Marsha Coen had the warmest bed, of all my actor friends in the soft, quiet days of the ’50s. I remember going to visit her one cold winter morning after I got off from an 11 to 7 shift at the Waldorf Astoria.

Marsha was getting ready to go to work in the deli section of Bloomingdales Department Store.

She gave me a cup of tea while she showered. I just sat on her unmade bed and laid my head down for just a moment. It was so warm.

When I awoke she was gone, and there was a note on my chest: “Jerry, make the bed before you leave.”

Thank you, Marsha, wherever you are.

It seems that I’ve always been cold, even as a kid.

When I was about 13, I had a paper route and a paper box on the corner of Holly Hills and Grand in front of the old Cardinal Restaurant.

On cold nights, I learned to stand in the Cardinal’s vestibule where I could keep an eye on the box and coffee can, where buyers would drop their 3 cents. Yes, that’s what the Globe Democrat cost in 1945.

It was a comfy, warm space, and when customers came and went, I could smell the aroma of corned beef sandwiches and beer, chili and coffee. That kind of stuff sticks to you.

In the late fall of 1953, I rented a tiny house on Kogani Street, 20 minutes from my base in Fuchu. How I managed to have that, and live off base, well, that’s fodder for another column.

Japanese homes then, even now, I’m told, didn’t have central heating. So I got up early those mornings and went down to the corner, to wait for my Jeep to pick me up. It was always late, so I would stand inside the local police station to keep warm.

The local cops knew all about me. I was the only “Gaijin” (foreigner) in the village. One morning they invited me to join them around a large table with a big hibachi (charcoal fire bowl) covered by a thick flowered blanket. I slid my cold feet under. OMG, it was so warm I wanted to stay. We bantered in my sparse Japanese and they, in their sparse English, while my feet thawed out.

Today, I still speak Japanese, and I’m still cold.

Now I find myself looking for warm spots to spend the cold days of my 36th winter in Maine. And, I’ve found several.

Warmth, I’ve discovered, isn’t just generated by wood stoves or oil burners, but by the faces, voices and touches of other human beings with whom you share a space, a day or just a moment.

I’ve found such a space in different places that I move through each day. There is the Liberal Cup on Water Street in Hallowell, which in the deep of winter provides my needed warmth, from the servers who greet us, to the voices, the laughter and breath from the humans who fill each stool along the bar.

Liberal Cup calls itself an English Pub with warmth emanating from the booths themselves, dark polished, constantly wiped wood that seems to vibrate with the laughter and chatter of the long dead that once touched its fiber, and yes, the tears they spilled on its uneven panels.

They have, for She, who loves this place, a Thanksgiving plate of turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy and stuffing. It’s served every day. Warmth. Yes.

There’s Waterville’s Starbucks Coffee House that tempts with the perfume of roasted beans from Rwanda, Guatemala and Timor. What could be warmer than the smell of coffee at anytime of day?

This winter, after all these years, I’ve discovered the warmest of the warm at Eric’s Restaurant on College Avenue in Waterville.

Eric’s is a “Brigadoon” of an eatery, with a menu that floats back out of all of our childhoods, armed with servers that treat you like you grew up with them, or you’re that far away cousin come home. Eric’s provides that magic stuff we call “feel good” food like their pea soup, a thick green potion that at first taste, goes straight to the room in your heart where a picture of your mother sits on a piano.

Eric and his sister Cindie offer gigantic chicken pot pies shaped like magic toadstools from a fairy tale’s garden. Where else, I ask you, can you find liver and onions with mashed potatoes?

Warmth. I’ve found it again. It doesn’t come from oil and gas and wood. It comes from people, from their food, their touch and smiles. It’s just up the street, around the corner, down the block.

Come in out of the cold, and remember.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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