reflections from the southeast PA rural underground

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Feasting

Charles Bronson was on the television. Everyone took turns cutting into the old tough guy and I was surprised how much he looked like Enrique. It must be the mustache I thought. "No, its his whole face, his expression," Jen said. "He reeeeeally does look like Enrique!," Sara cackled loudly. Then she exclaimed gleefully, (or maybe it was Dan?) "Its Dutch Wish!" This got the whole crowd of 12 roaring as they waited in TV purgatory land to see the Pittsburgh Steelers crush the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the playoffs. "Dutch Wish" of course was the re-interpretation of the title of Charles Bronson's famous movie Death Wish. "So you're into Jesus huh?," Bronson said while pointing his pistol at the young gangster. "You're gonna meet him soon."

Everyone had eaten their fill of Tweet's lamb stew and after several rounds of hotty tawdy's (thats Jameson, lemon, honey, and hot water) we all settled in for the Sunday's max and relax phase of football watching. Today was special. On this winter day both Pennsylvania football teams were defending their not-so-stellar records in the playoffs. Until the lamb stew, I had been feasting on some potato and leek soup the week before and now had a pot of borscht sitting half full in my refrigerator. The borscht was such a beautiful soup. Such a deep red color and simple sweet flavor making one feel charged and healthy after a warm bowl of it. Like a straight shot of vitamin C to the blood stream.

The Monday evening before it had been Tim's grand dinner of mushroom gravy over winter vegetables and mashed potatoes completed by a stout london broil cut of beef from Stutzman's Pasture's Pride farm. Those rutabagas and turnips and carrots with all their bitter hearts. And not the least was the salad made from Bordeaux spinach and bull's blood beets taken from the greenhouse topped with some blue cheese and a little balsamic vinegar. "And ramps!," everyone seemed to blurt out at once. "Well I'll have to try the salad if it has ramps," said Kim. These little cousins to onions might have been some of the only non-local ingredients to the meal but were still very much appreciated. These were the kind of vegetables that "foodies" would make such a fuss over. Tess reminded us that they were just peasant vegetables. If you could just explain to people what they were and what you do with them then everyone could easily enjoy them. Thanks to Tess, this dinner for eight which seemed somewhat spread about the kitchen and slightly array came together beautifully. And the three layer chocolate mousse! Oh man!

Back in the living room the second game of the day, Pittsburgh vs. San Diego, was winding down as Tweet said for the last time that evening, "Its all over." Some of those attending being die hard sports fans but others just appreciating the warmth of the fireplace, the lamb, the good cheer, and the eclectic community in this small part of Pennsylvania. Whether serious football followers or not, we are all fans of the keystone state. Everyone agreed that it was just too damn cold for those boys from California to be playing this far east today. The snow that had squalled in the first quarter was now barely visible on the field. "How do you feel about them now Steihl?" someone asked Mark again. "Well, I'm less uneasy now, but then, I'm always kind of uneasy," he replied with a half grin.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Big City

Back in 89’ the punks hung out in malls. We had our metropolis too. It was called Big City. The inside was a fantastical maze of shops that mostly sold things we’d never admit we wanted and didn't have the money to buy anyways. The Limited, Benetton, Spencer Gifts. To be sure, some of the soccer kids at school would be stocking up via their parents cards for the back-to-school fashion show. But I never understood why all the girls wore Treetorn tennis sneakers and most of the soccer player guys wore L.L. Bean rugby shirts. The outside of the mall presented an open field of pavement for any of us who dared go skating there at night. No security at night. But you had to stay clear of the hessian kids and their monster trucks that would chase you around until you were pitted against a wall somewhere, the headlights glaring in your 14 yr. old face, scared to death. At Big City you’d see the skins and their skin chicks, hippies, acid dealing 15 yr. olds, and what seemed to be a lot of cops. Everywhere you looked it seemed like there were two more cops. Course it was probably just your imagination. Just whatever you had gotten into and had no business being “into.”

Mark and Lou and Bill and I went there on a Saturday night. The food court was where everyone congregated. Coming into this place from outside was truly like walking into Willie Wonka land. A Mecca filled with hundreds of people, mostly teens. We haphazardly picked a table to sit at. We didn’t know much. Just took it all in. My three friends seemed distant yet they sat just across from me at the circular school-cafeteria-style table. Bill talked about a road bike he was just dying to have. He was the picture of innocence. A healthy, geeky, happy, somewhat cartoon looking kid. So much youth and naivete in those brown eyes. But he wasn’t exactly one of the rest of us. He did not ride a skateboard.

“I think I’ll get a Trek, he said, they make these amazing huge frames that weigh like nothing!” The nervous energy of the place was high. He gleefully expounded on the bike and I looked at the cops again imagining that they were looking at me as well. There was Brian across the way. Kids talked about him all the time. Was he really dealing that stuff? Did he really have sheets of it on hand? He was only a sophomore. High school had gotten nuts and we were only in the first year of it. Brian’s massive tye-dye shirt wouldn’t protect him from the rocky future that lay ahead. The uncertainty seemed to be ever looming, as strong and inevitable as the Lancaster county winds. He’d get caught soon enough. It made me fear my own situation a bit. I looked at Mark and anxiously said, “We should get outta here soon.” The more I looked at the neon pink food signs for Chinese, Mexican, and pizza the more my mind raced and the sweat built on my hands and brow. It seemed as though all the sound in the room was muted. There was a low buzz. Everything was disconnected. Time to move.

“Holy shit!” Lou said after being silent for more than a half hour. “What is it man!?” I said. “Look there on the escalator, that dude is trying to get up through those cops!” “Damn,” I thought, why hadn’t we just left? It was hard to see what was really going on over there but the tall, lanky skinhead was holding what looked like a small knife and one of the police men was trying to restrain him. He would make it though. He would bust through them and head up the stairs running for a second chance at the night.

I remember hearing something about the knife incident later that school year. To me it was just par for the course. All of the skins were on the edge. They were older guys/gals. You just didn’t fuck with them no matter what. But then, none of us knew any of them personally. They were way too far out of our circle. That is until Mike and Joel came onto the scene. But even then we thought it was just a mistake, a phase. Things were always like that then. There were so many mistakes, so many phases.