Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuck in Kimball

Eight hundred miles from Boise, the 80 WEST was shut down. The third show in three days cancelled all from the remnants of the same storm. The most frustrating part about the temporary metal fence that stretched the width of the highway and read in bold black on yellow “CLOSED”, was that the snow had stopped. It had all melted away, but there had been two bad accidents up ahead and The State, or whoever it is that decides these sort of matters, figured they should salt the roads. At least there was a Super 8 motel right off the exit. We passed the twenty or so big rigs that were parked up along the side of the exit waiting for that moment of freedom. Behind the desk of the Super 8 was an Indian Woman, her Son, and a White Woman in her 60’s with a thick graying Blond braid running down the spine of her Christmas sweater. The Indian woman was dressed in all black and had a deep red dot in the middle of her forehead accompanied by large cheap earrings hanging from her ears. “That’ll be one hundred and twenty five dollars please.” We had stayed at a Super 8 the night before for sixty bucks right next to a different stretch of the same highway, which had been closed due to heavy snowfall. These people were obviously taking advantage of the situation, but we knew it was gonna fill up quick as more people hit the blockade, so we decided to stay. We asked, for good measure, about the price of the motel across the street. They told us it was closed, and annoyed by our hesitation asked us “Do you want a room or not?!”. Bad people. But we booked our one hundred and twenty five dollar double anyway and head across the street to the diner that was connected to the “closed” motel. Once again, just for good measure, Griffin and I decided to check out the “closed” motel. They weren’t closed.

Two grandparents ran the motel. Their grandchildren played with their dogs in the lobby. We told them that the people who ran the Super 8 had told us that their motel wasn’t accepting any more guests and the Elderly man behind the desk laughed and rolled his deep set eyes with the melancholy disappointment of a man who was beyond anger because he had encountered his neighbor and competitors dishonest tricks so many times before. He reminded me of a cowboy. His wife however was not eased by her familiarity with the duplicity. In fact she was fueled by it. She came out from behind the counter and placed her hand on my shoulder and told me if we could get our money back their price was forty-one dollars flat. “I can’t believe those people taking advantage of our good young Americans like that. Every time. Every time. It makes me so angry. If I wasn’t sixty-eight years old I would go over there and sock her in the face. They are bad people, and don’t think I haven’t seen em do it before. I’ll be damned if they do it again…” she went on to herself. As I stepped out the door to see if I could recover our $125 she turned to me with her short spiked grey hair and said “were not all towel heads you know” and laughed. I guess you get one or the other. Nice racist grandparents who have no real grasp on what the derogatory term they’re using actually means. Americans who believe they represent America with their honesty, or their enemy, The "Foreigner", who by conning innocent people and thriving are actually embodying the American Dream.

Wylie and Taylor headed in to the Diner, Griffin and I gave them our orders and drove back across the street to settle matters at the Super 8. They told us they "honestly thought the place across the street was closed". OK… They asked us how much we were gonna pay at the other motel, when we told them forty-one dollars they immediately offered us our same room for fifty-five, which was obviously the actual price of the room. We said no. They didn’t want to fight with us in front of the other people in the lobby they were preparing to con, which made it a surprisingly easy refund. I’m not a fan of dishonesty, but I have to say, that team, the Indian woman, her son, and the Old gray lady really knew what they were doing.

The diner was connected to the hotel. A jaundice like yellowed white covered the stucco walls, and where they met the ceiling was a thinly spread line of pale Christmas lights. There were no families inside, just a few older couples, a bunch of lone truckers, and a few groups of truckers who seemed to be old friends. A group of four big guys sat in the booth behind us. I ordered a hot chocolate and a cheeseburger. The four guys sitting behind us were loud, and big in everyway. Two of them had fantastically full and animated moustaches, one of them wore a blue baseball cap and a clean face, and the other one had a goatee. They were friends, and their loud friendly arguments about the benefits of a ham and cheese versus a grilled cheese had a sort of non-Jewish Larry David or Woody Allen feeling to them. The waitress brought us waters and our food. The burger sucked. I’m not sure if it was the leftover snow outside, or it was just superior cocoa, but the hot chocolate topped with whipped cream was the Best I’ve had. I have been known to exaggerate, but if you’re ever stopped in Kimball Nebraska I’d recommend stopping for some Cocoa at the Kimball Diner. It even comes with free refills.

Next to us was a Middle Eastern man of about fifty, sitting alone drinking coffee. One of the Truckers behind us turned to him and asked, “You doin’ Good?” the man replied “Yes”. “Your’ wife love you?” the mustached trucker continued, “No” the middle eastern man said. “Your’ kids love you?” “No” he said again. “Well that ain’t too good then” he said and turned back to his three buddies. The Middle Eastern man returned his attention to his coffee. I’m not sure that he understood them.

We heard the truckers joking about the road’s closure, and I asked them where they were going. They said California. Griffin asked the one with the blue baseball cap what they were carrying in their trucks “Some real good weed…” he said under his breath, laughing. One of the mustached men said he was carrying TV’s. They told us they were sorry we were from Los Angeles. We get that a lot.

The Middle Eastern man waved to the waitress and handed her a Twenty Dollar bill. She told him the coffee was only Fifty-Eight cents, and he waved her off and left her with a hefty tip. I’m not sure if he understood her either. The Grandmother from the motel walked into the Diner, saw me and walked over. She stared out the window behind us at the Super 8 across the street. She turned to us “I’m not prejudiced ya know. They’re just not good people, and they did this at that last rodeo too, chargin One Fifty a night. I’d go over there and show her if I wasn’t afraid to drive in this weather. I’m gonna get her you know. I may be old. I’m 69 but my lawyer is the county municipal judge. I can get her. I don’t like people like that. Me and my Husband are real American’s you know. Honest. I’ll get her.” “I know you will.” I said. She walked away and quickly was busy on the phone.

The truckers asked us if we were in a band. People always seem to be able to tell. “You guys sleeping in your van?’

“No were staying at this motel right here. Forty One bucks” Griffin said.

“A double?”


“So… well, with us and you guys there’s eight of us. That should work… You guys mind sleeping on the floor” Said the one in the baseball cap, as the waitress delivered him his oversized serving of fried chicken.

We laughed.

“You guys got beer in your room?” he continued.


“That ain’t right.”

They all ended up buying a copy of our cd, and as we left the Goateed trucker gave us the biggest compliment a real American man can give without losing any of his masculinity. “You know, you guys are alright.”

At the cash register the Grandmother approached me again. “I’m sorry that I’m a bigot.” I didn’t really know what to say. I wasn’t exactly ready to tell her she wasn’t, so I just told her that the people across the street weren't honest and I was angry too.

I thanked her for letting us stay at her place. She said “you’re welcome”. I thanked her for being honest, and she said “what else can I do, we’re Americans you know. Don’t ever forget that, you kids hold honesty dear to your hearts and you’ll be alright.” Her tone was sweet but beaten down. As we left she stood staring across the dark street at the Super 8. One hand covered her mouth. The other was wrapped tightly in her underarm, trying hard to keep it still from shaking.


  1. Great story and North Hills is a beautiful album. Very moving. Hope to catch you guys in Little Rock. Stay safe out there.

  2. great show in Austin.
    Keep it up and come back soon.

  3. Many of the better stories are rooted along the interstates; that one was well told.

    Would love to have you visit Rochester so I could hear "That Western Skyline" live. Rick Danko would approve of that tune.

    Another interstate story: http://anothermanspills.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-left-d.html

  4. Fucking Kimball. I got stuck in Kimball for 2 days while hitch hiking across the US in 1988. Cops tried to arrest me for trying to pick up a girl in stressed out leopard skin tights. No ideas she was 15. Eventually I escaped only to be picked up by a trucker who wanted to confess that he just had cheated on his wife with a transsexual in Portland.

    Fucking Kimball. Kerouac got stranded in Kimball, too. Now you.

    Looks like Kimball where we all pay our debt to karma.

    Good tunes. I'll keep playing 'em.

    But let me ask -- when the hell are you coming to my town?

    Stephan. Economics Professor. Bogota, Colombia.

  5. Nice photos and I enjoyed the fine storytelling. cheers.

  6. Great story...see you in Bham, AL Friday night!