Twenty-two years in the employ of the City of Bridgeport Fire Department: nine years as a Lieutenant, currently assigned to Truck Co.#10, a 105' Pierce rear mount aerial. A lifetime ago, a tillerman on Truck #3-steering the back. With Elizabeth since the dawn of creation. 1 bad cat Hannah, though not in the realm of depravity of Jennie's Hank. 14 chickens and a hot tub.
Also, UConn Grad, Class of '81, Yankee loather, Red Sox fan, long time rock & roll & roots music enthusiast, friend to those who have no friends, champion of the oppressed, kind to dumb animals.
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When Ellie informed me that the Corey family reunion would be held in the Poconos this summer, I immediately resolved to investigate the area that would encourage such a gathering. Serendipity shone on me, as it so often does, when Elizabeth, PHT,
scored a prestigious business trip to scenic Stroudsburg, PA , the gateway to the Poconos, and asked if I would accompany her. My duties as chauffeur and kept man would leave my days free for investigation while Elizabeth attended class from 0800-1630. Some of my compatriots at the Tavern were envious of my good fortune, particularly Peter -- just back himself from Martha's business trip to London. I did not let their jealousy mar my adventure.
We somehow avoided mayhem and carnage on the expressway. The day previous to our trip featured a rollover of a hydrofluoric acid tank truck and the morning of the trip a fatal head on. We motored unimpeded and arrived unscathed 3 hours and 18 minutes after leaving NoSto. I expected to be greeted by a Dantesque landscape of smoldering rubbish piles, slag heaps and abandoned coal mines. Instead we were greeted by "the only traditional downtown in the Poconos". PENN DOT had taken the unusual step (by Connecticut standards) of building the Interstate outside of, rather than through the town. First stop: Rudy's Tavern.
After a 3+ hour trip in blinding sunshine we were plunged into a light level usually prescribed for post-operative cataract patients. We shook the dust of the trail off and felt our way to the bar, where the nice (!) man behind the taps apologized for charging us $2.00 a pint for our Lienenkugel Wheats. Seems we picked the most expensive draught on tap, with less exotic brews going for $1.25 or $1.50 a pint. A sign advertised the Tuesday special of $3.75 pitchers of PBR. The menu featured a $2.oo hamburger, Philly cheese steaks, chicken cutlet sandwiches and "The Super" -- a hot dog split down the middle, grilled and stuffed with bacon and cheese. We quaffed a couple of frosties then repaired to the plushly appointed Hampton Inn that E-Beth's employer graciously provided.
A quick stroll about town to get oriented found us dining at "Everyone's Cafe". The menu boasted 217 choices up to the pasta page where they abandoned the numbering scheme in the face of an even greater number of possible spaghetti combinations. Hunger induced me to ignore my rule -- learned through bitter experience -- that as the number of selections goes up, the quality inevitably goes down. This rule proved unfortunately true. We end the night at the Sarah Street Grill watching the UCONN women paste Florida.
Wednesday found me up early, getting Elizabeth shined up for work:
This monumental task accomplished, I set out to see the sights. Leaving the hotel I learned the Behr Paint convention was in town:
It was readily apparent that no Supermodels were learning the paint and pigment trade in case the modeling gig fell through. Out on the mean streets of Stroudsburg I noticed an inordinate number of churches, beauty salons, stylists, day spas etc. Whether the denizens of the 'burg require this level of maintenance either spiritual or corporeal, is a question I hope to get a handle on soon.
There were churches with pithy saying on signs in front of them:
Salons with clever names:
Salons in former churches:
Schools to learn the trade:
Barbers needing help:
Barbers who only occasionally require appointments:
I got a trim at Dempsey's. When I walked in the 70+ year old barber was sitting in the chair running a blowdryer over the front of himself in a bid to warm up. He couldn't hear me when I inquired if an appointment was necessary. I remarked on the number of drinking establishments in town. He allowed as there were a few in Stroudsburg but in the small town he was from, in coal country, there were 37 bars. This may merit further investigation.
All this footwork had left me understandably famished. Fortunately Elizabeth called to take me to lunch. Next door to Dempsey's was a Portuguese restaurant run by Portuguese:
$6.95 got you sauteed sole, potatoes and vegetables:
Dessert was passion fruit mousse. Poor Elizabeth trudged back to work and I set out on a proper pub crawl. Less experienced crawlers might make the mistake of stopping at the first joint you come across. This is always a mistake and is avoided by the pub crawl cognoscente, who know the most favorable results are achieved by walking to the end of the line and working one's way back. Plus you pass things that might go unnoticed otherwise. Such as:
The Chemical Co. #1 of the SFD operates a 1982 Peter Pirch tractor-drawn aerial (the kind that bend in the middle and have a tillerman steering the back). They are fairly scarce in paid departments and to find one run by a Volunteer outfit was a find. I was unable to get a picture of it, though. I must have made 20 trips to the hosehouse and never found anyone home. This is foreign to my experience. There were no idlers, lay-abouts, vagrants, unemployed, unemployable or even dedicated members hanging around at any hour I visited. The mayor's office couldn't help. They suggested coming by on Monday nights "when they have their little drills". I had to settle for a shot from their website ( www.stroudsburgfire.com/) :
I saw cot-jockeys in their green ambulance:
Wile E. Coyote's firehouse:
You think I'm lying?
They start early at Kay's:
A train went by:
The train went by the old train depot repurposed and serving a higher calling. And so it begins. Walk into any place in Stroudsburg and order a "Lager". You'll get a frosty cold pint of Yeungling Lager and only be out a buck and a quarter for the experience.
Across from the depot:
I gave Shorty (& Deb) a pass in favor of the iconic Lackawanna Hotel Tavern.
Clearly a tony establishment in its day, it sported a pressed tin ceiling which extended down the walls to the wainscoting forming a barrier to the nauseating layer of nicotine adhered thereto. The clientele looked like they had been drinking since passenger service ended in 1970, biding their time until commuter rail service is restored as NJ Transit contemplates. I was treated to a discourse on tacos & burritos, the surprising utility of pickled beets as a taco ingredient and the astounding intelligence that a fancy folding technique might prevent the contents of a burrito from squirting out the bottom. I high-tailed it back to Rudy's to work on my tan.
Back at the crepuscular sanctum that is Rudy's, there was a couple I could imagine as any couple in our circle of friends -- ourselves included -- in twenty years, provided 19 of them were spent in steady heavy drinking. They were discussing the vagaries of the stock market with several other tavern characters familiar to anyone who frequents such establishments. I was somewhat humbled to be in the presence of these masters of finance until I considered my situation: a kept man on a mid-afternoon pub crawl in the Poconos, my only obligation to meet my inamorata so she could buy me dinner. Doesn't get much better than that, no matter what the market does. This realization cheered me so much that I happily ordered a second frosty.
Then it was off to Teddy's Tavern:
Make that Teddy's University Tavern, home of the 3-bite burger. 12,750 sold thus far. 38,250 bites at .50 a bite ($1.50 a burger)= $19,125.00. I guess I stayed at Rudy's too long.
Fortunately the phone rings. Elizabeth had finished her class and is ready to take me to a fine dining experience at The Willowtree Inn. Lame from an Achilles tendon/hiking boot interface calamity I stumble to the fine dining experience and arrive three quarters crippled and half in the bag. After a swell continental meal (don't miss the house-made gravalax) we finished out the night at Flood's -- 20 beers on tap and an astounding selection of bottles, including to our delight, Frambois.
Thursday was somewhat anticlimactic. We found a Turkish restaurant run by Turks:
Elizabeth finished her class and we adjourned from the $119 a night Hampton Inn to the $49 a night Inn-Town Pocono Inn since Beth's company's largess had been exhausted and the room was now on me. This hostelry featured 3 barrooms, 2 restaurants and, unbeknownst to us at check in, a sidewalk with a magnetic attraction for aggregations of noisy drunks at closing time. A mundane meal at an Italian restaurant that dares not speak its name was enlivened by the mincing waiter who largely ignored us to discuss the civil union of the Jewish New Jersey grandmothers at the next table. As a libertarian I could care less what you do in your off time, just bring the damned eggplant rollatini in a timely fashion!
Then it was back to Flood's for some more Framboise. We watched the UCONN men until the half but the previous day's exertions had left me fatigued. Sore and tired, I limped up to our 4th floor room and promptly fell into the sleep of the just. Elizabeth claims, though I cannot corroborate, that a drunken mob assembled on the sidewalk outside our window at 0200 and conversed at maximum volume until 0300. Fortunately her RDA of beauty sleep is significantly less than mine.
We scooted home the next day taking the alleged scenic route through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The river was nice enough, though slightly redolent of sulphur in a netherworldly/effluent sort of way. What we saw of the rest of the Poconos seemed to be mostly strip malls and "resort communities" interspersed with rivers, mountains and the occasional smoldering pile of rubbish, slag heap and abandoned coal mine.
Better stick with Stroudsburg, Ellie.