Let The REAL Summer Games Begin…

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother when I was a wee lad (yes, I actually was a young, innocent, non-snarky child once) living in St. Catharines, Ontario; my time with her shaped my life in ways I never could have imagined at the time.

Then again, what child ever realizes just how important their childhood is going to be to the rest of their life? And if you can show me a child who is that self-aware, I’ll show you a kid who’s wasting the best years of their life. (And who will most likely wind up supporting a Trump presidency.) At any rate, among the memories that have stuck with me through my life is one revolving around a shop on the corner beside my grandmother’s apartment building.

This corner store predated the cold emotionless aura that mega-stores like Walmart give off. It was run by two German immigrants; they were the kindest souls you could ever hope to meet. Clad in crisp, white aprons, they greeted every visitor to their store with a genuine smile. One of them always had a broom in his hand, sweeping away like nobody’s business.

They had survived the horrors of the Second World War to build a new life in Canada. Their hearts were overflowing with hope and it showed.

One of the greatest joys of my childhood was digging a scoop into one of the many barrels of shelled peanuts laid out before me. (Yes, stores used to do that.) The idea of having a little power was intoxicating. I can still hear the mechanical hum of the freezers and pop fridges. The sound of the wooden floor creaking beneath my feet will stay with me forever. In my mind’s eye, beams of sunlight shine through the windows and illuminate the whole place, filling in what dim overhead lights missed.

It was decades ago. It was yesterday.

I haven’t been there in forever. I visit it every day.

Of course, no one has been there in forever. It vanished years ago, a victim of “retail evolution”. But the kindness of the proprietors – and the point of this little trip down Memory Lane – has remained with me all the days of my life. I look for it in the faces of the travelers I deal with daily.

Sometimes I find it.

Sometimes I find its polar opposite.

I’ve met saints and sinners. Billy Joel was right: the sinners are much more fun, but I’ll stand with whoever puts the greenbacks in my hand.

I’ve served angels and demons. Angels really aren’t all that angelic; they just look good compared to the demons, who, by the way, usually aren’t as demonic as society would have you believe. True evil is barely recognizable to the common citizen.

Every day I see a different variety of deadbeat dad, the type that is there without actually being present in the moment. As I scribble this in a notebook, a grown man, a father of three in fact, is so engrossed in his phone he refuses to acknowledge the gift Fate has seen fit to bestow upon him.

His children, bursting with life, are racing around the lobby like little cherubs on Red Bull. His impossibly-breathtaking wife is sitting quietly on a bench watching her flock as her spouse ignores the real world in favor of a piece of technology that can never say, “I love you, Daddy” with any real emotion. Part of me wants to walk over to him, pluck him up off that bench, throw him against the wall and thrash the living spit out of him.

However, since I enjoy being gainfully employed, I won’t.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, in eighteen years, I’ve met travelers with whom I’ve established real friendships. Granted, these relationships are few and far between; most guests are in and out of my life in a flash.

Some guests leave things behind. Lessons I’ll carry forever. Stuffed friends. Empty bottles. (So, so many bottles.) Toys of all varieties. (But we’ve discussed such enough recently, haven’t we?) DNA. In some cases, travelers arrive together and leave separately. On more than one occasion, in zip ties. (Handcuffs are just for hookers now, it seems.)

As the summer in Niagara Falls springs to life so does my world. Human beings come in shapes and sizes. Each has a moral code, though for some, they’re more like guidelines – which they never follow. People are capable of anything, of this I am certain. The point is, in a one-thousand room hotel in Niagara Falls anything can – and often does – happen. And I’ll be there to observe, record and slightly judge it all.

Join me, won’t you?

See you in the lobby, friends…

images“What do you think, Julia… will this be the summer The Hook finally gets enough rope to hang himself with?”

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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25 Responses to Let The REAL Summer Games Begin…

  1. Paul says:

    Ahhh, the selection of humanity that passes before your eyes must be wide and varied Hook. It is a treat to read your posts and get to see the real natures of humans. Keep up the great work. πŸ™‚

  2. Loved this – one of my regrets is that i didn’t tell my grandfather how much he meant to me before he passed away. I still remember what his house looked like…
    I was on the bus the other week and there was a lovely little girl who was really well behaved (which is unusual where I live). She was trying to talk to her mother, who was on her phone, and all the mother did was ignore her and then eventually tell her to shut up. Let’s hope she doesn’t regret that later on when her girl is old enough to realise that she is wasting her time in trying to have a conversation with her…

  3. 1jaded1 says:

    I’ll be here.

  4. Mark Myers says:

    I have a wooden floored hardware store that I visit every day but has been gone for thirty years. Thanks for the trip there…

  5. Allie P. says:

    Loved this! My grandparents used to take us to a nearby general store when we’d visit that was lined with “serve yourself” barrels full of hard candies and nuts. Wonderful stuff.

  6. shimoniac says:

    I think we all had grandparents like that. I remember going to visit Dad’s parents, Grampa would save his Coke bottles and let my sister and I return them for the deposit. (This is going back a ways) Then we could buy whatever junk food we wanted with the proceeds. The General Store, that’s what it was called had little paper bags and penny candy, hand-made suckers, all kinds things to rot your teeth with; and it was all half-gone by the time we’d walked the three blocks back to their house. Ah, the sweet taste of nostalgia.
    Thanks, Hook.

  7. It has been quite a year, hasn’t it?… even a year in which I died, but that’s for another time. In any event, my friend, you are right, so right, in how we leave and return on so many levels. I hope you are making loads of greenbacks… you deserve it.

  8. Tara says:

    I love those reminiscences. I have memories of time gone by… like the corner candy store that stood in a typical neighborhood with penny candies and the like. That was over 40 years ago, and long gone. Being in the restaurant business, I encounter my fair share of humanity… though you by far have the more interesting selection overall. Ours are mostly tame nowadays, not like in the early years where guests tested us on the daily (with exception of the 8-top that reamed me out in front of a whole dining room because they had been drinking since 4:00 [not in OUR establishment] and now, 3 hours later for their reservation, they wanted to eat YESTERDAY. ) I wish you the best of luck and material and look forward to your stories.

  9. I grew up in Detroit and the corner store was a go to place when you had a couple of pennies. I remember the lady there was so patient as we took our time figuring out what to buy. Out of a hundred possibilities, I’ve settled on two. The pinwheels are two for a penny, the B-B Batts a penny each. Of course, the B-B-Batts could last an afternoon depending on if you didn’t bite them. Yeah, it’s the chocolate B-B-Batt for me. I can get the pinwheels some other day. Thanks, Hook as you can see I slipped right into it again.

  10. renxkyoko says:

    I wish I had lived in that era. I’m thankful though that I have retained some memories of my childhood in the Philippines …. small corner stores …. glass jars filled with different kinds of candies …… the corner store is gone now.

  11. granny1947 says:

    You didn’t mention the smell in the shop…I am sure you have memories of those scents.

  12. When I was really young, I had a great uncle who owned a little grocery store. He was my grandfather’s brother and my Papaw took me there all the time. I remember a huge old timey cash register, glass cabinets and jars and jars of penny candy. He also had a cold water cooled coke/pop machine where the bottle hung in the cold water from small medal shelves and you had to put money in it to release the mechanisms. They were a dime each πŸ™‚ The smells that remind me of my uncle and my grandfather both are sweet pipe tobacco and cigars. They are wonderful memories…. Smell is the strongest memory trigger for me. πŸ™‚

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