I’m not welcome in Marion, North Carolina.
All the more reason to go out of my way to have a bite there.
A few miles up the mountain from Marion, I saw a cafe’s sign for their daily special:
I had to consider that one for a minute. Lettuce? In soup? Fine. If that’s your thing. Go ahead and call it BLT soup. I’d call it WTF soup. But that’s just me.
As I rolled on toward Marion, I wasn’t getting hungry for BLT soup, but I was getting hungry for a BLT sandwich. Reaching Marion "I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a dreadful little town" North Carolina, I drove past the "Don’t Park on the Sidewalk" sign. I drove past the mental health billboard starring Abe Lincoln and Scarlett O’Hara. I drove past the scenic electrical substation. I drove past the charming cemetery.
I was SOOOO happy to be back in Marion.
And then I saw the Bantam Chef. I figured this was the place for the perfect BLT, and had been the place for the perfect BLT, ever since, say, 1971. I parked the Chevy, walked across the lot and opened the door, only to be greeted with blank stares from the unrelentingly sullen and remarkably homely faces of the lunch-time customers picking at their greasy entrees.
I was reminded of that wise old adage: "By the age of 40, you get the face you deserve." At least, I think that’s how it goes. If it is true, then you have to wonder about these Marionites assembled at the Bantam Chef. Why aren’t they serving life sentences at Central Prison for whatever heinous acts they committed to deserve faces like these? (Yeah, I know, I’m one to talk. I got the face I deserved long before the age of 40. Unfortunately.)
Once I overcame my initial shock, I settled into the Bantam Chef and decided it wasn’t so bad. For Marion. The tea was too sweet. And it wasn’t the perfect BLT. It might have been, if the toast had been toasted to a golden brown, if the bacon had been crispy instead of hard, if the tomato hadn’t been ice cold, if the lettuce hadn’t been chopped into minute slivers. Except for that, it was an OK BLT sandwich. Beat the heck out of BLT soup.
I enjoyed my Bantam Chef lunch. I enjoyed the company of the Marionites. As much as anyone could enjoy the company of Marionites. And I left town as quickly as I arrived, looking over my shoulder at those signs…the signs that "libbi greene" claims were installed to keep "little guys" like me with "small imaginations" from sullying up the streets and sidewalks of idyllic Marion, North Carolina. It began to dawn on me…a "BIG IMAGINATION" is a useful thing to have if you intend to spend any time in Marion. After all, it would require a big imagination to convince yourself that you’re in a nice place when you’re in Marion, North Carolina.
But out here in Jackson County we have a word for imagination of that magnitude.
To put if quite simply, the word is…