I just finished watching the Netflix docuseries: "Making A Murderer." I lived in Manitowoc from 1982 to 1989, although I was away in college for some of those years, but the Steven Avery story was hard to miss. Was he guilty? Was he framed? I don't know. The author in me has thought about this story for a long time...but even that twisted part of my brain isn't making the judgement call.
Anyway, if you're reading "Missing in Manitowoc" and you want to know if the places in the book actually exist, I can say oh yes they do. Because "Making a Murderer" is silly with video images of my old hometown that meant a lot to me as well, enough to make it into my book. I haven't been back to Manitowoc in a couple years, so it was nice to see color images of the places I see so clearly in my mind.
Today's sneak peak is a description of a place you'll actually see in "Making A Murderer." I mean, you'll see the outside sign...I describe the inside. So fans of the docuseries who have never been to Manitowoc, enjoy this...and every...just enjoy!
“Welcome to the Best Western Lakefront Hotel!”
The desk clerk’s chirpiness is wildly annoying considering I haven’t had the proper amount of coffee yet this morning. Is there the proper amount of coffee to prepare someone like me for someone like her? She’s a living, breathing stereotype. Her blonde, perfect, shoulder length hair and perky toothy smile are a little too cheerleader for me. I step away from the registration desk and pull out my phone, thankful I found the charger last night and thusly am able to converse with people of my own choosing.
Right now it’s a business call I have to make. Before I check in and commit to two nights in this building, I want to make sure I am still stranded here. I check the clock. The garage should be open by now. I call the garage. A man answers. “Terrell brakes and auto repair. This is Jack.”
“Hey Jack, it’s Nora Hill.”
“Nora!” He sounds just a tiny bit too glad to hear from me. If I were a normal person, I’d probably take that as a compliment. But I’m not normal and I’m not terribly interested in making connections with anyone, even Jack Terrell. I just want my car and I’m praying, hope against hope, my car is fixed and I can make my escape.
“Were you able to overnight the parts?”
“I’m sorry, Nora, I can’t. It’ll definitely be Monday before I’ll be able to get you back on the road.”
“But it will be Monday, right, Jack?” I know I sound imperious. I don’t care. In my world I have to be very clear about things with people.
“Yes, of course.” He waits one beat. “Nora, are you sure you don’t want to go to the reunion tonight? I mean, you’re stuck in town anyway.” He waits. “I’d really like it if you came along…with me.”
I’m not made of stone. I know exactly how sweet he’s being. I close my eyes. I know he means well, so I have to be patient and not howl at him. “I’m sure, Jack, thanks. I’m checking into the Best Western Hotel, so I’ll be fine here. I’ve got plenty of work to do anyway.”
He’s quiet for another beat. “Ok. I’ll give you a call on Monday when it’s done.”
There’s a note of defeat in his voice. As I touch the “end” square on my iPhone screen, I realize I never asked him anything about his life. And I should have. My mother would have. My sisters sure would have. Jack Terrell was the smartest guy in our class and the nicest. He was headed away from
Manitowoc, he was going to go to one of those ultra pricey colleges and become the next Bill Gates or something. As I shove my phone back into my duffle, I wonder how a guy like that wound up staying in town and fixing cars.
Sucking up my annoyance, I make contact with the cheerleader at the front desk and register. I then check out the complimentary breakfast. I do like a good breakfast, and my memory of this place involves a very good one. Of course, my memory of this place also involves room service, which is not going to be an option anymore.
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I’m a complete sucker for eggs and hash browns and all the breakfast meats. The ones they used to make at this hotel were really special. When Rose got married we had the post wedding breakfast here. I still remember the Eggs Benedict.
Sadly, today there will be no Eggs Benedict. There will be no room service. There will be, from the looks of things, waffles I can make all on my own. I’m crushed.
In a bit of a snit, I dump my duffle in my room and head out of the hotel, again, to find food. The fog has broken slightly, the sun trying to force its way through like a single headlight pushing through…well, fog.
Hey, I write for young adults, not upper crust literary genius types.
Once outside, I realize I haven’t a clue where I can get a good breakfast. My old standby was the Big Boy. And then my memory stirs.
Warren’s. Of course!
I could wait for the bus to take me back to my original starting point or I could walk. The fog lifted a bit further and I started out. It’s half a mile. That’s not a big deal. I do a lot of walking. There have been times I’ve parked my car further than that away from a truck stop or a rest stop on the interstate, just so I don’t get dinged for overnight parking. Half a mile…bah!
Every step, however, makes me realize just how conspicuous I am to passing motorists. See, walking for most people isn’t a big deal. You walk along a street, people honk, you recognize them, you wave. It’s a lovely social exchange. It’s a little different for me. I walk along a street, people honk, I haven’t a clue, and I don’t wave. When I was a kid, people would take this as an insult from the minister’s daughter and they’d report my transgression to my mother who would then lecture me on the sins of being rude.
Here I am, in the town I swore I would never, ever return to, walking along a street and heaven only knows who is going to see me and recognize me. Frankly, I can’t get to
Warren’s fast enough.
And yet, all these years later, I’m standing in front of this restaurant, hoping they have Eggs Benedict.
Walking in, I change my mind. I use Eggs Benedict and Rueben sandwiches as sort of a benchmark for eateries. If a place can do one or the other well, I’ll come back. If not, well, that’s pretty much it. There’s a diner in
Waukesha that touts the “best Rueben in the world.” I have tried to disprove the claim. I haven’t been able to yet.
Why those two dishes? Well, I could go into some deep foodie dissertation on how a good Hollandaise sauce is the mark of a legitimate restaurant, but that would be stupid because it’s just not true. Truth is, I liked the names of the dishes when I was a kid. I liked to picture what a Benedict or a Rueben might look like and it turns out they seemed like pretty jovial gents. As I got older I ate them out of habit. Nowadays, honestly, Benedict and Rueben are pretty much my two closest male companions on my journeys.
But even my craving for Hollandaise isn’t going to overcome the lack of confidence I have in
Warren’s. I take a seat on a sticky vinyl chair and scan the torn paper menu. The electric sign outside boasts air conditioning. Since this close to Lake Michigan it rarely hits temperatures worthy of AC, using that as a selling point is setting the bar impossibly low.
Then again, they are still here, open, and thriving from the looks of things. Meanwhile, my old place of employment won’t open until four and then the special of the day is today, as it was yesterday, as it was, I suspect, every day for the last handful of yes, spicy crispy chicken.
I take a chance on the strawberry pancakes. Hey, it’s a rare person who gets food poisoning from pancakes. I’m delighted, once the polyester clad waitress with the brunette pony tail puts the plate in front of me, that the pancakes look and smell amazing. They drip from center to edge with bright red strawberries, not gooey pie filling, and the whipped cream, while probably not homemade, at least tastes fresh. Unfortunately the coffee is a disappointment because it’s burned and weak. I remember too well the lingering bitter flavor of Big Boy coffee, coffee left too long on the pot warmer.
Well , you can’t win everything. So the pancakes were good, the coffee was bad. Sure, I have a bitter, burnt taste in my mouth, but on the flip side I’m not hungry anymore. It’s all about balance.