Montpelier by night…

I left the Skinny Pancake a little before closing time and walked to the edge of town. The river was gray and still and a bit disappointing, so I didn’t stay long. As I turned back towards town, a car stopped in front of me, and an gentleman with a long gray beard climbed out. He wished me a good evening and asked me how my day was going. I told him that it was going a lot better than I had expected. He remarked on my camera and told me about his niece who was going to school to learn photography. We got chatting and he asked me if I played pool. There is no such thing as a co-incidence, right? He seemed interesting, a character who either knew he was one or was completely oblivious, I’m not sure which. I grinned at how he peppered his speech with expressions like “oh lord have mercy”.

We ran across the street – him rather impressively on his crutches – and stood outside a bar called Charley O’s. Mike asked me if I had ever been in there, and I responded in the negative, claiming that I had hardly had the time in the two hours that I had been in town.

In we went. It was a regular old bar except that the walls were adorned with scenes from old movies, photos of Elvis and framed pictures of people – perhaps old patrons or people passing through? There were also many pithy sayings, one of which made me laugh – “No life stories please.”

We got beers – Long Tail ambers – I found out later that he paid for without me knowing. The bartender and the other people in the bar appeared to know him pretty well, so I guessed that he was a regular there. We got a table pretty soon too. Playing pool was fun as usual. I’m a terrible player, but it’s one of the few games I can lose at without feeling competitive or upset about losing at. Not that I lost – he had many opportunities to win, but he kept prolonging the game so that I could win. It was so transparently obvious and good-natured that I couldn’t help laughing.

I wanted to stay and play some more but I knew I had to get an early start the next day, so I made my apologies and started to leave. He was headed to the back of the bar with a cigarette, so I said I’d join him for a little bit before I left. We joined two other girls outside – Sarai and Maggie. We smoked and talked about Vermont, Montpelier, the history of the bar we were at (apparently it dated back to the war between the states!), Lebanon, NH and the country Lebanon (Mike co-incidentally happened to have a tourism brochure for Lebanon that showed women in the 60s in swimsuits), the civil war, slavery, emancipation, eugenics at the University of Vermont, Alexander Twinkle, cotton gin, and finally Bing search. They seemed amused when I told them that I worked for the search engine.

I finally dragged myself away from their excellent company and made my way back to Gamble’s.

The night sky was studded with thousands of stars clearly visible in spite of the lights in town. I love walking at night through the shadows, when it is cool and quiet and the air is fresh and clean. The world seems like a different place – darker and more mysterious.

I passed tourists walking down Skate Street, teenagers grouped around doorways, couples kissing in dark corners, a cat padding softly across the street. I paused to wonder at how I had just experienced a sliver of these people’s lives, how through a chain of incidents my life had intermingled with theirs even if just for a few minutes, and suddenly it seemed right that I was there tonight to feel and experience all that I had.

I snuck into Gamble’s quietly and went upstairs to my room. My bed has fluffy pillows with pillowcases made of knitted lace – they remind me of the ones my mother used to make when I was little. I think to myself that I’ll sleep well tonight.

Thus ends my first day out on the other side of the continent. It’s been a good ride so far. I cannot wait to see what the next few days bring.