We just saw The Majestic on DVD. Jim Carey's performance was moving. The heroine reminded me just enough of Lauren Bacall to evoke that same magic. The depiction of American small town life, the beauty of the characters, the unabashed tenderness of the relationships all swept us away.
And it made me think of the many small towns we pass through when we travel.
Like Willis, Texas, where a work friend and I stopped, on the road from Dallas to Houston, to get real Texas barbecue (at Leroy's BBQ, "38 years and still smokin"). And we knew as soon as we got out of the car that we were in a Real place (and the aromas outside made us wait the twenty minutes until they opened for lunch) . The waitress helped me solve my problem by suggesting I order a sampler, so I could try all four of their smokehouse specialties (the ribs were the best).
Or like Graham, North Carolina, where we see movies at an old movie theater (The Graham) not so different from the Majestic, though not so fancy. We take extra cushions so our youngest can see over the railing, and go sit in the balcony, up near the old fashioned ceiling fans.
Or like Clarksville, Virginia, where I love to end up at a certain cafe, after driving narrow roads near Kerr Lake - roads with no paint on them anywhere. The people in the cafe will treat you like you're potential new neighbors, and make a fuss over your children.
Or the little town of Wetumpka, Alabama, where the bookstore owner advised I dine at the local luncheonette and be sure to order the rutabagas (I'd never had them before - they were wonderful). There were no free tables, but I was invited to join a gentleman in his eighties, who turned out to be a big band leader from the 1940s (I looked him up later - he's in the Hall of Fame). We were later joined by a parole officer, who knew the jovial jazz man, and with me followed his aged wisdom in ordering a large slice of the coconut creme pie.
Or the campground where we stayed in Fruita, Colorado, where the owners were from Minnesota, and advised we eat at Dinosaur Pizza, which seemed to be the front of a house, and the pizza was made in the kitchen (as were the brownies).
No pretense - just an abundance of American warmth, a kind of open friendliness you can rest on for a spell, a way of living that makes everywhere seem like it could be home.