When Irish Eyes are NOT Smiling

As most of you know, I live in a very small, rural town, and it’s not as though people expect to go through our historic streets with the one traffic light and come across an Irish pub, let alone an authentic one. Believe it or not, though, we do have one…well, technically speaking anyway. In reality, what we have is a posh bar, with a fancy sign. You’d think the owners would at least try to make it a legitimate Irish pub, but there, you would be wrong. Oh sure, the menu is covered in clovers and Celtic knots and has elaborate dishes with the words ‘Irish’ and ‘Dublin’ liberally strewn about, but that doesn’t make it a decent Irish pub. Although I have yet to make my heart’s desire journey to Ireland, one thing I do know is pub food. As a matter of fact, there is a quintessential Irish pub about an hour away, so I do have that oasis…but still, it’s quite the hike for fish and chips, no matter how good it may be. And trust me, it’s amazing.

So when this new joint first opened, I had high hopes of ditching the long commute in my quest for bangers and mash, and the aforementioned fish and chips. But alas, those hopes were dashed like a bottle of Guinness caught in a wave against the Cliffs of Moher. My main gripe with this place is its hours and upscale, hipster vibe. It gives every impression of being an upper crust establishment, with upper crust prices for extravagant dishes you’d never see in Ireland, let alone any self-respecting pub. Calling a brie-cheeseburger covered in crab imperial (a Maryland specialty by the way) a Dublin Burger does not a Dublin Burger make.  I won’t even get into the portions that look like they’re meant for an elf, and a smallish elf at that. As for the hours – now I know my town rolls up its streets at dusk, but still…no self-respecting Irish pub closes before 10 PM on any given day. I mean hell, that’s when all the best drinking starts. I can’t be the only one who thinks that, right? Right!?

But their ploy is working, this bar was actually voted ‘Best Irish Pub’ in the area. Although given what else is in the area with regards to food and entertainment, maybe that’s not so hard to believe after all.

Odd Sightings in a Small Town

I’m not one who is flustered, flabbergasted, or flummoxed easily.  It’s true that my fellow humans often leave me shaking my head, however, it’s not usually in confusion so much as a sad realization of just how awful or stupid people can be. Sometimes I’m actually inspired by the antics of my fellow man and in those cases, I’m rather awestruck…but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m baffled or astounded by their behavior.  Until today.

This. This is what stared me in the face as I drove through my little one-stoplight-one-road-in-and-one-road-out town. Driving home past the Historical Society, the Art Center, and the Library, it glared at me as I desperately tried to ferret out a reason…any reason…for its presence. And still. Still. I’m bedeviled by this creature’s place in the world, nay, by its very existence.

Oh, if only I had had the opportunity to meet with its apparent owner! Perhaps all of my questions would be answered. Or more likely – others would simply arise.

So here I sit. Drinking. And anxiously pondering life and giant spiders in small-town America.

 

spider-one

 

spider-two

Cleanliness is…not all it’s cracked up to be

Since my dirty little secret was discovered by my Dad a couple of weeks ago, I’ll just come out and say it. The backseat of my car looks like a landfill. Okay, fine, if we’re being honest…my entire car looks like a landfill. So much random crap has somehow piled up, I don’t even know how it got there. My daughter gets about 10 letters a day from colleges and universities about available scholarships or why she should pick their institute. Toss it in the back. On top of that I get my own fair share of junk mail. Toss that in the back, too. Then, there’s leftover plastic and paper from the fast food we get all too often (who has time to cook these days?). What else is in the trash heap I call my car? Oh, empty plastic bottles. Lots of empty plastic bottles. We drink a lot of water and soda in that car.

Somehow, none of this stuff, not the mail nor the bags nor the bottles nor the balled-up napkins, seems to make it from my car to the place it belongs…the garbage can! So what ends up happening is whenever someone has to get into my car I have to apologize like an idiot and blurt out something dismissive like “Oh, ignore the mess!” as I sweep away enough of the debris so they can sit down without making a loud crunching sound. It’s bad enough when I have to shamefully clear space for a friend, but it’s even worse when a family member, like my aforementioned Dad, has to get into the car for some reason. My fear when he returned from his foray into the confines of my precariously overburdened vehicle was that he likely thought something along the lines of, “Is this what I’ve taught my daughter to be?” Why yes, Dad. This is me in all my glory.

It’s so bad I’m not even sure someone could ride in the backseat if they had to. Not without doing a massive cleanup effort first. At the very least I’d have to shove the mountain of refuse to the side and whoever’s unlucky enough to be stuck in the back would have to lean on the pile lest it consume them like a tidal wave if I take a turn too sharp.

Peppered throughout the mess are useful things, things I need. Things that just haven’t made it into the house yet but that I will eventually, most definitely need to use. Whenever I have to find one of these things I end up tossing litter over my shoulders while I swear up and down that tomorrow will be the day I finally get around to cleaning the car once and for all. It’s always tomorrow. And tomorrow never seems to come. The intention is there, it’s just the follow-through that’s lacking.

Recently, my daughter and I were driving to the sole convenience store in our rinky-dink little town. We were laughing because, just like every night after 8pm, the roads were pretty much deserted. It’s like the town rolls up the streets at dusk and a curfew goes into effect because nighttime is when the zombies come out — you know how they do. Oh, and in a complete and utter horror story mash-up, I must say that with the way this store is situated, when we leave and I look out across the parking lot to the other side of the main street, I fully expect to see Michael Myers standing there, under the street light, his hockey mask gleaming in the faded yellowish glow…or is that Jason over there? Why hello, Jason. Excuse me while I freak out a bit over here. That’s how creepy my town is after 8pm.

So anyway, on this particular night, after we were done in the store and getting back in the car, my daughter reminds me to look in the backseat just to make sure no zombies or axe murderers are hiding back there. Cause you never know. It’s always a good idea to look in the backseat. I mean, we’ve all seen the movies. We know how that ends.

Then I realized that even if a zombie or axe murderer or kidnapper wanted to hide in the back, they wouldn’t be able to hide. Too much junk! He’d be flailing around back there like a kid in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese, only noisier. At the very least, his presence would be quickly detected by the loud rustling, crinkling, and crunching from all of the discarded papers and plastic bottles. It would be very similar to the old Looney Tunes cartoons where all of the mousetraps or tacks are set out for the hapless victim…you just couldn’t miss one if you tried and hitting one would start a domino effect where you landed on another and another and another. It would give even the most stealthy of zombies away in a heartbeat…okay, well, ummm…maybe not a heartbeat since they’re zombies…but it would be pretty damn fast, let me tell you.

So, that’s the bright side I’m choosing to focus on. My car has its own handy-dandy alarm system that I installed myself one piece of junk mail at a time. It’s a rather cheap alarm, but damn if it’s not effective. And since the “trash” has been re-purposed as an anti-theft device, technically I’m also recycling at the same time. Go me!

Soooo…we’re clever, smart, frugal, AND most importantly – safe.  A win-win situation…unless you’re a zombie.

Trust Issues, Or Random Ramblings

So as you may remember, I live in a small town.  There are two roads you can navigate to get through our town, both are one-way – one going into town and one going out of town.  What does it say about my neighbors that I look both ways before crossing either of those one-way roads? What does it say about me? And I know I’m not the only one!  You guys do it too! But what exactly does that imply about our collective trust in our fellow humans that we feel the need to look both ways before crossing a one-way street? That those sharing the world and the road are inherently untrustworthy?  That they’re incapable of following simple directions?  Or have we become so jaded that we can’t even take the most basic things for granted?

The thing is, you know damn well the one time you don’t look both ways, some lone car, having missed the signs and the general traffic flow, will come meandering down the wrong-way and flatten you…well…flatter than a pancake. And now. Now, I want pancakes. Damn.  Oh, back to the issue at hand…so yeah, it’s a sad world we live in people. Sad, sad world.

Night Life

A ghost town? Zombie apocalypse? Martial law curfew due to an adopted demigod’s adorable grin and glorious purpose? (sorry, just got done watching Avengers for the 12th time)

No. This is just small town nightlife at its best – at 10:00 p.m.  But it wouldn’t be any different at 9:30 p.m. Or even 9:15 p.m.  Everything closes up shop at 9:00 p.m. or earlier and then boy howdy, you could roll up the streets it’s so damn empty.  We have a 7-11 in town (pics below) but no one is ever there, at least not when we are. It’s amazing, frankly, just how dead this town is after dusk. You’d seriously think we’re in some kind of horror story just living out the writer’s sick fantasy.

If there IS someone walking down the road, it’s creepy as hell and you look really close (okay I look really close, not sure about everyone else) to see if they have on a mask and are carrying a bloody axe (although you’d think the requisite accompanying spine-chilling musical score would sort of give them away).  I’m also quick to check to see if they present with any of the obvious symptoms that indicate they’ve somehow or other been touched by the zombie infection. You can never be too careful. I like my brains where they are thank you very much.

Sadly, just my luck, the impulsive adopted demigod with the impish grin would never visit such an out-of-the-way, shutter the stores and roll up the streets at dusk sort of seaside town.  More’s the pity.

7-11 in town, the car you see is mine

the parking lot of the 7-11 in town, the car you see is mine, and although lit up, the place across the street is closed

 

the other side of the parking lot at 7-11...not unusual

other side of the parking lot…no zombies thankfully, but they do have chips

 

the one intersection/light in town and not a soul in sight

the one intersection/light in town and not a soul in sight…lights are on, but no one’s home — or out and about

 

 

Mail Performance Issues

I’m no home owner. That’s for real adults. I rent. Sadly, my house isn’t exactly a mansion, but I like it. It doesn’t even have a driveway, but I still like it. I like it so much that I’ve lived there (or I guess I should say here) for two years now. The house on one side of me, it has a driveway. And the house on the other side of me is on the corner. They don’t have a driveway either, but that’s not a problem for them with their corner spot. When they park their car they either park on the side or hop their car up the curb and park in their yard. Classy, I know. My options are a bit more limited. I have no choice but to park on the street. I refuse to park in the yard. Sorry folks, just not my style. My mailbox is also right there on the street. Little did I know that my standard street parking protocol would wreak havoc on my mail carrier’s livelihood.

Because my car ends up being sort of in the way, the mail carrier can’t drive right through to my mailbox to pop in my mail. What’s the solution? Well, you would think that maybe said mail carrier would go just a little above and beyond the call of duty (or what used to be called doing their job), park their mail truck, and walk the maybe 4 feet to my mailbox. You would think this and you would be wrong.

Instead, the solution has been to simply stop delivering my mail. The mail carrier’s ridiculous answer to this equally ridiculous predicament would have me parking up the road on the next corner and walking back to my house rather than parking right in front of my house. So as to free up a straight line for her to zoom in her mail truck. Yeah. Right.

OK, so no home delivery. That’s okay. I’ve come to terms with this and rented a PO Box. It’s the only choice if I ever want to, you know, get my mail. I could do without bills of course, but letters from loved ones, online purchases, those I don’t mind actually receiving. Call me crazy but getting some of my mail is sort of a big deal to me.

I’ve done a good job of letting people know not to do something as audacious as mailing something to my house, but every once in a while it does happen. Things slip through. When it does happen, rather than (again) getting out of the truck and going the approximately 4 feet it takes to put the item in my mailbox or—gasp!—bringing it up to my doorstep which is not that much further from the mailbox or even sticking it in, say, the PO Box they know I own (because I’m at the post office ALL the freakin’ time) the mail carrier marks it undeliverable and the item gets returned to sender.

Again, bills, those can go back to the sender any old day. Like I care. But it never happens with them. Of course not. The only times it has happened is with pretty important items. Figures, right?

When I eventually find out about it, the same, simple question rolls through my head, and out of my mouth: WTF? I have no idea why the carrier avoids my mailbox like the plague. It’s not like we’ve had words. And I’ve seen her deliver, on foot no less, to other houses, but not mine. It can’t be some slow burning personal vendetta either because I’ve never even met her. So WTF? I have a perfectly good mailbox just sitting there as it should, just waiting for mail to be delivered. Plus…PLUS, I have a perfectly good PO Box for extra insurance, but even with that in place I’m never truly guaranteed of getting my mail.  I’m beginning to get a complex if truth be told.

Everyone INSIDE the post office is great (again, I know this because I deal with them on a daily basis, no exaggeration). The carrier? Anything but. I have my own real life Newman making decisions for me on what’s deliver-worthy and what’s not.

This letter from the school system? Doesn’t look important and the mailbox is so, sooo far away. Toss it. An elegant invitation to a high-brow event?  Nahh, she couldn’t be possibly interested in that. Send it back.  But this $10 coupon for Depends? Oh, she’s gonna want to see this one. Let it through.

Ahh, small town life. It never ceases to amaze.

no mail for you

Is This Really Progress?

I was musing today about the unstoppable march of “progress.” Well…perhaps progress is the wrong word…how about “the unstoppable march of people”?

I don’t know what the solution is…people need places to live, of course, and if they want to live in a nice place they should be able to…but there’s no denying that when a place is known for its quiet, slow pace and rustic charm…that slow pace and charm are hard to maintain once a few thousand more people descend upon it.

I was thinking about my town today, and feeling kind of melancholy about it.  Not to boast but I live in a pretty idyllic sort of place. Some of you may be city people; lovers of the hustle and bustle that comes with the congested streets of a concrete jungle. That’s not me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to visit.  But for home-life, I need some nature, lots of green landscape, and some semblance of quiet.

The region where I live is both rural and water-oriented.  In the past it was home to family farms and any number of watermen. In fact, there are still some small towns dotting the landscape here and there where families make their living on the water — fishing, crabbing, and harvesting oysters as generations have done before them. But those small towns are described as “quaint” these days instead of “bustling” and are becoming more and more like ghost towns every day.  The family owned farms are mostly shut down—consumed by the much larger corporate farms.

By and large the area used to be slow-paced with plenty of open space. Mom and Pop stores were where you used to go to get whatever home-goods, knick-knacks, or specialty food you needed.  We’ve always had our main “chain” grocery stores (Acme, Food Lion and Safeway), but there were barely any franchise restaurants except for one of each of the staples McDonald’s, Burger King, and Dairy Queen. Besides these three there were only local eateries that served fresh, locally sourced seafood, as well as a couple of “homestyle” restaurants. This was the Eastern Shore and the atmosphere was fantastic.

Years ago, going across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get to Maryland’s Eastern Shore was no issue; you could make it across and be home in no time.  Except on Friday evenings in the summer.

On the weekends in summer, traffic was a mess because people from the Western Shore just had to get to the beach (it was the only route to Ocean City).  If you were caught on the Western side on a Friday evening, it sometimes could take hours to get home.  But people who lived over here knew that the occasional tourist traffic congestion was a necessary evil, and they felt it was worth it because of the lovely Eastern Shore atmosphere. We adjusted our commuting lives accordingly on those “seasonal weekends.”

Then, somewhere along the way, things changed.

Western Shore people got wise to how great the Eastern Shore was. Eventually, just visiting on weekends wasn’t enough. They wanted to live on the Eastern Shore. So the transition began and they started moving over in droves. Unfortunately, once they got here, they couldn’t do without all those amenities that they were once so anxious to leave behind.

It was okay, apparently, to enjoy the “small town life” when they were just visiting and getting away from the chaos of their own lives. But once they lived here – oh no. They had to have those amenities then!

So in came the strip malls, the nationwide franchise stores, the franchise dime a dozen restaurants, convenience stores on every corner, and out went the locally owned places – driven out because they couldn’t compete.

Up went the sky-high hotels, and houses upon houses upon houses to accommodate the number of people moving here and concrete….concrete everywhere.

And now, now we have traffic every day of the friggin’ week! Instead of expecting hours of traffic on a Friday, we have daily rush hour traffic that takes forever.  And it doesn’t stop at the bridge either. The throng of new inhabitants has caused bumper to bumper traffic all the way down the highway and across the Island.

Now, instead of a placid, rural place, the Eastern Shore has been mutated into a paved extension of the suburban Western Shore with miles and miles of constant development.

And they call this progress. My question is, progress towards what? More noise? More corporations exerting their influence? More congestion? More pollution? If that’s the definition of progress, I just want to state for the record that I liked exactly where I used to be.