The email from Tilly on facebook said something to the effect, “I think you may know Paula Greenstein. And if you’re in Montana, anywhere near Whitefish, I think she owns a restaurant there called Wasabi—it’s supposed to be really good.” I read the email again, amazed at the Lord’s hand in all affairs. I had just found a former Camp JCA counselor named Gary Rappaport on facebook and while I inquired as to the whereabouts of Eric “Rico” Abrams, I could not for the life of me think of Paula (Plunger) Greenstein’s name—so I just asked about Eric and made a mental note to think of the name of that vivacious girl, who always wore green.
“Paul “Plunger” Greenstein, that’s her,” I thought to myself as I examined her picture on facebook. “It’s been thirty-five years old-friend, I wonder what you’ve been doing. And how did you come to live in Montana?” I decided that I would do some writing in the morning at City Brew in Kalispell and then continue up 93 to Whitefish.
Perhaps a reader of this arranged assortment of letters is wondering why I could so easily make a plan to find Paula Greenstein? And this very question is a testament to inspired human thought. Because the human mind intrinsically knows that all of life is a story. Even creation is a story in which God used the power of letters, to make words, which in someway beyond human comprehension caused matter to continuously congeal into the world as we know it.
Three Days Earlier
Subsequent to taking in the beauty of Flathead Lake from my balcony vantage point I ventured down the staircase. The sound of rustling dogs reminded me of my valiant protectors, who apparently feeling profoundly guilty about the mountain lion incident, would not budge from my side unless locked up—in this case in the laundry room. So I freed Thing One and Thing Two, as I call them, since I did not and still do not know their given names. Happy, as only a dog can be at the sight of a master, we strolled across the lawn to the lake and sat. And this, after eight hours of sleep, would be the end of my seclusion. Leaving the dogs to guard the cabin I fired up the Black Beast (Suburban) and made a right onto 93 for Lakeside and then Kalispell.
Kalispell, a nice little town at its center, is the home of several well-run establishments. Norm’s News is a must first stop for all travelers through this town—my father’s name was Norm (a sign). The hundred-year-old building features a soda fountain counter manned by two adorable teenagers who are the kind of kids I hope my daughters might be one day, if I ever have children. And, although the residents of Kalispell are not aware of it, the ancient “Los Angeles style” bar behind their soda fountain counter holds mystical powers. The wood, carved in Italy two centuries ago, had originally been part of Xerxes the King of Persia’s traveling throne. And because it has traveled so many lands its hand carved maidens have seen much. To the surprise of my young ice cream purveyors I inquired as to whether I could see the old opera house upstairs.
“There’s an opera house upstairs?” they asked in unison. This building holds many secrets my dear friends.
“There is, and I’d like to see it.”
“I’ll take you up there,” said the woman, who seemingly appeared from nowhere, clearly in charge of what goes on at Norm’s. Now my reason’s for sitting in front of the bar carved from the wood of Xerxe’s throne and wanting to see the forgotten opera house upstairs are for another story, but suffice it to say that it was the woman who showed me this place who suggested I go to Whitefish.
“You need to see Whitefish,” she said—exactly.
“What’s Whitefish?” I asked.
“It’s a small town up the road at the base of Big Mountain,” she answered, a tone of satisfaction ringing in her voice, no doubt because she had for a moment traveled on the Road To Nowhere with me.
I thanked her and the girls for their hospitality and headed back to Lakeside…
The following day I traveled to Whitefish—and took a good look around. I made a mental note of all that was there and then I sat at the Montana Coffee Traders thinking that a girl that worked at this coffee house, named Amy, might have something to tell me, something, which I needed to hear—the name of Mike’s wife is Amy. But this beautiful, hard working young lady seemed disconcerted by my presence…Also a story for another time. And I headed back to Lakeside, thumbed through my email, and read the message from Tilly, which begs the question, “Why the first trip?” but as I read the message I put this vexing thought out of my mind and resolved to drive back…
IN SEARCH OF PAULA GREENSTEIN
I stopped to write “Road To Nowhere” part something at City Brew on the south end of Kalispell. City Brew is a small Montana chain trying to emulate Starbucks—and in several ways doing Starbucks better than Starbucks. However, I can write anywhere and I am more than familiar with Starbucks and every variation thereof. No, I chose City Brew for a completely different reason…
The sign stated that Wasabi opened at 5:00 for dinner, it was 4:30—next door was a tea house and although past high tea I entered…After ordering, I inquired of the young tea maker, “Does a woman named Paula own the restaurant next door?”
“Yeah, Paula owns Wasabi.”
“Does she own this place too?”
“No, this is a different owner…But Paula owns the building, she’s our landlord.”
“I haven’t seen her in…” I told her the story until she interrupted me with, “That’s Paula.” She pointed at a woman who looked exactly as I would have expected Paula to look thirty-five years later. “Thank you,” said I, to the tea maker.
Ignoring the fact that Paula was there to join some friends for their daughter’s sweet- sixteen-birthday party I turned to stand in front of her. “Paula “Plunger” from Camp JCA?”
Stunned, she nodded and whispered, “yes.”
“Stan Lerner,” I continued, “Camp JCA 1972 to 1975, Eric Abrams was my counselor. I’ve come here to see you and find out what you’ve been doing with your life…”
She nodded again. “Okay…” we spoke for a few minutes. “Can you stay and have dinner? I own the restaurant next door…And I own the Haymoon Ranch Resort, I’d like to show it to you.”
“I’m on the Road To Nowhere,” I said, then explained the concept to her. “I can stay as long or as little as you like…I have nothing to do and no place to be—I’m all yours.”
I spent much of the next twenty-four hours with Paula roaming around Whitefish. A perfect snapshot of the experience being my time, magically spent, at the Tuesday farmer’s market. There was a girl there named Heather who grew flowers from seeds on the Purple Frog Farm—I could not take my eyes off of her as her beauty and that of the flowers had somehow melded together in a way most commonly described in fairy tails involving love in the enchanted forest. I wanted to touch her and see if she was real, but I refrained. An Amish man named Steve sold me some Kettle Corn; his business is masonry, but Kettle Corn is a family tradition that he enjoys involving his three young daughters in. And then there was Dora, who lured me to her table with homemade granola—Dora’s Granola. I could have just stayed there with Dora until the sun went down or my stomach burst, whichever came first…I kind of miss Dora right now…Strange since we’ve only spoken a few dozen words to each other.
Later that night I sat across from Mike on the Woodsmith made alligator couch, the best couch in the world, and I said, “Take me to the airport tomorrow, I need to go back to LA and take care of some things.”
“Why?” asked my old-friend.
“I know what I have to do now,” I answered.
“And the Road To Nowhere?” he asked, after assessing my entire state of being for a moment.
“We’re back on the Road To Nowhere in three weeks.”
The corners of Mike’s mouth tightened and moved upward into a smile and he nodded. “I like what you’re becoming…”
The End…For Now…