July 30, 2009

Ben's Town

On our recent trip, we made camp in the evening in large and small towns, never staying more than one night.  One town in particular made the biggest impression on me, not because of it's general awesomeness, but because of ... well it's hard to describe.  I could say it was bizarre, or desolate, or depressing, or unreal.  Maybe it's a combination of all of those things. It sure did get my imagination going.

Green River, Utah.  My computer had picked it for me the night before, or should I say "Bing" picked it for me.  I was looking at a place called Benham, but Bing would have none of it and when I typed in Benham motels, it took me to Green River.  Search engines get more intuitive all the time and I guess this is a good thing, but it still kind of unsettles me when I realize what they are doing.

The town is about a mile off the interstate and is comprised of 4 "meh" motels and a gas station on the east end, and about a mile of "main street".  After we checked in, we looked through the soiled motel info booklet and saw that there were 4 restaurants in town, one which had been deemed to have the "best burger in Utah" by some Salt Lake City rag.

When we drove into the motel parking lot, I noted that all 4 motels in the town were bunched together on either side of main street, and as I took the luggage out of the car, I saw a hand made sign on each of the motel's grounds announcing that if you chose Ben's Cafe and showed your motel key, you would get 10 percent off of your meal. Well, thanks Ben, but I think we'll go try out the place with the best burger in Utah.

The dinner hour arrived and we headed down main street, looking for the burger place, but it was out of business, as were the next two restaurants on our list.  Which left only Ben's.  To say the place was shabby was a compliment.  Greasy faux wood paneling, cracked and wobbly formica topped tables and torn vinyl bench seats.  To top it off, there was an extension cord snaking through the middle of the cafe leading to a leaf blower laying on the sidewalk outside the front door.

The dour waitress took our order and then returned twice during the 40 minutes we waited for our food to inform us that they were out of the first and second choices we had made.  We finally picked something that they had in stock, choked it down and left.

We had asked if there was an ATM machine in town and had been pointed in the general direction of a grocery store, so after we ate, we dropped by there and found the machine inoperable.  So, we picked up a few groceries and paid the bored looking cashier.  On our way back to the motel, we started to really look at the businesses on the street, and realized that almost all of them were abandoned.  The three restaurants, the bank, a gas station, an auto repair shop.  In fact, the only places that appeared to be in operation were a bar, a coin-op laundry, the grocery store, and of course, the four motels and the gas station at the east end of town.

I asked Jan if she thought that Ben owned everything in town.  She kind of dismissed it, but I thought that maybe he did.  Later that evening, after Jan had turned in, I was half-watching the television and started wondering if Ben actually did own everything in town. What if he had muscled everyone out of business and with the aid of his Lee Marvin/Henry Silva-type henchmen, had put the the place and it's people under his oppressive thumb?

And what if I decided to move to Green River, and reopen one of the abandoned restaurants? Would Ben pay me a visit with Lee and Henry in tow, to suggest to me that it was in my best interests to pack up and leave town?  Maybe Ben would send out the "word" to stay away from my business.  Maybe he would have my dog killed as a warning.

Would things escalate to the point that it became an epic battle between good and evil for the control of the hearts and minds of the town folk?  Main Street would run red with blood until only the victor remained, just like in "Bad Day At Black Rock" and "Last Man Standing" (which by the way, is a terrific, yet overlooked Bruce Willis vehicle).

Rob's "Arbon Cafe"
The thorn in Ben's side

And then I went to bed.  The next morning, I found I had creeped myself out so badly the night before, that we hustled out of Green River as quickly as our little car could take us.

Before Ben sent us home in a box.


  1. If there had been more people in this place it sounds like you'd have the perfect setting for the next "Roadhouse." I already found Sam Elliott the other day, so just track down Patrick Swayze and we're in business.

  2. You have to be the most brilliant man I know!!KW