Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bed and Table on the Road

Recently I heard a Lutheran Pastor, in a sermon at a friend's wedding, say that the only furniture essential to a successful marriage were a bed and a table. The first, of course, essential to life long physical and emotional union husband and wife are called to live. Likewise the table is essential to the spiritual and intellectual union necessary to live out the promises made on their marriage day. These articles of furniture are symbols of the multidimensional communication and union that characterize a healthy marriage, what we might call "comm-union" or communion. The same kind of common union, communion , with God celebrated by Christians in their worship.

The sermon got me thinking about the importance of bed and table in one corner of my own marriage. My wife and I both love to travel and we often reminisce about places we have stayed (bed) or where we have eaten (table). If our travels retrace our steps we often make it a point to stay in the same inns or eat in the same restaurants that highlighted of our earlier trips.

Sometimes the hospitality and comfort experienced at an inn or the food and service at an eatery are truly exceptional. Sometimes, though, the bed or the table is important to us because of the bodily or spiritual union we experienced there. In either case we are biased to visiting such places when passing through on a repeat trip. Along routes we frequent on visits to siblings, children and grandchildren our departure times, routes and reservations are often heavily colored by these motivations.

In truth, everything changes with time and an inn or a cafe may not be what it was the last visit and certainly the probability of the same interpersonal bonding happening again in the same place is very low. In a sense, our revisiting these sites is an act of hope that the experience or the bonding will occur again. To celebrate the beds and tables of our travels I offer the following reviews of three tables encountered in our travels.

One day as we prepared to exit I35 in Duluth Minnesota we saw a red sign that said " ED LOBSTER". After checking into our lodging in the canal district some relatives joined us and we did indeed dine at ED LOBSTER. Now you probably recognize the chain restaurant with the burned out "R". It is one our favorites all over the United States. Having lived for years near the Atlantic beaches and fresh fish we cherish a good sea food meal now that we live on the great prairies of middle America. In addition they are inevitably decorated with old pictures celebrating the sea shore and the people living and working there. The food and the fellowship we experienced that evening may have marked our perceptions forever. To this day we remark on passing one of those establishments, "Oh look, there's an ED LOBSTER" or find ourselves asking a desk clerk, "is there an ED LOBSTER near by?"

On a sadder note was finding on a recent trip that the Homstead Inn in Milan, Ohio had closed. For years we had made it a point to stay nearby. The first visit was decades ago when our kids were little and we stayed in the cut rate motel across the street. This inn featured a stone walled Rathskellar in it cellar with cave like cubicals, some large enough for a dozen persons and some intimate settings for a couple. More recently visits have been time with just my wife and I. Often times of communion between she and I but also, I know, nostagia for the quaint rathskellars of Nuerenberg, Regansberg, Rotenberg, Munich and Garmish-Parten Kirchen of our frequent travels in Bavaria. Adding to its long term appeal to us was that it had deviled eggs on its salad bar.

In Wisconsin we make it a point to stop in Tomah and dine at The Tee Pee, downtown. Its a two or three miles jog off the Interstate but inevitablily worth the trip. Like many small town restuarants it has a history ( it was once a livery strable) but it remains hugely popular to locals and visitors. When we visit in the fall the tables around us are likely to be hunters celebrating a good day or a bad day in the field. In the summer it's likely to be tourists. Often it is soldiers or airmen from nearby bases and airfields on a weekend pass or entertaining visiting relatives. My first experience of Tomah was in the 1950s when the fighter squadron I served with deployed for two weeks to a nearby airfield. Our most recent visit was near closing time in the dead of winter and the staff was friendly and welcoming despite the approaching closing time. Their bar has a reputation for excellent "old-fashions" (a cocktail).

May you and your spouse find memorable beds and tables on you travels.

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