I was driving back from Cleveland, Georgia, kicking myself for not buying an old Seth Thomas Canadian Railroad clock from a friend there and wondering why the state bothered to put up speed limit signs when I passed the Crossroads Café. I did a double take and slowed to make sure I’d read the sign correctly.

Listen, I was still in Georgia. And it’s mostly in America. You can name a restaurant anything you want to here. But this particular Crossroads Café was located in a strip mall set a good ways off the main thoroughfare….. There was not an intersection, cross street or side road coming into the highway in any direction as far as the eye could see!

My mind shifted from antique clocks to crossroads that didn’t involve streets, traffic, stop signs, red lights or roundabouts.

Maybe the requirements to eat in this place were shirts, shoes and a life changing decision that was weighing heavily on the mind……. Like the young college graduate who couldn’t decide if he needed to stay in Cumming or seek fame and fortune in Atlanta; or perhaps the grizzly auto mechanic who was still dreaming of dancing on Broadway; or the beautiful lass who twirled the coffee around in her cup as she dithered between teaching school in the neighborhood she grew up in or taking the job offer in Cocoa Beach.

Maybe it was an eating place for those adventurers who couldn’t decide “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Hemmingway’s book set during the Spanish Civil War reminded us of John Donne’s epic seventeenth century writings, “No man is an island.” We live on the mainland. What we do and say interacts with, and impacts, others. We need to choose the path we take not foolhardily or unwisely.

I could picture desperate folks inside wolfing down fried baloney, biscuits smothered in gravy and banana pudding while they deliberated joining Weight Watchers. The young man in the corner hadn’t touched his liver and onions but he had decided to tell his father he wasn’t going into the family business.

What we munch on today…..we may have to regurgitate for years and years. Leave it to Georgia to figure out a one stop shopping house that can feed your stomach and your soul at the same time.

I wondered how many high school graduates had sat in a “Crossroads Café” with sweaty palms and frightened hearts. I don’t care how much you think you know, what you’ve been told, what the guidance teacher says or how much your folks have saved for your future…... Somewhere between the main course and dessert, you’ve got to do some soul searching. And the available paths are many and varied, complicated and stretch out before you in all sorts of weird directions…….with no guarantees whichever way you choose!

Come to think of it, they ought to franchise these Crossroads dining halls all over America!

Can’t you just see the handsome Georgia boy in the back booth, eager to begin a family, who can’t make up his mind between Sally Ann Pennington and Misty Rhodes. You talk about a crossroads! Sally Ann was pretty enough in the right light, plus her father owned the bank, a feed store and 200 acres of bottom land down by the river. It would be a stable and secure life.

But Misty had that “can’t guess what I’ve been up to” look, a smile that could illuminate an underground dungeon at midnight and she sported the largest Willie Nelson record collection east of the Mississippi River. Fun and a bucket sized bait of uncertainty reflected off her dime store earrings. It’s no wonder the young man had been eating here everyday since he started shaving!

Driving by a Crossroads Café that wasn’t on an intersection will make you ponder your own decision making history. And possibly throw on an illuminating switch—NO WONDER I made all those mistakes!

Our eating out places back home were named City Café, Steak House and Dixie Coffee Cup. I reckon entrepreneuring restaurant owners didn’t read much Hemingway in our neck of the woods…..

It just never occurred to us to stroll into a local eatery and ask Mr. Red Melton or Jack Cantrell’s advice on cowboying in Eastern Montana versus going to Harvard Law School. Mr. Red and Jack were about the smartest we had……and we just sat there in silence, enjoying the cheeseburger and listening to Johnny Horton on the jukebox.

If we’d a’had a Crossroads Café……I might have slung that ole guitar over my shoulder and split for Nashville……

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes