Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tomcatting in PA

If you ever find yourself in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, (near Reading) you have to have breakfast at The Tomcat Cafe'. This place will rock your socks off. All they do is breakfast. But man, oh, man, alive, what breakfasts they do.

It's in a small corner house and it is small. Be prepared to wait. But it's worth the wait. And I don't like to wait. You might need to sit outside for half an hour. There are benches and something bean bag toss games. Plus a busy street to watch. 

They will be renovating starting in the beginning of September, but not increasing in size. I figure they seat about 60 people in this little place.  

It's got a kitschy music vibe, but don't expect to hear any tunes. All you'll get is a loud human buzz.

Wall paintings in the ladies' bathroom.

The cooks and the waitresses in this place are some of the hardest working people I've ever seen. And very friendly. They run around like crazy and still manage to smile.

The menu is huge. It's eight pages of small print. Each item has a catchy sort of name and there are no substitutions along you can build your own omelette. The prices are very reasonable, too. We were five people and it cost $70 without tip. 

My daughter had a Brass Monkey: pancakes topped with caramelized bourbon bananas and walnuts. There are sweet offerings and savory tastes. I usually want three different things. It's so hard to choose. Check out the online MENU HERE.

This time (my second visit) I had a bread bowl: It Really Tied the Room Together: shrimp, lump crab, asparagus, tomatoes and scrambled eggs topped with a white wine tarragon dijon cream sauce.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Coffee and a Tickle

John sat at the teal and chrome counter tapping the long nail of his left pinky on the laminated surface. He stared at the waitress, the short black hair on the top of her head standing straight up, the sides buzzed down to her scalp. He yawned. He wanted coffee. He still had three hundred miles to drive before the sun came up.
He tapped his spoon on his empty coffee cup. The waitress, Sally, glanced his way, her light blue eyes shocking in her dark face. She loved the sun, but it didn’t love her back. Wrinkles showed on her forehead, cheeks, neck and hands. John couldn’t tell her age, but she had been here for as long as John had been stopping on this routine run for the past six years. She ignored him and went back to talking to the exotic man in front of her.
“Pick some food,” she said. She poked perfectly lacquered nails at the dinner menu. “Something to eat.” She mimed scooping food up on a spoon, putting it in her mouth and chewing.
The man leaned forward into the light from the overhead lamp. His skin was yellow and scaled. John figured he indulged in cosplay, although John didn’t know of any comic book conventions currently running in the area. Maybe he just lived the life. Snake Man took the plastic card from the waitress and chewed on the edge.
“Hey,” said Sally, grabbing the menu back. Her voice became more nasal as she got agitated. “Don’t eat that. What’s wrong with you?”
John watched, his need for caffeine forgotten as Sally placed a glass of milk and a plate of French Fries in front of the man. The man sniffed. He pushed the plated towards Sally and nodded. They stared at each other. Sally picked up a fry.
“Food,” she said and popped it in her mouth, chewing.
The man waited until Sally swallowed.
He picked up a fry.
“Foods,” he said. His voice hissed, the ‘d’ dissolving into a breath. He put the potato in his mouth, closed his eyes and chewed. He sighed and picked up one fry after another, chain eating them. He emptied the plate. He pushed it towards Sally.
“Foods,” he said.
“Liked that, did you?” Sally brought him another plate of fries. She had added ketchup to the plate. “Dip them, like this.” She tapped the fry in the condiment, swirled it once, getting an extra dollop on the tip. “MMmm.”
“Foods.” Snake Man ate the second plate of potatoes, again with his eyes closed.
“Don’t forget to drink your milk,” said Sally. She slid the glass closer to him. He dipped his fingers in the liquid.
“Like this.” Sally drank from her own glass of milk. “Milk,” she said and smacked her lips.
Snake Man wrapped his yellow, scaly hands around his glass. He drank, lashless lids drawn, dribbling some milk down his chin.
“Milsch,” he said and smacked his lips.
Sally laughed. She pointed to herself.
She pointed to Snake Man, raised her eyebrows. No response.
She pointed to her chest.
She pointed to John.
Snake Man looked at John. His irises were green. His pupils vertical, red slits. Cool contacts, thought John. John waved at Snake Man.
“Aspis,” he said. “Ssallys.” He pointed at Sally. “Johns.” He pointed at John. “Aspis.” He pointed to himself.
“Foods.” He pushed his plate (empty except for the ketchup) and glass to Sally.
“I bet you’re from France?” Sally put a plate of French Toast drenched in melted butter and syrup in front of Aspis. She turned away to get another glass of milk for him. John admired her rear view.
Aspis sniffed the sugary dish. His forked tongue whipped out, the tip touching the syrup and recoiling. He shoved the plate. It slid off the counter and crashed on the floor.
“Hey.” Sally jumped out of the way. “I guess you’re not from France. You could have just said no.”
“Foods!” Aspis slapped his palms on the counter.
John, adrenaline coursing through his veins, stood, ready for action, holding his dinner knife. Aspis faced him, only inches away. John had not seen him move.
“Now, now, boys,” said Sally. She took hold of Aspis’ shiny polyester sleeve, guiding him back to his stool.
“Look, food.” A serving bowl of French Fries with a side of bacon and a vanilla milkshake sat on the counter.
John knew Sally did the cooking on the night shift while the actual cook slept off the whiskey he drank all afternoon. The man bunked down in the enclosed back pantry, his snores swallowed by loaves of white bread.   
“Eat.” Sally chewed on a piece of bacon.
“Foods,” said Aspis. He looked sideways once at John, then closed his eyes and popped a slice of bacon in his mouth. Drool rolled down his chin. He pushed the French Fries away.
“Ssallys?” He pointed to the empty plate.
“Men and their bacon,” said Sally. “You’re all the same no matter where you’re from,” she said as she went back into the kitchen to fry up more of the cured meat. She brought out a triple portion which Aspis devoured.
Sally patted John’s denim covered shoulder. He still stood by his stool.
“Sit,” she said. “I’ve neglected you. I’ve never met a foreigner before, so I got distracted. He has a sexy accent. Have some more coffee.” She filled John’s cup. “And here’s your favorite snickerdoodles, fresh from the oven.”
John relaxed under Sally’s attention.
Sally cleaned up the French Toast mess while the men ate. The stench of cleaning fluid mixed with the food. John’s stomach roiled. He needed to leave anyway  or he’d be late for his delivery appointment. He gulped his coffee, burning his tongue.  He left some cash next to his cup.
As he reached the door, Aspis and Sally were hugging. Aspis’ tongue snaked out, touched Sally’s neck.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Triple Play

Every other Sunday, I get a manicure and pedicure as my reward for walking an hour each morning. After, I head over to the pub next door for a solitary, but not lonely, lunch. I drink a couple of margaritas, and nosh on sweet potato fries while I write in my journal and read my current read.

Today, an unoccupied table next to mine holds the debris of its previous occupant littered across the white cloth surface. One place setting, not immediately noticed since there are three of everything, says I’m not the only person who eats alone.

Three white, small plates form a triangle. The bottom left plate holds three french fries, uneaten. No ketchup. The plate on the right features three half disks of tomato, each cut across the diameter, three different sizes. Three teaspoons, stacked one atop the other, rest on the third plate. The top spoon holds two candied cherries.   

Three elegant, rounded blue bottles of water stand guard where another place setting would be if a second person had sat across the table. Each bottle is open, the twist caps placed so they form the periods of exclamation points. The water level, half full, matches the top of the white and blue labels.

Three Origami boxes folded from paper napkins form a soft tower of white to the left of the bottles. Brown stains leak from one box to the next and onto the white tablecloth, a 3D Rorschach mystery. Leaning up against these packages, standing on their short sides, three crisp twenty dollar bills, stiff in their used state.

Under the table, the walnut chair legs end drag marks made through a circle of salt or sugar drawn on the red brick patio. A splash of red with radiating tendrils mars the grains like an open wound where the third Maraschino landed and came to rest.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Walking Tour - Flowers and Fences

It's been dangerously hot the past few days. I last walked on Wednesday. Today, it will be an adjusted 108 degrees Fahrenheit, 42 Celsius.

Next week, we'll look at orange construction cones.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


We approach from the West across a long, wide pasture where brown cows graze. Not my cows. Someone else's cows because that's work. But I like the look of cows in my front yard. A wood covers the back forty. Tall, straight trees cooling the morning sun. Apple trees grow to the left-side, wooden bee hives tucked in under their gnarled branches. Off to the right, a riot of wildflowers, buttercups, chicory, and Star-of-Bethlehem. Split rail fencing keeps the animals out and away from the tasty blooms.

A long gravel road leads up to the house, skirts through the orchard and dwindles into a path entering the weald. Follow along the moss and pine needle covered trail and you reach a low, wide rocky river that guards my back and provides a relaxing soundtrack for the space. Large, flat boulders provide shelves for meditating, sunbathing and feet dunking.

Fierce, white geese guard the perimeter from unwanted guests, patrolling with their chicks in tow, barking orders and warnings, keeping the three farm horses in line.

Of course, the person really in charge of this idyllic spot is Fred, the border collie who lives with me.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Dead Soldiers

For my non-drinking buddies (do I have any of those?), a "Dead Soldier" is an empty beer bottle. I've taken a bit of poetic license.

Next week's Walking Theme will be Flowers and Fences