It started early. Too early. I haven’t been up and out of the house before nine in the morning in I don’t know how long. But I’m a writer. Some of us keep vampire hours. Today I had an early morning dentist appointment to get my six-month cleaning and polishing and my preferred practitioner is a two-hour ride away. I will eventually need to get a dentist closer to where I live but for the time being old Dr. Alex is my go-to guy. So riding on less than two hours of sleep we headed out of town and then it began.
The dentist appointment went without mishap. Got my kudos for my oral hygiene and a new purple toothbrush. Then I ran into the old people. Old people amuse me. Nothing is sacred with them. They tell all your business and what might fall out of their mouths can awe and appall. I wasn’t sure of the relationship dynamics but they had a lengthy history and there wasn’t a full set of teeth between the three of them. Our conversation went something like this:
“Baby, baby, I know you. Ain’t your related to ‘dem Pritchards?”
“No, ma’am. I’m a Fletcher.”
“Look just like your daddy. Hey, Jim, this here is one of Pritchard’s girls. Looks just like her daddy!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! Looks just like him.”
“Pritchard was a rollin’ stone. It’s alright.” (As she’s patting my hand.) "But he wouldn’t work. Never could hold down ajob. And he was triflin’. Just no damn good. But we can’t pick our daddy. Just got to keep the one we get.”
Then there was the search for the perfect hotdog. Three hotdogs, an order of fries and a gallon of tea later and I still wasn’t satisfied. But I was full. And my stomach hurt. So we went looking for the castle because I knew that would make me feel better.
We’d heard the whispered stories. The fantastical love shack built for a woman who had the builder’s heart. Then she died. And with her passing, their castle was abandoned, the memories too painful for a man to endure. Others say it was a divorce, the wealth of it bitter and ugly, his hopes lost on broken promises. But I know about stories and how they can be twisted to suit the teller. So I wanted to see this place for myself; this fantasy built on love that was lost.
We found the castle and I am now obsessed. The property, crowned Mont Rouge, was the creation of renowned sculptor Robert Mihaly. The sculptor built the marble and cinder block structure to serve as his part-time studio and home. “It is constructed in a mash-up of styles ranging from European-styled towers to fantastical Middle-East-inspired minarets and cupolas which are covered in copper.” Unfortunately, while most of the exterior was completed, the interior was left unfinished after the death of Mihaly's beloved wife. Mont Rouge sits atop a long and winding mountainous road. At one point it is so narrow and so steep that ascending it is a tad bit scary. It sits on a precarious slope and the acreage of hardwoods surrounding it is home to a double-wide trailer here, and an obscure farmhouse there. The views below it are spectacular!
Since being abandoned, this extraordinary property has been vandalized by teens who had no sense of appreciation for what was not theirs. They’ve trashed and graffitied the interior, the windows have been broken, weather has rotted the wood, and it is now just a semblance of what it was meant to be. But there is still something about the place that drew me in and captured my soul. As I stood at the edge of the property, taking it all in, a small red bird flitted past and came to rest on a branch in front of me. It chirped excitedly as if it were happy to see me there but as I aimed my camera to take its picture, it disappeared and the air became eerily still.
In that moment, as I stood in awe of the castle, its failing infrastructure aside, I had the sense that Mr. Mihaly’s story was even bigger than the whispered tales that had led me to his dream home. In that moment I could feel the love that had been clawed in all that stone and mortar and now I am obsessed.
It was a very fine day indeed.