Hiya Folks - So glad you could join me. It has been a very busy couple of months in Muskrat Flats. Life is moving right along as it always does. Not too much has happened or really changed. I.E. your reporter has been busy and can not devote as much time as he would like to nosing around in the business of some of our favorite characters who color the landscape in Muskrat Flats proper.
The one constant is that life goes on and everyday a sense of community is reinforced as one helping hand reaches out to another in need. Even if that helping hand is a well deserved slap in the face which will wake you up a bit and help you to "snap out of it," as they say. That's they way they roll in the flats, always has been and hopefully always will be.
This week provided some of those tense times, where there was a disagreement and tempers briefly flared.
There was an incident at the Odd Fellows Hall the other day between Sid Bartleby, Moe Eckstein and a group of onlookers.
Earlier in the day, Moe was driving on the interstate with one of the guys he had met when he was an occupant of the long term care facility he was in when he was doing his treatments for cancer. Bennie Blanco is his name. Due to life's unfortunate circumstances Bennie has found himself to be alone, ill and with very few friends. He was your average cranky old man. Moe took pity on him and began giving him rides when he needed to get out. That day, Bennie needed a ride to his lawyer's office in Dana. He then needed to get back to Muskrat Flats for a doctor's appointment at noon. Moe being the good sort that he is, offered Bennie a ride.
Things took a little longer than expected at the Lawyer's office and there was some construction which had caused some delays as dump trucks moving in and out of the construction zone stopped traffic, on one occasion. Bennie began to get anxious as it appeared that they were going to be late.
When they got to the toll booth they were in a line of three cars. The guy in the first car was asking for directions.
"Jesus, Moe will you look at this shit? Who asks for directions at a toll booth?" He was huffing and puffing.
"Comon, Bennie relax. Here use my phone. Call the doctor."
"I'm not calling the doctor. Jesus Christ!" Bennie barked as the toll booth operator was pointing in one direction while the driver was waving his hands and gesturing in the other direction. This went on for a very uncomfortable 60 seconds or so. The driver finally proceeded.
The car in front of them inched toward the toll booth a little slower than Bennie would have liked. Moe and Bennie watched as it appeared that the driver was taking off her seat belt. She was because her window was broken and could not be rolled down. She opened the door and leaned out to hand the toll both operator the ticket and her money.
"Jesus Fuck, will you look at this now? We're never going to fuckin' get there on time." Moe rolled his eyes and looked at his watch.
Much to Moe's horror Bennie then reached over and leaned on the horn. As he did this, the driver - a young African American lass with very pleasant features, turned and scowled at Moe.
Moe recognized the driver as Gina, Kurt Bartleby's girlfriend. Moe put his hands up in the air giving an "oops" gesture. However, his unease with the situation caused him to have the most inappropriate reaction. While he was gesturing, he was also laughing.
The displeasure, once again registered in Gina's face when she recognized Moe and saw him laughing. She took her change, slammed the door shut and sped off.
"About fucking time," Bennie bitched with no remorse.
The next five minutes were spent with Moe and Bennie shouting at each other. Moe took Bennie to the appointment, for which they were on time, and then dropped him off at his apartment after more bickering. Moe then proceeded to go to the Odd Fellows Hall to grab a coffee and blueberry muffin.
Moe walked into the kitchen where Paul and Donnie were embroiled in another one of their nonsensical conversations. This time it was Parallel Universes.
"You mean to tell me you really believe there is a parallel universe. Like, one where there is an evil Mister Spock with a beard?" Donnie replied,
"I'm telling you there are many parallel universes. There may even be one where you're not an asshole." Everyone burst out laughing.
"You're a jerk, you're still pissed off about me being right about the fact that a mountain lion can be a UFO."
"Whatttt? We had that conversation over a year ago."
"Well I was right about opening your coat to make you look bigger. That will scare mountain lions away?"
That was all Moe had time take in. He needed his caffeine. He looked over in the corner and his Sonny Boy, Gomer and Corey Blackstone were deep in conversation. He heard a chime and Corey began fiddling with his iPhone. Gomer took this opportunity to take his phone out and check his mail. As Moe saw this he thought, "These kids today ... so unfocused and rude. Stopping a conversation to fiddle with phones. Who ever needed to talk on the phone in line at the store, or pumping gas?" Moe's heart began to beat a little faster as his temper began to get further away from him.
The stereo began to spew out dogs barking, Jingle Bells. Moe Looked over at the portrait of Sheriff Hawthorne. Above the painting, one of the jackalope's horns had fallen off and was dangling from its head by a thread. This further annoyed him. He stopped to get his coffee and muffin.
"Good Morning, Iva." Moe said. Iva looked at him with a cool expression and simply acknowledged him.
She walked away. Her coldness went unnoticed as Moe went to his table and pulled the Jackalope down from the shelf. He took one sip of his coffee. and opened one of his newspapers. He thought to himself, finally, the opportunity to simmer down in solitude and relax, when he heard the door open.
He looked up and saw Sid and Gina walking in the door together. Sid saw Moe raised his hand in the air and bellowed,
"I wanna talk to you!" Gina simply glared at Moe who stood up.
"What's your problem? Why did you honk your horn at Gina?"
"I didn't honk at her!" Gina gasped,
"Yes you did," She turned to Sid, "He totally did. And when I looked back at you, you were laughing about it." Gina shouted.
"Well, whaddya say to that? Moe? You honked or you didn't?
Moe was silent, Sid goaded him.
"Well ... Why did you honk?"
"I didn't Honk! It was Bennie Blanco. He was late and pissed off when the guy in front of her was asking for directions. So when she opened her door at the booth he honked. It wasn't me I didn't honk." Moe looked over at Gina who had her arms folded across her chest. She shot out her hand pointing right in Moe's face,
"I saw you laughing. I deserve an apology." Moe erupted.
"IT wasn't me. I DIDN"T HONK!! For Chrissakes, Sid ... I argued with that bastard, Bennie Blanco. for five minutes after that. I didn't honk."
"But it was your car, right?" Sid queried. He waited for Moe to respond, when he was silent that proved to Sid that was an admission of guilt.
"Sid softened his tone and got a glimmer in his eye as he began to feel badly for his old friend who was placed in an awful situation. After all he was doing Bennie, that miserable prick, a favor.
"Moe, comon, She was late too, the guy in front of her with the directions ... Her window doesn't work, the last thing she needed was to be honked at by a couple of old white guys, one of whom was laughing."
"Now wait a minute, Sid. Don't make this about race. My record stands for itself on the subject of civil rights and racism. I been writing about it for 40 years!" Moe looked at Gina and began to sputter a bit, He took her hands in his and apologized.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh at you, I was just so horrified that Bennie honked my horn, that was my reaction." Gina looked at him with a puzzled expression. She softened too and was ready to accept his apology When they heard a all too familiar voice from the peanut gallery.
"Just face it Dad, you're a Honky." Moe looked over at Gomer as his son started chortling with laughter. Moe glared . Gina agreed, she pointed at Gomer, smiled and nodded her head. Sid, said,
"Sonny Boy's right, kid, You're a honky!"
"You guys are nuts, I'm not a honky." Moe was smiling and shaking his head. Sid pointed his finger,
"But you had one in your car, that makes you a honky by association. "
"Then you're a honky because you associate with me." Gomer was beside himself with laughter.
All the folks at the Odd Fellows Hall had a good laugh that morning. It was a ridiculous situation all around. But in the end, everything was made right. After everyone moved on to deal with their business for the day, Moe grabbed another cup of Joe, sat alone and nestled into his newspapers.
He took a bite of his blueberry muffin. It was light and airy, the blueberries were perfectly dispersed throughout the muffin all except for the one spot where a cluster of berries had congregated. That spot sure looked moist and sweet, much denser than the rest of the muffin. Moe had thought about these muffins on occasion, how consistent they were and somewhat predictable - in a good way of course.
This is because the formula has remained unchanged for over a century, he thought. The blueberry muffins from the Bartleby's Mercantile have been made the same way with the same ingredients all this time. The muffins were a warm buttery oasis which the folks in Muskrat Flats could count upon to be the same - unchanged, a constant in the historical time line. They are, after all, as old as Muskrat Flats itself.
The muffins have remained unchanged through numerous wars, presidents, depressions and recessions. They have remained unchaged through the cold war, McCarthyism, political upheavals, times of temperance and excess, alike. Moe mused that it was unfortunate that living life could not be as simple as following a formula as specific as a muffin recipe -a recipe to guarantee success.
Of course, that would be boring, Moe thought as he noted how satisfying that juicy cluster of berries was sure to be. That cluster wasn't supposed to be there, but it happened. Regardless of the formula and how the muffins were supposed to be, it existed. That cluster was held together by the same ingredients that went into every morsel, kind of like Muskrat Flats, Moe thought. We have the same people, the same routines, but you never know when there will just be that one factor which will change everything. The argument and the comic relief which followed was as dense and sweet as the cluster of berries he was squeezing gently between his fingers.
All of the necessary ingredients to produce the whole were there, but there is the occasional instance which causes an aberration - in this case it was a welcome and unexpected suprise. A rare morsel of sweetness that reminds anyone who cares to notice, that sometimes where you are, is the best place you can possibly be.
Moe looked up from the treat he was rolling in his fingers as he felt a pair of lips kiss the top of his head. He felt warm and strong hands on his shoulders and heard Gomer's soothing voice tell him,
"I love you, Dad. Happy Holidays."
"What're you doing Sonny?"
"I'm going to the airport. Gotta catch up on some paperwork for the jump school. Then I'm calling the ACLU to let them know that the foremost writer on civil right issues for the last half century is a Honky."
"Ahhh, you're nuts!" Moe said. Gomer replied,
"What about them?"
Moe squeezed his son's hand and watched him depart from that warm wood paneled room chaotically decorated with dusty impressionist paintings, and dilapidated taxidermy in need of repair. But the imperfections were insignificant as he looked around at the festive decorations. A menorah over there, Santa in the corner, a lighted nativity across from the fireplace. They all added nicely to warm glow of the room at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets.
Just like his mother he is ... always a joker, Moe thought to himself. How he missed his lovely bride and how proud she would have been of their Sonny Boy.
Moe popped the last morsel of the muffin in his mouth. The cluster of berries he had been musing about was well worth saving as a the last bite of that muffin - Life never had tasted so sweet.
He folded up his newspapers and wondered why any rational thinking person would ever have a good enough reason to be ...
Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.