It is Sunday and I’m in Danbury, Conn. Yesterday, my wife and I drove to Danbury to celebrate Dean Moss’ 75th birthday and last night did our celebrating at the home of his son, Will Moss, who works with my son, Zach, at NBC in Stamford.
Dean grew up in Pomfret, Conn., and at 40 was hired as the General Manager at the Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority. Dean and Alice Moss quickly blended into Beaufort’s small social biome, Alice eventually running the foundation that supports Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
Their children, Will and Lily, became good friends with my son, Zach, and we often took hikes in the Blue Ridge especially around Mt. Pisgah and into the Shining Rock Wilderness.
Will, Lily and Zach were all in Danbury yesterday and, with the assistance of Will’s home-brewed beer, we talked about their coming of age in Beaufort. One of those stories centered on a canoe trip that we all took down the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers — a trip that began at a crystal clear up-welling called Ichetucknee Springs. The trip also included the (Charles) Friedman boys as well as the (David) Porter boys.
The Santa Fe/Suwannee is a long system that begins in the middle of Florida’s panhandle, then works its way South through stands of Cypress, Black Tupelo and Gum trees to the Gulf of Mexico. It is surrounded, for much of its length, by swamp and in those long gone days was largely without human habitation. After about six hours of current-assisted paddling we came upon a fish camp.
Now I’m old, and my memory unreliable, but the fish camp I’m talking about bore no resemblance to the Fish Camp Restaurant in Port Royal. None at all. This fish camp, emphasis on camp, featured a dark, low-ceiling bar built atop swaying creosote pilings beginning to give way to the inexorable, russet-colored current. It was, however, known for fried catfish, cold beer, and for bunk beds for patrons too impaired to make their way out of the swamp. As we paddled up to its dock the kids fell silent, each sensing something bad had transformed their fathers — that tonight was going to be their own version of “Deliverance” or, perhaps,“Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Our large party was tired, hungry but the smell of hot grease got us into the bar and the grown-ups into their first Pabst Blue Ribbon. Soon we were talking, laughing, re-living the capsizing, the collisions and the loss of styrofoam coolers as we pin-balled our way down river. The kids, at their own table and strangely subdued, ordered fried mozzarella sticks which they garnished with sugar from the complimentary packets provided by the restaurant.
Later, when we were shown the beds in the bunkhouse, the kids again went silent; presumably thinking their (normally) reasonable fathers had crossed-over some invisible line separating sanity from madness. And I will admit the bedding was alive with some kind of biomass — probably harmless.
Later that night the kids met together, discussed the bedding and bathrooms, then voted to send Lily to us who said, “We must leave this place!”
“We must find shelter elsewhere,” were the words I remember to this day. The problem was there was no elsewhere. Eventually Lily went back to her room, but the kids were not happy.
Yesterday, Lily Moss revealed that as a result of this experience in Florida she decided to dedicate her life to providing impeccably clean sheets, and bathrooms, in hotels around the world. Lily is now Director for Guest Experience for Kimpton Hotels. Kimpton has 8,000 employees and 68 hotels worldwide.
What is distinctive about Kimpton, is the fact that each hotel is different. They are themed but they are also immaculate. And Lily Moss has “opened” a good many of these hotels. Currently she is working in Honduras.
Last night, as we sat in the Connecticut twilight she said, “It was the horror that I saw at that Florida fish camp that led me to Kimpton. That night I decided nobody else would see that kind of depravity.”
As I finished-up Will’s handcrafted beer, I marveled how a small, unfortunate decision on my part resonated through the years. Lily Moss now travels the world, opening hotels and delivering a unique experience, largely due to my thoughtlessness. It goes to show you that one never knows when a hurried, un-researched, unfortunate hotel reservation will have monumental, long-term consequences.
Scott Graber is a lawyer, novelist, veteran columnist and longtime resident of Port Royal. He can be reached at email@example.com.