A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads
A Mellow Monday Morning Memo for a Lazy Labor Day Weekend
Ray Bard is the owner of Bard Press, widely considered to be the most prestigious publisher of business books in America. Like you and I, Ray Bard lives a frantic, hurly-burly life with far too much to do each day and too little time to do it. Recently, Ray clicked my email address by mistake and I was accidentally treated to a rare insight into the mind of this most elite and powerful of publishers. My only question is “Who is Maria?”
Back today and swamped…. Sorry to be so long getting back to you.
On Tuesday I woke up and asked myself, “Do I have to go to work today?”…the answer was “no.” Ate a quick bite of breakfast, pointed my auto west. One advantage of living on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country is that when you head west, you’re almost immediately in “The West,” and can feel the spirit of the space.
There is an old used bookstore about 200 miles away in a town called San Angelo, where stacks and stacks of books from one doorway to another lead to little, crowded rooms packed with tomes from the past. Those books were calling me.
The Texas Hill Country is full of rolling hills, live oaks, cedars, rocks of all sizes and lots of livestock, with the occasional human here and there. Most towns have seen their day…shriveling in the hot sun…peeling paint on the houses, some vacant, some not.
I stop for gas in tiny Eden, which has a new penal facility — Texas is big on locking up folks who used nasty drugs and do other things that offend sensible people — then pass through booming Brady, pop. 5,946, which is getting ready for its annual World Championship Goat BBQ contest on Labor Day weekend. As I get closer to San Angelo, the Hill Country begins to turn into farm country…long rows of cotton, all green and alive, as far as the eye can see on this flatland fed with water gushing forth from hundreds of feet below the surface.
Soon arrived at my old haunt. Talked awhile about the Wild West with the bookstore owner, then asked him where I could find the best chicken-fried steak in town. He directed me to the Dunbar CafŽ. Sure enough, a sweet, red haired beauty wearing blue jeans and a big smile brought me two huge slabs of breaded beef with lots of gravy on the side. At the end I was “plumb full,” but was somehow able to manage a slice of their homemade coconut cream pie.
One of the things that wandering off like this does is to let me see how the rest of the world lives. How that cordial waitress treats everyone like we are really being served. An old couple, barely able to walk, joins the bustle of the place, looking for their usual table. My red-haired angel of country Epicurean delights treats them really special, making sure their every need is catered to…their wish is her command.
The sun is still up and I’m hankering for the wide-open spaces again, so I head south to see how far I can make it before it’s time to pull over for the evening. Local travelers in pickup trucks, old beat-up autos from Detroit (not many foreign cars out here), and clean Cadillacs wave a greeting as they approach. Usually just a forefinger raised off the steering wheel or some other small signal that says “howdy.” An important protocol of the road out West.
I’m about out of gas (me, not my auto) by the time I hit the city limits of El Dorado (pop. 2,019). The Shaw Motel (only one in town) has a Vacancy sign lit so I pull in. The squeaky screen door to the office leads me to a small registration window that has an old-fashioned ringer on the side. I push the white button and it goes zzz…zzz…A little white-haired lady, no more than four feet tall and at least eighty years old appears and gently offers me her evening greeting. I, in my best West Texas manner, offer her the same and inquire about the cost of lodging at her fine place. She replies “Twenty-five dollars and forty-nine cents”. I say, “Mighty fine,” and fish my money clip out of my pocket (people out here are partial to cash). She offers a receipt, which I decline. As I head out the door, key in hand, she tells me to be sure to let her know if there’s anything that I need. I tell her thanks, but that I’m pretty sure I’ve found what I needed.
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