Near Lake Tahoe in 2012
Don and I were hiking The Rainbow Trail on a chilly October morning when we met Tom.
A Quiet Morning
The only other person we had seen was a photographer shivering beside a couple tripods near Taylor Creek. The camera guy had been trying to capture some of the wild life activity that occurred each fall during kokanee trout spawning season. So were we. The year before we'd see a mother bear and cub enjoying some trout.
A People Encounter Instead
It was a surprise to suddenly come upon this man with no coat or gloves, standing beside a falling tree...sawing at the trunk.
Tom, the man with the saw acted like the last person you'd expect to see sawing a fallen Aspen in the woods. He laughed about the silliness of his technique, but he was a retired lawyer and was obeying the law. He said permits were needed and you could only use a saw. But it took a long time to get through this small trunk with the saw he had. It looked more like a serrated bread knife.
Don and I were bundled up with hats and gloves and asked Tom why he wasn't dressed more warmly. He just laughed and shook his head. "When I first moved here I brought all my cold weather gear..." I think he was from Chicago. "I never wear it. It never gets that cold." But he was worried about his dog who was waiting in the car. I had to just laugh when he opened the car door and out popped a little Dachshund sporting an orange knit sweater!
I had expected to see a Golden Retriever or a Lab jump out of the vehicle. But this sweet little pup with her delicate name Lilly, just amused me!
It was fun to talk to you out there in the snow.
You gave us a different idea on retirement, besides hanging out at country clubs. As you carried your few logs to the car, I tried to picture your wood burning fireplace. I imagined some comfy rustic furniture and lots of shelves of books and a cozy dog pillow for Lilly.
Brent was not really a haunted singer, but I did have a rather eerie encounter with this young man outside the Von Minten Hotel a couple weeks ago.
My husband and I were on an 8-day road trip, in search of curious historic hotels. Years ago I'd heard about the Von Minden with it's haunted history, so I made Don pull over and let me take a peek.
As I approached the building, I assumed the hotel had closed down. The attached movie theatre next door was obviously out of business and there was nothing that invited a customer to enter. But when the door opened, I assumed I was wrong and stepped in. A breeze was blowing through the open windows and the light over the lobby desk was on. I hollered a polite "Hello!" and heard no reply. I called out again and thought I heard voices, but they could have been coming through the open windows.
A Closer Look
I'm not sure how I could be so brave, because the place was a little creepy. It looked like a hotel from the Twilight Zone, suddenly abandoned and left untouched. There was an old cash register and a few mailboxes. The key boxes were empty except for a few random items that looked like a calculator or a remote control. There were letters and papers cluttering the counter and a few dusty rockers sitting in front of the windows. A wooden phone booth with a payphone was tucked back by the stair landing.
Not long ago I read that you could stay in the hotel and even catch a movie next door. But when I peeked in the locked doors I could see the tiny lobby was out of use. An old white painted candy machine revealed some candy bars behind the glass windows. You could hardly recognize Humphry Bogart and Clark Gable on the faded movie posters.
As I started to head for the car, I saw this young man walking towards the front door. I asked if the hotel was open for business and he said he and a few others were living there. Somehow the idea of a haunted boarding house was even more unsettling to me than a haunted hotel. "Do you want to know if it's haunted?" He asked, as if assuming that was why I was curious. I said yes I did wonder and he answered with a positive, "Yes." Then he told me that just yesterday he'd been in his room and his deodorant just lifted off the dresser and flew across the room. "Wow!" I said, turning to make sure Don was in full view. He went on to explain that he was staying in town a while, helping his grandparents. He had recently gone into Houston to audition for "America's Got Talent" and was starting to worry since he hadn't heard news yet. He said the morning for his audtion he'd witnessed another sign of spirits, when he looked at the bathroom mirror to see the words "Good Luck" written. He talked about his music...singing since 5 and writing music since 14. The 23 year old said he'd just recorded the song "Yesterday" for You Tube and his musican, grandfather who does a mean version of Wipe Out on the drums at age 70, said he sounded just like John Lennon. I asked his name in case I saw him on TV. He said he was Brent and he posed for a photo so I could recognize him. He said he was hoping to catch the Greyhound to Houston soon, I didn't mention that we lived there. I think he could have talked for days, but I said I needed to get going.
You did give me some insight into the curious hotel I had wondered about. The slumber party kid in me still wants to squeal over ghost stories and imagine myself staying in a haunted hotel, but you cured that. I wish you luck with your music.
As a special note... When Don and I drove away we could see the advertisement written on the side of the hotel. We were curious and followed the directions to find Sengelmann Hall to see what the Bakery/Restaurant/Dance Hall was all about. We met the wonderful owner who said he also owns the hotel and hopes to get the money to fix it up along with the movie theatre. He was a pretty delightful guy actually and I wouldn't be surprised if someday I do return and find a lovely Boutique Hotel. Now that would be fun.
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers