Sue Spitulnik

Writing, Sewing, Travel, and Thoughts



The Night Before – Rt. 66 trip

This morning we leave on the first leg of our Rt. 66 drive in our six-speed 2009 Red Mini Cooper Convertible, but last night we had a vacation worthy experience at Michael’s Valley Grill on Old Penfield Road in Penfield, NY, a suburb of Rochester.

Let me back up. I belong to an international writing group called Carrot Ranch Literary, whose lead buckaroo is Charli Mills. I got to spend four plus days with Charli in July and now consider her not only a writing mentor but a personal friend. She is studying for her MFA (Master of Fine Arts) on-line and is sharing her classes with us. This week was about deep mapping, which means use all five of your senses to scope out a place and describe it. I think I have that right. So tonight I observed more than just the people I saw. I watched what they did, how they interacted, and got caught up in the fact they were having a good time. I’m not practiced at writing observations so please bear with me.

Old Penfield Road has many restaurants. We eat breakfast at Steve’s Original Diner so often the owner and employees know us by name and vice versa. We like to sit at the counter so we have time to talk and look at pictures of pets/children/and grandchildren. One of the girls has been our coach for this trip. Thank you, Rhonda. On the other side of the street is Charlie Brown’s. We eat dinner there often enough that I get a kiss on the check from the owner when we arrive and leave. We feel at home, enjoy the live music, and take our friends there.

Back across the street again is Michael’s Valley Grill, owned by Michael and Priscilla Petrillo. They have live music too and a friend of mine recently told me if we, my husband and I, liked jazz, we should be going to Michael’s on Saturday night. Tonight, we did. If you have ever been to New Orleans, the restaurant has that feel. What do I mean? On a recent trip to Nola we experienced something you don’t often see in the northeast. Anyway, I don’t. A person was a person. It didn’t matter the color, the clothing, or the make-up; the people that were in the French Quarter when we were there were “just humans” and everyone interacted with everyone else. It was refreshing. I saw and felt the same thing this evening. It was a treat. The band started with Joe on piano, Curtis on drums, then added Terrance on sax and Art on guitar. I’m sorry for the pink hue to the photo, there were red lights on the band.


The band, left to right, Art, Terrance, Curtis, and Joe.


Some of their friends and family were in the crowd too. I have to admit something and I hope I don’t offend anyone. Those African American women and men know how to dress. I always feel like a country bumpkin when I’m in a room with them. Not everyone was in a suit or dress, but the ones that were looked mighty fine no matter their ancestry. It seemed most took more time than I did to get ready to go out, but then I came home and spent time in front of the computer. We all have our strengths.

“The Grill’s” walls are lined with artwork; all by David Colon Jr. ( One wall has the band members. The watercolor of Curtis is being entered into a northeast competition in the next couple of months. I expect it will do well. Working behind the bar was Max. He’s been there over ten years and knows what people drink. He also knows their habits so no one waited long for a refill. At just the right time he made Priscilla what I think was a chocolate martini which she sipped before leaving for the evening. I asked her if I could photograph the art work. She said, “Of course.” I also asked permission to write about their business. She didn’t ask to read what I wrote before I post it. She also wants to live the next month vicariously through me, so now my plan to blog our trip is even more important to accomplish. Here’s a picture of Max, and one of the watercolors of the band.

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Watercolors of the band and humans.



Max, a fun, quick bartender.


We got there early enough to watch Michael escort a couple to their table. He allowed the woman to take his arm and walked slowly with her saying they were only going to the fourth table from the door. We were still at the bar when that couple left. The man stopped to talk to my husband about his handle bar mustache. That happens a lot. The mustache is a great conversation starter. We get to know a lot of people that way.

When Art first came in we talked to him, or my husband did, about the fact he was wearing a New York Yankee’s hat. Art deduced right away that Bob is a Red Sox fan, even more so after Bob showed him his socks. About the same time the band was playing a song that included the lyrics, “take your shoe off.” Max and a few others did as they were told, but then put them on again. It made for a light hearted moment and some big smiles. Michael’s was a fun place to be tonight. From where I was sitting at the bar, I could see the cars enter and leave the parking lot. There was one thing in common, there were no inexpensive ones.

If you have the chance, visit Michael’s Valley Grill on a Saturday night. The food is great, the service is top notch, the Nola atmosphere is a breath of fresh air and on Saturday nights the live band is the icing on the cake. No one will rush you out the door so it’s the ideal spot to visit with friends and be pampered. And don’t forget to check out the art work by David that is for sale.

Not a Brag – A Reality — flash fiction

          On the Riverside Hotel lobby wall there was a big, bold sign; Our bartender Carlton is the best in the US. We took our luggage to the room, freshened up and went to the lounge; curious. With our first order Carlton asked our names and hometown and didn’t forget. He asked other guests the same then introduced everyone to everyone else. We had a fun evening with what felt like old friends. We left an exorbitant tip, sad we couldn’t stay another night. We still talk about Carlton, wonder how much money he makes, and if he’s still there.

In response to Charli Mills February 7, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

Splashing is Fun

The National Day of Calendar doesn’t explain when Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day was started, by whom, or what for, but admit it, if you see a child splashing in a puddle it makes you smile. There is  something fun and freeing when you see or do it.

Way back when, my best girl chum was a classmate named Barb. We must have been seven or eight. She would come home on the school bus with me on occasion. Our favorite pastime was making “secret” mud holes in the defunct garden, so it must have been late October when we did it. Our goal was to have one of my older sisters step in it. I don’t remember that ever happening. One time we didn’t mark the booby trap and Barb stepped in it with her school sneakers on. My mother was not very happy with us and did her best to clean the sneaks. I am still laughing that it was one of us that stepped in the mud.

I picked my grandson up from school yesterday. There was sloppy snow near the exit door of the school. I can’t tell you how many fifth grade boys had to stomp in that slop. They looked at the student next to them to see if they had splashed them, then laughed if they were successful. I smiled inwardly.

When I first started dating my husband we were at a summer picnic. The weather was as warm as could be but it was pouring. We decided we might as well dance in the rain. Our friends thought we were acting like children. Oh well. It’s a great memory and we had fun doing it.

I’m sure most of you have seen the video of the toddler “walking” the dog. The one where the dog is standing there, the leash lies on the ground, and the child is stomping in puddles. It’s a good thing some parts of us never grow old no matter how many birthdays we celebrate.

It’s supposed to rain today in my neck of the woods in New York state. I’m glad there will be some puddles to splash in.


Do Only Girls Name Their Cars?

It’s National Name your Car Day.  After seeing the picture supplied, I asked my husband if guys name their vehicles like females do.  He said, “Yes, usually a girl’s name.”  Funny, I call my vehicle a girls name, even if it’s a small pick-up (in my past) or an SUV.  The name?  Becky.  I had wanted to name my daughter that after her late grandmother.

Way back when, the early ’60’s, my mother had a hand choke, stick shift Ford Falcon.  She never did get the hang of how far out to pull the hand choke or when to push it in.  She often flooded the engine and we would go back in the house and wait till she could try again, about twenty minutes.  Once she got it going, shifting was another headache.  That clutch was her nemesis for as long as we had the car.  She never became proficient in letting the clutch out and giving it enough gas at the right time.   She called the car Buckin’ Jenny.  The seats of that car were the normal upholstery fabric.  I don’t know whether it was Mom’s, Dad’s, or the salesman’s suggestion to have heavy clear plastic covers added.  I hated those covers.  In hot weather my skin stuck to them and in cold weather they never warmed up no matter how long you sat in the same spot.  I don’t miss that car, but I sure remember it.  Mom’s next car was a Candy Apple Red Ford LTD.  We called that one Candy.  It was big, plush, and an automatic.

When my older sisters started driving Dad came home with a huge, yellow and black Lincoln with tail fins.  I think it was a 1959 model.  His thought process was if they got in an accident, they wouldn’t get hurt.  Mom called the car, “Goldy”, but my sisters friends called it “Bumblebee”.  It was recognized throughout the area so my sisters didn’t get away with sneaking anywhere.

My husband and I gave up the Harley when his back and knees gave out.  We now have a six speed, Mini Cooper Convertible.  When we picked it out, there was a blue, white and red one lined up in a row.  We pointed at the red one at the same time saying we wanted something fun.  I’ve never had a car that handles corners like this one does, and it really scoots along with little effort.  I enjoy driving a stick; I’m proud that I can.  We call it, “The Toy”.  Maybe in honor of National Name Your Car Day, I’ll go give it a bath.

National Day of Just Because

Just because I can.  Just because I felt like it.  Just because I wanted to.  Just because I never had before.

Are there things on your bucket list you’ve never given yourself permission to do? Not the expensive trip, or the fly in a helicopter type; the silly ones, like dance in the rain, eat ice cream till you want no more, write a love poem (you don’t have to show it to anyone!), or stay in bed all day.  Today is the day!  Do it; Just Because!

Little kids are known for jumping in mud puddles just because they are there.  When my husband and I first started dating we went for a walk on a trail in a local park.  It was hot and there were mud puddles.  We jumped in them, just for fun, and enjoyed the fact we could laugh about it together.  Another time we were at a company party and it was raining.  We like to dance, and the music had the right beat; we danced in the rain.  It was fun. Everyone just stared at us.

Have you ever wanted to call in sick when you weren’t or visit every single store in the mall just to say you did.  Or send yourself flowers because you like to receive them. (Don’t tell who they are from!)  Maybe go try out an expensive sports car so you can say you have driven one, or spend the day riding horses.  According to the National Day of calendar today is the day to do it.  Just Because!

I will ask you to keep it positive.  I’m having thoughts of things I shouldn’t do, just because, like tell the neighbor he’s too nosey, or tell someone their perfume makes them smell like a skunk.  You get the picture.

So let your hair down, throw your cares to the wind, forget about what other people might think and go do it.  Whatever it might be.  Just Because.

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