Lawyer from Boston helps an Appalachian Breakdown with a little
kindness and connection
I had just pulled off of I-79S onto 19W to continue on my way to
my destination in Western Kentucky...and the sputtering came
back. In the immortal words of Lando Calrissian,
“They told me they fixed it” was all I could scream
through gritted teeth as my 1981 Suzuki GS puttered to a halt on
the side of the road, quickly leaving me wondering what I was
going to do next. Without cell coverage and with a broken
down motorcycle, I was now at the mercy of the long road in
With the sun soon to be heading down and my very limited, I
would have taken any help -- but, the last thing I thought I
needed was a lawyer. As the universe would have it,
that’s exactly what it sent motoring up the road next.
A Massachusetts J.D. named Marc Grimaldi coasted over the
hill and around the bend, and between the time where my eyes
recognized his MA plate and before I had the chance to think ,
“I wonder if he’ll stop”...the blinker flashed
on and he coasted to a halt right ahead of me.
The daylight was starting to fade to the west, and I had just
spent 8 hours working on the bike’s carburetors (which,
come to find out, was not the problem with the fuel system that
halted my early morning progress about an hour out of
Pittsburgh). If I could reach Bardstown, KY by 8AM the
following morning, then I’d be a part of my friend’s
wedding. It was as simple as that. But, for now, I
was 400 miles away with a choked engine, and the clock was
“What are the chances he’s going exactly that way and
he’d be willing to lift a bike into the back of his truck?
Was it was my New Hampshire plates, maybe he’s just
curious about engines? Is this guy going to try to sell me
insurance?” I fished for the most probable scenario that I
would go with and as I stood up to greet him, his first words
immediately answered that question.
“Marc Grimaldi, nice to meet you.” He extended his
hand. “I had one just like that when I was in school.
Let me guess...petcock has fouled on ya?”.
“That’s...that could be it.” I stared at
the engine as the thought distracted me from the firm handshake I
failed to execute.
We traded a couple stories about our old Japanese bikes, how
great they were, and the roads we’ve traveled. I
quickly understood why Mr. Grimaldi was so good at what he does.
His well worn 1986 F150 separated him from a traditional
lawyer’s stereotype, and we contemplated what to do with
the failing sunlight and rapidly escaping business
Come to figure out, he knew of a small engine repair shop back in
the town where I had just exited. Not the same outfit that
I just dropped $240 with to clean and calibrate my carbs, but one
of those old timers that just knew engines and always smelled of
gasoline. Mr. Grimaldi had not only been in this area
before, but apparently had been in a very similar predicament to
mine in the past, and this is the exact reason he knew of the old
mechanic who pulled him through his familiar scenario.
Marc Grimaldi knew this man, and Marc Grimaldi apparently
didn’t even have to call to see if he was available - given
that he had just left that very place just prior to meeting me.
Apparently, Marc’s experience about a decade earlier
resulted in an unexpected week’s stay in sleepy little
Morgantown as he waited for parts to arrive. Fast forward a
week, and a lifelong friendship had developed to where Marc would
take a yearly pilgrimage to visit the old farmer/mechanic who
helped him that fateful day.
Here we were now, pushing my bike up into the bed of his truck
while he reassured me that he knew “just the guy”.
Before I could even begin to figure out how to thank Marc
for his time and his efforts to problem solve, we were motoring
our way back down 19E towards the outskirts of Morgantown, and to
the old farmer’s garage where miracles apparently happen.
I anticipated that Mr. Grimaldi seemed too coy to allow me to
reimburse him in any traditional way, so I figured I only had one
shot to hatch a plan and to pay him back in some form or another.
I’d have to distract Marc while we were enroute if I
were actually get some gesture of appreciation that he
“Can you just pull over to this gas station real quick--I
just have to call my friends in Kentucky -- tell them that
I’ll let them know that I’m throwing a Hail Mary
right about now”. We pulled up to the stop and I
prayed that my ruse would prove fruitful.
5 minutes later, I came back out with a bag under my arm, and at
least a slight sense of accomplishment give my complete inability
to make it more than 50 miles that day. Marc drove us right
back to a place he had left not 30 minutes prior: Where a
perfectly iconic, American barn set in the deep country adorned a
hillside farm just on the outskirts of this West Virginia town;
we rolled down the dusty driveway and scattered the annoyed
chickens along the way. As we rolled up, a sense of warmth
crept over me -- as if I was returning home or to a trusted place
to weather a storm.
The old man, clad in the perfect hillbilly overalls and straw
hat, popped his head up from the porch and smiled.
“Back so soon?”
Marc closed the driver side door. “Didn’t want
to wait another year, or for the frantic call for a lawyer when
your cows trample the neighbor’s garden again.
Besides...I have a familiar story to tell
That was the day that Marc Grimaldi passed forward along a favor
that he had been holding onto for over 20 years. The old
farmer heard my story out and, once again, helped a wayward
stranger get back on the road by easily clearing the petcock that
fowled my engine 20 years after the same diagnosis was made for
Marc paid his appreciation forward for me to now pass on when my
time comes to make a difference to someone stranded on the side
of the road somewhere, way far away from home.
In my bag, I had bought the last 2 pies on the shelf at the small
gas station and 2 six-packs of a familiar beer for whomever was
at the end of this trip back to town. Oddly, a New England
brew had found a foothold in the stores of this Appalachian town,
so a little bit of my home stayed with the farmer after we left
that night. I got on my way, and made it to Bardstown, KY
by 4 in the morning...just enough time to watch the sunrise and
to make it to the wedding on time. (I have another story
that involves the locals of the Daniel Boone National Forest, but
that’s for another time).
Marc Grimaldi, the lawyer from Boston, did more than give me a
lift that day. He made 2 new friends for me, and
that’s something that I hope to pass forward in the same
way he did. Thanks, Marc, wherever you are...I hope more
people find you when that special set of services is needed.
(and hopefully, not the ones involving cows in the