Friday, October 30, 2009

A Delicious Port in the Storm. Fernwood On the Moor's Pig and Whistle

Hello Friends,
I’m finally home after a chilly trek to Cloverdale on the Coastal Express. The weather in the Confederacy took a frigid turn today. Autumn was caught off guard by an early winter storm that progressively worsened the closer we got to the Boarder Station at Fernwood on the Moor.

Through my compartment's frosted window I watched the station emerge from the billowing snow. The carriage jerked to a stop at platform 1 twelve minutes behind schedule. A voice over the train's intercom informed us of an additional one hour delay due to track conditions ahead. Most decided to spend the time on board reading or taking tea in the restaurant car. Others, myself included, saw this as an opportunity to bundle up and venture out in search of a good hot meal.

The station clock gave us fifty minutes before the whistle blew and the great steam locomotive lurched forward to its next stop at Cloverdale. With both hands in pocket and head down low I slid out of the station and onto Station Street in search of The Pig and Whistle Restaurant and Pub. I’d been there before but lost my bearing in the fine snow spinning circles in the bitter night breeze. Luckily several other passengers shared my hunger for good food and led the way to this favorite night spot for Fernwood's locals. After a few minutes in the night air we saw the old pub’s lights. A few minutes after that came the happy sounds of music and laughter. What could be better than a hot meal with good people in a warm welcoming public house known for good food served in hearty helpings?

A jovial older waitress wearing a white blouse and black dress led us to a table near a old rock fireplace. She was rather stout, indicating to me her enjoyment for the food she served. The orange and yellow flames tickled our memories into forgetting the weather outside. A simple menu highlighted our choices for the evening. I settled on the special. She chuckled at my choice.
“I’m hoping your stomach is as large as your desire,” she said while finishing the order and putting her pencil back behind her ear.

The Pig and Whistle rapidly filled with locals all wearing their better clothes for a Friday night out. Soon finding a table became all but impossible. It wasn’t long before two couples made inquiries about the extra four seats at our table. We invited them to anchor with us. Three stories into dinner and it seemed like we’d known them all our lives.

The Special arrived on a large platter, consisting of a good section of meat, two kinds of mash, toast, a side of chips and a bowl of the best beans served in the Confederacy. I tucked in, eating as fast as swallowing would allow and successfully finished the gut buster in time to make it back to the Express for Cloverdale.

The rest of the trip found me squirming uncomfortably in my first class compartment. My extended belly needed release from confinement. I took a blanket from the storage compartment overhead and draped it over my lap. With the Scottish tartan in place I undid my belt buckle and top button, releasing my constricted waist. Thirty minutes further down the track the rocking motion, combined with the natural effects from the beans, caused an unusual amount of pressure to build in my abdomen. This resulted in two or three visits into the corridor to 'make wind' so to speak.

It’s 8:33 P.M. I’m home near the canal, pondering my schedule for tomorrow’s Halloween celebrations. Nowhere in the world is this night of ghouls and goblins more loved than here in Cloverdale. The village's children are home preparing for their nocturnal foray through the haunted neighborhoods searching for those illusive, and seldom captured, full sized Wonka Chocolate Bars. I may venture out myself, hooking up with a group of children, bag in hand in pursuit of these Wonkabeasts.
Must be careful though. Best to approach the doors on my knees to better blend in with the natives I'll be keeping company with.

Before I turn out my light I look out the front window at the lights of this village on Somewhere's frontier. How lucky am I to have found a sanctuary where everyone knows your name.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ruggers Family Roadside Pumpkin Patch

Hello Friends,
One of my favorite places to visit when in Cloverdale in October is the Ruggers Family Roadside Pumpkin Patch operated by Ned and Abigail Rugger for the last 23 years. You can’t miss it if you're traveling south on Highway 1 about three miles out of town.

Ned and Abigail created a haven for Halloween enthusiasts and lovers of pumpkins in general. Inside their store you’ll find pumpkins for purchase in their natural state, ready for your carving knife, or you can purchase one of the many pre carved pumpkins. The decorated pumpkins are displayed on consignment. If they sell, the carver shares the profit with the Ruggers. Many pre carved pumpkins come from Cloverdale’s school children. The Ruggers are generous with the Shire’s schools. The Ruggers donate their profit from any school carved pumpkin back to the school.

In addition to the pumpkins, the Ruggers offer the Autumn lover a variety of pumpkin products. You’d do yourself a mischief if you didn’t walk away without one of Mrs. Ruggers 14 inch Great Pumpkin Pies. This specialty pie comes 3 inches deep, oozing with the rich smells of nutmeg, clover and cinnamon. In addition to the pies, the Pumpkin Patch Bakery produces exquisite loafs of pumpkin bread, dozens of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and dishes of pumpkin puddings.

Pumpkin cider is served hot at half price with the purchase of any pumpkin donut, frosted with a merry orange pumpkin glaze. This hot cider, pumpkin treat is best enjoyed after one of the Ruggers twilight hay rides out to the pumpkin patches to gather the next day’s display pumpkins.

Watch out, there are rumors the Rugger’s youngest son Eugene may be hiding in the brushes surrounding the patches dressed to scare the unsuspecting merry makers happily secure amidst the hay bales. Eugene has an assortment of Halloween costumes he uses for the occasion. His girl friend Misty helps with the make up.

The Ruggers want to invite everyone to the yearly Pumpkin Theater held just behind the roadside store this Friday evening. Pull up one of the wooden stools or bring your own lawn chair and enjoy hot slices of fresh pumpkin bread dripping with sweet cream butter while enjoying this year’s performance of Ichabod Crane, The Headless Horseman, brought to you by the Coverdale’s Repertory Acting Company.
I can’t wait!

Folks, I want to again urge you to visit Ruggers Family Roadside Pumpkin Patch the next time you’re in Cloverdale. Hurry though, Its almost Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chester, the Star of the School's Haunted House Fund Raiser

With Halloween only days away Chester Lipperstein of 24 Evergreen Circle, Cloverdale spent Sunday rehearsing his part in Confederacy Primary School’s Haunted House Fund Raiser for the poor and unfortunate displaced mentally ill who walk the streets of the world’s cities. These are the forgotten people society ‘integrated’ into the general public as local and provincial governments closed their local mental hospitals in favor of outpatient treatment and heavy, mind altering medications.

Chester wrote a paper on the subject, as did all other students. Their papers were gathered in a binder and sent to the Confederacy’s Minister of Health and Asylums. Chester’s paper took first place in the Sixth Grade competition. Chester wrote:

Them mentally ill are scary. I seen them all the time at the Piggly Wiggly pushing them shopping carts. They eat stuff out of the trash cans. I think that’s gross. I seen one of them pissing on the wall outside the library. I think we should put them all back into them hospitals so they can scare each other and not little kids. I’m thinking that if you let little kids like me see people like that we might become crazy too and my mom wouldn’t like that and you don’t want to get my mom crazy because when my mom is crazy she does crazy things that I’m not suppose to talk about. My grandpa was crazy. They let him out of one of them hospitals. First thing he did was drop on all fours and start to eat the lawn. My dad laughed and said it was good because then he wouldn’t have to ever cut the grass again. My mom got really mad and locked grandpa up in the basement. I think he’s still down there but we are all afraid to go down and look cause he stopped making crazy noises about the time I had my last birthday. I asked mom about him but she said never mind and hangs up more of them air fresheners.

So in conclusion I think them hospitals should be opened up again for people like my grandpa so they don’t have to live on the streets or in the basements.

Chester tried out for the part of the half dead skeleton. Mrs. Pickle said the way he held his tongue cinched the part. She remarked how life like it was and imagined that all dead must carry their tongues in a similar fashion although she had never actually seen a dead person in real life. Chester said he got the idea of sticking out his tongue from his grandpa.
“That how he looked all the time when we used to visit him in the hospital,” Chester remembered. That was, of course, before he was released back to his family when the hospital closed.

When asked if he could hold the pose for the entire two hour fund raiser haunted house Chester replied,”Sure. Ain’t no different than what I do in class all day anyway.”

Friends, I give you Chester and his amazing rendition of the half dead skeleton for Confederacy Primary School’s Haunted House Charity. Be sure to attend. It will run every evening this week from 4:30 to 6:30 P.M. And to satisfy your post haunting hunger, the school’s PTA will be serving Sloppy Joes and home made root beer in the cafeteria. It is the highlight of the village’s Halloween celebration and the money will go to a good cause.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Carlos, Cloverdale's Singing Barber

Carlos waited for a customer. The chair was empty. He was on his third reread of the morning paper. Lunch was still two hours away leaving him with no other option than to put his jacket on, step outside and attract attention. He stood up from his chair, folded his paper and picked up the broom. He thought it best to sweep up the hair left behind by Dr. Fooper, Headmaster at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive School, before inviting someone else to occupy the one and only chair in Cloverdale’s Roman Way Barber Shop.

Carols thought as he swept. He pondered over the day’s musical selection? Yesterday he delighted the pedestrians on High Street with his rendition of ‘The Days of Wine and Roses’. The day before it was ‘Moon River’. The citizens of Cloverdale truly enjoy the voice of their very own singing barber and Carlos was grateful for that, but times were changing and Carlos was looking for a younger clientele. His regular customers were his age or older. And as the years pass more and more of them were dying, leaving Carlos with a dwindling customer base.

Carlos looked out the shop's large plate glass window at the turning barber pole hanging near the door. Last month It stopped spinning for the first time in 30 years. Carlos debated whether or not to have it repaired. A spinning barber pole usually meant a shop for old people serving antique hair cuts that were popular in the days when people didn’t care how they looked. At least that’s how one teenager summed it up as he walked by the shop on his way to school. Carlos had it repaired anyway. His old timers would be confused had he not.

Carlos walked up to the door and open it. A little tarnished brass bell tinkered overhead. It too was a faithful companion for the last 30 years, alerting Carlos to incoming customers if he happened to be in the back room or upstairs in the family’s apartment making himself a sandwich and cup ot tea.

He stepped down onto the sidewalk. Alma Flitter wished him a good morning as she walked by with her dog. Carlos commented on the weather. She didn’t hear him but nodded anyway. She forgot her hearing aid on her way out the door.

Carlos turned to look at the three posters in the window. One advertised the Harvest Festival and Fair. It needed to come down. Another urged everyone to vote in the Shire elections held eight months ago. He definitely needed to take that one down. The third poster showed twelve black and white head shots of a boy with different types of hair cuts. It was so faded from years of being exposed to the sun you could hardly tell what it was. Carlos decided to take that one down also.

“Good morning Carlos,” an older gentleman jabbed him in the ribs with his cane as he walked by.
“Oh, how are you Floyd,” Carlos answered. He noticed his ten year customer was wearing a suit. He thought that strange for a Wednesday.
“Why the suit?” Carlos asked.
“Funeral,” was Floyd's response. “One of your customers he was.”
“Marvin Melps.”
“When did he die?” Carlos was sincerely interested and not just passing the time of day. Marvin Melps was a fifteen year regular. He was just in last week for his regular monthly hair cut.

“Slipped getting out of the tub. Broke his neck. Same day he had his hair cut. I suspect he got his hair cut, went home to take a bath to wash off the clippings and slip bang.” Floyd slapped his hands together for effect.
“You’re killing us all off one by one.” Floyd said while waving his cane. He continued down the sidewalk toward St. Bartholomew’s.

Carlos was in temporary shock. Why hadn’t he known about Marvin? If he had known he might have considered going to the funeral. But that would have meant closing the shop - not a smart thing to do on a funeral day. The funeral rebound business was always pretty good. People had to take time off for the burial so why not get their hair cut that same day? It would save coming in after work or on a Saturday. Carlos decided to send a card to Marvin’s common law wife instead. The couple had been together since the free loving days of the 1960’s.

Carlos sat down on the bench in front of the shop. It was a beautiful Autumn day. He again considered his options. Would he sing from his wide repertoire of Andy William’s hits or try something more upbeat and modern to try to attract a younger clientele?

After a few minutes he stood, reached into his pocket and pulled out his mouth organ. He blew a note to get the pitch, put the organ back into his pocket and broke into full song - right there on the High Street's sidewalk. Cloverdale’s Singing Barber was in good form as he belted out “I Feel Good!” The song made famous by James Brown.

Carlos was successful in attracting a crowd, including 23 second graders from St. Bartholomew Primary School who were on a walking tour of the village Center with their teacher Sister Ina Wallop of the Convent of the Sisters of Every Increasing Hope. The sidewalk erupted in applause after the final note stopped echoing back and forth between the brick buildings lining the street. Carlos bowed deeply, glowing in their appreciation.

“You’re weird,” little eight year old Buster Williams shouted from the gathered onlookers. Sister Ina quickly and firmly put her hand over the boy’s mouth to stop him from saying anything else that would embarrass her.
Carlos smiled at the boy while pulling his scissors and comb from his blue barber jacket.

“Send him to me Sister. Send him to me,” Carlos said in his evil barber tone, complete with matching grin and hunch back walk. “I’ll have him sorted out in no time.”

Little Buster broke free from the Sister’s grasp and ran screaming down High Street. The spectacle brought another round of applause from the assembled gathering, several of whom stepped forward for a hair cut. Carlos pointed to the shop’s door and beaconed them in.

“It was going to be a good day in the barbering trade,” he thought.