Burnt Dam Hotel
“ROW LOW,” she said to my mother.
“ROW LOW,” she said again.
My mother just stared at her.
“ROW LOW,” she said, another time, a little bit louder and a little bit slower.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said my mom.
Her sister repeated it and this time she turned up the volume another notch and she slowed the word down even more.
Susie waited with her hands on her hips for a response.
“Susie, for Christ’s sake. If I don’t know what a ROW LOW is, it doesn’t matter how loud you say it.”
This conversation took place in the hospital waiting room, during a dark time. It seemed that my grandmother was soon to pass and to pass their anguished time, her adult children were, sitting, staring, pacing and going on occasional trips to the vending machine.
“Fine,” her youngest sister said. “Then, I’ll just go and get some.”
Susie returned a few minutes later and held up a package of Rolo’s.
“Oh, it’s candy?” said my mother.
I heard the, ‘Your Mother Didn’t Know What a Rolo Was, story’, for the first time, while I was sitting in the lobby of the Burnt Dam Hotel.
We, as in, me, my sister, my cousins and my aunts, all about fell off our chairs.
And we are quite a talented group. I do not believe that anyone spilled a drop or stained the carpet, with their Bloody Mary.
The Burnt Dam Hotel, belongs to my aunt and uncle.
It is a house that is made into a hotel.
Most of the time it is just a house.
A very nice house.
But, when my Aunt Vicki and her sisters, as in my mom and my Aunt Susie, invite their daughters for an annual get together, it transforms into, the Burnt Dam Hotel.
As cars pull up and females hop, out with suit cases and grocery bags, my uncle moves his shit into the little doll house, in the back yard.
And that is where he stays.
No, he is not taking communion in there. That’s an antenna.
We were still cracking up.
“How does anybody not know what a Rolo is?”
My mom tried to defend herself.
“I thought Susie was trying to say, Rumlow.”
“What’s a Rumlow?” said my sister.
“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha,” burst out my mom and aunts.
“Rumlows are people. They used to live down the street from us and they had a bar.”
“What was the bar called?”
“Is that snow?” said my Aunt Susie to my mother, one Friday afternoon, on their way to the Burnt Dam.
Susie was manning the wheel in the car in front of my sister, Louisa and I.
It was a clear, blue-sky, June, day.
And it was about seventy-five degrees.
“No,” said my mom. “It looks more like foam.”
“Is that that fog up ahead?” I said to Louisa, who was in my front passenger seat.
And then the car in front of us disappeared into white.
And then we did too.
And then we all popped out the other end.
“What the hell was that?” we said, as we pulled up in front of the Bunt Damn Hotel, an hour later.
“The temperature dropped to fifty-two degrees in that stretch,” said Susie. “We thought it was snow or foam.”
“Snow?” said Louisa.
“Foam?” I said.
Louisa and I looked at each other.
“They call that white stuff, fog and it’s been around a long time.”
Louisa and I prefer room number six. Room number six has a large screen T.V., up on the wall.
Well, that’s what we thought.
It turned out that it was just a big window.
But at least you can watch birds fly past it.
“Was that a robin?” I said.
“No, it was flying too fast,” Louisa answered.
We learned Grandma Noe’s, “It was flying too fast to be a robin,” quote, right out here, on this beautiful, Burnt Dam Hotel, back deck.
Unfortunately, there was no bird watching for Louisa and I, on our last trip to the Burnt Dam.
We were forced to sleep out in the lower lobby, on a blow up mattress, because my youngest cousin, was as pregnant as a house.
Now, even though this is a real nice hotel, the staff is, piss poor. And that is stating the fact, as sweetly as possible.
Only once, in all of our visits, do I recall any room service. A cute little, skinny, lady, who also happened to be my aunt, delivered coffee to Louisa and I, who were the last guests to get up that morning. The twin beds in room six, were hard to leave, especially once the robins started sauntering past the window. I called the front desk with my cell phone and asked for a refill. The woman who answered, sounded a lot like my cousin. She was very professional and she said, “Of course. I will send somebody in with that right away, ma’am.”
She was full of shit.
I called back and I got the same lady and I said, “There isn’t a Gideon’s Bible in our room.”
And then my aunt, the one who owns the place, came storming in. She dug through a cluttered closet and threw a hard cover of The Old Testament at us.
I have written a few complaint letters, but they don’t do any good.
If I call to offer any helpful suggestions, I always get the same lady at the front desk.
“Okay ma’am,” she always says.
To the owners credit, there is no Burnt Dam Hotel, website. So, they never have to read a bad review.
The two spacious bathrooms, have to be shared by all of the guests. They are way down the hall from room number six. And there are always people sleeping in the lobby or making a racket out in the kitchen.
Yet, we go back every year.
Well, their continental breakfast is pretty good.
If you can flag down a waitress, that is.
And, oh, the memories.
“What are you looking for?” Louisa said to me, late one night, sitting on her bed.
I was pawing my suitcase to pieces.
“I can’t find my underwear,” I answered, still digging. “I don’t know what I did with them.”
“What’s that on your ass?”
“Oh, there they are.”
There was the old, crooked Y, because of a funky arm, dance, that my mother led, in the back room of the Sunset. I think we named it, The Car Wash.
There was the surprise wedding shower for Susie, who’d been married about two and a half decades and three months.
There was that night we were studying our driver’s licenses. I thought mine should have said, hair color, L’Oreal 5 1/2 medium golden brown, with brioche highlights. But it just said, brown.
And then Susie pulled her license out, to see what hers said.
Oh, no. Hang on. Wait a minute. Her purse was not there. Her purse was still under the table at the, EVER LOVIN’, Hillcrest.
“Another round of red headed sluts, please.”
What a shock for the Sunset bartender, when my sister-in-law, walked in the door, went straight to the bar, leaned over the counter and kissed him.
This was followed immediately with a blood curdling scream.
Our uncle walked up behind the bartender. This could only mean one thing. Whoever she’d just smacked right on that giant mustache, was not our uncle.
“Well, I thought he looked different,” she said.
Sometimes it is best to put on your glasses. Even if you think, that you can see fine without them.
My uncle doesn’t even have a mustache.
And, oh yeah, the year of the perfect hotel storm.
Right down the road from the Burnt Dam Hotel, was another house turned into a hotel. And it was booked with guys on motorcycles.
And one of those guys on a motorcycle took a shine to Millie Noe.
“Come on. I will take you for a ride,” he says.
“No,” I said. “Not unless you take all of us,” and I pointed to my rouge relatives, throwing back red headed sluts.
When we got back to the Burnt Dam Hotel that night, my aunt said, “Millie, if they show up tomorrow and you are in bed, I will kill you.”
Do you see what I mean? That was the owner of the place, talking to me like that.
“They’re never going to show up,” I said.
It sounded like a raging thunderstorm or maybe even a tornado was headed toward us.
But no. It was eight Harleys.
My uncle even came out of his little house.
Never did I imagine, that I would see my mother fly past me, on the back of a motorcycle, hanging onto a some gorgeous guy.
And, never could I have dreamt that on the very same day, Louisa and I, would win three hundred dollars, on the third pull of a lever.
And never would I have thought, that singing French songs, out on a lake, every time somebody used the pontoon, port a potty, would be so much fun.
There is really nothing like it.
“Everybody now! Tari has to pee.”
“Allouette, gentille allouette. Allouette, je te plumerai.”
“What corner do you want to lay in?”
Those words came out of the tiny mouth of my ten pound aunt Susie and she was aiming them at a guy who absolutely had a gun rack in his truck and he probably had those ball sacks, swinging from his rear bumper.
Well, he didn’t kill her, but, the next morning we were pretty sure she was sucked down the shower drain.
She was taking a real long time in there.
Hang on. Here she comes.
One of her eyes is a teeny slit and the other one is shut. So, she’s all good. Everything is fine.
Sadly folks, the Burnt Dam Hotel is for sale.
There is however, a clause in the contract, “The Burnt Dam Hotel, will be open to the Noe women, one weekend every year. It is the only hotel that will let them in.”
That is what the lady at the front desk told me.
So, if you are interested in making some kind of an offer on the Burnt Dam, let me know.
But, just to warn you, my uncle says, he is not going to give it away.
And once my mom learned what a Rolo was, on that anguish filled day at the hospital, several years ago, my grandmother decided to live for another year.