Monday, October 17, 2022

Can't Help Myself: Something Sweet in Kenton, Ohio

Imagine, if you will, that you are me. You are driving north from Columbus to Detroit for a quick one-night trip. You are tired, and because your week dramatically changed how the weekend would go, you are maybe not 100% looking forward to this trip. You know you'll be glad once you're there, seeing loved ones and friends, doing important work that you care about, but now, 50 minutes north of Columbus, grey clouds hanging low, you're mostly feeling lonely in the driver's seat of the car.

Then, out of the corner of your eye you see something you wouldn't have expected in one million years in Kenton, Ohio: a record store. You flip the car around and park, eager to see what the used record scene in the perfect geographic center of northwestern Ohio. You also have to pee.

It is important to note that Kenton, Ohio is beautiful. Even on a gloomy day its idyllic courthouse square has all the charm of the best one-stop towns in the small parts of large places. Here's a picture I didn't take with Kenton's claim of fame:

I hastily stroll around the corner to pop in and what I discover is called Knox 'em Dead Records. I'm greeted by a guy I'll learn is named Eddie. He looks like Santa Claus with no beard or gut. Really, he looks like the dude from that I Think You Should Leave skit about jazz, but older. Unlike that guy, he's extremely nice and gives me a little tour of the shop, which was good because the shop is laid out really strangely. 

The front room is his desk and a lounge area: there's two nice retro couches and a bitchin' hi-fi set up with speakers taller than me. Something jazzy was playing, but before I could place it, he took me down the hall into three separate rooms, which he called "classic rock and cassettes," "jazz," and "bullshit." I'm not gonna tell a record store guy how to mind his business, but I couldn't figure out the sorting practice: INXS had LPs and tapes in all three rooms.

After crate digging, I picked up a weird promo copy of Historic Performances at the Monterey International Pop Festival featuring a side a of Jimi Hendrix and b side of Otis Redding. Couldn't put it down. I also found a $1 copy of The Doors by The Doors, which boasts a pretty solid track list for a single dollar bill. As Eddie and I chatted while I was checking out, I couldn't help but notice the proggy, kinda groovy sounds coming out of that hi-fi. I went to look at it, and, well, see for yourself:

Look at that album art! Behold! Jade Warrior's Last Autumn Descent. I asked Eddie if it would kill his vibe to sell me the LP right off the turntable, he chuckled and said, "I have ten of those upstairs I can't ever sell 'em." He's only got nine left now.

I walked out of there feeling good, feeling ready for the road again. And then I remembered I needed the bathroom. Behold, again, meeting my gaze from across N. Detroit St: Jitterz Cafe! Surely they have a restroom, and surely I could use a cup of coffee.

I went in to find three women sitting and visiting at one of the many family-style tables set up in Jitterz' huge dining area. One of them, it turns out, is the proprietor. She jumped up and took my order and while she was brewing a cappuccino, a slice of pie caught my eye. I hoped it was rhubarb but I didn't want to guess, "Is that cherry pie?"

"No, Fruit of the Forest," she said.

"What's that?" I asked. She smiled.

"Well, its a mix of bramble berries, apple, and rhubarb." My excitement must have betrayed me because she continued, "go grab a seat I'll warm you up a slice and bring it to your table."

So I did. And it was good. Little surprises are nice when we can find them, especially in those lonely moments on the road in the middle of nowhere, figuratively or literally, it's nice to stop and say hi. Have something sweet, vibe to something new, find something wonderful you would have otherwise passed right on by.

Also: holy s**t that was a good slice of pie.

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