Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas at the North Pointe Lighthouse

Yesterday evening I visited Mr. and Mrs. Granger for the annual lighting of the North Pointe lighthouse. This neighborly couple operate the lighthouse on the Coast of Despair several miles outside of Tamworth on Tide, and have done so for the last twenty seven years. Mr. Granger was just finishing up with the last of the Christmas lights around the garage when I arrived. The couple turned them on for the first time just as dusk was settling in. It was a quiet, simple ceremony. Mr. Granger said, “Are we ready?” To which Mrs. Granger replied, “Just get on with it,” and the deed was done.

Every Friday and Saturday evening until January 1 the Grangers open the lighthouse walkway to visitors wanting to experience something truly unique. Visitors are welcome to call at the house between 5:30 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. Mrs. Granger will greet you at the door with a welcoming “Come on in, You’ll catch your death out there!” She will lead you to the walkway between the house and the light house and invite you to climb the stairway to the top for a scenic view of the Sea of Solace.

“Stay as long as you like,” she'll say. “When you’re done, come back down for a warm before you leave. You’ll want to try my hot cocoa and mincemeat pies as well. Guaranteed to brighten even the darkest winter mood.”

Laughter fills the Granger home every weekend during the holiday season as people stop by for an adventure into the lighthouse and a nice cupper and pie afterwards. The front parlor will always be full. Sometimes groups get so large Mrs. Granger opens the kitchen and the family room.

Last night people started arriving shortly after the lights came on - drawn from the highway by the lights and the sign Mr. Granger nailed to the lighthouse's mailbox inviting all to stop. I stayed longer than I had planed. Visiting the Lighthouse and the Grangers was like stepping back to a time when Christmas was simpler. At 9:00 P.M. I excused myself, explaining I had a long drive ahead of me to Cloverdale. I left with a baggie full of mincemeat pies and my thermos full of cocoa.

Every season, the Grangers serve hundreds and hundreds of pies to hundreds and hundreds of visitors. Spending time at the North Pointe Lighthouse has turned into a holiday tradition for many local families. If you’re looking for an nostalgic adventure into Christmas's past. I invite you to visit the Grangers and the North Pointe Lighthouse.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finnegan and the Christmas Pageant.

Finnegan Pew lives on Fulbright Lane in Cloverdale. He unhappily shares a bedroom with his two brothers. He sleeps on the bottom of a trundle bed.  His first chore every morning is to fold and put away his blankets and pillow so the bed can be pushed back into place. This gives his two older brothers an advantage. They get into the bathroom first, forcing him to jump up and down in the hallway holding himself trying not to pee his pajamas.

His brothers are the first to breakfast.  Finnegan is usually left with the burnt toast and the gross cereal. Never, no not once in his entire life, has Finnegan made it to the breakfast table early enough to claim the toy prize inside every specially marked box of breakfast cereal. Every morning Finnegan stews in his own angry juices as he shovels the shredded wheat into his mouth, one miserable spoonful at a time. Complaining to his mother doesn’t do any good. Her solution is straight forward - get up earlier. Finnegan tries every morning to wake up before his brothers but no matter how hard he tries he just can’t force himself up. By the time the bus arrives for school Finnegan is fit to be tied - ready to snap at anyone that crosses his path in the second grade at Confederacy Primary School.

Yesterday Finnegan woke up remembering he'd checked the Capt. Crunch box the night before. He knew there was enough Captain Crunch for three bowls of cereal after shaking the box a few times.  That meant there was a chance of starting the day happily. He tied his shoes and combed his hair, doing everything a second grader could do to look nice for the school's Christmas Pageant.  This year Finnegan was chosen to play the part of Santa’s Chief Elf (according to well placed sources, the decision was made on the recommendation of the school psychologist).  He and his mother practiced his lines over and over again the night before while father slept in his recliner and Grandma Petunia picked cat hairs off her dress. By bed time, Finnegan was sure he would be the best elf in Confederacy Primary School's history. 

Finnegan walked down the stairs to breakfast, reciting his lines hoping someone would comment on how well he was forming his syllables. No one did. He was annoyed. He stepped into the kitchen and noticed a bright red empty box of Captain Crunch floating on top of all the other trash in the bin. His two brothers and Grandma Petunia sat at the table, each working their way through bowls of his favorite cereal.  His heart sank, hit rock bottom and sprang upward - moving under the pressure of his exploding anger.

“Grandma, that’s my bowl of Captain Crunch!” Finnegan shouted. His hands were clenched into small fists, held straight down both sides of his small body. “You can’t eat it. You don’t have your teeth in. Where’s your oatmeal?”
“Finnegan!” Mother shot back. “Don’t you speak to your Grandmother like that. She put her teeth in early today because we’re all going to see you in the Christmas Pageant. You apologize right this instant.”

Finnegan had a melt down. He cried and screamed and cried some more. Grandma Petunia offered him the few crunches still floating in the last gulp of milk at the bottom of her bowl. It only made Finnegan cry all the louder. Father had to intervene. He picked Finnegan up, tossed him over his shoulder and carted him back upstairs.

Finnegan went to school.  The Pageant started at 10:00 A.M. Finnegan was released from class at 9:30 A.M. to get ready.
“Finnegan, here’s your costume. Slip it on,” Miss Ballard, the Pageant Director said. She handed him a nice green set of flannel overalls that fit over his normal clothes. Finnegan forgot to take his shoes off. He stepped into the flannel, and ripped it straight down the leg.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Finnegan melted down into a gale force tantrum. It took the Pageant Director and  the  the school psychologist several minutes to calm him down.

The Pageant started. The auditorium was full of students and parents. Each grade sang their favorite Christmas Carol. At the end, the entire school sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The curtains opened during the last line of the song revealing Santa Claus, his elves and a large red bag with small presents for every student in the school. The audience applauded. Finnegan stepped forward, trying to hide the long rip in his costume held together with safety pins. The audience fell silent. Everyone listened to hear the words of Santa’s number one Elf. Finnegan took a deep breath and froze. He’d forgotten his lines. The pause quickly grew uncomfortable. Miss Ballard whispered the words to him from behind the curtain but Finnegan was too frustrated to understand. He clenched his fists.

Little Susy Warner, Santa’s number two elf, stepped up to the microphone, pushed Finnegan aside and spoke.
“Santa, look at all these good boys and girls. Do you have anything for them in you bag?” With the line said the Pageant continued. Susy glanced at Finnegan, giving him her dirtiest look as she returned to Santa's side.

Finnegan felt the eruption build - a Vesuvian eruption. He couldn’t stop. He took the microphone and stepped forward.
“There is no Santa Claus! Santa Claus is made up! Its your moms and dads. This isn’t Santa. He’s a fake. There is no Santa! Christmas is a lie!”

Finnegan was pulled away from the microphone by the Pageant director. Santa stepped forward and recited his part. speaking loudly to drown out the shouting of Finnegan Pew as he was led out of the auditorium kicking and screaming to the Head Master’s office.

Finnegan had a Horrible, Terrible, Very Bad Day. His mother checked him out of school for the rest of the day. They stopped at The Red Owl Grocery Store and bought another box of Captain Crunch. Finnegan got his bowl after all. Everything seemed right, for the first time that day.

It was tomorrow Finnegan was worried about and his return to school.

Cloverdale's Mr. Grinch

Old Stew Fropper
is a sorry old man
A sorry old man indeed.

Some say he has no soul. And if he did, they parted company long ago. Stew was born in Cloverdale over 60 years ago. Nobody really knows. He won’t give his age and one doesn’t dare ask. He lives alone on Shore Lane in a small unremarkable house with few windows and green siding. He calls it his 'PissPot'. Which brings us to another of his renown qualities - a foul mouth, which he uses liberally in most social settings.

Somewhere along life’s journey Stew fell out of love with life. Perhaps he had an unhappy childhood. Or maybe his one true love abandoned him for someone with a pulse. We may never know the answer. He is a mystery to everyone.

Christmas time is Stew’s favorite time of year, which may surprise many of you. How could someone with a stunted heart (due to the acid he calls blood) enjoy a holiday like Christmas?

Well friends, after a lengthy investigation involving a few days and nights following him in his weird neighborhood walks (daytime canvassing and evening lifting), I believe I have the answer. Stew is an Ebay triple gold seller of Christmas lawn decorations. His clients span the globe, their lawns displaying the best Christmas displays money can buy. You may ask who supplies Stew with his online merchandise? His friends and neighbors of course. Needless to say their donations are never voluntary.

Friends, I give you Stew Fropper. Cloverdale’s very own Mr. Grinch!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Time at Salmon's PreLoved Cars

Hello Friends,
Niels Salmon is the owner of Salmon’s Motors in Cloverdale. He specializes in what he calls the PreLoved Car business. Yes, he sells used cars on the corner of Capital Street and Willow.

Every one of Salmon’s cars gets a special holiday make over. “It brightens up the lot, making the cars more attractive,” he says. I think it does just the opposite. How is one expected to take a decorated car on a test drive? Imagine taking this little bug on the highway. It is an accident waiting to happen. You’re a danger to yourself and a major distraction to the cars around you.

Niels calls me a Scrooge whenever I bring up the matter of safety. He says safety is “bad for business”.
“If I cared about safety I wouldn’t sell one car. Yep, not a one,” he says. “If you care that much about safety then you’d better go down the street. If you want a killer deal, and I mean KILLER deal, then pull up a chair and let’s talk business.”

Regardless, I thought it best to take a moment of your time and show you the dazzling array of lights and magic waiting to be found at Salmon’s Motors in Cloverdale. Do you see my point? Do you understand why I keep telling you that you haven’t lived until you spend a Christmas in Cloverdale?


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tree Fire at the Convent for the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope. Poor Sister Thelma. Bad Sister Edna Mary.

Sister Edna Mary of the Convent of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope
Celebrating her 100th birthday last January.

There is sad news in Cloverdale today. Sister Thelma, a nun in the order of the Sisters of Every Increasing Hope at Saint Bartholomew’s Parish in Cloverdale had a bit of an accident. Just after lunch yesterday, the sisters returned from the forest with the convent’s Christmas Tree. The nuns gathered to have a cup of tea and a warm around the common room’s fire before starting the decorations. Sister Edna Mary was asked to help with the tinsel. She struggled to unplug her backside from her scootermobile. The trip from the her electric scooter to the tree took the best part of ten minutes. She is capable of moving faster (just see how fast she moves when she finds out someone is heading down to the PiggyMart. She’s in the convent’s minivan, purse in hand and cigarette lit - in mouth, before the driver collects the keys off the peg by the door).

“What should I do?” she asked. “I’m here to help.”
Of course Sister Edna Mary and helping rarely went together. Supervise was a better choice of words.Sister Edna Mary stopped helping with anything at the Convent in 1993. That was the year she read several Lutheran missionary tracts and discovered she could be saved by grace and not by works. According to Martin Luther, all one had to do was accept the Lord as your Savior and heaven is yours. That doctrine was completely foreign to Sister Edna Mary. Up to that point her world was governed by works. Everyone knows that works play a major role in the life of a Catholic nun. In fact, that’s what they count on when their time comes and they stand at the Pearly Gates.

From that day forward, Sister Edna Mary rarely lifted a hand, except to light her cigarettes (Chain smoking was the one purely sinful delight Sister Edna Mary retained from her pre nun days as a school lunch worker). Every time she was asked to perform the even simplest tasks (the ones she didn’t want to do) she’d respond by waving you away with cigarette in hand sending ashes everywhere, saying “I’m saved.”

Sister Edna Mary stood by the tree. She didn’t like the fact that most of the tinsel was on the bottom 2/3 of the tree. Of course it would be that way because none of the nuns could reach high enough to put tinsel on the upper 1/3. Sister Edna Mary would have none of that.
“Sister Thelma, the step ladder,” She barked out. Sister Thelma did as she was told. Angering Sister Edna Mary wasn’t a good thing. She could say the most horrible words and darken the mood of the Convent so badly only a priest with a hose full of holy water could remove the gloom left in her mouth's wake.

Sister Thelma returned with the ladder.
“Up you go,” Sister Edna Mary said.
“I thought you wanted the ladder for yourself,” Sister Thelma replied. Sister Edna Mary exhaled the last puff from her Camel Lights in Sister Thelma’s direction and repeated her demand. “Up you go and I’ll steady the ladder.”

Sister Thelma climbed slowly and steadily up the ladder. Once on top she started to reposition the tinsel.Sister Edna Mary held the ladder with one hand and lit another Camel Light in the other. A moment later her cigarette came into contact with the tree. Sister Edna Mary wasn’t paying attention. Suddenly the tree caught fire.

“Fire!” Sister Edna Maryshouted as she abandoned the ladder and rushed to get her motorized senior citizen’s scooter out of harm’s way. Sister Thelma panicked and lost her footing. She fell into the tree and both came down hard onto the floor. The other nuns stomped the fire out and pulled Sister Thelma out from the branches. She was rushed to the clinic. She broke her arm in the fall. There was talk of a possible concussion. The clinic kept her overnight for observations.

The following morning Sister Edna Mary was the first in the van to visit Sister Thelma. Of course, her intention was not to visit Sister Thelma at all. The Piggy Mart was 1/2 a block from the clinic and Sister Edna Mary was nearly out of cigarettes.

Cloverdale Weekend Television. Rule Britannia. Last Night at the Proms.