Out here on the "mother road" of America, cities, towns and villages alike are trying to cash in on the fame of what once was the main thoroughfare between Chicago and Los Angeles. One might find, for example, a Route 66 Travel Center situated right down the highway from the newest and biggest Route 66 Casino or the most recently renovated Route 66 Motor Lodge.
Some of my favorite such businesses have turned out to be the smaller, mom-and-pop style joints that dot the landscape -- just off the interstate -- along the potions of the celebrated road that I have thus far been privileged to travel. The eating establishments are too many and varied to mention in one sitting. Suffice it to simply say a person will not have to worry about going hungry while traveling down this segmented and blacktopped memory lane.
The shops are a different story. Some may seem a bit eclectic, but for the most part they offer your basic souvenirs material, from shot glasses and bumper stickers telling where you've been to items more reflective of the people and cultures of a specific region or locale.
The sign in front of such establishment, nestled among others along a strip of shops on a backstreet in a town which will remain nameless, took me by surprise. It read something like "Firearms and all things related ... Gifts and Avon ... Collectables."
Granted, a person has the right to sell whatever is legal in whatever state they may abide and keep shop, as it were. But the combination seemed more than a bit strange to my Midwestern mindset. Back home we have collectables shops galore, and gift shops abound in the more touristy of locations. If you look hard enough, you might even stumble across a place that sells Avon products and their related collectable bottled and paraphernalia.
But I believe this to be the very first time I have personally, in all my rambling, uncovered such a treasure. Just think of it, a one stop shopping experience where you can restock on needed ammo, maybe pick up an extra semi-automatic 9mm handgun, and finish off your purchase with some old cologne in a brown bottle with a gold pheasant head for a lid.
When I first saw the sign, curiosity welled up inside me and I realized that I would, sooner or later, have to check the shop out.
Which I did.
It turns out the place was mostly just about collectables. And before you ask, yes, they did have an assortment of pheasant head bottles -- and just about any other Avon-related offering - for your collecting pleasure.
The term "Firearms and all things related" proved to be more than a little exaggerated, as the firearms displayed were few in number and overpriced. And though I wasn't really in the market for a new gun, I had to remind myself that gun prices have reportedly been on the rise across the nation, and that this particularly curious curiosity shop was located in a tourist destination type of village. We all know that even toilet paper is overpriced in such haunts.
Then there were the gifts. There were, in fact, gifts everywhere -- cascading from the walls, stuck in every nook and cranny, covering up the counter space, and hanging from the door.
And as I took the hand of my wife and we strolled out the door into the evening mist, I wondered how such a place might have come into existence. Let me, if you will, momentarily explore the question.
Joe: I'm bored with retirement. What do you think about us opening up a gun store up there behind the five-and-dime? I know a little about guns and we might be able to sell a few gifts and what-knots to the tourists as well.
Jenny: Sounds good to me. Will you be selling any of your guns? They sure are cluttering up the family room.
Joe: No. I couldn't afford to part with those. They're like family.
Jenny. OK. Do you think you could find a corner for me to try to get rid of some of these Avon bottles I inherited from Aunt Martha? They're NOT like part of the family and are just gathering dust.
Joe: Do I have to? Well, OK. If I have to. But only the ones that go along with the gun shop theme. You know, like those gold pheasant head cologne bottles.
And the rest, as they say, is history.