People are tied to places. Places are tied to people. Sometimes places can't survive without their people. Sometimes this is very sad.
The Toll Gate is part of the landscape. Imagining a drive to Thacher Park without passing the Toll Gate is like imagining a drive to Thacher Park without a view of the Heldebergs. It has been there all of my days and I took for granted that it would be there for the rest of my days.
Recently the proprietor fell ill and the Toll Gate shut its doors (go here to help out a little). The community closed ranks around the beloved joint. Money was raised and good feelings were shared. I was not at all surprised. Appearances often to the contrary, people around here are good and kind. When help is needed, help is given.
I will recount a Toll Gate anecdote of mine. One time a year or two ago I was driving back from a day at Indian Ladder with the kids. We came upon a car that had run off the road and struck some trees, maybe a minute or two prior. I pulled onto the shoulder and ran over to see what I could do. Maybe 10 other folks of all ages and sorts had the same idea and joined me.
All turned out well, the authorities arrived, and the family and I continued on to the Toll Gate. I got each of my little ones a cone and perched them on the gate of my truck. As I watched the kids happily dribble melted ice cream all over themselves and told them about how I used to dribble ice cream all over myself as a kid (in this very parking lot!), my wife received a phone call. From my own phone.
I had dropped the phone on the side of the road when I had jumped out back at that accident. A friend of mine was one of the first responders and had come across my phone after clearing the accident! He brought it to me at the Toll Gate and we shot the shit for a minute. One of those happy little coincidences that make you think there may really be some sort of rhyme or reason to life and the rest of the universe...
Anyhow, this is all to say that folks are scared and stupid most times. But when it counts it is a safe bet that people around here will get together and do the right thing.
A couple of weeks ago the Toll Gate opened on a Saturday to offer free ice cream by way of thanks to all those who contributed towards Robert's medical bills.
I took my daughter over.
The line was out the door. Standing outside I had a chance to take in the details. In summer the Toll Gate is covered in ivy.
Should the Toll Gate close I am convinced that it should be preserved as a museum. There just aren't places like this anymore and there never will be again.
There was a table set up with get well cards for all to sign. My daughter signed one.
I chose an eggnog cone (daughter had the Thin Mint). It occurred to me that my lifelong obsession with eggnog may have its genesis in childhood eggnog cones from the Toll Gate.
I have hopes that this was not my (or my daughter's) last cone at the Toll Gate. But the future is very uncertain. At the very least things will change.
As we walked back to the truck I clumsily dropped my half-eaten cone into the muck on the side of the road. My daughter gasped and said, "Oh Daddy! I'm sorry!" Then she offered me her cone. I think she knows that the Toll Gate is an important place to me... She is a good kid.
All kids are good. I think maybe we should turn over leadership of our affairs to the children. Maybe also dogs.
Should Toll Gate open its doors back up, I hope that you will all join me in frequently spending money there. I would like to do anything I can to keep it as a going concern.