Nobody told me how amazingly similar the luxurious drive along Minnesota’s north shore is to the winding coastal roads in California. Lake Superior impresses with rock-smashing waves and the coastline vistas astound in a dozen shades of blue and a full array of pine greens. I’d been to Duluth and even a little north of that, but not this far north. My jaw dropped several times; it’s that gorgeous.
A few weekends ago, I cruised this Minnesota north shore while heading to my ultimate destination: the Mangy Moose Motel in Grand Marais. Two friends purchased The Mangy Moose and I promised to be a test/worst guest.
Actually, they invited me to be a “test guest” and I insisted on being a “worst guest.” You know, to give them experience.
I’d been “helping them” for the previous six months since they initiated the motel purchase. Every time I called Dave and Don, Dave recognized my name from caller ID would cheerfully greet me with, “Thank you for calling the Mangy Moose Motel.”
“I’m staying in Room 8 and I have a complaint,” I would whine into the phone.
My complaints were varied: I’ve used up all my towels, there’s nothing good on TV, I didn’t care for the wallpaper, and my shoes were too tight. Dave would respond politely at first, sharing where to go in Grand Marais for good shoes and suggesting that perhaps I’d like to read a book instead of watch TV. But I was a persistent complainer and would demand a full refund because of the lack of quality TV programming. I felt this was good preparation for the challenges in running a boutique motel.
After listening to Dave’s patient problem-solving with the Worst-Guest-Ever, Don would yell from the background, “HANG UP ON HIM. JUST HANG UP.”
I must say that Dave and Don both deserved this verbal abuse. Really.
Scan this website’s archives and you will find years of prankster wars: battles over unwanted DVDs, the creepy Christmas doll they hung from a rafter in my garage, and more. And sure, sure, their regular complaint was that *I* was the original instigator in these nefarious deeds, but I’d say in my defense…well…you know, they deserved it on some levels, for befriending me.
And despite the years of torture, they really are friends – amazing friends.
Two years ago, I called Dave after a spectacularly bad day: a project ended abruptly leaving me with no immediate income, a contract I had been expecting fell through, and another existing contract got cut in half. All three events happened within a few hours of each other.
As soon as I finished describing the trifecta of disastrous financial news, the first words out of Dave’s mouth were, “Don and I will cover whatever money you need.”
He did not hesitate.
In the end, I did not need a loan, but I cannot describe the great comfort in knowing I have friends in the world whose first reaction is, “We’ve got you covered.”
Dave was one of the first people with whom I shared a draft of King Perry. He read it thoroughly and treated it with respect, which I needed in those fragile days. I want friends who know how to hold others’ babies with gentleness. Bonus points if you aren’t a parent and still understand a baby is sacred. Don is one of the kindest and gentlest men I know. He is hilarious and cynical, the first one to roll his eyes, but if you say to Don, “I have a problem,” his response is to pull up a chair and say quietly, “Start at the beginning.”
When I first learned of Dad’s cancer, I called Dave bawling. Dave bawled with me on the phone.
These are two of the greatest friends I have ever known.
I love them.
Our twin cities’ loss is Grand Marais’ gain.
The next chapter of their life together reads like the end of a romance novel: “Having discovered their love and ridiculous compatibility, the two men bought a motel in a northern Minnesota town, a comfortable place where they could eat donuts on long walks together.
If you happen to need a vacation this summer and would like to go hiking, kayaking, antiquing, or do none of the above in a small town worth exploring (boasting the world’s greatest donuts and delicious, sustainable food at The Angry Trout), you might consider staying at the Mangy Moose Motel. If you do, I would ask you to hug them, these wonderful men who decided to pursue a dream, and tell them the hug is partially from you and partially from me.
On the day you check out, I would like to advocate that you leave behind (on your unmade bed) an ill-purchased DVD, a movie you thought you might like but ended up hating, and a note saying, “Edmond sends his love.”
If you have National Treasure, that will do nicely.