April 12, 2007

Fallingwater and funky toilets

From Ribbons of Highway: A Mother-Child Journey Across America (click here to order or to download the e-book):

Our Donegal, Pennsylvania motel sat near the BP station - good for filling up, not good for Friday night sleeping. The music of a Donegal Friday night is the continuous screech of teenagers peeling out of the BP, sound systems at high bass and high volume, burning rubber down Route 31 to the Dairy Queen.

Even without the earsplitting coming of age ritual, I wouldn’t have slept in Donegal. The chatty gentleman who checked in just before us (“On my way to Virginia to see the grandkids.”) had nabbed the last non-smoking room (“The missus’ll gag if I take smoking.”). So, I took the hit for her, wishing I could put my nose on the nightstand until morning to get it away from the stink that started in the pillowcase, then permeated every ounce of polyester fiberfill. I resolved to never again rent a smoking room. We’d keep driving, or sleep in the van, maybe in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Morning brought sweet silence, fresh air and Fallingwater. The kids knew the Guggenheim and knew Frank Lloyd Wright’s stuff was funky, but they gave me the “We’re gonna tour a house?” lament anyway. Until they saw it. We followed our guide, Justin, into all the cantilevered corners of the cement and steel aerie, and imagined what it must have been like to be Lillian Kaufman or her two Edgars and live in a place that belonged, in every sense save ownership, to the platform-shoed egoist who built it.

We loved it, even the treehouse-like ticket pavilion with deep eco-friendly toilets that terrified one girl so much she burst from the stall shouting, “I can’t go! It’s too scary!”

Back in the van, as Dana told and retold the scary bathroom story, we laughed, at more than the story. Something good had just clicked into place, and we knew we were going to enjoy this trip - and each other. If we could have this much fun talking about toilets, and dishing on Frank Lloyd for getting mad at Lillian because she didn’t like his dining room chairs, just imagine what great times lay ahead! An entire country’s worth! We opened some bags and cans of junk food, cranked the tunes, and headed for West Virginia.