Here's the short essay I mentioned yesterday. I wrote it about 8 years ago when we had just bought Afton Station and were still in the process of restoring it.
I'm sitting alone in a rundown, long-vacant D-X gas station alongside of old Route 66 in Oklahoma. Outside, semis, freight trains, and the mufflerless pickups of local boys compete for dominance of my eardrums. The unrelenting sun smashes through the abundance of plate glass, and it could be broiling in here if not for the ceiling fans which mix it up enough to turn the air from enemy to something my lungs will accept. Across the street, a steady stream of medicated humanity shuffles listlessly on another afternoon outing from the mental day care center around the corner, looking neither left nor right, just straight ahead.
Flies, which long ago learned to avoid flypaper, buzz around my head, particularly enjoying my sweaty neck. A scorpion came to visit earlier, but I smashed it with the phone book then stood on the phone book for a few minutes just to make sure. Now there's a yellow mush of former scorpion over by the door.
I moved here from back east last year. In my suburban town the average home price was over a million dollars. All the women were young and thin and all the men rode trains to Wall Street. For 29 years I was held hostage there, dreaming of some tiny, battered town where I could sit in a gas station and squash the occasional scorpion. It was my Oklahoma dream, my Route 66 dream. I love this hot, dusty, noisy place. I am at one with the flies, and some day the scorpions and I will no doubt find a middle ground, too. There is peace here amid the cacaphony, warmth amid the loneliness, potential peeking from behind hopelessness, beauty in the peeling paint, history in the rafters. This is where I belong, where I have always belonged. One day I will make this old D-X station a tourist mecca where I can show off my love for the old road. Some day I will restore this place. But for now, this place is restoring me.