Thanksgiving has come and gone in Muskrat Flats and once again there was much activity at the corner of Petersen and McKernan Streets. The Odd Fellows Hosted their annual free Thanksgiving Dinner with all of the trimmings, feeding about 1,500 residents of the Flats and the outlying areas. There were free shuttle buses going to shelters in Dana and Prescott.
The banquet hall was warm with the glow of votive candles, with bursts of orange and brown decorations and ornately carved luminaria. The warmth was accentuated by shiny glazed bread cornucopias filled with fresh hand fruit and colorful gourds, the savory aromas of roasting turkey and sausage stuffing, the sweetness of roasted butternut squash, pumpkin pies, and of course Iva Bartleby's blueberry muffins.
The meal was paid for by the various fundraisers the Odd Fellows had hosted during the course of the year, particularly the Labor Day Bike Run and the concessions at the Silver Days Celebration and the Fall Festival at the Farm Museum.
This year was the first time that the formerly annual anonymous donation of $2000 toward the production of the meal, officially came from the Coleman Blackstone Foundation. This foundation, set up recently, with the mission statement of facilitating the rehabilitation of the homeless through arts and music programs in conjunction with mental health, drug and alcohol counseling. Coley Blackstone, Muskrat Flats' wealthiest resident, who himself lived as a homeless man as he grappled for years with untreated mental illness, was actually on hand and volunteering for the event.
Coley was the judge for the Annual Checkers Tournament. Surprisingly, the tourney was won this year by a kid named Matt Derose, a 14 year-old with Down's syndrome, who turned out to be something of a checkers prodigy. There were snickers from the peanut gallery early on in the competition as he would enthusiastically shout in a special needs kind of way,
These snickers quickly turned to cheers as he dominated the competition and the onlookers shared in his enthusiasm by shouting along with him as he marched on to victory.
Moe Eckstein was looking at the front page of the Muskrat Flats Telegraph. The lead story was about the Odd Fellows Annual Turkey Dinner. This was accompanied by a picture of Coley Blackstone, holding up a beaming Matt Derose's hand in Victory as his other hand hoisted the Winner's Cup above his head.
Moe Eckstein had just sat down, with his coffee and muffins, after having gone for a brisk walk, that morning. He had stopped his chemo therapy weeks ago and was feeling healthier than he had felt in a long time. The doctors were happy with is alarming progress. Sid Bartelby was sitting across from Moe.
"Whaddya make of this guy, Coley?"
"Eh, what's to make? He is pure Muskrat Flats. No doubt that he is a chip off of the Hawthorne block. He was a misguided kid who is starting to make a better life for himself and the people around him."
"Yeah, but he is nuts." Sid said as he continued to scan his copy of the Telegraph.
"I thought that was a prerequisite for being a resident of the Flats." Moe quipped. Sid chuckled.
"Comon, Sid look around you, look at your past, look at mine … this town has always attracted a rare breed. Some of us - a little crazier than others, but I love it."
"Yeah, you're right, I shouldn't judge." Sid replied.
"That's right. I don't know if I would want people to meet some of the creatures who live in my forest, and that is a hard thing for a writer to say," as Moe tapped his skull.
"Oh, shit!" Sid cried. "page four, Moe. Speaking of creatures in your forest…"
Moe turned to page Four and read the headline.
Local Musician Jailed After On Stage Prank Goes Awry.
Dana - There was a near riot at the Dana Arts Center as local musician Gomer Shabbos aka Gomer Eckstein and Rabbi Robert Feldman from the Ark of the Covenant Synagogue in neighboring Baptist Lake were jailed after an onstage scuffle, Wednesday night, causing the crowd of 2500 onlookers to head home earlier than they had anticipated.
"Shit, that's the Rabbi that confronted him after the Labor Day Bike Run, show." Moe read on.
Eckstein who is the leader of the hardcore Klezemer band, Gomer Shabbos and the Hook Nosed Satans, had his performance interrupted when the Rabbi jumped on stage and attacked Eckstein. In the scuffle Both Eckstein and Rabbi Feldman assaulted Officer Seamus O'Neil who was trying to contain the violence. Both were charged with assault on a police officer. Feldman was charged with inciting a riot. Both were released on their personal recognizance.
The Hook Nosed Satans had just performed the tune "Satanic Seitan" a song Eckstein describes as "a diatribe revealing the evils of vegetarianism … it is a satire like most of my songs."
Eckstein sighed and wondered aloud,
"Why do people have to take themselves so seriously? It was just a joke."
The ruckus occurred in the second set. As drummer Joel Birnbaum kept the beat, Hook Nosed Satans guitarist Seth Brockmeyer and fiddler, Jerry Green brought onto the stage a young woman dressed in hippie garb whom Shabbos described as "a vegetarian I caught washing a lump of wheat gluten on a rock down by the river."
The Satans held down the "vegetarian," played by renowned San Francisco poster artist, Miranda Klein, as Shabbos dressed in all black with dark glasses and white face make up wildly whipped Klein with a cat-o-nine tails he had dramatically fashioned, onstage, from strips of raw bacon. The crowd responded wildly.
The diorama ended with Klein bowing to Shabbos swearing her allegiance to him and consecrating her vow by taking a big bite out of a "Fresser" or overstuffed, Kosher Corned Beef Sandwich.
It was at this point in the show, the Rabbi jumped on stage reportedly shouting in Hebrew and attacked Shabbos.
"Mumar le hak'is" the term my father shouted at Eckstein is a Hebrew term for a defiant lawbreaker or heretic," Explained Feldman's son, Josh.
"We believe that Gomer Eckstein has turned his back on the Jewish Tradition and is using the very essence of his band, The Hook Nosed Satans, an ethnic slur and abomination against the Jewish community, in and of itself, to ridicule and undermine the community.. Even his stage persona, Gomer Shabbos, is a mockery of Shomer Shabbos our Sabbath." Josh Feldman continued.
Eckstein, a Muskrat Flats resident and son of famed Beat Writer Moe Eckstein, made national news last Fall as his Ebay account was shut down after he offered two items for auction - a hypodermic needle purportedly used by Sex Pistol's bassist, Sid Vicious. And, a microphone, Eckstein had obtained from former Murder Junkie, Chicken John, which he claimed was inserted into long deceased punk rock bad boy, GG Allin's, rectum.
Messages left at Rabbi Feldman's residence were not immediately returned.
"What I do is Art. Everyone may not like it, but I have the right to do what I want on stage. I would consider what I do as Frank Zappa meets Rob Zombie at a Fiddler on the Roof retrospective."
"Asking me to change the content or direction of this project would be like going up to Claude Monet and saying, "I really like this painting, but can I have one like it with a little more blue and green so it will match my living room?" ... Some people may not see what I do as art, but I've got a lot open minded fans out there, decent people, Obama voters, who want to see me keep doing whatever it is that I do." Eckstein said outside of the Dana Police headquarters.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for December 6th for both cases.
Sid raised his eyebrows at Moe. Moe clicked his tongue against his teeth and chuckled.
"Oh, Sonny Boy, what have you gotten yourself into this time?" He asked no one.
"I tell him to pick his battles, but it looks like the Rabbi has picked the battle this time."
"We'll have to see how this one plays out." Sid said.
Moe sighed. He took off his glasses and cleaned them on his t-shirt. He placed them back on his nose and looked at Sid.
"I love that kid, my friend. He is a piece of work, but he is my piece of work." Sid smiled and looked up.
"Speaking of the Satan …" Moe turned around and Gomer was approaching him with his arm wrapped around the waist of a gorgeous young lady. She was clutching a copy of Moe's first book. Green Jello and Rust Stained Toilet Tanks.
"Dad, Sid, I want you to meet Miranda." She looked at Gomer and then smiled expectantly to Moe.
"Miranda? Word on the streets is that you like corned beef sandwiches."
Sid, Gomer and Miranda laughed as Sid swatted Gomer playfully on the shoulder with the newspaper. Moe looked at her, she looked at Gomer. Gomer looked somewhat chagrined, as he wanted to tell his Dad what had happened first hand.
Moe broke into a big smile and hugged his Sonny Boy. He then hugged Miranda. "It is a pleasure to meet you, young lady. I'm glad you didn't get arrested after your first gig with this hoodlum. Maybe you can keep him out of trouble?" She handed the book to him and said,
"Mr. Eckstein I'm a big fan of yours."
"Please call me, Moe."
He took the book out of her hand and admired it, it was a first edition. He took a sharpie out of his pocket. He wrote inside the cover,
"To Miranda, It is a pleasure to meet you. Remember, don't ever try to flush the green Jello."
Sid came over with two cups of coffee and some muffins in a card board j-tray and asked,
"So, Miranda, do you like blueberry muffins, these are the best."
"I know, I've been reading about them for months, I've been waiting to try them." Moe looked at Gomer as she said this, Gomer raised his eyebrows and smiled.
They all sat down at the wooden table under the watchful eye of Sheriff Hawthorne. Moe began to read the newspaper article to Gomer. Sid winked at Iva, his wife, across the room, who was smiling at Gomer. Jerry and Sveltie along with Jeff Nelson began to wander over to the table
Gomer was overjoyed. It would take a pretty big reason to get him out of his seat never mind back on the road.
This was where he longed to be, with his father, a beautiful woman by his side, surrounded by dear friends in the familiar warmth of the Odd Fellows Hall at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets.
Much like Gomer, Just For Today, I can't think of one damned reason to be …
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.