Breaking routine on a downtown early morn
by Rick Norton Assoc. Editor
Aug 18, 2013 | 1091 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Norton
Rick Norton
“Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. Til’ death do us part is the length.”

— Fawn Weaver

Website founder,

“Happy Wives Club”


Wives often know husbands better than husbands know themselves; at least, that’s the case in our marriage, one that topped 36 years in June.

Sometimes I’m the last to recognize, and to understand, my own needs; but thankfully, she’s the first.

A case in point is appreciating the importance of balancing our work and home lives, and learning how to better relax with a little “us” or “me” time.

I don’t do it well. Without her, I’d do it even worse.

Let’s be frank. Newspaper work is tough. The hours are long. The benefits are average. The stress borders occasionally on the ridiculous. And the job itself is 24/7, meaning you have very little down time — unless you take the plunge and vacation somewhere in a land far, far away where you can’t be reached, and those who do know where you are know better than to try.

Now, couple the time demands of a newspaperman with this crazy, upside-down summer and you have a recipe for implosion. I say “crazy, upside-down” because this seems like the wettest summer season we’ve faced in decades. And wet summers mean this: the grass grows faster than a middle-aged man’s midsection on a diet of banana pudding and cheesecake.

Summer ... plus heavy rainfall ... plus grass, especially crabgrass which is little more than an annoying weed, translates into mowing. And when conditions are just right, even more mowing.

This outdoor drama deepens for those of us who still cling to the notion that pushing a lawn mower is good for the heart, the lungs and anything else that keeps us breathing. It also saves a few bucks on leather belts — assuming that shorter is cheaper.

Hence, the remaining diehards — interesting choice of words, don’t you think? — in our dwindling Push Club haven’t seriously courted the tempting world of the riding lawn mower; at least, not yet. But I’ve got to admit, those 42-inch John Deeres at the big box stores are looking greener by the day. But my dream bubble keeps bursting into a new vision ... of my doctor’s forefinger wagging in my face as a stern reminder of the benefits of exercise.

Thanks to Zeus’s (Greek mythology’s God of Rain) revenge, this summer has doubled my mowing pleasure. I haven’t whacked the grass only once a week since early April. For the last four months, it’s been every third or fourth day. And for a couple of weeks, I was dragging out the tireless Troy-Bilt every other day for a patch of particularly nasty crabgrass that lies in the direct path of overloaded downspouts and driveway runoff.

So between homesteading at the office and camping out in the yard behind a little red engine that could, there’s been little extra time for anything else ... other than pruning trees, trimming shrubs, pulling weeds and chasing rabbits away from the flowers.

I’ve tried to help a little inside the house with the cleaning and cooking, but in this department I’ve been an underachiever all summer.

Yet, my patient wife has never complained. Not once. She tends to most of the inside stuff while encouraging me to try to find a few hours away from everything ... the office, the grass, the lawn mower, even the rabbits.

Recognizing that I had fallen into a hopeless pattern — work, mow, work, mow, work ... well, you get the idea — she told me on a recent Saturday evening after yet another afternoon of grass and grime that she was changing my routine, if only for a few hours.

“I’m taking you to breakfast in the morning,” she told me. “I’m buying. But you’ll need to not go into the office.”

I was all ears.

By agreement, I was still allowed a pre-dawn Sunday morning run over at the Oak Grove Huff’N Puff Trail, but no dropping by the newspaper office afterward to check on the Sunday edition. I was to come straight home, catch a shower and shave, and we’d go find some breakfast ... together.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked.

“It’s a little place downtown that is right up your alley,” she assured me. “It’s quiet and charming ... plus, being a Sunday morning, it won’t be crowded.”

She called it Cobblestone Grille, a relatively new restaurant that I had heard of, but had never visited. It sits in the same storefront as the former Diamond Lil’s, and even offers three outside tables along the Ocoee Street curb.

She was right as usual. Already enticed by the thought of visiting the calm of Historic Downtown on a slow, and early, Sunday morning, I was just as enchanted at visiting an eatery of this name. Cobblestone Grille sounded like a corner pub taken right from the heart of Gatlinburg, one of our favorite weekend getaways.

But this was no pub. This was family. This was couples. This was solo dining. This was soothing to the touch, gentle to the feel.

My first impressions upon stepping into the front door: Serene. Inviting. Cozy. Elegantly country. Quiet. And yes, “charming” ... while veiled in a fuzzy glow lined by blue-checked tablecloths and warm smiles from blue-collar servers.

Upon our arrival, only one booth was taken. The couple finishing their meal spoke in hushed tones and knowing whispers.

“If the food’s as good as the ambiance, I’m in love all over again,” I told my wife as we slid into a booth.

The first cup of coffee set the tone for the meal and my wife realized I was already hooked.

“I knew you’d like it,” my soulmate smiled.

“Actually, I love it,” I offered, my eyes drifting from hardwood floor to subdued lighting along the walls to voices from the past that likely spoke in a soft cadence from within these same old walls so very many years ago when Cleveland was barely a town.

My French toast, her blueberry pancakes, the aromatic and rich-tasting java, and the friendly faces of the restaurant staff were a treat. But this column isn’t a review of a Cleveland restaurant and its niche in the downtown market.

This is about getting away, even if just for a couple of hours.

This is about breaking a routine, even if only for a brief early morn.

This is about sharing time and space with someone you love, even when you know the experience will end.

This is about life in a slow lane of enchantment, one whose journey is best told through the twinkling eyes of a special lady at the table’s other side.