Canada Day and Bruno and the Sisters of Ursuline became a quick fading memory. It all went off without a hitch and they want to bring me back next year. Hmmm Canada Day in Bruno every year? We’ll see how it goes. Great folks to be sure. As they do every year a parade of  horses came down the main drag with riders in full regalia which prompted one of “Citizens’ to exclaim, “See I told you this wasn’t a one horse town! It’s a six horse town!” The afternoon ended with some visiting and a BBQ and some terrific stories from longstanding Bruno residents. I awoke to realize it was time for the long haul home. A few shows this week but some massive driving.

Got up at 6:00 am and randomly punched in the city BRANDON MANITOBA into my GPS. A paltry six hour drive and a day of rest awaited me. About three hours into the drive I realized I had broken a promise to a girl I’d recently met in Brandon on my way through. Yes, on my tour west a few months ago I had stayed at  the www.westernmotel.ca in Brandon and it was just a few days after the deer hit. The car still mangled, my nerves still fried, I needed some luck and as you know I found plenty of it (See “Oh Deer Me Parts One and Two).  In the story I reference five angels that appeared along the trail to help out just when all seemed quite dire. Yes…I forgot to mention one of them and in driving back to Brandon today it reminded me of my folly.

I drove my jalopy into the front office of the Western Motel in Brandon in the early morning of Sunday, May 12. The day before was a bit of gong show as I’d performed for a six hours on and off at two locations, closing the night very, very late with a group of folks at a bar called the Double Decker Pub. The Double Decker is a pub show, which I will rarely perform these days, however, the afternoon gig called for my attention and the Double Decker was going to ‘fit the bill’ for the evening. A lot of these shows for me are dial-ins in the the sense that I can put it into auto-pilot, sing some Cash covers, get well fed and watered and usually stumble home. Over the years, I realized that some places treated you better than others and this place was always first class – top notch. One of the owners who booked me was a girl by the name of Kim Hooker, who was the illusive owner behind the email who always got back to you right away, always had your payment waiting for you, your posters up, the staff well informed of your deal – etc…The interesting this is that I’d never met Kim in person. Just another disembodied email contact.

The gig was a late one. I shut it down at 5:00 am after a very late party night with many in the venue. I woke up at the Bed and Breakfast  at 11:00 am, completely fried from  the night’s shenanigans and thought I’d better get a motel room and figure out my plan of action for the week. I knew the ‘deer hit’ was playing on my mental state. My car, still in ruins, I felt it had become a metaphor for the way my songwriting career was going. (You can think some strange things after a night of potent potables with not a real friend to talk to.)

I’d literally stayed in all of the cheap motels in Brandon over these past years. Tried them all. I had been down to staying at crazy place on the highway with tin roofs calling itself The Little Chalet. Nice people, but a few ownership changes along the way and they suddenly priced me out of the touring musician market. I shouldn’t have been driving the next morning as I likely smelled like a brewery. I hauled my unshaven, wrinkled carcass of a mess into my shit-box and began cruising the blinding bright streets of Brandon high-density Sunday morning church-going traffic.

“Ah…I’ll try that one!” I said to myself. A small sign tucked between The Keg and million other signs along the busy street. Not expecting much, I came in and begged for mercy. Every ‘beg for mercy’ exchange in this situation is one that I learned from this great little Ukranian woman who owned a nice motel in BC. She told me that her husband and her had owned the motel for 20 years and that she always appreciated musicians (as her son was a concert pianist!) She said “You can take’a diss advice for what it’s worth. You go into da motel with a $50 dollar bill in your hand ana say “I’m a musician without a lot of money and I need room for tonight. I don’ta wan any service. I don’ta want any noise. I just wanna room and all I have is dis $50. Yes or No?” Then she continued “All they canna do is say yes or no? You a big boy – you canna handle rejection! I always say yes to da musicians!”

I must confess, it takes some getting used to, the grovelling component and the red-faced feeling when the 70% of motel owners laugh at you, however, it has worked time and time again and MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, the rooms I walk into are full of great character, a fridge, a microwave and TV, a clean bathroom and great bed. Most even have a little bbq for some cooking if you’re so inclined. Naturally, the beds are always a gamble but the small motels always seem to take pride in new mattresses.  I know, I know, the  illusion of security and cleanliness of a Best Western is hard to beat, but I’m talking about a songwriters budget. Let’s keep it real. Normally, I’d be on someone’s couch or in a hostel. This is ridin’ high.

So there I was at the front desk waving my $50 around but this time not ready to walk. I was too burnt out and not willing to chance anymore driving – especially with a car that screamed “Here I am cops! Over here!”

The girl behind the counter offered me a quiet room in the back building for $60 all-in which was a fair deal all in all. As I walked through the lobby, I noticed a great display of muffins, fresh eggs, full on continental breakfast. Wow this is unexpected. “Do you mind if I help myself?” “Go right ahead” she said.
I spent the remainder of the day using their high-speed internet – scouring the country for a 2003 Camry hood – a replacement which I simply was unable to find. (Every colour other than black).  The next morning I joined the travelers in the lobby, congregating to discuss the Leaf game and the enjoy the free breakfast.

It was at this moment I approached the front desk to talk about renegotiating for another night’s stay. I’d enjoyed the room so much I thought it would be nice to give these fine folks the business. First class.
This time it was a new girl. “Sure we can fix you up. What’s your name?” “Jay Aymar,” I replied. “Jay? The musician from Double Deckers! I’m Kim Hooker!”
After all of this time I’d finally met Kim who’d once booked me at her pub and was now here?
“I sold the Decker and now own this motel!”
“Wow Kim that’s amazing. I must say you have the MIDAS touch because I was just thinking this morning that whoever owns this motel is really trying to turn it into something special. First class all the way!”
“Yeah, we’re renovating the rooms slowly but surely. Flat screens and new floors and beds are making their way into the rooms!”
“Well, I’ve stayed in hundreds over the years and can surely put this one top of my list. I mean that!” I replied.

We began to chat about our lives and talk about the twists and turns on this crazy river and eventually I shared a mini-version of the deer story. Still reeling, her semi-familiarity to me became a ear to lean on about my recent troubles. “Oh wow Jay, that’s a crazy story. I know how hard you musicians have it too. I used to see so many kids come through who just didn’t have any money, or clean clothes, unshaven, hungry. I don’t know how you all do it?”
“Well Kim, I am a bit further along in my career than that, however, some days I can feel that same Devil nippin at my heals!” I responded. “Hey” she replied “why don’t you take this nice executive suite for a few days at no charge. It’s newly renovated and not rented and let me do that for you. Just a friendly gesture.”
“Are you kidding me Kim? I am so low right now…I won’t say no. I won’t even pretend to argue with you!”

And with that, she set me up into this amazing suite inside of the motel unit. It even had a full-on kitchen, queen sized bed, dining room table and extra large flat-screen. I’d died and gone to heaven just when I needed it the most. My final nerve was counting on it and this angel appeared with this gesture at the exact moment I needed her too.

Upon leaving I made a promise to Kim that I would give her new Motel a shout on on my blog. One good deed deserves another. Somehow, the next few days slipped away into months and selfishly the notion slipped my mind – until this morning at 9am. I thought ” Aymar…you asshole…you promised that girl you were going to blog about her motel and you forgot!” Knowing that I was en route to the motel for the evening I was fulyl prepared to do this when I got in (which is where I’m at right now). I approached the front desk a few hours ago anticipating my explanation to Kim and was met by another girl checking me in. “Oh is Kim here?” “No, sorry she is off until tomorrow!” she replied.
“Oh, I’m a friend and you should have my name on file – I’d like to stay tonight. I’m a musician that used to play for her at the Decker.”

“Oh yeah, she mentioned you. How was your tour? I think she mentioned you were going to write a review about our place on your blog!”

……I hate it when someone beats me to it. lol

That’s the story folks. A great girl working her ass off to build a nice family business in the heart of Brandon MB. The Western Motel. I’ll vouch for this cozy little spot and it’s owner all day long. Don’t even think of staying anywhere else!

After all, what’s better than Wheat Kings and pretty things? Gotta love ya Brandon.

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4 thoughts on “WHEAT KINGS AND PRETTY THINGS

  1. Great story Jay. Like Ewen said….the unvarnished truth. It ain’t pretty, but it’s for real.

    I thought Kim might say to you…’good thing you didn’t hit a moose’!

  2. Man, I wish we’d known about this place when we ended up in Brandon one night last May. We ended up staying at some soul-less brand-new brand-name place on the eastern outskirts. I left my Arizona belt with silver-and-turquoise buckle there and had to call them 3 times before they finally shipped it to me. Kim would have treated me better, I bet…

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