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Bumble Be Big

“Bumble”. He’s 14 months young, … and huge.

Walking by his rather small car cradle the other day outside Sam’s Club, I was drawn to Bumble’s puppy face. You would’ve been, too, had the owner’s permission been granted in your favor as well. The kind gentleman loading boxes of goodies into the back of a non-descript SUV suggested kind words and gentle strokes are saintly acceptances for Bumble. From his response to my momentary attention, I believe this was the case.

Meaning “brave as a bear”, Bernard as a moniker attached to this sizeable, furry tot may be a bit premature. “Saint”, as well, could be up to those who decide such things. Now, to squitch the two together and imagine Bumble for work as a rescuer on the Great St Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border? This I could see because he has such a sweet personality. The little experience we have as dog whisperers considered, sometimes we can just sense these things, right? … Or, think we can, anyway.

Dogs force us into a parallel universe of humanity. They make us talk funny, act weird, and spend a lot of money on upkeep, toys, and treats. I see it happen a lot and don’t even own a dog anymore. None of this is unfortunate for human or canine – it just, well, is.

I have friends who call their pets by nicknames that rhyme with the dogs actual names. Maisy the Daisy – although changed to protect the innocent – is one example. Names can also fluxuate depending upon the circumstance. During difficult, disciplinary times, names become “-natored” as in “Aargh! … Fido-nator! You pooped on the carpet, again!!” Sweet, affectionate moments are dessert-ed and verbs get awkward s’s attached to them. “Awe, my lovable little Fido-cakes! … I loves you so much!”…

I get it. Some have a dream to be smothered in puppies for hours. Admittedly, a few minutes under a bundle of Bumbles would be nice up to the point when oxygen intake becomes a problem. Thems are big pups to state the obvious here. Can’t imagine the food bill … or the, er, back end clean up ahead for the owners.

All I know for sure is it was a breath of fresh air seeing something different and magnificent the other day. A Saint Bernard puppy named Bumble didn’t know he brought a little joy into the worlds of folks going about their lives. A rather bland parking lot full of cars and people, well organized into a daily routine of go-here and go-there, was the place to pet a large, gentle creature and forget why the troubles of the day weighed so heavily on our shoulders.

He is, after all, bred to rescue. This is pumping through those large veins of his. Sure, it’s not a snowy mountain range where we struggle to survive. A sunny day outside Sam’s Club in Altoona, Pa is hardly roughing it by any standard. My new Sketchers wouldn’t handle any snow depth over 1/4″ and, most certainly, any hint of a degree less than 60 at this point would be wholely unacceptable.

He rescued us from our normal. Happy times, if only for a moment. Normal is good, too. Don’t mean to throw routine and everyday under the bus here. When special and unique crosses our path – like a 14 month old puppy like Bumble – we should stop to appreciate how wonderful a ” step aside” can be.

That day, when I happened to stumble upon Bumble, I walked away with a lighter bounce in my step. Can’t say he’s totally responsible, but I spent way more money than planned while inside Sam’s after the encounter. Darn Bumble-nator had me feeling good about myself … causing me to over stuff my cart!

I guess I’ll give him a pass this time. After all, he’ll be a big boy someday and I may need an actual rescue on the Italian-Swiss border. If that happens, I’ll forever be grateful to the Bumble-muffin who saved my life.

A Toddler’s Playground

That distinctive aroma of gravy and turkey spun its way around the corner of our old kitchen into a small dining room. A traditional Thankgiving meal was almost on the way. Mom, of course, would be the last to arrive at a table with an informally placed, odd selection of chairs seating a similarly odd hodgepodge of family members.

A typical family holiday. Mom insisting that everyone be seated before she sat down. Dad fussing over something of which we had no idea. Perhaps a fondue pot in the center of the table surrounded by dark green vegetable trays on top of a brown, yellow, and orange table cloth all set the tone for a 70’s Thanksgiving feast.

This particular year was different, however. Aside from all the normal scuffle-abouts, the children among us – myself included – were pre-instructed to be on our best behavior, if possible. My Uncle John was bringing a special guest home for the holiday .. a friend of his … a gentleman singer/associate he met while both sang as members of the elite US Army Chorus.

I don’t recall the specific year, however, I do remember where I sat and the specific quote. “Keep an eye on him,” Uncle John said, “…he’s going to be a big star some day and go places!”

Clint Holmes went on to be a major headliner in Vegas – and is to this day.

I can’t really wrap my mind around sitting next to him that Thanksgiving day fifty years ago. Only a few feet away sat a young man in a very humble house, in Hollidaysburg. His life unfolded in quite a magnificent way. Uncle John nailed it.

The other day, this picture roused up that memory.

“Playground in my Mind” was released in 1972. The Clint Holmes recording became one of his all-time biggest hits. I listened to the record over, and over, … and … over. “Where the children laugh and the children play / And we sing a song all day” are my favorite lyrics in this wonderful song. Doesn’t this picture speak that magic?

Kiddo magic – running into a playground to laugh, play, imagine, and dream. We forget, as astutely mature ones, what it was like to be inquisitive … to run into mysteriously fun places to touch a universe of unknowns, or examine tiny fascinations.

Look at these two little ones. If they could fly, they would. One foot off the ground and the other toe-tapping a ground barely in existence under their joyous toddler beings. Beyond the covered bridge is a magnificent playground in their mind … just as Clint Holmes loved and sang in his mind a half century ago.

I am so honored to span the generations with music. The power of music holding hands with memories is spectacular. In so many ways, we are connected – variations of words, music, and spirit.

In no small way, two little ones helped me re-live a memory I haven’t experienced in decades. Also, they reminded me to skip a bit easier through the challenging covered bridges in life.

As Clint sang, maybe try, “Living in a world I left behind…” once in a while.

It is a fantastic song. Look it up and dare to pass through the troubles in a moment’s time to experience a happy, giggling, peaceful, generational playground in your mind.

Those two above, and Clint, would have it no other way.

The Lowry Estate Lesson

Yesterday, I missed a turn and the town. How this happened is really nobody’s business – except to say everyone I asked to help confirmed my suspicions: The landmark I was looking for existed in my brain – just not anywhere Google maps was sending me.

Why have I decided to share this seemingly mundane waste of gas? Because Google maps sent me to a legit address smack dab in the middle of a two-lane, busy highway. Yes. The famous, “You have arrived …” voice plopped my Mitsubishi exactly on two solid yellow lines one-half mile up from a local water reservoir … and not a house, tent, outhouse, or cabin in sight.

My choice words forced a u-turn. Perhaps it was a sour attitude that elicited a less-than cooperative attitude from the locals. They didn’t know where the Lowry Estate was, either.

I’ve been a native of these parts my whole life. Apparently this estate has the oldest stone home in the county. Being unaware of this fact threw coal into the already simmering furnace of frustration.

I was attempting to scope out this location a day ahead. Yesterday was a busy day and I had little time, today, to find my way here.

Yes, I am here now. Twenty-four hours ago, it was doubtful I would ever know. Shipping myself and luggage to Mars may have proven easier to do.

So close yesterday, apparently. Wrong turn, wrong town. Google … Wrong. So … What was the problem? Time clicked away and so did the little patience I had left.

Hey, why not check the brochure for the event? One. More. Time.

Yeah. Duh. It really IS nobody’s business, however, please pay attention to the little things in life. This will save you a lot of u-turns, cursing at the air in your car, blaming Google, and uncontrollably twitching one eye at strangers as they do their best to help.

Yep. I typed in the wrong town all along. There are two identical addresses for neighboring towns. Now, why in hell one would be in the middle of a busy highway? That’s for another time.

The correct one helped me arrive yesterday just in time to know the where’s and what’s for today.

Upon arrival today, I stopped to pay attention to the first little thing I saw. It was this pond. Still, it was. Quiet … as only a few of the Civil War re-enactors have arisen for the day. Canadian geese are meandering around and shades sneak around the grove of trees in the meadow where I am soon to set up.

It’s a fantastically calm day. Yesterday is but a blip in the day-in-the-life of “not playing attention” to the little things. Had I done so, right?

Lesson learned, but doomed to be repeated I am sure.

For today, though, I will enjoy this sublime pond five paces behind where I sit, the view of a glorious stone mansion, and visitors coming in to experience a few Civil skirmishes during an almost perfect weather day in July.

Good news for all … Those attending were able to get the town correctly the first time. I say, they knew the value of little details this weekend.

I’m here now. It was the long way around, but destination achieved!

31 Flags

I don’t know most of their stories. Every day, for a few minutes, I stood on warm concrete slabs as individual flags folded into summer breezes. Quiet imaginations filled my head while honoring local heroes. They made an impression on a digital camera phone and a daily memory for me.

Their names etched in black on a pole placard… and each individual story supported by a family member who reached out to the Rotary Club.

For one of the thirty-one days, each hero earned a place of recognition on my Facebook page. It was, truly, my honor to do so.

As a tribute to those who served and are currently active, here are the thirty-one who gave me pause:

Alex H. Drummond – Air Force, John Paul Dibert – US Army, Robert S. Cramer – Sergeant First Class US Army Reserve 1957-1995 , Richard Gildea US Navy Radarman 2/C WW2, Adolph Goldstein – US Army WW2, Samuel Calvin McLanahan – US Navy 1863-1869, Robert D. Williams – Trooper PA State Police, Andrew C. Williams RN, BSN Clinical Supervisor Cardiology Services, Valentine Ranck – Lancaster Militia Revolutionary War, Colonel Terry Wagner – US Army, Gerald Grubb US Army Air Corp KIA 3/30/43, Cloyd P. Grubb US Army Infantry Purple Heart Recipient, Dennis E. McCready – US Army Korea, JW Straesser – US Army Air Corp WW2.

Colonel Paul Roscher – Decorated Pilot POW WW2, Louis J. Lusk USAF “Halo” Senior Master Sergeant Special Warfare, Thomas Tidd – US Navy WW2 Pacific Theatre, Colonel Craig L. Carlson – US Army, Dr. Bridget O. Corey – Blair Foot & Ankle podiatric medicine, Mike J. Corey US Army , Elle W. McConnell – Nurse Practitioner Blair Foot & Ankle, Carl C. Werner – Staff Sergeant E-6, Allegheny Lutheran Social Services Healthcare, Residents of the Lutheran Home of Hollidaysburg who served our Nation, William R. Collins Jr. – US Army, Gary A. Davis – US Marine Corps, Richard Burnett – US Army, John S. Sigrist – US Army Reserve, Tony Drummond – US Army Healthcare worker, Desmond T. Lutz – Air Force Staff Sergeant, and Edward Kopanski – Vietnam veteran.

Quite the list. Revolutionary War through present day. I knew Colonel Wagner and am personally familiar with a few others; however, I am still fascinated by the stories those flags told.

They are no longer there.

Gone are the early morning stops for me. I miss the moments. So much so that a late night pull over this evening – after a tiring food truck event – was necessary. I needed time. Time to pull life over from its busy lane just enough to remember other folks who do much more – give so much more – to allow all of us a life of work and leisure.

At the very end of an invisible 31st flag, the permanent digital display gave me this:

Another flag. Yes, it is always in the rotation between, now, 80+ degree temperature readings and the time. This was no miracle sent from the heavens. For me, simply a final image to capture, to bookend if you will, a marvelous experience.

My story is simple. Five minutes every morning, I was fortunate enough to stand in front of an American flag while honoring an individual who deserved my time.

On July 13th, thirty-one invisible flags – for thirty-one seconds during a quiet, dark evening – were settled into their repose until next year. I stood there, peacefully.

I figure a second for each one of their stories is worth a lifetime for us.

Catchin’ Fireflies

How crazy to think it’s been a while since sitting here at my desk, typing in words, instead of running around making life happen. Hours buzz by. If it wasn’t for a message coming over the Meta-network on my phone, an event would be less meat and cheese tomorrow. I, quite simply, forgot – and it never was entered into my digital calendar. Why? Who knows? This is how May and the first part of June has been.

Except for an occasional meal or entertainment carve out, the huge kraken of lore has come alive to unsettle the calm seas I found myself on at the beginning of 2022. I’ve been losing planks multiples at a time and a once firm grip as the helmsman of my life could be in peril.

Not to be an alarmist, I’ve been here and seen raging seas. Outside challenges have tugged at my personal goals. The needs of others have trumped mine before and surprising tidal waves rocked more than one vessel upon which I’ve found myself. Survival finds a way.

Most of us, I believe, have experienced rough waters. These past weeks aren’t anything new to me, or you. We make our way to calmer shores, right?

I’m not there at present. If the psycho-sextant I currently hold in my clenched hands is accurate, the angle between the horizon and my guiding star shows a position I didn’t intend to be at the moment. Now, either the star is really messed up in its celestial dark matter blanket, the horizon isn’t level, …, or, I truly am taking on too much water.

Damn the kraken of the seas known as “What the hell am I doing?”

Actually, I know. I knew it weeks ago. The different colors on my digital calendar – where “most” of the commitments I’ve made appeared – created a rainbow off in the distance. It appeared as I started a journey. A trek into weeks of scheduling personal, medical, social, musical, and business slaps into my calendar.

As the bow lifted high into the white crests of every 20-foot wave these past few days, that rainbow of over-commitments washed over my memory. This-and-thats for todays and tomorrows. Necessaries and optionals.

This evening, after I realized tomorrow’s event was almost missed … I stopped. It was time. To. Just. Stop.

This is what eventually kills the kraken. Every. Time.

After catching up with a few friends on messenger and texts, I stopped, sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath. Nothing was going to interfere with the calm seas I imagined at the moment. It was time to rebuild the ship and get a good grip at the helm. One more thing to do, however – check the status of a Facebook post from a few hours earlier. This proved to be magical.

On my feed was a picture with two words, “Catchin’ Fireflies”. If there was an image I needed to see, it was this:

Courtesy of K. C.

Two joyous lives through a jar held by two smiles. A dear friend and precious daughter who, by all accounts, were brightening up their evening … together. No over-commitments, no busy-ness, no calendar rainbow. Just. Life. Now.

A relation-ship as intended.

I sat for a few more minutes than planned – looking into the calm waters reflecting back images of all the kind, considerate, loving, sincere, genuine, and spectacular close friends who survive the journey with me. The smiles and laughter, especially.

It isn’t all fun, to be sure. You know this. I know it, too. With that said, how difficult would the voyage be without shipmates who care … who are willing to take a plank, or two, on our behalf?

At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know tomorrow was coming as it appears to be. I’ll be unexpectedly busy. This coming week will be challenging on the home front as well.

I’m so glad I stopped today. The kraken is dormant for now.

Rest easy, kraken. I am sure we will battle again. For now, I turn the wheel over to a few small lightening bugs.

In their light, I find the smiles and laughter of my friends who, together with me, guide all our ships forward one day at a time on, hopefully, calm seas.

The Key to Mother’s Day

If this was the way: I’d play one note. One magical press of a key – either black or white of the 88 – that would bring mom back to us.
Not just my musical, happy, funny mom … but your mom as well if you are holding dear memories today.
This I would do. For me. For you.
We need those assurances only moms can give. Tight, affirming hugs are missing now. Duets are silent behind magnificent pianos.
Memories aren’t quite enough on a Mother’s Day when everything is, well, a lot different than a mom would have expected.
There wasn’t one magical key to change cancer and mom’s destination with it. There isn’t one key to bring her back.
Fortunately, there are many at my disposal to honor her the best way I know how.
For my prelude at Zion Lutheran this weekend, I’ve chosen, “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. It is a piano arrangement I had to tweak a little for the organ “keys”…
She will know. Somehow, she will know.
This I do. For me. For you … because moms are beautiful and they deserve our very best.

Angelic Happiness

Photo courtesy of P. Sachse

Mankind has searched for happiness. Satisfaction in life has been the elusive carrot at the end of millennial sticks held by so many. What, truly, IS the secret to contentment? I am close to two-thirds through this life experience of mine … and, I am not holding my stick any closer to that magical orange vegetable.

Life is difficult, right? Holding on to the stick – not letting go – I feel is success. I can extract some peace from this. The splinters heal in time and a loose grip can be tightened up with determination. All the while, happiness is at the end … still there, dangling, waiting. A bit blurry at the moment.

Why? Because I don’t look at happiness being something at the end. Happiness is here. It is holding on. It is trying, pushing forward, struggling, making tough decisions, and pulling daily emotional splinters out of my mind at the end of the day.

Cheerfulness is a state of mind. A hard path at times. Local driving challenges my vocal ability to keep a proper language and attitude in check, for example. I upset myself by acting out of character – when I know better – as another driver performs a circus act in my lane. He goes merrily on his way, as the remaining fifteen minutes of my journey is fraught with remnants of ire and rebuke.

This is why we need puppies. Puppies named, “Angel”, to be specific. Happy puppies who jump through pictures to hug our hearts. Crooked looking, twisted smile, flopping eared puppies help us hold on. They are our happiness now.

There are no carrots at the end of their sticks they chase and grab in the moment. That joy is returned to us over and over. It is their now given to us without any expectations. Angel is almost jumping joyously out of the frame. Her enthusiasm is outstretching the high grassy lush tickling a furry underbelly not to be denied.

She is delight in flight. A lesson, and confirmation, of choosing happiness today – not the carrot, the “better job”, other person, different choice that seems greater than now.

Hold on. Life may require change. Be sure happiness is at the center of what you are holding on to – not what is at the end of the stick … Then consider changing.

This, possibly, is a lesson from a special Angel. Not me, of course. Trust me on this: I’m not nearly as cute, or young, as one who jumps so effortlessly through a field of healthy, green grass.

Wilson, the Furry Volleyball

Gotta ask. When you saw that title, did the movie, “Cast Away”, come to mind? If I’m the only one who – after being introduced to this little fluff ball – immediately thought of the red-handed, partially deflated volleyball, then I will humanely bask gladly, alone, on a solitary island … as long as she is by my side, of course.

I don’t believe the owner will allow it, however. As he shouldn’t. As an aside here, I can’t see myself surviving on a deserted island more than a few hours because pianist skills don’t translate well when building shelters and hunting for food.

Wilson pranced and danced proudly inside the store where we met … so much so that requests for a picture, from a 50-ish guy on his knees, went unrecognized for a good half-hour. She twisted away minutes over minutes. Her limberish self was almost too much for me, but I endured. For the sake of all puppy picture prosperities, I endured.

Boy, do puppies lift one’s spirits? Yep. She is a feisty little thing who joyfully came inside nestled in the arms of her owner. My good friend, who runs the little hobby shop, was happy to see Wilson … and she was just as delighted to allow him to stroke her soft, golden fur coat a few times. All of us in the store left out a sigh of cuteness. Everyone’s day, … all of our problems to that moment … appeared to disappear into a few pounds of fur running tirelessly around in circles.

I did manage to sneak in a few hugs, however. She was, err, somewhat reluctant because I scooped her up mid-35th lap around the small hobby store arena. If you look in really close, our smiles match … but you need to focus!😊

Nobody expected to meet Wilson during a routine visit with a friend. I didn’t. Driving a few miles east to see what’s new and happening in the life of someone I haven’t seen for a few weeks was to be catch-up conversation at best. We talk over “the hobby”, life, and general common interest things. Between us, the bridge between two “how have you been” lives is short and takes all of about 5 minutes to cross. So, when Wilson entered after a couple customers already came in after me, …

… We were done with the average lives of two dudes discussing shop and so elated to pet, hug, and dote over a velvety, licky, fun-size little furry volleyball.

Ah, Wilson. The enjoyable puppy who handed a couple dudes and customers a few moments of joy.

Sometimes feeling stranded in a world surrounded by thousands of people, we are. Maybe we allow ourselves to step aside from what has to be done to avoid making tough decisions? Avoidance behavior, – i.e. wanting to be alone on an island – can be rehab … but it has to be a healthy escape.

Guilty as charged here. This hobby shop is my escape. I love going there. It is, in a sense, my island. The other? A piano. The former … sometimes healthy. The latter, always healthy.

To scoop up Wilson on that day, I realized it was a momentary solace just at Wilson, the volleyball, was for Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. And, just as in the movie, I had to say good-bye. However, ours wasn’t a sad float-away with tears. It was a kiss on my cheek – with a little, assuring yip from a tiny puppy – giving me glorious hope we will meet again.

They say, “No man is an island”. I agree. As long as a squishy, soft volleyball with four legs is served up in my life.

Flavored Status

Probably well over one-thousand. Has to be that many tables I’ve sat behind while eating everything from seafood to steak, tacos to turkey, and donuts to dumplings. I’m counting only those where pleasant smiles have greeted me at a restaraunt, café, or fast food burger joint. Sure, some don’t quite get a glimmering, “memory”, review as I sit here tonight at yet another.

If your experiences have been similar to mine, eating out isn’t always the pleasant experience we hope for when a gurgling stomach makes its demands. “Having a bad day” servers and over-priced, low quality food can cool a bowl of happy soup in a hurry. So when we find a favorite or two, it’s like the culinary cosmos opens up a big can of whoo-hoo in our lives.

I have my “flavored-status” places to find delicious ways to the bottom of a bowl, the end of a stacked sandwich, or an empty glass of refreshing iced tea. They are the few I’ve chosen out of many in which to share moments.

As I sit here tonight behind a, now, empty plate that once held a very proud piece of strawberry pie, I wonder what makes those eatery “spots” we visit so special.

Food probably comes in second; although, where I visit frequently, … the soup, salads, dinners, sandwiches, and crepes are fantastic. You probably have your local places to visit and chat up the day’s events just like I do? The conversation between likable friends across steaming coffee in the morning is sun-risably essential for the soul. Still, not the top condiment in my sandwich, though.

Has to be those smiling faces. As I came into this place tonight for a piece of pie …

… I – not so swiftly – passed this sign. The message was grinning me right in the face.

I don’t visit Eat & Park often. Maybe twice a month … maybe. It isn’t a favorite as favorites go in my life. After two forkfulls of syrupy strawberry pie here however, it became a treasured one-man island for my thoughts. Notions about a Place For Smiles and all the restaraunts I’ve been in, my favorites, … and what makes them so: the smiles and joy I receive from the staff.

There really isn’t anything better than being appreciated as a customer. The waitresses and waiters get to know us, become like friends, and are so special. A simple, cheery “Hello!”, really tugs at a deep, welcoming receptor inside us that needs a smile to open up our world of possible sadness or hurt. We go inside our favorite places to get outside ourselves. If it wasn’t for the genuinely lovely folks who brighten our days with order tablets or simple sheets of paper, I’m not sure life would be the same.

It wouldn’t be for me, anyway … because I have a “nickname” at my local, special eatery. No need for anyone here to know the specifics. It’s kinda cool, but out of context, I wouldn’t recommend looking up the associated picture of said “nickname”. It’s an ugly little bugger … 🙄😉😊.

So, with the pie all gone, it’s one-thousand and one restaraunts …. at least for now. Who really counts, anyway? Tonight HAS been a place for smiles. Truly.

I can smile since life is not bad for most of us, right? Sure, there’s are some problems always on the horizon and issues to be dealt with now. Life as it is for most of us getting through a post-pandemic, crazy world.

My waitress was deserving of the tip she received. After all, I sat here for a while – nursing a glass of water and piece of pie for a long time. All the while, she never stopped smiling while asking me if I needed anything else …

To her, and those who brighten our days by smiling and extending genuine love and care to us – your customers and friends:

… “We’re fine. I’m fine. Truly. I appreciate you. We appreciate you. Thanks.”

Crepes!, It’s Great

A promise finally fulfilled. After three weeks and many considerations, Allegheny Creamery & Crepes finds its way onto my keyboard. Weeks ago, I asked Heather, the energetic and forward-thinking co-owner, for permission to use the above beautiful photograph. She graciously accepted assuming, of course, I would fold it into an immediate glowing, spiffingly delicious, sophisticated word palate equal to her offerings inside. I did not at the time.

Yesterday, while forking through a very tender buffalo chicken crepe while relaxing at a table on the outside back patio, Heather and I exchanged glances. Mine was an apologetic – yet somewhat sarcastic – glimpse suggesting humility hand-in-hand with pride that I actually remembered a promise from weeks ago. “I haven’t forgotten to write that blog yet … thanks for allowing me use of the picture!”, I threw out to initiate an apology of sorts. Heather, in her kindness, acknowledged my attempted cover-up and replied, “that’s ok…”, and went about attending to her business … with a smile. There were other words exchanged, of course. (I have a habit of over-using bits of lexicon).

Ok. So it took a few weeks to get to this point. At least we’re here … and what a marvelous place it is!

Step off of Route 36 North, or South, in Hollidaysburg and you’re within two blocks. Allegheny street is this hometown’s narrows for all that’s lovely in a ‘burg over 226 years old. We have cracks in well-worn sidewalks, a slightly-yellowed post office that you would pass on the way, and old, restored buildings painted with historic hues breathing legacies down upon young, energetic youth. Go too far past the Creamery, and you’ll be in front of the Blair County Courthouse, built in 1875-1876, .. our county government center of law and justice. Just down from the courthouse, an old green church is being developed (proposed) into offices, an indoor vendor market, and new performance center/restaurant.

All this to say, Allegheny Creamery & Crepes sits in the middle of history, tradition, and a new generation of ideas and growth. Heather & Kirk, her husband, weathered Covid and a few (failed) ideas to emerge as a landing place for hungry souls. A soft landing for those having a hard day, perhaps. A fulfilling, warm meal for those who need something to satisfy an otherwise empty day. I wrote of a valuable hot chocolate serving few months ago … here, when only words and the Creamery felt right.

There’s technology inside, and lots of great food. Sounds so cliche – and I don’t mean it to be so. You enter into the doors of an old shoe repair store where my grandfather took his boots to be resoled – knowing, ahead, your soul will potentially be restored by any of the following (different/new items may have been added since):

The wooden floor creaks when you walk by carrying a slender metal pole, number attached at the top for quick table service. Drinks in the neighboring room to be picked up on your way by to the upper room, or outside dining patio if the weather is accommodating. All so efficient. So pleasant. Take the time to peer through the glass wall separating the dining area and prep kitchen. That wall, at times, reflects the silver metal ceiling tiles keeping watch over all patrons … making sure everyone is enjoying the time away from stressors and frustrations.

That is the magic of this place. Whether it be the few front outside metal tables, beverage room sit-abouts, sitting area in (what I call) the order room, red dining room upstairs, or back patio, – the experience of tucking away their fare, combined with the kindness of a well-trained staff and hometown pride in presentation makes them worth writing about – even if it’s a few weeks late.

Come by our hometown. The Black Dog Cafe is but a few steps down. This block is a-rockin’ with great food. The Allegheny Creamery & Crepes is so unique and worth stepping over a few cracks in the sidewalk and swinging around a small number of tree branches the borough may not have trimmed yet. Five-0-Five Allegheny Street is so easy to find. Parking, well, it’s kinda ok, as well. You need to be a bit of a detective during the busier times to find a place, but I guarantee once you sit inside Allegheny Creamery, all that will be behind you.

Look for Heather. I’d like to say she’ll be the one smiling, but they all do, soooo. Ask for her, maybe? If I am there, I’ll point you to her. I am absolutely sure she won’t mind my pointing her out to you. At least if YOU are talking to her, the conversation won’t go on as long.

Likable Loneliness

Saturday’s message from the pulpit – this 2nd weekend of the Easter season – focused on loneliness. Thomas, specifically. Yes, the odd-disciple-out from the upper room story. That guy.

At no point in the gospel story, as our Pastor was gracious to note, was loneliness scribed into accepted biblical words. Three days after the death of Jesus, where was Thomas? Were the other disciples missing Jesus? All of a sudden, the eleven were alone … grieving. Possibly, Thomas was sad, too. Alone.

Have we been alone as well these past two years as well?

Loneliness creates chemical changes in our bodies. I wasn’t aware loneliness has the ability to slam a wrecking ball into our bodies. It is like hunger, according to some studies. Those same studies suggest we are experiencing an epedemic of loneliness in America. Geesh.

As I walked along our local street last evening, this image caught my attention:

It is what I’ve named a likable loneliness. These shadowy arms embraced my every, single step. It was as if a solitary, bare tree recognized my moments of reflection inside this early-Easter seasoned brain.

Thomas was there.

Through Pastor Dave’s words, I heard Thomas’ possible loneliness. My silently barked friend held arms around me for a few moments as I headed back to sit casually behind an organ. In the shadow of loss, a pandemic, medical challenges, mental stress, business worries, and familial pulls, … I felt a calm – a friend. A likable loneliness.

During the third service – while listening to the sermon again – I reasoned we may have two probable, colorful spaces … with many shades in between, of course.

First, we should take a deep breath, look inward, and find something unique to like about ourselves when alone. Second, when in a crowd and feeling alone, remembering we still are that unique and special individual we saw when alone could help de-stress the feeling of loneliness.

Too many folks are way more qualified than I. A licensed talk-to I am not. I do, however, talk to my piano. It takes on human therapist qualities and I would swear to anyone those keys speak back to me. I am never alone when gracing the black-and-white sweet tenders.

Answers to loneliness aren’t easy. The Pastor’s messages aren’t intended to set answers in concrete. By my estimation, they never are. This is what good sermons are supposed to do: challenge the listener to dig deeper … dive into a pool of information and thought. In other words, don’t just take his, or her, word for it.

I bring a different perspective to the table. A bit of a sceptic, I am. “Where was Thomas?”: those now familiar words as Pastor Dave began the sermon that first Saturday evening. My ears perked up. A perfect beginning for my cynical cerebelum. From all three listenings, I gained additional pleasure.

Maybe not as much as being hugged by the shadows of a lonely tree, but enough to help me understand being alone – sometimes – is a magical place to be.