the lost man chronicles
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little bites of corndogs

It’s the little things.

This weekend proved to be trying, tiring, inviting, invigorating and by all means—delightful.

My adventures took me from a spontaneous traversal to Alphabet City for a couple of Caiprinhas and some salsa dancing, to pulling out hair from my makeshift garden the next morning, and onto a Sunday well spent far beyond the Delaware Water Gap at the Bloomsburg County Fair.

It all started on Friday night when I took a spontaneous cab ride over to the Lower East Side to meet up with my sole fellow Latino friend and his two curvy bookends, buddies from his days back in the barrio. The ensuing experience was raucous to say the least. I haven’t howled and hollered out of such sheer joy like that in years, not to mention, non-stop sashays, twirling and turning the night away with a virtual stranger whose kinesthetic intuition united us in a swaying and undulating intimacy that is Latin dancing. I had not been so well matched in a very long time, ten years to be exact, when I was a free-wheeling grad student frequenting such divine places as the Latin Quarter, the Copa(cabana) and Jimmy’s (Bronx Café).

A few minutes before midnight, I ran out the door before I turned back into the stodgy character I really am. I would have loved to stay the night, but such is the hi-life when you’re 35 going on 21.

To relax and regain some wholesomeness, the next morning I decided to do a little yard work.

I began by pulling medusa’s hair from the soil, extracting brown and brittle, long and curly strands of dead iris germanica fronds from amongst the green ones which still remained well hooked into the earth.

I also cleaned out the vegetable patch, which was overflowing with a bounty of three kinds of homegrown tomatoes. Picking them was a delightful experience for me, as I high-stepped carefully in between the vine that intertwined ferally like an orgy of octopuses. The pleasing herbal smell of the earth, combined with that of the sprawling tentacles made me giddy.

Moreover, I was tickled by the fact that these fragrant plants had prospered so well, in what I presumed to be fairly poor soil. To my pleasant surprise, the results have been an incessant plethora of sun-ripened and juicy red fruits, which I have often refrigerated and then sliced to complete a cool and fresh plate of Caprese, for a perfect light lunch on any hot summer day.

In contrast to Friday night, Saturday evening involved entertaining, rather than being entertained, and alights upon the opposite end of the spectrum of this—my iridescent life.

After gardening and a few hours of reading and writing, it began with a tiring, yet invigorating, run. Six miles up and down the surrounding paved hills of Clear Mountain. As it was “bulk day,” on the way back, to surplus my own maker at home, I picked up an espresso metal sifting cup and glass flask from a machine that someone had left on the curb. Admittedly, I was a bit embarrassed about being a scavenger, so I ran a little faster, striding upon the second wind instilled by the sudden waft of shame which overcame me.

After I got home I washed out my new accoutrements and decided to spontaneously set up the backyard, so that dinner could be had outside. Some college friends were expected over in a few hours and I was obliged to behave amicably.

Under the blue canopy I set up the wrought-iron table with the wrought-iron chairs I had refurbished with hubcaps from a 1964 Mercedes Benz Pagoda SL for seats when I was a poor student in grad school a decade ago. I also staked a couple of new wrought iron and brass oil lanterns at the entrance of this makeshift Bedouin tent. I supplemented the twinkling lights of this charming night, with a 25 watt blue starlight of my own, which I dangled from the center of the canopy, along with a trio of centerpiece candles, and two votives which I placed on a side table where the food was to be placed.

The guests arrived promptly at eight and I could not wait for them to leave soon thereafter. In other words, they were not my college friends and as I expected they soon began conversing about what other colleagues were up to, especially “Tom the Cat.” Whatever, to me it always seemed as if they were stuck back in school, as if their lives had progressed little beyond 1990.

I was informed afterwards that one of the guests was supposedly “brilliant,” which was supposed to explain and excuse his awkward demeanor. I was not impressed or amused either way.

Yet, I would agree that he was a wonk, if there ever was one. For most of the evening I was forced to politely tolerate his pedantic overtures, ones which he drew out interminably as nervous compensation for a lack of social skills. My eyes literally began to gloss over and I was at a loss for what he was babbling on about, after the first half-hour.

Fortunately, there were little excuses that legitimately excused me elsewhere throughout the evening, and eventually allowed me to bow out with a gracious “Thanks for coming, but I apologize I must say good night to attend to other matters.” And to be honest, exasperated as I was by that point, I could care less whether or not they were fooled by my beguiling farewell.

Besides, I had to rise and shine early to prepare for a long drive across stateliness the next morning, and so the sooner they left—the better.

The next morning, departing at nine or so, at 11:30 I arrived in Columbia-Montour County, Pennsylvania. It was the opening weekend of the 150th year of the Bloomsburg County Fair, and 800,000 people were expected to attend over the next seven days.

The Fair was fascinating to say the least, for it exhibited everything a pseudo-city boy might imagine country folks to be—vastly overweight families waddling to and fro, people who were into “both kinds of music—country and western,” connoisseurs of fried food, soda-guzzling gastronomes, and consumers of lots of tacky wood and cotton fabric scrap crafts.

In addition to this great gathering of pumpkins and bumpkins, I was utterly amazed and amused by so many other little things at this wholesome gathering of farmers, miners and steel factory workers. Everything from the promotional Fair jingle I invented: “Come to the Bloomsburg County Fair! It’s where big people come to get bigger!” to the full moon hanging over the rolling Appalachian Mountains and the Susquehanna River that served as the sole light on Interstate 80 as I drove back that night.

Compared to what I found at the horticultural exhibit barn, my home-grown tomatoes were no feat to be proud of. There, adorned with blue-ribbons, was a cornucopia of legumes, fruits and shapely vegetables—including one big, 381 pound pumpkin. Moreover, what was rendered from this produce was equally impressive—rows upon rows of pies and pickled preserve jars and jams and peeled whole fruit neatly stacked upon each other in sugar water. And there were lots and lots of other bellyicious concoctions to reheat and eat the winter away with as well.

Oh, and how did I play and eat too! Little bites of corn dogs to big gulps of birch beer to teetering at the edge of fear as I rang the bell at the top of the rock-climbing wall. There was also the open basket Ferris wheel, the freshly-baked, crispy-warm apple fritter topped with “hard” cinnamon ice cream, and the unexpected winning of a gold-fish at the ping-pong toss (found a floater this morning and flushed down to Fair fish-heaven).

Even being whooped in the head by best friend, as we contended at the hee-man contest, was quite fun too. For who wouldn’t want to battle it out gladiator-style in a ring where you stand teetering on cushioned mushrooms, wielding huge q-tips of battering rams, to slam and push and mercilessly knock over a friendly foe with?

And at the close of the day, nature found a way to bring me full circle and back into my daily life again. For there, at sunset was an awesome display of purple clouds and pink light painted majestically upon the horizon. This morning, at sunrise, I was privy to the same swath of beauty as I rolled into the City to work. I was impressed with how nature evoked this swell of great emotion in me two times within twelve hours and almost two hundred miles apart.

The roseate skies during these dawning days of September seem to be yawning solemnly, almost sighing the somnolent summer away, making way for another Fall, with crisply cool mornings that lazily warm up the way for fair play and frolicking for all.

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