I didn’t eat at Gaylord’s as often as I would have liked, or introduced as many friends to it over the years as I should have, something which weighs heavily upon me every time I walk past the now empty restaurant, and the For Sale sign out front.
In recent years my pilgrimages to Gaylord’s had trickled to about one visit a month, and when I talk to others, I understand that for many of them, once a month or so may have been their set routine, as well.
Which is pretty stupid, especially for me, because there are lots of worse restaurants that I frequent a lot more frequently, just because they may be more “convenient” on any particular day. Places where the food isn’t nearly as good, or the atmosphere is antiseptic, or you aren’t on a first name basis with those who work there.
Restaurants which play Fox News on the overhead TVs or persist in relentlessly playing rock music from the 1950s and 1960s, as if the establishment is some sort of old folks home.
I became lazy.
Gaylord’s was one of my favorite places to take someone to interview fort an article. It was very relaxing, and the acoustics were great. It was a great place just to kill time before an interview, drinking coffee and thinking about nothing in particular - which I do very well.
And Gaylord’s had a Club Sandwich which wasn’t to die for, but to actually kill for.
When Gaylord Willis was still with us, I could rarely “escape” the building without buying one of the books that were for sale by the door, a book he knew that I would enjoy reading.
Most of the time, he was right.
After he died, Hiram Brandon maintained the same high standards.
And, damn it, I miss the dogs that roamed the premises, and came out to investigate customers.
Times like this, when an institution has fallen by the wayside, call for a certain eloquence from all of us, and I think it can be best summarized as:
This really sucks.
And then there were the days when we were gonna maintain the “purity” of Dickson Street
Years ago, way back in the 20th Century, someone involved with the Downtown Dickson Enhancement Project assured the good folks of the Fayetteville community that no chain restaurants would ever be allowed to set foot on Dickson, that the character of the area would be preserved.
Everyone took heart from that simple statement.
Of course, that was way back in the 20th Century, long before it became a law that you can’t mention Dickson Street without also using the expression “Entertainment District” - see, I just did it - and whatever character it had at the the was deemed unprofitable.
A Three Dog Life: Today is Everyday
each of us, there are specific medical conditions that frighten more than most. Some fear blindness, some particular forms of cancer, while others fear what may happen when one's body and mind became separated, when we are no longer in control of our own memories, of our own emotions.
As she recounts in A Three Dog Life, some years ago Abigail Thomas's husband was in a terrible accident; the dog was off his leash and he ran after him. Like a scene in a bad movie, he was struck in traffic. The result - traumatic brain injury. For those lucky enough never to have known anyone who has ever had such injuries, they are marked by paranoia, rages, aggressive behavior, psychosis, and hallucinations.
But there is even more. As she writes:
"Rich is locked in a single moment and it never tips into the next. Last week I lay on his bed in the nursing home and watched him. I was out of his field of vision and I think he forgot I was there.. He stood still, then he picked up a newspaper from a neat pile of newspapers, held it a moment, and carefully put it back. His arms dropped to his sides. He looked as if he was waiting for the next thing but there is no next thing."
And that is not just Rich's life, but Abigail's as well, now. In this short but powerful memoir she recounts the emotional terror she herself feels when she realizes the doctors are right, and that he will never get better. We are there with her when she writes of the shame she feels when she realizes that she simply can not care for him at home, and that he must be cared for in a number of facilities for the remainder of his life.
It might have been so much simpler if his mind were completely gone, if he had no memory of her at all. But he still knows her, and still loves her; he just has no knowledge of anything outside of today, the here and now.
But somehow she survives, even while suffering from Survivor's Guilt. You have to, after all. You take what comfort you can, in whatever form the universe provides.
And Thomas learns to cherish the small things in life, the most important of these being the dogs who serve as her companions throughout her ongoing ordeal. One dog we have already met; he is the dog who slipped his leash, that Rich was chasing after in the dark that night. Two others come to her over the years.
It's not a simplistic Walt Disney/The Sun magazine version of "My wise dogs pulled me away from the abyss." Rather, it is just the quiet story of how caring for the animals - and their companionship - have helped to ground Thomas in the years since her husband's accident. She humorously recounts their basic conversations: "Good dog, good dog."
Rich will never get better, and Abigail Thomas accepts that. But she has also learned to accept two basic truths, that she wishes her husband were whole again, and that, against all odds, she loves her life.
This is not a schmaltzy book. It is, instead, an emotionally rich and complex memoir that will leave the reader stunned with its honesty and self-awareness.
And if some passages don't bring you to tears, you had better check your pulse, because you may not be alive.
Quote of the Day
When we cannot bear to be alone, it means that we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves. - Eda LeShan