J. B. and I got off late on our drive to Wyoming, a week ago last Saturday, but we made good time and found ourselves just south of Salt Lake City at sundown, when we decided to stop for the night. J. B. had his heart set on hideous fast food for dinner, and had already exacted a promise from me to dine at a Denny's or a Panda Express, if we could find one. The problem turned out to be finding a motel that would accommodate a smoker. I had forgotten that Las Vegas is one of the last remaining American cities, surrounded by a new country that is becoming more and more like Saudi Arabia in its intolerance for deviants from the state-approved social norms. (To me, Big Nanny is just Mohammed in a Walt Disney Halloween mask.)
A clerk at a Holiday Inn Express who turned us away also helpfully suggested that we look for an old, cheap motel, and at the next exit we spotted a Super 8 which looked old and cheap. In fact it turned out to be . . . The Perfect Motel.
It was clean, had refrigerators in the rooms, and cost $54 for a night's stay. It felt like a motel from the Fifties but it had wireless Internet access and a gym with a treadmill, where J. B. could indulge his mad habit of walking for an hour each morning. It had smoking rooms and it was a short walk away from a Denny's. Yes, a Denny's — J. B. was beside himself with joy and anticipation.
We toasted our good fortune with spirituous beverages before strolling over to the Denny's for dinner. The place was filled with people who looked as though they had been assembled by a Hollywood casting agent to represent Middle America Today:
A big family gathering of a dozen or so people — they seemed to be celebrating the birthday of an older woman at the table, who wore a plastic tiara.
A young woman in an evening gown with three men dressed casually. When asked (by J. B.) why she was wearing the gown she said she was celebrating “a very special graduation” but wouldn't elaborate further. I speculated (privately) that it involved a traffic class connected to a DUI arrest or an AA milestone of some sort. If it was something glorious, like graduation from a beautician's school, surely she would have bragged about it.
Three teenage girls having dinner with two teenage boys in tow — the girls looked self-possessed and ironic, the boys looked totally clueless and bewildered.
Four teenage boys having dinner by themselves — they looked like vaporous lost souls from a region of Hell unknown to Dante.
Back at the Super 8 we slept soundly and were on the road again bright and early.
Simple hospitality at a fair price is a beautiful thing, and I have to confess that the food at Denny's wasn't bad at all — except for the grits. What was I thinking?