I left Des Moines around 2pm.
Lunch still hadn't happened.
My notes listed a Maid-Rite in a town called Newton.
Maid-Rite is a regional chain that serves loose meat sandwiches.
Tavern sandwiches.
The kind of sandwiches that Roseanne served at The Lanford Lunchbox.
A lot of Maid-Rites operate out of gas stations.  But the one in Newton had its very own building.
The photo I had seen of it online looked promising.
It seemed forever old school, like how I demand the world to be.

I imagined chowing down earnestly on the castrated sloppy joe among the colorful Newtonians.  While I traded my tales from the road with the barber's exaggerated fishing stories, farmers and Maytag men regaled me with salt of the earth fables, John Deere jokes, and juicy local gossip.  All of us slapping our knees silly while sipping root beer phosphates.

Newton had an airbrushed Norman Rockwell quality to it.
That's because somebody airbrushed Norman Rockwell scenes onto the buildings.
A boy stared longingly into an appliance store, with dreams of microwave ovens and 90 day warranties.
From a stroller an infant cooed to an elderly gent while Old Glory hung proudly above, like a Family Values mistletoe.
A waiter peered out of a deli with a tray, ready to serve the hardworking patrons of Newton.
I couldn't wait for my loose meat lunch miracle!

I pulled up to Maid-Rite.
The blood orange building looked empty and alone.
I didn't see any barbers or farmers or Maytag men.
Just my crestfallen visage in the reflection of the CLOSED sign.
It was Sunday.
They were closed on Sunday.
My hopes shot up when I saw the diner right next to it.
The Snook Inn!
This place looked even more old school than Maid-Rite.
Here I would get morally stronger fables, folksier jokes, and more specifically local gossip from farmers that were so old school and salt of the earth, they pulled corn out of the ground with their bare hands!
They slaughtered pigs with their raw teeth!
They took tornados, cut off their balls, and used them to cool off a fresh batch of caramel pecan rolls!

I shadowed my hands to look in at the heartier laughter and the thicker, creamier phosphates I was about to enjoy at the Snook Inn.
The ultimate climax to perfectly end this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity of a lifetime.
But the Snook Inn was also closed.
Forever it seemed.
Stools had been torn from the tiles.
The yellow formica counter peeled at the seams.
A clock froze at 3:35.
Today's specials at the Snook Inn were fluorescent tubes, industrial buckets, and the bottom of a coffee pot.

I sulked past the Norman Rockwell mural again.
The waiter's tray was empty.
Even the airbrush was closed.

Lunch happened at a Taco Bell drive-thru.
I ordered a few "lose-meat" tacos.
Vacation was over.


  1. Corn grows on stalks above the ground. It's gotta be what. . . 3? You still haven't eaten? I just consulted the map. . . what's next Iowa City? Two hours away?

    I want to see the pictures of you pulling corn from the ground at 4:30 because you're so hungry.

  2. As someone who lives in Newton and as the son of the woman who owned Snook Inn for many years before she had no choice but to shut it down, I find your impression of our town rather amusing. Hopefully you'll be able to come back sometime when it isn't a Sunday. Maid-rite is a pretty good place to grab a bite. I may be a little biased, but Snooks was better. lol