As my wife and I walked towards downtown Saint Paul in the afternoon sun, we turned the corner of St Paul Cathedral, National Shrine of the apostle Paul, overlooking the city from its perch at the end of Summit Avenue. The Cathedral is a testament to Archbishop John Ireland's determination in 1904 to provide a "mother church" for the community, and standing 306 ft with walls of solid granite and local stone from Mankato MN, it looms large on the city skyline.
It was in the shadow of this magnificent structure, and after a short lull in the conversation that my wife idly inquires " Have you ever seen a squirrel poop?".
I had to say I haven't.
"And" she continued, "do they poop on the ground or in the trees?" .
Once again I was stumped, and the implied threat of the latter question was not lost on me. I felt a quiet sense of gratitude that the skies in these parts were mostly populated by sparrows.
Back to the burning question though- anyone out there seen a squirrel poop? let me know, and no fibbers.
Friday, October 28, 2011
In Carthage, western Maine, the woods grow thick with Oak, Beech, Ash and Pine. As I looked out over a late September morning, from my hilltop lodging, I saw the faint hint of crimson and yellow begin to bleed ever so slightly into the dappled greens that spread to the horizon, where it met a cloudless blue sky.
One way up to my lodging - the Skye Theater and Arts Center - was a dirt road that was laid in the early eighteen hundreds by settlers who farmed the surrounding land and founded the community of Carthage .
From the road, this sparsely populated woodland reveals a few barren cemeteries that stand like ruins, shaded by the towering forest, and serve as the only evidence of a once busy and bustling thoroughfare, now mostly used by logging trucks and a few remaining families on the hillside.
Come breakfast time, Phil, a longtime resident of the hillside, and active community member, pointed us in the direction of The Front Porch Cafe in East Dixwell, and his recommendation did not go amiss.
The Front Porch Cafe, an old rambling colonial style house, has been converted on the inside into a carpeted, wood-lined dining room that butts right up to the kitchen, the aroma of blueberry flapjacks held me for ransom almost as soon as I walked in.
Now normally I'm an eggs n hashbrowns kind of fella, having learned a long time ago that my eyes grow much larger than my belly, but those blueberry flapjacks are singing my song and staring up at me from the menu. I know I'm gonna get crushed under a 3-stack of dish-diameter 'jacks, but I go for it anyway.
The coffee was great , and here , if I may, a word -
I like coffee. I like good coffee and I'm even happy to suffer the "other stuff" if need be, the stuff that looks like coffee, smells like coffee. but man it ain't coffee. But that "other stuff", to my mind, does also have a rightful place; namely that place that glares at you through the midnight dark from the side of the highway, all garishly colored neon shouting " roadside diner" - the greasy spoon - home of the hangover breakfast . I expect the "other stuff" in that environment and I oddly look forward to it's role in completing the scene- greasy cafe/ diner and a cup of the other stuff to wash down whatever the hash slinger slings my way. In fact, when I am served good coffee in that environment I'm oddly disappointed, sorely tempted to hail the waitress saying " Take this back - this is excellent!" but I never do of course.
This cafe though, although serving hashbrowns and eggs-a-plenty, was no "other stuff"- serving diner. The deep bean coffee aroma filled the homely dining area, and wafted outside into the chilly morning , beckoning passers by like comely sirens from shore. Ok that's a slight exaggeration, but it was pretty durn good, and served in tall chunky ceramic mugs made locally, and before I knew it, I had washed down the whole 3 flapjacks, covered in maple syrup. I felt like a real man- an overstuffed, bloated fat real man that needed to take a nap pretty quick.
Before that could happen though, there was a surprise in store;
As we filed out of this established, full and feeling it, the owner followed us outside saying" Hey - you guys met Murphy yet?"
With that, she faces the garage that was kitty-corner to the cafe shouting " Murphy!! Murphy!! C'mere, boy!" And with that , Murphy, a black n white dappled mutt, came scampering over the roof of the garage, greeting all he surveyed with an excited bark or two. The garage roof is clearly his domain; he was happy to stand , not budging and just happy to greet his audience from on high.
As our host said "Murphy, will you sing for us? " for a moment, Murphy looked almost as confused as we did, but as she launched into the opening strains of The Monster Mash, Murphy howled right along; a good two verses of harmonizing, entertaining us with a unique rendition of a Halloween classic before we finally had to take our leave. Thanks Murphy. Now about that nap......