when we checked in. I never verified this. The air conditioning in the nice dark-paneled, thick-curtained room was good enough for me. The fixture in the tub was loose but everything else was in order. Taking a shower after even one night of camping is glorious, that feeling of taking soap in hand and vigorously disinfecting everything.
We didn’t have to go far for dinner since The Virginian has its own restaurant, a big saloon type thing with a bar and a pool table. Def Leppard played on the jukebox, then Creedence. Some dudes were playing pool, and I checked them out to see if they were going to be scary but they were ignoring us. Bob and I sat down and Tor went to order and get drinks. I asked him to get me a vodka on the rocks, which is a delicious drink, very popular in my family, where we call it a “see-through.” Tor and Bob had margaritas. I don’t understand cocktails of any kind—it’s like drinking juice, and I just chug them because they’re so tasty and then feel sick.
In the heat and the altitude, my see-through worked its magic fast. I wasn’t the only one enjoying cocktail hour. A woman about twenty five in a short flowered sundress showed up at our table and hovered over us. “I love your T-shirt,” she said to Tor. “It says “ASS” on it. It’s so cool.”
Tor’s T-shirt, which I got for him, does not say ASS . It says ASSATA TAUGHT ME, and refers to Assata Shakur, a black revolutionary whose work Tor has read and liked. Tor told her about Assata Shakur and mentioned that she was Tupac Shakur’s godmother. “Oh,” she said, “I know who he is.” She told us how she had been working every day for 14 days straight and this was her first day off. We said we were happy for her. “What’s the back of the shirt say?” Tor turned around and she read aloud: “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
She nodded and took a sip of her drink. “Cool!” she said. “Enjoy your dinner.”
Dinner was chicken sandwiches. I ate a lot of chicken sandwiches in Jackson, because there were so many buffalo statues and drawings everywhere, and they reminded me of cows, and I did not want to eat cows, because the expression in the buffalo’s eyes reminded me of the expression in my dog Merle’s eyes. I know chickens also have expressions, I am sure soon enough these too will break my heart. Creedence came on the jukebox again and Bob told us the story of how he got out of the draft. I’d never heard the story before and I enjoyed it.
Our room had two beds and Bob slept in one, obviously, and Tor and I slept in the other. I didn’t mind sharing a room with Tor’s dad. When Tor and I started dating, he told me, “If we are together for a long time you will end up sleeping in a lot of motel rooms with me and my parents.” Luckily it’s just fine, kind of cozy, really.
In the morning I asked the clerk at the reception desk why the motel was called The Virginian Lodge and she told me that the owner’s wife was from Virginia and her favorite book was The Virginian, “So he got a two for one there.” At some point, she repeated this, so I guess I got a two for one as well.
We admired some salmon mounted on a piece of wood hanging on the wall under a shelf of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. “Oh yeah,” she said, “The owner had a really good fishing trip. He was very proud of himself.” I asked her if the owner was a nice guy. “I only met him once, and he’s dead now,” she said. “But his wife is alive, and she’s very sweet. But boy, did he ever talk about that fishing trip a lot.”
We also asked about an eagle statue on the reception desk.
The eagle’s name was Air Force. “The artist made 50 of them,” she said. “This one is number two. Number one is in D.C. – the capital. We aren’t a capital or anything like that, so I don’t know why we were so lucky to get him.”