My wife is a kind soul. She understands that every week or so, I need to get away from things for a few hours. We call it my Off The Grid time. I shut down my phone and go spend a little time alone.
My usual M.O. is to pick a place I’ve never been and drive there without using highways. I like the feel of the road under me, listening to music or podcasts, not speaking, not needing to interact. I’m able to take in the sights along the way and contemplate whatever I’ve got on my mind.
This past week, I took off from work and drove southwest. I took the state routes through tracts of farmland and hills for about an hour or two.
Eventually, I found a good size town I’d never been to before. Marlow, Ohio.
Marlow’s the home to Marlowe University, a small college. I noted the misspelling of the town name…I figure there must be a story there somewhere. I’ll probably head to the library in town sometime to learn about it.
Marlow has one of my favorite features in a small town: a town square. The college takes up one-and-a-half sides of it, the rest of the square is small businesses and government buildings. I park my car in an open spot on the square and start exploring.
The signs vary between new and colorful and ancient and faded. I walk along, past an Indian restaurant called Krishna’s Blessing, a candle store, a bar called The Reckoning, a used bookstore whose sign is just BOOKS, a law office, a nail salon, and Louis Di’s Pizza and Music. At the end of the block, there’s a coffee shop, The Prince of Cups. Coffee is always my first stop of choice when I come to places like this: I head inside.
I swear I’m the oldest person inside by twenty years. College kids, man. There are small clusters of college students at the tables, some seated at four-tops chatting away, others basking in the glow of their laptops, alone with their headphones in their ears. There’s something about seeing books cracked open that makes me feel good…the world isn’t 100% digital yet. Some things, you’ve got to do the old way.
I approach the counter, put in my order (medium coffee, black) and start chatting with the dude behind the counter. He’s tall, lanky, clean-shaven. I’m pleasantly surprised at the lack of hipster vibe.
“Nice place,” I say. “I’ve never been to Marlow before. Nice to find a good coffee shop here.”
“It’s pronounced MUR-leh,” he corrects, setting my mug of hot coffee in front of me. He’s kind about it, but it sounds like he’s said it before.
“Ah,” I say. I get it. Ohio is a weird place as far as city names go. I live in Medina. Meh-DIe-nah, not meh-DEE-neh. Berlin, Ohio is BER-lin, not ber-LIN. And Mantua? That’s MAN-a-way. I kid you not.
Like I said, Ohio’s a little weird sometimes.
“And the college…?” I ask
“MAR-lowe, like the writer.” He shrugs. “It’s a little weird.”
“Any idea why?”
He shakes his head. I guess I’m going to have to go to the library after all.
I take my coffee and find a two-top where I can sit, sip, and read my book for a bit. I’m not there long. It doesn’t take a long time for me to either kill a cup of coffee or make a good dent in a book. Still, it comes as a little bit of a shock when the barista is standing over my table. I guess I got more involved than I thought.
“We’re closing in fifteen. You done with that mug?” he asks. I nod. He takes it away, and I pack up my things.
It’s a Monday night…I’m surprised the place closes down so early, but I suppose 8pm is about the time most of these kids (shut up, old man) start wandering back to their dorms or out to hit a late dinner or drinks. I envy them, a little. I’d be lying if I denied missing my college days a bit. Everything is rosy in hindsight.
I walk slowly back to my car. The night is cold, but not so bad that I need to hurry. I think I’m done for tonight. Time to head home…it’s about an hour drive. Time enough to listen to my audiobook and get lost in my thoughts for a bit.
Nice town, though. I’ll be back.