The Dunkin’ Donuts on the border between Gibbstown and Paulsboro is the site of my writing inspiration right now. I think Hemingway and Steinbeck and Fitzgerald found settings a touch more bucolic or fertile, but, to be honest, I like the scene. Besides, my mother grew up near here, in Clarksboro, on Cohawkin Road. I drive by her house now and then, reaching for some fleeting sense of nostalgia and a NJ connection, but the dismantled pick-up in the front lawn cuts into the warmth a little.
Anyway, I’m participating in a school fair (is that the term?) at the Guardian Angels school…and I think it’s in Gibbstown. I drove by it first, and it’s an adorable building nestled between homes on a residential street. I saw grass. For the last three years, I’ve helped Admissions by acting as Archmere’s (freshly-shaved) face, and dang if I haven’t managed to steer some of the best and brightest to Archmere. At least that’s what I tell myself. Mullica Hill was the school I visited the last two years, and a school in Drexel Hill the year before that. It’s an easy task, given the excellent product I am “selling,” but, still, I don’t consider myself a salesperson. Which reminds me…
In 1988 and 1989, I left teaching for a few years to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, thinking hotels and restaurants would bring me new happiness. Turns out I just liked free food, low pay, and no sleep. There was this resort/golf course place in Downingtown called Brandywine Hotel and Resort, on Route 30, right across from the Tabas Hotel: Mickey Rooney’s cartoon face on a billboard stared at me all day. I was in convention sales. It was nuts. My boss stole our secretary’s codeine every day, dead birds kept appearing on people’s balconies, and I think the banquet staff were running guns. Somehow I managed to become a top salesperson, but I spent most of my time revising all the correspondence leaving the hotel: nobody could write, and I became the in-house proofreader. Teaching was calling me back. I call this era My Great Hotel Sickness.
But recruiting students and families to Archmere rises far above the dark days at Brandywine, and the food is better, if not free. I have cool giveaways, some videos to show, our snazzy viewbooks, and some candy to spread about my table. I’ll be joined by a Guardian Angels graduate, a current Archmere senior, so this will be a fun night. So, wish me luck!